Share the Wealth

Your first grade teacher said it repeatedly…its only right to share. I have to say that I agree wholeheartedly. I have no tolerance for family researchers who refuse to share their discoveries. Some don’t blatantly refuse, they just never “find the time” to dig up what they’ve offered to share. Not only is it greedy and mean, it can be quite foolish too.

I’m telling you this as I sit in my cozy house in the heartland. Far away from the battered east coast and Atlantic shore, while my lights are flickering eerily and our giant oak trees are dancing wildly at the whim of Sandy’s winds. It hasn’t rained a drop yet here,  but my knobby joints tell me the rain will start soon. The month is October. It means raking up leaves, planning haunts and wearing pink ribbons. I am a survivor, so October is like being tapped on the shoulder for me. These are just a sampling of the reasons I want to share our stories with the rest of our generations.

The most efficient way to preserve family history is to spread it around.

Here in Indiana, the summer news doesn’t go for long without reporting from a community devastated by storms. Inevitably, there is the interview with a distraught resident clutching a battered photo album and crying. At least we have each other. From knee-deep in rubble that used to be a home, they have fished out the pictures and been thankful to have them. We all need this. We need a shred of proof that somehow, someway, we belong and are connected.

And, I am writing this post as my regular weekly topic in October for its publish date in November because on the day I’ll post it, I am scheduled for a surgery. Nothing big or important, but one whiff of anesthesia and I tend to sail out the window for a couple of days.
Doing this little medical “time out” in the middle of my NaNoWriMo with a twist is pretty crazy. I will be doing the previously un-tried.  I will be scheduling a post and not hitting the “publish now button.” So that in itself makes me nervous…what if…my post doesn’t post?

Maybe that’s only a bit of my own desperation to “share.” On a recent writing prompt, I mentioned that some of the stories I have.been privy to hearing will never see the light of day until a couple of generations have made their peace and feel distant enough from the event to hear the stories and not acutely feel the pain.

That‘s a huge reason to “share the wealth” if you will.  So if you can’t bring yourself to share the fruits harvested for your tree, at least consider what you would personally lose in a similar event.  There will be a Sandy, a Surgery, a Pink Ribbon or a “doing what is untried” in all our futures. Hopefully, when your turn comes, you will have shared enough that one of these inevitable life events will not land the memory of your family curbside for Tuesday’s pick up.

Managing the “Help”

PD_0140Once the stories start flowing and your paper ghosts are wriggling with life, you may find yourself with a lot of volunteers. Now is the time to be extra creative. Use all the help that is offered ! Rather than seeing enthusiastic volunteers as “Johnny-Come-Lately-Bandwagon-Jumpers,” consider how their eagerness to help could add to the richness of the ultimate end product.  Collaborating this way will make your work an “of the people, by the people” sort of outcome for your family tree.

Think about a special talent aunt Susan can contribute. She might well be the biggest gossip in 3 counties…so use that!  You can always debunk / confirm later.  But for now, pull up a chair, turn her on and let her rip!  Don’t stop with the volunteers who step forward !   Everyone knows there is an unwritten code of honor among thieves, however that code pales to the closed -community of cooks who hold the family recipes!  When buttered up and coddled. cooks may be moved to show heart and dig out family recipes to share.   They could also be put on the task of beating secret recipes out of others within the inner circle of the kitchen.  Artsy types could be put to work designing a cover for the finished product, or Illuminating  pages.  The scholarly would enjoy collaborating  with each branch to create a representative family crest (see  a later posting for info on this). The hoarders (God bless us everyone!) can be assigned to photo finding, or heirloom display.

Get them all working together as a team . Once your dear hoarder has unearthed Grandmama’s wedding china, perhaps there’s a shutter bug just waiting to document those very heirlooms from every angle. Clearly, there’s no reason to pass over your clan”s computer geek!  They could join forces with the children in a google scavenger hunt of mapping and street viewing ancestral homes.   And, if the Saints are smiling upon you, may you find yourself in the fortunate position of being related to one or more retired couples who just love to travel.  If you can engage their enthusiasm and wunderlust they may become the boots on the ground you’ve always wished for to find and photo far away monuments or records.

The more the merrier… really !  However you scheme (or choose to use)  the willing participants,  don’t hesitate when they offer.  Really pull out all stops to let their experience count !  If several family members  become truly vested in this work (with a very specific task assigned) the hype will be bigger and the end result will have broader appeal.

You and I both know that there has to be an invisible lid on this “doling out of jobs” in order for it to work.  Play your hand a bit close.  Be sure to explain that in order for you to be an effective writer and compiler of your collective story, you will need certain things from all of them.  Timelines, confidentiality, steadfastness of the untiring persuer…and all suggestions in written form and sent to your email or mailbox.  You’ve got to be able to focus on the big task and trust that as the adults they are…they will keep noses to the grindstone and complete their mission!  Independent of you.  Ask your mother. .. don’t bug me to death…  tend to your own knittin’… implied but unsaid 🙂

It’s always a  fine line when families are called to work together.  Delegating  fairly and effectively without being seen as bossy is a dance on the tightrope.  But if you can stand to let them help, you will be rewarded in the end.  After all, families are like…well you know…everybody has one !