Sunday, April 13, 2014

SLCC Genealogy Course: Post #26 - Biographical Assignment

I'm so incredibly behind in my assignments for the Salt Lake Community College Genealogy Course. My blog posts have suffered too. I honestly fear I will not get caught up before this semester ends. But, let me tell you something that has happened that makes those concerns seem like nothing to me.

The assignment I have been working on required us to write a biographical sketch on a ancestor. It was not meant to be an exhaustive history, but an introduction to them. We were to "flesh out" our ancestor so even a young family member could make a connection to them.

Over the years I have yearned to possess stories of my ancestors, similar to the great pioneer history others around me have. My family doesn't have anything like this. My parents joined The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints when I was four years old. They did some genealogy work and passed it on to me. I have been the sole keeper of our family flame.

I envy those putting pictures and stories onto the Family Tree. Over the years I have been busy data entering what information we had into the computer and obsessively adding to it. In the past I wasn't good at submitting name to the temple for their work to be done. It was really hard for me to say they were researched enough. Recently I have been focusing on getting all their work done. I have about 5,000 people more to go. This is no small task for one person alone. The thought of getting stories and photos into the Family Tree has been a great desire, but I didn't think I had the time. But, I knew the very thing I didn't have time for would probably motivate family members to actually help me with this work. I just can't do it all alone.

This assignment made me sit down and begin to write my first story that I have now shared on Family Tree.  At first I thought I wanted to write my biographical sketch on my grandfather, John Henry Weatherwax, Jr. The more I thought about this I knew the story needed to be on his wife, my grandmother Julia Bentley instead.

Before my mother, Alice (Weatherwax) Harris died I had spent some time talking to her about the family, so I had some notes to go by. As I sat to write this biographical sketch I found stories and documents did not fit. I had questions so I asked my brother, Jim and my father Philip Harris what they recalled. What really needed to happen was for me to call my Aunt Florence (Julia's soul surviving child),  to ask questions about the family. I did just that, and found her open and warm and happy to tell what she recalled. I can't say all the stories fit, but it gave me enough to see common threads on them.

I have spent way to much time researching, studying, and thinking about Julia's life in order to put together a story in readable form, for just a school assignment. As the clocked ticked by and I became more and more late in handing in this assignment I knew something greater was happening. The story of my grandmother needed to be told. Her posterity needs to know what she went through and that she mattered. I needed to contact my Aunt Florence and open that door to start recording the rest of the family stories before she too is gone.

Before making the phone call to my aunt I knew it was best if I tape recorded it. My poor husband had to put up with my experiments, trying to record through the computer. I tried Audacity but for some reason I couldn't get the volume loud enough to hear the conversation coming from the other person. I finally decided to do a video with sound screen capture using the paid version of FastStone Capture. Which surprisingly might actually be a better way to go. It allowed me to pull up documents while we talked and as a result anyone watching the video later would see them too.

At RootsTech this year I was left with the distinct impression that I needed to start doing interviews. I thought I needed to do those for my blog readers.  After working on this assignment I now know the people needing to be interviewed are my own family. If I don't capture what is around me right now there won't be anything left for posterity. I can already see how living memory has faded over time. Happily, my Aunt Florence has agreed to continue talking with me once a week over the phone. She will have time to think about stories and eventually I will gather all that needs to be gathered from her. The hardest part about interviewing my aunt all along has been the asking, now that that's accomplished we are on our way.

As I worked on the story I used RootsMagic's Timeline View to see how other family member's events fit into the story of her life. It became overwhelming to me as I saw what was happening in her life as one person died after another. Can I say she is a real to me? Absolutely!

Last night I sorta finished Julia Bentley's biographical sketch. Every time I read it over there was something new to add or tweak here and there. It just came to the point that I had to call it "finished" so I could hand in the assignment and pass it to family members to review.  I know it's just the beginning.

I found the act of writing this biographical sketch made me think of new areas to research and records I need to find. I have tons more questions after writing the sketch then I went in thinking I knew. This genealogy course has been so eye opening to me. I understand better now how each report is beneficial to the entire research process. They build on each other, helping you understand what is known about a person or family and what is still needing to be discovered. This has been really hard work but so eternally worth it.

If you want to read my biographical sketch on Julia (Bentley) Weatherwax you can click the links below.

Renee's Genealogy Blog - Biographical Sketch of Julia (Bentley) Weatherwax

FamilySearch Family Tree - Biographical Sketch of Julia (Bentley) Weatherwax.

See ya tomorrow, for tomorrow is always another genealogy day!

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