Jul 292015
Selective reading of history -- words crossed out

Is there a selective reading of history in your family? How do you deal with it?

As southerners have debated whether the Confederate flag represents hate or heritage, several articles have addressed the idea of a “selective reading of history.” Which is, when you think about it, something families are really good at doing.

A selective reading of history isn’t quite a revision of what happened. It’s an intentional focus on some facts and a brushing-under-the-rug of other events. As storytellers, we play a role in selecting what’s told and what’s kept mum. Admittedly, sometimes the selective reading of history is appropriate. There’s a “truth” of the story that needs to come through loud and clear, unobscured by complicating details and the noise of side stories

However, other times, those of us recounting the family’s history slowly become aware of the crumbs lurking under the carpet. We feel uncomfortable as we sense them crunching under the family footfalls. Continue reading »

Aug 202013

When you’re writing, journaling, or scrapping your family’s  history, historic images, like pictures of your past, offer something other illustrations can’t.

Historic images include immigration and naturalization records

Just think how cool it would be to include an immigration record like this with the story of your ancestor.

Historic images don’t just increase visual appeal; they offer evidence of the footsteps of the past, bringing texture and meaning to your narratives. Continue reading »

May 132013

My Time Capsule When we’re anticipating a milestone event, we focus on the event itself, not what is going on in the world around us.  Later on, however, it’s fun to look back in context of what was happening in the world around us. For those that read about our memories decades later, such a written time capsule can increase understanding of the event itself. An understanding of the historical context will definitely help readers visualize the days surrounding the event.

Some people enjoy making an actual time capsule. If you have the time and inclination, a simple Google search will yield many instructions like this one from the Library of Congress. Another good idea is to use a Pinterest board to illustrate the circumstances surrounding the event. (See Pinterest Primer.)

You don’t necessarily need to find time to write or journal about current events while you’re planning your wedding or in between Lamaze classes. You may have to wrack your brain a little more if you’re writing to fill in historical context later, but constructing a written time capsule with the benefit of hindsight also gives you an idea of what trends and devices have become iconic. Hint: Internet search engines can be a big help if you can’t quite remember something.

Format: Of course, beautifully written, logically constructed paragraphs will always be appreciated, but this is a time when bullet lists will also work nicely.

What to include in your Time Capsule on a Page

In the newsConsider headlines in news magazines. What important events are going on in the world? Who is in office? Are there any major stories breaking locally?

Mention a couple of status quo’s. What’s the price of gasoline? How much does it cost to fly or buy a Coca-cola? What has the weather been like?


A glimpse of my mother’s kitchen.

What’s your home like? Who lives there? If you look around in your living room or kitchen, what do you see? Is it immaculate? Cozy? Uncluttered? Give others a taste.

Include fashion trends.This is easier in hindsight because we know what has really gone out of style. Just think of the 1980’s for example—big hair, big glasses, shoulder pads, etc. What styles do you favor? Is there a particular style that is absolute torture for you?

Write about friendships. We think we’ll always be close to all of our friends, but the truth is friendships ebb and flow. Who do (did) you lean on? Rant to? With whom do (did) you share secrets? Drink? Play sports? Commiserate?

Include photos if you can. Though I looked (and probably was) totally peeved at my mother taking a picture of me with a hair dryer on my head and green gook on my face on the morning of my wedding day, I like having it now (not enough to share it though). Snap a few photos or dig through your archives to shed light on the days around your big event. You can also pose some shots, like one of yourself surrounded by your favorite things (or people).

Try jotting down some notes about what was happening when you were born, graduated from high school or college, got married, or had your first child.

Add Comment Icon Do You Have Other Ideas or Comments? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

© Laura Hedgecock 2013

Feb 242013
Historical images example

An historical image of two photographers found at LOC-PPOC

Adding historical images to your family stories can help bring them alive. Ideally, we’d all have actual photos to add to our accounts. However, many of us are hard pressed to find images to accompany stories of relatives and ancestors. I know I have a lot more stories than photos. Historical images can be the answer.

Finding historical images isn’t as intimidating as you might think. Here are some easily accessible Internet resources.

Finding Historical Images at the Library of Congress:

historical images example of  interior of tobbaco barn

The interior of a tobacco barn.

It’s easier to get to the Library of Congress (LOC) than you might imagine. You don’t even have to leave the couch. Subscribers to Ancestry.com have access, but you can go directly to the LOC. The LOC’s has a collection available for online history buffs. It’s called the Prints & Photograph Online Catalog (PPOC) is available at http://www.loc.gov/pictures/. There are photo collections, posters, and prints. You can search for images with key words.

For instance, my mother was raised on a tobacco farm, but there are no photographs of the barn.  However, through the PPOC, I can find a photo of a Virginian tobacco barn (right). Caveat:  The Library of Congress gives whatever copy- or usage rights it can, but securing appropriate permissions is up to the user.  If you’re using the images commercially, you need to look at carefully at the accompanying information.

Using Ancestry.com and Other Genealogical Resources

If you’re not familiar with it, Ancestry.com is a subscription service for genealogical research. In addition to images of historical documents, it also has an extensive collection of historical images. If you don’t have (or want) a subscription, check to see if your library has a subscription. Ancestry’s library edition lets you access the same data. If you access it from inside your library, chances are that your friendly reference librarian can help you get started.

Remember, you can also use images of historical documents as illustrations. For instance, a census record could bring visual interest and historical context to a story of a family home. (See How Historical Images Can Enrich Your Page.)

Ancestry.com isn’t the only game in town. Other sites, such as FamilySearch and the National Archives also have such images, although they are not indexed to the same extent.

Online historical and veteran’s archives

You can find a wealth of images at historylink101.com, including photos from the D-day invasion. Tip: An example of a historical document augmenting a narrative:  “My Grandfather’s Military Service

Google Earth now has Historical Images

Google Earth is a program that lets you view satellite images. Although current images are interesting, through Google Earth 6, you can also view historical images (back to 2007). You can see (and save by making a screen print) of your hometown. You can see how an area has changed over time.

©Laura Hedgecock 2013