“Genealogy is not family group record forms, pedigree charts, microfilms, name abbreviations, and technical regulations. These are only tools. Genealogy is the study of one’s family, the study of our ancestors—their birth, their childhood, their dreams, their marriages, their occupations, their children, their deaths. And because these things in the past all have an impact on the present, in a very real sense, genealogy is a study of one’s self.” – George D. Durrant, Doing Genealogy: Finding That Glorious, Elusive Condition Called ‘Balance’ Ensign, Apr 1985, 1

Mormon Family HistoryYou don’t necessarily have to know much about genealogy to help others with their family history research. Some of One example of this is the The Dibean Michigan Marriage Index.

Jack and Marianne Dibean began indexing records of marriage for the state of Michigan years ago and the project has been an immense help for those who have ancestors from Michigan, like myself. I found an ancestor in their index which provided me with the information I needed to send for the actual record of marriage.

Now, of course you don’t need to start a statewide indexing project. Even if you just help one person down the road you will have done a great thing. Here are 5 ways you can help:

1. Save obituaries from your local paper – This one should take you no more 15 minutes a day to do. Cut out all the obituaries from your local paper. Use a paper clip to hold all the entries from that day and add a note stating the name of the newspaper and the date. File all of your entries in a folder to donate to your local historical or genealogical society. Or submit them to an online website such as the USGenweb. Someone down the road will be very grateful you took the time to do this.

2. Transcribe a local cemetery – Do you have a couple of free hours on Saturdays? Visit a local cemetery and start writing down the information on the headstones. Even if you can’t finish the entire cemetery in that time or over a series of weeks, a partial transcription is better than none. Again you can submit the information to an online website or to a local society. Check online first to make sure you won’t be duplicating someone else’s efforts.

3. Keep a journal intended for public use – This means keeping a journal that might detail how life is in your community. You could keep track of changing prices of staple food items such as milk and bread. You could write about the weather, the wildlife and greenery in your area, the names of neighbors and friends and where they live. You could include newspaper articles about important local events. It’s little details like these that your descendants will crave. They will want to know what life was like for you. And others who are not descended from you may get an idea of what life was like for their ancestor who lived in your area, based on your views. Again, publish it online at some point or submit it to the local society.

4. Write down information from the Family Bible entries on Ebay or another auction site – That’s right. Its sounds maybe a little strange but what a help it might be to someone. After all, only one person can have possession of that family bible. Old family bibles often have the family genealogy written somewhere within and auctioneers on ebay may list those names and dates or be willing to provide them when asked for. When writing down this information be sure to include the Bible information (year, type, etc.) and the auction information (seller, auction number, etc.) and include any pictures you may have been given of those names and dates. Publish your information online or mail it to a society where the ancestors therein lived.

5. Interview older members of your community who have lived there for a long time – Maybe someone you know or you could ask a local retirement home for permission to visit someone like that. Bring along a notebook or a tape recorder and be prepared to listen. Come with a list of questions to spark remembrances. Submit the entry and whose remembrances they were.

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