Thursday, September 5, 2013

Ancestor Cards

Well, Labor Day has come and gone, all the kiddos are back in school and we're back to a routine.  Time to get back to blogging!  It was a fun, though busy, summer for us.  Band camp, scout camp, family reunion, all sorts of fun things to do all summer long!  Our family vacation this year was to Nauvoo, Illinois.  It's kind of a living history sort of place.  It factors largely in my church's history and my family history.  It's a place I love to visit and my boys think it's very fun.  They got to try all sorts of fun old-fashioned things from the 1840s--making rope, having a log-sawing contest at the country fair, and seeing a bunch of demonstrations, from making horseshoes to baking bread.

Gearing up for my Nauvoo trip, I wanted an easy way to refer to information about my ancestors who lived there.  My children have 30 direct-line ancestors who lived in Nauvoo from 1839-1846.  So, there was a lot of family history to be learned while on our trip.

My dad and I have been working together on what we call "The Collection," our collection of family histories and photographs.  With the advent of the internet and social media, there are a lot of family photos and histories out there for the googling.  So, we've acquired a lot of new pictures of my ancestors.

As I started collecting these pictures, I was really excited about them and wanted to display them or somehow make it easier to see these pictures on a regular basis.  I thought about a family history display wall, but I don't have any wall space for such a thing.

Awhile back, I came across the idea to make Ancestor Cards.  I decided this was a perfect solution.  I started by making ancestor cards for my ancestors that lived in Navuoo, in preparation for our trip.  I hope to branch out (ha! family history pun!) to more of my ancestors in the future.


Each Ancestor Card has little icons on it to tell you more about that ancestor at a glance.  The Angel Moroni Icon means they were a member of the LDS church.  The Nauvoo Temple Icon means they lived in Nauvoo.  The Wagon Icon means they crossed the plains as a pioneer.  There's a flag from their country of birth, plus a little code that tells you their relation to me.  Joseph Armstrong Fisher down there has a P3GG because he is my Paternal 3rd Great Grandfather.  I also listed birth/marriage/death dates and places, as well as their ages at marriage and death.  When available, I used a picture of them for the front; when I didn't have one, I used a picture of their tombstone or a map of where they were from.  Sometimes they had more than one picture.

On the back, I listed bullet points about each ancestor (which I unfortunately forgot to photograph).  I had known many stories about my ancestors, but sometimes mixed up which ancestor went to which story.  The bullet points help me keep track of this.

Then, I know at just a glance which ancestor was the tailor who made suits for Joseph Smith and Abraham Lincoln, which one was widowed at a young age when her husband died in a shipyard accident, which one's fiance accidentally married someone else, which one made the lock for the front door of the Nauvoo Temple, and which one lost his hammer for 56 years when it got built inside the council building.

In order to make these Ancestor Cards, I read every history I had for each person.  For Joseph Knight, that meant a whole, quite long, book.  Some had 50 page histories, some had 10 five-page histories, and some had a 1 page summary from Find A Grave.  The cards took a long time.  I started in December and finished in July.

I started with my ancestors, then moved to my husband's ancestors.  His were a bit harder, because I didn't have as much information to begin with. To figure out which of his ancestors were in Nauvoo, I googled the likely people (mostly 3rd Great Grandparents) and read all their (and their family's) histories that I could find.  I was able to find pictures for most of them.

I color-coded the cards (yellow for my ancestors, green for my husband's).  There are 17 yellow and 13 green. I did them all in Photoshop Elements.

Oh, the printing and the cutting!  I printed (went through a lot of ink!) and cut out 95 individual ancestor cards (I made several sets to hand out at the family reunion in Nauvoo).  I thought I'd found a company that would do it cheaply, but they weren't able to print it quite the way I wanted, so I ended up formatting them to be front and back and printing them myself on my home printer.  I printed them on cardstock, then laminated them at a local office supply store.

Though they were an immense amount of work to put together, I am so glad I made them.  I hope to make more.  Originally designed to be a bit of a cheat sheet for me as I referenced my ancestors, they made it so that I don't need a cheat sheet anymore.  The process of putting them together has taught me about my forebears.

I know these men and women now.  They aren't just names and dates on a piece of paper or in a computer file.  They aren't just interesting stories or cool pictures.  I know and love each of these ancestors of mine now.  Of course, some day I will meet them in person, and get to know them even better.  But, the process of finding pictures, doing research, and reading their histories (and taking notes) so closely that I could pull out highlights, has taught me about these men and women as individuals and as children of God.

I think this is the most fulfilling "craft project" I've ever done.
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