Saturday, February 27, 2016

An Unofficial Guide to Family History: Part 2 -- Gathering Information

This really should have been part one. Like I said, I am just explaining this as I do it.

Gathering information should be the first step. It's what you need in order to do anything.

Without information, you won't be able to really accomplish anything.

For some of you, gathering will be easy. For others, not so much. It's okay. These aren't timed steps. Just steps.

Here are some ways to gather information:

Family. 

Obviously. If you are researching your family, talk to them. If you have any older living relatives, they will be the biggest fountain of knowledge. Take notes. What they say will escape your brain faster than seventh grade algebra. I thought for sure I would remember everyone, but that was a little much to expect of myself. 

For example, I have a confusing home life. We live with my grandma. We being my nephew, brothers, niece, aunt, mom. I live here, so it's easy. If you don't, it makes no sense. I got to meet a couple of cousins this past fall. Grandma drew out a family tree for them. They still were confused. And we are alive. Imagine the difficulty of remembering names and dates for people who have passed. Not easy. 

Take notes. Ask them to take notes for you. Record your conversations. Even the dullest pencil is better than the sharpest mind. Write that down so you don't forget. 

Books.

This one might not work for everyone. Some of you might have books. Some of you might not. I am lucky enough to have books. Want to see? 


These are just a few of the books I have. I have read one and a half of them. The pieces I have read have been amazing. My Great Grandma had a great sense of humor. 

You might have some of these books lying around. 

You might even have a family bible. Aside from having spiritual benefits, these bibles often held family information (birth and death dates, marriages, etc.). I feel like almost every family has one of these. 

Family Search and Ancestry.

These have a lot of records digitized. This option is a little tough if you have nothing to go on. They do have obituaries and census records that often hold some really awesome information. To utilize these, you need an ancestor's name, any dates associated with them, and any locations. 

Using this can often require a lot of patience. I don't have a ton of patience, so I use this one sparingly these days. If you have the time and patience, you can use these whenever you want! Parents have to sleep sometime, but the internet never does. If you have insomnia, feel free to research your ancestors. You will be productive, and often times, reading the search results gets tiring. Maybe it'll help you sleep. 

Family Friends.

This one is like family, except different. These are people who knew your parents or grandparents. They are the ones who pinch your cheeks at weddings and say "I remember when you were knee-high to a grasshopper! My, how you've grown!" Often times, you might not actually know these people. It's okay. They tend to be nice. 

They also might have a lot of fun stories you can glean information from. 

For example, my sixth grade teacher used to tell us hilarious stories about his childhood best friend. Turns out that teacher's best friend was my cousin! I didn't realize this until the end of the year. I haven't met this cousin, but I now have stories about his childhood that make me laugh all the time. 

Sometimes, the stories will be about things they did that also have clues about needed information. "I remember one summer, when we were celebrating his birthday," one of them might say about a grandparent. Aha! Your grandpa was born in the summer. Good to know. 

Have you ever watched Sherlock Holmes? You might want to. You'll need to study his deducing skills. 

These are the most common ways to find information. 

Do you have any other ways to find information? I need to know! 

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

An Unofficial Guide to Family History: Part 1 -- Going Digital

Did you read that really long introduction I posted? If not, you can read it here.

I once took a writing class in which we had to learn to write directions for various activities. I can write you a fantastic "How to Make a Peanut Butter & Jelly Sandwich For Dummies." I am not sure if I can write a "How to do your Family History for the confused." As these posts go on, they will get better, I promise. Please feel free to email me (morganmalvari@gmail.com) or leave a comment. Or message me on facebook. I will answer all your questions to the best of my ability (even if you just need a waffle recipe, hit me up).

Like the title says, this is an unofficial guide, meaning I officially have no idea what my next step will be until I get there, so I can't officially say how to do any of this. This is just my way of doing it.

Alright, enough chit chat. Let's get down to business (not to defeat the Huns, sorry Mulan fans).

Step 1: 

Asses the situation. 

Many of you will have parents, grandparents, aunts, or even occasionally uncles, who have done a lot of the family history work for your family. It might seem like there isn't a whole lot to do. That would be false. There is always a lot to do. 

For many, a lot of the work that has been done has gathered dates, places, and names. Those are incredibly important factors in this. But a lot of those items gathered have been collected on paper, or in scraps of paper tucked into folders. For some of you, that information might already be digital. You need to discover where the work ends, because that's where you will begin. 

For me, it's a combination of things. Half of my family is digitized, the other half is collected in neat folders and messy boxes in many houses. 

For this step, I'm going to help those of you who are not digital yet. Or maybe you don't know if you are digital yet. 

Going digital. 

There are a lot of online options for sorting, collecting, and organizing your family history. Ancestry.com is one. Familysearch.org is another. I use both. For the organizing part, I use Family Search. For finding records, I often use Ancestry. 

Let's start by creating a Family Search account. (I neglected to mention, Family Search is free. Ancestry is not entirely free. That's why I use Family Search.) 

You will want to create a new account on Family Search if you don't already have one. It's really quick. (Be sure to write down your password.) It's okay, I will wait while you do it. 

Did you do it? Excellent. 

Next we need to get your family tree going. If you notice, you will appear somewhat lonely on your tree, with no one connected. Let's add a parent. 

You should see something like this: 



Click on the parent you want to add. 

Here's where it might get a little confusing. I'm going to create two mini-sections for this. Jump ahead to "Living Parents" if your parents are still alive. Continue on here if you your parents are deceased. 

What to do if your parents are deceased.

You will need a few bits of information if your parents have passed. You will want their name (if they went by Ed, you will want their full name. Ed is really common. I know from experience.), their birthday (remember celebrating it? Get the real year. Your parents were likely not 24 the entire time you were alive like they led you to believe.), and their death date (this is likely scarred on your heart, and I am very truly sorry for your loss). These will help you find your parents so much faster. 

When you have all of that information, you are going to click the little plus on the parent you want to add. This will prompt you to add the information you gathered. It'll look like this: 


Enter all of the information you have. It will pull up a list of people who match the criteria. Here you will need to use your best judgement. Pick the person who matches best. I am always nervous about this. I always worry I will merge my tree with someone else's and all will be lost. Turns out, nothing will be lost. You can always correct the mistake later. (There will be a post on how to correct various mistakes I have made.) 

Once you select the correct person, or most correct, your tree will have been started! You are now digital! 

Jump ahead to learn how to continue growing your tree. 

If your parents are still living.

Go visit them. This is important. Parents are important. 

If your parents are living, you will want to add them as place holders in your tree. Living people (including yourself) will not have information on the family search sites. This is a privacy thing. While I want to invade the privacy of all family members, it's not a thing. You can't. But you can add them as a place holder so you can continue to add others in your tree. 

If you are adding living parents to your tree, click the plus sign on the parent you want to add. You will make sure to check the radio button that says "living." You will then have a chance to add as much information as you have. (Again, just ask your parents for their real birth date.) 

Unlike a deceased parent, you will not have the option of selecting record information already on the site. Your parent's name will appear in the proper place. 

Adding to the tree.

Once you have your parents added, the next level will become available. The pattern of adding grandparents, great-grandparents, and great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great grandparents will always be the same. 

On occasion, some ancestors will already be linked. This means, when you add a deceased relative, many more deceased relatives will appear (their parents and grandparents). This is always the most exciting part of digitizing your tree. 

Keep following the pattern for as long as you can. I have no idea how far back someone can really go. I've heard rumors that someone has gotten all the way back to the beginning of time. That is ridiculous. I haven't gotten that far. 

Let me know how far you have gotten. Post a screenshot! I want to see it! 

Sunday, February 21, 2016

An Unofficial Guide to Family History: An Intro

Do you have a sec? I want to tell you a story. 

I grew up feeling like an island. Not that I felt like I had palm trees and tourists running around on me, but that I was isolated. Not just me, but my immediate family. Many moons ago, choices had been made by many individuals, and it left me without knowing my extended families on either side. All of my friends had family reunions yearly, and I barely knew the names of a few uncles and aunts. 

But then something happened. I grew up. I wasn't a kid anymore, and I no longer relied on grown-ups to give me family. It's taken a few years, but I realize now that I am not an island, nor have I ever been (thankfully...tourists are awful). I was just facing the wrong direction. Turns out, I'm just a peninsula. There is a vast ocean of a future ahead for descendants, but all of my family is behind me, connecting me to the larger landmass that is our family tree. 

Having a family, both alive and passed, has been the most amazing asset in my life. As an island, everything seems odd, new, and inexplicable. (Why am I so interested in writing when no one else in my house is? Where do I get this ridiculous sense of humor? How did I get my killer good looks? etc.) As a peninsula, you realize that everything you are is a unique extension of the landmass behind you. (My great-great-great grandma wrote poems and stories. My cousins, share my same silly sense of humor. I have a lot of really attractive ancestors who passed along their sexy genes.)

The more I have gotten to know each of these family members, the more I have understood myself and the world around me. Alone, I have 24 years of experience. Let's be honest, that's nothing. With my family behind me, I have more experience to draw off of than you can shake a stick at (do people shake sticks at things anymore?). 

The past holds a lot of amazing secrets, stories, and answers to questions humans have been asking since the dawn of time. Letting those remain in the grave with those who have passed on is a great disservice to yourself, your future, and the future of mankind in general. Our ancestors have already lived. They have experienced heartbreak, failure, success, and they have found answers to questions we haven't even thought to ask yet. Exploring family history is giving yourself a leg up when it comes to wisdom and life. 

A lot of Millennials think "no one understands me." We have all been there. This is a very unique generation in that we have a lot of new technologies, science is farther along than anyone dreamed (except Einstein maybe), and we seem to be in the transitional stage of figuring out what to do now with all the wars, diseases, and environmental issues. What we don't realize is how completely wrong we are. Yes, we are in an astounding era of technology and science, but we are still people. We as humans have no changed as much as technology has. 

Our ancestors didn't have Snapchat or Twitter so what could we possibly learn from them? 

What are Snaps and Tweets? Ways of expressing ourselves. What are we expressing? Our feelings? Our thoughts? Our fears? All humans have always had those issues. How do we express how we feel, what we think, and the problems we face? 

You are the genetic result of people long ago, so chances are, you have some of the same qualities as them. Science constantly argues nature vs. nurture, and I honestly have no answer to which trait comes from which aspect of life, but I do know that genetics are strong. What you have felt has likely been felt by many generations before you. No, they didn't Snap or Tweet, but they did face problems, and many of your ancestors likely found ways to solve those problems. Exploring their answers will give you answers to your own questions. (How you express those answers is entirely up to you.)

I'm in the middle of figuring out my family history. Many people have had parents and grandparents who have done family history. So there doesn't seem like a whole lot to do. That's the falsest falsey false thing you could think. Remember how we live in a world of technology? Our parents and grandparents didn't have that. We are one lucky generation. We can Google whatever we want and find answers. There are searching tools to help you find answers, pictures, and even some really cool facts about ancestors. 

If you want, you are more than welcome to join me, work with me (on your won family things of course) and together we can maybe figure out how to unlock the answers our ancestors have kept in their hearts. 


This beautiful lady is my Great Grandma. She is one of the women who will be helping me along this journey. Believe it or not, she has a million photos stored in boxes, and family trees typed up on paper that need to be digitized. Lucky for me, I get to know her, visit her, and listen to the wonderful stories she has. Find yourself a beautiful lady (or handsome man) who has collected your ancestors' stories. Maybe the stories are spread out among many relatives. That's great! You get to meet more people! Do it. You won't be sorry. 


Was this post a little too long to read? That's alright. In summary, family history = awesome. Doing family history = worth it. I will walk through it with you, because that's what I'm doing now. Want to join in? Good. I thought so. ;) 

Monday, February 15, 2016

Monkey Bars and Broken Arms

Have you seen this quote?



Or more commonly, this quote?


It's a nice sentiment, and it makes a great metaphor.

Unless you've broken your arm on the monkey bars by letting go.

I was five and in Kindergarten. Back then we had year round school, so even though it was summer, I still had school. I was on a picnic with my best friend Derek and my mom. Derek and I had spent the first part of the picnic climbing the tallest tree we could. (It became a climbing competition. I'm somewhat competitive, and he's adventurous. He wanted to go to the top, and I wanted to be higher up than he was. On our way back down, I fell. But that isn't what broke my arm.)

After falling, and eating more sandwiches, we played on the playground. I can't remember if we were playing a game, or just running around, but I wanted to attempt the monkey bars.

Let's take ten seconds and remember how small I was:

I'm the one with the bow.


On average, I think I could probably lay between monkey bars and fall through. I probably should not have been on them. But I wasn't one for sitting out.

I completed the monkey bars, all by myself. It was a five foot journey of a lifetime. My little feet touched the landing platform and I was pumped! I totally nailed those!

My triumph didn't last long. Out of nowhere, this kid at least five times my size (probably a second-grader) shot out of the tunnel and bumped into me. (I say bumped, but he kind of smashed...it was less like bumper cars and more like a freeway collision.) I tumbled off the oh-so-tall platform and landed on my back. I'd have said flat on my back, but I wasn't flat. My arm landed under me.

The picnic was over. And so were my days on the monkey bars.

Later that day, I got an X-ray and a cast. It put a damper on my summer fun, and on learning to write the letter K in school. (It's alright. I can write the letter K just fine now.)

The monkey bar metaphor can be extended from just letting go in order to go forward to once you land, someone will always be there to push you back down.

It's true. Moving forward is harder when you know what's coming. If what's ahead is a bigger kid who carelessly flies out at you, ruining your summer, then why would you ever want to move forward?

I'm sure there's an even longer metaphor in here somewhere. It could tie into the getting knocked down metaphor (you know, the one where you get back up). Or maybe it's a metaphor about the other kid, the one who pushed me. (I wonder if he/she is writing a blog about the time he/she pushed a kid and nearly killed her.) Or maybe it's about moms (it was a mom, after all, that scooped me up when I fell). Or maybe there is no metaphor and people really shouldn't be on monkey bars ever. (I'll start a petition later to have all monkey bars removed because one time 10 years ago, I broke my arm on them. Please sign and share.)

This has been a Seinfeld post, and really has no where to go. I feel there needs to be a moral, so here's one: Don't be the kid at the end who carelessly pushes someone else off. You don't know what they went through earlier (they might have fallen out of a metaphorical tree). There's a quote about being kind because everyone is fighting a battle you know nothing about. It's like that. Someone may have just completed the monkey bars for the first time by themselves, be careful and try not to plow them down with your own life. (But if you do knock them down, definitely grab your mom so she can pick them up.)



Saturday, January 2, 2016

Not Another New Years Post

True to my word, this is not another post about resolutions, goodbyes, or what I think you should do this coming year. You can do whatever makes you happy.

I wanted to write about something that makes me happy:

Grandmas.

Not just my own, but all grandmas. If I had to pick one group of people to spend the rest of my life with, it would be grandmas.

Mothers have something special. They have a tenderness that develops as their kids develop. They have a fierce sense of protection--I'm talking Mama Bear status. Moms are fantastic. There is nothing quite like moms.

Even more so, though, are grand-moms. I don't know if it's because they have raised kids to the end, or because of the era in which they grew up. Whatever the cause for their love, it's incomparable to anything else.

A  mom knows what a certain cry means when their child whimpers. A grandma knows what a child wants/needs before they whimper. A mom knows how to soothe a child's fears. A grandma knows how to instill confidence to face a fear. A mom will push you in the right direction, with love. A grandma will see where you're headed and help you prepare or change directions with love.

A mother's love and support is important for a child to grow into a strong adult. A grandmother's love and support creates heroes--men and women who shape society into something better.

All of the grandmas I have ever met (my own, and my neighbors, friends, and strangers) have left an impression on me. I'm a really long ways from being a grandma--a really long ways--but I plan on taking all of that time to soak in all the grandmotherly love I can so that I can pass that along to my future--very future--grandchildren.

So here's to you, Grandmas everywhere. You are the shapers of society. The ones who leave children smiling despite anxiety. The ones who give hugs with their eyes. The ones who create mothers, fathers, businessmen and women, chefs, astronauts, soldiers, winners, and lovers. The ones who will never turn their backs to pain. The ones who see what's truly in a person's heart. The ones who face each day with a smile brighter than the sun, a heart warmer than summer, and love so tender that even the coldest-hearted people can't deny.

Here's to you, Grandmas.


Saturday, December 12, 2015

Moment of Impact

The first time I witnessed a car accident I was seventeen. I was in the car with Nathan. We were waiting at a light to go to Wendy's. The cars turning left were making their way through the intersection. It all happened in a flash. There was an awful crunch. Some crunches are satisfying--like stepping on crisp fall leaves. This wasn't. It was the sound of metal twisting and turning. A kid barely older than me blew through the red light. His car broadsided another sedan waiting to turn left. Drivers of both vehicles were unconscious. Simultaneously, everyone froze and moved. 

Within the coming week, I found out that the lady who got broadsided was someone I knew. She lived a couple of neighborhoods away. Her sons were in school with me. When I asked her about it, she told me that before it happened, she knew it was coming. She didn't say it as if she was aware of some impending doom. Her voice was pleasant and calm. Teenage me thought I understood what she was saying. 

****

It was the summer of 2013 that I first experience "grown-up freedom". It's not really freedom, but after being in school your whole life, it feels like freedom. It's not until you have to pay bills that you realize childhood is freedom. 

Summer 2013 was the year I started working "grown-up jobs". I got my first full time job that summer. I worked as technical support for a SaaS company. The first few days of training on the job were boring. Grown-up jobs come with a lot of paperwork. I signed more documents in those first few days than I had in my whole life I think. I didn't understand most of the words they were saying. I'm not sure they were even speaking English. I signed my name anyway. 

The actual job training was easy. We had to practice setting up a platform, and practice organizing data. Our last task was to listen to call recordings done by others. Our worksheet outlined what to look for. After two calls, I figured out the formula and could skip through the recordings to find the answers. While everyone else listened to five calls after lunch, I had listened to them all two hours before the end of the day. 

I found agents' calls I liked. None of the calls were scripted, but each agent fell into a certain pattern. Spencer had a good rhythm. Ryan's calls were really short; he was intelligent. Coy had good business skills. But it was Richi's calls that I particularly enjoyed; it sounded like every customer was his best friend. 

I finished listening to the recordings and sat in silence for the last two hours. The next day, I got a desk, computer, and phone. 

****

If we could break through traffic, we could get some good speed and make it to the lights on time. There was a sea of tail lights ahead. Off to the right were emergency lights. 

Richi prompted me to slow down earlier than I would have. The Dodge in front of us stopped sooner than it seemed they would have. Our van came to a stop behind them. Simultaneously, the world stopped and jumped to action. 

I heard tires squeal behind me. It was dark in the mirrors, but it I could make out the outline of the Crown Victoria behind us. I watched them swerve to the right, out of my driver's side mirror and into the view of the passenger's. 

The sound of metal twisting and turning around itself filled my ears. My body slammed forward, then whipped back. My eyes filled with grey and red. The kids in the back screamed. Their faces were wet with tears already as they checked each other for injuries and reached for their phones. 

****

At the SaaS company, my desk was near the end. The desk to my left was empty, waiting for fellow new-hire. The desk to my right had a computer, but I was informed that the owner, Richi, wouldn't be here until night. 

Richi and I only saw each other for a few minutes when he came in before I left for the day. His day always started as mine ended. When he graduated on September 11, his scheduled changed to a more regular one. 

I was leaving for the day early. Early in December and early in the day. Richi had switched departments. I partially think it was because we talked too much. We frequently got dirty looks for our conversations. (His voice carries, even when he's quiet.) He offered to walk me to the door. 

We walked down the stairs to the lobby. He paused. I'm not sure what words he used, but he asked to take me to a movie. Simultaneously, the world froze and sped forward. I accepted, happily. 

The movie was something about space. I can't remember. I didn't watch a lot of the movie. On occasion my eyes flicked to the screen, but they spent the majority of the time watching Richi. His eyes filled with the intensity of the film; he clutched his unopened candy in both hands. He is the person filmmakers think of when making a movie. 

****

My neighbor told me she saw it coming before the car hit her. I thought I understood. I didn't. I'm not sure I understand yet, but I think I'm closer. 


Sunday, December 6, 2015

First Time Planting Trees

I've told many people we were going to plant trees in my backyard, and that we ordered them online. Everyone has thought we ordered full grown trees and that somehow I was going to plant those after receiving them in the mail.

I'm not sure they mail full sized trees.

The type of tree I chose to plant also doesn't get very big. They're smaller trees.

Anyway, we received the trees in a box along with instructions on how to plant them. I followed the instructions to a T. Hopefully our little trees make it!


Step One: 

Open the trees carefully. Unwrap the plastic. Very gently untangle the roots of each tree. (The roots had some hydro gel on them that kept them moist.)


 Step Two:

Place the roots of the trees in water for 3-6 hours, but not overnight. The trees are dormant, but I know nothing about trees, so I guess putting dormant trees in water is okay. 



Step Three: 

Dig the holes while the trees soak. The holes need to be deep enough that the roots can hang out without getting cramped, and wide enough that the roots can expand during the winter. 

Step Four: 

The trees are tiny. Can you see them? They are the twigs with the tiny white labels on them. I didn't want them to get smashed or blown over, so I placed some "stakes" next to them. I had to dig around the garage for things to hold them up. So we have a broken shovel handle, some random piece of rebar and a piece of wood that has an unknown purpose. Anyway, I tied them to these in hopes of keeping them up when the snow comes (if it comes) and to make sure everyone knows there is something right there. The shovel is much more noticeable than the tiny trees.  











Here are the trees! 

(These are memorial trees. One for Scott, and one for Chad.)

Also, if you hear me talking to myself in my backyard, I'm just giving some encouraging words to the trees. ;)