ScrapMoir How-To #27: Organizing and Remembering Why We Write Our Scrapbook Stories and Memoirs

by Bettyann Schmidt on March 24, 2011

catnav-scrapmoir-active-3Post #78 – Women’s Memoir Writing, ScrapMoir – Matilda Butler and Kendra Bonnett

by Bettyann Schmidt

Memoir Writing

The measure of a woman’s character is not what she gets from her ancestors, but what she leaves her descendants.~Author: Unknown

I’ve had several of those “aha” moments lately, as I write the stories for my family memoir. The discoveries I’ve made have helped me to the extent that I thought they were worth sharing here.

While deep in the muck and mire of research data threatening to explode both my human brain and my computer hard drive unless I came to a decision to store it in one place only, I finally made up my mind. 

I started a binder several years ago for my genealogy with divider tabs for all of my forms and printouts, and my notes and musings, and the question was whether to print all of my digital data and update the old three-ring book or not. I asked myself if this wasn’t an unnecessary task, when I spend at least eight hours a day most days on my computer.

Didn’t it make sense to organize my data where I could use it more efficiently? Since I’m writing the book on my computer, doesn’t it stand to reason that I can copy and paste anything I want into my document as I write? I have a flash drive plugged in for backups, so I won’t lose valuable work, and occasionally I back up the flash drive to a second storage media.

Memoir and the Digital Notebook

My decision, then, was to create a “Family History” folder in My Documents, with a shortcut on my desktop. Inside that folder are sub-folders. A “Forms,” folder contains blank forms I can fill out in Word or PDF. Once completed, the form would be given a name, i.e., “1870 Census-Wehrle,” and then placed in the folder “Wehrle,” which is the surname of my paternal grandmother’s family.

Another document in my Family History folder is “Journal,” for recordkeeping. It’s not in a sub-folder, but a single document where I note the date and what I’ve found and what more to look for.

When you look at your life, the greatest happinesses are family happinesses. ~Joyce Brothers

Memoir and the Scrapbook Notebook

All of my photos reside in the “my pictures” folder on my hard drive in sub-folders. My current pictures are in folders labeled by month and year. I only keep the current year’s photos on my hard drive, and the rest on flash drives, CDs, and husband’s computer. This keeps my hard drive uncluttered. My vintage photos are stored in “Old Pictures” in the My Pictures folder.

We have Photoshop on my husband’s computer, but I now have Picassa on my laptop, which I’ve finally learned to love, and which is a free download from Google. When working on my manuscript, I like being able to edit one of the old photos, or resize it in Picassa and either create an 8-1/2 x 11-inch layout, or just send it to my Word page.

Stained Glass

 Family History Notebook

In my Family History folder, I have a sub-folder named “Scrapbook,” where I store digital layouts, notes on creating a certain layout, journaling for a future layout, and digital templates from the internet. Anything to do with scrapbooking goes into my Scrapbook folder.

The Second Why

We all grow up with the weight of history on us. Our ancestors dwell in the attics of our brains as they do in the spiraling chains of knowledge hidden in every cell of our bodies. ~Shirley Abbott

My second big Aha Moment came after I read a book review on Shaking the Family Tree: Bluebloods, Black Sheep, and other Obsessions of the Accidental Genealogist, by Buzzy Jackson. After which, of course, I had to go to Amazon, where I was able to “look inside.”  I love it when books have that feature. 

The first sentence in the book is, “Ask yourself why you are doing this.”

That’s a first sentence that makes me want to read on, and especially at this moment in time when I’m in the throes of wrestling with surnames and the varied misspellings in records, and census data gaps that puts my ancestors in limbo for ten years.

I needed to get back to the “why.”

The second question at the start of the book is, “What do you hope to find?”

The book’s author answers, “A circus tent and a dentist. And a cattle farm in Mississippi, and of course Windswept.”

Well, okay then,  my answer is Frank, and Nelly Dean. And of course Dorothy Stella-Dean and her secret baby.

Buzzy Jackson clears up her answers in the next paragraph, and it really does make sense. Likewise, my answers refer to the secrets and mysteries of my family.

What happened to my grandfather Frank in the years he can’t be found, the span of years between the 1930 census and his death. My mother’s first marriage no one knew about to a man named Harry Stella, and the secret baby she gave birth to but would never talk about. And the woman who is listed as my paternal grandfather’s mother whose name changes to Lizzie and one of her children ends up in an institution for the “feeble-minded.”

Why am I doing this? That was my aha revelation. Because I want to put as many of the pieces together for the book I plan on leaving for my grandchildren and other family members who don’t seem like they care right now. I want everyone to know their roots.

The lack of emotional security of our American young people is due, I believe, to their isolation from the larger family unit. No two people – no mere father and mother – as I have often said, are enough to provide emotional security for a child. He needs to feel himself one in a world of kinfolk, persons of variety in age and temperament, and yet allied to himself by an indissoluble bond which he cannot break if he could, for nature has welded him into it before he was born. ~Pearl S. Buck

Part of my story is about some important people who did a good job of raising large families during hard times. They had flaws like everyone else, but their cores were good and moral.

A family is a place where principles are hammered and honed on the anvil of everyday living.~Charles Swindoll

I am now the oldest and I want the rest of the Dean clan to know this information. It’s for their good. I know how much it helped me.

And I leave you with this wish.

May the roots of your family tree grow deep and strong.~Irish Blessing

If you haven’t done so yet, be sure to download my new e-book, ScrapMoir: 7 Steps to Organizing Your Photos, Your Memories, and Your Stories here on this site.

Bettyann Schmidt
Be sure to join me on my blog

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