When I was a girl, my Dad taught us how to play a game where there are two teams that sit on opposites sides of a large table. Each team takes turns passing a 50-cent piece back and forth (under the table) between team members, until the captain of the other team yells, "Jigs Up!" at which point the team concealing the 50-cent piece has to bring all of their hands above the table and perform one of three maneuvers (creeps, slams or tri-pods) while the other team tries to determine exactly who has the coin and in which hand they are hiding it. I have memories of playing Jigs Up after Sunday dinners or when we had guests over to eat. It's a great way to kill some time between dinner and dessert. Once you've played this game, you never look at a 50-cent piece the same way again. For Valentine's Day this year, my Mom gave or sent each of her grandchildren a Hershey's Kiss and a 50-cent piece. She wrote, "Jigs Up" Valentine, be Mine!" Or something like that. Apparently, she and Dad had to visit multiple banks to acquire the hard-to-find 50-cent pieces. This little gift is a great example of a
"small and simple thing" that can connect my children through my childhood memories to their grandparents. Intentionally using and perpetuating small and simple things like this was the topic of my class that I taught at RootsTech (see this post) and I've had a handful of people email me about handouts, so I thought I would summarize my presentation with four main ideas and then post two handouts below.
Pay attention to small and simple things that help you remember and feel connected to other people, especially family members. These things might be legitimate heirlooms, everyday objects or even intangible things, like a phrase, a song or a game.
If you're interested in family history, obtain a 4-generation pedigree chart and note specific things (potential connections) that you can think of to associate with each person (parents, grandparents and great-grandparents.)
As you read life sketches, biographies and obituaries for loved ones that have passed on, look for even one small and simple thing that you could use in some way to keep them in remembrance.
Document the everyday things you love and share this information. Taking the time to share the stories and meaning behind special personal belongings is a great way to tell your story, and you don't have always have to write these stories out, you can begin by sharing in easy, informal ways like Instagram or Pinterest.
I have only a little information about my great-great Grandfather, Joseph Hall and what I do have is documented in a handful of 1 and 2-page sketches written by one of his children or grandchildren. I found these "stories" on familysearch.org. The funny thing is I've actually read these sketches a number of times, but I never remember reading them—in other words, I have yet to make this information memorable in anyway, because I will log back on to Family Search, click through to this grandfather's page, get excited that there are "stories" there, begin reading them and then realize that I have read them previously. Make sense? It's not sticking and I'm certainly not doing a good job of sharing what I know with my children. So, this is where the concept of "small and simple things" can make a difference. I re-read these life sketches and found this:
Armed with this tidbit, I visited the Old Time Candy Company and found some stick candy in a tin. This is certainly not the exact kind of candy that Joe Hall gave to his grandchildren, but it's close enough! I have now purchased tins to share with my extended family at our upcoming reunion and I have printed photos of the Halls that I can give out too. My plan is to keep one of these tins of stick candy on our fireplace mantel, along with the photo, so that we make visible this "connection" to our ancestor. I then decided to gather some of the highlights from GG Grandpa Joe's life (found in the life sketches online) and publish them as an easy to print and read PDF that any of this descendants can use to draw closer to him. I'm not sure why I'm so excited about this idea, except that maybe it will make learning and sharing family history easier for busy moms like me. My goal now? To create and upload similar one-page highlights for other great grandparents on my pedigree chart.
Feel free to read or download either of these handouts, if you can use them. Click the "Click to Read" button, which will open each document, and then click on the arrow/box icon to select download from the list of options.
Naturally, I'm curious what ideas you have for accessing and sharing stories from the past.