In Part 1, I explored how I scanned in my family’s old photos. After doing this, my "Preserve Family History" initiative languished for awhile. Then two things happened. First of all, I started watching "Who Do You Think You Are?" For those who haven’t seen it, it’s a wonderful show that takes a celebrity and traces their family’s history. It’s amazing to see Sarah Jessica Parker anguish over the fate of an ancestor charged with being a witch during the Salem Witch Trials. Or marveling with Emmit Smith over the cold calculations that went into the slave trade. While there are parts of the show I could do without (the "coming up next" clips that give away major surprises and the musical segment at the end), overall I really like the show.
The other thing that happened was that B’s grandmother had a fall about a month ago. I realized that her grandmother’s not going to live forever. I’ve already lost a huge family history resource on my side. With my grandmother’s passing last year, all of my grandparents are dead. On B’s side, her grandmother is the last one still living. I wanted to preserve as much family history as possible.
I began looking into programs to help me organize my geneological pursuits. I came upon a nice piece of free (and open source) software called GRAMPS. The interface took a little getting used to. I’ll admit that I came pretty close to deleting the whole deal a few times. Once I worked out how to operate it, though, I was amazed by how much information I could input into it. What really sealed the deal, though, was the portable version. Pop that onto a USB drive and you can tote your entire family tree around and work on it on any computer.
The fun doesn’t stop at inputting data, however. You can add plugins for GRAMPS that allow it to easily output the data to web pages, family trees, etc. Pretty much anything you want to do with your family history, you can do with GRAMPS. This is definitely a tool I’d recommend for people who want to keep a local family history.
Next week, I’ll expand my search beyond your PC to the World Wide Web and the various resources that are available there.