The grief you feel after losing a loved one can continue for years after the funeral service. For most people, the weeks immediately after the loss are the most difficult. When your mind clears and it’s easier to carry on with daily activities, you might feel the urge to do something to honor your loved one, like planting a memorial garden or compiling a scrapbook of family memories. Becoming an amateur genealogist is a fun way to honor your recently passed loved ones and the ancestors you never knew existed.
Gather known family documents and information.
Start by talking to living family members. Perhaps one of them has already started a family tree. Look through old boxes of paperwork and filing cabinets. You might find military service records, school enrollment forms, and old photographs. Interview family members to create an oral history record. Ask them for stories of their childhood, such as what it was like during the war.
Fill in your family tree.
There are plenty of free family tree building websites available, or you can purchase software. Begin in the present time, and fill in all of the information you currently have. (If you’re using a website, be sure to mark whether a person is still living—most websites will then keep that information private.) Use local, state, and federal archives, digitized census and immigration records, and digitized military enlistment documents to fill in the gaps in your family tree. Note that the further back in time you go, the more likely it is that not all information will be strictly accurate. A couple of centuries ago, people were less likely to record birth dates and death dates accurately, and spelling mistakes were common. You might find an old marriage record for “Mehitable Jones” and a census record for “Mahitible Jones.” Make a note of all alternate spellings and dates for each person in your tree.
Explore places and time periods.
If you create a family scrapbook along with your family tree, fill in the gaps by including interesting information about different places and time periods. For instance, if your ancestors hailed from Scotland, look for information about the various clans.
During the months and years to come, your family can gather at your loved one’s gravesite or columbarium niche at Greenwood Memorial Park & Mortuary. Our cemetery near San Diego is a beautiful and serene resting place, full of graceful trees and gardens. Call (619) 701-6473 with your questions about our memorial park.