You might recall that back in September I suggested that a book or chart outlining your research would be a wonderful holiday gift. I even suggested that you begin right away to avoid the last minute rush. Well, I didn't take my own advise, so I started my project the first week of December. It was tense, but I did finish it (although I had to have it shipped express mail) and the family loved it. I have two sisters and with all our families we do a "yankee swap." That's where all the gifts go into a pile and we pull numbers to determine the order for selecting a gift. The first person selects and opens their gift, then person two can either "steal" person one's gift or select a new one. This goes on until everyone has a gift, then person one gets the last pick...to either keep their gift or swap with someone else. The book was the last gift opened, and my younger sister (who had picked first) almost came out of her chair to swap for it.
I always joke about being the least creative person in the world, but I found the process of creating the book on Ancestry using My Canvas™ to be very easy. I definitely found it easier (and more enjoyable) than my experience creating a scrapbook about five years ago.
I think that many of us want to "finish" our genealogy before we write the book. Unfortunately, that means that much of the research that is done never gets shared because we're never finished. Now I would not consider the thirty pages of my book a "scholarly work" but a formal register style report would be of no interest to my family (who as I've mentioned are not into dead people). Instead, what I've created is a story book that provides a pedigree chart, family group sheets for each family including a scrapbook page of pictures and a short narrative on our ancestors with interesting facts. I can strongly recommend this approach to anyone who is trying to figure out what to do with their research. There is enough flexibility in MyCanvas to allow you to customize the book to your requirements and you can include unlimited pictures. The cost is reasonable, an 11 x 8.5 leather (hardcover) Family History book of twenty pages is $44.95 plus $.49 for each additional page.
The process of creating the book begins with uploading your GEDCOM to Ancestry. You can make your file public or private. You can also upload pictures to the site which the MyCanvas software uses when creating your book. You do not need to be an Ancestry subscriber to do this, you simply have to register on the site (no charge). Once you have uploaded your file, Ancestry will begin checking the information against its databases and provide you with hints as to possible matches. I had never been able to find one of my grandfather's World War I Draft Registration, and I was impressed when Ancestry presented this to me as a hint. You need to check the details on all of the hints, some clearly can be ignored but you might just end up with a gem as I did. In order to access the databases, you do have to have a subscription to Ancestry. You will probably be presented with information from the Ancestry trees of others and frequently these will provide hints that you can use to extend your research. Remember, don't accept this information into your file until you can confirm the source of the information. You can contact the submitter to find out about their sources...maybe it's the long lost cousin who ended up with the Family Bible! If you file is private (as mine is) and another researcher wishes to contact you, Ancestry passes a message to you. You can then elect to respond or not.
If you don't have a genealogical database you can use Ancestry online to create and store your information and then share it with your family. With all the new and exciting Web 2.0 applications there are a number of social networking sites which allow you to create and share family information (that's a topic for another blog.) However, if you've been trying to figure out what to do with your research, take a branch of your family and give Ancestry and MyCanvas a try.