Beyond Writing, Writing Your Story

Combining hobbies with family history

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If I’m not mistaken, this is the third time I’ve addressed personal hobbies in the Families Across Time blog. In February 2015 (Hobbies bring ancestors to life), I wrote about how knowing what your parents and grandparents did for fun could bring them to life in your writings. In March (Collecting and Family History) I talked about collections. I said, “Collections are a physical manifestation of the collector’s memories, feelings, and thoughts.” For this blog post, I’d like to address how you can bring hobbies and family history together – using one to support the other.

As they say in the military, here’s the BLUF – or bottom line up-front: too much time on Ancestry.com will pull you away from experiencing your own family history. In other words, if you sit in a dark room all day browsing census records, you’ll miss out on your own life.

The problem is that many diehard family historians feel guilty about leaving their work behind – even temporarily. Like me, taking time to do other things interrupts my flow. I find myself thinking about it constantly. I suggest there is a compromise between the two.

What do you like to do besides research? Don’t say, “My job” unless that’s true. For me, I have more hobbies than I care to think about. Over the last year I’ve taken up painting and writing fiction. For the latter, I realized that I’m not really a good fiction writer. Although I have a fantastic novel in my head (a best seller, I might add), the words have not been gushing forth. Since I also love graphics work, I’ve decided to develop my “best seller” as a graphics novel.

“Well, that’s great, John. But what does that have to do with family history? I don’t see the connection.”

When Christine and I moved to Hawaii, I fell in love with the people, the culture, and the island. When we were transferred to San Francisco last year, I felt distraught. Living in the Bay Area is nowhere near as nice as O`ahu and I miss the warm Trade Winds and gorgeous scenery every day. What helps me is painting. I find that painting scenes from Hawaii helps me reconnect, relax, and quiet my mind. It also helps add to my personal family history by offering a visual and very personal perspective on a distinct period in my life. In a way, it’s a visual diary and more than appropriate for my family history.

Acrylic painting based on photograph from Sandy Beach on Oahu, Hawaii.

Acrylic painting based on photograph from Sandy Beach on Oahu, Hawaii.

In my May 2015 post called Everyone Loves a Comic Book, I addressed combining graphic design with your personal story. Recently I took this one step further by purchasing a copy of Poser 10. Poser 10 allows you create scenes in 3D using models of people and objects. I found a NASCAR model and envisioned what the Families Across Time car would look like.

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Music is another avenue you could use to combine hobbies with family history. Those that are musically inclined could write a song, record it, and add that to genealogy. The same could be said about cooking. Many families have recipes that have been handed down from generation to generation. These could be collected and published in book form. If you don’t have the time to find a publisher, and most of us do not, you can easily self-publish. It’s not difficult and surprisingly inexpensive.

My "greatest hits" album when I recorded my own music.

My “greatest hits” album when I recorded my own music.

And, of course, if your hobby is photography you more than likely have more than enough pictures to put your entire life – and that of your family – into photo-essay format. Granted that printing photo books is not cheap, the cost is somewhat offsite by the fact that the end results are usually spectacular.

So what is your hobby? How would you tie that in with your family history?

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