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Exclusive articles, interviews, and insights covering downsizing & decluttering, genealogy, photos and other media, aging well, travel, and more. We’re here to help you capture the big little moments and stories to bring meaning and even order to all of life’s collections for generations.
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GENEALOGY & FAMILY HISTORY
The Three Things I Wish My Mother Had Artifcted

Reading time: 3 minutes 

Losing a parent is never easy. For me, the loss of my mother also equated to the loss of our family keeper. The recipe remember-er, the re-teller of funny and sometimes true stories, the arbitrator of family history (not to mention all those dates, locations, and relations).

There are moments even now when I stop and think, “If only I could ask Mom.” Instead, for better or worse, I am now our family keeper, or, more aptly, our family can-you-remember-er with what details I do recall.

There are three things that I wish my mother had Artifcted. Of course, she would have to do it old school, with scrapbooks or maybe journals with photos inserted since nothing like Artifcts existed yet.

1.  Her recipes.  

My mother was an amazing cook, baker, and overall entertainer. Her cookies, cakes, and pies were famous, as was her award-winning blueberry buckle. I was fortunate to grow up watching her cook and learning the recipes by sight. Still. There are some substitutions I am left to guess. Some ingredients I am left to wonder, “Did she really put this in the recipe?” And some recipes that I simply can’t find and have yet to replicate. I KNOW she cooked them; I remember the dishes, and most of the ingredients. Where is the recipe?

2.  Her jewelry. 

My mother had some beautiful pieces of jewelry, but she was the only one that knew the stories behind them. I am left to guess at the details and try to piece together the who, what, when, where, and WHY. These are the details I would love to pass down to my daughter along with the actual jewelry, but I’m stuck relying on my six-year-old memory of what she might have told me the umpteenth time she caught me going through her jewelry box.

3.  Her books.  

Or rather, her favorite book(s). My mother was an avid reader, with 1000s of books in her collection. Some were old and well-loved; others were brand new and never opened. I wish I knew which books left an impact on her as a young adult and as an aging adult. Which ones did she go back to again and again? I’ll never know these little pieces of my mother that have somehow taken on even greater weight now that she is gone.

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I cannot change the past, so instead of being sad about what I do not have, I have turned it around to be glad and proactive about what I do have. I have my stories, my memories, and my history that I am busy creating every day. I have an inquisitive and smarter than smart daughter that is my everything.

So, what do I do? I Artifct for her, and whoever comes after her. I tell her my story, one Artifct at a time. I share with her all the details—big and small—that make me, well, me. And although she may not be ready to hear everything I have to say (I am after all “way vintage” if you ask her), I take comfort knowing that one day she will appreciate those details, and she will know me. The real me. I will not be a mystery to my daughter. She’ll have my Artifcts.

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Artifcts Gift

Consider gifting the mom in your life Artifcts. Imagine all those "I never knew that about you!" moments that await.

© 2023 Artifcts, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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Can Your DNA Test Results Be Considered an Artifct?

There are so many technological innovations that have become a part of family history research. These include online databases of vital records and other documents. Hand-writing recognition tools to help decipher and index census images. And personal DNA test kits to help understand your ethnic background as well as connect you with relatives you never knew before.

While the technology itself is innocent, how it is used opens up an entire Pandora’s box of issues and ethical questions. DNA test results are the most problematic since the data is, after all, the ESSENCE of a person. They are the ultimate identifier. They are unique just like you. And the same data that advances the ability to better understand ourselves, our heritage, and our family… can be used to implicate a person in a criminal cold case or discriminate against those with certain ethnicities or even specific medical conditions.

Should You Document Your DNA Test Results?

I’ve been testing my own DNA since 2008 when AncestryDNA was still in beta test mode. I’ve tested with all the major companies, and I’ve not only compiled the results, but I have also documented the process for each test.

As I tell my followers, genealogical and family history research is not just names and dates. I want to “fill in the dash” meaning what happens between the birth date and death date for a person. This includes me and my life story. I am leaving a legacy for future generations of family members as well as researchers. So, I definitely am in favor of sharing my DNA results and journey with others.

DNA test results can cause a major “shift change” in research for some. Each week it seems that there is a media story about an adoptee locating birth family, or a person discovering that their grandfather had other children that were not documented. With a belief that “knowledge is power” I always make sure that I put my DNA test results to good use, but responsibly. Once my results are available, I download the data and secure it. Going forward I make sure that what I share does not compromise my own privacy or the privacy of those with whom I connect.

What Should You Share and What Should You Keep Private?

Your level of sharing when it comes to DNA test results depends on your comfort level. Most of the personal DNA test kit vendors allow you to “opt out” of sharing results with other testers in order to look for a “match.” Some testers even go so far as using a fake name and a “burner” email address for anonymity. Remember: your data, your choice.

I feel comfortable sharing my ethnicity breakdown with family and even publicly. I also always opt in to the “matching” aspect at each DNA vendor with whom I’ve tested since it has led to many advances in my genealogy research.

I don’t share the medical and health related aspects of my DNA especially on social media. While here in the US health insurance companies cannot use DNA test results in determining your coverage, there is no law preventing life insurance companies from doing so.

Before I upload my data to a third party site like GEDmatch, I make sure to read the Terms and Conditions and the Privacy Policy of the site. I also recommend signing up for email updates on these policies. I even go so far as setting up a Google Alert for the company so I can keep tabs on the latest news including anytime a vendor has been bought or sold, or even when they’ve experienced a data breach.

Best Practices for Getting the Most Out of Your DNA Test Results

Here’s my advice on the best ways to work with your DNA test results. The goal is to preserve and document the process and results in a way that still ensures your privacy and the privacy of others.

Record the Story

        • Write or record the story of why you wanted to take a DNA test, the process, and the results. Make sure you cover which DNA testing company you used, why you selected that company, how the test kit worked, and the anticipation of waiting for the results. Check out my AncestryDNA Artifct where I followed my own advice!
        • In your story also describe your reaction to the results. Were you surprised by anything? Did the results run counter to a family story or your genealogy research? Did the results put you on the path to a new research journey?
        • Use photos when possible including the test kit and a screen capture of the ethnicity results. Also consider sharing your haplogroup information so you can connect with others in the same group. However, don’t share detailed results including chromosomes and mapping and other information.

Test Again

        • Keep in mind that ethnicity results can change over time. What? That’s right, over time your ethnicity results may change due to more and more people testing their DNA. This means more results in the databases and a “refinement” of results. Example: Instead of just being Western European, you may see a breakdown of results listing percentage of French or German ethnicity.

Benefit from the Best of Social Media

        • If you are a social media user, remember to ask others with whom you “match” before you post results publicly. If you locate a new cousin, don’t automatically take a screen capture of the match listing the cMs (centimorgans) and their name. When it comes to DNA results it is better to ask for permission rather than forgiveness later. The Internet is a “copy machine” and once posted it is almost impossible to remove that information.

Get Artistic

One neat way to document and share the ethnicity breakdown based on your DNA test results is to create a colorful print that includes the world map marking the regions related to your background. Family ChartMasters is a US-based company that lets you enter your ethnicity information and generates an amazing Personalized DNA Ethnicity Chart measuring 20” x 24” and suitable for framing. The staff at Family ChartMasters are super helpful and can be reached via email at info@familychartmasters.com. Learn more >

Example DNA chart from Family ChartMasters

Conclusion

DNA testing is still an emerging technology especially for family history enthusiasts. Each week the media offers stories of incredible family reunions as well as the heartbreak of learning a truth that conflicts with the belief in a family story passed down for generations.

Remember that these are YOUR DNA test results and you have the ability to use them wisely. Do so in a way that you can share them as part of your legacy story yet still ensure the privacy aspects of such data.

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Eager for more? Connect with Thomas. You can also download his latest Genealogy Tech with Thomas cheat sheet.

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© 2023 Artifcts, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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Free Genealogy Resources and Other Tips from a Pro

Thomas MacEntee knows his (genealogy) stuff. He’s spent decades on his own family research and long before that was steeped in the tech industry. Having tech skills, natural curiosity, and boundless energy are hallmarks of a great genealogist, and he possesses these traits and then some. We can add perseverance to that mix, too. 

During a recent Evenings with Artifcts, our audience had questions for Thomas that we do not want you to miss. Here are just a few: 

Q: How can I stay apprised of sales for memberships and DNA test kits, genealogy events near me, and even changes to the privacy terms of sites I use? 

A: Approve the sender email addresses for sites you work with to ensure emails from them do not go to spam. And set Google Alerts! It’s easy to do and to change or delete when you no longer need them. Create a Google alert -> 

Q: How can I export my genealogy research to share with family who do not want to sign into the platform I used to build our family tree? The file I got was not usable. 

A: Ah, GEDCOM, yes; it’s the default format you’ll get genealogy data in and isn’t meant to be read as is. Try a different site from the one you’ve been using to see if you like it better for engaging your family. You can download the free version of RootsMagic or create a free account on MyHeritage and then import your GEDCOM file and evaluate its fit for you. Review each site’s terms and conditions before importing your GEDCOM data so you know what they will do with the data. 

And watch out because the old GEDCOM formats do NOT download your media files. You have to download each photo, document, and other media file one-by-one. Always back up your media files locally before posting anywhere. That's a great bonus of Artifcts, which offers members non-proprietary, usable formats to download individual Artifcts and/or your complete collection. Simply click download and choose your preferred format. Done! And Artifcts does not compress (shrink) your media files either.  

Q: I’m new to genealogy research. Where can I find some easy and free resources to get started? 

A: Genealogists as a collective are very active in private and public Facebook groups. Historical societies are often great resources as well. Check your local libraries and museums for free workshops and access to digital research tools. 

 
 
 
 
Thomas shared two additional free resources during the event. Click play! 

Want to hear Thomas’ other great tips, including his thoughts on Evernote vs OneNote, top scanners for photos, negatives, and slides, and more? Watch the full replay on YouTube -> 

Keep Privacy and Security and Mind as You Work! 

It’s worth emphasizing the vital importance of privacy and record keeping throughout any family history and genealogy research endeavor.  

PROTECT PRIVACY.

Data about living people, personal details (addresses, DNA results, birth and anniversary dates), and even the photos and videos you share should all be done with consideration given to all those affected.  

And if you have interviewed a family member and want to include their story, share the transcription with them before you upload it anywhere, so they retain control over their history! 

SECURE LEGACY.

For real. Do not rely on a three-ring binder, fire safe, or, please no, a plastic bin or filing cabinet to be your vault. Embrace tech:  

    • A solid-state hard drive (you can easily find reviews from established sources like CNET) can provide you with speed, capacity, and longevity, helping future proof your research! 
    • And consider a secondary backup with a cloud-based solution or a digital vault service. There are many vault services available to store documents, photos, videos, passwords, and the like. Some also bake in estate planning, medical directives, and other tools to ensure you’re planning forward. Check out Keylu, one of our Allies in ‘Stuff,’ and others including Trustworthy and GoodTrust to find the best fit. 

For more technology tips and recommendations, download Genealogy Tech with Thomas

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Are you a genealogist or family historian and curious to try Artifcts? 

Start here with Artifcts In Real Life and download our checklist of Genealogy Gems. And stay tuned for new genealogy-themed videos on our YouTube channel, too! 

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© 2023 Artifcts, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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How to Artifct Family History and Heirlooms

Connect the Dots so History Can Live on 

Often genealogists and/or the "family keepers" find themselves on lonely hunts for the details of the near to distant past that help them piece together their family history. If you truly seek to preserve memories and keep the family history alive, the scattered facts, photos, and memories locked into family trees and timelines or behind paywalls might be your best tools and your biggest hurdles. 

Here are a few of our favorite combos of photos, video, and audio for a family history experience that will stand the test of time and engage the next generation: 

    • Ship manifest + family photo + audio of Grandma's and Grandpa’s version of events;
    • DAR certificate + family lineage to the Revolutionary War + who applied, why, and what you know about the patriot;
    • Mom’s corporate articles of incorporation + her business logo + an audio recording of her telling the story of building her company;
    • Baby’s baptismal gown + photo of the wedding dress it came from + generations of pictures of those who wore the gown.  

Mother and one year old daughter sitting in wicker rocking chair

 
 
Click the image to view the story of the Artifct about this family heirloom.

Don't Forget! 

    • Artifcts’ invite-only circles are perfect for modern family history and reuniting family heirlooms every day. Not just during family reunions! Don't wait until it's too late.
    • Never share personal information about living relatives without their permission. Privately share the Artifct, leave a note, see what they think!
    • Use "Location” on your Artifct to record where you have stored other related files online or in hard copy and select an option from “In the Future” to help make your wishes known. 

_________________

 Have another tip or approach for genealogists and family history enthusiasts?  

Share on social media or write to us at Editor@Artifcts.com.

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© 2023 Artifcts, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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Storytellers, Beware!

Do not lull yourself into thinking stories have been told, social media can speak for you, your ‘stuff’ or photos can speak for you, or anything in between. It's easily done and sometimes nearly if not impossible to bring those stories and histories back. 

Do You Identify With Any of These?

You fancy yourself a storyteller, a history lover, and think you've put a lot of good stories out there in the world. And if they are good enough, they will live on, like a great campfire tale. 

You tell stories now and then but know you have some still have some unique stories to put out in the world. 

You stick to telling a few really good stories and write off the rest as somehow lesser. (This is what we often hear from Arti community members.) 

Let's Improve the Survival Rate of Your Stories

No matter your storytelling style, we have five important questions for you to consider: 

1. Did you tell the story? 

You might not yet have told the story, period. Or maybe you didn't tell this person.

2. Are you sure? 

There's little risk in telling it again. You can always say, "Stop me if I have told you this before ..."

3. Did you tell it more than once? 

Depending on the study, it takes between seven and nine repetitions for someone to reliably remember. Well, maybe if the story is a real doozy there are exceptions!

4. Were they really listening? 

Polite indifference can mask a wandering mind. How sure are you that they were listening? Likewise, crowded family rooms and dinner tables and multi-tasking realities may mean your story didn't travel as far as you think.

5. Were they ready to hear it?

It doesn't count if you told a 5 year old, or a teen bopping along in their own world, with or without headphones, or even someone yet to become a parent who maybe just thinks your story has nothing to do with them. They need to hear it when they are ready to listen.

5 Questions to Help Keep Your Stories Alive

We can lull ourselves into thinking everyone knows our stories, but reality is often quite different, and time is ultimately our shared enemy. Tell it again. Even if you're certain they know the story already, even if the story is only, “My sister gave this to me.” And maybe this time, record it where they can access it always.  

We’re sharing a story each from our founders that they love to tell. Share yours with us at Editor@Artifcts.com to add to this story here in ARTIcles by Artifcts or respond to our post in Instagram or Facebook!

An Artifcted story from @Egoody: "Czech Eggs - It was the wind!"

An Artifcted story from @heather: "My Mother’s Cookbooks

Happy Artifcting!

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© 2023 Artifcts, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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Calling All Family History Buffs!

Love family history? Love bonding over family lore, stories, and other funny quips, quotes, and oh-so memorable moments? You’re in good company with us here at Artifcts! 

What we’ve discovered over the past two years is that family history may sometimes be fickler than we think. It’s easy to lull ourselves into believing that Grandma’s always going to be here to make her famous biscuits. Grandpa’s always going to be here to tell us the story of his steel pennies. But we know this is not true. 

Although we have yet to find a way to stop (or even stall!) time, we have discovered we can capture those moments, stories, and histories straight from the source. Thousands of photos and documents locked in your hard drive, or difficult or expensive software, will not do justice to your family history. You know the dots you want to connect, so start connecting them where you can easily share them with others with more permanence than memories alone allow! 

We’ve put together tips to make sure your family history will be remembered. 

  1. No need to reinvent the wheel. Use the photos and videos you already have and attach the documentation that is already lurking in your digital or physical file cabinets. Founder’s tip: Add a link to digital files in the ‘Location’ field if you have a digital folder with other related items. 
  2. Sharing is caring. Remember to share privately or publicly with your family (cousins included!) or other interested parties. Create a circle, invite your family into it, and you can all swap Artifcts like a big group chat! 
  3. Ask others to contribute. If you don’t know all the details, ask other family members (who have paid Artifcts memberships) to help fill in the blanks by giving them 'Edit’ access when you share. Our co-founder Heather recently asked her aunts for help in trying to track down the details of this old photo.  
  4. Families love using (name) tags. Tag your Artifcts with a family last name, first name, or initials to capture pieces of family history that are easily searchable, findable, and shareable. Got a big family? Encourage others to use the same tags, such as #GrandmaDot or #NickersonFamily2023, to build the family's Artifcts collection. 
  5. Include citation links. Are you the family keeper or the family genealogist? Include citation links to your research or even family tree details in the ‘Description;' as you would elsewhere, leave out details of living family members if you intend to broadly share or make the Artifct public. 

Ready for More? 

Curious how others are Artifcting their family histories?  

Check out our Family History Month Your Way piece for additional tips and tricks, along with our Gift Your Loved Ones a Why for an important reminder of why all that history is so important.  

If you especially love history and want to see some unique Artifcts, check out the Nickerson Family Association’s Artifcts collection. They’ve Artifcted pieces of their family history from the 1660s! You never know what you’ll discover.  

Happy (Family History) Artifcting! 

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© 2023 Artifcts, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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