4 Tips To Connect With the Mamas That Came Before You

My birthday always falls around Mother’s Day.

In fact, it’s today.

The year I was born, I was born a day after Mother’s Day. And my mom always tells me I was a belated Mother’s Day gift to her. I always loved that story.

Last year, I had a very interesting realization that I was the same age as my mother when she gave birth to me. It was a strange circle of life moment.

My mother is able to celebrate Mother’s Day because I was born. My grandmother’s became mother’s because my aunts and uncles were born. And the same for every generation before. I thought about all the mothers that had to give birth to someone, and they had to live a life long enough for the next generation, in order for me to even exist.

I started looking through my family tree and the faces of the mother’s who came before me (the ones that had a photograph of course!) I looked at my direct line, my aunts, my great-aunts, my ancestors’ cousins… I knew some of them had hardships, strange lives, and estranged family. I knew some of them had stories of strength, of kindness, of humor.

I’d shared on social media last year most of the faces of the 16 biological direct maternal ancestors, going back to my 2x great grandparents, that had to exist in order for me to exist.

Understanding, uncovering, finding them can be extremely satisfying, connecting, and healing.

Whether you have a healthy relationship or a complicated relationship with your mother; whether she is with us now or has passed; whether your mother is biological, foster, adoptive; whether your aunt, cousin, family friend or grandmother was more like a mother; whether you want to learn more about your foremothers or you just want to celebrate any or all of the above…

Today I want to share with you 4 tips on how you can learn more about them, connect with them and celebrate them:

Tip #1

Go To the Source: This Mother’s day, Have A Connecting Conversation and Ask

I know this may seem simple, but many people have told me that they don’t know where to start, how to ask, or are afraid to even ask. I’ve also heard so many people tell me how upset they are because they’ve MISSED their opportunity to ask for stories from their mothers, aunts, grandmothers, great-aunts, etc. If you still have an opportunity to ask someone, my only ask is don’t wait until it’s too late.

I created a free guide called {Y}our Connecting Conversations to give you the step-by-step tools to ask and preserve your family stories. Many people have told me who have used it that it’s been extremely helpful in helping them learn more about themselves, their ancestors and their families

(If you have a toxic relationship with someone in your family, and you truly feel it is against your best interest to get in contact with this person, then don’t jeopardize your health over this. Otherwise, I truly believe that sitting down to learn their stories is really helpful and possibly healing for both people).

Click here to get your copy of the guide if you don’t already have it.

Tip #2

Using Newspapers To Find The Mothers In Your Family

Research tips can vary depending on what you are researching and where you are researching in your family story, so I’ll keep this simple!

Photograph by   Denny Müller

Photograph by Denny Müller

Newspapers for hundreds of years have been a source not only for larger world, state or city news, but for very localized news, too. For example, “Mrs. Morris Weinberg of Brownsville, Brooklyn is visiting her sister, Mrs. Seymour Pozner, [in Elmira, NY] for the weekend”. YES there newspaper articles like that!

You can find information in articles; obituaries; articles; birth, marriage, anniversary, or change of name announcements; local club newsletters and more.

There are many Newspapers that are online, some for free and some not. NOT EVERYTHING IS ONLINE. Many, many local newspapers are often at local historical societies, cultural societies, libraries, genealogical societies and other archives. Sometimes you have to just get onto Google or ask around.

Here are a couple of sources you can get started with when looking at online newspapers:

(1) FultonHistory.com- a free website that has many local newspapers from a variety of states and cities throughout the country. The best part is that, Tom, the person who started and maintains this site, literally went through all the newspapers and made them searchable by keyword! *Note: It may look like a sketchy website, but it’s actually great!

(2) Newspapers.com- this is not free, but some libraries have access to it (check with yours). You can pay for it separately or a basic subscription comes with an Ancestry.com “World Plan”. They have newspapers from all of the US and the World (depending on your subscription). They are constantly adding newspapers to this site, so it is something definitely to check out.

If you don’t know the name of a biological family member, or the married name of someone on your tree, or some defining facts about her, some more research needs to be done, but if you know enough about her, you can certainly do some searching.

BE WARY: Just because someone has her name during the same place and time does NOT mean it is definitely her. Also note if they have different nicknames they go by.

Tip #3

Research The V Word: Vital Documents (and some other great online sources)

There’s all kinds of rules and laws out there about these sorts of documents depending on what country, city, state and time in history you’re wanting to look more into. Do some digging around for what the laws are in your country, state, county or city is.

These basic three include: birth, marriage, and death.

Sites like Ancestry.com, FamilySearch.org and FindMyPast.com are a few examples of sites that could possibly help you find information.

Ancestry is free at most local libraries & you can get a free 2 week trial at home.

You can create a free account with FamilySearch.

FindMyPast has a few free documents and the option for using credits or having a subscription. They have many documents for Ireland and Britain as well as the US.

Another great source is SteveMorse.org. He’s compiled many sites together and has created different search engines to help you find what you are looking for.

CindisList.com literally is a list of different resources you can use to find information for a SLEW of different topics related to finding your family

For those who are looking to find out more about family involved in the Holocaust, pogroms, genocides, or wartime, not everything is gone. And it’s such a relief to know that. There are many foreign and local museums, and historical and cultural societies that have spent long dedicated time gathering data, documents and archival material. I was able to find my 2x great-grandparent’s marriage record - in Poland. And they were married in 1884.

Remember, NOT EVERYTHING IS ONLINE. So you may need to do some Googling and asking around.

Tip #4

Feel Supported & Get Support In Your Research

What I love about the genealogical field is that there is really no way to work on my own. I have a network of other genealogists, historians, archivists, librarians, volunteers and the like that I get to connect with because I’ve learned I can’t do everything alone. Most of the genealogical world could not function if it wasn’t for volunteers & working with others. Even when I do my own research on my own family, I work with other professionals to help me.

If you feel like you’re at a place where you want more support, want to create a family tree to share with your mom or your children, I’m really excited to share share with you that I have three spots open presently for my services Discover {Y}our Story and Forensic Genealogy (finding living people).

Click on one of the links above to fill out the very short questionnaire to get started.

I hope some of these tips inspired you or helped you as you connect with the mother’s in your life on Mother’s Day! I’d love to know what is one tip you will take with you to learn about your foremothers this week?

Comment below!