Home Page


Mountain Press Homepage

Publisher of Quality Genealogy Materials

New Books



Mountain Press Homepage

Genealogy Gazette

Volume 5, Number 23
Mountain Press, P.O. Box 400, Signal Mountain, Tennessee 37377, 1-423-886-6369
November 20, 2013


Author's Notes

In this article we discuss recording your family history. Gathering all the dates of births, deaths and marriages is just the first step in your famiy history. It is also good to find out more about them as well as searching for those family photos. It is not always easy to find out about their lives, but it leaves a great history for the generations to follow.

As always, we love hearing your stories after each newsletter. Please email me at jimd@mountainpress.com if you have any comments or questions.

Thank you,
James L. Douthat
Mountain Press


How to Eat an Elephant


Most all of us have spent long hours collecting our family data with much effort at finding the right resources. Now we need to write up our family’s story. Looking at all of those dates, names and places we find the challenge overwhelming. How do we start?? What approach do we take to record all that we know about these folks we call our ancestors?? It looks, for intents and purpose, like standing at the foot of Mt. Everest. Our desire is to get to the top. It is the same with climbing Mt. Everest as with eating an elephant - on step or bite at a time. If we take it in small bits, the job is accomplished in time. No one can sit down at 10:00 am with a cup of coffee and have it finished by lunch time. If we have any data at all, it takes time to check and recheck the fact. Here is my approach.

I gather all of the data and get everyone in order. The beginning files are to have one for each of the major players in the “family tree”. If you want to spread out to the siblings, another file is established. When I published my first genealogical tree while still in high school, I worked on my mother’s family. They were mostly doctors, lawyers and other professional folks thus they left a paper trail a mile wide. I did have the help of my grandfather’s siblings. Granddad was next to the youngest of twelve with five brothers and one sister as well as six half-brothers. At the time I was working on them, only one of the half-brothers was alive, but all of my Granddad’s brothers and sister were alive. I remember all of the brothers and one sister living to celebrate their fiftieth wedding anniversary. The first time of setting all of the data down was simply names and dates with a few locations. It turned out to be about seventy pages. After looking at this for a few years through college and seminary, I felt very incomplete about the whole publication. This started the second phase.

I wanted to tell the story of most of these people, so I began a newsletter taking one family or even an individual and going into great detail about them with photographs and in-depth information about them and their family. The stories were great and as a result there was much more information that came to light. We were able to reunite several half brothers and sisters. None of which knew the other existed. They became lifelong friends and were very grateful to have a family.

The end result of the newsletter was that much of the information gathered, including the photographs and other objects became part of the history that ninety percent of the rest of the family had never seen or heard. Bit by bit, the picture came into focus about the family and all of the members. It was like working a jigsaw puzzle. One piece does not make much sense, but when it is all together; wow, what a picture it makes.

Later on after I married, I discovered I had a whole new family to research. This one did present some unusual quirks, such as of the vast number of children. In addition, they could not agree on their own mother’s name. Momma could not read and write so she was of little help in a lot of the research. We are looking at eighteen children from this one mother. Of these eighteen, only three did not live to adulthood. Two of the children died of disease within a few months of each other and the third died within twenty-four hours of birth. How do you tell their stories of the children?

By taking each of the fifteen children one at a time, I did a complete newsletter on each with their background. They learned so much about their own growing up days from each other. The clan met together frequently as most of them lived within a few miles of each other. I would tell them who was featured in the next newsletter. They would all start telling stories about that one individual. As they talked, they fed off of each other and it was a great time to remember their own days growing up. I was even able to gather some photographs that many had not seen. Since there was a great deal of time between the older ones and the younger ones, the younger ones got more information about their own childhood. Each time we have our annual reunion, another newsletter is available and many come just to get the newsletter. They seldom see each other except at the gathering times, so this helps the younger generation appreciate the older generation and what the family means to everyone.

Eat your elephant one bite at a time and you will eventually get it all down. Recording all your family history is huge task, but hopefully this will give you some incentive to start your own newsletter or find another creative way to record your history.

Happy Hunting!!!






We have begun putting some of our records on CDs. In some cases, we include a collection of items from one county and when available we include a copy of the originals. These files are presented in .pdf format for easy viewing. Click to view the entire CD Collection


North Carolina Military Records - Revolutionary War - CD


Cape Girardeau County, MO Records - CD


Bledsoe County, TN - A History - CD


Sequatchie Valley, TN Records - CD


Texas Rangers 1830 to 1900 - CD


The Captives of Abb's Valley - CD


Montgomery County, VA Records - CD


Ocoee Land District Maps - CD Version


Cherokee Valuation Records - CD


If you have any questions or suggestions for future editions, please email us at jimd@mountainpress.com.