First, I hope that you enjoyed RootsTech. There are more sessions that I plan to watch in the future but for now I need to take a break. My current focus is to write stories about my great-grandmother’s siblings. I have a lot of information to compile, and I thought I’d share ideas with you.
In the case of this family, except for my great-grandmother, I do not have any family photos. I do have birth, marriage, death, and military records which happen to be in Latin, French and German. Including a few of these documents with translations will help to add interest to the stories. I decided that I’d follow my own advice so I’m breaking down this project in manageable bites.
Here is what I plan to do:
2.Break up the writing in manageable chunks.
I have already written about my great-grandmother who took a different path than her siblings, landing in the United States. I will write about each of her six siblings, focusing specifically on their immediate families and descendants.
3.What to do with the parents – the common ancestors of these siblings?
I plan to write their story “separately” including information about their ancestors, children and siblings that are relevant to the story. I will also include their information with individual children. For example, the mother lived with adult children after she was widowed.
4.What about all that information I have in FTM or another genealogy program.
When I get to the point of publishing a compiled book, including all the above information, I will use those charts to create context and include the family group sheets to help anchor the stories for the readers.
5.Write down the facts in the story but remember the humanity.
I am currently writing about my great-grandmother’s eldest brother. His story has tragedy. He and his wife lost their first two babies before they were a year old, the third at the age of eleven and the fourth at the age of three. I have found no other children for this couple. After he died in 1914, I have not been able to find any records about his wife. Her parents and siblings had all passed away by 1916. Could she support herself in her old age? She had no adult children to rely on. Did his family help? Someday I may find a record to answer that question but for now I wonder. And it makes me sad to think about her, all alone.
6.Use information about time and place to supplement your story.
This family moved from one country to another, uprooting generations. Why? Was it economical? New opportunities? Why do we move today? Use time and place to try to answer some of those questions. We cannot say definitively but we can say “perhaps” or “many people of that time did x.”
If your person serviced in a military branch, active or reserve, look at those records for clues. You often can find physical descriptions, addresses, parents, or spouse information. With recent world events, think about how that military service might have shaped the family. Did they have family fighting in a war?
8.Tying it all together
Often, we think about writing a big family book, but it is ok to focus on one person, one family or one generation. I think by writing about individual families you move the work forward. You can always think of ways to incorporate these stories into a larger volume, figuring out a common thread or using chapters that focus on each generation. At least now you have something written down and you can expand from there!
I hope these ideas help you think about your own writing. It can be overwhelming if we start thinking about an entire branch of the family. Sometimes it helps to write about one individual first and later figure out how you want to expand that to include more individuals. Happy writing!
With a lifelong passion for genealogy and history, the author enjoys the opportunity to share genealogy tidbits, inspiring others to research and write their family story.