Author: Susan Holmes

Kansas girl in love with genealogy. Grandmother of 8, mother of 3. Animal lover and owner (four dogs, a cat, and a horse).

Your Ancestor-Writing A Good Story

Now that you have collected all the information that you can find on your ancestor it’s time to put it all together and start writing a good story for them.

John and Alice Pierce Family Farm

I hope to give you some tips that will help you to write a profile for them that will bring them to life for others that will be searching for them and the descendants of the future.

ORGANIZE

Gather all the information that you have on your person. Your census, marriage licence,  obituaries, pictures, veteran documents, deeds, wills, pictures, letters….everything you have.

Lay it out in order and create a timeline for them, from their birth to their marriage, the birth of children, their death etc. Recreate their life in the best order that you possibly can.

Decide where you want to begin the journey. If you are missing information on their childhood you might want to start in the middle.

Putting your ideas on index cards might make it easier for you to organize your info.

Decide how long you want the bio to be. Do you want it short and to the point or do you want to write a book?

Set some goals for yourself to write at least so many words per day/week/ month. Do you have a deadline?

Use your sources.

ASK QUESTIONS

Think of the struggles, and trials, high points and low points and write them down.

What was life like during their life time. Did they live during the depression, what were the conditions? Were there illness, health problems, deaths in the family?

How did they live/work? What were the details of the kind of work they did? Did they get up early, go to bed late? Was it hard work? How did they get to work? Did they walk, ride a horse, drive?

What was happening in the area where they lived? What kind of house did they live in? Was it rented or owned?  How did they get the home?

What was happening in history? What was going on in the world and how did it affect them?

Write down the accomplishments they may have achieved.

Recreate the memories they left behind.

STAY FOCUSED

Do your best to tell your stories in the order that they happened. Write a little bit at a time. I’ve found that if I put it all down on paper first as I think of it, then go back and rearrange it in the order it should be helps.

Find a quiet time of the day when there are few distractions so that you can concentrate on your writing. Surround yourself with the memorabilia that will put you in the time and place that makes you think of that ancestor.

MAKE IT INTERESTING

Think about your own life and reflect on the memories that you have. Reflect on your own memories and use that as a guide as to what you might share about this person. What are some of the things you remember about growing up and put yourself into the life of your ancestor? Become them and think of what it was like for them. Tell their story. This person you are writing about is not just a name and date…a beginning and and end, they had a life filled with laughter, tears, love, heartache, joy and sorrow. Paint a picture of what their life was.

Go back and re read what you’ve written. Is it easy to read and descriptive? Is it interesting enough that it keeps the readers attention and the desire to read on? Is there information that is hard to follow? Cut out unnecessary words  and avoid long sentences that will make the reading hard to follow.

DESCRIBE THEIR PERSONALITY

Were they a happy person, a worrier, a drinker, a trickster, a teaser? Were they a serious person? Boisterous? Quiet? Loud? What made people think this about them? Bring them to life with your words.

THE CORE

What is your key point to your story? Is there anything especially interesting about this person that you want to focus on? For instance, were they a war hero? Is that your main focus? Or perhaps they raised 10 children?  You could focus on what it must have been like raising that many children, and what it took to do so. Maybe they were a womanizer and that is your main focus. Knowing your key point or core might make your writing a bit more focused.

USE TOOLS

Templates can be useful. If you are having a hard time knowing where to start perhaps a template could help you to get things organized  and give you a layout.

There also helpful books that will give you ideas and questions that might strike some interest and memories in your thinking.

A dictionary or thesaurus are two tools that no writer should be without. Keep your words simple and understandable. Write like you would be telling the story yourself.

EDIT

Go back and edit your work. Sometimes it’s a good idea to get some new eyes on the project. When you’ve read and re read it so many times…you often miss mistakes that are otherwise easily recognizable.  Ask for feed back and take it with a light heart. In the end…it’s your project…but be open to constructive criticism.

In conclusion I hope that gives you a place to start and some tips to make your writing experience just a little bit easier. As always is there is anything I can do to help in anyway don’t be afraid to leave me a comment below and ask. Do you have anything else you would like to add? Let me know that also!

Happy Hunting!

The Pierce Family Historian

Susan Holmes

 

 

Traveling for Adventure And Genealogy

Wow. You’ve started gathering information on your ancestors and all kinds of questions start popping up and you decide you want to take on traveling for adventure in exploring where they lived and learning more of the history of their origin.  Even traveling within the country can be quite an expense. I hope to share with you a few ways that you can cut your cost in your travel exploration.

Make A list

I have been putting together a travel plan for myself. My hope is to next year visit Germany. I have three family lines that originate in Germany, BLUM, MOSSINGER, and NUTSCH, so I am gathering information on the cities that I would like to visit and what I will want to explore while I am there. My traveling buddy is so understanding when it comes to my genealogy search that he has agreed to go with me but insisted that I know

where I want to go,

 what I want to see,

and who we plan to visit ahead of time.

Emmendingen

 

Basically I’m doing research to find the names of the cities and villages that I want to visit and making list of exactly what I want to see while I’m there. In my records I have quite a bit of information gathered on the area and I know what I want to visit when I get there. There will be of course things that you have not thought of until you get there so make sure to plan for enough time.

One thing especially, I was told by Great Uncle Martin after his visit, was that he ran out of time while visiting the church records or could have gotten back a lot farther. (He got back into the 1500s) Keep in mind how old your cities are that you are wanting to visit. Write out a list of all the people you want to explore information on while you are there.  Find out where you might find those records in advance and make arrangements ahead of time for your visit so you are sure you have an appointment if needed. You can find a bit of information on the German Church Books here.

KNOW YOUR HISTORY

Knowing a bit about the history of the area during the time your relatives lived there will be of great help to you also. I have been reading about the history of Germany for years but have been refreshing my memory so I will be prepared for the questions that I’m sure will come up. I also write down my questions when I think
of them in a notebook that I can take with me.  Even if I find the answers I’m sure there are going to be things I will want to see based on some of the questions. There are some great books on the subjects at Amazon books

Write out a list of all the people you want to explore information on while you are there. Make a spread sheet or fill out your pedigree charts with as much information as you know on them and keep notes of what it is you don’t know so you will have it handy to do your search.

Organize your family members into towns and groups so you don’t miss anything while you are in the area. Too many times I have found after I returned from a trip that there was more information available to me and I missed it. (I am NOT the ORGANIZED genealogist!) Yet, this realization causes you to make another trip! Nothing wrong with that RIGHT?!

In Germany

 

Do you know if you have  relatives there that you can visit? I know that my BLUM family line still has relatives in Germany so I am already building a relationship with them so that I might pay them a visit. Having relatives in the area that you are wanting to explore will make your visit to a new country a little less stressful. They will be able to guide you or even accompany you to areas that you would otherwise have to find on your own. Before my great uncles died, they made a tract back to Germany and were able to get around quite easily with the help of the relatives there. There was also a great reunion planned for them to get to know the younger generation that they had yet to meet. I so wanted to visit Germany when my sons were there in the service. Exploring the family history with them would have been such a wonderful experience and perhaps some of my addictive behavior would have rubbed off on them!

Language could be an obstacle. This might be something you might want to address in advance. Having one person that speaks your language could help tremdously.

Don’t forget your passport! 

Give yourself plenty of time to get your passport so if there are any problems you won’t feel the pressure. Several years ago my mom, my sister, and I planned a trip to Portugal and Mom had a bit of a glitch in getting her passport due to the fact she was born at home. I don’t recall what the procedure was exactly, but give yourself plenty of time.  If you don’t already have a passport, don’t fall for the online ads claiming they will help you. It isn’t that hard to do it yourself and you will save yourself the fee they charge for their “help”.

 

PLANNING YOUR BUDGET

We all know how expensive it is to do anything these days so plan your budget carefully. I have found that having a membership to a private travel platform will cut your traveling cost and your hotel cost in half.

Do a little comparison shopping and you will find awesome deals. The membership cost will more than pay for your savings.

 

I do hope this gives you some value. Please leave me a few comments and tell me where you are going to to.

Happy Hunting!

The Pierce Family Historian



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