Thursday, September 14, 2017

Writing Your Family History – Part I

Last night I gave a presentation to the Fredericksburg Regional Genealogical Society on Writing Your Family History. Below are a few ideas I shared with them.

At a New England Regional Genealogical Society Conference several years ago we attended Warren Bittner’s session on Writing to Engage Your Reader. In that presentation he stressed the importance of writing up your research – now! He admitted research is never done but, share what you have now. That’s when we learned about monographs. Technically, a monograph is a learned treatise on a small area of learning or a written account of a single thing. For genealogists it means following one ancestral line from the earliest to recent.

Why Bother?
Because birth, marriage, and death dates are not enough. As family historians we want to learn about our ancestors; we want to tell their stories, we want to bring them to “life.” And …
Writing helps us make sense of our research. It tells us what we are missing, names, dates, and especially citations; Writing can catch the interest of family members, and maybe nurture future genealogists; Writing/publishing your carefully researched family history will help other researchers and maybe connect us with cousins.

Most of us have our family trees online. Future generations may not be interested in online family trees. But if there is a well-written book about their ancestors, they are more likely to keep that and read it. Remember: Online doesn't necessarily mean forever. Really Important: Retain control of your information.

Your audience - Will it be ...
Immediate family?
Libraries, historical societies, or other repositories?
Will you produce a monograph (focusing on one family line), Photo book, Cookbook, scrapbook, memoir?

Once the ancestor line is identified, gather you materials
Assuming you have done an exhaustive search following the Genealogical Proof Standard (GPS) - 

  1. Reasonably exhaustive research has been conducted.
  2. Each statement of fact has a complete and accurate source citation.
  3. The evidence is reliable and has been skillfully correlated and interpreted.
  4. Any contradictory evidence has been resolved.
  5. The conclusion has been soundly reasoned and coherently written.

Gather vital records, deeds, military information, wills, maps, letters, recipes, interviews, photos, timeline.

- Develop a style sheet – A reference list for consistency – Some decisions to make:
-Will main ancestor be in small caps bold?
-State names abbreviated? How?
-Maiden Names are in parenthesis
-Will you use WWI or World War I?
-How will dates be written? 1 July 1930 or July 1, 1930?

[End of Part I]

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