Writers Special Interest Group
In addition to the topic the group selects for our monthly writing effort, we also write a short piece at each meeting. Of course, we read these pieces to those at the meeting. We DON’T criticize grammar, spelling, etc. We DO talk about ways the writer could expand and improve his/her written piece and that seems to help all the rest of us too!
Call or Email Teresa (239-541-1150 / email@example.com) for answers to any questions you may have or for the next meeting's topic.
Here are a few items which may help you get started writing now, using materials, research notes and family heritage items you already have. Don’t wait until that so-called day some vague time in the future to start writing your family history - you’ll keep adding information and never begin the writing part of this passion we all share! You’ve done all the work so far - don’t you want to get it down in your words and in your interpretation?
Writing My Family History in Bits and Pieces
Decisions I Need To Make in Order to Begin:
1. Why do I want to write my Family History?
2. Who will be my audience?
3. What will I include?
4. How will I “publish” and disseminate it and to whom?
You may not make all these decisions right now, but you should be thinking about them as it will affect the way in which you write and distribute your product, whether you do it as a full document or in sections as they are completed.
We all know that we have good intentions about writing and nothing ever really happens because there are too many other things going on in our lives. But if we really want to get started on writing we must make a place for it in our schedule, along with the other things we do regularly. We must make a Pledge to ourselves that we will write.
Let’s take an inventory to see what you have that you can write about right now, without more research:
What’s In MY Family Files?
___ original, named and dated photos of individuals and family groups
___ copies of Wills and other estate papers
___ copies of deeds and/or land grants
___ an old diary, journal or logbook, old letters
___ maps of the areas in which my ancestors lived
___ photos or old postcards of the towns or countrysides where my ancestors lived
___ certificates for various achievements, diplomas
___ school papers, yearbooks, report cards
___ heritage items - things that belonged to ancestors and were passed down to you - like jewelry,
tools, dishes, clothing, furniture, Christmas ornaments, etc.
___ military records
___ photos of homes your relatives lived in
___ photos of relatives’ pets, farm animals, etc.
___ photos and items from an ancestor’s business - ads, brochures, ledgers, etc.
___ newspaper articles, obituaries
___ church records, Sunday school certificates of attendance
___ postcards from ancestors’ vacation trips, greeting, Christmas and Valentine's cards sent/received
by my ancestors
___ past Family Reunion items, information, photos
___ photos of an ancestor’s car (maybe his first), or his carriage or horse
I WILL WRITE!!!
1. I will try to write a piece ___________ (week, month – put some actual time in here)
2. I will write items that can/will be used in my own published/self-published family history.
3. I will try to write in my own words in a basic form, and then edit it later to the proper form.
4. I will use the information I already have to write my pieces - written facts, sources, footnotes, etc.,
from my research notes.
5. I may decide to do some additional research in order to complete my piece -good for me!!
6. You can also make your stories more interesting ......
7. Enhance with supposition based on fact, where applicable, but state that it is supposition.
8. Round out the piece with the relevant history of the era and its possible direct effect on the person(s)
being portrayed in the piece.
Now that you’ve identified what you have in the context of beginning to write your Family History in bits and pieces, let’s look at some possible topics you might want to use.
Possible Writing Topics
- When my Mother….; When my Father…. (open-ended – anything you want)
- My Grandmother was….; My Grandfather was…. (same)
- Choose an immigrant ancestor and write about why he/she might have decided to migrate and why/how they chose the place in America where they eventually lived.
- A day in my (relative’s) life at _____ years of age (occupation, work, rest hours, etc.)…
- My (relative) had an unusual or prestigious occupation (avocation, hobby, etc.)…
- Who among your deceased relatives was the most influential in your life? Or that of your family? How?
- Choose a deceased relative and discuss what you like and/or disliked about that person.
- Write a family story told to you by a relative and relate it to what you know today after all your research.
- Write about a “colorful” family legend/story, e.g. a family “black sheep” or a “scandal”.
- I recently learned about… (Something about someone, someplace in your family).
- Write about some “lovers” in your family – grandparents, an aunt, and uncle, etc.
- Write about a problem your (relative) would have faced in his or her life and how they solved/might have solved it.
- What effects would industrialization/urbanization have had on your grandparents (or earlier ancestors)?
- Write about an ancestor’s Military Service…where, when, why…effects on those individuals left at home and how they coped. (Use old records if you have them.)
- Write about an event in an ancestor’s life in the first person (as if that person were writing or talking about it to you)….or perhaps as a diary entry or a letter.
- Describe the house, farm, town, or place where your grandparents or other relatives lived, as it was in their time.
- Draw up a floor plan of the house you lived in as a child – or your grandparents’ house, etc. – and explain what each room was used for, how it was decorated, etc.
- Discuss a relative’s will and estate items, ramifications for heirs and value in today’s dollars.
- Discuss personal and real property listed in an ancestor’s estate and how/why it was important and might have been used by the owner.
- Use a certificate (school, church, Etc.) you have and write a piece about the relative – info about the place giving the certificate, why, etc…
- Use a birth certificate/announcement/Bible entry for an ancestor…write a story about their birth…time, place, weather, parents and parents nearby, siblings there at the time, etc…How would the birth have affected the family? Was the father home for the birth? If away, where and why? Who helped at the birth and afterward? Where did it occur?
- Choose an old record (deed, Will, Bible, letter, diary, news article, etc.) and write about it.
- Choose a “heritage item(s)” you have and describe it (them), whose, its use, etc.
- My (relative’s) kitchen (parlor, porch, attic, bedroom, etc.)…describe it.
- Use one of your old family photos-research and write about the clothing style, social/family history of the time, place where it was taken, who was in it, etc.
- Choose the Census record for a particular year and discuss the place, those noted in the record and how they got there.
- What were your feelings about your grandparents? What do you think they felt about you? If/when you visited them, what was it like?
- How did your grandparents/ parents cope with the Great Depression? What were the hardships and how did they deal with them?
- How did your parents cope with WW2? What were the hardships and how did they deal with them?
- What was the work your parents did during your teenage years? What did you hear from them or observe about their work? What did you think/feel about their work? How do you feel about it now?
- Compare your life today with that of your parents at the same age…and with your grandparents.
- Who is the earliest relative you have found in your research? How is he/she related to you? Tell what you know about him/her.
- Write about a typical Sunday (or Saturday) for (relative)
- What inventions occurred during a relative’s lifetime – how may she/he have used them?
- What is the most interesting discovery to date in your family research…why?
So now all you have to do is choose a topic which interests you and start writing!! Think about these things when you sit down to put your pencil to paper or fire up your computer:
Things to Think About When Writing
1. Most people find that their thoughts flow more freely when handwriting.
2. It’s more comfortable to write in the basic form.
3. Initially, don’t worry about grammar, do that in revisions
4. Engage senses other than visual ... talk about how something smells, feels, tastes
5. Be specific ... not fruit, but apple
6. Lose control ... don’t think too much ... stay in the realm of your first thoughts
If you attend all the meetings during the year, you'll have at least twenty written stories about your family!
Come join us!