Monday, March 21, 2016

The 21 Day Genealogy Challenge - Day 20: Writing Narratives

“Write what should not be forgotten…”  -- Isabel Allende

Welcome to Day 20 of the 21 Day Genealogy Challenge.  Today let’s look at a step that many people may overlook: Narratives.  Have you ever considered writing a narrative about the ancestor you are researching?  You should!  You did a lot of work locating that ancestor!  Now is the time to compile that work into a wonderful and informational report.

First, relax! You don’t have to be a professional writer to present your work in a narrative format.  However, if you are looking to publish your writing, you may want to research further on how to do a professional level of genealogical writing for periodicals and newsletters, but for the sake of this challenge, we are going to look at how to present your work for yourself and immediate family.

Blogging: One writing format you may consider is creating a Blog.  A blog is a wonderful outlet to present your research and include pictures and scanned documentation.  Family and friends can view and comment on a blog.  If you open your blog to public viewing, you may connect with distant cousins who will benefit from your research and may even have something more to share with you.  If you feel you may not have the discipline to blog, I suggest joining a blogging group that will not only help you stay accountable, but encourage you and acknowledge the strides you are making.  I highly recommend SarkeMedia, which was voted as one of the 100 Best Websites for Writers in 2015.  They have an exemplary, free 30 Day Blogging Challenge that is dedicated in helping bloggers succeed in writing.  Not only does SarkeMedia provide encouragement and support, but they also offer suggestions of improvement on writing, style, and how to get proper reader exposure. 

Journaling: If blogging is not for you, perhaps keeping a private journal is more your style.  In the past, I have done this with my family history research and then shared portions with family members via email.  I print out and bind my narratives for future use or to share with family in the future.  You can use any writing program you are already comfortable with, or check out JRNL, a RootsTech 2016 Innovator Showdown Finalist.  Not only can you create writing entries and include photographs, but JRNL also offers publishing. 

Family Interviews:  What about those family interviews?  Combining the information you obtained in your personal research along with the family interviews, you will have more than enough to work with.  Don’t forget to include some of your family photos!

Sources:  Whatever style you choose to write in, you must remember to include your sources.  Okay, so maybe you are writing for your eyes only.  You want to be able to refer back to a source now and again to either verify the information you retrieved, or perhaps see if there was any information you overlooked.  Sourcing in paramount!  And, should you share your writings with family members or other researchers, your readers will see that you have given attention to detail and take your work seriously.

Evalutate:  Finally, evaluate your work.  It is through evaluation that you will notice any glaring holes in your research.  Take note of what is missing and do what you can to the missing pieces of evidence.  It may be that there are no records available to you at this time, but you will want to include that information in your writing.

Here is your 5 Point Review:

  • Gather together your research information.  Don’t forget to include your family interviews and photos.
  • Do your research.  There are a plethora of ways to write a family history narrative. Choose a writing style/program that is right for you.  
  • If writing on line and obtaining feedback is something that interests you, look into blogging and journaling.  Set goals on how much or how often you want to write. 
  • Sources.  Always source your work.  If you include images in your writing, remember to give credit for those, as well.  If you don’t know who took the picture from 1938, source how you came in possession of the photograph. 
  • Read.  Review.  Re-evaluate.  Once you have completed your narrative, take the time to look it over thoroughly.  Did you notice any areas that are obviously missing some details?  Take notes and see if further research will help you fill in those holes.  Sometimes it is difficult to find evidence, and you may want to address this, if that is the case.  By reviewing your writing, you will get a clear idea of what areas of research you need to focus on for the ancestor you chose to write about.

Congratulations!  You have completed day 20 of the 21 Day Genealogy Challenge!  If you have any questions or comments, feel free to post them in the Blog Comment section below.  Invite your friends to join this challenge by sharing this blog with them on Google+, Twitter and Facebook.  The share icons are just below this blog entry. 

Thank you for joining this challenge and remember…..

History not shared is History forgotten!