Tag Archives: Writing

Writing About Your Ancestors

listWhen I first began researching my family history, somewhere in the back of my mind I believed that one day I would finish my search. I know I thought that 20+ years ago. Planning that after I finished the research, I could start writing the stories of my ancestors. Today I know that I am nowhere near the end of my family history. I have always had the desire to put together a book with these stories to pass on to my Grandchildren. How should I start?

Waiting is a mistake. Looking through our trees we can see so many Ancestors we want to write about but thinking about that prospect is overwhelming. There may be lots of material to glean from but who should you start with? Should you do it in order, current to ancient? How much or how little information should you include?

So, how do we even begin? Here are some hints I have been using that may help.

straight line

1, Since there is not just one straight line stretching back to an original ancestor, you can actually start anywhere. There are many trees and branches to choose from. Where you begin and with whom you write about is up to you.

I started with my Maternal Great Grandparents. My Great Grandpa ends his line. I can find no information on his birth or death, only his marriage to my Great Grandma and the birth of my Grandpa. However, I have a few stories that I heard about him while growing up and I wrote about those. If I find anything in the future about him, I can always add it. My Great Grandma was a different case. Her lineage goes back to my 11th Great Grandfather born ABT 1606 in Uxenden, Middlesex, England.

2, Don’t stress over writing a perfect story. Just start writing down what you know about your ancestor. Basically, just get it on paper. You can always go back and fill in information, make corrections and add details.

As the author of 3 books, I know the struggle with trying to write something that is presentable. Over the last 5 years I discovered that if I just write what comes to me, I at least have something to work with. Editing, grammar, spelling, rewriting, etc. can be done when the writing is finished.

time3. Don’t get caught in the belief that you don’t have time to write a story. Everyone makes time for the things that are important to them. You can begin with setting aside 30 minutes during your day to sit down and write.

I know with the responsibilities of life it is sometimes hard to fit anything into our schedules. But like everything else, if you really want to do it then you will find the time.

4. It is okay to write a partial story. If you begin writing about one of your ancestors and you find you don’t feel like what you are writing isn’t interesting, then it is okay to stop writing. You can save what you do have and return to it at a later time, This allows you to approach it with a new perspective and perhaps some additional research.

5. If you are so inclined, include some historical context to your stories. You can write about what life may have been like during their lifetime, a short history of the area they lived in or some event that happened in the world at that time.

6. In writing stories of your family history, it is important not to forget about yourself! Byabout-me the time your children or grandchildren read what you have written, you will have become one of those “ancestors”. It would be such a great gift to have an accurate, first-hand account of your life to pass on. You may include anything you feel you would like your descendants to know about you and your life. In other words, the good, the bad and the ugly.

About 10 years ago I read a book about writing your own story, In it was ideas of what to write. Things like “tell me about your elementary school days”, “what did you like to do in your spare time or “what hobbies did you have” and “what type of pets did you have growing up”. These were great to get the mind thinking and you only had to write about one aspect of your like at a time. You didn’t have to put it in chronological order or stress over little details.

The reason for this blog is to encourage you to write those stories about your ancestors. Not all of us have been blessed by someone else taking the time to do it. It would be a great legacy to pass on to future generations. I know I would have loved for some ancestor of mine to have preserved some stories that I could read.

 

I am a professional genealogist, writer, photographer, crafter, reader, wife, mother, and grandma. I have two books available on Amazon.com: http://tinyurl.com/Your-Family-History and http://tinyurl.com/Genealogy-Research-Trip. You can also connect with me via Facebook or Twitter.

 

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Filed under Ancestry, Family History, Family Search, Genealogy, Hints, How-to, Memories, Story telling, Uncategorized, Write Your Story

Including Family Traditions

In Genealogy circles the term “traditions” means oral accounts of usually unsubstantiated stories of our family history. An example of this is my Great Grandfather Pleasant Smith. According to the information written in my baby book he was born on February 14, 1853 in Hazel Hill, Johnson County, Missouri. I have not been able to find any documentation to prove this other than this entry. He married Sarah Jane Page on April 13, 1882 in Lafayette County, Missouri. I have found this record. My Grandfather, John Pleasant Smith was born September 8, 1882. I have records for this.  My Great Grandmother Sarah married James Newhouse on February 27, 1894. I have this record. What happened to Pleasant Smith? There is no record of him after the birth of his son. Sometime between this and Sarah’s new marriage he disappeared.

The Tradition in our family is that he was a Creek Indian in a high position in the tribe. He deserted the tribe and lived in hiding from them. Sometime after my Grandfather was born members of that tribe found him, murdered him, cut him into pieces and placed his remains on the railroad track. They did this shortly before the train was to come by. Someone found his body before the train came. Supposedly a few years after this occurred Sarah received a letter addressed to Pleasant which included the name of the position he held among the tribe. She never opened the letter and sent it back to the sender.

I have no proof that this Tradition ever happened. So, the question is, do I include this in my Family History or just pass it on orally like it was given to me? I have decided that, although I love genealogy and enjoy the research it entails, I need to be honest with myself that no one else in my immediate family has any interest (yet) in it. I often wonder if this tradition may pass away with me.

As a result, I am now including all the family traditions I have heard of. I write out the story as completely as I can and then include all documentation I have on this particular person. I make sure that anyone reading it will understand that further research needs to be done to make it a “fact”. Who knows, many years from now one of my Grandchildren may discover proof of this and my recording the story helped them find it!

I am a professional genealogist, writer, photographer, crafter, reader, wife, mother, and grandma. I have two books available on Amazon.com: http://tinyurl.com/Your-Family-History and http://tinyurl.com/Genealogy-Research-Trip. You can also connect with me via Facebook or Twitter.

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Filed under Ancestry, Brick Walls, Creek Indian, Family History, Family Search, Genealogy, Hints, Memories, Missouri, Personal Stories, Pleasant Smith, Research, Sarah Jane Page, Story telling, Uncategorized

Zane Grey:  Baseball Player, Dentist, Writer…..Genealogist?

 

Superstition Mount ianMesa Arizona is only 1,126 feet above sea level. As a result our summers can sometimes be unbearable. It has been known to reach temperatures of up to 122 degrees with it reaching 115+ for weeks at a time. Although we are having a “mild” summer this year, heat is heat and the urge to escape can be overwhelming.

My husband and I decided to make the hour trip north to Payson, elevation 5000 feet. Here their daytime highs are our night time lows. We just wanted to get away and explore a city that we didn’t know much about. We did know that the famous author of Western Novels, Zane Grey (1872-1939), had a cabin just outside the city where he would spend 3 months a year hunting and writing. His original cabin burned down in a forest fire in 1990, but the Rim Country Museum raised the money to build an exact replica on their property. So the decision was made to make a quick stop to see the cabin.

Payson is a small, quaint town. It is situated in the Tonto National Forest and has everything an Payson Arizonaoutdoors person would love. I fell in love with the beauty of the place. Pine trees, willow trees, green grass and flowers were everywhere. Remember, I live in the Desert with cactus, mesquite trees, and dirt so this was a treat. We easily found the Rim Country Museum and the cabin. We paid our admission and were lead by a very nice woman up to the cabin door. Once inside she told us the history of how Zane had come to Arizona back in 1905 and what happened during the years that he continued to come back. She spoke about the books he had written of the old west and the Rim Country. During his lifetime he had written over 90 books! Then she showed us a copy of the very first book he ever wrote. It was titled “Betty Zane” and it wasn’t about the Wild West or his adventures or about fishing. It was a historical account of his family, lead by Colonel Ebenezer Zane, his Great Grandfather and them being the first to pioneer a town in 1769 high above the Ohio River at a point near Wheeling Creek. I was immediately hooked.

Payson 034Growing up, only boys read Zane Grey books. I never really liked reading Westerns and I suppose it was because I was raised in the area most of these types of books are written about. I was surprised to find that Zane’s first attempt at writing was of his own family’s history. In it he gives detailed accounts of their travels, their struggles, their loves, and their triumphs. He draws you into their involvement in the Revolutionary War and enthralls you with the story of his Great Grand Aunt Betty Zane who, as a young girl, witnessed the death of her father during a Revolutionary War battle against the Indians who sided with the British at Fort Henry. In spite of her grief and fears she made her way through the enemies forces and retrieved some much needed black gunpowder and brought it safely back to the Fort.

Although it is said that most of what he wrote concerning his family was taken from oral traditions Elizabeth_Zanepassed down through the family, it has since been proven that almost ever account is indeed true.  What I want to take from this book and his style of writing is how he doesn’t just “tell the story”. He describes the scenery and the smells to such an extent that you feel you are there. It is so much more than dates and facts; it is the incredible story of their lives.

I am now more determined than ever to not just remember my Ancestors, but to find their stories and write them in a way that will transport future generations back to the time of those who have gone before.

I am a professional genealogist, writer, photographer, crafter, reader, wife, mother, and grandma. I have two books available on Amazon.com: Your Family History: Doing It Right the First Time and Planning Your Genealogy Research Trip. You can also connect with me via Facebook or Twitter.

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Filed under Ancestry, Arizona, Family History, Family Search, Genealogy, History, Revolutionary War, Zane Grey