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Family History is More than Names and Dates

fishermanWhat do you know about your ancestors? Many genealogists can rattle off a series of facts like full names, birth dates and death dates. All of those pieces of information are important to know, especially if you are still in the process of searching for vital records. However, if you really want to have your ancestors “come to life”, you need to discover their life stories.

The Ancestor Hunt has a really interesting blog post called “Help Your Ancestors Live Forever – Write Your Family History”. It certainly makes the act of trying to dig up the details of your ancestors lives sound exciting! The title makes a good point, too. Reading a well written life story can make one feel connected to the person the story is about.

It’s time to put aside the dates, the facts, and the making of digital copies of important documents for a while. Set the genealogy research aside. One key thing about beginning to write about an ancestor is to learn who that person really was. What happened that was of great importance in his or her life? Focus on the things that make a good story and that emphasize the personality and values of your ancestor.

There is a great temptation to start by creating a timeline – from birth to death – and working to fill in all the little details from there. You may have more success if you stop thinking like a genealogist and start thinking like a writer for a little while. Instead of trying to put together the complete history of your ancestor, consider creating one or two well told stories from his or her life experiences.

Is there a certain ancestor that you have been wondering about? See what you can learn about that person’s life. Instead of looking for marriage certificates, try looking for his or her high school yearbook. Take a close look at the photos that you have of that ancestor as if you were a detective who was trying to solve a case. What “clues” about that person’s life do the photos reveal?

There is another way to go about it. Instead of choosing one ancestor, pick several of them. Tell the story about how each ancestor met his or her spouse. Or, write a brief look into each one’s day-to-day life. Suddenly, the people who you descended from are more than just names and dates on a piece of paper. They are “alive” once again!

Image by Robert Huffstutter on Flickr.

Related Articles:

* Steps Along the Genealogy Path

* Create A Family History Website

* Family History Research With Google Part One

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