It is important to write down your family history. Writing is one of the best ways to send the family history stories that you’ve heard thousands of times to your future descendants. Ideally, you will want to write a family history that people will want to read.
Don’t Start Chronologically
Some of the most interesting novels start with the main character in the midst of doing something significant. The reader might not fully understand, right away, how important that event was. In the next chapter, the story moves back in time to when the main character was younger. Slowly, the reader learns what led up to the important event.
You can use this technique to write your family history. What was the most exciting event in the life of the ancestor you want to write about? Start there. Give the reader just a little taste of what happened to get them interested in reading more. Once they are “hooked”, you can go back in time and fill in the blanks.
Stories that captivate readers often include a lot of description. You should try and “paint a picture” of the locations that are part of the family history story you are writing. Vivid descriptions of what things look like, sound like, or smell like bring the story (and your ancestor) to life.
For example, let’s say your ancestor attended school in a one-room schoolhouse. Describe what it looked like. What did your ancestor write with? Did he use a chalk on a slate or a dip pen on paper? What did your ancestor wear to school? How were his classmates dressed? What kinds of games did the kids play outside? Was there anything significant hanging on the walls inside the school?
You can use the same technique to describe where your ancestor worked. Was the factory loud? Where the sounds rhythmic, mechanical, squealing? Good description drops the reader directly into the story.
Consult a Relative
Ask a relative to tell you, once again, that family story that has been passed down from one generation to the next. Stop and ask questions as the story goes on. Try to draw out the details as much as possible. How old was the ancestor in the story? What year was it? Ask for vivid descriptions of the significant things in the story.
It might be best to make an audio recording of your discussion – so that you can use it as notes. Later on, listen back to the audio. You can probably make that old family story more vivid for future generations to enjoy.
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