First, what is a vignette? The original meaning is that of “something that may be written on a vine-leaf”. So it does refer to something small and to the point. When there is a written vignette it is short in length, with descriptive scenes that focus on one moment in time. It can also concentrate on a certain person, event, idea, or setting.
After you have gathered even a small amount of information on a certain family branch or an individual ancestor, that might be a good time to write up a vignette about that family or a person. These can be preserved with the file on the family lineage and shared easily with family members through emails or newsletters.
The sources for creating such vignettes can also come from oral interviews with family members. A grandmother might have a cute story about how she scared off a wild animal in the backyard one day or about an aunt who once met a famous celebrity by accident. Each vignette can stand alone as a short remembrance.
In the case of a vignette about a family branch, generally a tale about a group immigrating to a new country or a force of nature causing destruction to a hometown could encompass several family members. The effects of the same incident on family members could be written as a vignette. For example, when the events of December 7 1941 with the attack at Pearl Harbor were learned how did family members react? You can locate which ones joined the military. You would know those who remained on the home front working at factories to make the war supplies. It will take a little thought but there are literally thousands of short and interesting stories from individuals and families alike that can be preserved.
The following is an example of a vignette from several people with the same childhood memory in a small southern town:
‘When the mosquito truck came to the neighborhood the children actually looked forward to it! Around dusk, hearing that very recognizable, distinctive hissing, spraying sound, they’d immediately stop whatever they were doing and scramble outside to run behind the truck, which was spewing billowing clouds of noxious, poisonous fumes into the air. They thoroughly enjoyed all getting lost in the thick smoky pesticide as they followed the truck on its rounds in the neighborhood. Coughing and teary eyed afterwards from the air-borne chemicals, they always looked forward to the next time the truck came to the neighborhood. This, of course, was long before any thoughts of danger to health or environment.’