Tips for Writing that Family History

writing You might think you can’t write the family history, but really you can, the key is to start simple. The main purpose is to get the information (names, dates, places, events) down in some written form. Yes, you have the family tree, but remember your family history is much more than names and dates. You really need to preserve the events, accomplishments, disappointments, etc that helped define that ancestor. True, you might not find any such tales about certain relatives, that is why you start simple. Never attempt to write about all the ancestors at once.

First tip – look at the ancestor you may have the most information so far on, or the one that intrigued you most.

Second tip – organize what you do have, birth-marriage, occupations, schooling, military, residences into a time line. Make an outline with basic sentence structure to start to create this ancestor’s story.

Third tip – focus on one aspect about that ancestor, such if they were a shoemaker. Examine how a person learned such a trade in the 1800s or 1900s, were they an apprentice or learned from their father.

Fourth tip – do some research on the shoe making trade, from those who had their own shop to those who worked in the large factories. There are vintage images for most occupations on the Internet. Make sure you checked with the hometown museum / genealogical society of that ancestor, they might have a city directory or photos relating to your relative’s occupation or business shop.

Fifth tip – with the facts, photos and information you can write simply what you have located. If you had any diaries, journals, trade records, you can even do direct quotes from such records, especially if it came from that ancestor. Also write out your sources for such quotes, even a simple bracket after the quote will work.

Sixth tip – there is no set length or number of words to achieve when writing about an ancestor. The great part is once you start, you can always add to to the story later on.

Seventh tip – share what you have written, not just with family, but with other researchers for the same hometown or those distantly related. They just might have something to add or enhance on what you have written.

The following is a short story about my two great uncles, Frederick and John Kershaw and World War I that was learned from a short newspaper article provided to me by a fellow researcher in Massachusetts.

Frederick was not accepted by US Army when men were signing up in 1917 to 1918 due to defective teeth and an ear condition, but he was accepted by the Canadian Engineers Corp. to serve with the Canadian Army. He reported to Quebec, Canada on July 30, 1918. His brother, John, joined also to serve with the Canadian Engineering Corp. in Regimental # 2014123 reporting in July 1918. One of the places Frederick was stationed was in Siberia region located in the Russia / Soviet Union. Further checking of the newspaper archives for Haverhill, Massachusetts produced a couple articles in the local paper about the Kershaw brothers joining the Canadian Army because they were not accepted by the American military. So between the Canadian records and the newspaper articles, it appears that Frederick and John, were patriotic and spirited to leave the safety of their home in Haverhill, when they really did not have to, in order to help in the Allied effort to win the Great War in Europe. Both brothers did safety return to Massachusetts.

< Return To Blog My Step Grandfather was Frederick Kershaw. He was married to my Grandmother Helen Fraser Marchbank Wallace.
Karen Heatj 12/06/13

Well Karen - yes your step grandfather, Frederick, was my great uncle, born in England. I do have Helen Marchbank, born March 25, 1914 in MA and married Frederick on March 17, 1944 in Haverhill, MA. Helen died May 1, 1996 in MA and Frederick on Feb. 15, 1963 in Haverhill. Helen had three children from a previous marriage. Frederick's first wife, Isabella died in 1941.
alice 12/06/13

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