Writing About My Ancestors Focus of Your Family History As the author, you next need to choose a focus for your family ancestor paper. Some possibilities include: Single Line of Descent - Begin with the earliest known ancestor for a particular surname and follow him/her through a single line of descent (to yourself, for example). Each paragraph of your report would cover one ancestor or generation. All Descendants Of... - Begin with an individual or couple and cover all of their descendants, with paragraphs organized by generation. If you're focusing your family history on an immigrant ancestor, this is a good way to go. The Grandparents â€“ Begin with your four grandparents, or eight greatgrandparents, or sixteen great, great grandparents if you are very ambitious. Each paragraph focuses on one grandparent and works backwards through their ancestry or forward from his/her earliest known ancestor.
Choose a Starting Point What is the most interesting part of your family's story? Did your ancestors escape a life of poverty and persecution for a better one in a new country? Was there an interesting invention or occupation? A war time hero? Pick out an interesting fact, record or story about your ancestors and open your narrative with it. Just like the fiction books you read for pleasure, a family history paper doesn't need to begin at the beginning. An interesting story will grab the reader's attention, with the hope of drawing them in past the first page. You can later use flashback to fill in the reader on the events which lead up to your opening story.
Ask questions and get answers as you write. For example: o How did your ancestor get his property? Did he homestead? Did he inherit it? If he bought it, how did he get the money to purchase the land? How did he finance it? o Did he have to clear trees, dig irrigation ditches, or build a road to his property? o What was your ancestorâ€™s profession? What was it like to have the job he had? o What was an average day like in his profession or trade at that same time? o Did your ancestor have to contend with hostile neighbors? Did they fine neighbors who were helpful and supportive in times of need? o How did your ancestor celebrate holidays and special events?
Would your ancestors have used a particular dialect? If they immigrated to a new location in their lifetime, how did they adjust to their new culture? How did your ancestors deal with disasters that happened during their lifetimes (economic difficulties, epidemics, clashes in cultures, floods, droughts, and so on).
Don't be Afraid to Use Records and Documents Diary entries, will excerpts, military accounts, obituaries and other records offer compelling, first-hand accounts of your family's history - and you don't even have to do the writing! Anything written directly by your ancestor is definitely worth including. Include short excerpts within the text of your writing. Photos, pedigree charts, maps and other illustrations can also add interest to a family history and help break up the writing into manageable chunks for the reader. Be sure to include detailed captions for any photos or illustrations that you incorporate.
Make it Personal Anyone who reads your family paper will likely be interested in the facts, but what they'll most enjoy and remember are the everyday details - favorite stories and anecdotes, embarrassing moments and family traditions. Sometimes it can be interesting to include varying accounts of the same event. Personal stories offer a great way to introduce new characters and chapters, and keep your reader interested. If your ancestors left no personal accounts, you can still tell their story as if they had, using what you've learned about them from your research. Other Things to Include Images and visual aids help readers visualize places and events and can portray what words cannot. It is often difficult to give an accurate description of a person. One photograph will do what a page of written text cannot do. Visuals that will help readers include the following: Photographs Maps showing the area your people lived or where they immigrated from Charts Certificates Awards Journal entries Copies of newspaper articles Copies of letters Official documents (wills, deeds, vital records, and so on) Personal writing, such as poems, stories, recollections, and so on Recipes Art work by a family member