Whittier Area Genealogical Society
Whittier Area Genealogical Society

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April 22, 2021 By: Kristina Newcomer
Spring 2021
The Writer's Block
How to Overcome Your Fear of Writing
  1. KNOW YOUR PURPOSE.  What do you hope to accomplish?  A summary of all your research?  Share a family legacy?  Pass down a family story?  Celebrate an ethnic heritage?  Commemorate a family reunion?  Who will be the audience for your story?
  2. MAKE A PLAN.  Outline?  Timeline?  Framework?  Writing schedule?  Use whatever works for you.
  3. SAY IT WITH PICTURES.  Use photos, graphs, documents, maps, charts, genealogy reports, etc. to enhance your story and keep you and your reader engaged.  Find a comfortable balance between images and words.  Brief descriptions and short paragraphs will keep your audience interested.
  4. BEGIN IN THE MIDDLE.  Or, at the end.  If you don't know how to begin, just start writing where you like, you can arrange it later.  That's the joy of cut and paste!  Choose a point in your story that interests you and your story will unfold from there.
  5. TAKE YOUR TIME.  But, set a deadline as a motivational aid.  In time for the family reunion, a special birthday, anniversary, wedding or the birth of the next generation.  Allow enough time so you don't feel rushed, it'll cut down on stress and make writing a fun project, not an obligation.
January 9, 2021 By: Kristina Newcomer
Winter 2021
The Writer's Block
How to Overcome Your Fear of Writing
Writing Tips from Diane Haddad: 
Where to Look for Great Ancestor Stories
For help in writing a ‘complete’ story about your ancestor, you need to place them within the context of the time in which they lived.  Did your ancestor live through an historical event, experience economic success or failure, participate in an arduous migration, or even commit a crime?  By including these events in the telling of their history, you will end up with an unforgettable story.
Here are a few resources to help ‘fill out’ your stories:
Newspapers – obituaries, tragedies, successes, sports stories, world events
Court records – the source of wills, deeds, lawsuits, marriages
Military pension applications – correspondence about military service, documentation of    marriage and children, written testimony about wounds, photos
Family papers – diaries, letters, postcards, scrapbooks, photo albums, baby books, Bibles
Histories – secondary sources, but full of clues for your research
Censuses – location, school attendance, number of children, occupation, origin of birth, languages spoken, slaves, special schedules, immigration, health
Timelines – world, country, state
By pulling together all these details, you will add context to your ancestor’s life.  You will be amazed at how well you will come to know them and how important it is to ensure that their stories are preserved, because their stories will be forgotten if they are left untold.

October 31, 2020 By: Kristina Newcomer
Fall 2020
The Writer's Block
How to Overcome Your Fear of Writing
Fleshing Out the Story - So to Speak
Writing your or your ancestor’s story is about more than just names, dates and places.  This article is about filling in the spaces between the numbers and facts with something resembling a living (or once living) human person with all of their faults, foibles, fanfare and follies.  Most people would rather read about someone whom they can relate to on a personal level, not just locate them on a bare-bones pedigree chart.  Here are some ways to put some flesh on those bones:
  • Use your imagination – What do the facts say about this person?  Didn’t know them personally or don’t recall a specific time?  Use secondary sources to help fill in the blanks: history books, biographies, newspapers, journals/diaries, websites about occupations,  migration patterns, major inventions of the time or natural disasters.  All of these play a part in your or your ancestor’s life.  Be sure to include them in your writing.
  • Tell a story.  Don’t just recite the facts.  Place yourself or your ancestor inside the story.  Use anecdotes or suppositions when linking yourself or your ancestor to a time and place. But, be sure to clarify what is provable fact and what is supposition when writing your story.
  • Be sure to include family traditions or historical events in the story to show how this may have affected them or you.
  • Be honest but be fair.  Try not to judge yourself or your ancestor’s behavior by current standards.  Remember, no one is perfect.  We all have a little of the “dark side” in us.
  • One way to grab your reader’s attention is by starting with a dramatic, humorous, romantic or spine-tingling episode from your or your ancestor’s life.  Then proceed to fill in the blanks leading up the incident.  This creates ‘relatability’ in your writing.
As a final suggestion, consider using a timeline to help you organize your thoughts and to help in establishing where you want to begin writing.  Before you know it, the story will have practically written itself!
July 22, 2020 By: Kristina Newcomer
Summer 2020
The Writer's Block
How to Overcome Your Fear of Writing
A New Year – A Time to Renew Your Goals
You are one-of-a-kind and your descendants will want to know more about you.  Now is the time to start – or restart – writing your life story.  Here are some tips to help you get organized and get started:
  • Don’t worry about how well you write.  Just write the way you talk.  Use simple sentences, you don’t need to be Shakespeare.
  • Begin anywhere you wish.  Write chronologically or by whatever topic interests you.  There is no one way to tell your story.
  • Use humor, family sayings, insert a family tree, or craft your story around a favorite family recipe.  Use what you know.
  • Include photographs, journal/diary entries, news clippings, maps or other interest-grabbing ideas to keep you moving forward and to help your descendants know the real you.Write about your hobbies, special interests, skill sets, educational background, travel, sports – anything that interests you will round out your story.
  • Use documents/research to help with accuracy, such as: birth, marriage and death certificates, diplomas, high school and college yearbooks, photo albums, wills, military records, etc.
  • Should you include sad or troubled times in your story?  It’s up to you.  Base your decision on what you think others would want to know.
‚ÄčAnd remember, you don’t have to write everything in one sitting.  Keep a ‘rough draft’ notebook handy and jot down your thoughts whenever they strike.  Some of your best ideas can happen when you’re drinking your morning coffee.  Your life didn’t happen overnight, and neither will your life story.  It is important, though, to make time to write.