Whittier Area Genealogical Society
Whittier Area Genealogical Society

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April 30, 2022 By: Kristina Newcomer
Spring 2022
When writing about family relations, using the correct identifier is an important way to explain  family connections and keep the various branches of a family tree concise and correct.  As an example, direct lineal relatives would be parents, grandparents, great-grandparents, etc. who can be further differentiated within your writing by including a maternal or paternal designation, such as maternal great-grandmother.  To identify ancestors further back along your tree, you can use genealogical shorthand such as ‘four-times great-grandfather’ or ‘fourth great-grandfather’ instead of writing out great-great-great-great-grandfather, thus saving time.
The next category of relatives are those who descend from your direct line of ancestors and are known as collateral relations which include siblings, nieces, nephews, aunts and uncles, and cousins of varying degrees.  Using the correct terms to describe collateral relatives can be a bit more complex.  For instance, the siblings of your grandparents are your grandaunts and granduncles, and the siblings of your great-grandparents are your great-grandaunts and great-granduncles.  Similarly, the grandchildren of your siblings would be your grandnieces and grandnephews.  Using the correct identifier keeps the generational relationships properly aligned. 
Degrees of relationship are used when referencing a specific collateral kinship.  Using a ‘cousin connection chart’ can help ease the pain of trying to explain your relationship to the off-spring of your first- and second-cousins.  Cousins are ‘removed’ when they are of different generations from their most common ancestor; i.e. the child of your first cousin is your first cousin once removed or ‘1c1r’.  Further categories of family relations can involve half- and step-children, and double-cousins who are first-cousins whose parents are siblings and share the same two sets of grandparents.  Becoming familiar with these often tangled relationships will be beneficial to  your readers.
The goal of correctly and consistently labeling the relationships in your genealogical writings  will be invaluable when describing the various connections within the branches of your family tree.
January 21, 2022 By: Kristina Newcomer
Winter 2022
Step One:  Begin by organizing the documentation you have assembled.
Step Two:  Build a solid family tree.
Step Three:  Search through your documents, sources and family tree for a compelling story idea.
Step Four:  Incorporate any DNA results that may shed more light on the subject.
Step Five:  Include data from sources outside your immediate research.  Check with relatives or published records for additional avenues of information.
Step Six:  Double check your details.
Step Seven:  Using a timeline, fill in the gaps with historical context.
Step Eight:  Write your story. 
Remember, the only way to become proficient in a skill is to exercise regularly and keep practicing.  Writing is a skill that can be learned if you keep exercising those story-writing muscles.

October 13, 2021 By: Kristina Newcomer
Fall 2021
  1. Drop hints or tidbits along the storyline to keep the reader involved.  By adding anecdotes, suspense, or humor, your story will move along nicely.
  1. Avoid long, drawn-out paragraphs – keep the story moving along in brief sections.  This allows the reader to “take a breath” so-to-speak, and resume reading.
  1. Be sure to include some details to frame the story, such as vivid descriptions of the locale, weather, or event.  Your goal is to place your reader into the story by employing descriptive narrative.
  1. Resist overworking your story.  Read what you’ve written out loud to hear if it flows or gets bogged down along the way.  Maybe there is something you left out, or can cut.  Sometimes short and sweet is better than long and drawn-out!
  1. Remember, there is NO right way to write your story.  Just write what you know, as if you were recounting a past event to family and friends. 
Remember to start writing and keep writing!
August 3, 2021 By: Kristina Newcomer
Summer 2021
According to Sunny Morton, we all have stories to tell about “first loves, second chances, lessons learned, triumphs won, prizes lost and faith rekindled.”  However, as story tellers, we are not all created equal.  To avoid falling into the deadly trap of the boring story, Sunny has six secrets to help you create attention-grabbing tales:
  1. Story Anatomy – “A story is a meaningful narrative with a beginning, a middle and a conclusion.  In its simplest form, a story is what you wanted, how you struggled, and what you realized out of that struggle.”  Our most powerful memories can be triggered by sensory echoes such as smell, sound, fear and joy.  It is the writer’s job to ‘flesh out’ these memories to create a complete story.
  1. Single Storyline – Everyone’s life is composed of a string of stories like “pearls on a necklace,” and we need to focus on one pearl – one powerful memory or episode – at a time.  Pick a topic and run with it, don’t wander away from your storyline.
  1. Use Your Voice – Tell your stories using your natural speech rhythms and patterns.  “Simple, direct, emotional, visual language . . . creates pictures and feelings . . . “ producing your truest story.  One suggestion is to read your story out loud to see if it sounds like you.  If it doesn’t, rewrite it until it does.
  1. Right Place – “Every story has a timeline, but that doesn’t mean we have to tell events in order.”  Find a ‘scene’ or a ‘riveting moment’ to hook your reader and then fill in the details.
  1. Juicy Details – “Include the details you remember most vividly.”  But, don’t go overboard; be selective with the details you include.  You want to give glimpses into the event or individual not get buried in minutia.
  1. Your Point – Successful storytelling depends on one thing; “your story has to mean something.”  Unless your story has a ‘satisfactory conclusion’ you don’t have a complete story.
“Search your memories, clear your throat, and start stringing those pearls.”