Whittier Area Genealogical Society
Whittier Area Genealogical Society

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Blog Entries: 1 to 4 of 4
November 1, 2023 By: Kristina Newcomer
Fall 2023
Part I
It can feel pretty daunting when you think about writing your family stories, but take heart, you can do it, and you’ll be amazed at how trouble-free it can be with the write (pun intended) attitude.
To help you get off on the right foot, one of the first questions you should ask yourself is, “Why and who am I doing this for?”   Once you have decided what your purpose for writing is – putting together a personal history or preserving an ancestor’s life story – the process becomes less of a challenge and more effortless.
Many people want to write a personal or family history but become lost or overwhelmed by the scope of their plan.  The key is to take a seemingly monumental task and break it down into more manageable pieces.  Because a personal history should be more than a drab description of singular events, try putting color and personality into your writing by including funny anecdotes, feelings, and life lessons learned.  This will make your stories connect with future generations. 
Whatever your reason for writing – creative exercise, leaving a legacy, or just for the fun of it – you will be rewarded with a feeling of accomplishment and your descendants will have something intimate and special to cherish far into the future.
August 1, 2023 By: Kristina Newcomer
Summer 2023
When starting out on the journey to chronicle the many stories and nuances in the lives of our ancestors, one of the maxims in genealogy is to sit down and interview our parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles.  These keepers of family history and lore can be valuable assets by providing names, dates, locations and stories that inform the direction of our research.
But, what if we are starting out on our journey of discovering and recording our family stories and there is no one to interview?  Who can provide the answers to questions like, “What was great-grandfather Frank’s full name?” or “Where was grandmother Jane born?”  What then? 
As family historians, we spend hundreds of hours gleaning information about our predecessors from the paper trails they left behind, but we often forget to record our own story.  What we know and record about ourselves is just as important as the information we compile about our absent ancestors.
There are several ways we can tell our own stories, but one of the easiest would be to interview ourselves.  Don’t forget that someday we will be someone’s ancestor and they will want to know everything about our lives.  Now is the time to leave our descendants with more than a few sterile facts from which to discern who we truly were.  By interviewing ourselves and telling our story we secure a place in our family history.
May 3, 2023 By: Kristina Newcomer
Spring 2023
When we come across an ancestor who, by today’s standards, led a less-than-savory life, our first inclination is to downplay, whitewash, or outright avoid writing their story because it is too difficult to address.  As genealogists, however, by our very avocation, are obligated to record our histories as truthfully as possible.
The first thing to remember is that we are not responsible for our ancestors’ actions and, by writing their stories maybe we can do something positive for those they harmed. 
When we discover an ancestor who did something reprehensible, such as being a slave owner or overseer, a persecutor of someone for witchcraft or some other unsavory act, we need to process our emotions and separate ourselves from the past.
It is important to realize that the things that our ancestors did – or didn’t do – in the past are not our fault.  But, how we record these actions for posterity is a vital part of the story of our ancestors and should not be omitted from their narrative.
History is not always pretty, but it is important that we record it – warts and all – for posterity, for how else will people know the truth?  Recording the past will inform the future.
January 24, 2023 By: Kristina Newcomer
Winter 2023
An article in American Ancestors magazine by Brady Brim-DeForest connects family history research to the importance of writing a narrative for future generations.
As genealogists, we understand the importance of documentation and collecting datum to fill in the blanks of our ancestors’ lives which connects us not only to our past but to the future as well.  Mr. Brim-Deforest states that “understanding who we are is made richer when we understand all of those who have come before us.”  This is where storytelling becomes the enticement that future family historians need to ensure that the past is kept alive.
Our role as genealogists is to make our research accessible to non-genealogists and to motivate and inspire future generations of family historians.  To aid us in putting flesh on the bones of our data, and to avoid boring and dry narratives, answer the following questions:
  • What is interesting about this individual?
  • How should I structure the story?
  • How will the reader react to the story?
Use the following components to help translate your data into an interesting story.
  • Specific time
  • Specific place
  • Character(s)
  • Incident(s)
  • Action
  • Change/Outcome
Data provides precise information, but it can’t provide context.  This is where your story will fill in the spaces in our ancestors’ lives between the data points.