Whittier Area Genealogical Society
Whittier Area Genealogical Society

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February 7, 2024 By: Kristina Newcomer
Winter 2024
Part II
Once you have answered the question of “Why and who am I doing this for?,” your next step may well be to begin collecting basic information about your subject matter, but remember, although data-points are important, they don’t drive a story forward, personalization does.
As you begin writing, don’t let insecurities or mental obstacles get in your way.  Common stumbling blocks include time constraints, not knowing where to start, forgetting details – or the more familiar “I’m not a good writer.”  Let’s tackle these one at a time.
Time constraints. Life is busy and most of us can’t afford to close ourselves off from the world to write a novel based on someone’s life.  Begin small.  Write a three-paragraph article about one aspect of your topic.  Set aside some time – once a day, a week, or a month – to add to your story.  Writing in small increments reduces frustration.
Where to start. There is no specific rule as to where to begin a story.  While lives are lived in  chronological order, memories don’t necessarily follow the same path.  Begin with something that triggers a strong memory and proceed from there.  The story will practically write itself.
Forgetting details.  It can be hard to admit that sometimes our memory fails us, but that’s life.  Help yourself by creating a timeline for your subject and you may be amazed at what you can remember by utilizing this visual prompt.
Not a good writer.  Give yourself a break!  No one expects you to become the next Alex Haley overnight.  The great thing about writing in the computer age is that there are lots of forums, guidelines, and programs to help you polish up your writing style, help you focus on your subject matter, and compose a well-organized story.  Take advantage of these and your writing will shine.

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.