Whittier Area Genealogical Society
Whittier Area Genealogical Society

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August 1, 2022 By: Kristina Newcomer
Summer 2022
A recent Beetle Bailey® comic strip highlighted the importance of context when writing about events, occupations, skills and equipment from our and our ancestors’ past so that a reader in the future understands what we are describing.  In the comic, an older character tells a young worker that  she was in a “steno pool, wrote in shorthand, and typed on a Selectric.”  The young worker replies, “I’m sorry, but I have no idea what you just said.” 
As writers of our and our ancestors’ stories, we must keep in mind that the effect of progress is to make many things, occupations and skills obsolete.  It is up to us, the writers and recorders of history, to research and describe in detail what these terms mean, how they fit into the context of our writing and, perhaps, what replaced these items over time.
As in the example above, a steno pool was a collection of women who took dictation using Gregg shorthand – a form of stenographic writing that was fast and efficient – and typed out their notes on an electric IBM Selectric typewriter.  Including images of equipment, photographs of workers, and detailed descriptions of the training required for skills such as taking shorthand would add depth, interest, and knowledge to our stories and prevent those blank stares and statements like, “I have no idea what you just wrote.”
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!