Writing My Family History

I’ve wanted to get this book on my father’s line finished for four years or more. I think I’m making headway for once! It seemed like an insurmountable task in the past, but when I wrote an outline with chapter headings, writing one at a time makes it a manageable task.

Volunteering at the Old Buncombe County Genealogical Society since 2011 has made me aware of the challenges of creating good genealogy books. From the beginning, I wanted to publish this story so fleshing out the family lines from my 4th great grandfather has been my focus. But I’ve learned that getting the individual stories and pictures will make the people come alive.

My grandmother's best friend Rachel and her husband Dick while he served in WWI.

My grandmother’s best friend Rachel and her husband Dick while he served in WWI.

Today, I feel close to being done with all the lines that came out of 13 children, but “done” is a relative term right? I still need more pictures, which means contacting people to see what they have in their closets. One of my volunteer friends walked into a Cracker Barrel restaurant in the Western NC area a couple of years ago and saw his great grandmother’s portrait hanging on the wall. He said he was shocked, and couldn’t understand how they got the oval framed picture. They wouldn’t hand it over, but invited him to visit her anytime he wanted. He took a photo with his phone, but he’s hoping to borrow it sometime to get a better scan for his records.

He has such great luck finding pictures. I need to borrow his technique – he goes to related family reunions in the summer to meet people who might have pictures he needs. His portable scanner preserves anything he finds. I’m not sure what he values more – the pictures or the picnic food!

The reason I’m so fixated on pictures is because that’s what everyone wants in a book. And can you blame them? Most genealogy books are bland lists – who begot who – so I knew that I wanted photos and documents, making it easier to read. And as soon as something gets published, other authors say they get calls from relatives with pictures they want added to the book! Where were you guys when I called and the book was still on the computer the authors want to know?


Anyway, if I can make one recommendation to aspiring authors out there, get more pictures. And I mean pictures of Bible pages, of original deeds or even a marriage certificate because there is nothing like seeing your ancestor’s signature, even if it is only an “X”. I have another friend whose philosophy is to give every person in his book a picture, even if it is only a census page with their name. He thinks every person deserves something to prove they were here. Wouldn’t we all appreciate that?

About Edith

I learned many things in my previous career, but the most important was that communication opens minds and changes lives. I want to apply the same to my new venture in genealogy because we can all benefit from sharing tips and techniques. I have really enjoyed teaching adult classes in genealogy research techniques and want this blog to act as an extension of that experience. I'm currently researching my family surnames including Hawkins, Thomas, Bolling, Alexander, Gudger and Rogers. Enjoy the hunt!
This entry was posted in Family Photographs, Family Reunions, Family Trees, Old Photographs, Scanning Pictures. Bookmark the permalink.

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