What struck me in writing that piece, as well as the comments that I received, was that a lot of folks are, in my opinion, much too focused on dates and documenting dates, and sources of those dates.
For me, I am interested in assuring to as much a degree as possible, through research that Great Uncle Isaac was indeed married to Great Aunt Carrie. And it is useful to know that they were married on July 26, 1887 and that he died on June 7, 1931, both events occurring in San Francisco, California. That’s nice, but I am more interested in knowing why he left the family business to be a stage electrician for the California and Columbia Theaters and other prominent San Francisco theaters in the 1900’s. And why of the four brothers who were the sons of Louis and Caroline Marks, he was the only one who had a stable life, and didn’t go to prison, or desert his wife.
Again, my opinion – dates don’t cut it for me. If this pursuit was all about dates, I would quit in a heartbeat.
So what I try and do is to write the stories of my ancestors, from sources such as verbal family stories (and rumors from time to time), newspaper articles, photos, documents, letters, etc.
One of the branches of my family tree has what I call “The Memorable Seventeen.” The complete post can be found Here
And here is a summary of the Seventeen:
- One lived his life in a mental institution
- One committed suicide
- One was nearly murdered at his business
- One escaped the Nazis by traveling to Shanghai and Palestine
- One escaped the Nazis by traveling to England
- One was born in California
- Two were murdered in Nazi concentration camps
- Two were in the German army in World War I
- One was in the American army in World War I
- 11 immigrated to America
- Two never married
- Two were tailors
- One owned a hardware store
- One owned a barber shop
- One owned a bicycle shop in Germany and America
- One was a gambler
- One was a cook in a convalescent home
- One owned a dry cleaners
- Only one stayed in Germany after World War II
- The first to immigrate to America was a seventeen year old girl – all by herself with no one to meet her at her destination.
And the message is:
EVERYONE OF THESE HAD A STORY AND THEY DESERVE TO BE REMEMBERED, AND IF WE DON’T WRITE THEIR STORIES – WHO WILL?
So what are the reasons that you should write your family history:
- I am going to repeat myself – if we don’t write it – who will?
- It’s fun
- It honors your ancestors
- It keeps them alive forever
- If you post the stories on the Internet, you might find a “cousin”
- You may inspire some of your known relatives to participate and share more stories and photos and documents than they already have (if they have).
- You are going to die some day and the stories could then be lost forever
- Did I say it is fun?
Now I will be the first to admit that I am not a very accomplished writer. Oh – I can get the important facts and ideas out, but I don’t have any discipline, or a writing plan, or whatever. I use short blog posts as my stories – and then copy into a Word document in case I ever want to tie the stories together into a book. If you are remotely interested in my family history websites, they are Braunhart Mania and Marksology
I am more of a “spitter of words.” And sometimes it comes out OK and sometimes it doesn’t.
But you know what – I don’t care. And I suspect that at this juncture, my ancestors don’t care either.
Now I do know of a couple of folks in the family history world who are much better writers than myself, and who actually have a plan, and have written about the writing of family history. I encourage you to read the materials on their sites. They are very helpful. The first, Lynn Palermo, is the author of the site The Armchair Genealogist You can find on her site numerous articles about writing your family history. She has actually published her families history – I suggest you review her many helpful articles. The second is Caroline Pointer, whose suggestions regarding family history writing revolve around a family history blog that you might create, and how to write the blog posts (stories) that will inhabit your site. Her family history writing site is Blogging Genealogy.
So sports fans, write a story or two, or twenty, or a hundred. It doesn’t matter where you write it or how you publish it, but I guarantee that you will have fun doing it and you will feel good about keeping the memories of your ancestors alive.