Family History Essay

Even though you'll likely find yourself scrambling to meet them, deadlines force you to complete each stage of your project.

The goal here is to get each piece done within a specified time frame. The best way to meet these deadlines is to schedule writing time, just as you would a visit to the doctor or the hairdresser.

Rather than printing a transcription of the letter, I just paraphrased it into my own words. You don't need to give us everything you know all at once. Here is a quote from a letter that I used to end a chapter in a family history: Now, be honest. Even if you were late to pick up your kids from school, wouldn't you turn the page for a peek at Grace's answer?

Here's an opening example: See how I plunged us right into the middle of the story?

Make documents work for the story, so they become powerful openings, middles, or endings. In writing narrative, some facts might not conveniently work themselves into the story. Part One is the readable narrative family history; Part Two is the reference section of genealogical reports or summaries with all the bare bones facts.

So that's the secret to writing a compelling family history: crafting your facts into a nonfiction narrative, using fiction techniques.

Now you can write a compelling family history, too.

Sharon De Bartolo Carmack is a Certified Genealogist, executive editor of Family Tree Books (formerly Betterway Books), contributing editor for Family Tree Magazine, and the author of eight books, including A Genealogist's Guide to Discovering Your Female Ancestors.

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