Showing posts with label photo books. Show all posts
Showing posts with label photo books. Show all posts

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

The "Write" Way to Write Family History

Thinking about writing your family's history? Here are the two most important words to remember: Start writing.

That's the "write" thing to do.

Maybe you feel you're not a writer or you haven't done enough research or you need more details or photos. Please keep in mind that as the keeper of the family history, you know more than your relatives. And your relatives and heirs don't expect Shakespeare--they will be delighted just to find out who their ancestors were!

Doing the "write" thing is, in fact, an excellent way to identify gaps in research and missing leaves on the tree. If something is wrong or incomplete (incorrect spelling, inaccurate dates, missing details), you can always fix it later. Really.

Case in point: In 2012, I printed a small photo book about my parents' wedding, which united the Burk and Schwartz families. The main purpose was to reprint the many family photos with captions, for the sake of future generations. Cousins helped me identify nearly everyone in every photo. But there were some "unknowns" and I simply called them that in the captions (see above). Better done than perfect. 

Fast-forward to 2017, when I smashed a brick wall and found second cousins who--wonder of wonders!--are descendants of the "unidentified cousins" in the photos. Needless to say, I immediately hand-wrote the new names into my printed photo book. Remember, the goal is to share family history with future generations, not to have an immaculate book. Earlier this year, when I saw a big sale, I reprinted the original photo book with corrections and additions.

So go ahead and do the "write" thing. Some ideas to get you in the "write" mood:
  • Pick a person or a surname or an occasion, spread out your research, and jot notes you can then flesh out into sentences and paragraphs. I wrote about one set of grandparents at a time, since their lives were intertwined, but I had a separate page or two about birth/early childhood of each individual.
  • Pick a photo and list the people in it. Then write a bit about each person and the relationships between some or all. Include what you know about where and when, or other details to "set the scene" for descendants who never knew these people. I found some photos so evocative that the words poured out almost faster than I could type.
  • Ask your audience (children or nieces/nephews or any other readers) who or what they'd like to know about. My family asked for a booklet about Mom and her twin sister. I'm making notes already. My sis-in-law wants a book about her parents. I'm scanning photos in preparation.
Our ancestors had real lives, personalities, hopes, problems. It's up to us, the genealogists of our generation, to get the next generation interested in tales of the past and keep alive the memory of people no longer with us.

You don't have to start at the beginning as you write. Sometimes the best way to get yourself going is to begin with something dramatic or humorous or characteristic of the person. My blog posts often serve as a rough draft of a family history booklet.

There's no one "write" way to write family history. You can write one page about one person, or a pamphlet about a couple, or a book about a family. You might decide to tell the stories in photos with captions, rather than using a lot of text. The important thing, as I said at the beginning, is to start writing. Enjoy the journey, and your family will enjoy what you write.

Saturday, December 30, 2017

YOU Are Part of Your Family's History

Remember that YOU, the family's historian, are an integral part of your family's history. As much fun and as rewarding as it is to research the family's past, it's also important to record the family's present-day doings for yourself and for future generations. There are so many ways to do this. Let me share two of my favorites.

Every year, I create one or more photo books showing family gatherings, travels, and other adventures that my hubby Wally and I have had. This has been my tradition for more than a decade. I also make individual photo books for special events like a big birthday or a wedding in the family.

My preference is to capture each year in photos chronologically. I explain where we are and who we're with, including detailed captions so that our descendants will be able to identify family members and friends.

One more tradition, for the past dozen years, is slotting old and new family photos into a calendar to give to close relatives. We designate each person's birthdate on the calendar with a head shot, as well as marking anniversaries with couples' photos. We also remember loved ones who are no longer with us, by including their faces among the calendar photos.

This calendar is so eagerly awaited and treasured that someone from the next generation volunteered to take over the creative duties last year. She decided there wasn't enough room for photos so she chose a larger format for the 2018 calendar and included even more photos of ancestors! Lucky me to have so many hands helping to share the family's past and present.