Tuesday, January 12, 2021

Repurposing Ancestor Stories to Share More Widely

Now that I've written a family history booklet about my mother (Daisy Schwartz Burk, 1919-1981) and her twin sister (Dorothy Helen Schwartz, 1919-2001), I'm repurposing the content to share more widely. The bite-sized stories are already written--why not condense, adapt, and post on multiple websites, sharing family history with a larger audience without spending a penny or a pound.

Another approach is to begin with a brief bio you post on a website like FamilySearch or Fold3 or Find a Grave or WikiTree, and use that as the basis for a written booklet or a photobook or some other family-history document for your family to enjoy.

Case Study: Choose Photos, Write Headline

Above, a snippet from the Fold3 memorial page for my aunt, WAC Sgt. Dorothy H. Schwartz, who served during World War II. She's not the first ancestor I've memorialized for free on Fold3, but she's the most recent--a good case study for how to repurpose content.

First, I selected and uploaded several images of my aunt that I had inserted into my booklet. Previously, I had cropped the images to remove extraneous background. For the main profile photo at top left of her Fold3 page, I uploaded a portrait she sent home to her family, prominently featuring the sergeant's stripes on her uniform.

Next, I wrote a headline for my story. My goal was to highlight not just my aunt's military background but also what she did in her life. Therefore, I included her military rank, her full name and dates, and the fact that she was a "decorated WAC" (she earned the Bronze Star in World War II) and, later, a high school teacher.

Case Study: Content for Story

Now I was ready to write the actual story. I consulted the booklet I wrote about my aunt for the main points to include. As context for my aunt's life, I wanted to say something about her family, her education, her specific role in the WACs, and what she did after her honorable discharge. This was covered in my booklet, so all I had to do was copy out sentences, condense where needed, and write smooth transitions.

In the five succinct paragraphs I wrote for the Fold3 memorial, I managed to say:

  • Dorothy was a twin (I included her twin's name and their birthdate).
  • She lived and went to school in the Bronx, NY, then went to Hunter College.
  • She enlisted as a WAC and had a tense voyage across the Atlantic with 650 other WACs headed for Europe. 
  • Exactly what her role was as a WAC, listening in as officers made decisions about bombing and transcribing her notes into written orders.
  • Dorothy received the Bronze Star and wrote the history of her WAC unit.
  • Dorothy returned to school for education courses, then taught at two Bronx high schools until retiring.
  • She later became an advocate for renters' rights and consulted on retirement issues.
  • When Dorothy died and what cemetery she's buried in (next to her twin).
Now the "family legend" of my aunt's meritorious service during World War II is memorialized for the world to see on Fold3. And I posted it on Find a Grave, too!

TY to Amy Johnson Crow for the #52Ancestors prompt of "Family Legend" for week #2 in the 2021 challenge.


My presentation, "Bring Family History Alive in Bite-Sized Projects," is part of the all-virtual New England Regional Genealogical Conference in April. I'll be sharing more tips for repurposing ancestor stories. Registration is now open!

1 comment:

  1. Yes I quite agree! Thank you. It somehow feels like cheating to re-use information, but there are always more people in different audiences. And occasionally someone comes back with some interesting information you didn't know too.