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    Writing Your Family History and Keeping Yours Alive [A Brief Overview]

    Digging into your family's past and writing about the people and events you discover can be a fascinating endeavor. A family history also helps give a sense of belonging to children and grandchildren, a feeling of continuity between the generations.

    I've also found in my family genealogy interesting people who act as a springboard for novels and non-fiction books. What began as simple compilation of information for future generations, became the spark for stories to share with others.


    Research Began With a Relative

    My research and writing began when my dad, at 92, asked me to take on the project of writing his memoirs. He'd jotted down some recollections in a notebook which gave me my start.

    I'd heard some of these stories of his younger life, but had forgotten many and never knew about others. I soon learned he had nearly a century of living to relate, and I discovered I was learning the history of a remarkable man.

    Getting to Know Family

    When you begin to search your family history, you'll get to know your parents and grandparents in a different way. You'll see them, through their recollections and the memories of others, as they were while growing up, struggling to provide a living for a young family, and contributing to their community to make a better life for others.

    My great, great grandmother was one of these. I discovered that she, a widow with four young boys, moved from the comforts of the east to homestead in the mid-western part of the United States during the 1800s.

    Until then, Grandma Cynthia was merely a picture in a photo album; now she's a courageous woman who intrigues me, a woman who could inspire others if her story were told.

    How To Begin

    How do you begin your family history?

    • Talk with your parents and record their memories on paper, on audio cassette or video tape.
    • Visit other relatives and get their recollections about life in days ago.
    • Take photos of living relatives, of old homes where they lived, of the cemeteries where ancestors are buried. Search old photo albums for snapshots of other relatives.
    • Don't rely solely on your memory as your parents and relatives relate their stories of younger years. Write down or put on tape what they tell you.
    • Go through old letters you might have saved from your parents and relatives as well as those you've written them. These will give you insight into common everyday events that most everyone has forgotten.
    • Go to the cemeteries where your ancestors are buried and jot down the dates and names for your family tree.

    Publishing a History

    You may want to collect this history solely as a family record for yourself and your children. Or you might desire to have it printed in booklet form for family and any others who are interested in what your family has done.

    Nowadays, with desktop publishing programs, you even can publish the family history yourself, without having to take it to a printer.


    Keep Memories Alive

    Family histories are fascinating. Don't let yours be forgotten because someone neglected to write down the tales of yesteryear and record the family tree.

    If you don't do this now, someday you'll say, "I wish I'd written all that information down for my children and future generations."

    Copyright © 2001 Mary Emma Allen

    Mary Emma Allen is a journalist, columnist, children's writer and book author. Her many publications are listed on her Web site -- http://homepage.fcgnetworks.net/jetent/mea.

    The Authentic Self: Journaling Your Joys, Griefs and Everything in Between by Shery Russ



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    FOR JOURNALERS

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