The popular TV show Who Do You Think You Are? provides some valuable storytelling insight that we can apply to the narratives of our ancestors. Despite the professional genealogists, unlimited travel budget and celebrities, the show also has some practical storytelling wisdom for memory and family history writers.
How do you gather momentum for the new year in the bleak mid-winter?
Remember riding your bike when you were young? Starting out downhill, pedaling like mad to gather speed and momentum for the hill ahead? You don’t have to dust your bike off (though if you’re able, it’s a great idea) to approach the new year with passion. There are other ways to store up emotional energy and keep a healthy cadence rather than a half-hearted slog during the coming months.
Try the following in addition to the tried-and-true procrastination busters.
Many times, taking a step back from stories allows us to truly understand them. Until we separate ourselves from events, we see them only through our own eyes. We know what happened, but we don’t know what it really means. We don’t realize all the implications.
Taking a step back can also help us see how our stories connect to each other and how they continue to influence our lives.
If you didn’t read Do Memoir and Research Belong Together? you might wonder why’d I compile a list of genealogy resources for memoirists and memory writers. Before you yell, “BAHHHH Research” and run (or click) away, stay with me. This list of genealogy resources for memoirists will help you incorporate historical details that bring your memories to life. The facts you gleam make a great way to “show, not tell” the settings of your stories, increasing your readers’ understanding of your past.
Do research and memoir belong together? Counter intuitive as it sounds, the answer is yes. Though it is true that memoir involves writing about the episodes of your past that already exist in your memory, research can enhance your story. Adding researched details from the past can bring your story alive for your readers.
Working with family historians writing their ancestor’s stories brings this home. They not only provide the meticulously researched (and cited) facts for readers. When they write about their ancestors, they often include a rich background of historical and social context. They don’t do this to fill in the gaps between facts. They use their research to help their readers visualize the events of the past.
Update: This contest is now closed. The lucky winner is Kim S.
Want to attend RootsTech 2017? RootsTech has some promotional pricing, but here’s the best deal: Win a Free RootsTech Pass right here.
Full disclosure: It’s not on my dime. All RootsTech Ambassadors get one 4-day pass ($299 value) to give away to one of their followers. We also get a complimentary pass for ourselves, but, like whoever wins this free RootsTech Pass, we pay for our own travel and hotel accommodations.
The pass includes keynote and general sessions, over 200 classes, including Getting Started classes, the Innovator Summit, and evening cultural events.
If you’re not familiar with RootsTech, here’s the skinny:
It’s hard to know where to start writing your ancestor stories. Sometimes it helps to look at potential stories from different perspective. Instead of looking at the plethora of facts and deciding what to write, look at the following first lines for story ideas.
Which relative or ancestor do they remind you of? What stories could you tell about them? Choose a few prompts and try writing a vignette or two. If you were born before 1950, many of these will also work for your own memories.
I can only think of my great-great grandfather, VanBuren Field Clark, the way my grandmother described him. Longish dark blonde hair blowing in the wind, an irregular gait and blazing blue eyes. A vibrant, brave man with a gentle heart.
I wish I could go back in time and get to know him better. I say “better,” because I feel like I know him a little already, since my grandmother wrote stories about him.
Is nostalgia good for you? Or is it unhealthy to spend too much time looking backwards?
A few days before my last birthday, I watched myself learn to walk.
I had just received my digital transfers of VHS tapes and 8mm film from Legacy Republic (part of becoming an affiliate). I was excited to view the past. Memories I could no longer access were there for me to watch—including trying to blow out my first birthday cake candles under the watchful eye of my sister. Until she took over.
I’m not raving about the RootsTech family history conference to fulfill my Ambassador obligations. It’s the other way around. I’m excited about being an Ambassador because I love going to RootsTech. The conference doesn’t take place until February 8 – 11, but if you plan now you can take advantage of early bird registration prices.
Genealogy Today lists three reasons family history buffs should go to a national conference: Lectures, exhibits, and other genealogists. To me, those are more like categories. I embellished them and came up with a few more.