Writers' Special Interest Group
Welcome to the LCGS Writers' Group webpage.
This group usually meets from 1:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. on the 1st Tuesday of each month. Members gather in the LCGS Resource Room found at the Harvey Engelhardt Funeral Home at 1600 Colonial Blvd. in Fort Myers.The genealogy meeting room is located on the east side of the building and the entrance is just south of the carport. There is a sign at the door.
In addition to the topic the group selects for our monthly writing effort, we also write a short piece at each meeting. Of course, we read these pieces to those at the meeting. We DON’T criticize grammar, spelling, etc. We DO talk about ways the writer could expand and improve his/her written piece and that seems to help all the rest of us too!
Email Vickie or call 239-437-5737 for answers to any questions you may have or for the next meeting's topic.
Here are a few items which may help you get started writing now, using materials, research notes and family heritage items you already have. Don’t wait until that so-called day some vague time in the future to start writing your family history - you’ll keep adding information and never begin the writing part of this passion we all share! You’ve done all the work so far - don’t you want to get it down in your words and in your interpretation?
Writing My Family History in Bits and Pieces
Decisions I Need To Make in Order to Begin:
- Why do I want to write my Family History?
- Who will be my audience?
- What will I include?
- How will I “publish” and distribute it and to whom?
You may not make all these decisions right now, but you should be thinking about them as it will affect the way in which you write and distribute your product, whether you do it as a full document or in sections as they are completed.
We all know that we have good intentions about writing and nothing ever really happens because there are too many other things going on in our lives. But if we really want to get started on writing we must make a place for it in our schedule, along with the other things we do regularly. We must make a Pledge to ourselves that we will write.
I WILL WRITE!!!!!!!
- I will try to write a piece _______________ (each week, 12 days, month - put something in here).
- I will write items which will be used in my own published/self-published family history.
- I will try to write in my own words in a basic form, then edit it later to the proper form.
- I will write as much as I need to in order to tell the story - it can be short or long.
- I will use information I already have to write my pieces - written facts, sources, footnotes, etc., from my research notes.
- I may decide to do some additional research in order to complete my piece-good for me!!
Let’s take an inventory to see what you have that you can write about right now, without more research:
What’s In MY Family Files?
- original, named and dated photos of individuals and family groups
- copies of Wills and other estate papers
- copies of deeds and/or land grants
- an old dairy, a journal or logbook, old letters
- maps of the areas in which my ancestors lived
- photos or old postcards of the areas (towns, countrysides) where my ancestors lived
- certificates for various achievements, diplomas
- school papers, yearbooks, report cards
- heritage items - things that belonged to ancestors and were passed down to you - like jewelry, tools, dishes, clothing, furniture, Christmas ornaments, etc.
- photos of homes your relatives lived in
- photos and items from an ancestor’s business - ads, brochures, ledgers, etc.
- newspaper articles, obituaries
- church records, Sunday school certificates of attendance
- postcards from ancestors’ vacation trips
- greeting, Christmas and Valentine cards sent/received by my ancestors
- past Family Reunion items, information, photos
- photos of an ancestor’s car (maybe his first), or his horse
Now that you’ve identified what you have in the context of beginning to write your Family History in bits and pieces, let’s look at some possible topics you might want to use
Possible Writing Topics
- When my Mother….; When my Father…. (open-ended – anything you want)
- My Grandmother was….; My Grandfather was…. (same)
- I had an uncle (aunt, cousin) who …. (same)
- My (parent/grandparent) was born in, grew up in, but went to and raised a family there (why, when, how)
- General migration path for (grandparents, parents)…*
- Research your ancestor’s trip to America where they eventually lived.
- Choose an emigrant ancestor and write about why he/she might have decided to migrate and why/how they chose the place in America where they eventually lived.
- Did your parents or grandparents come to the US from a foreign country? When? Are there stories in your family about the trip? Do you have relatives in a foreign country? Do you know them?
- A day in my (relative’s) life at _____ years of age (occupation, work, rest hours, etc.)…
- Family first names through our generations and reasons why.
- My (relative) had an unusual occupation (avocation, hobby, etc.)…
- What I remember most about my (relative) is…
- Question I wish I had asked my relative and why…*
- Who among your deceased relatives do you miss the most? Why?
- Who among your deceased relatives was the most influential on your life? Or that of your family? How?*
- Choose a deceased relative and discuss what you like and/or disliked about that person.
- Who among your deceased relatives would you like to spend an hour with? Why? What would you talk about with them?*
- Write a family story told to you by a relative and relate it to what you know today after all your research.
- Write about a “colorful” family legend/story, e.g. a family “black sheep”.
- I recently learned about… (something about someone, some place in your family).
- Describe a special vacation/visit you had with… (a relative)
- Write about some “lovers” in your family – grandparents, an aunt and uncle, etc.
- Write about a typical Sunday for (relative)…or a Saturday…
- Write about a problem your (relative) would have faced in his or her life and how they solved/might have solved it.
- What effects would industrialization/urbanization have had on your grandparents (or earlier ancestors)?*
- Write about an ancestor’s Military Service…where, when, why…effects on those left at home and how they coped. (Use old records if you have them)*
- Write about an event in an ancestor’s life in the first person (as if that person were writing or talking about it to you),,,or perhaps as a diary entry or a letter.
- Describe the house, farm, town, or place where your grandparents, or other relatives lived, as it was in their time.
- Draw up a floor plan of the house you lived in as a child – or your grandparents’ house, etc. – and explain what each room was used for, how it was decorated, etc.*
- What inventions occurred during a relative’s lifetime, how may he/she have used them? (Check www.ourtimelines.com for help on this.)
- Discuss a relative’s will and estate items, ramifications for heirs and value in today’s dollars.
- Discuss personal and real property listed in an ancestor’s estate and how/why it was important and might have been used by the owner.
- Use a certificate (school, church, Etc.) you have and write a piece about the relative – info about the place giving the certificate, why, etc…
- Use a birth certificate/announcement/Bible entry for an ancestor…write a story about their birth…time, place, weather, parents and parents nearby, siblings there at the time, etc… How would the birth have affected the family? Was the father home for the birth? If away, where and why? Who helped at the birth and afterward? Where did it occur?
- Choose an old record (deed, Will, Bible, letter, diary, news article, etc.)
- Choose a “heritage item(s)” you have and describe it (them), whose, its use, etc.*
- My (relative’s) kitchen (parlor, porch, attic, bedroom, etc.)…describe it.
- Use one of your old family photos – research and write about the clothing style, social/family history of the time, place where it was taken, who was in it, etc.*
- Select a family photo, or several related ones, and write about it/them – who, where, why it was taken, etc.*
- Choose the Census record for a particular year and discuss the place, those noted in the record and how they got there.
- What were your feelings about your grandparents? What do you think they felt about you? If/when you visited them, what was it like?
- Do you have any records of marriages, the marriage ceremony, where, the honeymoon, etc. for someone in your family? Write about it.
- Do you know what your family names mean or meant in the past? (Example, Eck is German or Swiss for corner.) If not, try to find out for all your family names.
- Do you have Revolutionary War or Civil War Pension papers for a relative? Summarize what they tell you about the soldier and his family.
- Do you have an educator, a doctor, a nurse, a banker, a lawyer or other professional person in your family? Who? Describe their career – what, where, when, how, etc.
- How did your grandparents/ parents cope with the Great Depression? What were the hardships and how did they deal with them?
- Did you know your grandparents well? Describe them and what you did with them that was/is special to you.
- How did your parents cope with WW2? What were the hardships and how did they deal with them?
- Describe how your Grandmother (mother) obtained, stored and prepared food for their family.
- How and when did your parents meet? When did they decide to date and where did they go? How did they decide to marry? Tell the stories you heard as a child about their courtship.
- What have you learned through your research about (a specific relative)? What is still to learn?
- Describe the size of the town where your family lived or shopped. How large or small were the stores? Did you ever go to the city to shop?*
- Did your family ever make any long vacation trips across the country or across the state? To where? When? What do you remember about it?*
- What was the work your parents did during your teenage years? What did you hear from them or observe about their work? What did you think/feel about their work? How do you feel about it now?
- Compare your life today with that of your parents at the same age…and with your grandparents.
- Write about a family get-together…what was the event? Who was there? What were the adults doing? The children? Describe scenes that you remember.*
- Describe your first close encounter with death. How old were you? Who was it? What do you see happening? What was said to you about it? What did you think/feel?
- Is there a history in your family of playing special games together? What game/s? When? Who played?
- Who is the earliest relative you have found in your research? How is he/she related to you? Tell what you know about him/her.
- Have you met any “kissing cousins” during your research work? How are they related? Of what help have they been? How do you feel about them?
- Is there some “scandal” in your family about which you can write? Feel you should write? Describe it, who, what, when and where, etc.
- What is the most interesting discovery to date in your family research…why?
- Write about your experiences in researching/writing your Family History – your emotions, unexpected discoveries, special people you’ve met, etc.
- Write about when your grandparents or parents died.
- A childhood adventure of mine…; a childhood adventure with my (relative)…
- Think about times with your cousins…what did you do together? Did you have a favorite cousin/why? What games did you play and with whom?
- A day in my life at ___ years of age…
- A special day in my life.*
- Write about your favorite food prepared by your grandmother, mother, aunt, etc.
- Describe the first car you remember and to whom it belonged.
- Describe your first car, how did you get it, the money for it, etc.
- Tell of how, who taught you and where you learned to ride a bike, or swim, or drive a car, etc…*
- Describe one of your schoolrooms and the teacher.
- Describe one of your favorite places as a child (or as a young adult) and explain why it is a favorite.
- I remember…something from your childhood (you might also say what you don’t remember about this thing).
- You’re at a door…push it open and walk into your room as a child – make a sketch map of it, what were its special places and why?
- Describe the Main Street (or your high school, a special restaurant, etc.) in your hometown as it was when you were young.*
- Describe a smell, sound or scene which takes you back to a specific person or place in your childhood and why this happens.*
- Write about your sister/brother…what did they like?...did you get along? What did you do together?*
- Who was your best childhood friend? How did this friendship begin and fare through the years? What did you like to do together?
- Write about something you did as a child that gave you a sense of accomplishment/competence.*
- When and where were you born? What were you told about your birth and infancy? Who told you?
- Write about yourself: How you met your spouse; where you went on your honeymoon, how you felt when your first child was born; describe your first house as a married couple, talk about vacations you have taken, either as a couple or family.
- Choose one of your formerly written pieces and expand on it, add more about background, life of the time, etc.
- What is the most amazing thing you’ve ever seen?
So now all you have to do is choose a topic which interests you and start writing!! Think about these things when you sit down to put your pencil to paper or fire up your computer:
Things to Think About When Writing
- Most people find that their thoughts flow more freely when handwriting, but if you can compose easily on the computer without interrupting your thought process to correct spelling, etc., do so.
- It’s more comfortable to write in the basic form - as if you were telling the story to someone.
Write the way you talk!
- Initially, don’t worry about grammar, spelling, adjectives, etc. - do that in revisions.
- Engage senses other than visual ... smell, touch, taste
- Be specific ... not fruit, but apple.
- Lose control ... don’t think too much ... stay in the realm of your first thoughts.
- Most important - have fun!!
If you attend all the meetings during the year, you'll have at least twenty written stories about your family!
Come join us!