Writing A Family History

You probably have scrapbooks filled with images of your ancestors. You may be lucky enough to have one of their diaries or a crumbling letter written almost a century ago. Your family may have told you their stories, and you’d like to write a family history.

Your first step will be to do research. Finding information is much easier than it was twenty years ago thanks to Google and the Internet Archive. Second, check your facts, because some of your genealogy may be wrong. Was your Aunt Mabel right about how much land,  how many children, or where your grandparents were born?

 

old paper

WikiTree
Dr. Increase Mathews WikiTree Profile

While doing research on my family, I found many genealogical sites had misinformation. Sometimes, I couldn’t remember where I had found the accurate information, so I became a genealogist on WikiTree. This allowed me to record these sources for easy reference. I love this feature of WikiTree! The genealogists there are very helpful and friendly. It’s easy to ask questions and get answers on the G2G forum. Every profile is a collaboration. I recommend you add your family tree to WikiTree. Best of all, it’s free!

For example, the image on the left shows a portion of the Sources section on the profile page for Dr. Increase Mathews (Matthews). I’m fortunate to have been able to find so much historical information about  my family’s history. Future generations will thank you for doing the research!

 

You’ve finished discovering accurate details. What’s next? Organize your information and start writing. This is the hardest part. Don’t worry about having perfect punctuation. This can be fixed when you revise. Your family history should be more than facts and historical dates.  Make it interesting. Ask yourself (and imagine) what difficulties did they encounter? How did they overcome these.

Set time aside each day and write something! Don’t make the mistake of revising right away. Wait until you’ve finished writing your entire novel, then set it aside for a few weeks. When you return to it, you’ll see it from a fresh perspective. Next, ask for beta readers to read your historical family history. They’ll be able to help you pinpoint any problem areas.

My Research

Marietta College has a collection of business documents and letters written by Increase’s older brother John Mathews. Historian Irene Nau included a sentence from a letter from John to Increase in her summary of these documents. I wanted to know more about this letter and if there were any other personal letters available, so I contacted the Special Collections Department. I received PDF files which were images of typed transcripts of several personal letters contained in the Historian Samuel P. Hildreth Collection. For one of these letters, the transcript only noted it was sent to “M”. I have been unable to determine who the recipient was. From the contents, I surmise it was written to someone in New England. In this missive, John shares his thoughts on the 1794 Whiskey Rebellion. I found it to be an interesting insight to this time period. The following except is the opening quotation for my next novel.

An Excerpt from
The Mathews Family Saga Book 2

“It is to be much regretted that Government did not take the measures they are now pursuing at an earlier period. Besides saving vast sums, it would have given a weight and dignity to the Federal Government that would have tended greatly to check the licentiousness and opposition to Government unfeverable in this country, and I really believe that the present insurrection in the back counties of Pennsylvania would never have existed, had not the slow and ineffectual prosecution of the Indians have given them a contemptible opinion of the strength of the Government.

“The idea that the Atlantic states, particularly the Eastern, are unfriendly to the population and prosperity of this Country is prevalent and has an unfavorable operation on the minds of these people, and the extreme reluctance Government have observed to enter into the Indian war, but too well supports the opinion. However, I hope the result of this campaign will convince the western inhabitants that the protection of Government will be equally & impartially extended to all.

“I hope too Government will take prompt & effectual measures to suppress the insurrection in the western parts of Pennsylvania. They are a factious and ungovernable set, principally Irish, or Scotch-Irish as they are called here, or their immediate descendants. I feel a little flash of national pride in observing that the American-born inhabitants of this Country whose father or grandfather never felt, nor hardly heard of, oppression are much more governable and have more confidence in Government than the Europeans, who cannot divest themselves the idea that Government & the people have separate interests.”

John Mathews
1794 letter written at Fort Washington

Does She Think of Me:

A Birth Mother’s Journey to Forgiveness

Memoir author Cathy Williams-Thrun’s book is available on Amazon. “You’re not permitted to see your child at birth.” The nurse was cold and stern as she draped a curtain across the teenager’s midsection. The baby’s cries echoed off the cold operating room walls and boomeranged back to the girl’s shattered heart. Wiping the tears from her eyes she desperately clung to her baby’s fleeting shadow, cast upon the thin fabric that hung between them.

An unplanned pregnancy at seventeen, and the feeling they had nowhere to turn, forced a young couple to make a decision they would regret for the rest of their lives. Although Cathy and Joey had their entire future planned to eternity, nothing could have prepared them for this fork in the road. One decision, either way, would change the course of their love forever.

The pounding of her heart dances in rhythm to the methodical passing of time. How could nineteen painful years drag on like an eternity, yet suddenly fade in the blink of an eye? Anxiously waiting for the phone to ring Cathy accepts the unknown. Her future happiness depends on the questions she yearns to have answered.

You can find out more about this memoir author on the Cathy Williams-Thrun website or on Facebook. Send her aTweet on Twitter or send an Instagram. You may ask her questions at Goodreads Author Cathy Williams-Thrun.

Cathy’s Interview

You prefer (1) to people watch OR (2) bird watch?

It’s no secret in my family that I love to people watch. I don’t do it to criticize or pick out flaws. There are so many stories hidden deep within their souls that are never written. The tired young lady with three kids in tow leaves me asking if she is single, does she have support, can she feed her children. The senior all dolled up with bright clothing, earrings to match with her favourite red lipstick makes me ponder why I lack the confidence or feel too old to wear that neon pink shirt I love so much that hangs in the closet. I find the process very thought provoking.

Nice way to look at life!

What provides more inspiration to you: (1) art OR (2) nature?

I believe growing up in a rural community in Newfoundland, Canada near water, farmland and fields as far as the eye can see has made me a lover of nature. Whenever I would feel lost, sad, or needed clarity of mind, I would sit by the ocean. It’s the best therapy for what ails you.

What a lovely description of Newfoundland!

Do you prefer to read (1) an e-book OR (2) a paperback?

Oh my gosh, a paperback definitely. As much as I love holding a book in my hand you can’t beat the smell. Someone once told me it’s just the ink to which I replied, “Not to me. It puts me in my happy place.” The magazine rack in the grocery stores is a challenge for me to walk past without picking up a magazine and running my nose through the centre pages while inhaling deeply. Just glorious!

Here’s to your happy place!

Are you (1) a morning person OR (2) a night owl?

I became a night owl when I had children. Once they were tucked in for the night at 8pm a calm fell over our home. I hated to go to bed because it was me time and I dragged it out until midnight or 1am. It gave me time with my husband as well as time to read, knit, sew, do crafts, soak in the tub or watch a great chick flick over a glass of my favourite wine.

Everyone deserves me time!

You prefer to watch (1) a sunrise OR (2) a sunset?

When my husband and I were dating, we worked the night shift which would end as the sun was rising. It was beautiful but then as mentioned when the kids came along I turned into a night owl. As much as I love sunrises the night owl prefers sunsets. A beautiful sunset does bring a sense of calm over the world, the end to another day, blessed to get another chance to witness its beauty.

Both are beautiful!

Thanks for being interviewed, Cathy!

Does She Think of Me
Does She Think of Me