Tips For Writing Short Stories About Ancestors
I do not claim to be an accomplished writer, nor do I boast of my ability to regale readers with the best plots. I do, however, enjoy a passion for searching for information to put into my various short stories of my ancestors. With my modicum of talent and a thirst for knowledge of my ancestors, I have written approximately 75 short stories. These stories are non-fiction, and based on the lives of my ancestors.
This is not an impossible feat for anyone to achieve. It requires passion for the truth, diligent searching, data management, and a good dependable search engine.
This world of technology has far surpassed the age of encyclopedias and farmers’ almanacs. We no longer have to trudge to an out of town library, or write letters to people in search of facts of our ancestors. At our fingertips, is a wealth of knowledge waiting to be uncovered.
In my early years of research, I enjoyed finding and documenting the facts, but I was ecstatic when I discovered a personal event with an ancestor. ( for example, I found an ancestor who was on the Mayflower, with definitive documentation) Reading about the ancestors on data sheets is such a one dimensional vision of them. I like to combine the facts, data, time, place, industry, location, tragedies, and weather into a short story. This brings the people to life, and you can actually get familiar with the people and the families.
The federal census report gives a lot of information. On that document, you can find out if your ancestor could read and write, level of education, what kind of occupation they had, how long they have been married, how old they were at first marriage, how many children they had, and even who the neighbors were at the time of the census.
The Federal Census document was collected in a more informal setting in that era; therefore, you might find nicknames or initials on the document. My conjecture is that the census takers had the option to record the information the simplest way possible. You can compare this information with other documents, to validate the information on your ancestor.
Writing a story is like painting a picture; begin with the background, and work from there. If your ancestors married in February in North Carolina, you can get a complete picture of the weather on that day with your Google (or search tool of your choice). The marriage document often gives the time, clergy attending, and witness. All that wonderful information can be used to fill in blanks in your ancestor’s story. (In the older days, I have discovered brides who were twelve and thirteen years of age.)
If you would like to know if a famous person shared the birth year of your ancestor, this information is available on the web. You also can see what kind of technology they had in the era of your ancestors. All this information creates a personal setting for your ancestor, and brings him into a personal setting.
Let us use for an example, that Tom and Mary Jones were married in Somewhere Virginia on December 3, 1943. With the proper key words, you have access to the weather on that day in that town. You now have a picture of their wedding day.
Weaving the facts into a narrative is not only exciting, but also informative. By the time the story is done, I usually have discovered a personal connection with the subject of the story.
When I get to Heaven, It is my hope to meet all of the people I have written about. I know my stories do not differ much from the reality of their lives.
The brutal challenges they faced and the adversities they overcame yields a most impressive picture of my ancestors. My short stories are intended to portray that fear, strength, and fortitude they possessed to blaze the trails for all who will follow