Tips on Writing Family History

My Plan of Action

  1. Focus my research and then log information for one person, one location, and one time period
  2. Next, research the family group,
  3. Next, research collateral friends and family,
  4. Next, move on to my next direct ancestor,
  5. Revisit each ancestor as I find new sources of information.

Save information by adding details to a summary for each person.

Below are three examples showing one of my statements and how I expanded it after finding more related details.

Step One: Encyclopedic Statement of Fact

My grandfather Stefan Zuchowski was born on December 26, 1893, to Leopold Zuchowski and Anny Dmochowski in Dmochy Kudly, Poland.

Step Two: Improved Statement of Birth

The baptismal certificate for my grandfather Stefan John Zuchowski listed that he was born in Dmochy Kudly, Russia, on December 26, 1893, to Leopold Zuchowski and Anny Dmochowski. He was baptized the next day at the nearby Catholic Parish Church, Peter and Paul the Apostles, in Czyzew.  Steve’s parents were descendants of minor Polish nobles who had owned large estates.

Final Narrative: Expand interest by adding descriptions from pictures and other accounts

The birth of my grandfather, Stefan Zuchowski, was in a small cottage in the farming village of Dmochy Kudly, Poland, on December 26, 1893. The next day, his parents Leopold Zuchowski and Anna Dmochowska, carried him five miles down the dirt road to the Catholic Church of Peter and Paul the Apostles to be baptized in Czyzew. Steve’s parents were descendants of minor Polish nobles who had owned large estates.

Where Did I get my information for my final narrative? I was creative in my words, but I did not make up the details.

  • Birth and Baptismal Dates – from Stefan’s baptismal record
  • Birthplace and location of church – from Stefan’s baptismal record
  • Descendant from Nobility – notation in the baptismal and marriage records of his parents
  • Size of the cottage – from vintage pictures of the village
  • Condition of roads – from a vintage picture of the village

Points to Remember:

  • Record your facts in chronological order
  • Be accurate but let your personality be part of the narrative
  • Try to vary your information flow
  • Add descriptive information when you can
  • Think of documents as information representing an experience for the family
  • Find other accounts to expand the details of an experience that will give life to your ancestor. The accounts may be of different people as long as they describe the place and time for your ancestor. Use the information from the account to describe the background and history surrounding your ancestor. Use specific information not general history and it must show a direct effect on your ancestors.

2 Responses to Tips on Writing Family History

  1. Stephens Elaine says:

    Using the info I already in my FTM files, is there a way to create the chronological timeline to which I can add additional descriptive narrative or will I need to create an entirely new document, such as in Word, to develop the narrative as you described? I was hoping to save a little time by using “copy & paste” from the FTM timeline tool but I have not found that to be possible. Thank you, again, for all your great help!

    • sszabados says:

      I publish the Descendant Report and the Individual Report. and then share and export it as a PDF. I then copy and paste the content into a word document. The word document now has all the information that I have for that person but I then have to copy and paste each item to place them in chronological order. I now have my summary for the person and add each new piece of information and story as a line or section in my Summary/Narrative. I do not republish any reports from FTM. I then use FTM only as a reference to review relationships, I do use copies of pedigree charts in my narratives when I feel they will help explain relationships but FTM now takes a secondary role in my research.

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