Converting FTM facts to Family History Narratives

My initial efforts in genealogy research were adding as many names, dates, and facts to my family tree using a tree on Ancestry.com and offline using FamilyTree Maker. This format gave me a massive warehouse of information but a challenging landscape of organization when trying to use the genealogical reports to analyze my facts. It was even worse when I tried to share the trees and charts with my family members.

I began converting my FTM data to text documents to become more organized and have a better, more readable format to share with my family. My initial conversion methods used the Descendant Reports and Individual Reports to copy and paste their contents to Microsoft Word documents for each direct ancestor. Today, I use FTM’s Smart Story function to generate my initial text document.

My first step in editing the text document is to make each fact a Bullitt Point. Next, I organize each fact into chronological order. This method seems tedious, but I get excited when I see my ancestor’s life story start to appear. Seeing the facts come together then encourages me to add photos and maps. I search for pictures of my ancestors, their homes, schools, places of employment, vintage images of the area, and maps. I place them next to the text where appropriate or at the end of the narrative. These pictures bring my ancestors more alive.

My individual narratives now become my primary research document. I save all new facts, photos, and documents to this summary of my ancestor. First, the facts and stories are added to the narrative with references to my sources. When I find a new document, I add the information from the document in the narrative. Then, place the copy of the document at the end of the narrative with a citation of its source.

I still use FTM as a reference for names, dates, and relationships. In addition, I refer to it often when I am writing to get the family group information correct or to review where to place a new name in the family tree. However, I do not run another Descendant Report, Individual Report, or Smart Story. Instead, I run Pedigree Charts when I need to add them to a section of the family history to show how the individuals are related.

I have found that using narratives as my research document makes most of the challenges of using linage software disappear. Narratives are flexible in adding information, more readable, and can be easily shared. Converting your FTM data to narratives may be tedious, but you will see more of your ancestry in the narratives.

4 Responses to Converting FTM facts to Family History Narratives

  1. Stephens Elaine says:

    Mr. Szabados, As much time as I have spent learning FTM, I have only now learned about Smart Story! It is a great place to begin the story format you have introduced to me! I am thrilled to have this new-to-me tool and can’t wait to go forward, learn more, and share my research in a much more interesting way. By the way, your book, “Write Your Family History” just arrived. It is so well written and easy to understand. Your help has given me the biggest step forward in my research in a long time! Thanks, again. Your newest fan, Elaine

  2. Alan Wilson says:

    Steve, Great description of FTM. It also applies to other research tools like RootsMagic. I want to suggest another approach to developing family stories. I am using “note taking” software like OneNote, EverNote, and Obsidian. The basic genealogy facts (names, dates, places) come from genealogy research, but story lines can come from other sources. A very common source is “war stories”, or what did someone do during a war? It can be something simple — one of my cousins in the Civil War was taken prisoner and served time as a POW. That is a story, all by itself. The relevant details of the war and the experience can be captured as a set of notes, and then these can be integrated into a coherent story with the other genealogy details. –Alan Wilson

    • sszabados says:

      Alan, a great suggestion. I’m sorry I did not include it. These are great tools with smartphones or tablets to collect your notes. They make the collecting of information more efficient. I also agree that notes by themselves are just more documents. Integrating our notes into an overall story or larger family history adds real value to our efforts.

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