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* writing your family history- benefits and challenges 

I've been traveling this week so I haven't had much time to post, but I wanted to share a few words about my experiences so far with the Armchair Genealogist's Family History Writing Challenge. This was a great idea, a challenge for genealogy bloggers and genealogy enthusiasts to write at least 250 words a day, EVERY day during the month of February. I enthusiastically volunteered as soon as I read about the challenge. But I must admit, I have not been able to keep up with the daily aspect of this challenge. I can at least say I have been THINKING about writing every day! :) Even if I didn't get to actually write I have been brainstorming and developing story lines in my head and jotting down notes.

A few of my challenges :

- Where to start??? You can see a post here about coming up with a story plan (super important for getting your creativity flowing) I still had trouble figuring out which ancestor/family I wanted to start with.

- Disorganized/missing data. I quickly realized my data wasn't organized enough for me to simply gather facts and start writing. I would go to their "file" and check their profile and realized I had failed to connect major dots and then 2 hours later I would have found a ton of great information- but needless to say no story was written.

- I am easily distracted.  I really need to find ways of isolating myself to get in the writing groove. I can't watch tv, chat with my friends online, or check my twitter- as soon as this happens the writing session is compromised in both detail and length. Anyone out there with good tips for increasing/maintaining focus when writing?

Why should you write your family history?

- It makes information easy to understand for friends and family. Explaining the story of your ggg grandfather's life and relationship events to friends and family members without a written story is tough and can be frustrating for me the researcher. The story is so clear to me, but since I have been studying and researching, but for someone with little to no background information it's really hard to follow and really comprehend the impact of the narrative. Writing your family history will give you the tools you need to effectively communicate your family legacy.

- It will help you identify gaps/missing information in your research. You may think you have all the facts for your grandmother, but when you actually go to write and locate your information you may you have overestimated the completeness of your research.

- Stories are fun! They bring your ancestors to life and make them relatable PEOPLE. Writing their story you are able to extrapolate historical context from dates and places to draw out possible personal struggles and accomplishments you may not realized with a simple profile or time line.

I am going to try and be better with my daily writing!! Have you tried to write your family history? Suggestions for me? Frustrations? Please share!

Happy Friday and be sure to check out Who Do You Think You Are TONIGHT on NBC 8pm EST- following Tim McGraw!

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Reader Comments (4)

Hi Abby, I just wanted you to know that I enjoy your blog and read it regularly. Because of that, I am passing on to you the Ancestor Approved Award. If you are not familiar with it, please check out my blog.

Wow! I can really relate to the missing information! When I tried to write a little biography for my husband's grandmother who just passed away, I realized that I have very little on her because I had spent so much time looking at her ancestors! I'll be taking lots of (discreet) notes this week at the funeral! Thanks for a great post!

Feb 13, 2011 at 5:14 PM | Unregistered CommenterLisa

thank you so much Jennifer & Lisa for such wonderful comments and encouragement! Jennifer- I am honored to be nominated for the Ancestor Approved Award! A post will be up very soon- thanks!

Feb 14, 2011 at 6:54 PM | Registered Commenterabbyb

Quickie writing tip. Don't make the time too long but just long enough to focus. 25 minutes max. Then the mind starts to wander. Try 15 to start. Do nothing else for 15 minutes. Don't edit while writing; just write. When my mind is going every which way and I'm desperate for focus I'll set a digital timer for a short period. Works like a charm.

Feb 17, 2011 at 12:10 AM | Unregistered CommenterJL

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