I have often posted about writing a family history book that people will want to read. We’ve discussed many times that making your family book interesting rather than just a recitation of your ancestor’s vital statistics is key to engaging family members in read your family history. A creative family history book happens when you can place your ancestors in their hometown at a period in time and paint a very detail and vivid picture of their life. How do you paint this picture? By researching the historical period in which they lived, along with the country, province and town.
Were not just talking about a timeline of wars and politics and how they effected your ancestors although still very important information. In order to make their lives personal and real you need to convey the social histories of the time. These include some of the following – food, furniture, entertainment, housing, medicine, disease, money, religion, shops and towns, transportation, weapons, women, marriage, clothing, hairstyles, crime and law enforcement, work and industries.
Where do you find this information?
Begin by reading - encyclopedia articles, general histories, reference books, many can be found at your local library or online through digital libraries, and more importantly focus on the social histories of a time or a particular area your ancestor lived. Social histories offer a view of everyday life. The more specific you can be with the place and time the more personal you can make your story. You can start with these online resources.
The Reference Desk
Local historical societies are a great place to start. Historical societies have original documents and pictures, they may also offer works of art, photographs, antiques of household items and dress, all helping you to see and feel the life of your ancestors.
Historical sites can also bring history to life. There may be a historical site in your ancestor’s homeland. Some historical sites offer re-enactments or a historical tour, where you can visit these landmarks through the eyes of your ancestors.
New and used bookstores offer many out of print history books, and local bookstores may offer an excellent section on local history that you many not find in a big box bookstore or online.
The Internet opens a limitless offering of information. You can find sites on virtually every time period covering everything from clothing to detailed historical events. Don't forget digital libraries that can help you find out of print books online. Other helpful sites include:
The European Library
By gathering your historical data, you will add life to your writing that will engage your readers. However, be aware, like researching your family history you may feel like there is no end. Remember you are writing a family history not a history textbook. Gather just enough material to help validate and bring your ancestors to life and begin writing. Do not get lost in the research.
By combining your ancestor’s personal information along with the social histories of the time and place, you can marry the two and create a compelling life story about fascinating people – your family.
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