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Writing a Family Biography (Part 2) - A Handy Template

A Family Biography Template

Many people shy away from including too much writing in their family history books, assuming it takes some special talent. Often this results in a quick rendition of the facts of a person's life, born, worked, married, died. Not exactly creative.
Below I have prepared a simple template anyone can use to write a creative biography about an ancestor or a living relative. This template provides an added element, a family element. This tool will  help you reveal not only the individual, but the family he was a part of and how they connected. After having completed your preparation and research from Part 1, you are ready to start writing a family biography. Insert your research into this easy to use template and begin.

Create an Outline

Outline the major events of the life of your main subject such as education, relationships and jobs. Your outline can be in point form, one or two words. Aside from the facts, you may also wish to dig a little deeper, try to understand the person behind the life, what did their life mean. Writing a good biography is not just about a rendition of facts, ask yourself what is their story? Include other noteworthy accomplishments, events, tragedies and successes, offering more interest and colour to your biography. This is a family biography, therefore we will draw on other family members and their memories, recollections and stories of family life that revolved around your focal character. All of this information you will have drawn from your research, your interview questions and the family group sheets you completed in Part 1 - Preparing to Write a Family Biography

The Beginning

Try to avoid starting your biography with the subject’s birth. Instead, make your opening statement an interesting little known fact or an intriguing event of your ancestor’s life. Sometimes the 'theme' of person's life emerges after having written the biography. Do not be afraid to write the beginning at the end.

The Middle

With your outline and research in-hand write the subject’s life out in chronological order. At this point, you may wish to include family memories, thoughts and childhood recollections. For instance, if you were writing a family biography of your grandfather, then you could insert childhood memories from his children and grandchildren. Now, your reader not only has a window into the biography of your focal person but the biography of the family that surrounded him, his connection with others in his family and how they connected with him.

The End

If the person is still living, end with an uplifting conclusion, future endeavours, or an outlook on life. If they are dead, then conclude with one of their greatest acomplishments , or how they influenced others in their life.

Rough Draft

Always start with a rough draft. Just start writing. There will be plenty of time to fine tune, get the facts down, the main ideas and the events of your relative's life into words. I have yet to meet a writer who puts down the perfect sentence right out of the box. Expand your outline, taking each point from your outline and develop it into full sentences and paragraphs, offering more detail, and complete thoughts.

Read and Revise and Rest

Read and revise your draft, then let it rest. Let your first draft sit for maybe a day, a week or a month depending on your deadline, while your creative battery recharges. Then, look at it with fresh eyes and re- read it and revise. You may need to repeat this step several times. Give the draft to a trusted reader and be open to any comments the reader offers. Based on their feedback, be willing to revise it one more time.

If you wish, you can use this template for each family member. When you do this, suddenly, a wider family history is revealed, as many members of a family may share similar experiences while others may offer a different perspective or unique memory. Inevitable, a theme will emerge and before you know it you will have written a portrait of a family.

You are now ready to start writing your family biography. Happy Writing!

Related Reading
Part 1- A Family Biography - A Lesson in Writing
Family Interview Questions