google-site-verification: google65e716d80989ba07.html The Armchair Genealogist: February 2011

Genealogy vs. Family History: Is There a Line in The Sand?

Following Episode 4 of Who Do You Think You Are?  some viewers were disappointed,  perhaps this episode was more family history and less genealogy.
I wouldn’t be honest if I didn’t say I was a little taken back by the comment. Should we really be making such a divide between the two. Must we be so rigid that we have to draw a line in the sand. I felt like the comments had the ability to infer that genealogy had some higher breeding over family history, like genealogy is the pedigree of the family, while family history are the redneck cousins. 
First, let’s address Who Do You Think You Are?
I have never seen this show described as a genealogy show by the creators. We (genealogists) often call it genealogy television (and that includes me) but really, it is family history television. If you go to the WDYTYA? website, nowhere is the word genealogy mentioned. This is a show about family history. In their own words:
Each week, a different celebrity is taken on a quest into his or her family history. The search is one of surprising and deeply emotional encounters, resulting in one of the most compelling reality formats of recent years. During each episode, viewers will be taken on a personal and often mysterious quest following some of America's best-known celebrities into their ancestral pasts, as they uncover stories of heroism and tragedy, love and betrayal, secrets and intrigue, that lie at the heart of their family history.
I’m going to presume because we didn’t watch Kim spend a lot of time in archives and libraries, but instead she took her leads from a pub, a neighbour and a telephone book among other sources that some felt this was the discriminating factor in making it more family history and less genealogy. 
So perhaps a less conventional approach to Kim’s family history was taken, it was no less important or moving. Let's not diminish it's value because it didn't meet our quota of documents and archives. It did just what it set out to do, answer Kim’s questions and move us, and of course motivate us to seek out the answers to our own family history questions.
Some argue genealogy is the study of family lineages that include historical records combined to demonstrate kinship and pedigrees, through charts and documents. While family history is looked upon as the biography and narratives of a family line; their stories, I would not disagree. 
However, in my mind, one cannot exist without the other. Moreover, I often use them interchangeably. Genealogy is a required part of any family history; it is not the single most important aspect of a family history.  

 At least for me, genealogy is a means to the story. I am not in the habit of building trees and collecting names for that sole purpose alone.  I want to learn and write the stories of my family. A pedigree chart is not a family history. Family history is my ultimate goal; genealogy is one tool to achieving that goal.
WDYTYA? is a family history show that utilizes genealogy as one tool to tell their stories. In our rush to review this show we have to be diligent and not do ourselves a disservice, by picking away at it. Instead, let's take away what we learned and build on it, not tear it down. 
I don’t think the comments were intended to exclude. However, I fear they have the ability to create a view of our community as rigid and inflexible, dare I say some exclusive club. Correct me if I am wrong, but some of us are working very hard to relieve this stereotype. However, now and again I see it creeping in.
Let’s not split hairs, or draw a line in the sand, genealogy and family history are equally and inseparably important.
I believe the genealogy community is a very caring, sharing group and it is an inclusive community that embraces and unites genealogy and family history. Let's continue to grow that mantra. 

Family History Writing Challenge - We Did It!

Today marks our 28th and last day in the Family History Writing Challenge. First, I want to thank everyone who took this journey with me. I am interested in hearing how everyone did.

For me personally, I was consistent throughout these 28 days, that is until this last week. The stomach flu took me down for about 3 days and I lost some writing time. With that being said, I managed to complete just over 5800 words and I will add a few more to that today.

Although by no means did this complete my family history writing.  I still have a long way to go but it gave me a big push in the right direction as I hope it did for you. From here on out, I plan to dedicate some time each week to the writing of my family history.

There are a few things I hoped you accomplished and learned from your journey in this last month.

  •  I hope you got your story organized and outlined into a story plan.
  • I hope you were able to source out some gaps in your research and put a plan in place to finish that      research.
  • I hope you learned some creative writing skills, such as establishing a setting and demonstrating your ancestor’s character.
  •  However, most importantly I hope you proved to yourself you have it in you to write your family history and that it comes down to making a commitment to the process.

Again thanks for taking this journey, let me know how you faired?  What did you learn about your writing? Would you participate again? How could we improve our 28-Day Writing Challenge for next year? Love to hear your thoughts. 

Family History Writing Challenge - Demonstrating an Ancestor's Character!

With only 5 days left in our family history writing challenge, it’s time to stay the course and make that last ultimate push to the finish line.  

Last week we discussed establishing a setting within your family history writing and we outlined various tools on how you can accomplish just that. This week I would like to demonstrate how you could reveal an ancestor’s character in your family history writing.

When writing about your ancestors you want your stories to be more than just a list of events and places, you want your readers to be able to relate to your ancestors. You want them to appreciate who they were and what made them tick.

How can you make your ancestor real?  How can you show character? By asking a few questions.

What does your ancestor stand for? What is he against? What were his or hers driving forces, lifetime ambitions, basic values? Answer these questions and you are well on your way to demonstrating an ancestor’s character.  

 How do you answer these questions, two ways, by looking at the events of their lives demonstrated in documents and by interviewing the living who had a direction relationship with him or her?

Inevitably, the choices our ancestors made, the trials and tribulations they endured show a great deal about their character. Don’t write these details as matter of fact. A journey across an ocean, to an unknown land, an unknown language, no money in your pocket  is not to be taken lightly. Think about the strength, the courage and the desire that it would take to make that journey. This reveals a great deal about a person's personality, combined with the many other events in a person's life, choices they made can profoundly demonstrate a person’s character.

If you have the impressions of others who knew your ancestor, there is no better source. However remember, the child or grandchild or great grandchild may only see one side of an ancestor’s character. Many things must be taken into consideration to demonstrate an ancestor’s true make-up. Consider interviewing not only grandchildren and children but also co-workers, friends, neighbours. We often consider interviewing the living as a way of uncovering their story, but they also hold a unique and individual perspective of their own individual relationships with family members who have passed. This is your window into those lives.

For example, when writing about my great-grandfather, it was difficult for me to see him past the quiet, serious man he appeared to a 10 year old girl. As I unravelled the events of his life and talked to his grandchildren and children, I saw him for the grandfather and father that he was, I saw his playful side, his pride, his patriotism. 

When his sole living daughter was able to describe for me their lives as children, the interactions within their household, the way her parents interacted, the nicknames they had for each other I could also see the husband and father that he was from a perspective separate of my own. Uncovering his journey to Canada, the events that led up to his arrival, and the future arrival of his siblings, I opened the window to see the young man, the brother and the son.  

His setting, his home surroundings, his workplace, his hobbies and interests all help paint a very vivid picture of a man that some of my relatives had never seen, even those who had met him. His favourite foods, his favourite chewing tobacco, the kind of clothes he wore, the car he drove, his mannerisms and temperament all helped to paint a picture for future generations.

 Just as we surmised in the establishing of a setting, the same holds true in demonstrating and ancestor’s character, it is in the details. The more details you can provide of an ancestor the more real and engaging they will be to the reader. 

Of course, some ancestors you may wish to write are unknowns. No relatives are alive to give you perspective.  How can you demonstrate the character of an ancestor where there is no living relative, through their actions, the events of their lives, the choices they made? A picture, a journal or a diary are all valuable assets in uncovering the character of an ancestor. In addition, what others have written about them, such as in an obituary or newspaper article could shed some light on their personality.

As you push through these last few days of the family history challenge, ask yourself, have I demonstrated my ancestor’s character? Will my readers understand and relate to him or her? Through the charm of your words will your family make a personal connection with their ancestor?

Related Reading
Family History Interview Questions
Establishing a Setting for Your Story 
Transforming a Dull Document into a Moving Story
How a Best Picture Nominee Can Help Your Writing

Family Recipe Friday - Rhubarb Pie

Rhubarb arrived in the United States in the 1820's. It came through Maine and Massachusetts and moved westward with the European settlers. The term rhubarb is a combination of the Ancient Greek rha and barbarum; rha is a term that refers to both the plants and to the River Volga. The plant grew along the shores of the River Volga, the largest river in Europe that flows through central Russia. 

As a child I remember dipping stalks of wild rhubarb into the sugar bowl. I know my mother has never paid for rhubarb, it was always given to us by family and friends who had an abundance of rhubarb growing on their property. Often my Mom would stew the rhubarb and we would eat it with toast. However,  our favourite was and still is her rhubarb pie.

This pie is the most sought after dessert in our family. It would not be uncommon for me and my siblings to fight over that last piece. My brother is lucky, his birthday is in May, when rhubarb is in season, he always requests rhubarb pie for his birthday dinner.  A simple recipe with a simple fruit. 

Mom's Rhubarb Pie

1 cup of rhubarb
1 cup of white sugar
1 tablespoon of cornstarch
1 tablespoon of melted butter
1 tablespoon of water
2 eggs

Mix well the sugar, cornstarch,  melted butter, water and eggs. Add the rhubarb to make the custard mixture. Turn into a  9 inch  pie shell and bake at 350F for one hour or until set. 

More old-fashioned recipes by Family Historians 

Would You Pay For a Virtual Genealogy Conference?

With last week’s  RootsTech a mere glimmer in our eye, and many this week offering up their reviews of the conference both from an attendee perspective and a virtual attendee viewpoint, I felt the question was begging to be asked:  

Would you pay for a virtual conference?

After each online presentation that I watched from the comfort of my armchair, I was left with an overwhelming feeling, not of disappointment, or confusion, but more importantly a yearning for more. The more I watched the more I wanted to watch. When the presentations ended, I was sad, because I knew the party was continuing without me. However, each time I sat down to watch a new presentation I was excited to be a part of this larger conference community.

Now in all honesty, I really wanted to be there. However, I live in a small rural town in Southern Ontario Canada; it would cost me nothing shy of $2000.00 to attend a conference in Salt Lake City. Perhaps next year I can talk my husband into a combined ski trip. I have attended conferences in the past, but because of my location I have to be choosy about what conferences I can attend. Having the option of virtual conferences would grant me the opportunity to attend more often.

However, more importantly I now know that I can and will attend virtually and not only learn and grow but feel a part of a larger community and that is priceless.(I'm kidding here, I do have a budget) 

So  YES, YES, YES, I would pay to attend a Virtual Conference.
The last presentation of the conference was Thomas MacEntee’s roundtable on virtual presentations. Thomas asked the panel if the world of genealogists was ready. Did you see the tweet board light up, we were screaming yes!  It’s not a matter of whether the participants are ready; it’s a matter of the whether the organizers are ready??? 

A question was suggested that a virtual conference may deter people from attending. I beg to differ.  I think many like myself will make every effort to attend, while others simply can’t and will take advantage of the online aspect. I believe you need both, I think we fed off each other. We were tweeting with those in attendance and they were aware we were watching from home. We fed off the excitement of the crowd in attendance and I believe that is an element necessary for the success. It was contagious!

I believe it was Shane Robison in his keynote address on The World of Information, that eluded to the fact that the consumer now knows all things are possible, and no longer are we convincing consumers that they need this technology instead consumers are driving the market and demanding the technology.

In my opinion, this is exactly what is about to happen. Organizers of genealogy conferences, take heed, we’ve had a taste of a new world and it’s time to meet those consumer demands. Bring it on!

Would you pay to attend a Virtual Conference? 

Family History Writing Challenge - Establishing a Setting For Your Story

Day 14 – Congrats to everyone we are at the halfway point! Keep up the great work. Today’s post will facilitate you in adding the element of setting to your family history story.

Often we are caught up in the facts of the documents, although important, we can often overlook an abundance of information that lies outside of a document. These details can enrich our writing and add layers to our story. 

Setting is one of those elements. Knowing the setting of your ancestor’s lives is equally as important as the ancestors themselves. Their location was key in finding your ancestors and that location remains important in  writing their story.

What is setting?
Setting can be as general as the country, province, and town where your ancestors lived but as specific as the bed they slept in and the shoes they wore. The more detailed you can be, the more the reader will relate. 

A setting breathes life into your story, it is a sum of many parts and the more specific and unique they are the more richness they will bestow on your story. Setting can also be found in a social context, such as social trends, political ideas that influence our ancestor’s actions and thinking. 

If there is too little sense of the period, or sense of time your readers will be uninvolved. Setting is not just about describing the surroundings of an ancestor’s town, but building the world your ancestor lived in.
Below are some things to consider when building your ancestor’s world for your family history story.

  • Describe the street,  farm, or property where they lived.
  • What season is it when you are telling your story; this would change what your ancestor’s were wearing.
  • Were you aware of any extreme weather changes, a drought, a snowstorm, a heat wave?
  • What laws, historical events that may affect them and their actions in a particular area?
  • Where did they work, what was their workplace setting like? Where they a farmer, a miller, a merchant? 
  • Describe the house they lived in, what was it made of, indoor or outdoor plumbing, running water, how was the house heated, what did they cook with, what kind of furnishings did they have.
  • What kinds of crops did they grow, what kind of fruits and vegetables were indigenous to the area?
  • Did they fish in a nearby stream, hunt in a nearby forest?
  • Was there a local schoolhouse? Church?
  • What kinds of food did they eat? A favourite dish they cooked. 
  • What was the mode of transportation?
  • Entertainment?
  • What kind of clothes did they wear?
  • What season was it during your story? Spring? Summer? Fall? Winter? 
When seeking details for setting remember all of your senses, not just sight. Often we forget sound, smell and touch. Did Grandma here the church bell ringing every Sunday morning, or could Grandpa smell the horse barn from the house, or the cabbage rotting in the field? 

All these details will aid in creating a setting, which will bring a sense of realness of time and place to your ancestors.These details weaved into your families story will give depth and offer your reader a rich and detailed picture of your ancestor’s life.

How will you answer all these questions?
I would encourage your first stop to be the local historical society of the area your ancestor lived. Some resources can be found online, while a great deal of local historical societies and museums can really help you immensely if you visit them in person. For instance, my local historical society has many documents of my town from its earliest beginnings.  They have a museum full of artifacts from the days of the earliest settlers. The knowledgeable staff can easily offer me a great deal of detail about the day to day lives of the people who lived in my area.  Do not overlook this most precious resource. 

Other options include written social histories, gazetteers, local newspapers, and of course do not forget pictures, journals and diaries, all are rich with tidbits of information. Seek out several resources; one will never answer all of your questions. However, once these rich facts are intertwined with your ancestor’s history, you will have the makings of a great read.

As important in any family history story as a sense of place is also is a sense of time. As you tell your story you will pass through time, from days, weeks, years, decades and centuries, what makes each period of time and the moments in history that happen in that time different from the last. The details. 

A sense of the period can be established through minute items, hemlines, product names, car models, slang vocabulary, songs. They can be injected into your story and act as cues and markers to the times.
If you’re really good, the times can be equally revealed through the attitudes of your ancestors and neighbours, friends and family. Look to your ancestor’s actions, their family stories, journals and diaries to uncover clues to your ancestor’s attitude during a specific time period or event.

Gathering all this information into an outline makes your writing time much more productive. Having everything just where you need it when you need it is efficient. However, I have often found that  sometimes when I am in the writing process I realize I need more information on a specific setting. Rather than disrupt the flow of my writing, I insert a comment into my writing as a note to myself. Later, I look back to my comments, I create a list of what further research I need. I will then acquire the needed research and when I return for a rewrite, I will insert any missing pieces. 

Details, details, details is the secret ingredient to making your setting good and your story great.

From My Soapbox: A Review of Who Do You Think You Are?

I didn’t really think I was going to do another review of this show but after watching last night’s show with Tim McGraw and then listening to Geneablogger's Radio last night and participating in the chat room, (by the way well done Thomas) I really felt the need to express my thoughts.

First let me start by saying I enjoyed the show. When I watched Who Do You Think You Are? I really try to take off my genealogy rose-coloured glasses and just enjoy it for what it is entertainment. I've done my share of reviews but have really decided to take a different approach to this show. 

This show needs to have two things to survive, viewers and sponsors. First, their major sponsor is Whose sole purpose for being part of this show is to sell memberships to the masses? How do they do that? By being part of a show that depicts genealogy as exciting, entertaining and intriguing and will make you want to start researching your own family. Period.

By selling more memberships, they make more money and can index more documents, and that makes all of us very happy.

Secondly, it needs viewers, and it needs more viewers than just genealogists to survive. There are many of us, but we are already among the converted, this is about attracting new people to our club passion. Therefore this show cannot be made and edited for the perspective of a seasoned genealogist.

When those of us who have been researching our family history for years if not decades start to pick apart every nuance of this show, I really feel we are doing ourselves a dis-service. When I say we I include myself.

Perhaps it was the influence of Curt Witcher’s presentation yesterday morning that has me all fired up. Wasn’t Curt telling us we have to relax and let others in the sandbox to play, once in the sandbox they will learn soon enough the etiquette of the sandbox? We have to move past depicting ourselves as members of some exclusive club. 

Some of the comments about last night’s show included the following:

8 seconds to trace 8 generations, Tim seemed disengaged not as involved as Vanessa last week, the whole white glove thing again and the Elvis Presley connection.

We have to remember ‘entertainment’, they have 40 minutes to get to the good stuff, hence jumping 8 generations, we all know it doesn’t happen in 8 seconds, and we have give the American public credit,  no one is being misled.

 Tim seemed disengaged- I thought he was quite emotional talking about his father, and I thought he had a clear purpose to find his father’s lineage and to know where they were from prior to arriving in America. As well, he is a man and a cowboy, not about to cry on national television people!!

Just because Tim didn’t walk around with a notebook and pencil in hand doesn’t mean he was any less interested then Vanessa. Perhaps genealogists just recognized themselves more in Vanessa’s approach to her ancestry, we have to be careful not to cast people off just because they don’t fall into our stereotype of how a genealogist should look or behave. 

The white glove thing – I have said this before and I will say it again, I truly believe they do not use white gloves because it makes genealogy appear uptight and unapproachable. It was clear to me that Tim was not allowed to touch the documents, so it was not a free for all. I thought there was great respect given to the documents without making it look to rigid.

About the Elvis Presley connection, this was the one point I will give you was a little loosey goosey.  Perhaps there was more information concerning a connection but it ended up on the cutting room floor? I think the story was powerful enough without the Elvis Presley association. Was there more information about this connection, and time didn’t allow for it or was it as it appeared a fun little side note. Either way it really was not necessary they had a good story without it.  However, who among us have not done this. My 5th great-grandfather was neighbours with Walt Disney’s great-grandfather. You don’t think I haven’t brought that up in a conversation?

That is my two cents, and it’s time to get off my soapbox before someone pushes me off. I just feel we have to look at Who Do You Think You Are?  as a tool to engage the masses in our love of genealogy, by being too critical we are not helping. We do want others to find their passion for genealogy don’t we??

The World is Getting Smaller - Online Live with RootsTech!

This morning I joined in the fun at the RootsTech conference in Salt Lake City Utah. Funny thing is I’m in Ontario, Canada thousands of miles away.

Through the advancements of modern technology, I was able to watch one of this morning’s sessions while sitting in the luxury of my armchair at home. How great is that! 

Now I love a good conference just as much as the next person but sometimes budget and time just does not allow one to attend everything they wish to attend. However, the smart people who organized RootsTech have really engaged the genealogy community beyond the walls of the Salt Palace Convention Centre. Not only was I listening and watching this lecture, I was tweeting with those in attendance. It was almost like being there, or the next best thing to being there.

I applaud those who have widened the conference community to those of us who are tending to matters at home. As jealous as I am of those who are there, I am thrilled to be a part of the festivities even if it is for only a fraction of the time. 

Perhaps next year, they could offer more options to armchair genealogists.I could select which lectures I would like to view if I can’t attend in person. Of course, I would expect to pay a fee for this privilege. (Are you listening organizers- big opportunity) As wonderful as it is to fill the seats in the lecture halls, there are so many more of us at home who would love to participate; I hope they can help us out.

If you didn’t view this morning’s lecture here is the schedule for the rest of the weekend.  Make sure you tweet me @LynnPal or leave me a message on facebook and let me know what you think. I will do my best to be online for all of the online live lectures this weekend. 

In addition, Thomas from Geneabloggers will be broadcasting live from the conference on his new radio show on BlogRadio. If you know Thomas, you know there is no better person for the job! He will be live on Friday evening during and after the second episode of Who Do You Think You Are? There is a link at the top of this page to the show.  I will be listening in and in the chat room and tweeting during this time. Hope you'll join the party! 

Thursday, February 10, 2011
  • 8:30-9:00 a.m., A World of Information, Shane Robison, chief technology officer, Hewlett Packard
  • 9-9:30 a.m., Turning Roots, Branches, Trees into Nodes, Links, Graphs, Jay L. Verkler, chief executive officer, FamilySearch International
  • 3-4:00 p.m., Digitally Preserving Your Family Heritage, Barry Ewell, founder of
Friday, February 11, 2011
  • 8:30-9:30 a.m., The Changing Face of Genealogy, by Curt Witcher, manager of the Historical Genealogy Department, Allen County Public Library
  • 9:45-10:45 a.m., Cloud Computing: What is it and how it has been used to create the next, by Brian Pugh, senior engineer, FamilySearch International
  • 3:00-4:00 p.m., The Power of PDF: Tools for Every Genealogist , D. Josh Taylor, Director of Education and Programs at New England Historical Genealogical Society.
Saturday, February 12, 2011
  • 8:30-9:30 a.m. Personal Archiving and Primary Documents, Brewster Kahle, founder of the Internet Archives
  • 1:45-2:45 p.m., Virtual Presentations Round Table and Collaborative Panel Discussion, Thomas MacEntee, professional genealogist and technology specialist

Transforming a Dull Document into a Moving Narrative!

 Family History Writing Challenge - Day 10

From a genealogist's perspective, no document is dull, but unfortunately, not everyone will see it that way.  Therefore, we have to keep in mind when we write our family histories  it is our goal to show our family the story hidden in the document.

How do we do this?

 Three tools that I believe you can incorporate into your writing, to create just such a narrative.
1.       The details of the document. 
2.       The histories of the time and place.
3.       Any oral or written histories  of or by the ancestor

Details of the Document

My examining every word of a document whether it is a birth certificate, a passenger list or a census record you can find so much about a person and their life or the event in their life. That’s not news. However, many wonderful gems on a document translate well into a written narrative and give detail and meaning to your story.

Let us take my great-grandfather’s passenger list. On that document I learned the name of the ship, the day it arrived, the day it left, therefore how long the journey was and from what port he left and to what port he arrived.  I learned how old my grandfather was when he left his family, who he was traveling with, where he was heading, how much money was in his pocket and who paid for his passage.

That’s a fair amount of information that I can turn into a narrative.  Now I can take my cues from  that information and make it even more specific and more personal.  

 Histories of Time and Place
By researching and understanding the history of the time and place when this particular passenger list was recorded, I can really make my great-grandfather’s journey, individual, specific and moving. I can research the ship he arrived on, the port he left from, the port where he arrived. 

For instance, he arrived at Ellis Island in 1905. I can research how Ellis Island processed immigrants through this port at this time in history. What number he wore as he was processed? Was he detained for any ailments? What did he see when he first arrived? How was he processed, where did he head after he was allowed to enter the country? Whether through researching online or reading history books or by visiting Ellis Island in person,  I am able to re-create my great-grandfather's experience. By adding this research to the knowledge I gained from the document I can now layer my narrative with colourful and detailed information. 

 A passenger list with what may seem like standard information can be layered into an entire experience your reader can envision. By adding the details, the reader becomes much more involved in the story and feels much more connected, the more the reader feels like they are participating in the story the more it will resonate with them.

Oral Histories or Written Histories
If you’re lucky enough to be in possession of your ancestor's oral history, perhaps something your great- grandfather said about his journey or arrival then there is no better way bring your story home then to include some wonderful quotes, his impressions and feelings. If you’re in possession of a diary or journal, you now have some great personal information that will take your story to a new level.  

What may have started out as a few brief sentences pieced together from the bits of information off a passenger list has evolved into a beautiful narrative of my great-grandfather’s arrival at Ellis Island. 

By following this process with each of your key points you made in your story outline, you may find yourself well on your way to writing a moving narrative of your family’s story. 

Family History Writing Challenge - Meet the Participants

Family History Writing Challenge – Day 7

We are one week into our challenge, a quarter of the are you doing?  Some of you may be humming right along, while others may have stumbled once or twice.  Did you meet your word count or did you miss a couple of days..... some of you may have missed the opportunity to start this week, or don’t know where to begin. It’s not too late to join our 28-day writing challenge.

Let’s take the same approach as any diet. We start on Monday with the best of intentions. However, by Friday we may have faltered.  That doesn’t mean you can’t meet with success despite a slip or two.  Don’t beat yourself up if you didn’t meet your goals this week. We’re all human; sometimes life gets in the way of the best-laid plans, so back on the horse and re-focus. As we start week 2, here is an opportunity to re-group giving you another jump-start on writing your family history.

This coming week we will look at drawing the most information out of your documents and some tips on bringing your ancestor’s character to life on the page.  There is still time to join us and pledge to write your family history.

Below is a list of family historians who have publicly stated their intentions, and made the pledge to take The Family History Writing Challenge.  They are all writing there family history in their own unique and creative way. Please stop by their blogs and offer them your support as they work through writing their family history stories. 

The Family History Writing Challenge

Reminder: Who Do You Think You Are? Airs Tonight!

Many of us are looking forward to Season 2 of  Who Do You Think You Are? Tonight's episode (Friday Feb 4th) airs on NBC 8/7c.

The celebrity tonight is Vanessa Williams. After the show check in at the Armchair Genealogist Facebook page, I will post my thoughts on the show and you can weigh in with your own impression of tonight's first episode.

From :

Family Recipe Friday - Poor Man's Pudding

Here is another recipe from my Mom’s rich French-Canadian heritage. Pouding Chomeur (French for poor man’s pudding) is a recipe deeply imbedded in our Canadian culture.

My mother is a 10th generation French-Canadian; her ancestors arrived in Canada in the early 17th century. My mother was definitely poor, her father was a transient farmer, and she is one of seven girls, who all worked on the farms until they married. Only the seventh daughter completed high school. 

The basis behind this recipe was to create a very sweet dessert with some basics from the kitchen cupboard.  My father renamed this recipe,  now known in our house as Poor Mom’s Pudding.

Poor Mom’s Pudding
Mix together make batter and pour into a greased baking dish. 
1 cup sifted flour
¼ cup white sugar
2 level tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. salt
½ cup raisins
½ cup 2% milk

Sauce:  Mix 2 ½ cups boiling water
1 cup brown sugar
1 dessert  spoon of butter

Pour syrup slowly over cake batter and bake for 4o minutes at 350 F
This is a great dessert on a cold winter’s night.

More Recipes by Family Historians 

Family History Writing Challenge - Day 2

Don’t Get Caught Up in Grammar and Punctuation!

Writing is really a creative mindset, and grammar and punctuation can really stifle that creative flow especially on the first draft.(Don’t tell my English teachers what I just wrote) You have to rethink the premise learned through your years of schooling and allow the story to flow and save the grammar and punctuation for the revisions. 

I believe when writing a family history you have two priorities at least on the first draft,
  1.      Write accurately, making sure, you’re transcribing all your facts from your documents and sources into your storytelling with accuracy.
  2.      Write creatively, you can’t if you are uptight about sentence structures and punctuation. This was the first thing I learned when I started writing. 
In a creative writing class, my  professor pointed out to me my spelling or sentence structure errors when I submitted an article, and I would be devastated and embarrassed.  I still am pretty freaked out if I find an error after I have posted on my blog.

He told me to get over it. It was his job to point it out, but he was more interested in whether, I understood the assignment and if my writing was creative and engaging.  He didn’t want me to spend all my time editing and revising but writing creatively. As well, the more I wrote, the less the technical stuff became an issue. Now, if you’re submitting it for print, then that is another matter, but this first draft is for your eyes only so write with abandon.

One last suggestion for today, don’t get trapped by going back, reading, and rewriting what you wrote the previous day.  Our natural tendencies will be to read yesterday’s words. The next thing you know your allotted time has passed and your word count is the same. You don’t want to spend the next 27 days rewriting the same 250 words repeatedly. Trust me it happens.  Just write.  You will deal with rewrites, and editing later. The purpose of the 28 day format is too continue moving forward so you have a completed body of work at the end of the month. It may not be polished but at the very least, you will have a beginning, a  middle and an end.  

 As we move forward, I will continue to offer you advice for these first few days to stay in your face and keep you on track, as we get further in I’ll drop in on you a couple of times a week. However, the last week, will give it a big push. (I hope you don’t get tired of me.) If you’re doing just fine , don’t be afraid to check in when you need some motivation.

If you want to discuss any concerns, I've opened a discussion at the Armchair Genealogist facebook page where we can exchange our successes and concerns. Leaving a comment here is just fine too.  

There is still time to join The Family History Writing Challenge click here for more information.