Researching your family history usually begins with finding names, dates & places. It doesn’t take long before you have a list of births & baptisms, deaths & marriages, occupations & residences. The thrill of the chase keeps us searching and our lists grow longer. But who wants to read lists? Now is the time to take those lists and turn them into something else. Something your family will enjoy reading!
The first post I wrote for this blog, (Not The Beginning) was not intended to be a cryptic clue. It was simply my way of dealing with the belief that, as I could not write a novel I would write what I know about my family history as I found it. Using the magic of ancestry research I accumulated a plethora of names, dates, occupations and roots in many English counties. Unexpected stories turned up in Canada, (Finding Hidden Stories In Military Records) and a family secret saw the light of day (What A Tangled Web We Weave) The process I went through each time was chaotic and in many instances I lost and found important information many times over. The better I became at finding information the more disorganized I became.
I began by using research recording forms but I found the final product was just a different shaped list! What I needed was something between a list and a short story. In school they were known as “Pen Portraits” If you’re stuck at the “list” stage or if you want to take a “one step at a time approach” to something bigger then writing family history templates is the easiest, most stress free way to start. All you have to do is……………………….Choose, Write, Now!
Family History Template #1
The focus of this template is a short story about one family member. It is the perfect solution for those times when you stumble upon a story that you can’t wait to write about. In my case it was my Great grandfathers criminal record.The profile facts took second place to the story line. The one thing it has in common with the writing template I did choose, (see below) is that it is minimal, clean and easy to use. The colour schemes are a personal choice and can always be changed. Using images of your ancestors brings your story to life but, if you don’t have photographs of your relatives images of the church where they were married, gravestones or local area will also add to the short story.
Family History Template #2
Short Story Floral
This template works well when you know the subject personally or have access to someone who does. Personal stories tend to be the first family history stories written. They were the first stories to be posted on my blog and when family members asked for copies I presented this completed writing template as a gift rather than copying the post from the blog. This particular bundle includes two “empty” pages for those of you who have extra photographs, lots of stories or perhaps even newspaper articles to add. Remember all templates can be modified to fit the research material you have. It maybe you can only fill one page in which case the other pages will keep until your research turns up more information. Completing one page could be all the motivation you need to give impetus to your research.
Family History Template #3
Short Story Boxed
This is the family history template I used for “When Great Grandfather Went To Town”. The researched material for Theophillus Adcock fell into my lap courtesy of his unusual name. Using the British Newspaper Archives his court case, living arrangements and social standing provided all I needed for a more extensive piece of writing. This template allowed me to take all my material and place it into the social history of the times. Even with limited facts the social history added supporting material. For example I knew from finding out the living costs of basic food items that Great grandfather outlaid a lot of money on alcohol! Like all templates extra pages can be added as your research turns up more material.
Family History Template #4
This family history template is another example of less is more. The design is simple with plenty of ‘white’ space for easy reading. It differs from the other templates in that it gives extra space to the lives of the siblings. The focus of the family history is still the main character but with the added information about the siblings. The result gives the main character a place in the family. Knowing that your relative is the youngest in a family of 10 can help your research. For example. when I couldn’t find a name on a census, knowing he was the youngest of 12 children, led me to searching successfully with elder siblings in another county. If the “greenery” on the short story page is not to your taste it is simple to remove.
Family History Template #5
My end goal when researching is always to find stories that I can share with my extended family. My first blog post centered on my immediate family and, surprisingly it was my Great Niece who responded so positively that gave me the motivation to keep posting. I was also fortunate to latch on to a Canadian Military enthusiast who guided me to the story behind the emigration of my Great Uncle from the East End of London to fighting in the Canadian Army (Finding Hidden Stories in Military Records) Like many family historians I often find myself chasing a lead that is two generations away from where I should be! When you put this along side the habit of earlier generations of naming their first born son after the father it is not surprising that I often find myself wondering how John Smith managed to produce three children before his 10th birthday! My solution to this muddled approach was to have a simple family tree template within easy reach. There are two ways of using this family template. I either use a split computer print the template and add names manually. Adding it to any of the templates above is also an option. For those family members who are not used to following family trees, I strongly recommend you choose one if only to avoid brain freeze!
Support For Family History Templates
If you are new to the world of templates my advice is persevere as they will save you time once you master the process. It is unlikely you will ever find a template that ticks all your boxes which means you will have to learn some new skills. The text boxes may be too small, font choice not to your liking or the colour scheme does not match your “brand”. The only solution is to learn how to change and adjust the template that is closest to your needs. Everything you need is on the tool bar….you just have to find it. The download below will get you started with a few basics.
What is not started today is never finished tomorrowGoethe