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What's Your Biggest Writing Struggle?

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#41 [url]

Feb 2 13 8:59 AM

One of the things Lynn has suggested we do is interview rellies who knew the character we are writing about.

Except, my Robert was born in 1687.  Even the youngest and latest of my characters are his great great great granddaughters born 1837 and 1844.  Nobody is alive who knew them.  I have no pictures of them.  I have found one tiny newspaper cutting of the 1837 girl and two even tinier newspaper snippets about her grandfather.  Social history for background has provided a page or two per person (not terribly much). 

So where do I go from here? Should I try and write about persons within living memory i.e. mine and forget going so far back?


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#42 [url]

Feb 2 13 12:31 PM

Colleen, Thank you for your note - glad you are writing again - much of my writing yesterday consisted of outlining and planning, which I had started earlier; my plan is that, as I write today, I will use the 'yellow highlighter' feature in Word - I saw that mentioned somewhere here - anytime I come to something I want more facts about, I'll highlight that sentence with yellow; then when I'm done 'writing' for the day, I'll go back and add those searches to my list of things to research. least, that's my plan!! :)
You're absolutely right - my family would WAY rather have a book!!  ...thanks for the reminder, which I probably need on a daily basis!

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#43 [url]

Feb 2 13 11:36 PM

Ros, it certainly is doable, but you're going to rely on a lot of history and social history. There is going to be a lot of speculation and a lot of research in order to speculate. It may not be what you want to attempt for your first run. 

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#44 [url]

Feb 2 13 11:37 PM

Anita, this is how I write, highlight was is missing and then deal with it during my research time. Keep your writing time and research time separate. A must or it's a slippery slope. 

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#45 [url]

Feb 3 13 6:39 AM

Samantha, Yes! I know just what you mean about the big discovery. We just need to time that discovery so it happens just before our final draft. No problem, right? 

I am unaware of any writers in my family so I am plowing a new row. So a forum like this is a good place for me to discover what other writers think & do.

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#46 [url]

Feb 3 13 6:45 AM

Anita B, good idea about the yellow highlighter. I have used that to highlight an area that need a footnote & a source. I can use another color for areas that need more work. Thanks for that tip.

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#47 [url]

Feb 3 13 7:54 AM

Ros, it certainly is doable, but you're going to rely on a lot of history and social history. There is going to be a lot of speculation and a lot of research in order to speculate. It may not be what you want to attempt for your first run. 


Lynn, I think you are right - in fact, I know you are right! *grin*.  I have completely revised my thinking and have decided as a jumping-off point to write about my four grandparents, all of whom I knew, some better than others.  I have made a start by writing about my maternal grandfather's World War One service, and in doing so have found out that he was a very brave man who was awarded the Meritorious Service Medal.  To be awarded this medal, I am told that an individual must have "good, faithful, valuable and meritorious service, with conduct judged to be irreproachable throughout."  I am both honoured and humbled - and my family history writing challenge project is off to a great start.

Thank you, Lynn, for putting me on the right track


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#48 [url]

Feb 3 13 9:36 AM

I must say that this forum is getting better and better!  In the last few days I have found several real points of information that should help me in my writing.  I'm another of those life-long "research-oriented" guys who has such fun finding out things that he has a hard time writing.  I have those boxes and files and photos and stories - a whole closet full.  And, I'm coming up on 78 years old, and can't decide how to pass it all on to my family.
I started a few years ago collaborating with two distant cousins on the history of my surname family.  We hit that famous Irish history swamp, wherein we can't trace our history farther back than 1861.  So, I started to concentrate on my grandfather's story.  He was a real pioneer in bringing the telephone to rural areas, beginning in 1898.  Of course, that sent me into another fascinating quest into the history of the telephone.  With hundreds of notes, potential citations, references, etc and etc. I'm glad to see that several other forum members share my problem, and hope we keep talking about  cures for it.

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#49 [url]

Feb 3 13 5:13 PM

My biggest writing struggle is not the writing! I don't have a problem coming up with subject matter. I have quite a bit of information to refer back to, but so much more to find. I have lots of photos scanned, but not all of them... there were close to 1,000 given to me and there's still our photos. Those things don't cause a struggle... it's the constant interruptions! The  questions from the hubby, the phone calls, the texts, etc. I can pretty much block them out but some days are more difficult than others! Okay... that's my rant... sorry.

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#50 [url]

Feb 4 13 1:47 AM

For me, it's organization and deciding how to approach things. I just had a nightmare of a time trying to organize some of my Norwegian families because I decided to organize them by farm name instead of by surname (because their patronymic surnames change every generation so the farm name is more consistent). But of course farm names change if the family move farms! 

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#51 [url]

Feb 4 13 2:09 PM

Hello everyone,

Joining for the first time and I'm really not sure how to go about writing about my family. I've been estranged from my family for years now and all I have are names, dates and places. I have this data for all my ancestors. And I mean all. What I don't have is any means of inspiration to get me going.

You might ask why I'm compelled to get to my origins or why, being estranged, I want to write about my family. To me, it's to get to know who I am in the bigger picture. When I started doing my research, about 10 years ago, I was looking for why was my family so... unemotional about anything. Why it was so easy for everyone to just drop you and not care about others. I wanted to try and find out if it always was like that.

Also, since I live in Mexico (originally from Quebec), all my resources have to be from online sources. And it's not always easy to find information this way. Even though it seems we're bombarded with all kinds of websites, and research tools online, finding the pertinent data isn't always so obvious.

This brings me back to the data I DO have: names, dates and places. I also know that on my father's side of the family, they were all farmers. How can you write something interesting about farmers? No, I mean, really! I don't even know what they were growing, if anything, or if it was cattle, or other stuff.

I do want to write about my family and their origins. I'd like to write a little something about everyone in my tree but, with such a lack of information, how could it possibly be done?

Thanks for reading (read listening).


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#52 [url]

Feb 4 13 2:18 PM

Hey, Patty!  Welcome to my world!  I have no many interruptions and questions that only I can answer of course.  It's a circus here some days.  I moved a small desk into the bedroom and I close the door.  I tell the family I need however much time I've chosen and not to bother me until I'm finished unless someone is bleeding and needs to go to the hospital!  It works okay.  I feel your pain.

Andrea, I was estranged from my family for a while.  I started out researching on Ancestry thinking I would never find anything or anybody I could write about, but I was wrong.  It takes a while, but if you stick with the research, magical things will begin coming your way.  I've also connected with cousins I'd not seen for years, and they've been a big help, supplying me with photos even.  Good luck.

Bettyann Schmidt rhinegirl.blogspot.cim

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#53 [url]

Feb 4 13 2:34 PM

Hi Andrea, just some random musings. Feel free to use or reject.
If what you do have is names, dates and places with a few occupations then this gives you some anchors - chronological, geographical, social. Is there any milage in looking at:

  •  the history of the place over time and your ancestors' roles within that, 
  • how their personal fortunes changed over time as the community developed, in either direction.
  • the role they, or people of similar standing, played in its development
  • what was life like for a Canadian farmer in each generation? 
  • How might they have adapted to the various challenges (eg weather events) or developments in farming? If yo have places, what, in general terms did farmers do there? If every farm was pastoral the chances were yours was too.
  • Why did they come there in the first place? Why did they stay?
  • maybe a timeline will help, plotting them against major events in Canadian history

Or you can write about the events which led to your estrangement and the forces behind this. Its for you, no-one need see it if you don't want. All depends if you will find that a healing or a threatening thing, and only you know that. But it is pretty common for estranged people to want to understand their families, just as adoptees want to know where they came from.

Or just put what you do know into sentences, a paragraph each. Relate them to each other with a bit of  guided imagination - if your ancestor was the 8th child, what pressures would that put on the family? Who was alive at the same time and how might their paths cross? As long as speculation is recognised as such, it can be confirmed/refuted later.

Remember this is your project, you are in control. There are no rules here.

Thanks for reading. Sorry if these are no good.

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#54 [url]

Feb 4 13 6:02 PM

Andrea - Just a thought, since I'm from Ontario, and have used the Ontario online archives and the New Brunswick archives - though not the Quebec one. But if its anything like the Ontario and NB ones, there are databases with photographs and postcards. The NB one also has a database of information about the communities - giving some demographic information for the late 1800's and the like. Checking the Quebec archives for photos and community information might give you something to help flesh out your basic names and dates. Perhaps you've already done this, but thought I'd offer it up as a suggestion. Some of it might only be in French too - hopefully you speak French!

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#55 [url]

Feb 4 13 7:16 PM

Wow, janetb, those are wonderful ideas to work with. They didn't even cross my mind. Well, some of them did but I didn't think they'd be worth wild. I guess I needed someone to confirm to me that these were good ideas to use. Thank you so much.

cmcbetty, thank you so much for your support. I knew I joined this group for a reason!

nicb, thank you! I had looked a bit into the Quebec archives but a lot is still "locked-up" in government vaults. It's slowly getting out but what's out is hard to find. They're not really well organized. I'll have to look at it more deeply in my next research marathon. I know that the Canadian Archives has a few things but didn't think it was worth it to dig into it. Well, you guys changed my mind.

I'll definitely do more research, not so much on the individuals but on the places they were living in and the jobs they had.

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#58 [url]

Feb 10 13 4:48 PM

Bettyann, Thanks for your feedback. I know others have challenges and how they solve them. I turn off the random noise of his comings and goings by turning on my own mental white noise until the sound gets to be questionable. Just like with the kids, you know when you have to pay attention! Looking forward to reading more of your block... it's very interesting.

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#59 [url]

Feb 17 13 7:48 AM

My biggest struggle seems to be the direction my story is taking.  The branch I have been writing about has gotten very complicated. It feels more like a grapevine rather than a tree.   I feel the need to change direction.  The branch settled in one area, and soon children married children of neighbors. Their church members all seem to be related in one way or another.  Now it seems that many families from the neighborhood also immigrated from the same small town and area of Germany.  I am wondering if I should consider changing direction and focus on writing about the neighborhood and communities.  

Any suggestions or comments about this idea or recommendations of books that follow this direction would be appreciated.


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#60 [url]

Feb 17 13 10:22 AM

Karen, is it possible for you to do both, either as one or separate projects? Your post raises many questions - why did so many emigrate from one area to another? Was it gradually over time or in response to a set of economic or political conditions? How did the two communities interplay - did they intermarry, was the church primarily of one community? Was this a 'good' thing? Was one family (yours?) influential in the church over generations? Was there a time when the main 'leading lights' of the church or community were all interrelated? How did this develop, and was it a positive or negative situation?

One thing to beware is that your own family might get a bit lost in all this. That certainly happened to mine - I soon realised I couldn't write about my family without writing about the house in which we have lived for five generations, then couldn't write about the house without writing about the larger house from which it was split, or the estate of which this was the main property, or the community in which the landowners played a huge part... My family are still there, buried deep within, so to speak, and one of the challenges of this project is thinking about how to bring their story more to the fore.

Do you have a blog?

Janet B
Springhill History

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