Let’s Start–Writing #1
When I got the ‘genealogy bug’ after my parents died, I spent countless hours on the computer gathering data. I didn’t really care who it pertained to in my family. If I ran across it, I captured it. I did not have a focused plan to research information on one family, or even a reasonable method of filing the information I collected. I was using Family Tree software at the time. I’m not even sure I cited everything that I should have at that time.
I was frustrated because I could not decide on a product to produce that I thought my family would pay any attention to. I thought a PowerPoint presentation would have been suitable if we were having a reunion, but that hasn’t happened since my parents passed. If I just printed the pedigree and ancestry charts, my family would nod and never look at it again. That method certainly would not address the family stories that seem to fascinate me and drive my passion for this.
I ended up carrying my ‘genealogy loot’ (official documents, pictures, copies of possible family ties, and endless scraps of paper with a name, date, or part of a family story) around in boxes for 10 years. I just did not know how to move forward. When I finally did catch the ‘genealogy bug’ again (or maybe I was reinfected), I found that my Family Tree program was no longer on my computer nor were the files. I have no idea what happened.
At that point, I was basically starting over. I decided to review programs again and determined that this time I would use the Roots Magic program. I finally feel that I am on the right track and moving forward in writing my family stories.
The fact that I was finally able to move forward in writing my family stories has inspired me to share ideas for people so they do not get stuck in the same family history writing limbo that I was in.
In my class “Let’s Start–Writing,” I give a variety of ideas for people to use to start their family history writing journey. This is a list of resources which may aid you in getting started writing your family history stories. In my class, I always like to give inexpensive options, so the first three are free. The fourth is the answer to my dilemma. It has allowed me to move forward and start writing.
I’m A Story
Personal Historian 2 (from the Roots Magic family of programs)
1) Word. Allthough Microsoft Word is not a free program there are free options like Open Office and LibreOffice. Most people have used a version of this program, and find it familiar and easy to use.
a) One of the advantages of using Word to do your writing is that it can be saved as an .rtf (rich text format) document. Rtf documents can easily be read by many programs and platforms. Sometimes an older program may not be able to open a Word document. But it will be able to open a .rtf file. Rtf files can even be read by Mac and Linux computers. Also, .rtf files cannot carry viruses, so are much safer for transferring data.
b) Word also allows data to be saved as a .pdf file (portable document format) and as implied by the name, can pretty much be read by everyone. PDFs display the same content and layout however they are viewed. They also offer the option of providing some security for the document, including who is allowed access.
c) You can format your document in Word using headings and subheadings. You can insert photos and documents into Word.
2) PowerPoint. This is considered the easiest way to create and present visual aids.
a) It can be used to easily incorporate pictures into your pages.
b) Titles are easily added.
c) Pages can be printed either individually or as handouts where several slides would be on a page.
a) Information is stored in the ‘cloud’.
b) You can write one story or memory at a time.
c) You can edit and update whenever the mood strikes you. Since information is in the cloud, you can access it from any computer with access.
d) You can collaborate with others.
e) You can share your life story or keep it private for years.
a) This is a paid program. (There is also a free version of this program). This is finally the answer that I found works best for me in writing my family stories.
I was very happy with the customer service that came with the paid service. This program allowed me to import genealogy data, it allowed me to add additional stories important to our family. I felt that using a Word type product would frustrate me in the formatting. I also did not want to save my stories in the cloud. Upon my passing, I thought my family might not be able to find them. PowerPoint actually did solve some problems for me and I used it occassionally to design a page, but for the most part, my entries are too long to work well in PowerPoint.
b) You can easily import your genealogical facts from your genealogy software, including citations. You could import an individual or a family. It supports several genealogy software programs. It will import directly from Roots Magic, Family Tree Maker, PAF, Legacy, GEDCOM, and text data.
c) Then you can easily add the family stories you want future generations to know about including Cousin Lulu’s scandalous behavior or how Grandma got caught skinny-dipping in the lake.
d) Personal Historian offers LifeCapsules–timelines, historical events or cultural fads that can trigger your memory.
So, I am finally able to move on and write my family stories. Are you writing your family stories? What programs are you using to write them? Or are you still stuck, not knowing what product to produce that your family will enjoy? I’d love to hear if you’ve found other programs to use and how they are working for you.
So, no matter how you collate you data and write your stories, I urge you to start writing your stories now. Please share your journey with me, as I share my Genealogy Journey with you.
Join me for “Making Red Borscht” and “Sod Houses” coming soon.