One way of getting to know yourself better is to discover where you came from. Who were the generation who came before you. What were they like? What kind of lives they led? Where did they came from? It’s fun to dig up a little history that relates to your existence. It may seem like a heavy and daunting task since you need a lot of research to do. It may seem time consuming and you may use up a lot of resources, but don’t be put down by the possible obstacles ahead. The honor and the opportunity to record your family’s history for the present generation and generations to come is all worth it.
By doing your family history report, you need to organize the things you want to do and to accomplish. Here are some steps to help you achieve your family history report:
Plot out your schedule on when you will start your research about your family’s ancestry. List out the names and the contact numbers of the people you wish to interview. List down the places that has a historical mark on your family’s history. Extract documents from the past that will be helpful for your report.
First, start at the closest generation to you. You can ask your parents and your aunts and uncles about their generation. Then you can ask your grandparents and your other relatives for more information. This will help you in writing your report. Write a rough outline of your report. What will your report consist of? You can also write down a table of contents to divide the parts of your report.
For your report, what do you envision for your family history report? You don’t need to strictly follow the rules on how to write a report; you can try other methods as well. You can make a small booklet to be shared only with your family members or a hard bound book that you wish to get published for references? You can also just make a long article about it to be published in a magazine or in the web, or making your own website about your family’s genealogical beginnings. Whatever suits your taste, make sure you have the dedication and the resources to work it out.
Consider also what type of family history you want to write about. Do you want to write the accomplishments of your family? Their family business? The hobbies or activities that they made popular? Their own food business? or fashion line? Or probably you want to talk about the juicy details of their personal lives? You need to focus on one theme to avoid getting overwhelmed by the huge amount of information that you won’t need. This will also may or may not lessen the burden of your research since you only need specific information for your report.
In your family history report, you can make a memoir; speaking from your own experience and stories from other people from a specific time frame of certain ancestor, or a scrapbook or album; where you can put all of your family’s pictures from your ancestors until the present generation. Making an album is a good idea if your family was able to preserve a lot of pictures. You can also make the usual family tree to trace out your ancestry. Whatever you want your family history be, don’t be afraid to think outside the box.
Do you intend to write both sides of your family’s history? The side of your mother and your father? Or either one of them? Do you plan to write about all the relatives that you’ve traced as far as possible? Or do you intend to write about a particular relative, or a particular generation? You need to determine who will be the people you need to focus in your report. Some suggestions include:
Example: The generation of Jones; where do they come from? What does Jones means and where did this name was acquired?
Example: Alistaire Kyle came to the United States in the latter part of the 19th century. She left her family in Poland where she came from. She found a job as a receptionist in a small insurance company. She met and married Paul Jones, an accountant, and started their lives in the city of New York.
Example: Edie Jones and Terry Durand were the parents of my grandparents. They had an authentic French inspired restaurant with authentic French cuisine. Terry was born and raised in Marseille; from a family of chefs and cooks. Inspired by their cooking skills, he immigrated to the United States and started his own French restaurant with the help of his wife, Edie.
Previously, it was mentioned above that you need to plot out a schedule of activities. Of course, there is a certain time limit for you to complete each step. Focus one step at a time, or you’ll find yourself scrambling all over the place. This is especially important if you’re still in the data gathering part since this is the most extensive activity that you have to do. Example of making a schedule could be like this:
With plotting your schedule neatly and organized manner; you are more likely to produce more development in your report.
As mentioned before, choose what theme you want to focus in your writing. If you’re choosing the story of your great grandparents having their own plantation business, you can focus on writing their humble beginnings, their struggles in fighting poverty, how they acquired their own piece of land, the obstacles they face, how they succeed in their business; that sort of stuff. You can make a plot out of your family’s history as if you’re writing a book. Your plot should consists of the following: exposition, conflict, rising action, climax, falling action, and resolution. This will make your report more interesting to read. A list of family history themes may also include:
And more countless themes depending on your family’s history.
To fully understand the way of living in the past decades or centuries, you need to do a history check on what was life was like before you were born. If you’re writing about your great grandparents who live around the time of the 1920s-1940s in England, research what was life was about for the common people. What sort of entertainment, transportation, fashion, food, trends, slang words, social life and the specific locations that were present then but now gone. You can also research timelines of war, natural disasters, epidemics that happened in specific time periods in history that may have affected your ancestors. This will make your historical report more accurate to the time frame you are writing about. It will also help understand some certain events that might have happened to your ancestors.
While doing your research prepare some certain materials you need to record it. You may need a laptop, smartphone, camera, notebook, writing materials, tape recorder, photocopies for documents, highlighters, extra papers for scratch and file organizer to arrange your data in a structured order.
Now that you’ve done your research, it’s time to organize them. If you’ve done it before, you can skip this part, but if you haven’t you need to sort out all the information you got. Chuck out the ones you don’t need and keep the ones that are vital to your report. Identify each data you need in a certain part of your report and take note of it. You may also arrange your data in many ways; you can arrange it chronologically, geographically, by ancestor, or by theme.
You can put charts, tables, timelines, and other visual aids in your report to make it more understandable and easy to read. You may also add physical evidence of their existence by adding pictures of your ancestors or artifacts that used to belong to them.
What are the most interesting stories in your family? Did one of your ancestors was involved in a sordid love affair with a prominent person? Did your ancestor became a screen legend? Was your ancestor a war hero? An inventor? These are some interesting facts that your ancestors has been involved into and will make a good story idea for your report. You may open your report with these enthralling facts to catch the interest of your readers. You don’t need to start at the very beginning of your report.
You can go back to the early beginnings of your generation through flashbacks. To make your report more enjoyable in the next few pages, add some anecdotes from your ancestors. Write some embarrassing, funny stories about them, their thoughts and feelings, their weird hobbies, their traditions and anything that makes them more human and the reader can connect to them and to dispel the distant gap of these people as just mere figures in history but perceive them as humans.
If you’re making a book with 150 pages of your report, you may need to use an index. This makes it easy for your reader to find the parts of your book that has some details of every person listed in the book. Putting their names or just their surnames is a good idea.
If you did some research from outside sources, cite them properly to avoid plagiarism issues. This will also make your report more credible and leave an evidence that your research is verified.
Now you are done writing your report, now it’s time to share it to your family, or if you plan to, publish it. If you wish to produce multiple copies of your report, you can print it in bulk or photocopy it to save money. If you want to send copies to your friends or relatives who are living far from you, take the less hassle routine of making a soft copy of your family history report. You can turn your report into an E-book for free in websites like Scribd.
You can also produce a PDF copy of your report. If you wish to be more creative, you can make a website, blog, or a vlog about your family history’s report. Although remember, it’s much more hassle to create a vlog so you need more time and resources to do that. Either how you’re going to publish or print your report, your family will be honored to read the story from where they come from. Your family will surely enjoy your history report and may plan to preserve it. Now that’s a personal achievement.
No matter what you write in your report, may it be a short story about a certain ancestor, or the full historical account of your lineage, it will be a good and compelling read for your family. Now that you’ve recorded your family’s history, their existence and their life stories live on in the future generations to come.