"Each has his own tree of ancestors, but at the top of all sits Probably Arboreal." - Robert Louis Stevenson

Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Releasing my inner writer

I love words. I am an editor after all. However, I had never really thought of myself as much of a writer, until I started this blog. As it turns out, I have found writing so rewarding, and hopefully I’m not too bad at it! It’s also useful for organising my thoughts and helping me work out where to go next in my research. I also mentioned in my Spring Clean post that I was planning to write a sort of narrative for each ancestor, and I do still intend to do this.
However, this month I have taken up the Family History Writing Challenge, run by Lynn Palermo of the Armchair Genealogist blog. It’s basically designed to motivate you to write your family history, in whatever form you choose. You basically commit to writing a certain number of words every day throughout February, and by the end of it you should have at least made a significant start on whatever you’re aiming to achieve.
I have committed to writing 500 words a day. I’m writing from a very personal perspective, so that I can both document my ancestor’s lives and my research journey at the same time, in much the same way as I do in this blog – indeed, I’m using many of my blog posts to supplement my new writing as I go. I was quite late in joining in the challenge and I didn’t really have any time to plan. So, I just dived in and started what Lynn describes as ‘writing ugly’ – i.e. not worrying too much about making my writing pretty, just dumping my ideas on the page.
I started by focusing on my home town, exploring my own memories of it and its role in my family’s history. I then moved on to examine how the various branches of the family moved to the area, as far back as my great grandparents, which is allowing me to tell some of the stories behind my immediate ancestors i.e. my grandparents and their families.
It’s day 12 today, I’m progressing well, and am currently about 1,000 words ahead of my target, mostly because I can’t bring myself to stop mid-story so I keep finishing a bit and finding I’ve gone a little bit over my intended limit for the day – but, hey, it’s all progress!
The difficulty is that I’m not sure how I’m going to get beyond this first section. On the one hand I’d like it all to flow smoothly from one section to the next, and I can always find a link at the end of a chapter to take me on to talk about something else in my family history, but I’m concerned about it becoming impossible for anyone reading it to follow the thread as I jump around the family, so I probably need to think more about the organisation of my material. However, I think I’ll just stick with brain-dumping for now; I can always worry about how to fit it all together later.
I hope to keep the blog updated with my progress and also possibly share a few excerpts, as soon as I write something I haven’t talked about on here before!
I do have a mini research project going on at the moment as a favour for someone, which is yielding some fascinating results, but as it’s not my research I’m not really in a position to share it. However, I will say that it has introduced me to the interesting resource of the Commonwealth War Graves, which I’ve never had recourse to before. They are incredibly useful and well-documented, so I’m most impressed. I’m almost a bit disappointed that I don’t know of any close military ancestors to track down using them.  Also, if anyone has any clue where I can get hold of Maltese BMD/parish records without actually going to Malta it would be a huge help!
L x