Write Your Life Story: Good for Your Health?

Did you know that writing–and then re-writing–our personal stories can be good for our health? And even better for our future, 

Preserving Old Letters Archive Lady

 

Courtesy Houston County, TN. Archives.especially if we are struggling to define that future optimistically. 

So says a recent New York Times blog post. “We all have a personal narrative that shapes our view of the world and ourselves,” writes Tara Parker-Pope.

“But sometimes our inner voice doesn’t get it completely right. Some researchers believe that by writing and then editing our own stories, we can change our perceptions of ourselves and identify obstacles that stand in the way of better health.”

She’s not talking about writing childhood memories or ancestral anecdotes. In several studies, people who were struggling in an area were asked to write about it. Then they were presented with optimistic scenarios about how others had overcome difficulties. Those who rewrote their narratives were able to grab onto some of that optimism. They actually changed the way they thought of their “problem,” whatever it was. And long-term results in some studies showed that these people DID in fact improve.

We often see celebrities on Who Do You Think You Are? talk about how their ancestors’ lives inspire them or teach them new ways of understanding their own lives. Many who write their own family histories say the same thing. As we wrestle with memories or facts and how to present them in writing, we also interpret the past in new ways and, often, this new insight brings hope for a better future.

Genealogy Gems Podcast and Family HistoryOne more GREAT reason to write your life story and family history, don’t you think? Thanks to my brother Chris McClellan for sharing this blog post with me.

Listen as Lisa and I discuss different styles for writing about your family history in the FREE Genealogy Gems podcast episode 176. Or get inspired by the family history-themed books we love and share on our Genealogy Gems Book Club page. Click here for great suggestions on what to read!

 

Did your family follow the usual path? Mapping U.S. Migration Patterns

NYT Mapping Migrations Map Screen Capture

Mapping Migration in the United States. From the New York Times. Click to go straight to the source!

The U.S. has long been typified as a nation of restless wanderers. Are we still? Well, it depends on where in the U.S. you are from.

A new interactive infographic on the New York Times website looks at U.S. migration patterns: where residents of each U.S. state in 1900, 1950 and 2012 were born. According to the accompanying article, “You can trace the rise of migrant and immigrant populations all along the Southwest, particularly in Texas and Arizona, the influx of New Yorkers and other Northeasterners into Florida starting in the 1970s; and the growth in the Southern share of the Illinois population during the Great Migration.”

“In 1900, 95 percent of the people living in the Carolinas were born there, with similarly high numbers all through the Southeast. More than a hundred years later, those percentages are nearly cut in half. Taken individually, each state tells its own story, and each makes for fascinating reading.”

If you live in the U.S. now, click on your state to zoom in. You’ll see the statistics more fully represented. How many natives of that state still live there? Where else are its residents from? Where do you fall in? I am one of less than 1% of Ohioans who was born in a western state (excluding California). My husband and children are among the 75% of Ohio natives who still live here.

It might surprise you how little–or how much –your fellow state residents have been on the move. Now turn back the clock by clicking on the 1900 or 1950 maps. How did your family fit the norms for the time?

check_mark_circle_400_wht_14064If you love learning history through maps, go to our Home page and click on the Maps category in the lower left under Select Content by Topic. You’ll find lots more great online map resources and plenty of great map research strategies.

4 Steps to Getting Started with Scrivener Software for Writing Family History

Scrivener software may be just what you need to write up your family history writing. Genealogist Lisa Alzo shares 4 steps for getting started.

What is the Scrivener Software Program?

Scrivener is a software program that offers templates for screenplays, fiction, and non-fiction manuscripts. After composing a text, you can export it for final formatting to a standard word processor or desktop publishing software.

Scrivener is much more than a word processor. Thanks to the wide range of interfaces and features it offers, it is valued as a project management tool for writers. 

It’s little wonder that Scrivener has grown in popularity with family historians who want to tell their ancestors’ stories. Genealogical information can become unwieldy at times. Scrivener makes it much easier to organize your material and write. 

At RootsTech 2016, Lisa Alzo introduced Scrivener to fascinated audiences in the Genealogy Gems demo theater in the Exhibit Hall. I invited her to follow up by sharing Scrivener for genealogy with you, too. Here’s what she has to say. 

“It is no secret that I am an avid user of Scrivener, a multifaceted word processor and project management tool. I have been using this program for all of my personal and professional writing projects since 2011.

Here are four steps to get up and running with Scrivener so you can use it to organize and write your family history:

1. Download Scrivener

Scrivener is produced by Literature and Latte and is available for purchase for use on Mac ($45) and Windows ($40). (Pricing as of the writing of this article.) There is also a 30-day free trial available.

Double click the Scrivener “S” icon on your desktop to open the program.

Before you start your first project, take a few minutes to review the Scrivener manual for your and watch the helpful interactive tutorials. 

2. Start your first project

Go to File and New Project.

The New Window allows you to choose from different project templates.

I highly recommend starting with the “Blank,” which is the most basic and creates a simple project layout you can build upon and customize later.

The “Save As” box appears for you to give your project a name (e.g. Alzo Family History) and tell Scrivener where you would like to save your project (e.g. a desktop folder, or you if you are a Dropbox user you can easily save your projects there so that you can easily access them from another computer or laptop). You will not be able to continue until you save your project.

TIP: Start small!
Begin with a smaller project like an ancestor profile or blog post rather than attempting to write a 200-page family history book your first time in.

3. Plot, plan, and outline away!

Whether you are a visual writer who likes to storyboard, or if you prefer text outlines, you can use Scrivener your way. When you start a new blank project, you will be see the “Binder” (located on the left-hand side), which is the source list showing all documents in the project.

By default you’ll see three folders: 

The “Draft” board (called “Manuscript” in other Scrivener templates) is the main space where you type your text (you can compile everything in that folder for printing or export as one long document later on).

The Research folder is where you can store notes, PDF files, images, etc. (not included in your final compiled document).  The Trash folder holds any deleted documents until you empty.  You will have one Untitled Document showing.

Simply add a title and then start typing. You can move sections around by dragging and dropping.

Click the green plus sign (+) icon to add files or folders.

Scrivener also lets you import files that you already have prepared in Microsoft Word or text based formats.

As you work, Scrivener allow to easily  “toggle” between its key modes:

  • Corkboard (where you can summarize on “virtual index cards” the key points you want to cover—the virtual cards can easily be arranged in any order you like);
  • Outline (use it if you prefer to control the structure of your work; and
  • Scrivenings (this mode temporarily combines individual documents into a single text, allowing you to view some or all documents in a folder as though they were all part of one long text).
  • There is another pane called the “Inspector” that offers additional features to help you manage your project.

4. Finalize your project

The true power of Scrivener resides in its “Compile” feature. (Compile is just a fancy term for exporting your project into any number of final formats—print, eBook, Kindle, PDF, etc.). With Compile you specify what Scrivener does/does not include, and how it should look. Mastering Compile takes some practice, so you should refer to the Scrivener tutorials and forums for guidance.

 

Want even more Scrivener secrets? Pick up a copy of my Scrivener for Genealogists QuickSheet (available for both Mac and Windows versions). Visit my website to watch the free video “Storyboard Your Family History with Scrivener” and to sign up for my Accidental Genealogist Newsletter.”

Thanks for the post, Lisa Alzo! I’d love to hear from you if Scrivener works for you.

More Gems on Writing Family History

WHY and HOW to Start a Family History Blog

7 Prompts to Help You Write Your Family History

Easy Project to Write Your Family History: Publish a Q&A

We Dig These Gems! New Genealogy Records Online

Here’s our weekly roundup of new genealogy records online that caught our eye. This week there are a lot of US records: Alabama Episcopal church registers, Connecticut sourt records, Kansas probate records and New York Evening Post death notices. Immigration records for Brazil and Italian civil registrations are also on the list!

ALABAMA CHURCH. The Birmingham Public Library’s index to Alabama Episcopal Church registers (1832-1972) is now also searchable on Ancestry as a Web Index (click here to learn about Ancestry Web Indexes).  The index includes “confirmations, baptisms, marriages and burials for more than 14,000 people in sixteen Alabama parishes for the period of the 1830s to the 1970s.”

BRAZIL IMMIGRATION. Over 2.2 million indexed records have been added to a free FamilySearch collection of Brazil Rio de Janeiro Immigration Cards (1900-1965). These records, in Portuguese, “contains immigration cards issued by Brazilian buy tapeworm medication dogs consulates around the world. These cards were then presented at the port of entry by foreigners visiting or immigrating to Brazil through the port of Rio de Janeiro from 1900-1965.”

CONNECTICUT COURT. Over a quarter million indexed records have been added to FamilySearch’s free index to Connecticut District Court naturalizations (1851-1992) 

ITALY CIVIL REGISTRATION. Nearly a quarter million indexed records have been added to FamilySearch’s free collection of Italian civil registrations for Taranto, 1809-1926.

KANSAS PROBATE. Ancestry’s collection of Kansas wills and probate records has been freshly updated. Kansas wills and probate records  The current database covers nearly two centuries (1803-1987) and covers at least some time periods in nearly half of Kansas’ 105 counties.

NEW YORK DEATHS. An index to over 100,000 death notices from the New York Evening Post (1801-1890) is now available to subscribers at AmericanAncestors.org. “Page images and an index searchable by first and last name, location, and year are included.”

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

 

Disclosure: This article contains affiliate links and Genealogy Gems will be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking on these links (at no additional cost to you). Thank you for supporting Genealogy Gems!

Use Facebook for Family History: Gather Memories

Here’s an innovative way to use Facebook for family history. It comes from my downloadable video class, Pain-Free Family History Writing Projects.facebook family history crowdsource memories

Are you using Facebook to gather family history from your relatives? You can! It’s a version of “crowd-sourcing,” or using the internet to ask lots of people at a time for help. Here are two specific examples:

riser reunionI posted this first photo in my husband’s family reunion Facebook page, after being given a ton of photos from past reunions. I couldn’t identify anyone in the picture and I couldn’t tell what was happening, but it looked like something special. After I posted it, one person commented, “Boy that’s an old photo of me”–which identified someone in the picture! Then an aunt commented that this was a bridal shower held during the annual family reunion. Yay! The mystery photo was captioned.

grandpa on facebook (1)In this second example, I asked for more than just a photo caption. I posted a yearbook photo of my grandfather and two newspaper articles about him in our family Facebook group. In the accompanying post I asked, “Does anyone know anything about his time in the military? All I know is his entry/release dates, that he was in the Navy and a radar tech.” I tagged several close relatives so they would see it. (This was in our closed Facebook group. You can tag people by typing the @ sign and then their names in the post or in a comment below it.)

The response was fantastic. My aunt said grandpa served on a ship in the Atlantic and mentioned a rank she thinks he achieved. My uncle said he had some related papers and would send them to me (yay!). Even better, some younger family members commented how much a sibling or son looked like grandpa at that age. A cousin snagged what I’d posted for her daughter’s family history project. So even those younger relatives who couldn’t tell me about grandpa could benefit from the online conversation.

BONUS TIP: I get the best response when I post an image or video along with my questions. Pictures and videos will catch people’s interest, jog their memories and sometimes prompt additional comments. This is a good way to remind people of your interest in the family stories and to share what you already have.

This story collecting tip came from my video class: Pain-Free Family History Writing Projects.

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