April 25, 2017

Amazing Women in World War II: A Censored Journalist Turns Spy

Last week was the anniversary of the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Among the amazing women in World War II was a reporter whose story of the bombing of Honolulu was so vivid the editor wouldn’t publish it. She went on to become a spy.

women in World War II

Reporter Betty McIntosh was working for the Honolulu Star-Bulletin on December 7, 1941, when the bombs started falling. Pearl Harbor was the main target–and the one everyone remembers–but the city felt the attack, too. Civilians, including children, were among the casualties.

A week later, Betty wrote an article recounting the recent horrors. Her goal was to warn women what might be coming in other places, now that the U.S. was at war. But her editor killed the article, saying it was too graphic. That’s according to the Washington Post, which finally ran the article, in full, 71 years later.

“For seven ghastly, confused days, we have been at war. To the women of Hawaii, it has meant a total disruption of home life, a sudden acclimation to blackout nights, terrifying rumors, fear of the unknown as planes drone overhead and lorries shriek through the streets.”

That’s just the beginning. She goes on to recount that as soon as she heard the news on the radio that Sunday morning, she reported to work. (Click here to hear a radio broadcast announcement from Honolulu to the mainland, announcing the attack.)

Wikimedia Commons image. Click to view.

Wikimedia Commons image. Click to view.

She saw the planes diving into the harbor and plumes of black smoke. Then, a nearby rooftop shot into the air.

“For the first time, I felt that numb terror that all of London has known for months. It is the terror of not being able to do anything but fall on your stomach and hope the bomb won’t land on you. It’s the helplessness and terror of sudden visions of a ripping sensation in your back, shrapnel coursing through your chest, total blackness, maybe death.”

(Click here to see images of the London Blitz, and here to see intense images from Pearl Harbor at the Huffington Post website.)

In the article, Betty goes on to describe the destruction to her neighborhood business district, and the chaos at the emergency room which she was assigned to cover. The aftermath wasn’t a calm after the storm, either:

“Sunday after dusk there was the all-night horror of attack in the dark. Sirens shrieking, sharp, crackling police reports and the tension of a city wrapped in fear….Then, in the nightmare of Monday and Tuesday, there was the struggle to keep normal when planes zoomed overhead and guns cracked out at an unseen enemy.”

Video Interview: Betty looks back at Pearl Harbor

The Response of Women in WWII

At the end of the article, Betty describes the frantic calls that began pouring in to the newsroom where she worked. They were from women, “wanting to know what they could do during the day, when husbands and brothers were away and there was nothing left but to listen to the radio and imagine that all hell had broken out on another part of the island. It was then that I realized how important women can be in a war-torn world.”

Betty McIntosh, reporter, spy, CIA employee

Betty McIntosh, reporter, spy, CIA employee

She ends by saying, “There is a job for every woman in Hawaii to do,” and names the Red Cross, canteens, and evacuation areas as places that needed women’s help. What Betty didn’t name was what she decided to do next: become a spy.

Witnessing the bombing of Honolulu and Pearl Harbor changed Betty, says the Washington Post. She became “restless,” wanting to do something different. So she joined the Office of Strategic Services and used her literary talents and knowledge of Japanese to spread misinformation to the enemy, including to enemy soldiers, to make them want to surrender more easily.

After the war, Betty went on to work for the CIA until she retired. You can read her biography, here. She died at age 100 in 2015.

What a story. What a woman!

“There is a job for every woman in Hawaii to do.” – Betty McIntosh

5 Posts to Help You Put Together Your Own Gripping Family Stories

Did you notice the many different sources threaded through this story? Images, news articles, oral histories, a YouTube interview, a radio broadcast clip? Your own family stories can often be fleshed out with all these different types of media. Click below for inspiring tips and how-tos.

family secrets in newspaper search tips1. A Shocking Family Secret–and 3 Powerful Newspaper Search Tips from Lisa Louise Cooke, author of How to Find Your Family History in Newspapers

2. Create Your Own Family History Videos

3. How One Genealogist Used YouTube with Astonishing Results

4. Use Internet Archive for Genealogy (that’s where I found the radio broadcast clip)

5. Using Google Images to Find Photos: tips from Lisa Louise Cooke, author of The Genealogist’s Google Toolbox (which has a chapter on YouTube, too!)

(Click here to read a local history or here to learn from oral histories about life in Honolulu after the war began.)

Standing in Judgement of Our Ancestors

download backblaze

Standing in judgement of our ancestors may be unavoidable. Genealogists dig up the good, the bad, and the ugly. We cannot pick and choose what we find, but we might be able to pick what and how we share it with others.

Recently, I received a letter from a Gem’s reader which included a very delicate and sensitive matter. She writes:

Hi Lisa!

I love your blog and podcast. Thank you for all you do getting gems together for us!  I have a question for you and would love to know your opinion (or the opinion of anyone else as well!)

I was recently at a family wedding. I printed out all the family and ancestor’s paper trails and documents and was passing them around to my aunt, uncles, and cousins. My mom’s eldest brother brought up a memory he had of his grandfather, my great-grandfather, a German immigrant. My uncle whispered it to me because the saying my great-grandfather often said is very prejudice. I won’t tell you what the quote is but it’s prejudice against Jewish, Irish, and Dutch people. Here’s my question – should I write down that my great-grandfather was prejudice against certain people to preserve this part of his character or should I let this information fade into history? As genealogists we are always trying to get a full view of the person we are researching – past the census records, military service paperwork, and wills – and into the real person and personality. So, I now have a more broad view of my great-grandfather, but it’s negative. Should I preserve this character flaw in my ancestry notes? I’m conflicted about what to do. Maybe if this was a further distanced relative I would have an easier time brushing aside this prejudice but I’m having a hard time with the “right thing to do.” Any advice would be wonderful!

As a side note I will tell you that in the following generations this mans’ children and grandchildren have married Irish and Jewish spouses. Haha. I guess the “saying” was never echoed by his descendants!

Thanks,
Jennifer

Judgement of Our Ancestors

This is a great question and I applaud you for thoughtfully taking a moment to really think it through and ask for advice before moving forward on recording what you were told.

You asked – Should I write down that my great-grandfather was prejudice against certain people to preserve this part of his character or should I let this information fade into history? My opinion is, no. Mother Lisa says this is gossip and you didn’t hear it straight from your great-grandfather. I certainly wouldn’t want anyone else attributing a negative comment to me without having the chance to review or rebuke it. It’s a slippery slope.
judgement of our ancestors

Little Tea & Gossip by Robert Payton Reid, Source: http:⁄⁄www.liveinternet.ru⁄users⁄pmos_nmos⁄post357791815⁄

You also asked – Should I preserve this character flaw in my ancestry notes? And there’s the slippery slope. I believe that we, in modern times, should avoid sitting in judgement of ancestors who are not here to defend themselves. We don’t want to presume that we are in a position to decide how wrong “the crime” is. We certainly don’t want to be negatively prejudiced against others ourselves, but it is impossible to put oneself in another’s shoes in a differing time and circumstance. We know nothing about what the person really said. Perhaps they were joking (even though in extremely bad taste!) Maybe the person who heard this, and passed it on, had an ax to grind and part or none of it is true. Or, maybe there was an experience that our ancestor suffered that could have given him a reason to gripe based on his personal experience. You just don’t know.

In my book, I would chalk this up to gossip and either prove it with substantiated evidence or move on. What goes around comes around so let’s hope it will prevent an occurrence of someone gossiping about you and your future descendant spreading it into the ages.

Deciding to Write the Whole Story

In cases where you have secured substantial evidence that a negative story is true, you still have a choice to make. When I come across particularly sensitive or negative information about an ancestor, and before I make it public, I ask myself, “who will this help, and who will it hurt?” Does adding it to the family history enrich it? Is there anyone living today who might be hurt? If someone stands to be injured, but you’re set on capturing the story, I encourage you to do so privately for your own records and of course, cite all of your sources.

If you do decide to write and publish sensitive stories, I know that you will want to do so in as gentle and fair a way as possible. Here are some things to consider when writing about delicate stories of our ancestors:
  • Be sure to cite your source – who told you the story and when. The reader can decide whether to take the story with a grain of salt or believe it.
  • Let your readers know your reason for sharing the story in the first place. Genealogy Gems blogger Amie Tennant recently read a family history that included a horrible childhood memory. The writer stated it was important to put the family dynamics in full view so that other stories would be seen in the “right light.”
  • If naming everyone in the story will cause hurt or embarrassment, consider documenting the essence of the story without naming names.

Story of my life workbook coverWhatever you decide, writing a family history, though difficult at times, can be a rewarding experience!

Our very own Sunny Morton has just completed her fill-in-the-blank workbook for writing personal and family history. You will find the overwhelming task of starting your story as easy as pie! For a sneak-peek at what’s inside, read Writing Your Personal History: Step-by-Step or get your copy of the book “Story of My Life” here.

 

10 Family History Memoirs We Love: Genealogy Gems Book Club

family history memoirs we loveFamily history memoirs are a beautiful and personal way to write your family history. Here are 10 family history memoirs we love.

Memoirs these days aren’t the stodgy, only-written-by-the-famous tomes of the past. Anyone who has a story to tell can write a memoir. Well, genealogists often have fantastic stories to tell. Some stories call on their own memories. Some stories come from research discoveries and the ways these discoveries have changed them. Many genealogists have a combination of both kinds of stories to tell. These are the kinds of stories you find written up as family history memoirs.

Here are some of our favorite family history memoirs from the Genealogy Gems Book Club, our no-commitment online book club with exclusive interviews with the authors:

genealogy book clubAnnie’s Ghosts: A Journey into a Family Secret by Steve Luxenberg. One of Lisa Louise Cooke’s all-time favorite interviews was a chat with the author about this book. “I can’t tell you how much I enjoyed reading Annie’s Ghosts,” says Lisa. “This book inspired me, gave me concrete ideas for pursuing my own family history research, AND kept me on the edge of my chair. What could be better? Steve is such a riveting writer and speaker, and it’s fascinating to hear how someone who is not a genealogist–but rather a journalist–approached his family history search in an effort to find the answers to mysteries in his families.” Listen to the interviews in Genealogy Gems podcast episodes 120 and 121. This book and interview planted the seed for the Genealogy Gems Book Club!

family by ian frazierFamily by Ian Frazier. In this tale of a genealogical journey, the best-selling author explores his small-town, middle-class roots in the U.S. He explains a purpose that arose from loss: “I wanted my parents’ lives to have meant something. I hunted all over for meanings of any kind….I believed bigger meanings hid behind little ones, that maybe I could follow them to a source back tens or hundreds of years ago. I didn’t care if the meanings were far-flung or vague or even trivial. I wanted to pursue them. I hoped maybe I would find a meaning that would defeat death.”

five finger discountFive-Finger Discount: A Crooked Family History by Helene Stapinski. An unforgettable personal narrative! The author tells her family history within the criminal and blighted culture of Jersey City, New Jersey, U.S.A. She interweaves the stories of more infamous personalities from her hometown with those of her grandfather and other relatives. She seamlessly weaves her own memories with her research and shares how she has come to terms (or not) with her “crooked family history.”

genealogy book clubThe Journey Takers by Leslie Albrecht Huber. Here’s another book Lisa profiled on the podcast awhile back. Leslie is a professional genealogist who spent thousands of hours researching the stories she tells about ancestors who left homes in Germany, England and Sweden for new lives in the United States. She writes about their experiences but also her feelings about it, in a book about both a family’s history and the effect it has on the present. Check out Lisa’s interview with Leslie in the free Genealogy Gems Podcast episode Episode 98.

Orchard House Genealogy Gems Book ClubOrchard House: How a Neglected Garden Taught One Family to Grow by Tara Austin Weaver. This memoir of re-building a garden in Seattle with the author’s mother is also about the planting, pruning, patience and hope that’s part of rebuilding family relationships. This is our most recent featured title in the Genealogy Gems Book Club. Listen to a free excerpt of our interview with Tara on the Genealogy Gems Podcast episode #189.

out of the shoebox by yaron reshefOut of the Shoebox: An Autobiographical Mystery by Yaron Reshef. In this memoir, Yaron gets a phone call about property his father purchased in Israel years ago. He and his sister can inherit it, but only if they can prove that man was their father. He goes on an international paper chase into the era of World War II, the Holocaust and the making of Israel. A forgotten bank account surfaces and more surprises happen during Yaron’s two-year quest to understand the tragedies of his family’s past and recover some of its treasures.

genealogy book club Running Away to Home: Our Family’s Journey to Croatia in Search of Who We Are, Where We Came From, and What Really Matters  by Jennifer Wilson. In this book, Jennifer takes us on a once-in-a-lifetime genealogical journey. She walked in her ancestors’ shoes and lived among their descendants.” Lisa Louise Cooke profiled this book in Episode 129 of the Genealogy Gems podcast and was so inspired by the story that she created this YouTube video on the book.

 

genealogy book clubShe Left Me the Gun: My Mother’s Life Before Me by Emma Brockes. An award-winning journalist tells the story of her discovery of her mother’s tragic childhood in South Africa. This is a genealogical journey, complete with trips to archives, poring over old court cases and dramatic reveals. But it’s so much more than that! It’s also about learning the past from living relatives. This is the ultimate how-to book for exploring and sharing sensitive family stories because she shows you how it’s done. Listen a meaty excerpt of our interview with Emma Brockes on the Genealogy Gems podcast episode 174 and the full-length interview in Premium episode 118.

three slovak women by lisa alzoThree Slovak Women, Second Edition by Lisa Alzo. You may know Lisa as a popular speaker on Eastern European genealogy at national conferences. This is her nonfiction account of three generations of Slovak women in the steel-producing town of Duquesne, Pennsylvania, and the love and sense of family binding them together. It will inspire your own family history writing projects! Click here to hear Lisa in the free Family History Made Easy podcast talk about her reasons for researching her family history and what she’s learned along the way, including in her travels in Eastern Europe.

worst country in the worldThe Worst Country in the World by Patsy Trench. This is a first-person narrative about her Australian ancestors, who were among the first European settlers in that fascinating country. Patsy actually quit her job and traveled from London to Australia several times to research the story of her fourth great-grandmother and other relatives. She describes the book she wrote as “a hybrid: part family history, part memoir, part novel.”

Free PodcastLearn more about family history storytelling styles and hear passages from three of the above books in the free Genealogy Gems Podcast episode #179. Or click here to read more about the Genealogy Gems Book Club.

 

 

Scrivener Software for Writing Family History: Guest Post by Lisa Alzo

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

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:

laa-writing“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). 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.

Scrivener_corkboardBy 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.

ScrivenerWant 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

This Ancestor Wrote a Poem like “Where I’m From”

Recently Genealogy Gems podcast listeners penned their own versions of a family history poem, “Where I’m From.” This listener found that his ancestor wrote one, too.

Recently I got a lovely email from Scott, a Genealogy Gems Premium website member whom I’ve heard from before. He said:

where i'm from version by evelina bailey“We’ve chatted before about some of the letters that have been passed down to me. Your segments on the ‘Where I’m From’ poems reminded me of a very special poem that I have.  Evalina Belmont Hill was born in 1802 in Mecklenburg County, Virginia.  She married Francis Baker Bailey there in 1819.  Shortly after that, they moved across Virginia, then into Pope County, Arkansas before Arkansas statehood.  After Francis died, she lived with family in southern Missouri. This is a poem she wrote in 1819 shortly after the married and moved away from home, thinking that she would not see her family again. I thought I would share it as a part of ‘Where I’m From.’ Best regards.  Thanks for all you do for us.”

In case you can’t read it easily, here’s a transcription, which includes her unique spelling:

Home

There is a lovely spot of earth
To whitch I cling with fond delight
It is the place that gave me birth
Where first my eyelids dorn the light
I little thought my wandering feet
From that dear spot so soon would rove
My waywood fate alone to meet
Far far away from native home
Fare from the friends who’s gentle care
Did all my infant pains beguile
No more I view that home so dear
No more on me those friends shall smile
But there’s a place for Souls oppress
And when life sickly dream is over
Beneth the verdant sod shall rest
These wandering feet to rove no more.

Thank you to Scott for sharing his ancestor’s poem. How homesick she seems for the past–I’m sure many of us have felt that before.

In case you missed our special series on family history poetry, click the links below. In the free Genealogy Gems podcast, you’ll hear from Kentucky poet laureate George Ella Lyon, whose original poem “Where I’m From” has inspired thousands of people around the world to write their own versions. We recently invited podcast listeners to share theirs, which you’ll find in recent and coming episodes of the Genealogy Gems podcast.

More ‘Where I’m From’ Gems

GGP 185Genealogy Gems Podcast #185 with Poet George Ella Lyon (FREE!)

Where I’m From Video and Contest Results

More Writing Ideas: 7 Prompts to Help You Write Your Family History

A “Where I’m From” Video and More from Our Poetry Contest

where i'm from kay littleHere are the results from the Genealogy Gems “Where I’m From” poetry contest. They include this fantastic short video version. Check it out!

During the last quarter of 2015, we ran a family history writing contest inspired by a poem by George Ella Lyon called “Where I’m From.” George Ella, the poet laureate for Kentucky, joined us on the Genealogy Gems Podcast Episode 185 to share her poem and tips for others to write their own version (click here to listen–it’s free!).

Kay wrote in with this Gem: “When I heard your podcast interview with George Ella Lyon, I just knew that I needed to write a ‘Where I’m From’ poem. Since I am fortunate to have many family photos taken by my dad throughout the years, I decided to add photos to my poem and make a video. I finished it last night, and wanted to share it with you and your listeners.” Kay has posted it on her blog, Just a Little Detail, but you can also watch it below:

Genealogy Gems Premium Membership and PodcastIn addition to this marvelous video, I received eight audio-recorded entries. Truly, all of them are absolutely wonderful. I had planned on randomly drawing one winner, but I changed my mind. ALL entrants will receive 1 year of Genealogy Gems Premium website membership (if they’re already members, I’m adding on a year). Taking the time to think about their personal history, writing the poem, and then overcoming nerves and recording it to share with really does show above-and-beyond dedication to family history and to our family history community!

Congratulations to the winners you’ve heard from already: Kay Little (above) and a few whose poems have already been shared on the free Genealogy Gems podcast: Kathie Duke, Wanda Stone and Dee Guyre. You’ll hear from more winners in coming episodes.

Feeling inspired? Here are more gems on writing your family history:

cousin bait where I'm fromWHY 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

 

 

 

 

 

Write Your Own “Where I’m From” Poem and Enter to Win FREE Genealogy Gems Membership!

where im from poetry contestDid you see the contest we announced last week? Write your own version of a popular family history poem, and you could win a free 1-year Genealogy Gems Premium website subscription!

Last week, Lisa Louise Cooke welcomed Kentucky poet laureate George Ella Lyon to Genealogy Gems Podcast episode 185 (click here to listen – it’s free!). George Ella wrote a poem that has become a very popular family history writing exercise. It’s called “Where I’m From.” You can hear her read it on the podcast or click here to read it on her website.

“Where I’m From” follows a simple format anyone can follow. Make lists of things that remind you where you’re from: memories of people, places, words or phrases, food, smells, everyday household items, pastimes, hard times–whatever comes to mind. Then shape the list into a poem. It doesn’t have to rhyme or follow any set format. It just needs to sound good to you.

figure_talk_giant_phone_anim_300_wht_6767To encourage YOU to write your own “Where I’m From” poem, we’re sponsoring a giveaway. Here’s what you do: write your poem, then call in and read it on Lisa’s voicemail at (925) 272-4021) by December 31, 2015. Also leave your name, phone number, and email address on the voicemail so we can reach you (your phone and email will be kept private). On December 31, 2015 we will choose one caller to win a 1-year Genealogy Gems Premium website subscription, a $39.95 value–either a NEW subscription or a RENEWAL for any current member. We may share that caller’s poem and any others on upcoming Genealogy Gems podcast episodes–just to inspire everyone else!

Here are some tips from George Ella Lyon on writing your own version of “Where I’m From:”

  • “Just list whatever comes to mind to start: food, music, landscapes, people. Be open to whatever you think of.
  • This is a process. It may take several days to craft your list.
  • Later, as you organize what you write into its final shape, go back and see which lines have the most energy. Read it out loud. What order feels right?
  • Have fun! Don’t criticize yourself.
  • You can write “Where I’m From” from your current point of view or looking back.

share notes with evernote

 

Ready to write your own poem? Ready to challenge some friends or fellow genie buddies to do the same? Just share this post with them by email or through your favorite social media channels. We can’t wait to hear from you!

Genealogy Gems Podcast Episode 185 Is Now Available

GGP 185In the newly-published and FREE Genealogy Gems Podcast episode 185, Lisa celebrates family history writing with inspiring stories, her unique spin on the “marketing value” of family history blogs and a chance to win a FREE year of Premium membership!

This month, all of us here at Genealogy Gems are celebrating reaching a milestone 1000 blog posts on our website! In a special segment, several Genealogy Gems listeners and readers share THEIR adventures and successes with family history blogging–and Lisa shares some spot-on “why blog?” comments from a marketing perspective.

blog posts boardContinuing our celebration of family history writing–in all its forms–we welcome George Ella Lyon, the poet laureate of Kentucky, to talk to us about a poetry initiative she started that’s all about family identity. Her “Where I’m From” writing prompt has reached around the world–and now we bring it to you!

Listen to that segment, write your own poem and call in to read it on Lisa’s voicemail ((925) 272-4021) by the end of this year. You could win  a 1-year Genealogy Gems Premium website subscription! Be sure to leave your name, phone number, and email address (your phone and email will be kept private and NOT played on the show). One lucky winner will be randomly selected on December 31, 2015.

Also in the Genealogy Gems podcast episode 185, you’ll find fabulous new online resources–millions of marriage records and some great new materials coming from the U.S. National Archives. Diahan Southard joins the show with a segment on understanding your DNA ethnicity results. So tune in and check us out! You can listen click here to listen from your web browser or mobile device. OR enjoy the perks and convenience of using the exclusive Genealogy Gems app, available for iPhone/iPad and Android.

GGP thanks for sharingWant to encourage a friend or relative to write a “Where I’m From” poem of their own? Want to help a genie buddy or your society members get inspired to blog? Why not share this free podcast with them? Thank you! You are a gem!

7 Prompts to Help You Write Your Family History

start writing your family historyThe biggest obstacle to writing family history can be getting started. Try one of these prompts to jump-start past the opening paragraph – then join me for my workshop!

Have you ever started to write a family history narrative, only to get stuck on the opening paragraph? “Charles John Andrews was born on….” You rattle off dates and parents’ names. Then you realize you’ve bored yourself in the very first paragraph. You give up.

(Note from Lisa: Don’t give up! Keep reading and then sign up for Sunny’s incredible new workshop which starts this week! Get the exclusive coupon code below.)

One trick to writing a compelling family history is to find the storylines in our ancestors’ lives. A life isn’t a single story from birth to death. It’s many stories. The steamboat explosion the child survived. Teen years on the farm, attending school part-time. The Civil War skirmish that raged through town and wiped out the family farm.

The following series of writing prompts can help you identify and sketch out the stories you want to tell. Scan through the list of questions and see who or what story comes to mind. Then take 10-15 minutes and just start writing or typing the story. Don’t worry about grammar. Don’t go back and look up historical details. Just write:

1. The course of _____’s  life totally changed when….

2. A big mystery in my family history is….

3. If I could meet _____, I would ask him/her _____ and this is why….

4. I am fascinated by my “black sheep” ancestor, who….

5. My ancestor lived through a (frightening, important, rapidly-changing) time in history. Here’s what was going on, and here’s his/her story.

6. A great love story in my family is the story about _____ and _____. This is how it goes.

7. I often wonder whether the life of _____ was as (sad/exciting/lonely/boring) as I imagine. Here’s what I know….

The real purpose of these writing prompts is to help you identify the stories you most want to tell–and to get you excited about telling them! But you should also find a use for these brainstorming paragraphs. Copy them into a blog post. Expand on them for a short biographical sketch you can share with your family. Expand even more, and you’ve got an article for your local genealogical society’s newsletter.

Come Learn with Me in this Week’s Writing Workshop!

coupon code writers workshop fall 2015 write your family historyNow is the time to write some your family history, and I’m here to help and support you. THIS WEEK I am leading the fun and productive Genealogist’s Essential Writing Workshop at Family Tree University. It starts October 19. Genealogy Gems has made a very special discount arrangement just for YOU–our gems: $10 off the class with our exclusive coupon code GEMSWRITING. You can do this and I’m here to help!

 

Click to Read These Gems to Help You Write Your Family History:

family history blogHow to Start a Genealogy Blog podcast series. Episodes 38-42 of the FREE Family History Made Easy podcast will get you blogging your family history right away!

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

7 Reasons to Start a Family History Blog

 

RootsTech Roundup, Writing Family History and More in the Newest Genealogy Gems Podcast Episode 176

Genealogy Gems Podcast and Family HistoryThe newest episode of the FREE Genealogy Gems podcast–episode 176–has published and it is PACKED with gems!

Lisa begins with her own in-depth comments on RootsTech 2015. Whether you attended or didn’t, I think you’ll find her front-row analysis of the world’s biggest family history event pretty interesting! I appreciate her insight that RootsTech isn’t just about teaching people to do family history. It’s about motivating and inspiring their legacy-building efforts. I have sometimes felt a lack of that at conferences myself: I get a lot of how-to but not the energizing “why-to” that I sometimes need myself.

I join Lisa to talk about the Genealogy Book Club and MORE great reads for family history lovers. We’re still reading Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline, which offers up a history lesson about the thousands of neglected children who were shipped off by train to rural homes in the U.S. and Canada. In the context of an unlikely friendship between an elderly orphan train rider and a modern teenage girl in the foster care system, we learn how much of a child’s identity comes wrapped up in their family’s backstory. Lisa and I also talk about writing family history using different voices. I recommend books written in a few different voices, or styles.

Another great segment in this episode is the topic of yDNA research and surname studies. Genetics is re-invigorating those “one-name” groups that explore their common surname heritage. As in every episode of the Genealogy Gems podcast, you’ll get some great tips and learn about online resources you may not have seen. You’ll hear from our listeners and readers with questions and comments. And we hope you’ll respond with your own! Click here to listen to the podcast and read the show notes.