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Ancestry.co.uk
Writing Family Memoirs

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Writing Family Memoirs

Haven’t we all heard the advice, “Write what you know?” If not, give it some thought – don’t the very best stories often come from life? So what’s stopping you from writing your own biography? Or even better, your family’s history?

Memoirs are superior alternatives and valuable additions to scrapbooks and photo histories. They also tend to be easier to digest than complex genealogy charts. Don’t let the scope of a memoir scare you off. www.Ancestry.co.uk is here to help you through that first tough chapter with the following memoir-writing tips:

Get Motivated

Set reasonable goals in terms of length and deadlines. If you lack free time, set aside at least five minutes each day. You’ll be surprised at how quickly the finished pages will pile up.

Pull others into the project. Share what you’re doing with friends and family and see if they can somehow contribute. If nothing else, their collective excitement will feed your own enthusiasm.

Don’t expect to create an epic. But that’s not what you’re setting out to do. You may be limited by capability, but your history is important – don’t let a lack of skill keep you from setting down your history on paper.

Decide What You Want

Begin by picking a focus for your memoir. Do you want to write about one person or several generations? Do you want to spill into the present, or stick mostly to the past?

The next step is to choose an appropriate format. Do you want a lengthy narrative, or something short and simple? The formats you may want to consider include third-person biography, first-person memoir, family profiles, or magazine-length articles.

Collect Your Information

Supplement your information by interviewing relatives. Ask them questions about homes, neighbours, family traditions, education, employment, and life events – anything that will lead to juicy stories. Be sure to document all your sources for future reference.

Fill in the gaps with history – especially if you’ve chosen the novel format. Giving your story an historical context will add richness to your memoir.

Consider a 14-Day Free Trial to www.Ancestry.co.uk to gain access to other research tools, like census data, and parish records.

Organise Your Information

Once you’ve completed your research, organise your notes into an outline -- by chronology of life events, marriages, employment, etc. This outline will serve as the skeleton of your story.

Similar to an outline is a timeline. A timeline is helpful when working with dates, historical facts, and specific life events. Organise your timeline like an outline, just include the actual dates – and be sure to keep those dates in order.

Write It All Up

Develop your own style. Don’t try to duplicate anyone else. Often, mimicking some grand masterpiece will make your own writing appear dangerously pretentious.

Keep some essentials handy – namely a dictionary, thesaurus, atlas, style guide and of course, the Internet.

Don’t be afraid to ask for a second pair of eyes. Choose someone you trust to give you honest feedback. Someone with a background in writing is a plus.

Share what you’ve done

Once you’ve finished your memoir, be sure to show it off.

Publish it yourself. If you can afford to, you may want to pay a company to print your family’s history for you. Or, just go to a copy shop and have them print and bind your memoir like a book.

Use your family’s resources to distribute your memoir. Publish your memoir in a family newsletter. You can also publish it serial-style on your family’s website. Remember that www.Ancestry.co.uk can help you design a custom website from scratch.


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