James & Carol (nee Nolan) Ackroyd

Ackroyd Family Research Some of the grandchildren of James & Carol (nee Nolan) Ackroyd



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Get It Down On Paper!                            Back      



We’ve all heard the advice, once you start researching your family history, “Write a book about 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 story about your family 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.  Look at the ideas below, to help you through that first tough chapter with the following memoir-writing tips:

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

Ask others to help with the project. Share what you’re doing with friends and family and see if they can, in some way, contribute. If nothing else, their collective excitement will feed your own enthusiasm. As with all research always double-check your information.

Don’t expect to create a best seller. Few of us are capable of writing a great novel. But that’s not what you’re trying 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.

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?

Collect Your Information

Supplement your information by talking to relatives. Ask them questions about homes, neighbours, family traditions, education, employment and life events – anything that will lead to a story. 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.

Organize Your Information

Once you’ve completed your research, organize 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. Organize your timeline like an outline, just include the actual dates – and be sure to keep those dates in order. Refer back to your timeline to ensure you don’t get events out of sequence.

Write It All Up

Develop your own style. Don’t try to copy anyone else.

Keep some essentials handy – namely a dictionary, thesaurus, atlas and the Internet. A book on ‘Old Handwriting’ will help when reading old documents.

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 Your Story

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. See 'here' for an excellent website tutor (using FrontPage™). Tutor will open in a new window so you don't lose your place.


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