Family History Blogging Strategies
Sometimes I struggle with remaining focussed on my family history blogging. Time slips away or I am lacking inspiration or something else prevents me from getting my ancestral stories on to my blog.
This causes me great frustration as I wish to achieve the goals I set for myself at the beginning of the year; which included writing one ancestral story per week. Therefore I aim to find the motivation and stimulation for catching up with my family history blogging using these five simple steps.
Who? – scope the story of one ancestor
There are two elements to this first strategy of choosing WHO to write about.
- Which ancestral line or clan?
- Which ancestor or ancestors from that clan?
Choose a segment of your family tree that spans several generations of that family. Then select the individual ancestors for whom you have a story to tell. This will create the scope of your story.
This is a picture of one of my great uncles from my Allery Clan – George Samuel; a son of my great grandparents Samuel John and Mary Ann Allery.
I have recently found new records of this ancestor – a short story to tell
What? - create the intrigue
The what, could relate to a variety of evidence that you have uncovered, such as:
- a family secret kept for hundreds of years
- the actual cause and place of death
- medals gained for military prowess
- newsworthy actions, events, projects, or work in the community
- reasons for family sagas or estrangements
The latest piece of evidence to form the central part of your story could be a document.
Here is an example of a Death certificate containing vital information about the cause of death for George Samuel in 1896. He died in St Bartholomew’s Hospital in London from Peritonitis. (Not on the battlefield during the Boer War as once presumed, from the date of his death.)
The what, in this case, is unravelling a mystery about the short life and early death of this young man at the tender age of 19.
Where? - set the scene
When researching your ancestors, documentary evidence may reveal the locations of their birth, marriage, and places of residence in census returns and voting registers.
Digging deeper into the sites or events of interest in those locations will help to tell their story. I find that knowing the places of interest for an ancestor helps me to write their story in context with social history.
Military records such as Attestation douments can provide evidence of a soldier’s location, his physical appearance, his battalion and rank, his dates of service, and his next of kin.
From the documentation for my great uncle, it is still unclear where George Samuel served his time in the Boer War in 1896. However in reading the details from each page of the papers online, I was able to find the location of his regiment, 57th (West Middlesex) Regiment of Foot at the Hounslow Barracks. Wikipedia research helped me refine the meaning of the location as:
The main object of barracks is to separate soldiers from the civilian population and reinforce discipline, training, and esprit de corps
When? - drill down to specifics
Setting your story scene in the context of the local area is an ideal method of engaging the interest of the readers of your blog posts.
Defining the time period for your ancestral story will also help to contain it and allow you to focus on the story elements.
Once again researched documentation plays a big part in identifying the time period for your ancestor’s life and death.
In my example I can use the Attestation papers for George Samuel’s military service to place him in that location at that time.
Some of the pages indicate specific dates for incidents in which my great uncle was featured. One of these stood out for me; his abscondment after just six months of service.
Why? - create the story to remember the ancestor
Some ancestors’ stories get lost in the mists of time and may become part of the forgotten. Use your storytelling to highlight their lives, their struggles, their achievements, and their demise.
Show how this ancestor’s life was important to you and the family. Don’t stop at the bare facts of birth, marriage, and death. Dig deeper to find their special story. This often means going back to documents and research that you have completed some time ago. You may find new information, new intrigue, or new excitement by looking a little closer at those facts.
In my example of great uncle George Samuel, I had little to go on to tell his story; so I began to dig deeper and asked pertinent questions about the facts my own research had revealed. Was this the right George Samuel Allery? How to avoid mixing him up with other George Allerys in the family tree?
Even a blurry birth certificate, located from other family member’s research, can sometimes be a gem. In this case the certificate confirmed the name of George’s mother Mary Ann (especially her maiden name – Hall); this verified which of his father’s wives was his mother.
It also brought up another enigma; why was he born in a different place from all his siblings? Perhaps this is where you can leap off to tell the story of another ancestor to solve the mystery. This provides a neat follow-on for your blog readers. Draw your readers in to return to your blog to find out more!