Narrative Project:Organizing Through Roots Magic

Jumping in without an outline to
write another story or teach another class
Whenever I have a grand idea to write a book or teach a family history workshop, I start recording all of my ideas and writing out things I will say. My husband patiently waits for me to hit a writer's block, because I do this every time. You'd think  I would learn. As time goes by, I catch myself falling into the familiar trap much faster and I stop. These days, when I fall into a familiar rut, I hear my husband's voice, "Did you make an outline?"

Why do I need an outline to write something? I have a flood of ideas. Shouldn't I write and record them before they disappear? Brainstorming and jotting down notes should be a fast, capture everything before it's lost process. However, communicating with a group through writing or teaching must be organized for it to be understood and retained.

So what does this have to do with our narrative project, Devon Lee?

Glad you asked! In order to be successful in crafting an enjoyable narrative without too much pain and anguish, you need to be organized so that you can easily access the information you want when the need arises.

If you are crafting an essay about one individual, perhaps you will not need a genealogy program. For your goal, a few file folders (online or hard copy) will serve your purpose well. Categorize your information in a way that will serve your purpose well and we'll see you next month when I talk about Starting with a Birth Event.

Louise Long Family Tree
Roots Magic keeps my relatives organized.
Should you be embarking on the task to write a lengthier project involving many generations and ancestors, you will do well to organize your information in a genealogy program. The one I prefer is RootsMagic (though I'm not paid to say that).

Sherman Lewis Brown of Columbus Ohio
RootsMagic keeps track of my ancestor's vital information
RootsMagic serves me well because it can organize the people on my tree and keep track of their vital information.

RootsMagic allows me to add dates between the vital facts.
Additionally, I can create events such as residence (based on city directories or census records), military service, education, property purchase and sale dates, immigration, and so on.

Organizing Sources in RootsMagic
Tracking where I find information and attaching it to specific events.

RootsMagic also allows me to organize my sources to help me remember where I found the facts for each individual.

RootsMagic Media Organizer
A quick look at the photographs and scanned supporting documents.
Links are made to media files on my hard drive as I attach photos and documents to an individual in my RootsMagic database.

RootsMagic General Notes for individual
General note for Sherman Brown
RootsMagic Specific Notes for individual's event
Note for specific events in Sherman Brown's life

The program allows me to attach general notes about the person I am working on and notes specific to events for each person.

RootsMagic To Do List Feature
What should I research today?

As I research an ancestor, I could keep a research log (which I admit I don't utilize as much at present) and create To Do items connected to specific individuals.

After I input all of these pieces of information while discovering my family history, RootsMagic has many ways to create organized ways to retrieve my information.

RootsMagic is the outline for my family history projects, no matter their size. With my research prepared in this fashion, I can move on to the business of writing my family stories. Next month, I will share the process of writing the story of when an ancestor was born.

To learn more about becoming a 21st Century Family Historian, check out my book available at in print or Kindle format. 

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