Mailbag: Reader Does Start Her Narrative Project

How to Write Family Histories
Previously, I shared tips on how to turn your names, dates, and places into a story. Then I followed up the tips with the question “Did You Start?my Facebook fan Sandra Smith answered that question with a yes! 

 Here is my first attempt, I am not a writer so grammar and all that is probably lacking: 

On December 29, 1929 at 8:00 p.m., a son was born to Mr. and Mrs. Frank P. Smith, ages 33 and 30, at the Rockwood Clinic Hospital in Spokane with the assistance of Dr. Robert Stewart. The Parents, Frank and Viola Smith, named him Don Kennedy Smith. However, a few days later they decided to change his middle name to Francis. Don’s father, Frank, was born in DeKalb, Illinois and was working as a mechanic at Riegel Bros. Dodge. His mother, Viola, was born in Winona, Minnesota. They lived at 3120 W. Providence Avenue in Spokane.

Sandra wrote her first story for Don Francis Smith following the tips in the post “Writing a Simple Birth Story.”

She wrote a simple sentence. Then she expanded the sentence to include Don’s parents.

Then she discussed the child’s birth name and how it changed. This is invaluable! Can you imagine the frustration of looking for records for a Don Kennedy and stumbling across Don Francis? By recording the name change, we know the name change was caused by the parents a few days after the birth.

After she wrote her first story, she wrote another one.

Frank P. Smith was born Francis Percival Smith on December 17, 1897 in Dekalb, Illinois to 22 year old Joseph Clinton Smith and 25 year old Josephine “Josie” Evaline Payton. Joseph was born in Maroa, Illinois while Josie was born in Onarga, Iroquois, Illinois. They had been married 4 years prior to their son’s birth. Frank would be the couple’s second child for 3 years before his sister Mary “Marie” was born.

Notice how Sandra included the siblings in Francis’ family at the time of birth and how many years would pass before another child was born. These details fire up the giddy juices inside me.

After writing two stories, Sandra wrote this, “I used your example. I am on a roll. This is so easy for non-writers like me.”

That is music to my ears! Congratulations Sandra. You’re off to a great start.

Genealogy Happy Dance
My littlest guy gives Sandra 2 thumbs up!

Now, the stories Sandra shared are not necessarily page turners. Could she add more? Of course! That’s not the point. The point is that when asked, “Did you Start?” Sandra can enthusiastically answer yes!

Start writing your family stories.Then share with us your first attempts in the comments section below or at the Family History Fanatics Facebook Fan Page.

Do you need some help writing your family stories? 

Further reading: 


Devon Noel Lee

Devon Noel Lee

Devon Noel Lee is passionate about capturing and preserving family stories so no one alive today has to be researched, or forgotten, tomorrow. She has authored 6 how-to books, a memoir, two published family history biographies, and over 60 family scrapbooks. She's an enthusiastic speaker who energizes, encourages, and educates at the same time.

4 thoughts on “Mailbag: Reader Does Start Her Narrative Project

  1. Thanks, Devon. You are right I should have added "Toronto, York, Ontario, Canada" Call me "Torontocentric".

    My goal is to write his biography for my scrapbook, with a picture on the left page and a story on the right side. I have very few pictures of him as he died in WW1. I hope to write about his war efforts as we visited Ypres, Belgium and the areas where he was stationed and died.

  2. Jerri! WAY TO GO! Let's all do give you a round of applause. This looks great and I love how you spoke about the name Joseph and Joe. You have so much detail. I also love how you said he was born in Norway, now a part of Toronto.

    The ONLY thing I'd add is to include the municipality and the Country when you first mention Joseph's birth place. Never assume folks know which Toronto you're speaking of. Toronto, Canada or Toronto, Kansas, USA?

    Otherwise, GREAT job! Can't wait to see more.

  3. Devon: My attempt at a birth story for my grandfather.

    My grandfather Joseph Henry Down died long before I was born. I’m not sure if he was known by his formal name Joseph or if he was called Joe. I suspect he went by Joe, as both his son and grandson, his namesakes, were always called Joe. So Joe it shall be.
    Joseph Henry Down was born on September 23, 1889, in the village of Norway, now a part of Toronto, the son of Charles Walter Down, age 27 and Alice Maude Crew, age 27. Charles was from Toronto and Alice was a native of Sackville, New Brunswick. Joe was the 4th born in the family and had 4 brothers and 3 sisters: Richard Edward, Mary Alice, Charles Otter, William George, Myrtle Alice, Thomas Benjamin and Ivy Irene . Thomas Benjamin and Mary Alice died in infancy.
    When Joe was born the family was living in the village of Norway where Joe’s father Charles was a Milk Dealer. By 1893, the family is listed as living on Woodbine Avenue, Norway and his father also lists a business under Grocer and Fruit and Fishes etc. on Queen Street East, near Broadview Avenue.
    Joe attended Queen Alexandra Public School on Hamilton Street, near Broadview and Dundas Streets. The family moved sometime around 1908 to Bellefair Avenue in the east end of Toronto.

  4. Jerri!

    You project sounds wonderful. I look forward to celebrating with you as you achieve this goal. No worries about being Torontocentric! I'm from Texas, so I know how things go. What's awesome about sharing these details is someone else will pick up on something we over look.

    I was giving a presentation that involved a photo of my great grandparents. When I asked people what we can learn about them from their photos, someone pointed out that they both had cleft chins. I had NEVER noticed that before! I almost had to stop my presentation to write their observation down so I wouldn't forget.

    That's why I love inpsiring others and inviting them to share what they've written. We can help each other out!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *