Published: September 14, 2020
Everyone wants to be remembered and genealogical efforts help preserve a families’ history. Putting together a family tree is a way to connect to our ancestors in a factual and investigative way, but after all the branches are filled and the basic details like births, marriages, and deaths are complete how do you further learn about your ancestors’ lives?
The first step to creating a family narrative is double-checking the facts that you have access to. According to the professionals, an accurate family tree should meet the Genealogical Proof Standard (GPS).
There are Five Rules to Meeting the Genealogical Proof Standard:
- Exhaustive research must be completed
- Accurate sources and citations
- All evidence is reviewed in an academic manner
- Conflicting research is adequately disproven
- The conclusion is written in clear language
- The research process can be replicated
Family Narratives: Fact or Fiction
Names, births, marriages, divorces, and deaths should be kept factual in a family narrative. It is up to the author whether the family folklore they are writing is more tall-tale or a family biography. Either style can help under the movement of your ancestors and how your family has gotten to where they are today. There are as many different approaches to creating family stories and it all depends on where and what the family researcher is most interested in learning and writing about.
An Ancestor Profile
An Ancestor Profile is an examination of a single member of your family. Many people choose to write objective, factually based profiles to meet genealogical standards.
However, that does not mean there should not be aspects of creativity in the profile, but a focus on an achievement or event that changed the course of your subject’s future.
Guidelines for Creating an Ancestor’s Profile
- Start by writing down every fact you know about your ancestor. Aim to write for 30 uninterrupted minutes.
- Edit down the document to a few thousand words with a summary that wraps up the details to place at the beginning.
- Learn about the time-period your ancestor lived. Were there any significant events happening at the time or location?
- Choose a neutral tone of voice so the perspective reads like a story instead of a biography.
- Be honest but be kind about ancestors and the times they lived through. Ethics and morals have radically changed in recent years.
- Writing an ancestral profile is a great way to develop empathy for the wider world around you.
Revisionist, historical novels are an immensely popular genre but there are some political, legal, and ethical considerations before fictionalizing your family members.
You may want to discuss your plans with the living people who might be affected by the fictional family history. Furthermore, the publication would most likely require a qualified literary lawyer to make sure you are not breaking any privacy or civil rights laws.
DNA Deep Dives and Historical Resources
Regardless of which approach you to take to create a family tree narrative, there are a few resources you should be aware of to make your research a little bit easier.
Family Search is run by the Mormon Church but is free to use the database with millions of entries to help families learn about each other and how their families have grown.
The National Archives houses many different types of documents like immigration documents, land registries, and military records. It is worth noting that a visit to the U.S. National Archives in Washington, D.C. should be reserved for more experienced genealogists and professional historians.
DNA Weekly is an objective website that helps family researchers and health enthusiasts learn their genes and the movements of ancient ancestors. A deep dive into family history can provide a rich tapestry of how your family has evolved to become the vibrant and unique group that you are.