“Tell Your Ancestor’s Story by Writing, Verifying, Documenting, and Sharing”
Presented by Angela Packer McGhie, CG®

Reviewed by Jean Atkinson Andrews, CG®

NOTE: This post is one of a series reviewing the BCG Skillbuilding lectures presented at the National Genealogical Society’s 2019 Family History Conference held in St. Charles, Missouri from 08-11 May, 2019. Recordings of these lectures and the accompanying session handout can be purchased from PlaybackNow NGS at https://www.playbackngs.com/

Angela Packer McGhie, CG®, is well known in the genealogical community for her work educating others. In this lecture, besides ideas and strategies for writing our own family stories, Angela shares some personal aspects of her own journey to write the stories of her ancestors.

After sharing some poignant details of preserving the stories and memories of her grandmother, McGhie outlines a process to help you preserve and create the stories you want to write about. These five steps can be started at any point and built upon for any subject.

1. Get the stories collected from yourself or other family members.
2. Locate written histories and stories – county histories, libraries, historical societies, online trees for attached stories, blog posts, etc.
3. Verify the details from original records and manuscripts
4. Use documentary records when there are few family stories. Documents such as homestead applications, military pension files, agricultural censuses, and estate inventories are wonderful sources of detail.
5. SHARE the stories you write. Start as small as one ancestor and one paragraph or one page. You can add to it with records.

Each briefly outlined step above is discussed and illustrated with ideas and clear examples. Not every step will apply to every ancestor but regardless of where you start there are many published resources. Some of these examples include personal diaries, university essays, letters, and publications contemporary to the time being studied.

McGhie also covers ideas for finding social history about the town, area, climate, local events, occupations, transportation, and other topics to add color and interest to our stories. Using an example of an ancestor who worked as a hand-loom weaver in an 1800s cotton mill in England, she illustrates how she used published resources to study what it was like to work in those English mills. She added that information to her narrative to illustrate her subject’s likely working conditions and job duties.

Every ancestor has a story. We can take bits of information we find in a document and turn it into a narrative. Sometimes, we can only get a paragraph of information from a document, but by collecting other documents we can add to the story. Telling and writing those stories not only preserves the memory of those ancestors, but it passes those stories and memories along to their descendants.

This lecture is filled with ideas and suggestions that would inspire any family historian who wants to write compelling stories about the lives of their ancestors.

The words Certified Genealogist and letters CG are registered certification marks, and the designations CGL and Certified Genealogical Lecturer are service marks of the Board for Certification of Genealogists®, used under license by board certificants after periodic evaluation.