“Writing the Family Narrative: A Strategy for Breaking Down Brick Walls”
Rebecca Whitman Koford, CG®, CGL℠

by Darcie Hind Posz, 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/

Rebecca KofordRebecca Koford has a calm, organized teaching style and an enthusiastic demeanor that inspires. In smartly constructed fashion, she steps through a process of writing that can lead to breaking through brick walls. Brick wall writing is more than storytelling, because there are conflicts and holes. You have to organize and explain the research so you and others can follow the reasoning. The two common writing styles of the professional research report and the family history narrative are merged with genealogical discipline and standards in her method.

The Genealogical Proof Standard is the professional standard because it works, and this lecture focuses on part five: The written conclusion. Genealogy Standards 61 (logical organization), 69 (clear writing), and 73 (biographical information) are briefly discussed to show how they apply to brick wall and conclusion-based writing.

Rebecca describes a cycle that she applies to her writing style: Research, Cite, Write, and Analyze during the process. She also discusses ten strategies: 1. Gathering and inventorying what you have; 2. Creating a timeline; 3. Mapping it; 4. Outlining it; 5. Detailing and expanding what you have; 6. Focusing writing on the brick wall; 7. Knowing and incorporating the social history; 8. Understanding their society/ F.A.N. club; 9. Analyzing and resolving conflicts; and 10. Writing a proof argument. The use and reuse of these strategies is demonstrated in her process.

All ten of these strategies are packed with ways to successfully break through your brick wall.
In fact, her brick wall example, Elizabeth (Wingate) Clements, literally lived in the brickyards, and she was able to break through that brick wall! Rebecca concludes with excellent construction samples to show the importance of this format, and of collecting collaterals (strategy 8). This lecture will not disappoint writers.

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.