Is your genealogy a list of names and dates?
As genealogist, we can record just facts or we can put these facts together and tell a story. Incorporating writing into your genealogy will produce a family history rather than a list of names and dates.
Story elements such as health, occupation, religion, weather, food, dress, politics, migration, transportation, ethnicity, and economy can all be woven into the story of our ancestors. It is much more interesting to read a story than a list of facts. Facts from records collected during research are used for the foundation of the story. The records can be supplemented with information from books written at the time or about the time our ancestors lived.
As an example of how to write family history, I have taken a man from my husband’s family. According to his Civil War pension file, Lyman Webster enlisted in Company C, 13th Regiment of the New Hampshire Volunteers on August 15, 1862 at Concord, New Hampshire and was discharged on September 30, 1863 at Portsmouth, Virginia. Late in December 1862, he had a severe attack of measles. They are interested but dry. By adding a few more ingredients, the facts became much more inviting.
Two days after the Civil War began, on 16 April 1861, New Hampshire governor, Ichabod Goodwin, issued a call for volunteers. Lyman did not answer the call. He may have believed, as many people did, that the war would not last longer than a few months. By August of 1862 it was clear that the war would not be over quickly. Lyman signed up for three years duty on 15 August 1862 in Company C, 13th New Hampshire Infantry in Concord.
By November 1, 1862, the 13th New Hampshire was camped at Camp Casey, near Fairfax Seminary, Virginia. On December 1, they started the march from Camp Casey to Fredericksburg. Lyman survived the Battle of Fredericksburg, only to fall victim to measles a short time later. On December 25, S. Millett Thompson, a fellow member of the 13th New Hampshire Infantry wrote in his diary that “A great deal of sickness and suffering on all sides, and little help here, near or in the future. This camp of 100,000 is practically a vast hospital. Twelve men of Co. G are sick with the measles–now epidemic in camp.”
I used Lyman’s pension file, History of the Thirteenth Regiment of New Hampshire by Thompson and a few general facts from New Hampshire history to create the narrative. I am not able to show it here, but as I wrote the text, I cited the sources used for every fact stated that is not common knowledge.
The records you use to write the story of your ancestor will be different than the records I used. It will depend on what records are available for the time and place your ancestor lived.