13 June 2013

Overcoming the Fear

Starting a written family history can be a daunting task--where do you start; how do you start; who do you start with, and many other questions flood your mind. By virtue of its nature, a family history is an exercise in the past, but we don't often think about how we get there.

The best place to begin is with yourself. You may think that no one is interested in you, but you would be wrong! The family history audience loves the story about the search as much as the story you want to tell. I have a contact in my family who has and is doing extensive research of certain lines through DNA testing. While my eyes cross when he is going through the scientific analysis of the data, I'm fascinated with the conclusions he is able to draw because of the data. That is certainly worthy of a chapter in my family history, as he is now able to link certain families together via DNA while excluding others, even though they all lived in the same general area and share some of the same surnames. I would have erroneously assumed that everyone was related, which is not totally incorrect, but the relations originate back several generations from what one would assume.

I have another distant cousin who found me on Ancestry, and thanks to him, I now have enough documents and pictures to keep me busy for the next several years. Denny deserves special thanks, because he is a Viet Nam vet who is suffering terribly from the effects of Agent Orange. He is younger than me, but the necessity of being on oxygen 24/7 and getting dialysis treatments three times a week has made him old before his time. His relentless search for his family (and mine) gives him a reason to wake up in the morning and keeps him busy throughout the day. Denny's story is as much a part of my family history as the deceased.

Alex Haley of Roots fame, had as big a story to tell about the process of finding the information as the history itself. Many of us watched the mini-series Roots on TV years ago and were captivated by it, and this was before so many incredible resources became available, particularly the computer and everything that has come with it.

Your personal story is as much a part of your family history as your grandparents. The next time you think you don't know where to start, just look at yourself. All you have to do is begin!

Jan's Editing Service for Writers


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