DAR: The Story Behind the Info

Award winners: Patty O’Neil for quilting and Deborah Goodacre for fiction writing

Deborah Goodacre

Hello everyone, and hello February! I frequently hear genealogists say that no one in their family is interested in the information they have amassed. Yes, pedigree charts and family group sheets can be a little dry, almost as dry as all those old photos we have inherited over the years. But it can come alive if you write the stories behind the names, dates, marriage certificates, obituaries, and photos. So, yes, I have encouraged (nagged?) acquaintances, DAR chapter members, and friends to write their family stories.

Recently, I asked a friend how her writing was coming along, and she said, “My writing stinks!” What a wake-up call! Suddenly I realized I had never told her what to expect. So here is what you need to know when you start the process. First, we need to pull up memories before learning to write. You can’t note what you haven’t recalled. But the biggie is, do not try to write wonderfully arranged sentences; it won’t work! Start with a list of memories and make notes—two, three, four words. If you try to write sentences, you will fail and get discouraged. I know, because I have done it. I am horrified when I look back on notes where I tried to write great-sounding sentences.

First, prime the pump. You need to reflect and make notes. Think! Think before you write. The memories are all stored in microscopic file drawers in your head. Jog them over and over, and soon what you are trying to recall will rise to the top. Please note: Thoughts will come to you when your brain is quiet, often while in the shower, brushing your teeth, or just barely waking up. Write them down immediately in pencil. Do not wait until later. The file drawer will close and drop back down into an open elevator shaft. And please avoid the keyboard. That is an analytical process that gets in the way of the creative side of your brain, and both sides cannot function simultaneously.

On Jan. 3 we had our first-ever Writer’s Group meeting. We had 11 people total. I lectured and gave examples and snippets of childhood memories—some could seem insignificant, but all fit into the story. I love thinking about people in my life, memorable moments to describe beautifully. You can also write about your experiences in researching your genealogy. There is nothing like searching and searching for information, sometimes for long periods, and then finally finding the answer. That is an “aha moment.” No one will experience them as you did. So, grab a pencil and a pad of paper, and let’s get started.

Eventually, as you put time into the process, you will create beautifully written sentences and stories that your family will enjoy reading. Trust me on this one, because I have done it!

Our next meeting is on Feb. 7 at 3 p.m. We shall see what memories and thoughts the ladies have gathered.