Friday, February 24, 2012

Feeling Challenged

We are in the final leg of the family history writing challenge. It officially ends on the 29th, but I hope that the forum will remain open so that we can keep in touch. It has been fun getting to know the other family historians. I am pretty pleased with where I am in the process. My biggest hurdle will be making the information sound interesting. Several people in the forum have suggested books that might help in that regard. There was a list of family histories of all shapes and sizes. I purchased Oh Beautiful by John Paul Godges upon the recommendation of several people in the group. It is a compelling read so far, and hopefully will give me some ideas on the way I want to approach my story.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Class-less in St. Louis?

Thursday I contacted the woman in charge of continuing education at the community college regarding a question I have about my class. The course description indicates that the students receive a workbook as part of their registration fee. In fact over the years the workbook has evolved into an actual paperback book on writing, publishing and promoting a non-fiction book. In the past the author of the book has simply invoiced the college $10 per book, and the instructor passed the books out.

However the author has a new edition of the book out, and it retails for $20. She can no longer afford to sell the books to the college at $10 per book. But the college didn't know this when the course catalog went to press. In fact I didn't know this until a couple of weeks ago. The woman from the college is going to contact the author to see if they can come to an arrangement. If they cannot, I am not sure what will happen. The course follows that book exactly, so it would be hard to teach without it. And I certainly cannot come up with my own workbook in two weeks. But it may all be a moot point. The class so far only has three people registered, and the college requires six in order to hold the class. I will call the woman back on the 24th to see what the registration looks like. At this point if I don't have a book available, I hope there are not enough registrants so I can re-group before the fall semester.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

One Week into the Challenge

We are one week into the Family History Writing Challenge. Except for one day I have managed to meet or exceed my daily writing goal. Like others in the challenge, I am finding it hard not to get distracted by research once I am writing. I have a tendency to think, oh let me check that fact...and before I know it I am looking up something online or in my files. My solution to that is to keep a pad of paper and a pen by my mouse so I can jot down notes to myself. I also make some notes in red within my writing so that I can refer back to those later. The main idea is to not be distracted from the actual writing. Once you stop it is really hard to get back to it.

Through the writing process I can definitely see the holes in my research. I am making a list of questions that I want to discuss with my aunts as well as places and periods of history that I want to research a bit more. At my uncle's funeral I met an older woman in our family who actually lived with my great-grandparents. Oh, how I want to sit down and talk with her! I will be in Cincinnati in May for a conference, so I definitely will make time to go and see her.

I actually think the biggest challenge in writing a family history is to make it interesting. No one wants to just read a bunch of facts and figures. And since none of my ancestors were kind enough to keep diaries, I really don't know what their lives were like. I can see that there will be a lot of historical reading in my future.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Days 2 & 3

Nearly 1,700 words flowed from my fingertips to my keyboard in the writing challenge yesterday. It was fun to relive my trip to Ireland to discover the town my Crusham ancestors came from and, more importantly, the spelling of the name in Ireland (Crisham, so not too far off). Today I barely managed to eek out 400 words. Part of the issue is that I spent 4 hours at the Missouri History Museum Library and Research Center this afternoon researching property. I didn't attempt to do any writing until after I ate and watched the opening episode of Who Do You Think You Are Season 3. I love that show, and it is so inspiring to see the journeys that the celebrities take to find their ancestors. At any rate, I think by the time I sat down to write my brain was pretty drained. Tomorrow my strategy is to write first thing in the morning while I am fresh. I think it will make a huge difference.

I did have some success at the library today. My purpose in going was two-fold. First, I wanted to find out all the resources they have on Webster Groves because I have put together a facebook page for researching your house history in Webster Groves. I want to list the different resources held at the many repositories in St. Louis. Second, I am still trying to track down the wily owners of the house our business is in on Big Bend, and now that we have purchased a third house to find out something about those owners as well. I looked in their card catalog (yes, they still have the old fashioned index cards in addition to computers) under the map section. When I came across one for Webster Groves from 1897 I had the staff pull the map out for me. I have always wondered about the original border of Webster Groves since the houses I am researching are located right next door in Shrewsbury. Lo and behold, the 1897 map shows our houses to be in Webster Groves at that time. That is good news because Webster Groves has tax records I can look at; Shrewsbury has none, and it didn't even become a village until 1913. Now I am curious about when Webster Groves gave that land over to Shrewsbury. But that is a question for another day. My next stop will be to the Webster Groves Library to look at the tax records.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Writing Challenge Day 1

Yesterday was day 1 of the 29 day writing challenge. I am enjoying the daily pep talks that are emailed to us because writing family history has a slightly different lingo than the other writing projects I have taken part in. It is also fun to pop into the forum and participate in the discussions there. So far 54 of us are signed up in the forum, but I believe there are 3 times that number who are actually taking the challenge.

I was going to begin my story with the sentence, "July 18, 1989 was a day of endings and beginnings. It marked the end of my mom's life at age 69 in a tragic car accident in the middle of Kansas, and the beginning of my realization of opportunities lost." From there I would delve into how I became interested in genealogy and my path from here to Ireland. Lynn, moderator of the forum and the genius behind the challenge, asked if I had considered beginning with the car accident itself. Truthfully, I hadn't. After all these years that day is still so painful to relive. The day after the accident and through the days up to and including mom's funeral I wrote about what was going on. I have 11 pages hand-written on notebook paper describing what we were going through. I decided to begin my family history with the first paragraph written on July 18, 1989.

Yesterday I wrote 536 words. I would like to continue to write around 500 words per day during this challenge. After 29 days, that would give me a very nice start for my story. Here's to a fruitful day 2.