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One of the newest course offerings over at Family Tree University is an eight-week
master class designed to help you make progress, step by step, on writing a family
history book or personal memoir.
In the first half of Write
Your Family History, you’ll craft an outline for your book and start putting your
family’s legacy down on paper. The second half of the course is a workshop, in which
you’ll share your writing with instructor and professional writer Sunny McClellan
Morton, and receive feedback on how to move forward.
The Write Your Family History master class starts Jan. 17, and you can use coupon
code FTU114 for 20 percent off your registration and a free 2011 desk calendar.
Here’s an excerpt on gathering and organizing your thoughts:
One of the most important habits you can cultivate as a personal or family historian
is keeping a journal. Chances are you already keep one or have in the past; many writers
do so almost instinctively. If you aren’t in the habit of recording your personal
thoughts, now’s the time to make journaling a part of your routine.
Use whatever style suits you for writing your journal—you’re the only one who will
see what you write. Any scrap of memory or personal impression may become important
later, so just get everything down now and worry about sorting it all out when the
When you start thinking about writing a memoir or family history, it’s natural to
feel overwhelmed—so many colorful characters, inspiring stories, and dates and places
to keep straight. You’ll need to make some choices, perhaps difficult ones, about
what will and won’t fit into your book. Before you begin writing, it’s important to
devise a plan to organize your ideas and the information you’ll be gathering as you
complete your research.
We suggest you start by filling in the beginning and ending dates of your book, so
you have the boundaries of your complete dateline. Then associate an event with each
date. Use only a few key words or a phrase to denote each event—just enough to jog
your memory when you refer to the dateline later.
After you’ve filled in as many dates and events as you can at this point, go back
and determine the historical theme relevant to each event. The historical theme is
crucial to your story; it will help place your “characters” into historical perspective.
Here are two examples of personal events with their historical themes:
Date: 3 June 1907
Event: Eleanor arrives alone at Ellis Island.
Historical theme: What was it like for a woman to go through processing at
Ellis Island on her own?
Date: 25 Apr 1920
Event: Uncle Harry moves to Florida and buys land.
Historical theme: What drew people to Florida in the 1920s?
Register for Write
Your Family History at Family Tree University.com (remember to use coupon code