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Family History 4 All

 Learn how to trace YOUR family tree.

Newsletter No. 33 - September 2009.

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New on Family History 4 All: Find My Past

Genes Reunited.co.uk

I hope this message finds you all in good health. If you have an article or amusing story to share with us then please don’t be afraid to send it for publication…you can remain anonymous if you prefer but we want you all to feel you can contribute if you want to. Just send an with the words ‘Newsletter item’ in the subject box. And we will include it at the first opportunity, subject to editing, if necessary of course.

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1. Our welcome message.

2. Featured Article – How to Use Writing Your Autobiography to Help You Better Understand Yourself By Toni CyanBrock

3. Latest Family History news

4. Next Months Featured Article: Journaling Your Memories from: Your Family Legacy

1. Our welcome message.

Hello and welcome to the 'September edition' of your favourite newsletter.

Late again! It's becoming a habit. Sorry. But at least you know you won't get bombarded with a lot of rubbish like subscribers to other newsletters.

Carol and I just celebrated our 24th anniversary. We're looking forward to the next one. I might take her somewhere exiting...maybe Blackpool! hehe. She will probably ask me to take her to Dublin as she is doing some serious research on her own Irish links.

Carol and a friend just had a couple of days in Dublin, so now she knows where the records offices are. She didn't get any research done this time as it was just a short break. At least when I take her, we will be able to find our way about. If anyone has any recommendations for our trip next year we would love to hear them.

Enough of my ramblings - On with the newsletter...

2. Featured Article – How to Use Writing Your Autobiography to Help You Better Understand Yourself By Toni CyanBrock

Writing Your Own Life Story

Your life doesn’t have to be lived in the lime light to be worthy of reading about or be of value to you and educational for posterity and as a historical account.  You can write your own autobiography and you will learn about your life in the process. 

When people find out that I’m a writer one of the most common things said to me is, “You should write my life story...that would be a best seller.”  I usually tell them, “I bet it would!”  The truth is most writers, including me, have more ideas for stories and more subjects to write about than they have years left to write.  If your story is going to get written it’s up to you.

Writing your own story is a journey.  Writing an autobiography can be a way to learn about yourself.  It can also be a way to let go of some of the things that have held you back.  It gives you an opportunity to examine the events of your life on paper.  It can free you to get events and feelings down on paper and out of our own psyche.  Aside from benefiting you it can be a great help to those who come after you as it will help them know who you were as an  individual.

For most of us, all traces of our lives are forgotten within three generations of our passing.  Who we were, what mattered to us, and how we lived is all but forgotten except for evidence left behind in census, church and other documentation.  Getting your story down is important to our descendants.  However, the most important value is to the writer as we sift through our lives and see it in context with the rest of the world and within our family and peer groups and as we see on paper how much we have accomplished in spite of any losses or hardships.  It puts everything in perspective.  Our story might be about a certain section of life, one pivotal moment in time or a grouping of moments personal to us or our experience of the historical events that occur during our life time.  Telling our story makes history come alive.

A personal autobiography captures the writer’s truth.  Documents are factual but they don’t tell the truth.  They are wrought with errors, typos, interpretations and outright falsehoods.  Facts and the truth are not the same.  Facts can be manipulated.  The truth is and always will be.  Getting to the truth even when we are writing about our own lives can be very difficult because our own perception alters the truth.  That is why honesty and integrity are key to the process.

When we use the autobiography to better understand ourselves we can bring illumination and acceptance to our past.  It takes integrity and the ability to look at and recognize our personality traits both good and bad.  The writer can acknowledge their mistakes and missteps as well as the truth that they did the best they could do at the time or that they didn’t but they went on anyway.  That knowledge can be of value to both you and readers.

Writing about your own life is enjoyable, cathartic, and maddening at times but in the end it can bring us some understanding and peace.  It is a roller coaster ride even for those of us who lived the most charmed of lives.  It can also be extremely rewarding.    

Format is unimportant.  It doesn’t have to be in the form of prose, it can be a book of poetry, a collection of quotes, a collection of personality inventory tests, a scrap book of documents such as report cards, photos or a list of significant dates or art journal pages or a combination of all of it.  The important thing is you take a look at what you have accomplished and failures and even some regrets but that you don’t wallow.  That you balance the good with the bad and actively look for the pivotal events, the behaviour patterns, the reoccurring themes and the falsehoods that you have told yourself and walk out in faith and write down your truths.    

There is a chance that you will want people to read your writing now.  Your family may not be the best resource for feed back.  This autobiography is for you first and foremost and for posterity second.  Eye witness accounts seldom line up with each other so accept that people will not agree with your perception.  Perception becomes each individual’s reality.  If you like you can ask your other family members to write down their perceptions of a situation or event; the death of a  parent or the onset of sudden celebrity.  Incorporate those stories as quotes within your own life story to corroborate or discount your perception at the time.  The reader will appreciate your honesty and courage in including other people’s perception.    Join a writers group, a meet-up or genealogical group where you can share your writing and get feed back, or start a personal blog where you post your writing for those who are interested.  This will avoid you getting mired in a family dispute over debatable events that robs you of the enthusiasm needed to write your story.  


Don’t use names of living people without their permission.  

Don’t write details of things you did that were illegal unless the statute of limitations has run out or you already paid for your transgression.

Don’t take too long to tell one story.  1500 words more ore less is a good amount for one account.  Self editing isn’t for sissy’s so if you have a fellow writer or friend who is willing to be honest take them up on it or you can pay for an editor to review your work and cut away the dead wood.

Don’t edit out the hard stuff.  It is perfectly okay to be oblique, or elude without getting into the horrific details if that would traumatize the reader.

If it isn’t the right time for you to face some aspects of your life DON’T!   Do this when you are strong not when you are feeling less that you should to confront your past.


 Write from the heart; if your story is true but lacks heart nobody will benefit from it.  Heart requires bravery and honesty.  Perhaps the hardest person to be honest with is ourselves.

Start with the story that is just dying to get out and work around it.

Use historical events in the back ground.  You can find timelines on line that will help you know what important events shaped your life.  

Ask the questions, “Is this the way I want to be remembered?” and “Am I being genuine?” 

Collect photographic evidence and documents to slip in and corroborate your story.  This will make the reader trust you and it will help you dig through your own perceptions and uncover the truth of your own story.

Reread your own writing.  Put it away for a while and reread and rewrite it as many times as it takes.  

Commit to balanced and fair coverage of your own life.  You may have been a victim, and abuser, a hero or a coward at times in your life but, you are not a stick figure, you have depth and character and moments of greatness and weakness and write about both with compassion.

Treat everyone you write about with compassion including yourself.  According to Hanlon’s Razor, “Never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity.”  Everyone makes errors and few are ruled by cruelty and looking at actions as an act of ignorance is sometimes the best way to forgive people.

Polish the manuscript and get rid of any errors before you show it to anyone for a critique.    Remember it is always easier to rewrite than it is to write.  Be sure to explain how to critique and give guidelines for doing so.  It can be as simple as asking the reader to tell you what they like and don’t like and why.   Thank everyone for their comments and save both of you the trouble and don’t argue with them.  Art is subjective.  Use what you can to make your writing better and ignore what you don’t think serves you.  Tell them to skip the punctuation and spelling and get someone you trust or a professional to edit it.

Most copy stores or desk top publishers have a way to print on demand and there are companies that will print on demand as well.  You can give the stories to genealogy resources and the local genealogical or historical societies for their archives as well this will insure that your story will not be easily forgotten.

Writing your own life story will help you understand yourself better if you are honest with yourself and put those events in your life in context.  So often we read autobiographies that show people only in one light; either as hero, victim, scoundrel or archetype.  During your process you might find it beneficial to read other people’s autobiography to familiarize yourself with styles, topics and delivery.   

If you don’t know where to start I found an e-book called, “The Memorygrabber” at www.FamilyHistoryProducts.com  to be an invaluable resource that makes the daunting task a lot of fun.  I used this author’s format to start my own life story.  There are also other resources at the library and on-line that will help you with this journey of self-discovery.

3. Latest Family History news

From: www.GenesReunited.co.uk

Hello James,

We like to keep our affiliates up to date with all our new features, so thought you might like to know about the NEW map view we have introduced into family trees.

This amazing new feature maps all relations possible in each member's family tree based on their place of birth. Members can also interact with the map view and re-plot their own relations in the exact road where they were born! This allows them to see how their family has moved around the country - or even the world - over the decades. The map view is very simple to use and is accompanied by a full set of instructions:

Kind regards,

The Genes Reunited Team

Genes Reunited.co.uk

4. Next Months Featured Article:

Journaling Your Memories

In preserving your family heritage, journaling is the addition of written details often done to compliment a picture or document. The most common kind of journaling is noting the names of people in a photograph, but as easy as this is, there is one all too familiar mistake made here...Read full article next time.

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