Friday, August 5, 2016

A bit of advice and a couple of recommendations

One of my pet peeves is when someone reduces an ancestor to nothing more than a list of vital statistics. Even worse, “genealogists” who are nothing more than name collectors.  Every one of your ancestors was a real person, had a real family and lived in a real community. They had friends and maybe even some enemies.  They probably attended the local church.  He or she had a personality, opinions, likes and dislikes.  Their life was just important to them as your life is to you. Slow down!  It isn’t a competition to see who can collect the most ancestors or who can get their pedigree back to Charlemagne. Take the time to get to know your ancestors. 

Sharon DeBartolo Carmack has written a couple of books on how to put your ancestor in context and then write about it.  What’s the point of doing research if you don’t write up what you find for others to read.

You Can Write Your Family History
Tell it Short, A Guide to Writing Your Family History in Brief

Right now I am working on a project where I am telling the story of a family for three generations and I have these two books by my side. 

John Colletta is one of those genealogists that strives to tell the story of an ancestor.  I was privileged to hear him lecture at IGHR a couple of years ago. He is very enthusiastic and animated when teaching researchers how to make an ancestor come to life. John really loves to tell a story. You can see a list of John’s publications HERE and his lectures HERE.

These two authors will help you look at your ancestors in a new way.

Copyright © 2016 Michèle Simmons Lewis


  1. I was talking to someone today about ancestors being more that dates. I am working on our grandson's ancestors on his mother's side and discovered that one of his great-grandfather's lost his job as a stage coach driver to the railroad in 1857. He was also in the Civil War and his father was in the war of 1812 and received Land Patents in Ohio. I love finding information on my ancestors.

    1. A fun thing to do would be to research what a coach driver actually did and what the railroad was like in 1857. What kind of life would this be for him. How long would he be away from home, that sort of thing.

  2. I am just rereading "You Can Write Your Family History." It is a great book. Easy read and great guide. Now to buckle down and follow the steps. :)

  3. This is the reason I do "Family History" not "Genealogy"

  4. Hi im looking for some info on my fathers family who were born and raised on a peanut plantation outside of harlem Georgia is there any ibfo yoy can research our last name is jordan there were 9 brothers and 2 sisters my dads dob was 5/20/1920 thank you andrew l jordan jr.

  5. I am not doing any additional private client research at the moment because I have too many projects going on right now but this is something you can easily do yourself. Have you checked the 1930 and 1940 censuses for your dad? He might even be on the 1920 depending on when the census taker came around. Federal census records are a great place to start.

    I would also be looking for the obituaries of your dad and all of his siblings because that will help you piece the family together. You should also be able to find the obituaries of both of his parents. You will be able to get your dad's and your grandparents' death certificates as well.