Friday, June 27, 2008

A Plan For Writing My Family History

I've been trying to figure out where to start with my family history, not with the writing specifically but with the project in general. I'm trying to start with a "big picture" view of things and come up with a strategy that will break things down into smaller segments that I can tackle a week or so at a time. Here's what I've come up with so far.

July 7-11 - Library research (mostly looking up obits to get the names of 2nd and 3rd cousins I can write to for information/photos of their parents/grandparents)

July 14-18 - Family History Center research/photography (I have the films for my ancestors' vital records on indefinite loan at my local FHC). The Lipa family was the first I "found" when I started my genealogy research. I extracted what I thought was all the relavent information at the time but I didn't photograph all the records, just those from my main line of descent. I'm thinking that I really should go back and spend a week photographing more records. I'm not sure why I think I should do this... maybe it's the pack-rat in me that just wants to have posession of the records.)

July 21-15 - Gather what printed information I have for the Lipa and Laska families and organize it so I can find it when I need it. Enter any new information I've come across into my database.

July 28-31 - Internet research to fill in the gaps.

August 1-31 -Write the family history (still hoping to get this done in one month!)

September 1-30 - Edit, rewrite where necessary, and add photos, charts, etc.

Goal: Publish in October.

I have to make a decision about what to include in my family history and it's a difficult decision to make. Unlike the folks who have several generations of their family lines here in America, the bulk of my family's history is in Poland. And while the LDS has done a marvelous job of filming the birth, marriage, and death records of the parishes my family members belonged to I really have no other information about my individual ancestors who lived in Poland... no obituaries, no military records, no land records, no probate records or deeds, no censuses, no school records or yearbooks, and in all but a few recent instances not even gravestones or cemetery records. The best I can do is write about what was going on historically in Poland at the time a given ancestor lived and maybe mention what was going on in the U.S. at the time as a frame of reference. Obviously I can't do this for every ancestor. In addition to deciding how much "general history" to include I also have to decide which ancestors I might want to reference or speculate about. How do I decide?

Sometimes when I get to thinking about this project I think I just don't have enough information to write a family history yet. Then I ask myself, "but if not now, when?" I don't anticipate any more records becoming available if any even exist. Between the various wars and the occuping forces who destroyed records in Poland and the fact that not many records were kept on illiterate, poor, peasants to begin with, I don't hold out much hope of finding more information about my ancestors. It's possible, sure. But I don't know when or if that might happen. So I figure it's time to draw the line in the sand and get on with the writing.

If there's anyone out there who has written a family history similar to mine where you have virtually no personal information on any of your ancestors more than 2 generations back I'd really appreciate hearing how you handled it.