This site is dedicated to the memory of my parents and to our ancestors. If you are related to those listed, I hope this gives you a better understanding of their lives. Feel free to comment on anything posted, especially if you have additional or different information. The posts on this page chronicle my
research journey and provide resources and links. Genealogy is divided by parental lineage into Lowe and Bader. You can access these by
category from the menu and side links. Please be aware that this is an on-going project. Information will be updated as it becomes available.

My First Family History Book: Content

Once I decided that it was time to produce a family history book, I stopped researching and spent every spare minute preparing material for the book. Some of the family biographies had already been written for my blog but needed updating and/or editing. Some had not been written yet and had to be done from scratch. When writing the biographies, I apply a range of journalistic techniques including building context, applying themes and adding colour.

The word context means the circumstances that form or surround an event and help others understand and/or relate. Context = setting, conditions and events. Setting could be the time, place or culture or a combination of two or three of those. Conditions could be political, economic or religious. Events could include wars, social movements or even inventions or advancements in science or medicine. Adding context is one of the easiest ways to fill out a biography because information is usually available on the Internet.

A theme is a unifying idea that focuses the story and helps the reader relate to the subject. To find a theme, I look for patterns in my subject’s life. What do I notice repeating: hardship, entrepreneurial spirit, loss, love? Once I’ve found a theme, I use specific words to communicate the concept to the reader. I select words to give an impression or trigger an emotional response. By incorporating carefully chosen words and phrases, I can influence my reader’s reaction to the story. 

Colour in writing = descriptions and details that involve the senses: sights, sounds, scents, tastes, and textures. These can come from physical appearance, locations, occupations, weather, or even cooking & eating. To add colour, I look at the subject’s life for an occupation or specific location. I search out historical records about the climate or weather, typical diet and other aspects of daily life, then include those in the story.

It took about two weeks to complete the writing, but that was only the beginning.

Once all the copy was written, I needed illustrations. As a professional communicator, I know how important illustrations are to bringing written material to life. So the next step was scanning family photographs. Again, some had already been scanned for other reasons, but some had not and that took time and experimentation with resolutions and format — for example, TIFs give the best detail when scanned, but the files are large and make the book’s file size huge. JPGs are more reasonably sized but don’t provide the same level of detail. For photographs and documents that were large and clear, I went with JPGs. For those that were small or of poor quality, TIFs were the better choice. I knew that the file size of the final document was going to be big and in the end it was more than 150 MB. 

I had census reports, newspaper articles and directory listings downloaded from genealogy sites. These I cropped to show only the relevant information. I also had birth, death and marriage certificates ordered from government registries, which I scanned and cropped. 

When I ran out of my own material, I looked to other sources. I used Google Streetview to take screenshots of houses where my ancestors lived that still exist today. Wikimedia Commons provided old photographs (that are in the public domain) related to ancestors’ occupations. I found photographs of gravestones and locations at other sites. 

With the illustrations waiting in a folder on my computer, I moved on to layout & design.


Post a Comment

To prevent spam, your comment must be approved before it appears. Thank-you for your patience.