Writing Your Own Family History–Organizing Your Stories

As you gather your stories, organize them chronologically. This organization of your writing will make for a better read. A better read because you won’t duplicate stories and a better read because the stories will spill out in the order they originally happened.

Use a family history sample template. The following template contains the basic framework I used in the two histories I wrote for my maternal grandparents and my paternal grandparents. I adapted each history to the specific circumstances of each couple. For example, one of my grandfathers was a partner in a road construction company, and much of the history of these grandparents revolved around his work at various camps through the state. An entire chapter was even dedicated to different road construction projects. On the other hand, my other grandfather was a farmer who owned various properties. This second history revolved around farm life and the family working on the land. It included images of farming implements and memories of favorite horses and cattle drives.

If your history contains information about a married couple—which I highly recommend combining into one history instead of two, you can use the following template (or simply take out the first chapter if your history is about one person). This template is basically a Table of Contents with chapters and chapter details (which can be used as subheadings within the chapters). Adapt it to your history and then use it as your Table of Contents (with added corresponding page numbers).

Chapter One: William’s Ancestry and Childhood (1905 – 1925)

• Paternal Ancestry (father; father’s parents and where they grew up and how they met)
• Maternal Ancestry (mother; mother’s parents and where they grew up and how they met)
• Parents’ Courtship and Marriage
• William’s Birth (date and details surrounding birth)
• Birth of William’s Siblings
• Historical Details of Childhood Town (religious activities, wide-spread diseases, wars)
• Childhood Home (sketch of floor plan, how meals were prepared, how far from town)
• Difficult Times for the Family (parents’ responsibilities, illness, deaths of loved ones)
• William’s Schooling (teacher’s names, grades, stories of friends)
• William’s Spiritual Growth (missionary service, patriarchal blessing, etc.)

Chapter Two: Mary’s Ancestry and Childhood (1909 – 1925)
• Paternal Ancestry (father; father’s parents and where they grew up and how they met)
• Maternal Ancestry (mother; mother’s parents and where they grew up and how they met)
• Parents’ Courtship and Marriage
• Mary’s Birth (date and details surrounding birth)
• Birth of Mary’s Siblings
• Historical Details of Childhood Town in Gainsborough, England (religious activities, wide-spread diseases, wars)
• Childhood Home (sketch of floor plan, how meals were prepared, how far from town)
• Difficult Times for the Family (parents’ responsibilities, illness, deaths of loved ones)
• Mary’s Schooling (teacher’s names, grades, stories of friends)
• Mary’s Spiritual Growth (conversion to the LDS Church, etc.)

Chapter Three: William and Mary’s Courtship and Marriage (1925 – 1931)

Historical Background (i.e., college life, roommates, work)
William and Mary First Meet (where, how, first feelings of each other)
Dating and Courtship (fun dates, dances, love letters, etc.)
Proposal and Marriage (dates and details of marriage day and reception)
Newlywed Life (first home, difficulties/adjustments to married life)
Becoming Parents (birth of first child)

Chapter Four: Early Family Life for William and Mary (1931 – 1941)

Historical Background (where lived, events in town, church, nation)
Births of Other Children
Occupation and Responsibilities of Each Spouse
Responsibilities of the Children
Extended Families
Vacations (or lack thereof)

Chapter Five: Significant Events for the Family (1941 – 1946?)

Historical Challenges (i.e., World War II, illness, etc.)
New Occupational Opportunities

Chapter Six: Other Significant Family Events (1946 – 1957?)

Teenage Children’s Activities
Church Callings
Recreation
Town Celebrations

Chapter Seven: Supporting Their Growing Children (1950 – 1971)

Child One (missionary and/or military service, marriage, home, family, etc.)
Child Two (missionary and/or military service, marriage, home, family, etc.)
Child Three (missionary and/or military service, marriage, home, family, etc.)
Child Four (missionary and/or military service, marriage, home, family, etc.)
Child Five (missionary and/or military service, marriage, home, family, etc.)

Chapter Eight: Grandparents (1954 – 1998)

Becoming Grandparents
Visits from Grandchildren
Vacations to Visit Grandchildren
Sharing Gifts with Grandchildren

Chapter Nine: Faithful to the End (1969 – 1998)

Hobbies in Later Years (i.e., family history research, temple work, recreation)
Health Problems
Special Anniversaries and Celebrations (50th Wedding Anniversary, 80th Birthdays, etc.)
William’s Death and Funeral
Mary’s Death and Funeral

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