How to Craft Family Narratives: Quick Tips

Carmack, DeBartolo Sharon. “Flesh on the Bones: Turning Dry Ancestral Details Into a Life Story.” Brevity. Accessed 1 Nov. 2016.

Carmack, a prolific writer on the subject of family history and genealogical entrepreneur   in this short essay at Brevity –an online magazine dedicated to the craft of literary non-fiction- writes on how to “bring ancestors to life on the page”. Brevity is an online magazine dedicated for the past nineteen years to showcasing works of non-fiction of 750 words or less, on such topics as writing as a craft, as well as reviews and other non-fiction essays from new writers to notables. This article provides concise and direct tips on how to convert facts into narrative, and how to avoid the pitfalls of misusing historical events in narratives which might result in foolish cause and effect scenarios. The use of relevant social history (focused on ordinary people like the subjects of the narrative) is emphasized. Her advice is designed to assist family historians on how to “blend general social history and …family details into one flowing, cohesive narrative.” Carmack is a certified genealogist and a nationally recognized expert in her field, as well an entrepreneur. An editor of Betterway Genealogy Books and owner of Scattered Leaves Press, she is a frequent contributor to Family Tree Magazine. She is also co-owner of Warren, Carmack & Associates, a Salt Lake City based professional genealogy firm which offers research services, family history writing assistance and publication services and, a company which offers editing and mentoring services. Carmack is the author of twenty books and hundreds of articles published in professional journals, as well an adjunct faculty member of Salt Lake Community College where she is an instructor in the Genealogical Research and Writing program. This short essay would make an excellent handout in a library program on this topic, could be used as part of a writing excercise in a library family history program,or would make an excellent link in a blog posting on the topic. It is short and engaging and will appeal to family historians who seek writing advice but are short on time.

Knopp, Lisa. “Perhapsing: The Use of Speculation in Creative Non-Fiction.Brevity.  Accessed 1 Nov. 2016.

Knopp discusses the writing technique of “perhapsing”-using speculation to fill in the blanks and provide details to non-fiction accounts. This writing technique will be useful for family historians who lack facts and wish to be regarded as reliable narrators of family history. Knopp, an Associate Professor of English at the University of Nebraska Omaha is  a published essayist offers tips on how to avoid verging into fiction when writing no-ficiton accounts. This short essay also provides a writing exercise to practice the art of “perhapsing”. This piece will be of use to family historians looking to develop writing skills and could be an excellent addition to family history programming at public library.