I have a monthly family history writing group – we don’t research our ancestry, we write about what we know, remember, have found out, imagine, and every meeting I’m amazed at the great writing which is shared. Last time we were thinking about people, about characters, about stories, using our imaginations and using senses to give depth to what we write. I had set them an optional task – not homework and only a suggestion, but just something to work on if their minds were empty!
- To write a story, with imagined detail, descriptions and senses about people in their family (and if they didn’t know something, to guess or make it up!)
This was only a suggestion and people brought a really varied selection:
- the story of an elderly bereaved wife whose grown-up sons really just wanted to get on with their own lives with their families; she takes a bus to visit the churchyard where her beloved husband is buried and has a very unexpected encounter with the young bus diver.
- an account of the ‘detective’ work involved in tracing an ancestor from a small village in Somerset, the daughter of a wheelwright, who married three times and ended up a society lady in Victorian London
- the story of a young man who leaves his mother and brothers to cross the Atlantic to live with his father who has gone to Canada to find work. The young man has not long arrived when WW1 begins and he volunteers at the age of fifteen, pretending he is three years older. He ends up in what became the RAF and stayed in until WW2
- an autobiographical tale of a young girl growing up with a father in and out of hospital with TB
- the story of war service in WW2 told through the letters a young man sent his mother and sisters
- an insight into the life of Marianne North, a nineteenth century artist and traveller whose work is now exhibited in a dedicated gallery in Kew Gardens
I shared the story of my own great-grandmother through a letter I wrote imaging her sending something like it to her estranged father on the occasion of his second marriage. The reason for my choice was because this is what I am suggesting they tackle for next time:
- Subject for next meeting (this is completely optional!! it is only a suggestion!!) –
- A letter from one member of your family to another – maybe about a particular incident – wedding, funeral, controversial will etc
- Or maybe a correspondence of a couple of letters!
Here is a link to my ‘letter’ from my great-grandma to her father: