4. Introductions Please

So little information, even the paper is missing

So little inspiration, even the paper is missing







By now, you should have an idea of who you wish to start with, who will be your reader, and how to help them navigate the branch the person belongs to.  Now, let’s start with a really simple, rudimentary opening paragraph. You’ll need to make quick, yet proper introductions. Yes, I know you have your family group sheet at the ready and have inserted a close-up of their branch on the tree…but…go easy on your reader and put it all up-front and handy for them within the story too!  You are welcome to print out the “paragraph” page found under the forms tab and treat it like one of those “Mad-Lib” word games that kids love to fill in with words like “poop” and “smelly feet juice” and “Transylvania.”

If you feel pretty confident with this part, by all means work ahead. If you’re just not a natural writer, follow along and we’ll get through it together 

Write the opening/introductory paragraph to the first story about this person in roughly the following manner.  In my example, I have the Family History Writer’s dream-file. The one that’s just bursting with detail. It’s also fictitious. In most of these stories, you won’t have a complete set of researched and confirmed facts to breeze through. So, you’re going to have to skip some of the intro. That’s OK. If you run across additional sources later, you can add them in then. For now, let’s go with my fantasy file 🙂

Millicent Marjory Greyshield was born to Angela Blackwell and Danny Ray Greyshield Jr on March 3rd, 1815.  She was the 11th of their 15 children, and one of only 3 girls among Angela and Danny Ray’s children. For most of her younger years, she was know as “Penny.” She grew up on the family’s rural Indiana farm in Hamilton County near present day Noblesville.  Family lore has it that she was one of the earliest school teachers in the area having learned to read, write and cipher* from her Mother’s lessons to the children at home. Then on April 20th 1840 Penny, a mature woman who had begun to use the more “grown up” name Millie, was wed to, Nevel Washburn. Nevel was a 54 year old widowed chemist* in Noblesville with three adult sons. Millie moved from the farm to her husband’s home at 617 South Cherry Street. The new Washburns went on to have 2 children of their own; Alice Ann(1841), and Delmar(1844). Unfortunately, both children died in their infancy and are buried at the city graveyard presently called Riverside cemetery. Millie continued her teaching career. In this way she was said to have claimed dozens of the area children as at least hers at heart.

at the bottom of the page we would see the following along with any other antiquated terms:

*cipher–an old term for simple mathematics such as addition, subtraction, fractions, etc

*chemist–old term for a druggist, compounder, pharmacist, or one who dispensed and sold premixed medicines

The story can go on from here...the part you really wanted to tell about the day a wind storm whipped up and half the town caught fire, and how Millie bravely led the children calmly out of the fancy new brick schoolhouse with it’s burning roof. You could include the newspaper clipping, or the name of the relative or family friend who often told the story etc.  You could also include a photo of the farm house, the house on Cherry Street or any media you happen to have that shows the town then or now. Or, perhaps it is all gone now, and you could note that too.  Maybe the entire area of the original town was wiped out by a flood or the homes were all raised to erect the “Firestone tire factory” in 1937…or whatever. That kind of stuff happens all the time, which I’m sure you’ve seen too many times to count in your own digging.

So the basics and the order they appeared in that passage are:

A.The subject’s full name

B.Parentage with Mother’s Maiden Name if known

C.Date of Birth/ birth order/ anything of interest about her siblings (all boys, only surviving, between sets of twins etc

D.Other names/ nicknames if known

E.Family location/family situation and lifestyle (farm, city, wealthy, poor if notable, education, literacy) and means of income (farmer)

F.Any change in life situation (orphaned, moved, married, schooling, marriage, career, illness) and any new people or places that these life situations included (Nevel, the widow, who had a job, was widowed and had grown kids and was 20 years older than Millie formerly Penny).

G.Any other unique or mitigating circumstance of their life situation (the teacher finally had the opportunity to have her own children, however they both died as babies).

H. At the tail-end of this paragraph is an easy place to use a little “scrap” of info about this person that you may have heard over and over such as the example here speaking about Millie thinking about her students as her own children in her heart.  Also you could throw in something you learned by going through their posessions…things like they had beautiful handwriting, or loved wearing matching hats, gloves and handbags, or was famous for making the family’s favorite meatballs–still known as Uncle Maury’s Meatballs.

****************** Most of your first paragraph / your introduction is the rather dry stuff that you can glean from the pages of the person’s life as reported on census pages and other public records.****************************************