Tuesday, October 4, 2011

What's YOUR Story?

There is always encouragement to write your family history. To gather up all of your hard earned research, put pen to paper, and write out your ancestor's life stories. There are many blogs, lectures, workshops, and classes that will help you on your writing project. It is something that I aspire to and definitely encourage others to do so as well.

However, I also understand that some people just may not be interested in writing up their family history. The journey of research and discover is what they are after and it is enough for them. Or maybe the task is too daunting, or confidence in technical writing skills is the inhibitor. Regardless, I suggest an alternative or another project. Write your story.

I've recently been reviewing my great grandfather's autobiography. He wrote it when he was about 87 years old. His name is Jesse Richard Gunter born 25 October 1901 in Vineland, Pueblo County, Colorado. I never got to meet him, but if I could reach back in time, I would hug him and give him a big kiss for writing down his story. It is not only genealogical gold, but more importantly I feel I have connected with him.

Is it a literary masterpiece? No, but it is not meant to be. Jesse's voice comes through and makes the reading that much more enjoyable. I discovered Jesse moved to San Luis Obispo with his parents and siblings in 1910 by train. Jesse goes on to tell tales of hauling honey, working for the Kern Land Company as a cowboy, working on the Pillsbury Dam (then known as the Snow Mountain Dam), working as a lumberjack, and as a fireman.

Jesse also tells of meeting his wife, Mary Egyed, and when they married, 16 March 1927 in San Jose, California. He tells of the kids they had and of many other family members. The stories have wonderful detail and life. I have great insight into Jesse's life and will be forever grateful that he wrote down his memories and stories.

Writing down your own story doesn't have to be complicated. They are your memories, your experiences, your family, and your stories. Start out simple, what's your name, when and where were you born, who were your parents, and where were they born? The rest will flow and you can take your time. Eventually, you will catch up to present time and you can add to your story every year.

So, what's your story?


  1. Good morning, Cinamon, As usual, I get to sit down and catch up and find myself reading 4 or 5 of your posts at one time. You have become one of my favorite reads - entertaining and educational at the same time.
    This one really hits home as a story from my past has come up a few times recently after years of neglect. I figured it was a sign and it was way past time that I should finally put this one on paper while I still remember most of the details. But it turns out to be 14 pages long. So I've tried to split it up into smaller bites as you did with one of your stories recently. I was wondering if there is a guideline or what determines when a post is too long to be effective.
    Thank you for any help on this one and for all the help you have already given to aspiring genealogists. Cheers.

  2. David- Thank you so much for your kind words! I'm glad you enjoy reading my blog. As with any writing, it is difficult to know if it will appeal to anyone.

    In regards to length....it depends. Of course you don't want to stop in the middle of a natural flow. However, you also don't want it so long that it is daunting to the reader, and they decide not to read. I think your idea of splitting up is good for a couple of reasons. It gives the reader manageable bites to read, captures an interest so readers come back for more, and it doesn't exhaust you as the writer. I hope this helps. Good luck!

  3. Thank you, Cinamon, in this case I have already written the piece - it is just a matter of trying to decide how much to put in each bit and keep each of those interesting in themselves. Oh, and I followed some of the links you put in a more recent piece and it lead to some things I know will help make my research easier and quicker. Thank you so much for that.

  4. Cinamon , I live just north of San Luis Obispo in Santa Margarita, Ca, your great grandfather writes about traveling through Santa Margarita on a 7 day journey to Bakersfield, in a wagon with two horses, correct? How do I know this? Because in my hand I'm holding the 36 page hand written, by your great grandfather, story entitled "As I Remember it, or Something to Remember". I'd love to get this to you. It truly is an amazing story! Captcal1@aol.com