Writing Assignments

Use the writing assignments as prompts to get you in the habit of writing regularly. For each topic, write between 500 and 750 words (more, if the ancestors are really speaking to you!), unless otherwise noted. There will be a new Writing Assignment posted each month.

Save your writings in a folder or file on your computer so you can refer to them from time to time. You’ll be surprised at the progress you make along the way, and at how your stories will naturally come together.

Post your story using the Share Your Stories tab above. You’ll find the posting block at the bottom of the page as “Leave a Reply/Comment”. Be sure to read what other members have written, and reply/comment on their stories.

#122017 – True Confessions. Yes, we’re going there this month. This is your chance to get it off your chest. You know, the reasons or excuses you use time after time to not write. Things like:  “I’m too busy to write about my genealogy research;” or “The words just don’t come out when I sit down to write;” or “I need to do some more research before I write;” or “I just don’t feel inspired to write;” or “Who is going to care about or read what I write anyway?” This assignment isn’t designed to make you feel guilty. Heck, we’ve all use one excuse or another not to write. Actually, this is your chance to clear the air, get it off your chest, and make room for a writing breakthrough. Sometimes, the first step to doing better is admitting the challenge you’re having. And guess what — this one only has to be 100 words!

#112017 – True or False? We all have our favorite family stories. You know the ones that get told every holiday, and are passed down from one generation to the next. This month, write about your favorite family story. Then, share what you’ve found out about it. What research have you done to confirm or deny that juicy story? What evidence have you uncovered to shed new light on it? Have you found that story to be true or false?

#102017 – The Final Word. Obituaries and funeral programs often offer the final words about a person’s life, but they don’t always tell the whole story. Locate a funeral program or obituary of a relative or long-gone ancestor and add to the story. Your addition could be fictitious or based on family lore, oral testimony, or evidence you’ve found in documents. If using documents, cite your sources. Submit a photo of the subject or an image of the obit or program, along with your story, to genealogistswritingroom@writeyourlife.net.

#092017 – 5Day – 5K Challenge. It’s time for a writing challenge! Your writing assignment this month is to go all-in with our 5Day – 5K Challenge. Learn about it here and follow instructions for a chance to win prizes. Hurry, the challenge ends September 13th!

#072017 – Stranger Things. We’ve all had it happen at one time or another — that eerie feeling you get while at the Archives that leads you to explore a book, a link, or a microfiche file you wouldn’t normally look at. Or, the odd coincidence of meeting someone at the research library who turns out to be your third cousin once removed. Perhaps you found yourself at a genealogy conference session sitting next to the DNA match you’ve been communicating with for the past three months. Write a story about a strange experience you’ve had on your research journey — something weird, odd, or just plain spooky. Max word count is 1,000.

#062017 – Family Man. Write a story about a standout father in your genealogy research. Which father was a hard worker, honorable soldier, freedom fighter, confidant, provider, or great example? OR Write a letter to your Father about ONE ancestral discovery or about ONE aspect of your genealogy journey that you would like him to know. Submit a photo of your dad with your story (genealogistswritingroom@writeyourlife.net)Take it a step further, and share this letter with your Dad for Father’s Day if he’s still with us.

#052017 – Dear Mom. For most, Mom is the one who knows the family history. She knows who begot whom and maybe some of the family gossip and secrets — whether she shares the whole story or not. But sometimes, as the family genealogist, you learn more than mom knows about your ancestors and the truth about those family secrets. Write a letter to your mom about ONE ancestral discovery or about ONE aspect of your genealogy journey that you would like her to know. Submit a photo of your mom with your story. Take it a step further, and share this letter with your Mom for Mother’s Day if she’s still with us.

#042017 – How do you attach an amount to a human life? Ever find evidence of an ancestor being bought or sold? Write about the situation, how you found the document(s), and how you felt when you did. Did this information help further your genealogy research or hamper it?

#032017 – Big Mama. Whether we call her Big Mama, Granny, Grandma, Maw-Maw, or some other term of endearment, grandmothers hold a special place in our hearts. In honor of Women’s History Month, share a story about your own grandmother, or a great-grand ancestor whose life story or accomplishments surprised or impressed you during your research.

Practice one of the storytelling approaches you learned in Story School — story arch and a few elements from Session 1; outlining techniques from Session 2; incorporating historical facts and point of view in your story from Session 3: or mind mapping from Session 4.

#012017 — Sibling connections. As critical as your own siblings have been in your life, the same is true for your ancestors. In genealogy research, knowing about the lives of our ancestors’ siblings can help further the hunt for the truth and shed light on their lives.

In about 750 words, tell the story of a pair or a group of siblings in your ancestral research born before the turn of the 20th century. What do you know about them? Who were their parents? Were they ever enslaved? If so, where and by whom? What kind of work did they do? What influence did they have in their community? Was there a specific incident in their lives that captured your imagination as a researcher? If so, explain it.

Be sure to cite your sources (primary, secondary, direct, indirect, and oral). For the purpose of this assignment, keep citations simple. For example: My great-great-grandfather, Dallas Gloster, and his brother Charles were enslaved on the Taylor Plantation near Blackville, Barnwell County, South Carolina (1860 U.S. Census). According to family lore, following emancipation, they fled the Taylor Plantation and took refuge with the Seminoles of the Okeefenokee Swamp, east of Valdosta, Georgia. By 1883, Dallas had purchased one hundred, two acres of land from Mary Walker for six hundred dollars (1883 conveyance document, SC State Archives).

#122016Religion and faith. December ushers in Christmas and Kwanzaa as the religious and cultural focus for many African Americans. These celebrations remind us of our faith and religious beliefs and practices. Tell a story of an ancestor who had a particularly strong faith practice; the historic origins of your family’s religious or church tradition (Baptist, Catholic, Islam, etc.); or an incident or a memory you have regarding familial religious practices.

#112016Family food traditions. November is when we turn our attention, and our bellies, to the foods we love. Practically every family has a dish that is served at all holiday gatherings, or a method of preparation, or even an approach to serving and sharing food. Tell a story about the food or cooking traditions in your family. 500 – 750 words.

#102016 – Describe your greatest apprehension to writing. Tell a story about an incident (as a child or adult) that discouraged you from writing. Or, explain why you haven’t written consistently up to this point. Keep this one brief; 300 words should do.