19 January 2011

Browsing the NGSQ Archives: Bringing Life to a Family Narrative

by Toby Webb

I continue poking around in the NGS Quarterly digital archives, seeing what treasures are there for the new family historian. Today I found a great article by John Philip Colletta on writing a family narrative. Colletta is one of the most popular genealogy lecturers around and a great teacher and family history writer. This particular article, Developing Family Narrative from Leads in Sources: The Case of James W. and Nancy Parberry, was in the March 2006 edition of the Quarterly, Volume 94, No. 1. What struck me about it is that it is a "how-to" article with excellent examples. Instead of just telling us to "use strong verbs and adjectives", for example, he shares a paragraph he has written about the Parberrys in which strong verbs move the narrative along. He tells and shows us how to pace the prose to build interest, how to keep our ancestor at the center of a narrative that also includes a lot of historical context, how to shape paragraphs to pull the reader along. It is an article about how to write that will help move any family historian from "fact collector" to "effective story teller."

NGS members can find the article in the NGSQ digital archive. At the NGS website, click the Publications and Videos tab, then click on NGS Member Periodicals, on NGSQ and then, in the left column, on NGS Quarterly Archives.

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