05 February 2011

Research Reports as Family History

Recently, as I was putting the final touches on a chapter in our forthcoming book, I realized that several ancestral families were mentioned, but that was all they had--a mention. Yet I had done more research and knew more about them. In the genealogy research classes I have taken, I learned that the last step in a research project is a research report. It's easy to put off, even indefinitely, that last step. After all, isn't the research report in my own mind. Can't it easily be seen in the research log or in the software I use to keep track of each family? Well yes, because that's exactly what I used to write a series of reports to be included in this chapter about the ancestral families that were merely names.

Jens and Marie Jorgensen
or James and Mary Johnson
enhanced tintype
My cousin had written a beautiful chapter detailing the history of Denmark during the time that these families lived. She had included photos from her trip there. She wrote with humor. She included descriptive detail. But she had left the family research end of it to me. I didn't want to interrupt the flow of her excellent writing so my sister came up with a brilliant idea. We put the reports in a text box and set them off by the use of italics. It turned out beautifully. Opposite the page that told about typical Danish peasant life is a brief history of a typical Danish peasant family--which just happens to be our ancestor!

Here's what I learned. Don't neglect the research report. It's how we communicate our findings to others. And it's a family history story, especially when set in the context of the social history of the time and place. In this chapter the two were separated. In other histories it is woven together. If you are just beginning to share your stories with others, but are familiar with the necessity of writing a report, it's a great starting point in developing a wonderful story that will spark interest in those ancestors that have become familiar and dear to you.

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