Wonderful! That’s how I feel this morning as I’m contemplating the 3 day week-end ahead of me. Although I can’t spend all 3 days doing genealogy research, I do intend to spend 1 of the days doing nothing BUT genealogy work. So how will I spend that day? Trying to pick up research threads that I was working on last summer before school started? That’s pretty tempting. But it’s also frustrating because I know it could take me a significant amount of time to reacquaint myself with what I had found and what I was going to look for next – even though I try to do a good job of writing my notes in such a way as to be able to do that. Do I want to spend a day getting back into the files only to put it away again before Tuesday morning? Maybe.
But what if I decided that the best way to get “reacquainted” was to begin the outline for a book about my ancestor? I’m not thinking of a published book or anything like that. More like a book for my family where I take the information that I’ve found and put it into narrative form along with any pictures I have. I have to say, I like the idea!
Now, I am not a writer by nature. I am an Algebra teacher after all. But my logical brain likes the idea of coming up with an outline and then filling in the pieces a little at a time. After all, that outline could turn into a Table of Contents – right? Creating an index of names mentioned in the book could help me to see new connections to follow up on. And if I’m going to call it a “book”, then I’ll need details and background information too, right? So instead of having a note that says “Elias J. Smith, served in the 8th Kentucky Cav, Co. C”, I could make that a “chapter” in my book with background information like a list of battles that company fought in. That could expand into any information I can find on specific battles along with maps showing where the battle took place. How far is that from Elias’ home? What might the conditions have been like at the camp? I could make a timeline of the battles the company engaged in. Taking a look at the pension file, was Elias actually in the battle or in the infirmary with an illness? Can I find pictures of camp life that might give a better feel of what it was like for Elias? That’s the kind of information I’ve always wondered about, but never taken the time to find. If I’m working on a “book” and not a “pamphlet”, then I’ll need plenty of information so I’ll need more than just what I’ve gathered specifically for Elias.
What about his children? If each child gets a section of the book, that might give me new ideas of places to look for information. Who were their spouses? Were they near each other in the census records? Can I find land records that might show me how close? Did they all stay in the area? If not, why did they move? Why did they go to that location?
Why not add a chapter on “the OTHER Elias Smith”? One of my research challenges has been keeping these two men separated. Why not include the information for the 2nd Elias. Perhaps I’ve missed something along the way as I’ve cast aside information of the Other Elias that I need to reevaluate. They share the same grandfather, so I really should focus a little more attention on this man as well.
And it won’t seem quite as overwhelming to be thinking of expanding a “chapter” as it would to write an entire book. Plus, looking for background information is something I can be doing without pulling out my research files. If I’m not focused specifically on one person, the number of resources to look at will be much greater. And while I’m looking at these resources, new questions might come to mind about Elias’ life or I might find resources that I didn’t know existed before.
Maybe I could add side boxes with information telling my reasoning or areas I’ve searched with no results. Maybe it could be part biography, part genealogy journal.
Me? Write a book? Just because it’s the beginning of a 3 day week-end? Interesting…….