Today, I’m determined to start the process of writing the first biography for my family history book and I thought I’d share that process with you as well as the first draft result.
To begin with, I will show you my computer monitor setup – which I believe helps me do my writing better and faster. I have my laptop in the center, my wide screen monitor on the right and a portrait orientation monitor on the left. (You might also notice that I am a huge Harry Potter fan and it is not unusual for an HP movie to be playing on the monitor on the wall as I research!)
To work on this biography, I will use my laptop for Ancestry – opened to the ancestor I’m working with. (I think the images in my blog used to become full screen if you clicked on them, but I don’t think that’s the case any longer) You might notice that the “Notes” panel is open on the right side of his page. This is where I plan to work on this first draft. You can see that I have a bit of a start on this already…but then I fell into the research trap that I described in my last post while trying to figure out where Oliver was born. Within Ancestry, the Notes panel can only be seen by you and anyone that you have made an “editor” in your tree.
On my large monitor, I have the notes that I have compiled over the years. These are written as a timeline instead of a narrative because I always thought I’d get to that “some day”. If I have a document for an event, I have included an image of it and clicking on it takes me directly to the document if I decide that I want to see more details.
On my left monitor, I have an Excel file for my Research Plan. If I think of a question while I’m writing my 15 minute draft, then I will add it to my research plan rather than trying to find the answer right away. I promise….I really will… At this time, I don’t have a research plan for Oliver, so I will fill in the basic information at the top and then I will begin to write.
Setting my timer…..begin (copied from my Ancestry Notes panel)
On February 4, 1872, Oliver Houston Smith was born in the Eli or Font Hill area of Russell County, Kentucky, to Victoria I. Coffey, age 23, and Elias Smith, age 27. He was the 4th child born to the farming couple. In the 1870 census, Elias and Victoria were living in Hammond Store in the eastern tip of the NE quadrant of Russell County on the boundary with Casey County.
Mintie Scott was born on November 27, 1875, in Font Hill, Kentucky, to Nancy Jain Gilpin, age 34, and Joseph Scott, age 43, who were also farmers.
On December 31, 1891, Mintie married Oscar Roe Popplewell in the home of her father, Joseph. Oscar’s bondsman was his brother-in-law, John Arthur. No record of divorce has been found, but Oscar married a 2nd time on May 9, 1895. Frozie Bell Crockett was his bride. Frozie was the daughter of James Crockett and Caroline Stephens. Caroline was the daughter of William Stephens and Dorothy Wigginton, my 4th-great-grandparents. That marriage did not seem to last long either, as he married a 3rd and final time to Mary Coomer in 1898. It does not appear that he ever had children.
Oliver and Mintie were married on September 27, 1896 in the “Clear Fork Meeting House” which I believe was also called the Clear Fork Baptist Church. (Add the church info.)
Their first child, Clint, was born in 1897 was followed by 7 additional children by 1914. My grandfather, Herman Clyde Smith, was the 6th child.
Oliver and Mintie lived in Russell County until about 1946, when they moved to Franklin, Indiana. There, they owned a farm which was called the “Vandivier Camp” two miles west of Franklin. My mother has memories of living in the house for a short time and many memories of visiting there and playing in the barn with her siblings. Occasionally, she would “help” on the farm as a very young child, and her mother would insist that she be paid, just like her older siblings.
Oliver passed away at his home on May 4, 1950. He is buried at First Mount Pleasant Baptist church, just a short distance from his former home. Mintie died 5 years later on December 20, 1955 at the home of her son, Lester. She is buried by Oliver’s side.
A couple of things that helped me to move along a bit faster. I did use Ancestry’s LifeStory birth entries to get me started. I copied and pasted those and I will probably re-write or re-arrange the wording on those later. But it helps me get over the blank page syndrome that I often have. If I were stuck while writing, I would also copy the marriage and death entries and I might go back to take a look at those now to see if Ancestry added information that I didn’t think of for this draft.
Obviously, at times I wanted to switch over to another Ancestry page to check on some fact. As long as you have the Notes panel open for an ancestor, the Notes panel will also be open for any ancestor that you move to. So when I moved from Oliver’s page to Mintie’s page, I typed her paragraph in her Notes panel. When I went to look at the Oscar Popplewell page, I typed his information in HIS notes panel. Then I copied those paragraphs and pasted them into Oliver’s Notes panel to have it all in one place. Every time I update a draft, I will copy it into his Notes panel in case I have a computer crash or somehow lose track of these biographies.
There were times as I was writing this that I knew that I had some information that wasn’t currently in my memory. For example, the name of Oliver’s farm or my exact relationship to William and Dorothy Stephens. When I came to those parts, I added a blank line and after I finished the paragraphs about Oliver and Mintie passing away, I still had 3 minutes left, so I went back and filled those in.
As I was writing this draft, questions kept popping into my mind, but I didn’t enter anything into my Research Log during this 15 minute writing time. I could really feel that deadline looming and for me, I think that helps! I will go back and re-read what I have written, make corrections and enter those questions now. Also, as I was writing, I thought of pictures that I will want to add to the book, so I will go back make notes of those to add later, during the fleshing out time.
So now I will go back into “research mode”. I will take a more thorough look at my notes to see what details I can add. What insights can I find from the census records? Skimming through my notes right now, I see that in the 1910 census, Mintie indicated that she had given birth to 6 children, 5 of whom were still living. Who had passed away and do I know the circumstances? What records are available now that weren’t available when I last researched this couple. I did not have a subscription to Newspapers.com at that time, so perhaps there are more tidbits to be discovered there. FamilySearch has changed significantly since I began researching this family, so have I taken a good look at records available there? These are my mother’s grandparents, so I will spend some more time asking her about her memories of them to add to the biography. There have been long car rides when Mom and I talked about her memories and I have those recordings that I can go back and listen to.
And while I’m in this research phase, I will remain faithful to entering information into my Research Plan to keep track of where I’ve searched in order to find the answers to my question. Cross my heart!