Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Priority and Direction

I'm back to sifting through family history documents.

The challenge I face is there are so many of them. Heidi recently told me I need to select the ones I will use in my writings and set the other ones aside for now.

That is easier than it sounds. I know that there are details that I find intriguing and interesting but I also know that others find those same details of no more use than for a trivia game.

Personal letters, diaries, poetry collections, invoices, shipping documents, report cards, certificates, post cards, newspaper clippings, photos of very distant relatives, old passports; they're all fascinating because they are all windows to a family and societal culture that are part of my roots.

How do I pick and choose? How do I prioritize these items?

The documents are all in German. Do I translate them all? If not, how do I choose which ones to translate?

Where will I find the time?

When it comes to putting the family history together, what do I write about? Should I write a lineal narrative that can't possibly include all the available information? Or should I put a collection of stories together? I prefer to write a collection of stories, and have already begun to do so, but how do I organize them?

I could put them in some kind of chronological order but I'm actually considering a collection of stories organized around the primary character in the story. To me that makes sense because it offers the opportunity of describing the person more than just recording what happened. It opens the door for anecdotal information, personal impressions, and recollections.

I enjoy reading narrative history books. Will writing a narrative history be as enjoyable? Will the readers care?

"Why is it that our memory is good enough
 to retain the least triviality that happens to us, 
and yet not good enough to 
recollect how often we have told it to the same person?"
~ Francois de La Rochefoucauld

1 comment:

  1. I like your idea of starting with a central character. Is it a matriarch or a patriarch as the central figure? You'll probably find you will be led in different directions at stages. Good luck, it sounds a very interesting project.