For the second year I joined many other genealogists and accepted the Family History Writing Challenge to write my family’s history every day in the month of February. Now the month is ending and it is time to evaluate what I have accomplished.
Who to write about and how to write were early decisions. I could have selected my father’s family. I have already written a book on my father’s mother’s family, ‘The Mark Family Story’, set in Pennsylvania, Ohio & New York with a cast of wonderful characters like William Mark who liked to shoot off his Civil War rifle each year on the 4th of July and Rephenia (Gruissy) Nichols who moved away to Michigan where she and her husband collected shells to be made into buttons.
My father’s father’s family story is yet to be told. I have been gathering facts for several years. It is relatively easy to research because they have been in the USA for several generations so I can learn a lot without leaving home. I have tons of relatives who I can harass for stories & photographs. I also have cousins who are anxious to read what I will write.
However, I decided to focus on my mother’s family. She was half Irish Catholic and half Austrian Jew. Irish records are sparse and I have not yet learned how to research in Austria. There is no family clan to share stories with me. My mother was an only child. She had only two first cousins and their descendants are elusive.
Why did I want to focus on my mother’s roots when my father’s family would be much easier? Why do I want to write a history that will have only a handful of readers? Because I am the only one who can tell this story. I was very close to my mother, Alberta Joy (Gardner) Brown, and her mother, Helen F. (Coyle) Gardner. They were strong women who enjoyed life and loved their family. I want future generations to know them.
This month I pulled out the folders for the Brady, Coyle, Mullane & Gartner/Gardner families and dusted off my binders for research in Ireland. Because I had not worked on these people in some time the writing was slow going. I had to stop to find a death certificate or a page from a city directory.
What did I accomplish? I updated the organization of my resources; made an outline for the book; assembled a detailed time line for each family; and I wrote four strong chapters, complete with accurate footnotes, one chapter each for Brady, Coyle, Mullane and Gartner/Gardner. I feel good about accomplishing this much.
The month and the challenge are ending but I am not done with my mother’s story. The next part of my book, ‘Remembrances’, is telling the tale of how these families came together; how they met, married and moved into present day. I am not sliding the binders back on the shelf or snapping closed the top of my laptop. I know I have a long way to go but I will tell this story.