What is a family history memoir?
There seems to be some discrepancy today of what genre our book might fall into: family history? memoir? historical narrative? or some combination of the above....
|Ahnentafel with modified register|
for Isaac Carter
For our purposes here we will agree that a family history is usually a narrative telling of one family, often including female collateral lines. It's scope often begins with the first immigrant in America and continues to the present; however, sometimes it may extend beyond the emigration story to life in the nation of origin. The narrative itself is a compilation of facts extracted from oral tradition and documentary sources, and may contain assumptions and conclusions drawn by the researcher/author. Many family histories conclude with the actual genealogy in an Ahnentafel chart. Here you'll see the first page of our Isaac Carter's ahnentafel with a modified register, which means that the report also includes an index for each child's lineage. An example of an exhaustive family history which I own is the NEWTON GENEALOGY: Being a record of the descendants of RICHARD NEWTON of Sudbury and Marlborough, Massachusetts, 1638, compiled by Ermina Newton Lenoard (1915).
Memoir is usually thought of in terms of a prominent person's reflections on their past, or perhaps of their child's reflection of their famous parent or grandparent's past leading up to their own self-discovery. An example of this genre is found in one of my favorite reads from last year, Missing Lucile: Memories of the Grandmother I Never Knew, by Suzanne Berne (2010).
Family history memoir refers to a descendant researcher's shared discovery of their family history and includes insights and conclusions drawn along the way. It is a personal journey shared with the reader. Most books in this genre limit the scope to just a few generations of interest, usually the author's parents, grandparents and sometimes even great grandparents. Oh Beautiful: An American Family in the 20th Century, by John Paul Godges (2010), is a daring example of a family history memoir which I enjoyed reading this past year.
The historical narrative attempts to show the reader how they lived by placing our ancestors within the context of place, period and society. 1861: The Civil War Awakening, by Adam Goodheart (2011), is a wonderful analysis of the start of the Civil War which transports the reader to the scenes of events and to the thoughts and actions of their prominent players.
Where do I begin?
This book takes place in eastern North Carolina and extends from the antebellum period to the time of the great migration. I will be writing about three generations of my husband's paternal family, beginning with his great grandfather, Isaac Carter and ending with my husband's father.
I hope you'll stop back in days to come as I share with you the journey of Writing The Family History Memoir.