Sometimes a genealogist needs to think like a historical fiction writer. That’s not because genealogy is fiction, but because a good historical fiction writer is aware of what was going on at the time their story is taking place. They also theoretically should create a plot line that makes sense. Those are two good things for the genealogist to remember.

They should know what was going on historically. They should know what their character’s lives were probably like–typical items in their home, typical home, typical occupations. To write dialog they need to know what words were appropriate for the time period and the person.

They would not mention a zipper in a story where the plot was taking place in 1803. A character would not have written a letter with a ball-point pen in 1854. While those are easy and somewhat simplistic examples, they make the point. If I’m trying to transcribe an inventory from 1912, I need to remember that what looks like “ell phone” is probably a “bell phone” and not a “cell phone.” It is also important to remember that medical practices were different as well.

And a writer of historical fiction needs to make certain their story makes sense. Your interpretation of genealogical records should as well.

Family historians should not write genealogical fiction, but thinking like a historical fiction writer in these two ways can help their research.



One response

  1. I completely agree, and as one who has completed three historical manuscripts (but never published), I know I use the many techniques I learned over to years to (hopefully) improve my family history writing…

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