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Write the Stories of Your Ancestors

All-Day Program

Saturday, December 2, 2017 - 9:30 a.m. to 4:15 p.m.
Code: 1M2936

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William and Louise Hoerbelt with grandson, Howard Kellogg, on a Sunday outing in Crystal Beach, Canada, ca. 1919

You’ve gathered information about your ancestors. It’s time to share their stories.  Leading genealogy expert John Colletta explores the many ways to assemble and write the saga of a family.

Using vivid examples and case studies, he demonstrates how to turn biographical facts into an engaging narrative. Whether you publish digitally or on paper, for your close relatives or a broader readership, basic principles of analysis and literary expression apply. The process is engrossing, and the end product will be your unique gift to future generations.

9:30–10:45 a.m.  Ways to Compile a Multigenerational Account

Ascending vs. descending history; the what, why, for whom, and how of your work.

11 a.m.–12:15 p.m.  How To Build Historical Context Around an Ancestral Event

Using a timeline; discerning a theme; and choosing the prose style.

12:15–1:30 p.m. Lunch (participants provide their own)

1:30–2:45 p.m. Principles of Good Writing and Storytelling

Effective vocabulary; crafting episodes; action vs. description; and speculation.

3–4:15 p.m. Do’s and Don’ts of Writing Historical Narrative

Snares to avoid, including anachronisms, erroneous chronology, generalizing, and misunderstanding period language.

Colletta lectures nationally on genealogy topics and appears frequently on radio and television. He has presented several programs on genealogical research for Smithsonian Associates.


S. Dillon Ripley Center
1100 Jefferson Dr SW
Metro: Smithsonian (Mall exit)