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  • Writer's pictureDevon Noel Lee

3 Reasons to Stop Researching and Start Writing

tree in cloudy day with title stop researching and start writing family history

In January, I detailed my maternal great-grandmother's research discoveries, who had remained a mystery for many decades because she died after giving birth to my grandmother. This child was placed for adoption and eventually became my grandmother.

I also began sharing the story about my immigrant 3rd great-grandfather Joseph Geißler who settled in Franklin County, Ohio. Thus far, I have shared stories about his birth and life in Baden, his coming to America, and his planting roots in Prairie Township. I will be sharing more about Joseph in the coming months, so stay tuned.

But why would I write Joseph’s story when I could be seeking out more records?

  1. Isn’t research more exciting?

  2. Isn’t research discoveries the trigger for many genealogy happy dances?

The short answer is that stories drive research.

Details in the story need explaining.

In Birth and Baden, I knew of Joseph's home country but initially, I knew very little about Baden. When I set out to write about where Joseph came from, I needed to research Baden.

In doing so, I learned a lot about Joseph’s homeland, political environment, and the likely reason he traveled to the New World. I still have many questions about where he lived, specifically in Baden and who his parents and siblings were, but I learned perspective by seeking out more details to include in my story.

Writing a Fact Exposes Lack of Sources

In Birth and Baden, I started writing a specific birth date for Joseph Geiszler but then realized I don’t have an actual source for the date. I have a source for the year 1836. What I discovered was the date on my tree was supplied to me by a cousin who said it was recorded on a church record.

However, I have not seen that church record. I don’t wish to doubt the cousin, but I also have been burned too many times when I trusted someone’s research rather than looking at the source of their information. As such, I know I need to follow up on the source recommendation to verify the specific date of Joseph’s birth.

Helps Me Analyze Theories and Statements

In Planting Roots in Prairie, I have a statement that says, “Although her membership continued at St. James, their subsequent children would all be baptized at Holy Cross.” I had made this note in RootsMagic with the marriage fact for Joseph Geiszler and Caroline Mack. The source citation for this event is the marriage record, nothing else.

As I started writing the full story of Joseph and Caroline’s children (which I haven’t posted about yet), I realized that perhaps that statement isn’t entirely true. I find one child’s baptism at St James. If all the children were baptized at Holy Cross, why was this one baptized at St James? St James is the Lutheran church of the mother, Caroline. Either I have incorrectly attributed the citation for that child’s baptism to St James rather than Holy Cross, or I have a false statement.

By pulling out the notes and statements and such from my organized files, I can reevaluate them as I craft an overall story. Do they fit? Do they make sense? Is there something I’m missing?

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There are many other reasons why it pays to stop researching and start writing. The short version is stories drive research.

Have you stopped researching and starting writing your family’s stories based on what you’ve discovered? If you haven’t, I call you to action. Before you seek out a new discovery, transform what you have learned into a story.

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