Time to take stock . . .

BONUS POST! Brought to you at no extra charge . . .

Well, here we are, two months and ten posts into this adventure! It seems like a good time to pause for a moment and reflect. Amazingly, I’ve managed to keep up with the topics so far. I’m not sure how well that will work when we are traveling, so that worries me a bit.

Overall, I find myself enjoying this process–perhaps more than I expected. It’s interesting to see how some of the posts evolve–almost taking on a life of their own. Sometimes I see the prompt (which is always the title–in case you haven’t deduced that already) and my mind jumps immediately to an idea. I may stick with that, but often my mind migrates to another ancestor with a different story . . . and then another . . . and another. Eventually I land on one and stay there, but it can be a convoluted thought process.

Other prompts leave me scratching my head and wondering what in the world I will write about! Fortunately, long walks through the neighborhood provide an opportunity to work that out; a much better method than sitting in front of a computer screen, banging my head on the keyboard.

Regardless of how I end up at my topic, by the end of the piece I generally have a sense that it was the right ancestor and story. Luckily I’ve never gotten to the end and said, “Scratch this! I need to do someone else . . .” Whew! That would be extremely frustrating.

I frequently realize I need to reexamine my facts or look up something, because I have a gap that needs filling. Then, of course, there was Aunt Kate (Favorite Name). I realized there were many questions regarding her first husband needing resolution. When I couldn’t find what I needed, I sent a query to my extended cousins (as well as a quick call to Mom and an email to her brother), hoping someone heard/knew more than I did. While they did not have the answers I needed, most replied back to me, even if it was just, “Sorry!” Several contacted their parents or aunts–the older generation, who might have been more likely to remember her. Thanks, guys! One even made a request to IRAD (Illinois Regional Archives Depository) for a record she thought might help. Thanks, Ellen! Even though it came after my deadline, it did answer one of many questions, so I appreciate the effort. (George Warren was an iron worker in 1892.)

One of the biggest challenges has been to figure out how to tell each story in a non-confusing way. When you know the people and story so well, it’s easy to assume everyone else does, too. That’s not really the case, and some stories can get a little complicated. So I try to make sure pronouns aren’t ambiguous–antecedents are our friends! I also try to let the post sit for a while (over night?) before I go back to edit and proofread. It’s a habit I developed in high school, and I find the time away from my writing gives me fresher eyes. It’s easier for me to realize something isn’t clear and either simplify it, or provide more information. Sometimes, both!

The post that gave me the most trouble was Heirloom. As I was wrapping it up, I realized it was longer than I wanted. WordPress provides me with a word count, so it’s easy to see. I didn’t want to start over from scratch, but wasn’t quite sure how I could cut it down. I decided to duplicate it (again, easy to do) and make changes to the copy. If I didn’t like them, I could always revert back to the original. That plan worked well, and I lobbed off 200 words or so, even after adding others to finish it up.

By far, the best reward has been the positive response I’ve received from family! No one has yet said, “Shut up, Chris!” so that’s a relief. Thank you, everyone, for sticking with the blog and reading it! And thank you, Amy Johnson Crow, for providing the nudge to do this. It took me 4 years to take the plunge, but better late than never, right?

The photo above was taken 7 May 2009, in the Caribbean on board the Holiday–a now-retired Carnival ship. Even though I added a caption to it, I guess it won’t display that when it’s up as the “featured image.” Go figure.

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