I am currently reading a book called The Art and Craft of Feature Writing by William Blundell (1988). I got this book to help improve my writing for my monthly house history column. The book is a rush of great ideas. Although the book was written for newspapers journalists, so much of it applies to writing genealogy blogs or articles.
Part of the book deals with idea generation and development. It provides examples and some exercises to get you to think beyond your normal scope. I took the concept of expanding on an idea and applied it to a fact that could be the basis of a genealogy blog.
Fact: My great grandfather, Frank Walleck, died in 1912 of Tuberculosis
Expanding the idea
1. How old was he when he died? Who was left behind after he died?
2. Did his remaining family suffer hardship as a result?
3. Did his family have to change homes as a result? Did the fatherless children have to go live with relatives or in an orphanage?
4. Did his wife remarry? How did that change the family?
5. What is tuberculosis and how does one get it?
6. How long does someone suffer with tuberculosis and what treatment do they receive?
7. What is a sanitarium and what happens there?
8. How many people suffered and/or died from tuberculosis in that time period?
9. Was this a common disease in your ancestor’s town, state or country?
10. Was there a large gathering of family members at the funeral? Was there a funeral? Could the family afford a funeral?
11. Were any family members named after him in the years following his death?
12. Did doctors have to document tuberculosis related deaths? If so, in what documents is that information found?
13. Where did he die? Where was he living when he died? Are those two places the same or different? Why was he in either of those two places?
14. Did anyone else in the family die of tuberculosis?
15. Where did he work before his death? And what happened to his job or business?
16. What happened on that date? Where there any significant events?
17. What was the price of various items on that date?
18. What music was popular on that date?
These additional questions could each become the basis of short blogs themselves, or perhaps a grouped 3-part series or even one very long essay style blog post. Not only is this exercise good for developing a blog post but it could just help you with your genealogy as well. Not only will expanding the ideas around a fact put meat on your ancestor’s life it could also help you consider new sources you may have overlooked before.
How many ways could you come up with to expand on a simple fact from your family history?