Genealogical family trees are very useful in conveying relationships and tracking connections between families. They were essential in putting the pieces together for my book As Far As I Know…And Maybe a Little Bit More. But they do not tell a story, they can not convey the what, or why, or how of the people listed.
Whenever I mentioned that I was writing this book, the listener would offer unique and interesting stories about their families. They would tell me about the genealogy that they did a previous summer and the relatives they uncovered. It was clear that each of these stories had some bit of fiction, some thing(s) that they were not sure of, but wanted to believe, a part of the story that made it bigger than life, a bit of mythology.
I would encourage them to write these stories down, to use a notebook, a computer, a random piece of paper, but to make sure that they were preserved. When they said they could never write a book, which they almost always said, I encourage them to write a paragraph, a story, a blog, or a quick note to their kids. When they said they were not sure of the facts, I assured them that neither are most people when they tell family stories, and that is what makes them interesting. However they did it, I challenged them to pass the story on to future generations so that they could know something of the what, and maybe the why, of their family.
What I was really asking them to do is to turn their trees into books. That is what I did. I started with my family tree, but I quickly saw that the stories that it told me had to written. And so I created the Genonovel: a novel based on genealogical research, that includes the facts and the people, but is also part historical fiction, part mythology. Mine had two parts. In the second volume I included the facts and references, necessary but dry. In the first volume I told the story that the facts told me.
I hope you will do the same.