Question of the Week: If you wrote a novel about your family history, what would the title of it be?

+24 votes

If your family history were a novel, what would it be called? Tell us below or on social media.

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ago in The Tree House by Eowyn Walker G2G Astronaut (1.6m points)
"Tangled Roots and Broken branches"
"Sins Of The Scapegoat"
"The Tuscan Mystery"
"Please Don't Step On The Baby"

My mother, the oldest of seven and the mother of eight, said one time that if she ever wrote a book that's what she would name it.
Just finishing my first book:  Putting Flesh on Bones.  I have three planned with the same main title and subtitle of Celebrating Our ___ and ___Families.

"A Legacy of Love"-One woman's yearning to find her family roots takes her on a remarkable journey through the beautiful landscape of North America to the old country in Europe and the Mid East. There, she finds nobility and ne'er-do-wells, happiness and hardship, new life and life lost, all for the sake of love.

I would have several novels I could write to be honest. My grandmother always said our family is worse than any soap opera. Her Danish father married an Irish woman. My grandfather’s paternal family was British, but nobody knows for certain where his mother came from. She was known as a “gypsy” because she only stayed married to his father long enough to produce two children in 3 years. After the 2nd child, she ran off in a motorbike with the baby and another man. Eventually she was tracked down, the father was given custody of the children (probably because he was a preacher) and a divorce was granted. This was all back in 1914. I would probably name that book “ The Gypsy and the Preacher.”

I could write an entire book about the above mentioned preacher. He was a very intelligent and interesting man. He graduated high school early and also Northwestern University early. He became an ordained Methodist minister at the age of 16, the 5th in his family line. Following in his family’s footsteps, he became a circuit rider, moving from one town to the next and preaching wherever he was called. Long story short, he did a short spell in jail with Robert Frost and a few others as Christian Pacifists who were against WWI. He was also quite prolific at writing and wrote a little pamphlet about their time behind bars. I would name the book the same as his pamphlet, “An Unlawful Assembly Behind Bars.”

There are so many more I could write about, but that’s just a sampling of what I’ve found so far. I guess I need to get busy!

Already started!  100 pages so far.  It's called: 

My Pioneer Family 

an Historical Journey Across America's Heartland

One of our late, great members, Keith (Forrester) Baker, wrote three historical fiction novels based on his own family history. He called them Longshot in MissouriLongshot Into the West, and Longshot From Darkness.

RIP, Keith.

I would name mine "The Executioner and The Witch"
great titles!

Wow, sounds intriguing!

58 Answers

+23 votes
Best answer
Women Who Persevered Through Tragiedies
ago by Alexis Nelson G2G6 Pilot (247k points)
selected ago by Susan Estey

Or "They had THAT MANY children" surprise

I like that one Melanie lol. I've had this exact reaction many times when looking up my own ancestry (even as recent as discovering my great nana, who I personally knew as she lived to 106, had 9 siblings - was a big surprise!)
Melanie you are right about having the children. I have always wondered why my great grandmother Phoebe Long had twelve children after her mother died in childbirth with her seventh child.
Thomas, your great nana living to be 106 is certainly remarkable. Thank you for your comment.

It always comes to mind, ever since I learnt how many children my great-great-grands had - and how many of them died young.  Also, I read Sara Dane when I was still pretty young, and it made an indelible impression. 

Plus it's currently part of a discussion I've been having on another thread, where the one guy was (let me quote it) :

Protheroe Smith was born in 1809 in Bridgeland Street, Bideford, the son of a doctor, William Smith, and one of twenty children


I just go surprise surprisesurprisesurprisesurprisesurprise

Twenty children!    Oh what a bunch of work! 

Melanie most of my July 4ths were spent at relatives that had ten children around my age. One time my mother, who knew I was not enjoying daylight fireworks, told me to go in the kitchen and watch their mother Della Mae cook. It was amazing, all those pies, and flour everywhere. 

I would have loved to have had that many rellies!


Here's another possible title :

"I Would Have Loved to Have Known You"
Melanie, I love that title, I am sure that all of us that do genealogy have several ancestors that we wish we could have known.
Great title Melanie!

If you'r gonna have sex back in them days with NO BIRTH CONTROL  you're gonna get kids! Lots and lots of kids! And 'biology ' was no different then than today! (Anyone for abstinence????....thought not!) And no hospitals to take the sick ones to, or to have them in for that matter. No diapers, let alone disposable ones. No dishwashers to wash the non-existent plastic baby bottles. No 'How To' books.  Hand-me-down clothes, no M&S to buy them in. Grow your own food, no Asda's

We are incredibly unaware of how much we take for granted! I am amazed when I see that many of my ancestors had a dozen or more kids and lived into their 80's and even high 90's. I knew my paternal maternal GGM Nelson who came over from Sweden, age, c.16, alone, on a boat that sank on it's return journey. She had at least 10 living adult children and a few who didn't make it. She lived to nearly 100! What a woman!!!!Elizabeth Clyne

Elizabeth thank you for your great comment. So glad that you  were able to know your great grandmother; she must have had wonderful stories. Hope you will write more about her.
+15 votes
This is honestly a very difficult one to answer as so many different branches of my tree stand out for so many different reasons (and also I'm just not that good naming things).

I think it'd have to be a few different novels!

The title for my direct paternal line would probably link into the fact that my early Dowding ancestors (of the 1800s) lived in poverty (or so I believe - members of the family were consistently dying young, with most family members dying of diseases as children, and many adult people's occupations were listed as just "servant" in the censuses). The novel would also cover my great-grandfather Albert Sidney Dowding's coach driving career, the different marriages and children he had and some of his criminal activity, but I don't think that'd fit into the title very well.

My great nana's (paternal grandfather's mum) could cover the large size of the family and similar poverty conditions (I've seen references to people on that side dying in workhouses).

Then there'd be one for paternal grandmother's family (specifically the Gurney branch), the title linking into the sheer size of the family and, additionally, their frantic movement between England (where they originate from) and Australia.

My maternal grandfather's novel could have a title related to how one of his branches migrated from Scotland to Northern Ireland.

My maternal grandmother's novel would have to have a title related to her paternal family, the von Hippels, a famous aristocratic family of scientists that are well known for all sorts of different discoveries.
ago by Thomas Dowding G2G6 Mach 1 (16.1k points)
Thomas, it sounds like you have several good books to write. Hope you live to be 106 like your nana and write all of them.
+16 votes
I did write a pamphlet on the Bean side of the family, called "Beans, Coast-to-Coast". They arrived in Maryland in the mid 1600's, and my mom was born in Oregon, so it kind of details their progression across the country.

My Grandmother wrote a series of booklets about her memories and such, and she played off the Bean name, it started for instance with "Bean Roots".
ago by Rob Neff G2G6 Mach 5 (51.4k points)
+14 votes

laughTitle?  "OMG!!! What were they thinking!?!?"

ago by Susan Smith G2G6 Pilot (342k points)
Right you are!  Even some of the family tragedies make us stop and wonder.
Susan......Can I borrow that one for a chapter heading if needed?

Absolutely, John, grab it with gusto and then run like a chaste chased hare pursued by slavering hounds

Susan,  Being a car guy, I was going to run like I stole it.....your version might be more PC......also at times might change it to.......OMG! What Was I Thinking?

I just finished (more or less) a confusing set of relationships ... we have Lela Owens married a Belyeu and had a dau who married a Wright who was either the uncle or the nephew of the OTHER Wright who was the 2nd husband of Lela  ??? 

Well, something like that .... this is on the Huffman side of the ancestors ... 

What were they thinking is ... I don't know. I'm not sure I want to know. 

Johnnnnnnnnn, thinking like an opportunistic liberator of others' property when someone GIVES something to you? Really? 

Susan,  Maybe"things" happen when you,re living and not so much least that's what I like to think, as that's how I got here......
Am in trouble?.....Susan
+19 votes

I am currently writing a book about one particular branch of my family who went from being humble woolcombers through silk weavers then a Court dressmaker.  At the same time, they were Protestant Dissenters and Congregationalists.

My book is titled: Faith and Silk, with the subheading:


“We are all Adam’s children, but silk makes the difference.”

(Thomas Fuller 1654-1734)

One day I'll finish writing it! ;)

ago by Ros Haywood G2G Astronaut (1.1m points)
Ros I LIKE that title,that is Elegant
+17 votes
ago by Hart Wallace G2G6 (6.6k points)
I like the idea, Hart, but given some of the thing I've found out, I would not really actually like to
(Be sure to bring along your Google Translate)
That is  for sure, with  my  Heinz 57 origins--but I  would  love  to  hear  the  stories in  person and perhaps Paul Harvey's "The Rest of The Story"

I have  an ancestor who had a home in Virginia and one  in Safety Harbor Florida. The Florida home is on the historic registry. When I  first  discovered it as  an  older  adult and walked on the  property, I had the sense of being present in the past(if that makes sense) Ever since that event I have had this yearning to talk with the people from whence I came. Several years ago, the folks living there, claimed that they  saw my great grandfather in the home. The current residents, either have not  seen him or deny having seen him.  His old homeplace in Virginia also built  around 1889 is still owned by family, but they deny ever seeing him there. Do you have a  family home with  a ghost?
+19 votes

Stories for your Grandchildren

I was traveling with an elderly Australian couple in the Far East and when a 'crazy' side-trip presented itself I thought it too dangerous.  Joe, my 76 year old travel fellow said "why not?"  I gave him a long list of things that could happen to us and he replied, "And if any of those things happen, think of the stories you'll have for your grandchildren."  

From that day on, I've lived my life differently and it has been a more colorful and adventurous life as a result.

ago by SJ Baty G2G Astronaut (1m points)

SJ my mother told me when I was a teenager that the worst thing a woman could do was to marry a dull man. smiley

I love it, SJ! What a wonderful outlook!
SJ,  You wouldn't say......adventurous, like on WikiTree?
+16 votes
The Peripatetic Paines, a Revolutionary Family on the Move!

Really -- Connecticut, New Hampshire, Vermont. Nova Scotia, Quebec, New York and more!!
ago by Janine Barber G2G6 Pilot (164k points)
Janine, I hope you write it as I would love to know more!

I was born and grew up in Connecticut. Then Massachusetts, Philadelphia, Michigan, Los Angeles, back to Connecticut. Bought a house in Vermont with my English husband to retire in but instead emigrated to Kent, England; that was in 1997. Recently discovered my maternal grandfather was a direct descendant of Richard Borden who brought his young family in a clipper ship to the "New World", c.1635, from a village minutes from where we live, and the rest 'is history' ! Who knew?!
+13 votes
From Sea to Shining Sea.

Dad's family all arrived in the Southern Colonies in the mid 1700's from London and from County Antrim in Ireland.  With the expansion of the railroad in the late 1800, a number of the men left home and eventually settled in California.

One branch of Mom's family came to New England in the late 1600's - early 1700's, the other branch arrived in the late 1800's fleeing the latest famine in Ireland.
ago by Dorothy O'Hare G2G6 Mach 3 (32.1k points)
Dorothy,The earlier branch of your Mom's family came over not long after my maternal grandfather's. You might be interested in reading my reply to Janine Barber's answer, just above yours.I'd love to know more about your ancestors.

Hi, Elizabeth -

My earliest New England ancestors were Thomas Bell circa 1740 and James Babcock circa 1660.  

Thomas arrived in Boston, but settled in what is now Colrain MA.  James settled in Newport, RI.

+15 votes
House of Lies
ago by Lois Tilton G2G6 Mach 7 (70.1k points)

crying  Harsh, very harsh, Lois. 

laugh At least ... it won't be made into a movie for TV 

devilOr will it? 

It was written 150 years ago, and the lies still live on the internet

surprise In that case, yes, write it and publish it ... on WT at least, and you are probably doing that 

"The House of Their Lies" is even better title and then again it would be throwing the gauntlet down  ... stir up a fuss ... 

Are you by any chance related to Maj. Uriah Tilton 1713-1788 in Duke’s Co., MA?
I am a Tilton only by marriage, but the vast percentage of the Tiltons in America seem to be related by descent from William Tilton-82.
+14 votes

Title would be The Only Stephentown on Earth. It would be like a James Michener novel. Each chapter a different story about someone in the same place.

ago by Joyce Vander Bogart G2G6 Mach 1 (14.4k points)
Joyce,  Now that sounds interesting.......note to self, must research.
Stephentown is in eastern New York State. There used to be signs that said "Welcome to the only Stephentown on earth" but people keep stealing them.
Joyce, Your book sounds like an Elizabeth Strout novel, several of which I have recently been reading. Hope you write yours....
And then I could win the Pulitzer Prize!
+11 votes
"Heavy is the Head that Wears the Responsibility for Family Genealogy"
ago by Carol Baldwin G2G6 Pilot (297k points)
Carol thanks for a good laugh.  You are so right!
My family's motto is "if you're not having any fun, there's no point in doing it."
+11 votes
The Tales of War
ago by Richard Shelley G2G6 Pilot (175k points)

Richard,  In my hurrier I go the behinder I get, my answer ended up as a comment on your post......had to invent a bag of tricks to move it onblush......

+10 votes
What My Father Taught Me.......My exercise in teaching myself to type......In the wisdom of the day, in 1958, when I asked my grade 8 teachers if I could take a typing course, I was met with a "No you're going to university, you'll have a secretary".......So I took out my sliderule and got on with life.....
ago by John Thompson G2G6 Mach 4 (45k points)
edited ago by John Thompson
I had a slide rule, too. I think my son has it among his family treasures. But I don't think you could get a very long novel out of it. How about one of those books with 365 short stories, one for each day of the year?
I grew up about 14 years after you... typing class was mandatory for everybody, but they were interested to see how my friend and I would do. We were big time into computers, which were brand new at the time, and had taught ourselves to type, albeit incorrectly. They hadn't ever seen kids who already knew the keyboard before starting the class.

I wanted to take shorthand, like my older sister, but it wasn't offered any more.
How funny John,

When I was in the 4th grade my father had me learn to type,  so I could type his letters for him.  (I guess Mom was on strike.)  At the time,  he encouraged me to become a piano teacher.   I never took a typing class.

I became an engineer.   First semester in college they still had us take a slide rule class.   I've been there for every step of the computer generation.   How things have changed!

Peggy,   At this very time, I was preparing a career to fly the up and coming Avro Arrow, with the state of the art fly by wire system, that you, as an engineer can appreciate for back then......11 miles of electrical wire and enough vacuum tubes to power 200 television sets.

Rob,   As advanced as you became with computers, at your time, by the time 2005 rolled around my grand daughter, at age 4, when the two of us got back from the mall, proceeded to fire up my wife's computer.....I bluffed a couple of questions she she could play games.  Evan more interesting.......her grandmother, your 12th cousin, has a grandmother born in Montana with the same ancestral history as all of yours, just different last just think what I could do, if only I were computer literate.
Joyce,   There's a good idea......365 short stories......Oh, where can I get a book with more days in it?
No, you write one book with 365 stories, and next year an exciting sequel with 365 more.
+13 votes

My title would be simple:

Well, there goes the neighborhood.


ago by LJ Russell G2G6 Pilot (166k points)

LJ,   I noticed that winkcool

+10 votes

"All Family"
- The long way from the Middle Ages to today and yet so short. -

I have chosen the title because you can tell a big part of the world history by your family. The subtitle is supposed to show that it is a very long period of time, but in retrospect it was frighteningly short.I

ago by Dieter Lewerenz G2G6 Mach 3 (38.3k points)
Dieter,  Well said......"yet so short" .
+8 votes

I already have a working title and it's actually the name of my blog. It's "All Roads Lead to Haverhill". My Italian side and a good chunk of my mother's side ended up in Haverhill, Mass at some point in time.

The title is a play on the "All Roads Lead to Rome" saying. Other options include "Life in the Valley" since I am in the Merrimack Valley. I decided to go with "All Roads Lead to Haverhill" instead even though my maternal grandfather's side was in Newburyport.

Plus, I kinda want to see how everyone pronounces Haverhill. =)

ago by Chris Ferraiolo G2G6 Pilot (345k points)
I'm thinking same vowels as tavern-hill
Nope. Sorry, Rob. This video will help ya out:

Haverhill is mentioned.
Most people get Lee right.
+6 votes
"Finding the Missing Pieces"
ago by Sarah Jenkins G2G6 Mach 1 (11.9k points)

My daughter's favourite designation for several folk in our branches would fit right in with that title : "Pod People". 

(I even created a jigsaw image (based on one found on Wikitree), with an odd piece that doesn't quite fit, for background, or profile image.)

Love that lol.
+4 votes
"Headwaters" looking at the progression of my ancestors through the centuries.
ago by John Hall G2G Crew (320 points)
+11 votes
I have written a novel. It's entitled Echoes of a First Love. It's about my sixth great-grandparents who lived through the French and Indian war and the Revolutionary War.
ago by April Payne G2G1 (1.3k points)
April, I'm impressed! Is it available for sale?
It's not published, just yet. I'm finishing up the editing and securing rights from some copyrighted things I needed in the story. Plus, I told at least two family members I wasn't going to sell it. I'm not trying to make money off of my family. I'll either self-publish or put it in blog format online for those who wish to read it. Right now, I'm still stinging from remarks that I have been disrespectful because even though I have called it a novel, I use real people in the story. It's based on the life of John Sevier, my sixth great-grandfather. Yes, I get into their heads, so to speak. That's how I write. I like full emersion. But at what cost? Thing is, I meant for it to be a 'gift' for the family. Now, I'm not so sure. I followed John's timeline, and there are a few chapters/scenes that I totally made up simply to show the context of the time they lived in. Also, I decided to shoot down some persistent "Legend Has It" lies that still abound. So, some chapters/scenes were written to do just that. Now, the remarks were made after only a brief sampling was shared, not the book in its entirety. I don't know exactly how to handle this. Any thoughts?
April, I'm a rank beginner here so I can't comment on procedural matters, nor have I read what they have read, taken, I gather, out of context in any case. However from a personal perspective I wonder if your family members are expecting an air-brushed version of history and the people in question, and in a fictional novel? A pity they can't see it as a 'gift', maybe that's their problem, and one you can learn something from? Obviously none of you knew any of these people and non-family readers won't be any the wiser so how is this even an issue? The idea that you are being 'disrespectful' feels like 'superstition' to me but that's just my opinion and no more or less valuable than theirs? Although I'm with you on this, in the end you must figure this out for yourself.

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