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

+27 votes

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

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in The Tree House by Eowyn Walker G2G Astronaut (1.6m points)
I would name mine "The Executioner and The Witch"
great titles!

Wow, sounds intriguing!

My ancestor was involved in the execution of King Richard I. He fled to America to escape arrest by King Richard II. Here he met and married his wife. She was hung during the Salem Witch Trials. Hence, the title,  The Executioner and The Witch!
I found an even better "legacy" to leave in my email this morning. I am a Christian and I get inspirational stories that encourage my faith daily. Today's story was about leaving a legacy that lasts throughout generations. I thought to myself, "That is what I'd title my family novel or at least a sequel to it". "Legacies That Last" would be about stories and heirlooms that have been handed down to us from generation to generation.

How many of us have wanted to go back and ask questions of our ancestors of why they did this or that? Have you inherited a piece of jewelry or furniture and wonder what did this mean to them and what made them pass it on to family members through the years?

This Bible chapter i read today is an example of that very thing of how the Israelites left a legacy for their descendants. When they crossed the Jordan River, they picked up stones and took them with them. When they settled in the Promised land, they stacked the stones and left them there for future generations. They did this so that they and future generations would never forget the story of of how they came out of slavery in Egypt. Of course my story is more faith-based, but for this forum, it suffices to say that these "stones of rememberance" were for future generations to know their ancestors story as well.   

Isn't that what heirlooms are for? They are not just some old thing...The family bible with all those names and dates, is a treasure because its about the lives of people. Heirlooms are a part of their stories, their "stones of remembrance" and if taken care of, they are "Legacies That Last" for generations to come. And their stories should be recorded so that all may know their family and pass that on to future generations.

"Heaven Or Valhalla"

Dad was Welsh descended, Mom's family came from Norway.

EDIT: I've changed my mind. I'd call it

Since I am Half Scottish and half Irish (well not exactly) my Family Story would be

Cheap Drunks - When Celctic Cultures Merge on Canadian Shores
I'm pretty sure my neighbors heard me lol at that one. Clever!
Lost in America !

My family generally disappears after around 3 or4 generations ,  on my mom's side , so I think , Lost In America would be a good title for my family history.
My, How the times have changed.

66 Answers

+12 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.
by April Payne G2G1 (1.4k 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.

Thank you for the response. Part of my indecision lies in the fact that I wrote this out of love and with the deepest respect for my forebears. I merely wished to show them to be the people they were, humans like us, not super-people complete with tights and capes. Not to strip away their accomplishments, but to show they weren't larger than life. They were just like us, doing the best they could in the time they lived through.

Many of the family members who have read the snippets I've shared enjoy it and have commented in the positive. The one who didn't felt it was disrespectful because I got "into" the heads of our ancestors. Stream of consciousness wherein the reader knows what they're thinking. Mostly it was stuff I had learned in my research. We really don't know much if anything about their personal lives, but in our Family History Book, we have access to letters written by John. These helped me enormously to understand some of the things that went on and why he participated in certain events.

I'm wondering if I shared my Preface and Acknowledgement pages, if this would make them all understand what and why I wrote this in the first place. All I know is that now, instead of completing the Edit work, I'm at a total shutdown. I have devoted five years to this project. If I shouldn't share it, where do I go from here? A curious thing is that the one who made those remarks let it be known a book was penned by them for their children. Did somebody effectively shut them down? If so, why? And why must I pay for somebody else's sins?

Hi April, Hmm, this situation is certainly causing you a lot of anxiety and uncertainty, even though it seems clear your motives and intentions are completely above board and honorable in the best possible way. I have never published a book but it does sound to me like some of the kinds of concerns you raise are ones your editor should be able to help you with. Have you discussed this with her/him?

Also, it appears from what you say that essentially only one person has raised concerns about your respectfulness towards your 6th great grandfather, whereas the rest have been entirely positive. Obviously many books are published about real people, most of which are by no means entirely positive. As you point out, 'real' people are never perfect but struggle with the realities they face and do the best they can. To do so is the best any human being can hope to do. And you seem to be attempting to portray 'John' in exactly that realistically loving way. How is that "being disrespectful"?

What is this relative's relationship to you and why is their opinion causing you so much anguish? Why does he/she need to protect 'John', whom they never knew, in this manner? These are questions you don't need to answer here but only in your owe mind. 

And BTW when I mentioned 'superstition' in my earlier response I was referring to a personal response I have to people who are, in my opinion, unduly concerned with protecting the reputation of a deceased person, even if it violates or distorts the truth. The whole notion that one must not "speak ill of the dead" seems to me to violate the concept of speaking truth. What 'truth' are they actually concerned with?

It  does not seem to me that you are being disrespectful at all but rather that you are honoring 'John' by giving him a voice as you are able to reconstruct it. How wonderful that you have personal letters and documents that actually give you exceptional access to some of the inner reality of a man who lived through tempestuous historical times! It sounds to me that you have almost a duty to share this with the world!

Another idea is that there are a few others in this thread who have actually written and even published books like yours. You might want to start by reading what they have posted here.

So do speak to your editor about procedural and/or legal concerns. And if necessary, consider trying to find someone independent such as a counselor or clergy person who can help you sort out the more personal issues. Five years is a considerable part of your life; do not let one person dissuade you from an entirely honorable and potentially historically significant endeavor. 

Best of luck April! I for one want to read this book!


Thank you, Elizabeth for your kind and thoughtful words. You've given me another perspective that I managed to lose along the way. Very helpful, indeed. I am a person of Faith and prayed a great deal in the course of writing this novel. In fact, something that occurred to me was just validated. Apparently, the Watauga Association Agreement was signed in May of 1772. John's third daughter was born in 1772. He was gone to the settlements (that became East Tennessee) until early 1773. My fifth great-grandfather was born in 1773, but that's all we have is the year. In my recounting of this, I have John leaving shortly after Mary Ann was born. She was (in my story) attempting to walk by the time he got back. If the May date is quite correct for the signing of that document, which John also signed, then I may have had more help than just reading and researching.

I will sally forth with the project. I will likely have to self-publish in today's atmosphere, as some subjects are almost Taboo anymore. History is history. It doesn't make them bad people just because they did what they did, which in their time was accepted. I shudder to think what they would say about how we live today? I don't judge. It's not as if we can go back and change things, right? If I wanted to do that in my novel, I would have written a What If … . I didn't do that.

I used words to illustrate their lives as best as I could.

Thank  you again for our sage words. You may just have supplied the answer I needed.


Dear April, Thanks for your reply. I'm glad if I was able to be of any help.

You wrote  "Apparently, the Watauga Association Agreement was signed in May of 1772. John's third daughter was born in 1772. He was gone to the settlements (that became East Tennessee) until early 1773. My fifth great-grandfather was born in 1773, but that's all we have is the year..... If the May date is quite correct for the signing of that document, which John also signed".... then we only know with any certainty that he was away from May 1772 to 'early 1773'-- unless of course you have additional information. Without accurate dates for his absence and also the actual birth dates of their children it is frustrating and perilous to try to speculate. I know this from my own grandparents; they were married in February and their first child was born near the end of the same year, as, for example, 1900 and 1900. It's actually a common occurrence! Initially I didn't have my uncle's actual birth date so a bit startling. Another scenario is that your 6th GGGM become pregnant,probably unknowingly, before John left early-ish in 1772 (hypothetically), had her daughter in the latter part of the same year, prompting John's return in "early 1773"-- still in time for the arrival of his son later in that year. Without birth control babies came fast and furiously in those times an 

d was taken for granted I expect! How else? I see this pattern over and over when looking at dates closely.

Whatever the real scenario, your 6th GGM would have been left to cope alone with at least a baby and two other children while her husband was away. She was one strong woman-- that requires no speculation!  Elizabeth  

+7 votes

Why So Many Secrets?

the stories that have revealed names that weren’t names and more. 

by Kirk Graff G2G Crew (710 points)
+7 votes
Port of Call
by George Quinn G2G Crew (410 points)
+6 votes

I would call the first novel "Beyond Enkription" (intentionally misspelt) and the entire series, "The Burlington Files".

Why? Because that is exactly what I did do and am doing! Please see my bio and The Burlington Files website.

by Bill Fairclough G2G3 (3.3k points)
+4 votes

I would call the first novel "Beyond Enkription" and the series The Burlington Files.

Why? Because that is what I actually did and am doing! Please see The Burlington Files website.

by Bill Fairclough G2G3 (3.3k points)
+7 votes

My wife and I are actually writing a novel about my paternal grandfather and his extended family on Martinique called, A Ghost of Saint Pierre.

by Duane Poncy G2G4 (4.6k points)
+8 votes
"Faith of My Fathers".  Many of them were ministers of the gospel in different denominations, going back at least 500 years.
by Gilbert Nelson G2G6 (7.1k points)
+7 votes
“Riches to Rags”
by David Roberts-Jones G2G5 (5.7k points)
+5 votes
Just Another Family
by L Painter G2G Crew (350 points)
+7 votes

"Jeez, How Many Husbands Do You Need"

My grandmother and an aunt had five spouses and rarely a marriage license to be found.  And then there's the LDS branch, they'll need their own book.

by Jo Gill G2G6 Mach 9 (90.1k points)
+5 votes
Working title might be "Concussions and Conversions: a family's journey from triumph to tragedy in Oklahoma"

based on the story of my gr gr grandfather Wayne Anthony Manzilla, and how his murder affected his wife, mother, siblings and 5 children, down through right to my generation.
by ShiraDestinie Jones G2G6 Mach 2 (21.2k points)
ShiraDestinie, It sounds like this is truly a book that needs to be written, for many reasons .Do consider having a go!
Thank you so much, Elizabeth, I really appreciate your encouragement!  I'm still working out the idea for after I finish my 1st draft of my current WiP, but I shall have a go, indeed, and I guess this idea now has a working title!

Thank you again, and many Appreciative Safe Air Hugs, if you take hugs!!

Warmest Regards,

Shira, Air hugs much appreciated!

Encouragement is always needed in such a big undertaking so I'm grateful to be able to oblige! Keep us posted of your progress....and Good Luck!

Many regards,

+5 votes

I am doing so, after many decades of research. I wrote a screenplay first and now am writing the novel part fiction part fact. It is called The Shadow Prince. 

The Shadow Prince

by Anonymous Whiting G2G4 (4.8k points)
+6 votes
Thousands of Grandparents  to make me
by Donald Moore G2G Crew (380 points)
+5 votes
My "Bounder" Grandfather
by Wendy Jones G2G5 (5.5k points)
+6 votes
by L J Thomas G2G Crew (380 points)
I am impressed Leona, you actually did it! I also read the seven good reviews, that is fabulous! Hope you will continue to stay active in WikiTree.
Thanks! :)
Hi LJ,

And I just ordered it! And really looking forward to reading it. What an achievement!

Oh thank you Elizabeth! I hope you enjoy it - do let me know this way or by a review. smiley

+6 votes
"De ring van Jules Maes" = "the engagement ring of Jules Maes"

Start of my novel is the engagement ring, that I received friom my grandmother. She was given it by her first husband, who died in the first World War
by Mia Fournier G2G5 (5.2k points)
+6 votes

It would have to be :  "How Far the Apple Fell from the Tree"

by D Eckard G2G Crew (730 points)
+5 votes
by Marian Clifford G2G Crew (350 points)
+7 votes

Perhaps It Takes Two because, back in our forebears' days, there had to be one to make a living and one to raise the family. I can count at least five direct ancestors who died before their time, and whose widowed spouses consequently had to remarry in order to keep the family going.

by Richard Hill G2G6 Mach 1 (11k points)
Exactly so! Life was very hard then.....
+6 votes
As far as I know I am the last of my line and as I am approaching sixty it seems extremely unlikely that that this state of affairs is going to change. This being the case I wonder if my novel should be called Lear today, gone tomorrow :).
by Andy Lear G2G6 (7.9k points)
It struck me later that a far better title would be 'The end of the line - an investigation into my family history'. In fact who knows? I might even write it :)
Dear Lear, (Sorry, I couldn't resist!)I am perilously close to also being the "end of the line" and too old to do a damn thing about just do it!!

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