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.

67 Answers

+3 votes


A Dream of Metaphors About WikiTree and Finding My Ancestors"

This is a story about a dream I had last night. It was a bit surreal, about me, and about Wiki and my delightful, infuriating and obsessive descent/ascent into my own past and my ancestral past.

In my dream I and my English husband have re-purchased a house we used to live in in Connecticut before we moved back to England in 1997. At first the house seemed unchanged but soon, as I drifted away from the group of mostly strangers but also my husband and another good friend, I realized that behind closed doors there were new rooms of considerable interest. I went outside at the back, which had been a garden but now was all change. Someone had built a sort of semicircular addition enclosing a decked area and I went from door to door opening one room after another, each different but fascinatingly interesting. They seemed to be hobby or play rooms of various sorts. It was, unusually in these times, a very happy dream!

The first time I woke it just seemed like another dream, enJOYable but indecipherable. The second time it seemed teaming with metaphor. So many rooms, all demanding attention, but I was in a hurry to discover more, the result being I can't remember any detail, just the overwhelming sense of pleasure emanating from each room. And a good bit of awe at the work of the builder.

It soon hit me that this was a metaphor for both my very recent discovery of my extended ancestry and also my love/hate relationship with the Wiki-Tree site. I am a 'newbe' --or Rookie as I have just been deemed, and also an old lady who has come lately to Internet technology. So the Wiki site is a chocolate box of possibilities, almost all of which carry a warning: Do not even dream of tasting me! Of course I have taken a few bites anyhow, most of which have ended in overwhelming confusion and exasperation. The exception is this "Question of the Week, What tittle would you give a book etc." which I have tumbled head over heels in love with! 

First of all it's simple enough even I can figure out how to do it. Second, I am a shy introverted person but here I can interact with others with ease. I get to learn a little about other wiki-ers (I expect there is a better word for you all which I may soon learn!). The sense of camaraderie and community if great fun! Third, I am starting to lay down a few tracks about my own family and my ancestors as I open the doors to their 'houses'.

I could go on but then I would be starting to write a book! And also this is my second "answer" to this week's question. Maybe that's cheating? Elizabeth

by Elizabeth Clyne G2G1 (1.1k points)
+3 votes
As a distant relative of author David Burton Flint our family has found their way into some of his books.  One of them is "The Life and times of Robert Flint the Pioneer"  based on Flint-1261.   I also have a Hans Brinker in the family, but I am not aware of him being involved with any holes in dams.
by J. J. Flint G2G Crew (560 points)
+2 votes
Travel thru the valley of the lost.  

I have had to research my entire family history. My mother said she knows nothing, her father she said nothing, only her sisters and brother was anything said. Where was you dad born?  Who is my dad ?  One aunt let me see her birth certificate, found little, call Tennessee town no longer exists. And if one sibling knows a answer they would not tell the others. It was a whole 40 years of listening to gospet. Hearsay, and trying to get one to slip up.  Why I have no ideal. DNA is no answer unless a very close a unknown half sibling, 1st cousins, aunt ,uncle, take a test but also answer your text s .
by Alfred Smith G2G2 (2.7k points)
+2 votes
"Normal for Norfolk" would be my title.

That's the English County of Norfolk, by the way (for the benefit of those American subscribers to commercial genealogy sites who continue to believe that the world has never extended beyond the coast of Virginia).

The acronym "NFN" was (allegedly, at any rate!) devised by Norfolk hospital doctors to categorise, in their case notes, patients of - shall we say - a more rustic or even intellectually-challenged, nature. The chances are that those doctors would have been "furriners", as we say, incomers who interpreted the natives' dialect and laid-back approach to life as evidence of in-breeding, especially given their propensity not to venture far beyond the villages of their birth: my own reed-thatcher forebears, for example, barely moved beyond a 20-mile radius for many generations. However, what some may have seen as evidence of a lack of aspiration or intellect may equally well be a reflection that life in a lovely part of the world, with a gentle pace of life, actually has much to commend it!  It is perhaps ironic that the relative isolation of rural Norfolk and the lack of employment opportunities (once farming had become industrialised) that caused my grandfather's generation to head for cities such as London in search of work, has nowadays become the area's "unique selling point". Even today, there is not a single mile of motorway (freeway) within the county, and the road and rail connections to the nation's capital are distinctly antiquated, yet wealthy Londoners flock to acquire second homes in the county, a trend which will inevitably increase given today's coronavirus-induced appreciation of a less urban lifestyle. Indigenous and incomer communities co-exist relatively comfortably, yet an understanding of Norfolk dialect remains akin to a masonic handshake: if one pronounces the name of the coastal village of Stiffkey as "Stewkey", knows the purpose of "Elijahs" and can recall the vital role of the "Hunneycart" from visits to one's grandparents' rural hovels (sorry, idyllic holiday retreats), the chances are that a returnee to one's roots may avoid the dreaded designation of "furriner".

Having said that, life in a Georgian, Victorian or even Edwardian Norfolk village, may well have differed somewhat from that in less isolated, rural communities, posing problems for future family historians. Did my paternal grandfather and his eight "natural" siblings have the same father, or nine different ones? None is named on their respective birth certificates, and each invented a father's name (he was always conveniently deceased!) for the purpose of their marriage certificates. Similarly, why did his mother-in-law feel it necessary to invent a father for the purpose of her marriage certificate, and go by two different surnames up until that point, leaving her actual parents to be deduced from the Will of a half-brother?

"Normal for Norfolk" has more recently become a bit of a joke, brought to wider-spread attention by native comedians, and by a BBC television series about an eccentric Norfolk landowner trying hard to make a living from his family's modest estate. Disparaging though the phrase may have become, or perhaps has always been, there can be no doubting that the concept does have a degree of validity!
by David Farman G2G Rookie (260 points)
Hello David, Being myself a "Damn Yankee" born and bred in Connecticut, which has a Norfolk among many other towns and villages named after English settlers' places of origin, I found your answer most fascinating and informative. Our Norfolk is also very rural and isolated, tucked away in the extreme Northwest corner of the state, almost in Massachusetts. The population in the 2010 census was still under 1000. Sounds like the original settlers managed to replicate their English home, perhaps even to today to some extent. However, the area just to the south of Norfolk has for some time been the playground of New Yorkers and I would be surprised if Norfolk hasn't suffered the same fate as your Norfolk by now.

I am married to a Londoner and we "Removed" to England in 1997. It turns out that I am a direct descendant of Richard Borden, c.1595 of Headcorn, Kent, who "Removed" with his young family before 1635 to Newport, Rhode Island. Among other endeavors he invested heavily in land both in Rhode Island and southern New Jersey. It is, I think, likely that my maternal grandfather Borden farmed some of that land, doing very well selling his 'cash crop' of flown-in asparagus to the top hotels in Boston.

I knew nothing about my ancestry in England until quite recently so imagine my astonishment to discover that we have settled serendipitously just a few miles from Richard's birthplace. There is even a village called "Borden", also nearby, where Richard's own ancestors settled .(And my given middle name, unusual for a female child, is Borden.) I now have an unbroken line of Borden's back to the 1300's, subject to verification. And unknowingly I have come full circle back to where it all began!

I see that, like me (until yesterday actually), you are a Rookie on WikiTree so I hope you enjoy the ride. And perhaps discover some amazing surprises as well. Elizabeth Clyne
Family history is, indeed, full of surprises, Elizabeth, but your serendipitous return to your ancestral roots takes some beating. I've just been reading some of the early Bordens' WikiTree profiles: what an extraordinary family!  - David
Hi David, Sorry for the delay getting back, my computer went down and my computer guru has just fixed the problem.

Thanks for your reply. I'm chuffed you looked up the Bordens' WikiTree profile, not least as I haven't learned how to do it myself yet so you may well know more about my Borden family than I do! I had managed to find quite a bit from other sources but am finding WikiTree quite challenging.

I'm also interested in your comment that the Borden's are "an extraordinary family".  I am a bit biased so it was interesting that you thought that as well. I have the impression that the recent family history in my branch hasn't been added yet so I'm keen to do that. Elizabeth

Borden-36 might be as good a profile as any to start, Elizabeth. There is, however, a great deal of duplication at WikiTree, especially from US contributors keen to demonstrate their "early settler" roots. Where possible, I always try to confirm the information I contribute by reference to records held at County Record Offices or the National Archives. I don't know how well Kent records have been preserved, but the extent of early Norfolk records continues to amaze me: not just parish Baptismal, Marriage and Burial registers and their Archdeacons' and Bishops' Transcripts, but also Wills, Tithe Maps and Poor Law, Land Tax and Assisted Emigration records, etc.  None of the commercial family history websites can claim a comprehensive collection: if I had to choose one, at least so far as Norfolk is concerned, it would be

WikiTree can certainly be challenging, especially for a non-American contributor. Its stated aims are laudable, and I am certainly keen for my family history researches not to be lost when I shuffle off this mortal coil or can no longer afford to subscribe to commercial websites. I am, however, uncomfortable with a number of aspects of WikiTree: the "gaming" elements - badges, points and the like; the earnest "greeters", who may well not appreciate quite how patronising they can appear to those from other cultural backgrounds; the "data doctors", who often seem more concerned with the shape of quotation marks in a biography than with the credence of its content; and, most especially, those who have the temerity to "correct" my contributions, despite clearly lacking any appreciation of British geography, let alone that of a small corner of England with which I am intimately familiar. Indeed, you may well not encounter me at WikiTree for much longer, such is my growing frustration. OK, rant over!

In the meantime, there are very many Borden WikiTree profiles to check out, but my advice would be to approach them all with a degree of scepticism, and head for your local County Record Office for pre-emigration material. Yours is undoubtedly an extraordinary family: just don't believe everything that appears at WikiTree, or at any other website for that matter!

Kind regards, David

Hi David, I do hope you have reaped the potential cathartic benefits of a good "rant" and have not decided to leave the WikiTree site! I for one would miss your forthright and essential observations and your crafted and enjoyably informative writing. You obviously have considerable experience and research to share and it would be a great shame for WikiTree to miss out on that.

I am myself considering whether this is the best place for me to invest my dwindling energies--but that's another story altogether.

I am not remotely qualified to comment on most of the points you raise for lack of experience of them, with the exception perhaps of the 'gaming and points' issues. The present case is my first experience on Wiki and I didn't even know about the points system until I noticed that points were accruing to my name with alacrity and without apparent reason. But who am I to argue with magic? This is the first time I have engaged in any way with Wiki and I was enjoying it on many levels, so why concern myself about these phantom points! Eventually I tweeked that it had something to do with "answers" and "comments", and yes, it did seem a bit silly not least because of the serious objectives of this site, but also I was having fun, so what's the harm in that, thought I.

It occurs to me that the real question is whether playing games with points is detrimental to the stated lofty goals of WikiTree and I think there may be substance to both sides of the argument. I did notice that some of the "comments" seemed fairly trivial and 'pointless'; that notwithstanding, they were, I assumed, earning points too. As for myself I discovered that within a very few days I had accrued over a thousand points, taking me from Rookie status to a G2G1 for having added extremely little of substance; that, to me, seems just a tad bit absurd! I am still none the wiser as to how to do the most elementary things, such as how to open the Borden 36 profile you kindly suggested as a starting point! I think my own example demonstrates the potential dangers of a system that enables someone to be possibly viewed as 'more expert' than they actually are. In that instance the potential dangers are more than mere silliness. Perhaps the negative experiences you cite are examples of just such a situation?! (In which case perhaps you can ignore them and continue to add what you know to be of great value?)

On the other hand I think there is a case to be made for the usefulness of reward systems. However I think I will leave that to someone else to champion (who likely will be much more deserving of the points)!

I mentioned above that I might have to leave this site myself so allow me to elaborate briefly. I have a medical disorder that for decades, among other things, severely saps both my energy levels and cognitive functioning. I came late to the internet and now find myself struggling to learn new information and procedures. This would be somewhat less problematic if I did not feel I have valuable information to add to WikiTree, some of which is firsthand and which will pass with me.

In closing I just want to thank you, David, for being supportive.  Elizabeth
Hi David, everyone I add to wiki tree has been researched. If sources are lacking it is because I have them on ancestry which I can no longer ccess or family search or saved on my computer. Since I am 70, I want to get what I have done saved and my fingers are not so nimble and my computer not user friendly so correctly showing the sourcing is a challenge. Sometimes the matching is almost impossible. Some times the children or spouces are mixed up. Sometimes there just is not enough info to match to. I have done a lot of DNA matching too but that too isa challenge to document. Hope you don't leave think it is a worthwhile project. Best Regards.

I think it is me who should be thanking you for being supportive, Elizabeth!  A good rant is, indeed, cathartic, albeit a tad embarrassing when conducted in the public domain!

The G2G forum is probably not the place for me - the whole points and badges business is anathema to me - but I guess I'll carry on using WikiTree to record the results of my extensive family history researches. If only the WikiTree user interface wasn't so, well, 'clunky'!

By the way, head for

Best wishes, David

Hi, Sherry - The are clearly a great many contributors "of a certain age", perhaps because we now have more time to devote to interests that were less compatible with busy, working lives.

I'm sure that the great majority of contributors research the profiles they contribute, but 'research' means different things to different people!  Most of my material is currently stored at Ancestry, primarily because I find its user interface to be more intuitive than others; its databases are also pretty extensive, although far from exhaustive. I try to avoid transcriptions wherever possible, as I find that a high proportion contain errors, often glaringly obvious. "Hints" can occasionally be helpful, so long as one treats them as no more than that, especially when they are derived from other people's trees: I am continually amazed by the number of people who cite only others' trees as sources for their own, without researching original sources.

I agree that WikiTree is fundamentally a worthwhile project but, as you observe, documenting sources can certainly be challenging. Transferring a single profile across from Ancestry, including citations from sources at multiple websites, can take me hours.  Oh, well: only another 17,500 profiles to go!

Best wishes, David

I liked your NFN responce. Totally agree on the value of serenity and beauty. Sadly in America, no sooner do people move out of the city than they want to turn the country into the city. Best Regards, Sherry
Hello David,  Thanks for the link to Borden-36.  A much easier way to access it as I haven't discovered how to do it from the WikiTree site if you don't have the profile number. Although this profile is a compilation of other material I have seen elsewhere it was still nice to have it confirmed here.

Your advice not to take everything you read is most apt. I have seen many obvious errors and so am very cautious.  Indeed, I have already seen two very different lineages book-ended by Richard and my own grandfather and first great grandfather. Still obviously masses of work to be done.

Regarding Richard Borden-36 I was distressed to read in his will, listed amongst his pigs and beds, a black man and black woman and two children. My 8th GGF was, for all his accomplishments, a slave owner! Furthermore I must have read this before, having indeed read an itemization of his will elsewhere, and not taken this in. I think it's knowing he was a Quaker that makes this all the more shocking; I would never have imagined that a Quaker would also be a slave owner. I understand that "things were different in those days" but so were the Quakers, who professed that kings and commoners were equal and therefore kings did not have a right to impose obsequiousness on their subjects, a point to which the early Quakers both objected and refused compliance.

Then again, who am I to be 'shocked' when I didn't even notice this the first time I read it? Seems I have discovered something unpleasant not only about some of my ancestors but also about myself. Not just fun and games then, this ancestry business!

I am glad you are considering staying with WikiTree if not G2G. I had another surprise when I realized I hadn't joined the family designation and when I did join I discovered I had been awarded a badge! You would think this was the Brownies (American designation for very young Girl Guides)! A tad bit OTT in my books. But babies and bath water come to mind I suppose.   Elizabeth

Brownies (American designation for very young Girl Guides)!

Brownies is not an American designation.  I am an Australian, and I was a Brownie, in the Imp Six.  

Not everyone thinks as you do that badges etc are "OTT".  (Over The Top, for those  reading who are not up on internet initialisms.)  If you don't like the profile "bling" of badges and the like, you are free to not use stickers, and to hide the badges. 

Just be aware, however, that Projects, Mentors, and Leaders, look at badges to determine what help someone may need, or if they "fit" certain criteria (such as pre-1700, or pre-1500 qualified). 

If you have suggestions on how the Greeters (who are not all of one culture) may appear less "patronising" --

the earnest "greeters", who may well not appreciate quite how patronising they can appear to those from other cultural backgrounds;

. . . feel free to contact the Greeters Project.

Perhaps, too, you might take your concerns re Data Doctors to that Project. (Disclaimer -  I am a badged Data Doctor.)  

Hello Ms Paul, You have, it seems, conflated me with David Farman!! Enough said. Elizabeth Clyne
PS: I have no idea what kind of "Brownie" you are but as an American I stand by my usage of the term, as defined. If I was inadvertently rude, my sincere apologies. Elizabeth Clyne
No, I have conflated noone.  I was responding to more than one post, not just yours.  You made a couple of remarks (Brownies, OTT) to which I responded.  Then I also responded to comments made earlier.

If you took them to refer only to you, that is in your reading.

We seem to have wandered well off-topic, so probably time to draw this thread to a close! One final thought from me:

Elizabeth: I see no reason for you to feel any sense of shock or guilt regarding the mores of an ancestor umpteen generations removed. To quote L.P. Hartley's immortal opening line to The Go-Between, "The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there". They certainly did in Norfolk, which is where this thread began!

Best wishes, David

Ms Paul:  "Brownies is not an American designation." Words and names have different designations in different cultures. As I tried to spell out quite specifically initially, "Brownies (American designation for very young Girl Guides" is the official name of that division of the Scouts movement in America which is specifically dedicated to young girls, of which I was once a member.  'Badges' were very much a part of that culture and objective and served a very appropriate function for children in that age group.  As I am still none the wiser as to the connotation or "Brownie" in Australia to which you refer I remain bemused by your apparently continuing offense, for which I have nonetheless already apologized. 

On the other hand I thank you for your elucidation of the serious use of Badges within WikiTree, of which I was totally unaware. I am very new here and on several occasions have indicated this and my total ignorance as to how things work here. I am elderly and of declining physical health and cognitive strengths and find the complexity of this site overwhelmingly difficult to understand and apply.

You further comment, "Not everyone thinks as you do "(meaning me, specifically) "that badges etc are "OTT".  (Over The Top, for those  reading who are not up on internet initialisms.)" (!!) Yes, I certainly 'get' that not everyone does, or should, agree with me. I owned that then, and assert my right now, to express my opinion and even to make mistakes, so long as I accept them as such when corrected. 

You continue, "I was responding to more than one post, not just yours." Nowhere is this indicated. Rather, this appears to be, I believe, a contradiction to your first statement, above, as well as what follows: "You made a couple of remarks (Brownies, OTT) to which I responded."  Your right to remark, quite rightly, as is mine. "Then I also responded to comments made earlier." Which "comments", "made" by whom, when was "earlier"? I wonder how you would infer that I should know this was no longer addressed specifically to me, notwithstanding this comment followed immediately on in the same comment addressed specifically to me? 

Comments you then refer to and/or quote here, concerning Greeters and Data Doctors, which you have not attributed to their author(s) are not mine. Indeed, I made it clear earlier on in this thread that I have no experience of the concerns therein expressed and therefore have no comments about them. Hence my continuing experience that you have conflated me with someone else, which I find concerning particularly on a site where rigorous and vigilant adherence to facts and sources is of the utmost importance. Hence my comments here.

"If you took them to refer only to you, that is in your reading." Yes, indeed, that is my reading, and incontrovertibly so in my estimation. I will not accept the re-assignment of responsibility for a misreading of your comments herein implied and frankly I am bemused that they proceed from a Data Doctor.  Elizabeth Clyne

Thanks David.   Elizabeth Clyne

Condescension does not look pretty Ms Clyne.  Please to stop being so. 

Further discussion on words and meanings should not take place here.

The prefix 'Ms' appears to be condescending to you; how would I know that? As you gave no indication whether you are a Miss or a Mrs. or a Doctor or a Rev. I thought that the non-committal Ms, similar in that respect to Mr. which is also non-committal, was an inoffensive and safe prefix. Evidently I was wrong. I do not ever set out to be condescending or hurtful. I am sorry if it appears otherwise to you.

Having already apologized to you twice previously it has become apparent to me that this will unfortunately be meaningless to you as well.   

As this conversation has descended into irrelevance at best I will not comment further or in future.  Ms Clyne
Come now, ladies: let's draw this thread to a close.

Melanie: the comments regarding Greeters and Data Doctors were mine, not Elizabeth's. I have to say, however, that your recent posts have done little to endear me to either or, for that matter, to WikiTree itself.

Any community needs rules, but I much prefer a democratic model to one in which those awarding themselves the most medals get to decide the rules, and to seek to impose them upon others. I should have hoped that anyone sporting a "Data Doctor" badge would be more concerned with the accuracy of sources (there's scope for that a-plenty, out there in WikiTree land!) than with whether a "brownie" is an American or an Australian precursor to a Girl Guide (or whatever today's politically-correct nomenclature may be), or even a square, chocolate-flavoured, baked confection.

I'm outta here! I realise that I cannot delete all that I have contributed to date, but I shall erase whatever I am able, and shall contribute no more.

I appreciate your wise counsel, Elizabeth, about not disposing of the baby with the bathwater; however, I guess I'm more comfortable with a more academic approach to genealogy.

I'll probably be awarded a badge of some kind, a huge number of G2G points and the status of G2G Villain for this post, before I cancel my membership.

Regards, David
+2 votes
"Into the Wilds" would be about my Wilds ancestors, from Maryland to Kentucky late 1700s, and from Kentucky to Missouri 1808ish (pre-emptive settlement, when things really got Wild!). If I can gather enough stuff to connect them to a particular sea captain whose ship was boarded by pirate in 1690 or so, that would make an even more sweeping tale!
by Pj Sisseck G2G Crew (600 points)
+1 vote
considering using the names of my blogs, Questions and Ancestors, or Grandson of Sam for my biography.
by Raymond Nichols G2G3 (4k points)
+2 votes
Wandering Nuts and Family.
by William Thompson G2G6 (9.3k points)

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+4 votes
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