Writing about family history is more than creating a tree. It’s about becoming a detective and historian. That was one of the main takeaways of Lit Cleveland’s recent “Writing Your Family History” workshop, held on Sat. Feb. 4th from 10 am – 12 pm at Lake Erie Ink.
Writer Amy Breau shared her story of discovering her Acadian family history. Breau suggested that when researching family history, writers should be sure to pay attention to photo albums and journals as well as legal documents like marriage certificates. She explained that your family history is a narrative and should be treated as such.
Afi Scruggs focused on the history of struggle that so effortlessly intertwines with the individual black experience and how that can affect a person emotionally. Missing documents and the effects of the social climate in America towards blacks can create many unforeseeable problems when researching their history.
Scruggs’ point on researching family history was quite different from Amy Breau’s. Scruggs told the attendees to “go beyond looking for facts” and to “look at society.” She also pointed out how important libel laws are when writing about family history, and that writers need to be cautious in revealing private details.
Mary Helen Petrus closed out the workshop. She highlighted the importance of digging for the truth. She shared how the grandfather she knew growing up was not her biological grandfather. Similar to what Scruggs said, Petrus believes that it is important to try to “fill in the blanks” of what you don’t know about your family while accepting that there are limits to your knowledge.