Setting the Scene
So, you know grandfather was born in the Czech Republic (for example), though at the time it might have been called something else. You’d love to go visit and do some first-hand research so that when you write the family story it will seem more real. But travel that far is just not in your budget. Not to worry, there are other resources available that can help you set the scene.
Often effectively setting a scene relies only on a few details, and an impression. You want to spark a feeling in your reader as read your family story, similar to the feeling you get when you look at the pictures you have.
- Google Maps and Google Earth both let you virtually wander through the streets of just about any town. If you’re lucky enough to have a picture in that box with a street sign on it, you can often find that exact spot. It will look different but will still make it feel very real.
- Next, try local tourism office websites. These days many offer an English version, if you’re Czech isn’t quite up to it, or you can ask google to translate the site for you. Machine translation does a reasonable job, at least good enough to give you the gist of what you’re looking for.
- Finally, local museums and historical societies can fill in a lot of blanks on the era your ancestor lived in. If the information you're looking for is not readily available on their site, a quick email to a curator there might get you want you need.
Even a good travel guidebook found at the library can get you started on setting that first scene.
And as always, I am available to offer guidance on your family history project, or to hold a presentation for your group. I also take on a few full memoir/family history writing projects each year; from shoe box of pictures to printed book.
Contact me at: elynnh2write (at) gmail.com
Or feel free to leave a comment below.