How I write my 52 Ancestors posts in 4 easy lessons (3)

Schalene Jennings Dagutis of Tangled Roots and Trees and I made a deal. I would write about how I keep everyone straight while writing my 52 Ancestors post and she would tell me how to find a book on the minutes of the annual conferences of the Methodist church.

Part 3 – It’s time to write

When I was in high school (Spirit of ’76) we were taught to draw up an outline, keep notes and sources on index cards, and use both to write. There might have been more to it but that’s what stuck.

Everyone has their own way of writing. I’m not saying mine is better, only that this is what works best for me with the 52 Ancestors posts.

For this particular challenge my blogposts on my ancestors are quite long as I want to include everything I have about their lives. Several family members are hoping to see it in book form when the challenge is over.

The way they are planned I know that I will be doing the wife of the ancestor the following week so I have to decide what I want to include in the first and what to save for the second. Depending on which spouse lived longer I might concentrate more on the children in the post of the spouse who lived the longest.

The timeline is my outline and, being in chronological order, I can work my way through the ancestor’s life without losing tract of the time period. Before I begin to write I choose the images I want to include in the post and add them to the rough draft of the timeline. Seeing the images helps keep me focused on what I want to write.

Screenshot of part of the timeline with notes that have been added to the draft for Week #37
Screenshot of some of the images (thumbnails) that I plan to use in my Week #37 post.


When I begin to write I don’t necessarily start at the beginning and work forward. Instead of shuffling index cards, I write a few thoughts or sentences for the major events in the timeline. Adding muscle to the bones.

Draft of my blogpost for Week #37 with bulleted list of siblings.

The siblings of my ancestor are secondary characters and to highlight them I sometimes use a bulleted list for their births. This way they are listed together and can be easily referred to when mentioned later in the narrative. While I’m writing I might decide that I want to include more or less on the siblings. It all depends on how I feel they influenced my ancestor.

saveI don’t write my posts in one sitting. When I’m writing I find questions cropping up that need to be answered. I save my draft (I do this often, just in case) and search for whatever is bothering me. If I find something new I add the link in the text or note the source in the list that was generated with the timeline.

If I get stuck or frustrated about how it’s going I switch gears. I might check on the images I want to use in the post or make screen shots of this or that document. Or I’ll do something else, away from my laptop.

saveOccasionally I have problems writing a post and I’ll ignore it for a day or two. This is not a full time job although sometimes the ancestor may think otherwise. I try to plan several blocks of time during the week prior to the deadline so that I can work on my posts.

When time starts to run short, I switch gears again, and hope that nothing will get in the way of the speeding train. I work good (or is it well? – need to check the grammar while writing) under pressure and deadlines are an incentive.

saveParts of the timeline are deleted as paragraphs are written and finally the post more or less flows. And then it’s time for my editor to join in on the fun. 

Part 1 – Preparation
Part 2 – Gathering my eggs
Part 3 – It’s time to write
Part 4 – Pulling it together

© 2014 Cathy Meder-Dempsey

Author: Cathy Meder-Dempsey

When I’m not doing genealogy and blogging, I spend time riding my racing bike with my husband through the wonderful Luxembourg countryside.

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