Researching to Write

           JOYCE LOHSE continues her guest post with writing lessons learned from genealogy.           

          I learned everything about writing from genealogy, although my journalism professors would take exception to that! Research methods I’ve learned through my association with the Columbine Genealogical and Historical Society have served me well. The most enduring lesson is to support and prove facts and stories with primary documentation.                  
          Although I rely heavily on newspaper articles contemporary to the subject, I am not foolish enough to believe everything I read. Instead, I use that material as a roadmap to lead to the good stuff, public records and original documents. Articles are also a great source for quotations using the actual words of the character. The challenge is to evaluate the context of the statement, and relay it correctly to the reader.
          Sometimes negativity or negative evidence in an article can be as interesting and profound as easily proven positive evidence. An example that pops into my mind is a retrospective piece written after the death of Margaret Brown. It contained the first usage we find of the name, “Molly Brown” as applied to the woman who later became widely known to the world as “The Unsinkable Molly Brown.” During her lifetime, her name was Margaret, or Maggie, never Molly. This was no doubt a simple slang interpretation of her name as a nod to her Irish background.
          To the writer, historian, and genealogist, I extend best wishes for a wonderful journey. As my publisher is fond of saying, the intangibles far outweigh the tangible returns in this business. But, oh my, I would hate to miss out on those delightful intangibles, such as a pinnacle moment which occurred last March. Eliza Routt [Joyce’s ancestor and subject of her first book] was inducted into the Colorado Women’s Hall of Fame. As her nominator, I accepted her induction, and spoke on her behalf to those gathered for the celebration.  The fun never ends, as long as you keep after it.                                     

Best wishes – Joyce B. Lohse
Award-winning author, journalist, genealogist

Published in: on January 31, 2009 at 3:05 pm  Leave a Comment  
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