Telling “Her” Story (National Institute)

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The original content for this article was contributed by The National Institute for Genealogical Studies in June 2012. It is an excerpt from their course Research: Grandmothers, Mothers and Daughters-Tracing Women  by Lisa Alzo, M.F.A.. The Institute offers over 200 comprehensive genealogy courses for a fee ($).

Researching and Writing[edit | edit source]

Once you’ve researched the details, the next step is to tell “her” story. It’s important to do the following:

  • record stories of living female ancestors/write your own story
  • encourage more women to research/write about family history
  • honor your female ancestors (scrapbook, family tribute CD or DVD, book, etc.)

Writing Prompts[edit | edit source]

Not sure where to begin? Below are 31 writing prompts to get the creative juices flowing!

These writing prompts, “Fearless Females: 31 Blogging Prompts to Celebrate Women’s History Month” were created by Lisa A. Alzo and posted on February 28, 2010 to The Accidental Genealogist blog.

  • Do you have a favorite female ancestor? One you are drawn to or want to learn more about? Write down some key facts you have already learned or what you would like to learn and outline your goals and potential sources you plan to check.
  • Post a photo of one of your female ancestors. Who is in the photo? When was it taken? Why did you select this photo?
  • Do you share a first name with one of your female ancestors? Perhaps you were named for your great-grandmother, or your name follows a particular naming pattern. If not, then list the most unique or unusual female first name you’ve come across in your family tree.
  • Do you have marriage records for your grandparents or great-grandparents? Write a post about where they were married and when. Any family stories about the wedding day? Post a photo too if you have one.
  • How did they meet? You’ve documented marriages, now, go back a bit. Do you know the story of how your parents met? Your grandparents?
  • Describe an heirloom you may have inherited from a female ancestor (wedding ring or other jewelry, china, clothing, etc.). If you don’t have any, then write about a specific object you remember from your mother or grandmother, or aunt (a scarf, a hat, cooking utensil, furniture, etc.).
  • Share a favorite recipe from your mother or grandmother’s kitchen. Why is this dish your favorite? If you don’t have one that’s been passed down, describe a favorite holiday or other meal you shared with your family.
  • Did one of your female ancestors leave a diary, journal, or collection of letters? Share an entry or excerpt.
  • Take a family document (baptismal certificate, passenger list, naturalization petition, etc.) and write a brief narrative using the information.
  • What role did religion play in your family? How did your female ancestors practice their faith? If they did not, why didn’t they? Did you have any female ancestors who served their churches in some capacity?
  • Did you have any female ancestors who died young or from tragic or unexpected circumstances? Describe and how did this affect the family?
  • Working girl: Did your mother or grandmother work outside the home? What did she do? Describe her occupation.
  • Moment of Strength: share a story where a female ancestor showed courage or strength in a difficult situation.
  • Newsmakers? Did you have a female ancestor who made the news? Why? Was she famous or notorious? Did she appear in the social column?
  • Write a six-word memoir tribute to one of your female ancestors.
  • If you could have lunch with any female family member (living or dead) or any famous female who would it be and why? Where would you go? What would you eat?
  • Social Butterfly? What social organizations or groups did your mother, or grandmother, belong to? Sewing circle, church group, fraternal benefit society, or lodge? Describe her role in the group.
  • Shining star: Did you have a female ancestor who had a special talent? Artist, singer, actress, athlete, seamstress, or other? Describe.
  • Have you discovered a surprising fact about one of your female ancestors? What was it and how did you learn it? How did you feel when you found out?
  • Is there a female ancestor who is your brick wall? Why? List possible sources for finding more information.
  • Describe a tender moment one of your female ancestors shared with you or another family member.
  • If a famous director wanted to make a movie about one of your female ancestors who would it be? What actress would you cast in the role and why?
  • Create a timeline for a female ancestor using your favorite software program or an online timeline generator such as OurTimelines. Post an image of it or link.
  • Do you share any physical resemblance or personality trait with one of your female ancestors? Who? What is it?
  • Tell how a female ancestor interacted with her children. Was she loving or supportive? A disciplinarian? A bit of both?
  • What education did your mother receive? Your grandmothers? Great-grandmothers? Note any advanced degrees or special achievements.
  • Do you know the immigration story of one or more female ancestors? Do you have any passenger lists, passports, or other documentation? Interesting family stories?
  • Do you remember your mother’s best friend? Your grandmother’s? How and where did they meet? How long were they friends? What activities did they share?
  • Create a free Fold3Page or a Genealogy Trading Card at Big Huge Labs for a female ancestor. Some of you may have created your own card back in September 2009 following Sheri Fenley’s post over at The Educated Genealogist. This time, the card is for your female ancestor. Tell us about who you’ve selected and why and then post a link to what you’ve created.
  • Did you receive any advice or words of wisdom from your mother or another female ancestor?
  • Pick one female ancestor and write a mini-profile (500 words or less).

BONUS: Take all of your postings and turn them into a memory or tribute booklet for future generations.

Post an entry on your blog when you have created your tribute. Tell us how you did it (what format, how you printed it or digitized it, etc.).


Information in this Wiki page is excerpted from the online course Research: Grandmothers, Mothers and Daughters-Tracing Women offered by The National Institute for Genealogical Studies. To learn more about this course or other courses available from the Institute, see our website. We can be contacted at

We welcome updates and additions to this Wiki page.