Defining the Plot in Your Family History Story


By now, most of you have written your story outlines, a chronological timeline of events of your ancestor’s story. This is the story. Now I would like you to take a closer look at these events to determine the plot of your ancestor’s story.

Finding the plot in a family history story should not be a difficult task. Our ancestors usually had clear goals. They dreamed of land, immigration, freedom from slavery or religious persecution. Why did your ancestor do the things he did? What was his hope or dream? To own land, be free of poverty, slavery. This is the plot.

 In pursuit of their dreams, your ancestors overcame obstacles, there were conflicts and complications, there were resolutions, and perhaps more conflicts, rewards, and consequences….until eventually they reached their goal.

 Think about the obstacles your ancestors had to overcome to achieve their goal. They usually fall in to one of the following categories, man against man, man against nature, man against society and man against himself.

 Some obstacles to achieving their dreams may have included money, family bonds, language, and education.  

 Without a goal, a story becomes just a random series of events with no meaning or purpose. 

 If you are covering several generations of family history, look for one major plot with each ancestor’s story having a subplot. Every ancestor faced individuals goals and dreams with obstacles and successes. 

 Your plot does not have to be original.  It’s all been done. What will make your story different from the rest, your characters (ancestors), the challenges they faced and the theme. All that to follow in future posts. 

 Simply put, the plot is the goal of the story. What was your ancestor’s goal? 

 Consider the outline you have already created, now identify in point form your ancestor’s plot, along with the obstacles they faced.  As you write your story, you want to keep this plot front and centre making sure all roads lead to your ancestor’s goal.