How to Write an About Me for an Ancestor or Relative Profile

Started by Hatte Blejer on Wednesday, June 22, 2011


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6/22/2011 at 4:50 PM

These suggestions are from Erica Howton who is a fellow curator and does a great job at researching and writing up About Me sections of profiles:

Erica's Master Profile Cheat Sheet, notes in parentheses. I'll do the explanation version first and then a clean version for people to copy & paste. General note: Leave off altogether if info not known by you; put in "not known" if info not known by historical source.
First Name (bold) Middle Name (bold) Last Name (bold) was born XX Month XXXX in (place name, historically appropriate, present day name), and died XX Month XXXX. (baptism / christening / burial data as known.) S/he was also known as (nicknames, other languages, etc.)
IF it applies: a nice Wikipedia type line summarizing a Notable such as "He was an Irish Politician active in the Cromwell era." "Originally a Quaker missionary, she became a noted abolitionist and public speaker." It helps orient a reader in time and place to have this kind of one liner.
Parents: (child # of) (father and mother with their dates / places) [n.b. some like father & mother on separate lines; I actually find it saves space & usually fits together fine on one line]
# (include date, place, name, dates of spouse, their parents, number of children with spouse)
# (I put in "long term liaisons" particularly if there are known children and / or it's historically interesting :))
Children of (name) and (spouse1): in date order, oldest to youngest (n.b. you'd be surprised to see how often that's not always the case when copying from a source document)
# full name, dates in parentheses, place, who married. More details should go in a footnote perhaps.
# note that the # sign makes a nice neat numbered list. You can also apply Wikimedia formatting after it's typed in.
Children of (name) and (spouse2):
n.b. this is a tad controversial: some prefer the spouse and children together rather than wives together / children together. Obviously I seem to prefer a list of wives and then a list of children. :)
# [fn1] for instance to refer someone to a footnoted reference on source data; otherwise I assume it comes from the more general weblink
Sections are made by this:
= very bold =
== not quite as bold == what I use most often
=== boldish ===
Soooo -- my section after the Vitals is usually (but not always!)
That's where I love getting unique, including with the name of the section. Often research digs up something really cool about an ancestor, my own personal tree favorite being "Abijah Ross and the Bear Dogs Treeing a Wildcat." This is the telling anecdote that gives you the flavor of a man or woman.
I mean, wouldn't you read on if you saw:
"Red Mary was said to have 25 husbands. In truth she was tried for the murder attempt of one of them, but acquitted (see below)."
Optional but frequently used other sections include:
Biographical Summary (I have this as optional because unfortunately (or not) we have plenty of obscure ancestors we can only build the biography *after* we get the facts such as events into the profile).
Immigration (to dig up the ancestral embarkation point / ship and actual data on it? Are you kidding? So important!)
Wills (a gold mine)
Land transactions
Quotes (if they said something cool)
Quotations about (hagiography lives!)
Events (nice neat list using the asterik * which starts a new line)
Grave Inscriptions (a tear jerker)
Career (can be as short as "was made Freeman and might be covered in events).
*Not* so optional are your sources! I feel pretty strongly about this. If there isn't a link how would I know if you're making it up? Of course if you have documents such as census attached I'll see that -- but it doesn't hurt to note that the census is attached (I cover that in "events" usually as it is documenting "residence/ year" most of all).
Sources can be done in a variety of ways and it's all good. But I like breaking it out sometimes.
* web page, aliased or bold
* I also like to put in links to "official" websites, youtube search results, google / flkr image search results, etc. The interweb is hyperlinked & dimensional, let's use that
* I also like *place* orientation and there some good websites on places - towns, houses, histories, etc.
particularly important for book references. I copy & paste a paragrph from a google book / book result for instance for the bio section and give the full reference here.
how is this different from links? Wikipedia could be your link, and within the Wiki article are citations. So you copy & paste that source info.
The devil is in the details and footnotes are the place for the devil! They're not nice & easy (yet) like Wikipedia but doesn't mean they don't come up and shouldn't be used.

6/22/2011 at 4:51 PM

Name, Vitals
If a notable, summary line of why they're famous.
Parents: son of / daughter of
Children of
* secondary and tertiary sources
* primary sources
n.b. either is acceptable and used

6/22/2011 at 4:51 PM

Here are two examples, one from "history" (therefore more -- but different! -- info available) and one from "my own historical tree" (my 5th great grandfather).
Neither are perfect by a long shot. I wish! But good enough to be an MP and merge *into* (at least I hope so). For instance, I have yet to add the census reports for John Hopkins as "source documents" ... track down his wife's family ... his Am Rev War pension application ... and the profile image is cheesy, I can do better (wince wince).

John Hankins

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