Author Archives: Linda Lawrence

Genealogy Narrative Development

Writing a narrative about your family tree can be completed for one family member or for a group of ancestors.  Family histories are generally narrative in nature, consisting of a combination of personal stories, photos, and family trees.  While it is common to write a narrative in chronological order, it is not unusual to begin with a rise in action which then unfolds to earlier times.

To make an interesting family story include background information on historical events that would have impacted their lives.  To gain a greater understanding into the lives of your ancestors add their occupation as well as information about the fashions, the art, the transportation, and foods common to the time period and/or location.  Timelines displaying a list of events in chronological order are particularly useful for studying history as a sense of change over time is conveyed.

One segment of my narrative focuses on my family history occurring in the United States during the developing 1800’s.  The attraction to move from the East to the new promised lands was due to the overcrowding created from the European migration.  The government played an important role in the development of lands after the end of the American Revolution and the Louisiana Purchase from France’s claim.  The Lewis and Clark Expedition plus the Indian Removal Act in 1830 led to Iowa opening in 1846 where settlers purchased their land from the government, speculators, or the railroad. The pioneer settlers wanted a better way of life on the frontier with fertile acres for farming and a fortune to be made.

Some of the members of my family were involved with the western Underground Railroad movement after attending Oberlin College in Ohio.  The family left Oberlin, Ohio 1853 and journeyed through St. Louis by Missouri Riverboat to settle in Tabor, Iowa.  Sentiment at this time ran high in Tabor as most of the early-day settlers of the town of Tabor were radical prohibitionists and Rev. John Todd was a ‘conductor’ on the Underground Railroad.

Organizing your research in these timelines will help develop an outline for your narrative.  Understanding the obstacles your ancestors faced: immigration, pioneer or farm life like my family, war survival such as my great great great grandfather, or rags to riches stories. Choose an interesting fact or record about your ancestors to open your narrative.  Make your narrative personal with favorite stories and anecdotes, embarrassing moments and family traditions.

For example, my family descended from an English gentlemen arriving in Plymouth County, Massachusetts as an indentured servant between 1629 and 1639.  Mayflower families had established a beachhead from 1626 to 1643 dubbed the Great Migration.  During this period 42,000 men, women, and children headed cross the Atlantic to the colonies.  He, the indentured servant, met a young lass; they weren’t married and had a difficult time keeping their hands off of each other.  The grim-faced Puritan Magistrates dragged them to court; the couple was sentenced to sit in the stocks.

Narratives consist of a series of actions or events; be creative and enjoy sharing.  Include photos, as well as birth, marriage or death certificates, history and plot maps of the county, military accounts, wills, and obituaries from newspapers, censuses from, headstone pictures from Find a Grave, and biographies.  Also, if you have the opportunity, interview family members and gather first-hand accounts of events or reminiscences which have been handed down.  These stories will add additional depth to your narratives.

Enhance your narrative by creating a cover using your family history and include an index which allows readers to easily locate each name and topic.  Also do not forget to provide citations for your sources and websites for follow-up research.  I recommend you consider placing your narrative in a three ring binder, full-scale hard-bound book, spiral book, or post it on a Web site for sharing with the family members.

Most importantly, enjoy writing your narrative as it tells the story of your family.

References: Genealogy.  (n.d.).  Retrieved from

Kempthorne, C. (n.d.). For All Time: A Complete Guide to Writing Your Family History.

West, C. (n.d.). Searching For Francis West:  How A Colonial Reprobate Became My Spirit Guide.  Retrieved from

We Shook the Family Tree

My free time is spent tracing my family tree.  When I was in school, if history had been more than dates of past occurrences, history would have been my favorite subject.

At the present time, I am searching for more information on the Shook side of the family.  I am finding articles on families during the early nineteenth century.  Husbands would move the family to safety and carry a gun while attending to crops.  Some sold their land and moved to another state.  After compiling information about eight generations, I want to share this history with current family members.

How do I write a book on the family history?  The Omaha Library offered a workshop with speaker Charley Kempthorne, whose presentation focused on providing attendees with a guide to writing their own family history.   He recommended you start your writing by concentrating on what you already know.  Mr. Kempthorne tasked us to write a short paragraph about the home we grew up in.  He asked several people to read the short paragraph they had written to the class.  Each shared their own interesting short stories about their family.  These stories would be a good addition to any family history book.

One of the ladies at the library presentation brought her family history book for us to view.  She had one or two pages complied on each family generation.  She titled every new family page.  The first page was, “The Immigration.”  She had ship information and a short story of the family.

In my case, I have selected the use of a narrative which includes biographical information about the family as well as with pictures including a headstone.  I love to see the clothing the family wore with ruffles in a light color.  How did they keep them clean?  Newspaper articles may also be used to verify the dates of occurrences.  I am asking my family members for pictures that were handed down through the generations.

HouseMy friend and I plan to take a trip to Clyde, North Carolina to view a home on the National Register which is over 200 years old.

The home was built by a Shook who came from Germany through Holland.  The ship was detoured to North Carolina.  The next generation moved to Kentucky then to Illinois.  I do not have positive source information that we are related. Maybe I will be able to add three more generations to the family tree after my visit.

After recently moving, I emptied a box of books and discovered a book my Grandmother (Anna) had from her cousin.  Her cousin, Mary, was at Anna’s house when I went to visit. Mary gave Anna a book she wrote, “The Life and Times of Mary Franklin West.”  Mary had written a book about her life which included information about her moving with her parents and family to a new state and how she met her husband.

Much to my surprise, a distant relative of the West family named Daniel, contacted me to see if I had any information that I could share with him.  Daniel did not know Mary, his great, great grandmother had written a book.  We both were very happy that this book was discovered as it contained a wealth of family information.

Do you have any stories about your family tree that you’d like to share?

Tracing Your Family’s Genealogy Brings History Alive

By Linda Lawrence and Carol Gottsch: Test Center Team members

History and Learning is what Bellevue University is all about.  And there seems no better way to bring history alive and personal than genealogy research.

Together Linda and Carol have been tracing our family histories for over 50 years.  When we started, we had to physically go to libraries and write everything down. We sent letters to relatives and traveled to interview family members.  Today these methods still work, but with Internet sites and email we can reach family members all over the world in minutes.

For our first blog, we would like to share five (5) sites which we have found to be reliable and helpful.

Cyndi’s List has been around for over 15 years. Whether you are new to family history or an experienced researcher, you can find something of interest on this site. With currently over 320,000 links this categorized and cross-referenced site is one you will find yourself coming back to for assistance for any topic related to genealogy. This site is particularly helpful if you are delving into an area of genealogy you don’t know much about such as French or German genealogy or if you need advice on how to organize your research or tips on using a scanner.

A relatively new website, offers collections of military records from the Revolutionary War to the Vietnam War.  Named after the third fold in the flag-folding ceremony which honors and remembers veterans, is a little tricky to use.  If you follow the site’s pop-up recommendations on how to search, you will be on your way to finding your maritime relatives in no time.   Carol found the complete War of 1812 pension file for her great-great-great grandfather.  You will need to create an account and log in.  Files are clearly marked if there is a cost. Many records have free access.

This website is a service provided by the Church of Jesus Christ Latter Day Saints whose mission includes structuring the family history of every person in the world to demonstrate how we are all related and belong to one family.  You can easily search with the name of a relative. The records span billions of names across hundreds of collections, birth, marriage, death, probate, land, military, IGI extractions and more. You may find pictures of your relatives.  You do need to know details to pick your relative out of numerous search results. You may also post information on this site.

Linda found her great-great-great grandfather’s family in Biggsville, IL and she followed up with for headstone pictures as well as death notices from newspapers.

This site has pictures of grave sites. You can search for relatives by name or by the cemetery where they are buried.  If you know a relative is buried in a specific cemetery, you can request a volunteer to go out to that cemetery, take pictures, and post them to this site.  This is very handy if you live a distance from the cemetery.   Be sure to look at the sections “Interesting Monuments” and “Interesting Epitaphs”. Both sections are intriguing strolls through history.

USGENWEB offers free information which is accessed through links to all 50 states.  Volunteers maintain the state sites. The volunteers take pride in Special Projects including Black African Griots, Tombstone Transcription, and Digital Library.  The USGENWEB Kidz Project is designed to help young children learn their way around genealogy research. The coordinators of this site are always looking for volunteer help.

Remember as with any genealogy information you will find discrepancies from site to site and from source to source.  These are part of the intriguing challenge of family research. Linda and I have consulted many more sources, and we will write more blogs to share with all you family history researchers.  Our future blogs will include more helpful Internet sites as well as local sources including the Omaha Public Library (the third floor of the Main Library is devoted to genealogy), the local Family History Centers, and the local genealogy groups such as the Iowa Genealogy Society and the Greater Omaha Genealogy Society.


The Proctor Process Outside Omaha

Ever wonder how students in your online class take tests if they don’t live in Omaha?
So let’s say you go home for an emergency, you go on a family vacation, you go on a business trip, or you just are unable to take your test in the local area. What do you do? Here is some information on the proctor process outside the Omaha Area.Education. Photography. Encyclopædia Britannica Image Quest. Web. 20 Oct 2011.

The student finds a test proctor. 

  • A test proctor is someone who agrees to administer the test and who agrees to make sure cheating does not happens. 
  • Proctors can be found at libraries, college or military test centers, or in the human resource department of a business.
  • A test proctor cannot be a relative, a direct supervisor, or a co-worker.

The test center team contacts the test proctor.

  • The test proctor is called at their work phone number to be sure they can receive the test at their work email address. 
  • The proctor gives the test in a quiet workplace area such as a conference room or office.
  • The proctor agrees to follow directions on giving the test.

The test center team contacts the student.

  • If the proctor is approved, the student is asked to make an appointment to take the test.
  • If the proctor is not approved, the student is asked to locate another proctor.

The student arrives to take the test.

  • A photo ID is presented to the proctor.
  • All electronic devices (i.e. cell phone, laptop, MP3 player) are turned off and put away.
  • Both the proctor and student sign an instruction sheet that details information about the test and about academic dishonesty.
  • The proctor immediately notifies the test center team of any acts of academic dishonesty.

The test is finished.

  • The student gives the test, all scratch paper, and any allowed note pages to the proctor.
  • Once the student gives the proctor the test the student does not handle the test again.
  • The proctor returns the test to the Test Center.

The test center receives the test.

  • The test is given to the instructor.
  • Grades are posted by the instructors.

Please contact the friendly test center team if you have any questions as we are here to help~

Call 402-557-7428 or email