Starting at the End

All stories must end in a different place from where they began.

Family history stories are no different. They are not obligated to stop at the conclusion of a life, or with a happily ever after. They end when your ancestor has achieved something in their life that has brought about change and growth, hopefully, both internally and externally.

As we’ve discussed earlier on in this month, stories are about conflict, a complication. We’ve looked at identifying that conflict and how our ancestors have overcome obstacles on their path to their goal.

The third act of our story focuses on the climax and the resolution.  The climax being that final conflict that will ultimately resolve your ancestor’s problem and bring about a resolution. The resolution is the point in your ancestor’s life when they achieve what they set out accomplish, whether that is to own land or emigrate or acquire a prominent position or be free, etc. The resolution is the prize, the reward at the end of the journey.

For some family history writers, this may be very clear and apparent at the start. However, some of you may be struggling to find that resolution, to identify your plot line from the conflict to a resolution, to identify the prize in your ancestor’s journey. This may be presenting a problem because not all conflicts in a person’s life have resolutions. Perhaps you’ve chosen a conflict with no clear resolution.Therefore, you may have better luck in developing a strong story line by identifying the resolution first and working backwards.

Identifying the Resolution 

Look at your ancestor’s life as a whole, make a list of the achievements they accomplished in their life. Consider the following questions.

  1. How big is the success? The bigger the success, the more significant the efforts, the more powerful the story.
  2. Remember anything your ancestor does on purpose will most definitely have a motivation behind it, for example, your ancestor receives a diploma, acquires land, obtains a prominent position, sets sail for a new land, becomes a military officer. These are all goals that require purposeful action on their part, pressed upon by some motivation. What motivated the action to the accomplishment?
  3. There is often complications on the road to the accomplishment. Did the accomplishment come through way of a struggle?
  4. Did the resolution/accomplishment grow out of your ancestor’s own actions?


Keeping the above thoughts in mind choose an achievement/resolution that you feel meets the above criteria.


Linking the Resolution to the Conflict

Once you identify the resolution and the conflict in your ancestor’s life, linked them together. Look for the actionable steps your ancestor took working back from the resolution to the conflict.  Each of these actionable events are the obstacles. These are events  in which your ancestor either does something or something is done to him in pursuit of the achievement. Identify those and you’ve identified the obstacles he overcame on his path. Connect your resolution through these obstacles to the initial conflict.  You’ve just identified the plot of your story from the end to the beginning.

If you’re struggling to find the end of your story perhaps it’s because your conflict doesn’t have a resolution. If your struggling to find your storyline then look to your ancestor’s achievements in their life and work backwards.



March 12, 2015
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