Recently Genealogy Gems podcast listeners penned their own versions of a family history poem, “Where I’m From.” This listener found that his ancestor wrote one, too.
Recently I got a lovely email from Scott, a Genealogy Gems Premium website member whom I’ve heard from before. He said:
“We’ve chatted before about some of the letters that have been passed down to me. Your segments on the ‘Where I’m From’ poems reminded me of a very special poem that I have. Evalina Belmont Hill was born in 1802 in Mecklenburg County, Virginia. She married Francis Baker Bailey there in 1819. Shortly after that, they moved across Virginia, then into Pope County, Arkansas before Arkansas statehood. After Francis died, she lived with family in southern Missouri. This is a poem she wrote in 1819 shortly after the married and moved away from home, thinking that she would not see her family again. I thought I would share it as a part of ‘Where I’m From.’ Best regards. Thanks for all you do for us.”
In case you can’t read it easily, here’s a transcription, which includes her unique spelling:
There is a lovely spot of earth
To whitch I cling with fond delight
It is the place that gave me birth
Where first my eyelids dorn the light
I little thought my wandering feet
From that dear spot so soon would rove
My waywood fate alone to meet
Far far away from native home
Fare from the friends who’s gentle care
Did all my infant pains beguile
No more I view that home so dear
No more on me those friends shall smile
But there’s a place for Souls oppress
And when life sickly dream is over
Beneth the verdant sod shall rest
These wandering feet to rove no more.
Thank you to Scott for sharing his ancestor’s poem. How homesick she seems for the past–I’m sure many of us have felt that before.
In case you missed our special series on family history poetry, click the links below. In the free Genealogy Gems podcast, you’ll hear from Kentucky poet laureate George Ella Lyon, whose original poem “Where I’m From” has inspired thousands of people around the world to write their own versions. We recently invited podcast listeners to share theirs, which you’ll find in recent and coming episodes of the Genealogy Gems podcast.
Here are the results from the Genealogy Gems “Where I’m From” poetry contest. They include this fantastic short video version. Check it out!
During the last quarter of 2015, we ran a family history writing contest inspired by a poem by George Ella Lyon called “Where I’m From.” George Ella, the poet laureate for Kentucky, joined us on the Genealogy Gems Podcast Episode 185 to share her poem and tips for others to write their own version (click here to listen–it’s free!).
Kay wrote in with this Gem: “When I heard your podcast interview with George Ella Lyon, I just knew that I needed to write a ‘Where I’m From’ poem. Since I am fortunate to have many family photos taken by my dad throughout the years, I decided to add photos to my poem and make a video. I finished it last night, and wanted to share it with you and your listeners.” Kay has posted it on her blog, Just a Little Detail, but you can also watch it below:
In addition to this marvelous video, I received eight audio-recorded entries. Truly, all of them are absolutely wonderful. I had planned on randomly drawing one winner, but I changed my mind. ALL entrants will receive 1 year of Genealogy Gems Premium website membership (if they’re already members, I’m adding on a year). Taking the time to think about their personal history, writing the poem, and then overcoming nerves and recording it to share with really does show above-and-beyond dedication to family history and to our family history community!
Congratulations to the winners you’ve heard from already: Kay Little (above) and a few whose poems have already been shared on the free Genealogy Gems podcast: Kathie Duke, Wanda Stone and Dee Guyre. You’ll hear from more winners in coming episodes.
Feeling inspired? Here are more gems on writing your family history:
Did you see the contest we announced last week? Write your own version of a popular family history poem, and you could win a free 1-year Genealogy Gems Premium website subscription!
Last week, Lisa Louise Cooke welcomed Kentucky poet laureate George Ella Lyon to Genealogy Gems Podcast episode 185 (click here to listen – it’s free!). George Ella wrote a poem that has become a very popular family history writing exercise. It’s called “Where I’m From.” You can hear her read it on the podcast or click here to read it on her website.
“Where I’m From” follows a simple format anyone can follow. Make lists of things that remind you where you’re from: memories of people, places, words or phrases, food, smells, everyday household items, pastimes, hard times–whatever comes to mind. Then shape the list into a poem. It doesn’t have to rhyme or follow any set format. It just needs to sound good to you.
To encourage YOU to write your own “Where I’m From” poem, we’re sponsoring a giveaway. Here’s what you do: write your poem, then call in and read it on Lisa’s voicemail at (925) 272-4021) by December 31, 2015. Also leave your name, phone number, and email address on the voicemail so we can reach you (your phone and email will be kept private). On December 31, 2015 we will choose one caller to win a 1-year Genealogy Gems Premium website subscription, a $39.95 value–either a NEW subscription or a RENEWAL for any current member. We may share that caller’s poem and any others on upcoming Genealogy Gems podcast episodes–just to inspire everyone else!
Here are some tips from George Ella Lyon on writing your own version of “Where I’m From:”
“Just list whatever comes to mind to start: food, music, landscapes, people. Be open to whatever you think of.
This is a process. It may take several days to craft your list.
Later, as you organize what you write into its final shape, go back and see which lines have the most energy. Read it out loud. What order feels right?
Have fun! Don’t criticize yourself.
You can write “Where I’m From” from your current point of view or looking back.
Ready to write your own poem? Ready to challenge some friends or fellow genie buddies to do the same? Just share this post with them by email or through your favorite social media channels. We can’t wait to hear from you!
In the newly-published and FREE Genealogy Gems Podcast episode 185, Lisa celebrates family history writing with inspiring stories, her unique spin on the “marketing value” of family history blogs and a chance to win a FREE year of Premium membership!
This month, all of us here at Genealogy Gems are celebrating reaching a milestone 1000 blog posts on our website! In a special segment, several Genealogy Gems listeners and readers share THEIR adventures and successes with family history blogging–and Lisa shares some spot-on “why blog?” comments from a marketing perspective.
Continuing our celebration of family history writing–in all its forms–we welcome George Ella Lyon, the poet laureate of Kentucky, to talk to us about a poetry initiative she started that’s all about family identity. Her “Where I’m From” writing prompt has reached around the world–and now we bring it to you!
Listen to that segment, write your own poem and call in to read it on Lisa’s voicemail ((925) 272-4021) by the end of this year. You could win a 1-year Genealogy Gems Premium website subscription! Be sure to leave your name, phone number, and email address (your phone and email will be kept private and NOT played on the show). One lucky winner will be randomly selected on December 31, 2015.
Also in the Genealogy Gems podcast episode 185, you’ll find fabulous new online resources–millions of marriage records and some great new materials coming from the U.S. National Archives. Diahan Southard joins the show with a segment on understanding your DNA ethnicity results. So tune in and check us out! You can listen click here to listen from your web browser or mobile device. OR enjoy the perks and convenience of using the exclusive Genealogy Gems app, available for iPhone/iPad and Android.
Want to encourage a friend or relative to write a “Where I’m From” poem of their own? Want to help a genie buddy or your society members get inspired to blog? Why not share this free podcast with them? Thank you! You are a gem!
The biggest obstacle to writing family history can be getting started. Try one of these prompts to jump-start past the opening paragraph – then join me for my workshop!
Have you ever started to write a family history narrative, only to get stuck on the opening paragraph? “Charles John Andrews was born on….” You rattle off dates and parents’ names. Then you realize you’ve bored yourself in the very first paragraph. You give up.
(Note from Lisa: Don’t give up! Keep reading and then sign up for Sunny’s incredible new workshop which starts this week!)
One trick to writing a compelling family history is to find the storylines in our ancestors’ lives. A life isn’t a single story from birth to death. It’s many stories. The steamboat explosion the child survived. Teen years on the farm, attending school part-time. The Civil War skirmish that raged through town and wiped out the family farm.
The following series of writing prompts can help you identify and sketch out the stories you want to tell. Scan through the list of questions and see who or what story comes to mind. Then take 10-15 minutes and just start writing or typing the story. Don’t worry about grammar. Don’t go back and look up historical details. Just write:
1. The course of _____’s life totally changed when….
2. A big mystery in my family history is….
3. If I could meet _____, I would ask him/her _____ and this is why….
4. I am fascinated by my “black sheep” ancestor, who….
5. My ancestor lived through a (frightening, important, rapidly-changing) time in history. Here’s what was going on, and here’s his/her story.
6. A great love story in my family is the story about _____ and _____. This is how it goes.
7. I often wonder whether the life of _____ was as (sad/exciting/lonely/boring) as I imagine. Here’s what I know….
The real purpose of these writing prompts is to help you identify the stories you most want to tell–and to get you excited about telling them! But you should also find a use for these brainstorming paragraphs. Copy them into a blog post. Expand on them for a short biographical sketch you can share with your family. Expand even more, and you’ve got an article for your local genealogical society’s newsletter.
Come Learn with Me in this Week’s Writing Workshop!
Now is the time to write some your family history, and I’m here to help and support you. THIS WEEK I am leading the fun and productive Genealogist’s Essential Writing Workshop at Family Tree University. It starts October 19. You can do this and I’m here to help!
Click to Read These Gems to Help You Write Your Family History: