top of page
  • Writer's pictureWendy Percival

A Few Little Prompts

I was most impressed to read on a recent blog post of Family Tree magazine’s Paul Chiddicks, (writer of their family history miscellany column, Dear Paul) that he’d almost completed a major undertaking to write the biographies of his 8 great-grandparents and 16 2x great-grandparents. Wow!

With the finishing line in sight, he was wondering “what next” and asked his fellow family historians for suggestions. The genealogy community did not disappoint and he was inundated with so many ideas that he decided to write a blog post on the subject called, All You Need is a Little Prompt. There are some really inspiring possibilities listed and I can heartily recommend reading the article.

I was particularly struck by Paul’s suggestion of writing about what he calls “the collateral lines” – ancestors not on your direct line who play a ‘supporting role’ to the main cast. It’s something I often find myself doing, and not just ancestors, but unrelated people, such as the employers of ancestors who were in-service, or close friends who were important to them and had a key part in their story. I call them “Associates” and I find it can put the information of an ancestor into context.

Cabbage and Semolina

One of the items listed on Paul's blog was writing your own story, and Paul had added, “in our rush to document the lives of our ancestors, we sometimes forget to actually tell our own stories. Your descendants will be grateful to you for telling your own story”.

I asked Paul whether he’d written his, and he said he’d started, mainly about his childhood, but it was something he planned to continue.

Some years ago I read a lovely personal childhood account by Cathy Murray, called Cabbage and Semolina, a delightful and entertaining read, written with affection and humour.

Cathy was inspired to write the book after her mother-in-law left it too late to write hers. By the time she took on the task, she couldn’t sustain her interest and concentration and was only able to write a very short memoir. Had she begun earlier, her account could have been a fascinating story of living through two world wars in the heart of London’s East End.

Cabbage and Semolina resonated with me as I shared many of Cathy’s childhood experiences – we had a joint love of Pookie the flying rabbit (I still have the book which had been my mum’s), we both had a 'Rosebud' baby doll (mine was called Rose) and I laughed at the memories of looped knicker elastic garters, cod liver oil (the taste has never left me!), the smell of gas at the dentist and tinned salmon for tea, to name but a few.

The way the memories are set out in the book under different headings is an inspired idea and shows a clever but simple, ordered and effective method which any one of us might use to record our own precious recollections for the benefit of generations to come.

So, if you’re wondering how to tackle the job, maybe Cabbage and Semolina might give you just the prompt you need.

Or, perhaps something else on Paul’s list might inspire you. I’ve already decided that once I’ve finished writing Esme Quentin Book 5, I’m definitely going to try out a few myself!


To find out more about the Esme Quentin Books, click on the image below.

bottom of page