Telling Our Ancestors’ Stories

Recently, I came across a book online that caught my eye. It wasn’t the typical kind of book that I would normally even notice, as, on the surface, it is geared to business workplace presentations.

However, I found myself going back to take a second and third look at it because I realized that following the methods that were outlined would make me a better teller of my ancestors’ stories.

Storytelling with Data

Storytelling with Data was written by a young woman named Cole Nussbaumer Knaflic, who has a mathematical and business background – which is about the polar opposite of my background and interests. However, her book is easy to read and I clearly saw the link between her world and that of a genealogist.

From her “About” page: My name is Cole. I’ve always had a penchant for turning data into pictures and into stories. I’d like to share what I have learned (and am learning) with you. I’ve honed my data visualization skills over the past decade through analytical roles in banking, private equity, and most recently at Google, where I developed and taught a course on communicating effectively with data. 

The  introduction states, “This book is written for anyone who needs to communicate something to someone using data.”

Currently, there is a huge push by tech companies for family historians to record memories and to share them with the next generation. Aren’t we using data – births, marriages, deaths, places and events – to entice others to learn about those who came before us? Don’t we need to present the data in such a way that will both interest our readers and draw them into those past lives?

Ms. Knaflic’s book has ten chapters:

  1. The Importance of Context
  2. Choosing an Effective Visual
  3. Clutter Is Your Enemy
  4. Focus Your Audience’s Attention
  5. Think Like a Designer
  6. Dissecting Model Visuals
  7. Lessons in Storytelling
  8. Pulling It All Together
  9. Case Studies
  10. Final Thoughts

If I wrote a book on how to organize and tell your family’s stories, I could use all the same chapter titles!

I don’t often plug products, but if you are interested in checking out this book, Amazon’s link has about 40 pages available to preview. The book is available for about $20.00.

Cole Nussbaumer Knaflic also writes a blog, under the same title as her book. I have added it to my feedly subscriptions.

Now, I need to follow her guidelines to make my family stories more engaging for others!




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