Spotlight on Courses: Writing and Immigrants

John Philip Colletta, Ph.D., FUGA, is a recognized authority on two genealogical topics: immigration and writing quality stories. These two strengths are utilized together in his unique course “Your Immigrant Ancestors’ Stories: Writing a Quality Narrative.”

For those of you who love a good mystery or a well-told story, look for Dr. Colletta’s narrative, Only a Few Bones: A True Account of the Rolling Fork Tragedy and Its Aftermath. One can read this on many levels: for enjoyment of the historical story, for the puzzle of the evidence supporting the twelve hypotheses possibly explaining the tragedy, for the education of the skillful interweaving of source-cited facts. 

Before his narrative family story, Colletta was already an established author of immigration resources. They Came in Ships and Finding Italian Roots are both guides to their topics that have been helping generations of genealogists unite with their ancestors from “across the pond.”  

John describes the course content and activities (see link for more info): “Vivid examples and case studies from colonial times through the early twentieth century demonstrate how to compile the material you’ve gathered; narrate life stories; maximize ship passenger lists, naturalization records, and information found in other immigrant sources; choose a numbering system; document, edit and proofread your text; and publish your work on paper or electronically. Classes explore how to weave oral family lore and treasured heirlooms, as well as pertinent local history, into your ancestors’ stories, and how to incorporate maps, charts and illustrations to enliven your prose. An in-class writing exercise (with follow-up in-class critique) helps you improve practical writing skills, share your special talents, and exchange ideas with the instructors and fellow students. Solid genealogical scholarship and narrative family history writing are not mutually exclusive, but rather complementary.”

John wants his potential students to know that “there are no prerequisites for the course. Genealogists at any stage of their research, from beginner to advanced, will benefit. They just need to be open to the idea of committing the stories of their immigrant ancestors to writing and publishing those stories either in electronic format or on paper for future generations.”

And isn’t that why we really spend our time and resources on genealogy? To link the past to the future and preserve what we can so that future generations will know the stories of those who have come before.

NOTE: Dr. Colletta’s books are available through a variety of sources including Maia’s Books which will set up a bookstore during the week of GRIP for public browsing.

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