What if a book written about your grandmother, great-grandparents, or great-great-grandfather existed? I love biographies, which usually feature well-known current or historical figures, like Helen Keller, Abraham Lincoln, Barack Obama. 

As I read more biographies about famous subjects, I wondered what reading one about one of my ancestors would be like. But since my ancestors were not well-known historical figures, I knew that if I ever wanted to read a biography about one of them, I would need to write it. 

And, so, I did. I wrote a 208-page paperback biography titled Helen & Frank: A Biography that reconstructed my great-grandparents’ lives through archival research, oral histories, surviving photographs, and historical context. I just officially published it this week.

This project shocked me. It led to new realizations about my great-grandparents that I never had previously, and I feel so much closer to them now, even though I never knew them. It took me deeper into areas of research I thought I had exhausted. The entire time, my mission for writing it remained the same: To discover, share, and preserve my great-grandparents’ stories for generations.

Now that the book is written and published, hopefully their stories will be preserved for a long time. Future generations of our family can say there is a biography about their ancestors, too!

I ultimately arrived at the idea for this project that’s been such a joy to share with my family through writing weekly on this blog. It’s been an honor to have you all reading my work and sharing your stories and thoughts in the comments section and via email. Thank you so much. Your support means a great deal to me and has inspired special personal projects like this biography. Please keep sharing your thoughts; I enjoy reading them and meeting you.

Jack Palmer has done genealogy research since he was ten years old and loves writing about it for family, friends, and anybody else who might enjoy research stories and advice. He graduated from Duke University in May 2023, majoring in History and Psychology, and is the author of Helen & Frank: A Biography, a biography about his great-grandparents.

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