Archive for the ‘FH Writer Tips’ Category

Family History Writer Tip ~ When to Capitalize Father and Mother

We often need to use words like father, mother, grandfather, uncle when writing our family histories – but “When to capitalize?” is the question many ask.

Capitalize or not?

Choosing when to capitalize family titles can be tricky, but there is a simple way to get it right.  

Capitalize words such as  Father, Mother,  Grandfather, Grandmother,  Son, Daughter,  Brother, Sister when they are used in place of the person’s name.  Do not capitalize them when they follow possessive pronouns such as my,  his, her, our, or your, as in the following examples:Highland Clouds

My father was a farmer in Scotland (not really).

It was in the Scottish Highlands that Father found his wife, my mother.

When returning from a potluck dinner, Father’s brother (my uncle) tripped over a log.

I asked Mother what she remembered about living in Scotland. She said, “Clouds.”

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Writing Tip ~ Pour/Pore/Poor and Plain/Plane

More simple words that are often confused when writing our family histories – pour/pore/poor and plain/plane.

Writing confusing words

The cowPour/pore/poor

To pour something, is to empty liquid from one container to another – as in, “Grandpa’s farm girl once tried to pour milk from the bucket into Grandpa’s mug, but she was short-sighted and missed the mug. The left-over milk in Grandpa’s boots didn’t smell good after a while.”

Pore used as a noun, is an opening in the skin or in plant leaves – as in, “Mother said the day was so hot that the pores on Grandpa’s nose grew large and shiny.” Pore as a verb means to examine something – as in “I pored over the tiny writing on the old certificates, trying to read Great-grandmother’s last name.”

When a person is poor, they don’t have enough money – as in, “Great-grandfather Potts had twelve children, and they were so poor that he couldn’t afford shoes for them all.”


The word plain can either mean ordinary, or it can mean a flat stretch of land – as in, “Great-grandfather Potts’ second child, Elspeth, was a kind, plain-looking girl who married a farmer from the Canadian Plains.”

A plane is a tool used to smooth wood – as in, “Great-grandfather Potts’ third boy, Mahonri, was a gifted carpenter. When he worked with wood, it looked like the plane was gliding over butter.”


Writing Tip ~ Altogether/All Together and Apart/A Part

Some simple words to explain this week – simple, yet often confused when writing our family histories – altogether/all together, and apart/a part.

Writing confusing words

Altogether/all togetherToo large hat

Altogether means entirely – as in, “Aunt Jemima’s hat was altogether too large for her little, baby face.”

A group that is all together is gathered in one place – as in, “Aunt Jemima and the girls were all together when the photograph was taken. The hat proved an instant identifier for generations to come.”

Apart/a part

The word apart is used when something is separated – as in, “Aunt Jemima’s hat fell apart one stormy day and she never could rebuild it quite the same.”

When something is a part of something else, it is joined with it – as in, “The new riding school was a part of the old farm, but visitors never knew this because the farmhouse was far from the road, way across the field.”

Writing Tip ~ Supposed to/Suppose & Incite/Insight

This week, I’ll explain four more confusing words we might see when writing our family histories — supposed to/suppose, and incite/insight.

Writing confusing words

marriageSupposed to/suppose

Supposed to is correct, suppose to is incorrect. Supposed to means”to be obligated to” or “presumed to” – as in, “Great-Aunt Freda was supposed to marry Jim Shivers in May 1892, but saw him beat a kitten two days before the wedding, so changed her mind, and married Theodore Cuddles in July 1893. 

The word suppose means to guess, surmise, or assume – as in, “I suppose Great-Aunt Freda had one child since I only ever heard about her son Billy. I should research further for accuracy.”


Incite means to encourage, stir, or prompt to action – as in, “Billy’s cousin, Paul, once tried to incite his class at school to riot, but the other children ignored Paul and saved him from disaster.”

To have insight means to see into inner character, or see an underlying truth – being able to discern the true nature of a thing – as in, “Great-Aunt Freda’s insight into the true character of Jim Shivers saved her from a life of suffering. Jim ended up in prison for manslaughter in 1898.”

Writing Tip ~ Capital/Capitol and Reluctant/Reticent

Some more words that can often be confusing when writing our family histories are capital/capitol, and reluctant/reticent.

Writing confusing words


The word capital can refer to either wealth – as in, “When Uncle Barnaby died, Aunt Nessy invested the capital from the sale of his pigs in a business of her own” – or it can refer to a city that is the seat of government – as in, “London is the capital of both England and the United Kingdom.”

The word capital can also be applied to letters – as in, “Great Aunt Minnie always printed her name in capital letters after her signature. She didn’t want anyone to forget her.”

The Capitol is the main building of the US Congress where the Senate and House of Representatives meet.


When a person is reluctant, he or she is hesitant or unwilling to proceed – as in, “Great-grandma Jane was reluctant to accept a marriage proposal from the young man in Barclay’s Bank. Since childhood, the shy lad who worked in the butcher’s shop had filled her dreams.”

Reticent means slow to speak freely, restrained, or reserved – as in, “Great-grandpa Jacob cut up dead animals for a living. He never dared believe Great-grandma Jane might think him worthy of marriage and his reticent nature almost changed his future.”

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