Terry's TMG Tips

Creating Flowing Narratives

This page updated 29 Jun 2013

Version note: Applies to TMG 8 & 9

TMG creates workable narrative reports "out of the box" – that is, using the default settings. But it offers tools to create narratives that flow as if hand written, well... because they are.

I know that when I finally publish "the book" on my research I'll want to further edit the text in a word processor. But in the meantime, I find I frequently send sections of my research to distant cousins and other interested in some branch. And I enjoy "publishing" sections as works in progress on my website using Second Site. To make these interim publications read well enough to be interesting to those who receive them, I take several steps to create narratives I consider readable straight out of TMG. They include:

Use of Sort Dates and Local Sentences requires the Advanced Data entry mode. For more details on that, see my Data Entry Tutorial.

Examples of some of these techniques are discussed in the various sections mentioned above. What follows is an illustration of how these techniques are combined to create a flowing narrative for an individual.

The Result

I have provided an example of the Journal output for one of my Dad's uncles in my article Why TMG? as an illustration of TMG's power to create flowing narratives. Here is that example, which is unedited output from a Journal report:

    Ralph Orzben Reigel was born on 14 Feb 1875 in Lycoming Co., Pennsylvania. He married Edith Jennie Roberts, daughter of Adin Roberts and Sarah Jane Hodge, on 25 Dec 1896 in View, Clark Co., Washington, with Rev. A. Roberts (perhaps the bride's father) officiating. He died on 4 Jun 1957 in Santa Cruz, Santa Cruz Co., California, at age 82. He was buried on 7 Jun 1957 in Oakwood Memorial Park.
    He moved circa 1892 to La Center, Clark Co., Washington, with his parents Benjamin Franklin Riegel and Esther Matilda Gann. He and Edith lived in Clark Co., Washington for a time after their marriage. They were listed in the Chelatchie section in the 1900 census, and he reported he was a resident of La Center in his homestead application in 1908. But in the meantime they were in Idaho long enough for the birth of Adin there in 1905. They completed a house on their homestead in Arrow, Lake Co., Oregon in Nov 1908, and occupied it 28 May 1909. We do not know how long they lived there after Ralph filed the "Final Proof" papers for the homestead in Feb 1915. He applied for a homestead of 160 acres in Arrow, Lake Co., Oregon, on 19 May 1908. Under new homestead provisions enacted in Feb 1909, he submitted a supplemental application on 11 Mar 1913 to increase the size of the grant to 325 acres. The patent formalizing the grant was issued 29 Apr 1915.
    In developing their homestead, the family built a 20 by 30 foot home, with a 12 by 16 foot "L" and a 10 by 12 foot cellar. They apparently kept livestock, as they built a 24 by 28 foot barn, and an 8 by 10 foot chicken house. They erected fencing for the garden, a hog lot, and over a mile and a half of barb-wire fencing of fields. They dug two wells, one 27 feet deep, the other shallower. But homesteading in the bleak area of central Oregon seems to have been very difficult, as seen from the results of the family's first five years of farming. In 1910 they planted 2½ acres of oats, and harvested nothing. The following year 10 acres of rye yielded one ton of hay. In 1912 plantings of an acre of rutabagas, 3 acres of wheat, and 12 acres of rye produced only 7 tons of hay. In 1913 25 acres of rye yielded 12 tons of hay, apparently a high point. The next year 20 acres of rye were planted, along with 4 acres of alfalfa, 4 of wheat, and 12 of barley, all to harvest 1½ tons of hay. The family lore that they "nearly starved" during this time seems not far from the mark. The family did have a vegetable garden of about ½ acre each year, and operated a small store and post office, where Edith was postmistress. At least part of the time Ralph worked elsewhere, as he reported in the 1910 census he was a sawmill engineer, and was not out of work in 1909.
    By Jan 1920 the family had moved to Terrebonne, Deschutes Co., Oregon and by Apr 1930 they lived in Ashland, Jackson Co., Oregon. Ralph seems to have regarded his primary occupation as a steam engineer, or operator of steam engines. In the 1900 and 1910 censuses he reported that he was a sawmill engineer, and in 1930 as a stationary engineer. But he was engaged in agriculture for much of his life. His homestead application in 1915 lists various crops attempted, and on the 1920 census he reported his occupation as farmer. Ralph and at least some of his sons lived and worked in various areas of northern California, mainly working in the fruit orchards. By Jan 1931 he was in Maxwell, Colusa Co., but later moved farther north. The family was living in Orland, Glenn Co., when his granddaughter, Elizabeth, was born in Jul 1932. He was still in that area as late as Oct 1941. He and Edith moved to Santa Cruz, Santa Cruz Co., California circa 1944. At the time of their deaths they were living at 1037 17th Ave., Santa Cruz.
    Ralph and Edith appeared on the 1900 Federal Census of Chelatchie, Clark Co., Washington, enumerated 29 Jun 1900. Their daughter Sara was listed as living with them. He and Edith appeared on the 1910 Federal Census of Silver Lake, Lake Co., Oregon, enumerated 10 May 1910, living next to her brother Fred, and his family. Their children Sara, Bessie, Bennie, Adin and George were listed as living with them.
    He and Edith appeared on the 1920 Federal Census of Terrebonne, Deschutes Co., Oregon, at Redmond Terrebonne Road, enumerated 19 Jan 1920. Their children Bennie, Adin, George and Juanita were listed as living with them. He and Edith appeared on the 1930 Federal Census of Ashland, Jackson Co., Oregon, at 771 North Main St., enumerated 21 Apr 1930, reporting that the family owned a home worth $1,000, and a radio. Their son George was listed as living with them.

How It Was Done

For those interested in attempting this sort of customization, the following table shows the Tag used to produce each part of the text, and how they were customized to produce this narrative. I don't claim the methods I used are the best way, or even a particularly good way, to record this information. In fact, in some cases the methods used are the result of my evolving technique, and I might use different methods if starting fresh now. Nevertheless, they do illustrate some methods for managing the flow of a narrative.

Narrative
Tag Type
Date /
Sort Date
Role / Sentence Type /
Sentence Structure
Ralph Orzben Reigel was born on 14 Feb 1875 in Lycoming Co., Pennsylvania.
Birth
Standard
14 Feb 1875
14 Feb 1875
Principal / Customized:
[P] was born <[D]> <[L]> <[M]>
He married Edith Jennie Roberts, daughter of Adin Roberts and Sarah Jane Hodge, on 25 Dec 1896 in View, Clark Co., Washington, with Rev. A. Roberts (perhaps the bride's father) officiating.
Marriage
Standard
25 Dec 1896
25 Dec 1896
Principal / Customized:
[P] married [PO] <[PARO]> <[D]> <[L]>< [M]>
He died on 4 Jun 1957 in Santa Cruz, Santa Cruz Co., California, at age 82.
Death
Standard
04 Jun 1957
04 Jun 1957
Principal / Customized:
[P] died <[D]> <[L]> <[A]>< [M]>
He was buried on 7 Jun 1957 in Oakwood Memorial Park.
Burial
Standard
07 Jun 1957
07 Jun 1957
Principal / Customized:
[P] was buried <[D]> <[L]>< [M]>
He moved circa 1892 to La Center, Clark Co., Washington, with his parents Benjamin Franklin Riegel and Esther Matilda Gann.
Moved
Custom
c. 1892
c. 1891
Witness / Global:
[W] moved <[D]> <to [L]> with his parents [P1] <and [P2]>
He and Edith lived in Clark Co., Washington for a time after their marriage. They were listed in the Chelatchie section in the 1900 census, and he reported he was a resident of La Center in his homestead application in 1908. But in the meantime they were in Idaho long enough for the birth of Adin there in 1905. They completed a house on their homestead in Arrow, Lake Co., Oregon in Nov 1908, and occupied it 28 May 1909. We do not know how long they lived there after Ralph filed the "Final Proof" papers for the homestead in Feb 1915.
Living
Standard
none
10 Jan 1900
Principal / Local:
[P] and [POF] [M]
He applied for a homestead of 160 acres in Arrow, Lake Co., Oregon, on 19 May 1908. Under new homestead provisions enacted in Feb 1909, he submitted a supplemental application on 11 Mar 1913 to increase the size of the grant to 325 acres. The patent formalizing the grant was issued 29 Apr 1915.
Land Grant
Custom
19 May 1908
15 Jan 1900
Principal / Local:
[P] [M1] <[L]> <[D]>. [M2]
In developing their homestead, the family built a 20 by 30 foot home, with a 12 by 16 foot "L" and a 10 by 12 foot cellar. They apparently keep livestock, as they built a 24 by 28 foot barn, and an 8 by 10 foot chicken house. They erected fencing for the garden, a hog lot, and over a mile and a half of barb-wire fencing of fields. They dug two wells, one 27 feet deep, the other shallower.
AnecdoteNP
Custom
none
01 Feb 1900
Principal / Global:
[:CR:][:TAB:][M]
But homesteading in the bleak area of central Oregon seems to have been very difficult, as seen from the results of the family's first five years of farming. In 1910 they planted 2½ acres of oats, and harvested nothing. The following year 10 acres of rye yielded one ton of hay. In 1912 plantings of an acre of rutabagas, 3 acres of wheat, and 12 acres of rye produced only 7 tons of hay. In 1913 25 acres of rye yielded 12 tons of hay, apparently a high point. The next year 20 acres of rye were planted, along with 4 acres of alfalfa, 4 of wheat, and 12 of barley, all to harvest 1½ tons of hay. The family lore that they "nearly starved" during this time seems not far from the mark. The family did have a vegetable garden of about ½ acre each year, and operated a small store and post office, where Edith was postmistress. At least part of the time Ralph worked elsewhere, as he reported in the 1910 census he was a sawmill engineer, and was not out of work in 1909.
Anecdote
Standard
none
03 Feb 1900
Principal / Default:
[M]
By Jan 1920 the family had moved to Terrebonne, Deschutes Co., Oregon and by Apr 1930 they lived in Ashland, Jackson Co., Oregon
Living
Standard
none
06 Feb 1900
Principal / Local:
[:CR:][:TAB:][M]
Ralph seems to have regarded his primary occupation as a steam engineer, or operator of steam engines. In the 1900 and 1910 censuses he reported that he was a sawmill engineer, and in 1930 as a stationary engineer. But he was engaged in agriculture for much of his life. His homestead application in 1915 lists various crops attempted, and on the 1920 census he reported his occupation as farmer.
Occupation
Standard
none
10 Feb 1900
Principal / Local:
[PF] [M] <[D]> <[L]>
Ralph and at least some of his sons lived and worked in various areas of northern California, mainly working in the fruit orchards. By Jan 1931 he was in Maxwell, Colusa Co., but later moved farther north. The family was living in Orland, Glenn Co., when his granddaughter, Elizabeth, was born in Jul 1932. He was still in that area as late as Oct 1941.
Living
Standard
06 Jan 1931
19 Feb 1900
Principal / Local:
[PF]< [M1]>, [RF:Witness], [M2]
He and Edith moved to Santa Cruz, Santa Cruz Co., California circa 1944. At the time of their deaths they were living at 1037 17th Ave., Santa Cruz.
Moved
Custom
c. 1944
01 Mar 1900
Principal / Local:
[P] <|and [POF]> moved <to [LCI]>, [LCN], [LS] <[D]>. < [M]><at [LD]><, [LCI]>
Ralph and Edith appeared on the 1900 Federal Census of Chelatchie, Clark Co., Washington, enumerated 29 Jun 1900. Their daughter Sara was listed as living with them.
Cens1900
Custom
20 Jun 1900
20 Jun 1900
one Daughter / Local
[:CR:][:TAB:][PF] <|and [POF]> appeared on the 1900 Federal Census of< [LCI],>< [LCN],> [LS]<, at [LD]><, enumerated [D]><, [M]>. <Their daughter [RF:with Parents] was listed as living with them><His daughter [RF:with Father] was listed as living with him><, [M2]>
He and Edith appeared on the 1910 Federal Census of Silver Lake, Lake Co., Oregon, enumerated 10 May 1910, living next to her brother Fred, and his family. Their children Sara, Bessie, Bennie, Adin and George were listed as living with them.
Cens1910
Custom
10 May 1910
10 May 1910
Principal / Local
[P] <|and [POF]> appeared on the 1910 Federal Census of< [LCI],>< [LCN],> [LS]<, at [LD]><, enumerated [D]><, [M]>. <Their children [RF:with Parents] were listed as living with them><His children [RF:with Father] were listed as living with him><, [M2]>
Ralph and Edith appeared on the 1920 Federal Census of Terrebonne, Deschutes Co., Oregon, at Redmond Terrebonne Road, enumerated 19 Jan 1920. Their children Bennie, Adin, George and Juanita were listed as living with them.
Cens1920
Custom
19 Jan 1920
19 Jan 1920
Principal / Local
[:CR:][:TAB:][PF] <|and [POF]> appeared on the 1920 Federal Census of< [LCI],>< [LCN],> [LS]<, at [LD]><, enumerated [D]><, [M]>. <Their children [RF:with Parents] were listed as living with them><His children [RF:with Father] were listed as living with him><, [M2]>
He and Edith appeared on the 1930 Federal Census of Ashland, Jackson Co., Oregon, at 771 North Main St., enumerated 21 Apr 1930, reporting that the family owned a home worth $1,000, and a radio. Their son George was listed as living with them.
Cens1930
Custom
21 Apr 1930
21 Apr 1930
one Son / Global
[P] <|and [POF]> appeared on the 1930 Federal Census of< [LCI],>< [LCN],> [LS]<, at [LD]><, enumerated [D]><, [M]>. <Their son [RF:with Parents] was listed as living with them><His son [RF:with Father] was listed as living with him><, [M2]>
Definition of "Sentence Type" Terms:
  Standard Tag Types - Tag Types provided with TMG:
   
Default:
Standard Sentence provided with TMG
   
Customized:
Sentences which I customized "globally" - at the Tag Type level
   
Local:
Sentences which I customized "locally" - in the individual Tag
  Custom Tag Types - Custom Tag Types I created:
 
Global:
Sentences which I created for the custom Tag Type
 
Local:
Sentences which I customized "locally" - in the individual Tag

Some comments and observations on the methods illustrated:

  1. Add Carriage Return and Tab codes - [:CR:] and [:TAB:] - to the beginning of the local Sentence of the tag that is to start the new paragraph. For example, see the 1900 census tag above.

  2. Create custom versions of common Tag Types which have those codes in their Sentences, and substitute them for the "regular" versions. For example, see the "AnecdoteNP" tag above.

  1. By creating default Sentences for Tag Types that refer to other participants. See for example the c. 1892 Moved tag which refers to the child's parents.
  2. By adding variables referring to them in local Sentences. See for example the 06 Jan 1931 Living tag, in which I've added the variable [RF:Witness] to the local Sentence to refer to his granddaughter.

  3. By including variables referring to them in the Memos text. For example the 1910 Census tag has a Memo of "living next to her brother [RF:Witness], and his family" to refer to her brother living next door.

I don't know that any one of these techniques is better than the others. I just use which ever one seems convenient, in part being influenced by the technique I was favoring at the time I created the Tag Type.

Further considerations for producing a "professional-grade" narrative article, including the use of introductory and concluding paragraphs, see my article on Producing a “Publishable” Article.

Hopefully these examples suggests how you might create more satisfactory narrative output of your data. Clearly it requires some effort beyond simply using default settings. But to me, the whole point of family history research is to create something that can be shared with others. It seems to me that sharing is thwarted when family members find the results too boring to read, so I think the extra effort is worthwhile.


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