SIDNEY — Sidney native and former Montra resident Vicki Korn Niggemeyer, now of Las Vegas, Nevada, had been putting together family histories for 25 years when she decided it was time to help other people do it on their own.
So she wrote a book about how to write a book — and how to preserve stories in half a dozen other ways, among them calendars, games, placemats and greeting cards.
The author of “Get Creative with Your Family History” will share ideas from her book and talk about her experiences, Tuesday, July 14, at 7 p.m. at the Ross Historical Center, 201 N. Main Ave. The program is free and open to the public. Niggemeyer will be presented by the Shelby County Historical Society and the Shelby County Genealogical Society.
She graduated from Jackson Center High School, attended Ohio University and earned a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Washington. Her husband, Charles, was a military pilot, so they have lived in many places throughout the country. The locally famous aviators, Milton and Edward Korn, were cousins once removed.
“I did a book called “The Korn Crops,” a narrative about my husband’s family, a pictorial history about my mom’s family. I’ve done short books, long books. I wanted to do something else,” Niggemeyer told the Sidney Daily News, Thursday. While those projects were just for use by family members, the author is not new to writing for a general audience. She co-authored “Holy Days: Holidays” with Judith Ritchie. It was published by Mott Media in 1978.
The publishing industry has changed a lot since then, she noted. “Get Creative with Your Family History” was self-published. Niggemeyer researched various self-publishing firms and selected Outskirts Press to complete her book. She is advertising the work, herself. A member of the Daughters of the American Revolution, she plans to give a presentation during the group’s statewide conference in Nevada this year. That, she hopes, will lead to opportunities to market the book to DAR members, as well as to members of the Sons of the American Revolution and genealogy and history enthusiasts.
It was a friend named Betty who inspired her to put the book together.
“(We) both had a real big thing about family history,” the author said. “She and I would share ideas. I had other friends who did tons of genealogy and put them in binders in the closet. We’d say, ‘What a shame.’ It shouldn’t be in the closet. It should be on the coffee table.”
Another friend talked often about her hope to travel to England to talk with a relative there about old family stories. She kept putting the trip off and eventually, the relative developed Alzheimer’s disease and the old stories were lost. That situation, too, influenced Niggemeyer’s decision to create her book.
It took two years to write and six months to publish.
“They tell you it will be three months, but it takes longer,” she said. She discovered that self-publishing firms charge “lots of hidden fees” for things like making changes to copy once it has been submitted.
During the writing of it, Niggemeyer had to decide what to include and what to leave out. She tells would-be family historians to do the same thing.
“(Concerning) skeletons in the closet: it’s an individual choice. As long as it doesn’t distort who your family is, you can leave things out. But if your great-uncle Joe was tried for murder, you really need to put that in,” she said.
In her book, Niggemeyer leads the reader through the process of finding and preserving the stories that have shaped his family. With chapter headings including “Gathering Your Information,” “Choosing the Method to Tell Your Story,” “Fun Ways to Learn and Share,” and “Your Family Story on the Big Screen,” she uses an informal, chatty style that easily engages and encourages even the most reluctant storyteller.
“Gathering your stories and material will never end. There’s always more information out there. However, you will reach a point when you feel you are ready to move to the next step,” she writes.
“As you write, don’t get hung up about grammar and punctuation … Your family will be happy just to have something in writing,” she says.
Her next project will be a children’s book about her husband’s exploits as an Air Force and Alaska Airlines pilot. She plans to title it, “Papa Was a Pilot.” Charles Niggemeyer, originally from Athens, Ohio, was in the air when the Sept. 11 attacks happened in 2001.
“I made Chuck sit down and we wrote out what he was feeling then,” she said. “My grandmother was 40 when the 19th Amendment (granting women the right to vote) was signed. No one ever asked her how she felt about that! You can’t possibly think of all the questions to ask, but you can ask some of them. If you can’t find stories about your parents, start with you. Get your own story down. Where were you on Sept. 11?”
While most people, when they hear the term, “family history,” think of a book or a photo album, Niggemeyer said the biggest response to “Get Creative with Your Family History” has concerned her ideas for making calendars and placemats.
“Family history is dull to a lot of people,” she said. “I think we have to make it fun.”
“Get Creative with Your Family History” sells for $10.95. It is available at Amazon.com and BarnesandNoble.com in hard copy and it’s available as an ebook on Kindle. Niggemeyer will have copies for sale, which she will autograph, at the Ross Center, Tuesday.
Reach the writer at 937-538-4824. Follow her on Twitter @PASpeelmanSDN.