Story Starter: The Census

Shutterstock / Tetiana Tychynska © story starter

It’s quite daunting to think of a worthy Story Starter! There are so many things that can spark creativity and imagination . . . but which to choose?

I bounced around a few different ideas, but I kept coming back to just one.

Lately, you’ll have seen lots of adverts on the TV and messaging elsewhere about the 2021 Census.

As somebody who loves family history and genealogy it’s exciting!

The Census is recorded every ten years and as every frustrated family history buff will know, a lot can change in that time!

A family could have moved multiple times or migrated, sons and daughters could have moved out and got married, even had children of their own. Sadly, there could have been a loss in the family.

It’s a dot to dot – eventually, you’ll realise the bigger picture.

Your story could fill in the gaps. What happened in the intervening years?

Is there a figure in your family history who has taken on mythological heights? An eccentric distant relative or the roguish black sheep of the family?

Might they inspire an interesting character for a story?

Ancestral DNA

Nowadays, it’s not just about looking at documents.

There are services that allow you to send off a sample of your DNA and receive a full report of your origins. It can reveal a few surprises!

You can even find other people who have taken the test that are related to you.

Perhaps your character has never known their family and origins so decide to find out. A journey of discovery.

In recent years, authorities have even solved serious cold case crimes using genealogical DNA. What if your character’s test results finally brought a criminal to justice?

Home sweet home

Instead of considering the history and movements of one family, you could look into the history of a house.

There is a great book, “Visitation” by Jenny Erpenbeck that does just that.

The house is the focus and, through the families that pass through its walls, the book explores 19th and 20th Century Germany.

Is there a great house nearby that saw decadence and glamour in its heyday and has now been converted into flats? Maybe a high street shop changing hands over the years?

We have great posts by findmypast that can help you unlock the history of your house. Or you could make it all up, of course!

There is plenty to think about when it comes to the Census.

I hope it sparks something for you!

For another Story Starter from Lucy’s back catalogue, click here.

Abigail Phillips

Abbie is the newest member of the fiction team at the "Friend." She loves how varied the role is - every day is different and there is always a new story to read. She is keen to work closely with established writers and discover new writers, too.