Writing Family HistoryWriting a family history can be a great way to capture all the information that you’ve worked on in your genealogical research. It’s also a great strategy to concisely convey the story of your family’s development over time in a way that’s easy to share with others – from members of your extended family to other genealogists and historians. But developing a family history, whether you write an entire book or you develop a more free flowing heritage album, is a significant amount of work. Here are some general guidelines to help you get started with conceptualizing your project.

Determine a scope of work

The starting point for any family history is determining a scope of work. It would be impossible to write one book that comprehensively covered everything you know. Instead, decide on a specific scope of work for the project. Do you want to document the life and times of one very specific, interesting ancestor? Perhaps you could tell the tale of your family’s migration to the United States? Or maybe you want to broadly develop a resource that explores the history of one family line or one geographic/historical location? The more clearly you determine what you’re trying to accomplish, the easier it will be to map out your narrative and select the right sources.

Think about your style choices

Even though a family history is a factual work of non-fiction, there are numerous ways to approach it. Will you use a story style or a more academic tone when approaching your project? Part of what drives your style choices can be determined by what you’re trying to accomplish. Is your goal to share your family stories or to provide a resource for other researchers? Determining who your audience is and how you’d like the project to help them, educate them, or entertain them will give you a good idea of the best style to use.

Use and track a variety of sources

A family history needs to strike the balance between providing a good story or reading experience and documenting the facts. Consider what sources you’ll use. Many writers incorporate oral histories, photographs, and more traditional genealogical research documentation. The important part is that as you incorporate sources, you have a clear plan for how to document and record them. In text citations, footnotes, and bibliographies are all options – sometimes in combination. Choose one approach and follow it throughout the text.

Consider working with a professional

Writing a family history can be a major undertaking. At various points, a professional may offer valuable assistance. Consulting with a professional genealogist can help you make important choices about what to cover, reflect on your text, or streamline your sourcing. An editor or copyeditor can proofread the document to give you the confidence of knowing that the text is clean and error-free.

Do you need help developing a plan for writing up your family history? Contact Price & Associates today to arrange for a personalized consultation.