Ideas to Start Your Journey
One of the questions I have heard at our in-person program meetings is, “who in my family will be interested in my genealogy work, after I am gone?” Like many of you I also wonder who will be interested in my personal genealogy gathered over many decades.
This article is focused on sharing ideas for how to start writing your family history. People tend to be more interested in the results of discovery than boxes of information. Family members don’t fight over the chance to take our boxes of “stuff”.
A simple way to start writing is to take paper and pencil and begin to think of a purpose for writing your family history. As an example, below is my initial process for writing my family history.
Focus on End Result
My main goal is to make sure that my family history is saved beyond my lifetime. My choice would be to write a family history, which involves starting to write summaries or sketches from the facts I have collected about my ancestors. Include citations for those facts. From this I can start to develop further stories and information from what I have collected. Such as how did my grandparents or parents meet?
Find a Family Member or an Archive?
Family in the traditional sense is usually parents and children, and grandchildren. However not everyone has lived in a traditional family. Maybe you never had a child of your own, so who would you pass it down to ? An option is to find an archive or local genealogical society to see if they take written family histories.
Connect to Other Genealogists
Whether I find a relative to pass along my genealogy work or provide a written format to an archive, developing connections to other genealogists is also beneficial. Local genealogy societies often have special interest groups that provide opportunities to share and learn how others write their genealogy story.
Manage Writing Time
Genealogists spend a lot of time doing research. There never seems to be enough time! If your genealogy materials are disorganized or your written family history is not finished, how can you get it done?
One guide I use is to get into a routine. Identify the specific activities that you will be doing to write your family history. Is there a best time during the day when you like to write? Is there a trigger to help write, a picture, a record, a particular ancestor, or article, that helps to start? What is the social history your ancestors lived through, people and events of the time? The main point is to think of a story based on records or evidence you have collected to get you started.
The key is to write your family history. Can I do it on my own or do I need help to organize and write? If I need help, where can I find it? One step is to look at the resources that are available on-line to write a family history. Look for guides to be organized as a genealogist. Seek help or opinions from others who are working through the same process of writing.
Smith, Drew. Organize Your Genealogy: Strategies and Solutions for every Researcher: Family Tree Books, 2016.
Erlbach, Arlene. The Families Book: True Stories about Real Kids and the People They Live With and Love: Free Spirit Publishing Inc., 1996.
Szabados, Stephen. Write Your Family History: Easy Steps To Organize, Save and Share. Copyright 2014 by Stephen M Szabados, independent publishing platform through CreateSpace.