Write it down

One of my passions as a genealogy librarian is encouraging people to write their family history stories. I firmly believe that the names, dates, and places on our family trees are much more interesting to most of our family if they are shared in interesting stories.

Are you ready to write your family story? Probably not! If you’re like most genealogists, you enjoy researching and feel like there’s always one more record or tidbit of information out there to find. But really, the best thing you can do is say, I’ve got enough information for now, it’s time to share it with others.

How do you start? Like anything else, you just have to do it. Start with one ancestor, maybe put his or her picture in front of you for inspiration, and then write. Tell some of the facts, and then tell about the world they lived in. Before you know it, you’ll have one story down and ideas for many more.

What kind of format will your stories take? Write a “sketch” about one ancestor, add a few pictures, and you’ve got a story. Start a blog and put up a post about an ancestor who inspires you. I know someone who sent emails to his grandchildren every week with a story about an ancestor.

If you need outside incentive, I have some recommendations for you:

  • Amy Johnson Crow encourages people to write about 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks. When you sign up for her emails you will get a different prompt every week along with examples of what others have written. Read her post and listen to her podcast for inspiration. I admit that an ancestor a week is pretty ambitious, but I am going out on a limb here to say that I am going to try to stick with this as long as I can. It’s week three and I’ve kept up so far with three posts on my personal genealogy blog.
  • On Lynn Palermo’s Family History Writing Studio website, she offers weekly videos, writing prompts, even a master class class. Sign up for her Family History Writing Challenge in February to receive an email a day with a tip to help you improve your writing along with a writing exercise.
  • The library has many books to inspire you as well: Write Your Family History: Easy Steps to Organize, Save and Share by Steve Szabados; Writing Your Family History: A Guide for Family Historians by Gill Blanchard; You Can Write Your Family History by Sharon DeBartolo Carmack; and Publish Your Family History by Dina C. Carson
  • Finally, consider attending a Genealogy Writers’ Group meeting at the library. We gather every other month and bring something to share that we’ve written. We offer encouragement and constructive criticism to each other. Please bring something you’ve written and join us at our next meeting on March 10.

Let 2020 be the year that you start telling the stories of your ancestors. You’ve worked hard to research them, now let others get to know them. Sharing our ancestors, learning from them, and celebrating family is really what genealogy is all about.


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