Alternative ways to present your family history

If you are struggling to get started writing your complete family history using the traditional chronological approach then maybe it’s time to look for alternative ways to present your family history. Not many people enjoy reading long and dreary family histories which document all ancestors but which typically don’t give any idea about what these people were like, how they lived, what challenges they had to face and so on.

So, in this blog I have included some other suggestions for alternative ways to present your family history which are fun to write or compile and which are also more likely to appeal to a wider audience.

Look for stories with a specific theme

In my blog Write your family history story by story, I recommend that you start by looking for the stories you have uncovered in your research but to narrow this down look for stories which fit into a specific theme.

For example, is there common theme or characteristic such as migration, military service or a family trade which united a number of generations? Were any of your ancestors brought together by a tragedy or did any of them find themselves on the wrong side of the law? Do you have any ancestors who spent the whole of their lives in the same town or village or did you discover any ancestors who moved to a different part of the world to start a new life?  Were there any black sheep or adventurers in your family who led interesting and colourful lives?

Write short biographies about your ancestors

Use your research to build up short biographies about your ancestors using details about any  significant historical, political, economic or social events as the backdrop. This approach works best if you have access to personal artefacts such as letters and diaries which were written by the ancestors you are writing about.

Make a family history recipe book

If you want to create a rather different type of family history, then a family recipe book which combines treasured family recipes with memories of the people and events that inspired them, makes a very special (and useful) family history heirloom. To make your book even more appealing include photos of the completed recipes together with any other mementos such as photos of the people who created the recipes, photos of any events or family occasions when the recipe was eaten, scanned copies of original hand-written recipes and so on. Another popular genre of food writing is a food memoir (or Foodoir). To find out more, take a look at Writing a foodoir -what is it and could you write one?

Create a family history scrapbook or photo album

if you have a collection of photos and you don’t feel inspired to get scribbling, why not put them all together into a family scrapbook or family photo album. Start by organising your photos (for example, by date, event, theme etc. ) and then gather as much information as you can about each photo (names, dates, ages of the people in the photo, the location, the occasion etc.). You could also include memorabilia such as letters, postcards, newspaper clippings, theatre and concert programmes, invitations, recipes, family trees and so on.

Many scrapbookers use the original photos and memorabilia in a one-off single scrapbook, but if you want to create a printed scrapbook or album, then you should start by scanning everything you want to include. If you have got lots of photos and memorabilia, it may be better to concentrate on a specific theme or lineage. However, the most important thing is to label all items with at least some basic identifying information. If you have any stories or anecdotes then make sure you include these too – they will add so much more interest to your album (check out Scrapbook journaling is an important part of a scrapbook page for some tips on how you can add words to your scrapbook or photo album).

Set up a family history blog

Another way of telling your family story is by creating a family history blog. A blog (or weblog) is a type of website where you can write (post) your stories as you write them. Your posts can include text and images and other media such as videos and they can also include links to other posts or anything else on the web. The blogging community is generally encouraging and supportive and there will  be people out there who eagerly await your next post which is a great incentive to get scribbling your next story.

Blogging doesn’t have to cost you anything. If you are a beginner and want something simple and easy to use then your best option is a hosted blog such as But do a check online to find out what else is available and what would be most suitable for your needs.

Alternative ways to present your family history – forget the chronological approach

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