Nostalgia in a family history - is there a place for it?

Can you be too nostalgic when writing a family history? Professional historians don’t really do nostalgia and sentiment. It is not their job to interpret history in this way and some criticise family historians for not adopting their own more critical approach to writing. However, an element of nostalgia in a family history narrative is what makes it unique and personal – but if you want to reach a wider audience don’t make it too personal or sentimental.

Why some nostalgia in a family history narrative is good

Is it reasonable to expect that people who have often spent years researching the lives of their ancestors should omit the emotions and nostalgia that drove them to look back in the first place? Of course not. Your memories and the memories of your relatives are often nostalgic and it is this nostalgia that helps to create an emotional connection between you and the people in your stories. You are not writing about people and events you have no emotional attachment to. You are writing about people from the past that helped shape your life and so your writing should embrace this.

But don’t overdo it

The drive and passion that made you want to look back in the first place should help you to write with an honesty and emotion that only you can convey. However, in response to the question “can you be too nostalgic and sentimental” the answer is yes, you can.

Use the stories and facts you have discovered to create something that not only resonates with family members or those with a connection to your family but also to a wider audience. Do let your passion for the subject come through but don’t make it too personal or sentimental. Your story is a valuable part of our social history so why not make it something that can be enjoyed by anyone irrespective of whether or not they are connected to your family.

Also read:

Family history and social history have close links

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Nostalgia in a family history narrative – is there a place for it?
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