Write a family history that people will want to read

Why is it that some family historians get so immersed in their family history research they think that everybody else will be equally fascinated by dry and dull lists of dates, names, places and sources? So what’s the answer? Write a family history that people will want to read.

How do you get other people interested in your research?

If you want to engage a potential audience you have got to reach out to them with the stories you will almost certainly have uncovered during your research. It is these stories that will help bring your family history research to life and ensure that your years of painstaking and thorough work is not eventually confined to an out-of-date and inaccessible computer, dusty attic or worse still a dustbin.

Use stories to bring your family history research to life

There are many ways in which you can start to build and create stories around your research. For example, a quick look back through your research (or family tree) will probably reveal any number of stories that are just crying out to be told. Look for any notes you made at the time. If you haven’t got any, go back and check your original sources to see what interesting bits of information you can dig out.

You could also create stories based around a particular theme, place or branch of your family tree or you could use photos, memorabilia, newspaper articles, letters, documents, diaries etc. as the inspiration or starting points for stories.

The broader historical picture

Another way of injecting some interest and colour into your stories is to look beyond the lives of your own family and consider the broader historical context of the times in which they lived. The lives of your family are unique but equally there will be many experiences they shared with their contemporaries.

What do you know, for example, about the social and economic conditions of the time and what sort of affect might these have had on your family and other peoples’ lives? Were there any political events which could have affected or influenced their lives? Where did they live and what sort of house did they live in? What did they wear, what did they eat and drink?Where did they go to school and what sort of work did they do? Did they live in the town or country and how did this affect their everyday lives? How did they entertain themselves, what means of transport did they use, how did their lives differ from yours today?

As a family historian it is important to use your story to paint a broader picture of what life was like for the communities in which your family lived and how outside events might have impacted on their lives. However, you are not writing a history essay, so just stick to the bits which are relevant and which help you to create compelling stories where your family feature as the main characters.

Delving into the social history as well as the history of your family will take your research to a whole new level way beyond names, dates and places. It will add colour and depth to your family history stories and help to draw in family members, friends or an even wider audience who might otherwise have shown little or no interest.

If you want to learn more about how to turn the history of your family into something people will actually want to read, check out ‘Writing a Non-Boring Family History’ by Hazel Edwards.

Related blog posts:

Putting your family history in context
Writing your family history – how to get started

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Write a family history that people will want to read
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