Most of the family historians I meet have spent years gathering a vast amount of information about their family history but typically they have not considered what they are going to do with it. But what use is any of this research if it is just filed away on a computer or stored in boxes in the attic. In years to come somebody may stumble across your research but they probably won’t want to sift through endless boxes or computer files which they can’t even begin to interpret. In fact I think they will be more inclined to head for the rubbish bin. Information stored electronically may not even be accessible in the future so now is the time to start writing your family history.
Writing your family history story by story
Doing family history research is not just about documenting the names and dates of your ancestors and creating family trees and timelines. Family trees and timelines provide a framework and show how a family is related but it is the stories behind the names, dates, places etc. that bring a family history to life. A family tree or timeline or a list of names and dates can’t show why a great great uncle lost all his money and ended up in the workhouse or how a distant relative was eaten by whale (yes, I was actually told this story). If you don’t tell these stories who will? They deserve to be remembered and as a family historian you are the ideal person to write them.
Writing your family history is simply the next logical step in the research process. By transforming your research into a collection of stories you will create a legacy that people will be able to enjoy both now and in the future.
Your stories deserve to be told
The lessons you have learned from your ancestors will be a valuable record for future generations and they deserve to be told and shared. So don’t just settle for being the family historian – become the official family writer and start to share all of the knowledge you have acquired in a format that can be read and appreciated by as many people as possible.
If your research has taken you back a hundred years or more it would be a daunting task to try to start writing your family history from the beginning and you would probably give up way before the end. However, if you focus on the stories you have uncovered in your research and simply start by writing these you will soon have a collection of stories which you can not only share right now but which could form the building blocks for a full-length book. If your family is not interested in your research (and from what I hear most aren’t) then grab them with a good story or two. They will soon be asking for more rather than rolling their eyes in despair when you produce yet another list of boring facts and dates.
Not a writer?
Don’t be put off if you are not an experienced writer or have never written before. You really don’t have to be an accomplished writer to start writing your family history. Anyone can learn how to write and with practice, you will soon be creating stories which friends and family (and may be an even wider audience) will be able to read and enjoy. You have already proved you have determination by researching your family history so now use this determination to start writing your family history. It doesn’t matter if your writing isn’t perfect. The main thing is that you are preserving the stories of your ancestors which might otherwise be lost and forgotten.
Give your stories a broader appeal
Nobody’s ancestors lived in isolation and so with some additional background research it is possible to create unique stories that combine historical details (for example, social, economic, political, environmental) with anecdotes and snippets about family members and the roles they played in their community. There is an interest in stories about the lives and times of ordinary people and family historians are the ideal people to write them.
For some more tips on how to write your family history get a copy of my eBook Writing your family history How to get started available from the Beginners Guide to Writing shop.