If you have been doing genealogy research for some time through some of the best genealogy sites, or if you have a hard drive full of notes, old records, and family information, then you may be considering what you can do with it all.
Generally, few would have used it for chaotically kept documents and files, even those who want to know about the history of their family, and many tend not to sort through research and rebuild knowledge stores.
However, if you want to ensure that the history of your family outlives you, you need to be ready to put in the work to make it a lasting format that is shareable. So, we are here to tell you just how you can do this!
#1. Know What You Are Trying To Do
Before you start collecting your family history you need to conclude exactly what you are looking to achieve by doing this project. Is it your goal to summarize all of your research, pass down stories, share the legacy of the family, shape stories of old ancestors, celebrate heritage, etc.?
Having a clear focus on what you want the outcome to be will make the project more manageable, and will help you to stay motivated as you complete it as well.
If you are unsure of what your focus is, then try picking something specific, a specific story or person. This can help. It is also good practice to set aside time for focusing on this, be it 15 minutes per day, or a couple of hours per day/ week.
Similarly, know what the intended end goal is, if you intend for this to only be passed down through your family, or if it will be more public, perhaps even a published book.
#2. Plan It Out
Outlining where you want to go with your family history writing project is key, especially if it will follow multiple people or a long period. You should list out the elements you wish to include, as it will help to prevent you from getting lost in all the information.
You needn’t organize the list just yet, but having a list will help you. Having a list may also help you rethink the scope of your project, you may find new interesting avenues to explore, or new orders to consider.
Once you know the topics you wish to cover, then you can arrange them in whatever order makes the most sense for you.
#3. Use Pictures & Imagery
While many may usually miss out on the imagery, pictures, and graphs, these can be useful tools, especially if you are looking for the content to be public. It will help to clarify aspects of your family’s history that could otherwise be complex and confusing.
Consider using documents, maps, pictures, genealogical reports, and so on.
Of course, it depends on how many documents you have found and how many photos you have at your disposal.
You should also be mindful of copyright as well, as if you intend on publishing the information on a website, then you need to ensure you have permission from any copyright holders of the content you will use.
#4. Make Use Of Apps & Organize Them Carefully
Apps are awesome, there is an app for everything nowadays, so, if you find yourself confused and overwhelmed by how much you are having to look over, there is sure to be an app that can help you to streamline everything.
As you organize references, you should add in-text references with titles, authors, and pages or record numbers, much like in an academic paper. Later on, when the project is almost complete it is good to keep these at the bottom of the page for reference.
Apps, websites, and old-fashioned note-taking work together in helping you keep everything organized.
#5. Generate Ideas Through Research & Prompts
If you are still a bit stuck, then look through prompts for writing family history, prompts in this area can help you to flesh out your ideas and take family stories in new directions. You can revisit story ideas, and see what specific documents inspire you the most.
Local histories and newspaper articles can also spark a flare in focus.
There are many ways you can get started on writing your family history, but the most important factors are defining a focus, and organization, and using all of the tools that are at your disposal to ensure that you convey it in the utmost clarity.