Why Everyone Should Write Their Family History

You might have read that title and thought, “Well, she would say that!” or, “I’d love to, but my family history just isn’t interesting enough to go to all that trouble. I disagree – everyone has stories that deserve to be shared!

Here are 10 reasons why  you should start writing your family history today.

Table of Contents

1. Share What You’ve Learned

If you’ve been researching your family history for a while, then writing it down in a structured way gives you a chance to pass on your own voice – your own ideas, thoughts and feelings about your discoveries.

You might have finally solved the decades-long family mystery about Great-Aunt Ethel, or learned why your branch of the family moved to a new town. Perhaps you’ve uncovered family traditions that have died out, but that you could revive. Or you’ve found something surprising about how your ancestors lived, loved and worked. You don’t want the discovery to get forgotten again!

TIP!

Tip: You could compare and contrast your life to your ancestors and by doing so leave a record of your own existence behind for future generations.

2. Don’t let Your Hard Work go to Waste

A genealogy project can be time-consuming and expensive, but when you’re passionate about it, it’s worth all the hard work. You’ve invested in finding out as much as you can about your ancestors, so make the most of it.

If you don’t record what you’ve uncovered and pass it on then your research and discoveries will die with you – that’s the cold hard truth. Think about how frustrating it’s been when your own investigations have stalled, how much time and money you’ve had to invest in solving brick walls or proving connections. Leaving your findings in an easy-to-read format will help future generations of genealogists in your family!

TIP!

You don't have to pass your work on to direct descendants - for a start, not everyone has direct descendants! Try approaching local genealogy societies, history groups and libraries to see if they would be interested in keeping a copy of your work.

3. People Love a Family History Story

We’re all human, and we connect via stories. Your family are far more likely to read a narrative than to analyse a spreadsheet. Leaving just names and dates behind isn’t going to interest anyone.

Look for ways to bring some colour and interest to your ancestors. Make them real, relatable people, not just names on a family tree. Focus on the stories, what were your ancestors’ lives like, what troubled them, what did they dream about. Leave behind a record of who these people were, and what their place was within a wider historical context.

TIP!

You don't have to write a book. Blogs are quicker and can evolve with your research. You can even archive blogs using the Internet Archive's Wayback Machine. This will help future proof your site for future generations.

4. Re-evaluate Your Ancestors

Writing about your ancestors forces you to look at them in a different light. As you piece together their life, you’ll think about the wider historical context, examining questions you’d never thought to ask before. You’ll start to think of them in the context of the time in which they lived.

Did they live through a war? A time of political or religious unrest? A period of disease, famine or extreme poverty? What would their experiences have been like compared to the generation before or after? How would those things have shaped their opinions and values?

Answering these types of questions will lead to a far greater and deeper connection with both the past, and your ancestors’ place within it! You’ll also get a clearer idea of how their past has shaped your present.

5. Spot Gaps in Your Research

Collating and writing up your research allows you to easily spot any gaps or holes. Are you missing a source somewhere? As you begin to piece together your narrative, make a note of where those gaps come up.

When you’ve outlined your findings, you can go back and work out how to fill in the holes. Do you need to speak to a family member for their recollections? Go back to the archives, or chase up a birth, marriage or death certificate?

Writing your family history often leads you to look at your sources with a fresh perspective. You might suddenly find that there are hidden clues that you’ve missed simply because you haven’t thought about them in the right context.

Allocate some time to shore up your research, write your family history and make it even more valuable to your descendants. Doing this might uncover something exciting that you weren’t even aware of!

TIP!

You don't have to write about your ancestor from birth to death, you could choose to focus on one event. Similarly, you don't have to write about your ancestors in a linear fashion. Get creative with your structure and find a plot that works for you.

newborn baby image, you don't have to write from birth to death.

6. Having a Structure Helps You Find Connections

Thinking about the structure of your writing helps you to examine the connections between individuals in your family history. There might be characteristics that you feel pop up every couple of generations or recurring themes such as poverty, widowhood, entrepreneurship or crime. Writing up your findings makes these themes easier to spot.

These connective threads throughout the generations help to make our ancestors more relatable. It’s easy to think that we have nothing in common with people who died centuries ago, but of course we do!

Tip: Consider structuring around themes rather than individuals. Look for repetition in your tree – like rags to riches, people that didn’t conform, evidence of romantics or bigamists!

7. Get Creative!

Sitting down to write your family history (and it doesn’t have to be done all in one go!) gives you a chance to unleash your creativity. You get to tell a unique story that cannot be replicated by anyone else. You’ll know from your research that fact is often stranger than fiction!

We’ve all had that “Wow!” moment when we’ve uncovered a story that was lost to time. Wouldn’t it be great to give your family, friends or fellow genealogists a few ‘wow’ moments’ too?

8. Write Your Family History in Whichever Way You Like

You can flex your writing to suit you and your needs. There is no right or wrong way to write, and there is no one format. You can write a book if you want to, have a series of blog posts or have summary articles where you share your top findings

You could get really creative, and make it multi-media! As well as photos, what else could you include to make your family history really come to life? Could you add audio clips from interviews with older relatives, a piece of music from a particular time period, or even a video tour of the family home or village?

9. ‘Cousin Bait’ Long-Lost Relatives

By sharing your writing publicly, whether that’s wikis, blogs, Facebook posts or newsletter articles, you’re effectively laying ‘cousin bait’. This is a good thing! Your research finds will encourage distant relatives to get in touch and share their own findings.

They may have photos or documents that you’ve been hunting for. Connecting with cousins from different branches of the family is a great way of filling in some of those gaps I mentioned. You never know what you might find out, so make your research easy for them to find.

TIP!

Tip: Create a public tree on Ancestry and add your stories to it, either by attaching documents or by writing straight into the notes section for each individual. Alternatively, check out WikiTrees.

10. Writing Your Research Processes is Good Practice

Taking time to write up your research processes and evidence statements is good practice, even if you don’t feel like doing it. Why? Because it means you’ll always know “how you know something”.

It gives you a space to explore brick walls or indefinite answers – without needing to clog up your database with “possible” finds. Being methodical with your findings makes it easier to track backwards and forwards and work out what else you can add.

TIP!

Tip: Consciously thinking about how you discovered something also means that you are more likely to remember that technique the next time you encounter a similar problem. Recording your workings forces you to consciously think about your methodology.

BONUS: Write Your Family History for Yourself

The 10 points above are all good reasons to write up your findings, but really, you should do it for yourself. Pulling everything together to create a comprehensive family story will give you a huge sense of satisfaction, and serve as real, tangible evidence of what you did, and who your ancestors were. And that will feel great!

Furthermore, writing itself can become a joyous activity. A hobby just as enjoyable as genealogy….and I think we all deserve to take a little time to do the things we enjoy, don’t we?

BONUS: Find Your Family History Writing Tribe

It’s all very well knowing the benefits of writing your family history, but that doesn’t mean  actually doing it will come completely naturally to everybody. 

Some people become overwhelmed by all the size of their tree and all the facts they’ve collated.

Others might struggle to find stories amongst ‘less eventful’ ancestors or get frustrated by gaps in their research.

Luckily you don’t have to write alone, devoid of any advice or feedback on your work. I created the Curious Descendants Club especially for would be genealogy writers, passionate about their family history. Find out all the details here.

TIP!

Tip: Find a tribe of fellow family history writers, people you can share your work with in order to get valuable feedback. Check out the Curious Descendants Club.

Related Posts

Join The Curious Descendants!

If you enjoyed this then you’ll LOVE my Curious Descendants emails. I send daily emails packed with family history writing tips, ideas and stories. Plus a weekly news roundup, ensuring you’ll never miss one of my articles (or an episode of #TwiceRemoved) ever again.

CURIOUS DESCENDANTS

Never miss a blog post or an episode of #TwiceRemoved ever again. Plus get daily family history writing tips & a weekly news roundup delivered straight to your inbox. All for FREE!

Gift Certificate
Links

Purchases made via these links may earn me a small commission – helping me to keep blogging!

Read my other articles

visit

THE CLUB

Start writing your family history today. Turn your facts into narratives with the help of the Curious Descendants Club workshops and community.

RESEARCH

Discover your family history. Whether you need me to research from scratch or take your existing work further. My service is fully tailored to your exact requirements.

GIFT CERTIFICATES

Give your loved one a gift that will last a life time – family history research or lessons. This is the ultimate personalised gift. One they will treasure forever.

Copyright © 2020 Genealogy Stories | All Rights Reserved | Privacy Policy | Cookies

The Curious Descendants

Get daily family history hints, tips and ideas, plus a weekly round up of the latest genealogy news. All  delivered straight to your inbox FREE! Never miss a blog posts or episode of #TwiceRemoved ever again.

p.s. I hate spam so I make sure that you can unsubscribe from my emails at any time (or adjust your settings to hear more / less from me).