3 things to start doing to make writing your family history easier
Frustrated with writing your family history and wish there was an easier way?
Today I’m going to share with you 3 easy-to-action tips that you can start doing right now that will make you feel like your ancestor’s stories are writing themselves.
I’m taking the chance that you are nodding an enthusiastic ‘YES’ right now. After all, that’s why you’ve spent all those hours researching your family history.
No time to waste, let’s jump straight into these three easy-to-action tips that you can implement immediately.
3 actionable tips to writing your family history
Tip 1: Write out each discovery in your own words
By writing out each of your genealogy discoveries as a paragraph or two, you start to record the first draft of your family history. That seems too easy, right? Pinkie promise, it is that simple.
Now, I don’t mean when you transcribe a certificate or article word for word. That’s a transcription, not storytelling. It’s excellent and a useful tool for your research which you can use it for quotes in your family history stories. But I’m talking about when you write out the facts as you interpret them.
Example of writing your family history
As you know, I love an example, so let me show you what I mean. Looking at my great-grandmother’s birth certificate, I see a lot of valuable information which I can use to introduce her to my readers. For my first sentence, I’m going to use only four of the facts. They are:
- her full name
- that she has a younger twin sister
- her date of birth
- her parent’s names.
Writing those facts out in my own words looks like:
Charlotte Graham was the eldest of twins born on 1 December 1857 to James & Jane (nee Humphries).
See how I’ve quickly established
- who we are talking
- what event is taking place
- when it is happening
The next step would be adding another few sentences until I’d captured all the details from the birth certificate. Boom, you have a first draft to add to the bigger story ready for editing later on.
Bonus: I love, love, love this exercise because you aren’t just creating the first draft of your ancestor’s story. You’re also clarifying your interpretation of the information. I’ve had some big ‘aha’ moments when doing this because you’re taking the time to really take in what the records tell you.
It’s such a simple yet powerful exercise for both your research and storytelling.
Tip 2: When editing, read your draft out loud
I do this with everything that I write. I mean EVERYTHING. Every ancestor story, every Insta caption, and every email to you. It’s my secret weapon to making sure that I make sense. That what I’m saying flows and the punctuation is present (and in the right places).
You’ll also quickly see where you skipped a word or two in your hurry to type (or write) it all down. Missing important words is my secret superpower, but it’s not a good one! It is the reason, though, that I started reading my paragraphs out loud when editing them.
Once you’ve finished tweaking the words, try recording yourself as well. It can be helpful to listen to it being read to you (even by yourself). It’s great to do this if you’re writing a script for YouTube, a podcast or presentation.
Bonus: You’ll spot sneaky typos quicker too!
Tip 3: Cite your sources as you go
You’ve heard this one before, right? But do you do it?
Citing sources seems complicated, but it doesn’t have to be. If you plan to publish your family history, then you’re going to need this information at your fingertips.
In fact, you’ll often find that the genealogy database or record collection you’re using has already done it for you. Voila, copy and paste, and it’s done.
If that’s not the case, then just make a note at the bottom of your story draft (or on research document) of
- who wrote it (the author’s name, which might be a government department)
- what it is called (the title of the source, which might be birth certificate etc.)
- where you found it (the name of book, website or database and note if it’s from an index, not an original document)
- publication details or when the information was registered (place and date of publication, name of publisher)
- page numbers, URL if from a website, series and roll number if from microfilm
- when you retrieved the information
There you go, three actionable tips to writing your family history. If you use these in tandem with your research process, then you’ll have a well-developed draft of your family history in no time at all.
These tips all work amazingly well. I have tried all three myself, and use them religiously in my writing.