Are you ready to show off your genealogy research? In the first part of the How To Create Your Family History Book article I discussed five points to consider when writing your book. By now you will know what part of your family tree you will want to explore and write about. You will also know what kind of book you will want to write, by when you want it complete, and where to collect information.
So what more do you need to know so that you can create a family history book?
Well, I will cover five more points to help you write a family history book that you can be proud of and that will be cherished for generations to come.
6. Using documents and records
In the previous point I discussed in detail that you could read local history books and also books about occupations. This will help you build up a picture of what your ancestors lives were really like. I also briefly discussed that you can use certificates, heirlooms, photographs and family stories to fill your family history book.
So let’s look at these documents and records in more detail.
Anything that you find around the house or that has been given to you by relatives can be put into your book, with permission of course. However, DO NOT go overboard.
Stuffing all of your family documents and records will create a book that is bulging at the seams and will be information overload for you and for your readers. You don’t want to overwhelm them.
All records concerning can be filed and stored away but not all of them need to be put into a book.
You need to be selective with what you put in your book!
Try being selective and put in documents that are unusual, unique or that prove a point that you have made. You DO NOT need to put in the full record but merely an excerpt if you wish. This will also help cut down the size of your book.
When you include any document or record be sure to caption it. This way it will be clear to your readers exactly what you are referring to and how it relates to you.
This can also be done with any charts that you have created with your genealogy software program, maps or illustrations that you have. These programs are great at creating extra pieces of information that you can put into your book.
7. Include the stories
We have looked at ways to show what our ancestors lives was really like. This has been through records and documents that you have, as well as heirlooms, photographs, charts, and maps, etc. Looking at stories can also add to the detail in your book.
But who were your ancestors?
You may have heard stories and anecdotes that have been passed down through the generations to you. Why not include these as well? They are just as much a part of your family history as the physical documents that you have.
Also, if you do not include them then you will risk the possibility of losing a part of history. And they will be gone forever.
Hearing old family stories is what got me interested in family history. It it is the reason why I created this site.
These stories can add to the life story of your ancestors. It can help build up a picture of what they were actually like. The stories can be amusing, interesting or just cover the daily life of your relative. But they are still a part of history that needs to be remembered.
8. Organizing your research
By now you have amassed quite a collection of notes, documents, photographs and a lot more on your ancestor. It can be quite overwhelming with all this information in front of you. To make sense of it all you will have to put them in order.
To do this for each ancestor try putting your files in chronological order. You will then be able to see their entire life from birth to death. By doing this you may also see if there are any gaps in your research.
Organizing is a great way to check if you have all the information on your ancestor and to find out what more you need. If you can not find anything on your relative for a given period then just state this in your book.
Anyone reading your book, whether a relative or just a casual reader, they may wish to carry on the search for more information on your ancestor.
With a chronological order you can tell your ancestor’s life from beginning to end. If you continually jump around from old age to childhood then this will be quite confusing for your reader. Maintaining order to your story will obviously make the story of your ancestor’s life far clearer.
9. How to introduce your ancestor?
I have already discussed that you will need to order your notes on your ancestor, telling their life from beginning to end. But consider using a hook to grab you reader’s attention. This hook may be from a later stage in their life. Here you will need to mention something of interest.
This way the reader will be intrigued to know more about the person and will continue reading. Starting off with “My grandfather Bert was born in Norfolk, England on May 27th 1827” can be quite boring.
So let’s make it interesting!
Start off with an interesting story or point in your ancestor’s life. Your reader will be hooked and will want to know how they got to that point in their life and what happened afterwards.
For example, did your ancestor have to migrate to escape poverty and to make a better life for themself? You could start off with this point. Try to draw the reader in. Then you can start telling the story of your ancestor’s life up to that point and then what happened after they relocated.
Your book doesn’t have to be just a different form of what your records hold. Try to put some heart and soul into it. I have done the same with my family history book and I feel so much closer to my ancestors because of this.
By researching my ancestors more and discovering why they made the decisions that they made I became more connected with them. And as a result I wanted to learn more.
10. Adding an index and source citations
If you have written a lengthy account on your ancestor then you will need to include an index. By doing so you will be able to find where to add to if you come across any new information during your research. Also, an index will be invaluable to your readers.
Your readers may not be interested in the whole life of your ancestor but maybe a part of it that affects them. For example, your ancestor maybe a sibling of your readers and they may only be interested in what it was like growing up for them.
They may not be interested to know what happened to your ancestor after leaving home.
Don’t take this to heart though. We are all unique. So your cousin will probably be interested in your common ancestor on your paternal line, but maybe not for your maternal line.
An index is therefore invaluable to your research and to your readers experience. You could also include a surname index and also a place index.
You need to cite your sources!
Adding source citations will also prove that you have actually carried out research on your ancestor. Source citations are also useful if say anyone wants to continue exploring your family history.
They will have an account of your ancestors and where to find the information that you have used and found. So please cite all of your sources of your information.
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