What better way to present your genealogy research than in a book? So please read on as I explain to you how to create a family history book to show Uncle Charlie or your cousin Chloe what you have discovered about your ancestry.
You may have just started to look into your ancestry or you may have been exploring your family history for many many years. There is though no set point during your research to sit down and write. You just start writing. When you start writing you will find that it will help you dig deeper into your family history.
I will explain to you what I mean!
Speaking from experience when you write down your notes your research will become a lot clearer. It is not the mass of papers sitting on your desk anymore. Everything can be put in chronological order, starting from the oldest bit of information to the present day. As you put your notes in order you may question the data that you initially found.
For example, why did your grandfather’s brother die young? What was the story there? Is there anything that can be learned from that and put into the book? These sorts of questions you may not have initially thought of when you found out this relative.
So you may ask where do I start?
There are a number of points to consider when you write your family history book. I will explore what needs to be considered so that you will create a family history book that you can be proud of.
Credit: American Ancestors
Topics discussed in this post:
- What do I research?
- What type of book?
- What form will your book take?
- When do you want your book finished?
- Where can I find information?
Other posts that will interest you:
- How To Make A Family History Book – Part 2 – Discusses what documents and records to use, what stories to include, organizing your research, and more.
- How To Write A Family History Book! – Asks you who are you writing for, what theme your book will take, how to tie in key historical events, piecing together the timeline of your ancestor and reviewing your book.
- Making A Family History Book Can Be Fun! – Discusses the layout of your book which includes the cover, contents, foreword, and more.
1. What Do I research?
Firstly, you will need to consider the level of research that you plan to undertake. You may decide that you only want to explore one branch of your family, your last name for example. From this you can go back as far as you can along the male line and discuss your ancestors and their families perhaps.
You may however be more ambitious and want to find out as much as you can about your family from all branches. This is by far an enormous task to perform. When I was doing my family research I was fortunate that my father had already started on the groundwork. You though may have to start from scratch, unless you find that a relative has already begun researching.
These are just two suggestions. You could explore your male line as I have discussed or any other family line that interests you. If there is an amusing story or stories for a part of your family then you may wish to document all that you know of that branch.
You could though just document the life of just one ancestor. Or you looking at all of your grandparents, or great grandparents are other examples.
I was very ambitious when I explored my family history though!
Not only did I try to find all of my ancestors but I also tried to explore their descendants, (to some extent though). I was fascinated with finding cousins and hoping that I would connect with living relatives, which I did. Connecting with cousins I was able to discover more about my ancestors through their research.
I do not advise this line of research though as it can become quite time consuming. It can be overwhelming at times as well when you have so many children to consider and all of their descendants.
2. What Type Of book?
So by now you may know who you will research about. This will help you decide what type of book that you will want to write. You could write a small booklet for a single member of your family or a book on a single branch. Another suggestion is to have one big book for all of your branches. You can then have all of your research in one document.
You could put in your book photos and charts to make it more interesting to the reader. Here you can show how exactly that your ancestor is related to you, and also add a face to the name. You may want to produce a family photo book.
These have become quite popular and can either be done instore or online. With a photo book you can add amusing anecdotes that are connected with your relative.
There maybe family heirlooms in your possession that you will want to write about. Here you can explain what they are and what they mean to you. By doing this you will have recorded a piece of history, something that will now not be forgotten. You could also include in your book documents, such as a birth certificate, or a letter, or a photo of a ship that your grandfather sailed on for example.
3. What Form Will Your Book Take?
You DO NOT want to just list names, dates and places. This will not be interesting for your reader and they will most surely put the book down. Ask questions such as why did my great grandfather move hundreds of miles away, or why did my grandfather change profession. Adding depth to your narrative will make it more interesting and rewarding for both you and your reader.
Write down what you know. Try to build up an account of your ancestor’s life. You may put in assumptions if you are not certain of something based on what you know. But when doing so clearly state this. You DO NOT want to fictionalise their life. Doing so will not be true to your research.
Your book may have an underlying plot. This could take the form of your ancestor’s migration, a rags to riches tale, or the time when he was in the army. Focusing on a theme for your book will help you concentrate on what needs to be researched and encourage you to complete the book.
4. When Do You Want Your Book Finished?
Setting deadlines is a good way of getting your book completed. You can set goals along the way. For example, try to find out a certain bit of information by a certain time and then write about it. By not setting goals you will surely lose focus. Your research will then never be done and your book will never be completed.
Not only setting a timeframe for collecting information is a great idea, but also scheduling when to write is also good. You will want to write about what you have found out. Putting aside a few hours a night or whenever is convenient for you is also important. You will need sufficient time to write up your research.
You DO NOT want ten minutes here or fifteen minutes there. You need to have enough time to concentrate and focus on what you have found and what you will write. A quiet area where all your research is laid out is also a good idea. Having to set up your notes each time you write will just cost you valuable time when you could have been writing.
5. Where Can I Find Information?
To build up an account of your ancestor’s life you may have certificates, records, heirlooms, photographs and stories that have been passed down through the generations. You can include all of this but there may come a time when there are gaps in your knowledge.
You will want to fill these gaps but where can you go to?
Reading local history books on where your ancestor lived is a great start. You may be able to discover events that may have affected your ancestor. These events could have forced your ancestor to move or change occupation as a result.
Researching is all about joining the dots, but also making logical deductions. As I have said before you do not want to make assumptions. This will lead to a false account of your family history.
You can also read up on what your ancestor’s occupation was like. This will then help you build up a picture of what life was like for him or her. Other aspects of life can also be researched, such as what forms of transportation there was available, the fashion, and even their diet can add context to your book.
Ask your relatives for help to create your family history book!
As I have stated before living relatives are a great source of information. They can provide you with valuable information and fill in gaps in your research that you may have. They can also tell you in their own words the lives of your ancestors. Recording this information now is important before it gets lost in time.
My Top 20 Family History Interview Questions article will help you when it comes time to interview your relatives. Story Terrace can also assist you with questions to inspire memories and life stories.
I have only just begun explaining what you can do to create a family history book. You can read five more points by checking out How to Create a Family History Book – Part 2.
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