Monday 13 May 2024

Leaving the Past to the Future 6: Publishing Your Stories

An important part of family history research is putting the information you find into a form that other people can see. You have spent countless hours, or years finding ancestors and learning about their lives and livelihoods.

When you are gone, though, what will happen to all that knowledge?

While you are able, it is important to write down what stories you have discovered, along with the data you have assembled about past family members. That does not mean publishing them in genealogical magazines or writing books, necessarily, although those are not bad objectives.

An important part of family history research is allowing other family members to see it. You may have uncovered stories about certain ancestors that are interesting: they may have been newsworthy; they may have been part of important historical events; they may have been romantic interludes; they may have been associated with life and death circumstances; they may have been about travel, to exotic places or to new homes in search of a better life.

If they are direct ancestors they will, of course, had children and some of those children will have had children, and so on down the years. Each of those families will have had unique histories that added to the overall family narrative. Their individual stories may just have been about normal life passages of growing up, finding a career and having a family of their own, like your own experiences, but no less important.

How you choose to record your family’s history is up to you. If you are just beginning to consider the idea, it is important to not try to bite off more than you can chew. You should also decide beforehand who your audience will be as that may dictate where you publish your information.

Any type of medium or format is fine to consider. Perhaps, as a starting point, it is easier and more palatable to look at picking a single interesting event or person and telling others about it or them. Then add more stories and data to produce a more comprehensive piece about an entire family line.

You have probably already assembled a family tree and have it stored on your computer or online. I posted some ideas about that earlier in this series (Genealogy Software). Within each individual profile you may have recorded information about the people and their families. This may be a good place to incorporate that information into a summary that might form the basis for a future blog post or article, or a chapter in a book if you get that far.

Being a blogger, I always suggest this as a great place to put short stories about ancestors. In this blogsite, I have written 109 posts (of the over 400 on the site) about family members. Some of them were expanded to be part of published articles. Your blog might be public, like mine, or set up just for family with a controlled distribution list. Making it public offers a chance that it will be seen by cousins or other researchers you did not know about but may have information about your family.

Other avenues you might want to investigate include:

·         Local family history society newsletters and journals – These groups ae always looking for articles – short and detailed – that will show examples of past family activities and methods of research.

·         Presentations – Again, local societies might be interested in hearing your stories. And in doing so, you would produce a written script that could be published or distributed later.

·         Social media – There are many sites where you may have a personal page, or a family page where you might contribute a story about a past family member.

·         Commercial publications – These publications also have an interest in seeing new articles that present historical events and ideas about family history research. These types of pieces may require some higher calibre of writing expertise thus they may be something to look at after you have practiced with contributions to other venues.

If you are looking for information on how to start writing, here are a few sources for inspiration and advice:

·         Cyndi’s List – Writing Your Family History: General Resources.

·         Family Tree (UK) How to guides – How to write up your family history.

·         Family Tree Magazine (USA): 9 tips for getting started on writing your family history.

·         FindMyPast – Preserving the story of your ancestry: our expert guide to writing your family history.

·         Genealogy Stories – Curious Descendants Club: How to go from boring to brilliant family history writing.

·         FamilySearch Blog – 18 Writing Tips: Tell Family Stories with Confidence

·         Gil Blanchard. (2014). Writing Your Family History: A guide for family historians. Pen & Sword, 228 pp.

Writing stories is a major part of preserving family history and should become a regular task whether they are short summaries of a few hundred words or a comprehensive project like a book.

Start small and practice. 

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