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Writing and compiling Family History: 5 steps to get started!

Updated on October 5, 2016

Compiling family memories: just start!

Genealogy is a great hobby. Digging out information about your ancestors and tracing your family line is absolutely addicting!

Don't stop with just the names and dates! Make the most of your genealogy research and write your family (hi)story! And write your own.

This hub will hopefully help you get started organizing the rest of the family history information.

Family history is more than just names and dates

While collecting and organizing official family documents I was inspired by a very small byline on a marriage certificate of one of my ancestors which stated: "cobbler". Yes. I come from simple folk... Anyhow:

This little added word made all the difference. This man was not just a random guy living two centuries ago who happened to be one of my direct ancestors. This man was a cobbler, providing for his family, living a life, making his mark on the world. It made me want to know more about him, what he looked like and what it was like for him to live in that time.

It made me realise that family history is more, much much MUCH more than "just" the names and dates - challenging though as it can be to "unearth" those. Names and dates let us know that people have lived. But they truly come alive in their personal stories. Stories that we can tell!

Just start!

Even when we are really motivated and excited about a project, starting anything can feel overwhelming. The important thing is to just start!

In this hub I try to give several steps that can help you on your way in this process. And please keep in mind that it is a process: all steps can be started simultaneously, none of them needs to be completed before moving on to the next.

In further hubs I will elaborate on these different steps!


1. Don't forget your own story!

Choose and use the medium of your choice for telling your story:

Keep a diary, blog or website. Save letters, emails to and from relatives and friends. Write and collect family- & Christmas newsletters. Create photoalbums or scrapbooks, either digital or on paper. Edit family videos.

Collect, save, digitize, date and file the words, pictures and objects that tell your own story!

And at the same time will help generate ideas of what will be interesting and fun to know and preserve of the generations before you (and after you... save those pictures and handwritten notes from your kids!).

At this moment, you are the most
important link in the generation chain.

Add your voice to the ages!

Collect old family documents like these love letters my parents wrote each other before getting married and DIGITIZE!!
Collect old family documents like these love letters my parents wrote each other before getting married and DIGITIZE!! | Source

2. Digitize old family documents

Make sure every old family document and photo you (and members of your family!!) have are preserved in a way that will make them accessible and saved in the years to come. Ink will fade, pencil will be rubbed out and paper will tear or crumple. Or worse.

Start digging in those boxes of family treasures and start digitizing!

Digitize everything you can get your hands on! Get that scanner out and that digital camera and get to work! Don't forget those old family movies (8mm, VHS, etc)!

And just to make sure the message

3. Compile "new" material

Maybe something in the family documents inspires you to go search in a certain direction. Maybe it raises questions (who are these people next to grandpa on this picture? how did X and Y meet? etc etc).

Try and find your answers!
A couple of ideas:

  • Interview your older family members. You can use question list, use photos as a prompt (the ideal combo!)
  • Reminisce with siblings (or cousins, or other people of your own generation) about already deceased family members and other shared family memories (Christmas celebrations, grandma's 80th birthday, holiday adventures in your childhood etc).
  • Visit childhood places (from yours or other family members), collect maps and documentation of where the family has lived. Document these new materials, add photos (NEVER forget the photos!!).

Ideas are aplenty on the internet!


4. Write the stories

Should you be so inspired from all that you have found and compiled in the previous 3 steps: write the stories.

Or just one story.

Don't feel like you have to be complete. If you just write the one story, that is already one story more than has been written before you, so well done!

5. Share with family and friends.

Choose your favorite way of doing this: build a website, start a blog, write emails, create slideshows, whatever!

Inspire your family members (kids too!!) to write their own stories to add to yours.
Let them add their own voices and memories and ideas for further family stories and let it grow from there.

Have a great time compiling, digitizing and writing and don't forget to enjoy the process!


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    • amvabecreations profile image

      amvabecreations 4 years ago from Netherlands

      I wish you well on your family history journey! Thanks for commenting!

    • amvabecreations profile image

      amvabecreations 4 years ago from Netherlands

      Back up: absolutely!! Thanks!

    • amvabecreations profile image

      amvabecreations 4 years ago from Netherlands

      Interesting family you have! I'll be checking out your hubs!

    • amvabecreations profile image

      amvabecreations 4 years ago from Netherlands

      Ha! I never thought of that, but yes! :-)

    • amvabecreations profile image

      amvabecreations 4 years ago from Netherlands

      Fantastic! Once you find a great way to label the photographs, please share on Hubpages: I'd love to learn!

    • amvabecreations profile image

      amvabecreations 4 years ago from Netherlands

      Thanks everyone! Love the feedback. I'm loving my first baby steps on this fantastic website! See you around!

    • RTalloni profile image

      RTalloni 4 years ago from the short journey

      This is a great get started hub for compiling and writing family history. Nice job on your first hub. Neat that you chose a get started theme for it! :)

    • Millionaire Tips profile image

      Shasta Matova 4 years ago from USA

      These are great ideas for recording family history - and well-presented so they are not overwhelming. I have been in the process of digitizing all of my old photographs. We took / take a lot of photos so I am getting through all of them a few photos a day. I am mostly done with the photos so now I want to find a better way to label the photographs, and then I will move on to the documents.

    • DzyMsLizzy profile image

      Liz Elias 4 years ago from Oakley, CA

      Great hub!

      I've been enjoying the hobby of genealogy for many years, now. I kick myself repeatedly that it never occurred to me to tape record my dad telling and re-telling the funny stories from his youth that I so loved hearing. I did hear them often enough to preserve them in a small booklet of poetry, but how wonderful it would have been had my kids been able to enjoy him speaking the stories in his own voice.

      I've written a few Hubs on the topic, myself--a couple of how-to's, and a couple dealing with that family history--one is a light-hearted and somewhat comical look at a family "curse," courtesy of the Pilgrim John Howland, the other is a more serious research piece about the Civil War Battle of Hanover Courthouse, in which an ancestor fought...or did he?? ;-)

      Voted up, awesome, interesting and shared!

    • Pamela Kinnaird W profile image

      Pamela Kinnaird W 4 years ago from Maui and Arizona

      I'm a genealogy enthusiast, too, so I really enjoyed this hub. Very positive. And when digitizing, be sure to back everything up.

      Voting up, awesome and sharing.

    • hisandhers profile image

      hisandhers 4 years ago from Toronto, Ontario, Canada

      Thanks for the great advice! After a death in the family in the past year I've become much more interested in my own family history and making sure I have a record of it for the years to come. You've definitely given me some great ideas. Thsnks!

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