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