How do you structure a family history?


Quick Answer

Structuring and writing a family history involves deciding the scope of the story, doing the necessary research and writing with the reader in mind. For the sake of future generations, don't put off writing that family history.

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Full Answer

  1. Choose the format and scope of the family history project

    Decide how large the family history should be. Will it go back one or two generations or several centuries? Decide what the final version should look like. Format options range from simple newsletters passed among family members to websites, photo albums or even hard-cover books.

  2. Look for themes

    Many people find that recurring themes occur in their family. Perhaps the family has a history of immigration. Maybe the ancestors went from rags to riches across several generations, survived many wars or fought their way out of poverty or slavery. Perhaps many family members share history in the same occupation or profession. With the themes in mind, sort through the material to choose what to include and what to leave out.

  3. Research the family history

    Interview every family member possible, even if they don't end up in the history. Visit towns where the family lived and read accounts of life during that era. Include any available eyewitness accounts. Choose the most interesting related elements to weave together a story. Don't feel the need to preserve or use every incident discovered.

  4. Write with a personal tone

    While it is important to get the facts right in a family history, writing about funny and moving moments in the ancestors' lives make the history come alive. Use the gathered research as a basis for creating a warm and readable account that other family members treasure.

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