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Writing up family history

AMW

master brummie
Hi

Would anyone have any tips please on how to go about writing up family history. I have collected quite a few records from Ancestry but have no idea how to present the information in a way that makes sense. Do I write a page on each person, each family etc. I have no idea where to start that would make sense rather than just the jumble in my head.

Best wishes
Alison
 

pjmburns

master brummie
Have you created a tree on Ancestry? I did this to help me see how people were connected. You can link records. Then I used a ring file so I could put paper copies together for key people. I tried to limit that to direct line.
 

AMW

master brummie
Thanks Janice. I've done that in an electronic form but would like to write it up to share with my sisters. I just don't know the best way to share the information with them. I live 200 miles from them.
 

pjmburns

master brummie
Alison.
You might be willing to share your tree on Ancestry. Would they be able to set up a free account? If your tree is public they could find it. If they are not good with computers I would start by printing out a copy of the tree. (I did that for my Uncle who is no good on a computer). i did it in sections and stuck them together so he could read it. He then told me who he wanted to know more about and I wrote that up with certificates inserted.
 

Spargone

master brummie
As with all writing you need to consider the audience, what mesage you are trying to convey and of course, for non-fiction, what information you have.

I think some sort of genealogy program is pretty much essential for keeping track of your family and most of them can output data in various forms automatically.

I quite like Outline Descendant Reports where each new generation is indented further to the right. It is a very flexible form, unlike the conventional 'tree' arrangements which struggle when there are many children or multiple spouses.

For my greatgrandfather, grandfather and father I have written up 'timeline' articles which I have published on the web and emailed to family members who have expressed an interest in family history. If you do write anything on the computer it can be a good idea to save it in 'PDF' form as the chances are it will always be computer readable in the future, not necessarily the case with 'word processors' in general. Similarly material on the web is essentially 'plain text' so shouldn't become unreadable (as long as it doesn't get lost).

Unlike 'normal' writing I wouldn't worry too much about structure - the same applies to personal memories - just write it down as it comes! Editors are two a penny but source material is gold. Other people might comment on what you have written, building up the picture and removing errors. They can't do that if you haven't made a start.

There is no right way, do what suits you.

As well as the computer I keep ring-binder files. I like using polypockets. The generations are separated by tab sheets and each family starts with a Family Group Sheet behind which all the family papers sit. Spouseless children might have birth and death records here, married children get their own Family Group Sheet beyond the generational tab sheet. Again no right or wrong here. I give image files names like b8910jsh.jpg , b for birth 891 for 1891, 0 etc. to allow for potential conflicting files and jsh for, say, JohnSmitH. I was brought up in the days of 8+3 file names, nowadays one can be a lot more specific. My system does allow files to be easily grouped by date and type though.
 
Last edited:

Bob Davis

Bob Davis
As with all writing you need to consider the audience, what mesage you are trying to convey and of course, for non-fiction, what information you have.

I think some sort of genealogy program is pretty much essential for keeping track of your family and most of them can output data in various forms automatically.

I quite like Outline Descendent Reports where each new generation is indented further to the right. It is a very flexible form, unlike the conventional 'tree' arrangements which struggle when there are many children or multiple spouses.

For my greatgrandfather, grandfather and father I have written up 'timeline' articles which I have published on the web and emailed to family members who have expressed an interest in family history. If you do write anything on the computer it can be a good idea to save it in 'PDF' form as the chances are it will always be computer readable in the future, not necessarily the case with 'word processors' in general. Similarly material on the web is essentially 'plain text' so shouldn't become unreadable (as long as it doesn't get lost).

Unlike 'normal' writing I wouldn't worry too much about structure - the same applies to personal memories - just write it down as it comes! Editors are two a penny but source material is gold. Other people might comment on what you have written, building up the picture and removing errors. They can't do that if you haven't made a start.

There is no right way, do what suits you.

As well as the computer I keep ring-binder files. I like using polypockets. The generations are separated by tab sheets and each family starts with a Family Group Sheet behind which all the family papers sit. Spouseless children might have birth and death records here, married children get their own Family Group Sheet beyond the generational tab sheet. Again no right or wrong here. I give image files names like b8910jsh.jpg , b for birth 891 for 1891, 0 etc. to allow for potential conflicting files and jsh for, say, JohnSmitH. I was brought up in the days of 8+3 file names, nowadays one can be a lot more specific. My system does allow files to be easily grouped by date and type though.
Well said, I like just write it down as it comes and the great thing about computers is the ability to edit what you have written at a later date when you realise you have missed something out. Also remember to back it up, in fact my only IT capability is to be able to use an external hard drive. The only problem with trees on Ancestry is the fact that those shown as still alive are not named, but entered as private.
Bob
 

Richard Dye

master brummie
As with all writing you need to consider the audience, what mesage you are trying to convey and of course, for non-fiction, what information you have.

I think some sort of genealogy program is pretty much essential for keeping track of your family and most of them can output data in various forms automatically.

I quite like Outline Descendent Reports where each new generation is indented further to the right. It is a very flexible form, unlike the conventional 'tree' arrangements which struggle when there are many children or multiple spouses.

For my greatgrandfather, grandfather and father I have written up 'timeline' articles which I have published on the web and emailed to family members who have expressed an interest in family history. If you do write anything on the computer it can be a good idea to save it in 'PDF' form as the chances are it will always be computer readable in the future, not necessarily the case with 'word processors' in general. Similarly material on the web is essentially 'plain text' so shouldn't become unreadable (as long as it doesn't get lost).

Unlike 'normal' writing I wouldn't worry too much about structure - the same applies to personal memories - just write it down as it comes! Editors are two a penny but source material is gold. Other people might comment on what you have written, building up the picture and removing errors. They can't do that if you haven't made a start.

There is no right way, do what suits you.

As well as the computer I keep ring-binder files. I like using polypockets. The generations are separated by tab sheets and each family starts with a Family Group Sheet behind which all the family papers sit. Spouseless children might have birth and death records here, married children get their own Family Group Sheet beyond the generational tab sheet. Again no right or wrong here. I give image files names like b8910jsh.jpg , b for birth 891 for 1891, 0 etc. to allow for potential conflicting files and jsh for, say, JohnSmitH. I was brought up in the days of 8+3 file names, nowadays one can be a lot more specific. My system does allow files to be easily grouped by date and type though.
Spargone, very well said! Your comments about editors particularly so and I save everything to a pdf, points well taken!
 
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Reactions: AMW

AMW

master brummie
Thank you so much for your help and suggestions and such a comprehensive answer. I shall try and do what you have suggested as it would be great to write something up although I need the discipline to do it too and not get distracted by just collecting records. I do try and analyse records but sometimes it is only when I come back to them later I think of other connections or other things they may imply for other members of the family living in that period of time. I find all of this so fascinating :)
 

DJRVST

master brummie
Thinking of what has worked for me when writing up the story in a readable manner..
I agree with the points made above regarding do what suits you particularly if you write it up on a computer (don't forget to back it up on a stick or an external disc drive). Keep a paper copy. PDF is a good back up.
You can amend your work as you see fit the more experience you gain. Writing it up as you go means small anecdotes, observations and details are readily in your recall. It also divides the task into easy "chunks" and it avoids a massive end project. I include particular photographs in the text plus any newspaper cuttings.
Place any lengthy documents/charts as an appendix. I also place any relevant social observations regarding contemporary conditions.
I chose to work forwards in time. I have an introduction explaining my approach ( I use paternal YDNA and mtDNA pathways to focus the story but do include any Heroes or Villains encountered on the wider stage!!).
You naturally amass a vast amount of data during your research. Ensure you have a filing (electronic and hardcopy) system that saves task repetition.
 

AMW

master brummie
Thanks for that. I guess I need also to understand some of the geography of Birmingham although I am from there my family come from the Aston, Hockley, Handsworth, town centre going back in time. I need to learn about that too. :)
 

DJRVST

master brummie
Thanks for that. I guess I need also to understand some of the geography of Birmingham although I am from there my family come from the Aston, Hockley, Handsworth, town centre going back in time. I need to learn about that too. :)
Hi If you want to buy downloadable maps or paper copies by post try Midland Ancestors (it's a Local History Site). They should have something to help. There may be other sources.
 

DJRVST

master brummie
Thanks for that. I guess I need also to understand some of the geography of Birmingham although I am from there my family come from the Aston, Hockley, Handsworth, town centre going back in time. I need to learn about that too. :)
A further thought. Ancestry and others are OK for printing out charts but be very wary of copying unverified data from other contributed trees. Many folk are OK but there is a lot of poorly researched nonsense which can lead you astray. I have on a number of occasions pointed out to authors where items are blatantly incorrect (sometimes sourced by a hired "genealogist" but they remain and have been copied many times!!
If you have a lot of data already a wall covered in "PostIts" is a good way of sorting out a path way. You can record the better path on A3 paper or photograph on an iPad or Phone.
 

AMW

master brummie
"PostIts" is a great idea, I hadn't thought of that.
Many folk are OK but there is a lot of poorly researched nonsense which can lead you astray
I must say this has knocked my confidence a few times as I have looked at other people's research and doubted my own research only to find that I was right.
 

MWS

master brummie
There's no problem following a clue or a new direction from someone else's work for an elusive relative but it's probably best to assume it's wrong until you have checked it out yourself.

If you can't prove it to yourself then ignore it.
 

Richard Dye

master brummie
Thanks for that. I guess I need also to understand some of the geography of Birmingham although I am from there my family come from the Aston, Hockley, Handsworth, town centre going back in time. I need to learn about that too. :)
I am from Aston and mostly Handsworth (been a way for a while), I still go to an online map of Brum to recalibrate and and understand the Forum. Personally I think that this is very important and even with that I seem not to always get it right!
 

ChrisM

Super Moderator
Staff member
Alison,

I am lucky in having two object lessons in my bookcase. I won't go into detail here but I started a discussion in the Forum on this subject many years ago. It's here:
If at some stage you would like to see the contents page of one or two of these documents, to get an idea about how they were organised, please let me know.

Chris
 

Richard Dye

master brummie
Alison,

I am lucky in having two object lessons in my bookcase. I won't go into detail here but I started a discussion in the Forum on this subject many years ago. It's here:
If at some stage you would like to see the contents page of one or two of these documents, to get an idea about how they were organised, please let me know.

Chris
My goodness, what a wonderful story! Your g g grandfather going to California for 7 or 8 years and then returning is spectacular. The journey In those days would have been epic!
And knowing when to stop, that’s a difficult one because it depends on your passion or lack thereof!

Thank you!
 
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