Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Write Your Family History


How much do you know about your own family?  Why not challenge yourself to document the history of your family? If not you, who? 

Both your father and your mother told you stories about their early years. Jot them down! Ask your siblings to contribute what they can remember plus any photographs they may have or articles that pertained to events in your parents' life. Do not neglect your cousins, aunts and uncles, as they will be able to contribute stories from their points of view. If your grandparents are alive be sure visit them and ask them to fill you in on your parent's life as a child as well as their own lives. They may have correspondence and other documents that would shed light on the family history.

Carefully write down all that you hear and note the date so that you can document who said what and when. Search the Internet to see if there are articles or other documents that include members of your family.  The idea is to surface as much material as is currently available about your family.

Photographs may be scattered all over the country in the hands of dozens of members of the family. Encourage each of them to have them scanned into digital form and sent to you for inclusion in the book. Documents, if in digital form on the Internet, can be copied and saved for later use in the book. Articles and other printed documents can be scanned and converted to a photographic image that can be inserted into the book later as documentation.

Once all this material has been accumulated, it will be up to you to decide how to best present all of the material. It could be done in the form of a long narrative, starting with the oldest of your ancestors and working forward in time to the present; or it could be done in pictorial form with short captions clarifying the situation, the date and the family members in the photograph.

The important thing is to get whatever everyone has in their possession in one location (digitally, that is), presenting it in a clear manner and printing out copies so that every member of the family gets a copy of everything. With flash drives of 8 GB and 16 GB storage capacity available at very reasonable rates, you could also include a flash drive containing all of the digital material with the printed book. Perhaps, a grandchild with a penchant for writing will take your material and expand upon it a decade or two down the line.

The holidays, like New Year's or Thanksgiving, when the extended family gathers, would be a good time to begin the process by personally speaking to each of the family members and securing their cooperation. 

Blurb.com's BookSmart® software is free to anyone and it can be used in a collaborative mode. You can start the writing process and then email the resulting book file to another family member. In this manner, many family members can review your work and/or add their stories. 

Authors that  have used BookSmart® extensively show you, through their free video tutorials at this web site, exactly how to put such a book together and how to collaborate in the process.

Give it some thought. Then, get started! Current and future generations of your family will be absolutely grateful for your efforts and thrilled by the results!