24 October 2010

Are You a Family Historian? Then Write about it!

One of Dick Eastman's articles yesterday was about why we study family history. I agree with his premise that many of us are fascinated with the subject because it helps us discover who we are. I too cannot get enough of knowing those people whose DNA contributed to my own. And I love to write down what I know about them and what I think and feel about them too. What really caught my eye though, was a comment made by a person who described himself as "unqualified" to write about his family history.

I don't agree. Any person with the basic skills to read and write, or with a friend or relative who can read and write, can write about their family history. Folks, there are no grades assigned to our family history writing. We are writing for our own enjoyment and for anyone else who cares to read as well. If they do not enjoy it, believe me they will not read it. Many people who I love do not read my writing (including my husband--until I wrote about his dad and mom). And that's fine. It doesn't mean that I cannot or should not continue to write. My writing is a way of expressing myself about a topic that is dear to my heart--my family members.

Recently a dear young friend who has been developmentally delayed her whole life stopped me in the grocery store. "Joy, I wrote my history," she told me excitedly. "My sister helped me." She went on to tell me that since she likes jokes so much, she had included her favorite jokes in what had been written. She wanted to share it with me. She even told me a few of her best jokes on the spot. Her history helped her define herself. I don't think Carolyn would have been able to write that history without help, but she got help and she got something that she enjoyed and was able to share.

The form in which we record our family history varies. It may be a simple listing of facts in a computer program on or on paper. It may be a scrapbook or a journal. It may be a webpage or an entry on facebook. It may be a story for your children and grandchildren or one or several volumes of stories. We are each individuals with individual preferences and talents. But let's not ever stop ourselves by thinking or saying that we are "unqualified" or that we "can't" write. Let's never stop writing from our hearts; let's not stop expressing our individuality. If Carolyn can do it, so can we!


  1. I have written a few family histories and plan on doing more. I enjoy your site, it helps me believe in myself. I plan on starting a family blog soon. Trying to learn all I can first about blogs.

  2. Thanks, knitternut, for reading. It's more fun to write when we know someone is reading, isn't it? You would probably enjoy Nina Amir's blogs: http://writenonfictionnow.com/ and http://howtoblogabook.com/. Her challenge is to get going in November: http://writenonfictioninnovember.com/. Let's do it!

  3. I was looking at a few family history blogs as I'm interested in how other people choose to organize their blogs. I enjoyed your post and share many of the same sentiments about why we write even if others don't read them. You may enjoy checking out a post on my blog called "When the Pieces Fall Into Place". It's a story of how I overcame a huge brick wall with an unexpected outcome. http://jonesfamilymatters.blogspot.com
    Keep up your great blog.

  4. Hello!

    I came across your site while researching for an article on "People who have written family histories".

    I am a freelance writer based in India. I am looking out for indians, both in India and abroad who have written their family history. I was wondering if you could help me out, if you know someone from India or of Indian origin, who has written their family history!

    My website is www.dhanishtashah.com.
    My email: dhanishtashah@gmail.com

  5. Dhanishta, I do not personally know of Indians that have written family history. Perhaps other readers might. I cannot imagine it would be very different than anyone else. One of my favorite books is Autobiography of a Yogi by Paramahansa Yogananda which is a very inspiring memoir.