Six Questions to Help You Start Writing Your Family History
Brush up your family history writing and paint your ancestors with words. These six questions will get you going.
Have you daydreamed of writing up your family history but never actually started (or finished) a project? Maybe you’ve thought about penning a biography of a grandparent. Perhaps you hope to create a book of family photos or a volume showcasing your connection to the House of Tudor.

These unwritten—or half-written—projects are like unfinished portraits of your ancestors: sketched out, but never fully executed. If you leave your research this way, others may never fully appreciate your family history or “see” your forebears as you do in your mind’s eye: as real people worthy of a memorial portrait.

So how do you get your masterpiece out of your head and into fully realized form? Take a lesson from portrait painters. They make several upfront decisions about their overall goals for the portrait. Then they experiment with different media, brush strokes and designs. As they paint, they keep making decisions: where to put a line, deepen a shadow or emphasize a shape.

You can take the same approach to creating an ancestral portrait in words. For a well-executed likeness of your relatives, you’ll want to plan exactly what to write, how to write it and where to share your finished work. You may experiment with different approaches along the way, but eventually you settle on one and see it through.
The following six questions will help you sketch in the contours of your next family history writing project—that is, your next genealogical portrait. Do this mental sketch in pencil, though: You may find yourself erasing or refining your answers as you go.