How to Handle Difficult or Uncomfortable Facts When Writing Family History: Episode 144

By Editors of Family Tree Magazine

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Lisa interviews author Annette Gendler about how to address difficult or uncomfortable information when writing your family’s history. Plus, tips from our DNA expert on how to persuade relatives to take a DNA test, as well as a closer look at the genealogy resources available at the State Library of Pennsylvania.

Ep. 144: December 2020

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In this episode:

Tree Talk (01:28)

Lisa shares Family Tree Magazine Podcast listener May Smith’s story of genealogical success.

Share your story of discovery and you may just hear it here on the Family Tree Magazine Podcast! Email your story to:

Featured Interview: Annette Gendler (05:16)

Families and family histories can get a bit messy. And when you’re trying to write the family’s story, you’re eventually faced with how to deal with the blemishes that you come across, and whether or not you should or shouldn’t include them.

Author Annette Gendler is the author of the book How to Write Compelling Stories from Family History. She recently tackled these questions in her recent article for the September/October 2020 issue of Family Tree Magazine. You can find an online version of the article below. You can learn more about Annette on her website:

Research may turn up your ancestor’s “blemishes,” shameful actions or traits. One writer explores whether you should include them in your family’s stories.

DNA Deconstructed: Convincing a Relative to Take a DNA Test (18:05)

You’re hot on the trail of a DNA research project and there’s one person who’s standing between you and the answers you’re looking for. But what if you suspect that person is going to be hesitant about testing? Your DNA Guide Diahan Southard provides advice on how to persuade a relative to test.

Diahan Southard

“In all of your excitement about digging up the past, don’t forget that there is a possibility that this information could affect their present.”

– Diahan Southard

Best Genealogy Websites: The State Library of Pennsylvania (26:34)

In the November/December 2020 issue of Family Tree Magazine, we crisscross the country to bring you the 75 Best State Genealogy Websites. This month we head to Pennsylvania and the website of the State library of Pennsylvania. Government Documents Librarian, Kathy Hale and Genealogy Librarian Amy Woytovich join Lisa to discuss their collections.

Research Tips

  • Be sure to take advantage of the library’s research guides. They will help you get the most from the collections.
  • Don’t be shy! Contact the staff through the website for assistance.
  • Pennsylvania residents: Visit the Power Library, Pennsylvania’s Electronic Library
  • Access free digitized Pennsylvania old newspapers at the Library of Congress’ Chronicling America website.
  • When the facility opens back up, take advantage of the interlibrary loan service.

Editor’s Desk: The Genealogy Insider Newsletter (38:20)

Rachel Fountain, New Media Editor at Family Tree Magazine, announces the reintroduction of the free Genealogy Insider email newsletter.

You can sign up for the newsletter at

The Genealogy Insider newsletter banner from Family Tree Magazine.

Your Host: Lisa Louise Cooke

Listen to Lisa Louise Cooke’s Genealogy Gems Podcast in your favorite podcasting app or with the Genealogy Gems Podcast app in your app store, and visit her website for great research ideas, podcast episodes and videos.

Have fun climbing your family tree!

Lisa Louise Cooke, host of the Family Tree Magazine podcast. is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to and affiliated websites.