My first family history book, written when I was still a genealogy newbie almost two decades ago, was nothing more than a regurgitation of published genealogies and family history charts handed down to me from two aunts. There are no citations in that first book and little in the way of original research beyond what could be found in additional published genealogies on library bookshelves. The book really has no value, but I keep it to remind myself of my humble beginnings. We all have to start somewhere.
Since then, I have compiled and privately published three family histories for my family. I’ve learned lessons along the way and each volume is better than the one before. Since that first attempt to create a family history, I have spent hours reading books, attending classes and workshops, and learning about proper genealogy research and writing techniques.
My second family history book told a bit about my research journey and visits to ancestral places, but it was still mostly a book of names with dates. Yawn! There was more value in my second book than my first simply because I documented my sources. Oh, the citations might not have been done “correctly,” but the effort was there. And my sources held more value this time around. I had actually visited courthouses and cemeteries, and researched in census, land, and probate records. I was learning.
After several years of research, and with my second family history book under my belt, I became more interested in learning about who my ancestors were, why they did what they did, and how they interacted with their surroundings. I yearned to go beyond mere dates and began to research their communities and the times in which they lived. I became more interested in my ancestors as individuals. My writing, which reflected this new information, took on a new life of its own. My ancestors jumped off the page and became real people. My third and fourth family history books were more narrative in nature, with full citations. And the best part is that my family actually read them, and enjoyed them.
I am currently in the early stages of compiling my fifth family history book. This one will be a complete rewrite of my second book. I have another chance now to bring life to my paternal ancestors.