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You are about to embark on a writing adventure that will weave through your ancestors' lives. Now is the time to begin writing those stories. Don't let your family's history be forgotten.

Get Ready to Write: Compiling Your Family History

Review Your Work: Now is the Time to Edit


Articles on the Web

How do I? ... Write a Family History
A list of key points to consider before writing your family history.

The Secret to Writing a Compelling Family History
An article written by Sharon DeBartolo Carmack

Writing a Family History
A chapter from the book by Terrick FitzHugh offering advice on converting lists of names and dates into family histories.

Establishing Atmosphere in Your Written Family History
An article by George G.Morgan to help you build a physical and historical context for your family history.

Ten Easy Steps to Writing Your Family History
From personal experience, author Valerie Holladay shares her tips and advice for writing your family history.

23 Tips for Writing a Family History
Based on his experience, author David Bowles shares 23 tips to help you research and write your family history.

Your Ancestor's Biography
Helpful advice and tips from Michael John Neill. Beginning with one person's biography can be less daunting than compiling an entire family's history.

Publishing Your Genealogy
Christine A. Reed shares advice on pulling your family history together into a printable form.


Writing Resources on the Web

Cyndi's List - Writing Your Family History

English Usage, Style & Composition
Bartleby combines contemporary and classic usage guides to form the best full-text searchable resource on the web including American Heritage Book of English Usage, Columbia Guide to Standard American English, and The Elements of Style.

The Blue Book of Grammar and Punctuation
A reference site for grammar and punctuation rules that also has a fun grammar quiz.

An online thesaurus to help you find just the right word.

Babel Fish Translation
Translate paragraphs both to and from the English language. Foreign languages include Dutch, Greek, German, Italian, French, Russian, Spanish, and Portugese. Style Guide
Online reference tool to help with all those "How do I?" questions.

Improve Your Sentence Structure
From the Online Writing Lab of Purdue University, numerous examples to improve your writing by improving your sentence structure.

Abbreviations found in Genealogy
A fairly comprehensive list of abbreviations you are like to find in your genealogy research or that you may want to use in your genealogy writing.

Glossary of Legal Terms
A great resource to decifer those legal documents.

  Build a Family History Writer's Library
An abundance of print resources are available to help you write your family history. A Bibliography of Family History Writing Guides offers a wide variety of helpful books to get your started. Many of these books are available at your local library, favorite bookseller, or online at

A few must-haves to get you started:


Evidence Explained

Evidence Explained: Citing History Sources from Artifacts to Cyberspace
by Elizabeth Shown Mills


Producing a Quality Family History
Producing a Quality Family History
by Patricia Law Hatcher


Abbreviations and Acronyms
Abbreviation and Acronyms: A Guide for Family Historians, Second Edition
by Kip Sperry


Breathe Life Into Your Life Story

Breathe Life Into Your Life Story: How to write a story people will want to read. By Dawn and Morris Thurston. Published by Signature Books, Salt Lake City, Utah; 2007. 213 pages. ISBN 1560850949.

The pages of this newly-published how-to book are filled with helpful advice and examples to help the reader create an interesting, well-written life story. The authors, Dawn and Morris Thurston, have presented a methodical approach to putting your thoughts and stories on paper. This book will be helpful to those who have always wanted to write their life story but never had the courage to pick up a pen. It also serves the experienced writer well with ideas, hints, and tips to overcome a writer’s block hurdle.

The book begins with a “pep talk,” a chapter filled with encouraging words. The authors demonstrate that by following a plan, and using this book for guidance, the reader will become a writer. Everyone has a story to share. With encouragement, these stories can be written and preserved.

The authors offer an abundance of quality writing examples throughout the book. These examples serve to accentuate the points made in each chapter. Many how-to books tell the reader how to write. This book offers numerous examples of good writing throughout each chapter that demonstrate each principle. These examples illustrate the authors’ point of showing your readers the details of your life through your life story rather than merely superficially telling a story. Showing involves action and vivid descriptions. This principle of “showing” resonates throughout the book.

The authors have created a guide to help the reader to “learn by doing.” There are several dozen specific tips offered throughout the book that will provide impetus for moving pen on paper. These tips, offered in grayed boxes, correlate with each chapter’s theme. They allow the book’s reader to apply principles learned in each chapter to immediate practice. Appendix A provides a complete list of these learn-by-doing exercises.

Dawn and Morris Thurston have written a useful manual. Their years of experience in writing, and helping others to write, shine through in the pages of Breathe Life Into Your Life Story. If you have been thinking of writing your life story, or even if the thought has not crossed your mind, this book will provide the encouragement and the guidance to put your life stories on paper. Your grandchildren will be glad you did.

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