But there are an increasing number of people offering shortcuts to creating family histories. They offer some form of template. Some do it by interviewing. They arrive at each interview with the same set of questions and record the answers. It’s the same set of questions no matter how different the clients may be. Walgreens and Kodak provide a set of click through options to create a photo book online. Genealogy giants Ancestory.com with MyCanvas and Roots Magic with Personal Historian provide software or online templates. It’s like taking a test in school. All you have to do is fill in the blanks or answer a multiple choice question. Unfortunately with all of these template-based approaches every family’s life seems a lot like every other family’s life when the book is finished. They’re homogenized. What’s missing is the uniqueness of the family’s experience and the author’s discovery of its meaning. The relationship between the template based account of a family’s life and a true family history is like that between paint-by-numbers and art.
Writing a family history should be an extraordinary creative experience. Creating your book is an opportunity for personal exploration and self-discovery. No template can provide that. The relationship between and editor and an author should be collaborative allowing you to draw on professional advice to make personal decisions about how you want to tell your family stories. You will have the opportunity to tell your family’s dtory your way. The book you produce will be as unique as the family whose history is its subject.