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    Writing Family History Books: They Can Be Whatever You Imagine

    Imagine what your book will look like when it’s finished. It’s the first step in the author’s journey and in many ways the most important.

    We’ve just spent three days at RootsTech 2013, a huge conference combining genealogy, family history, storytelling and technology. It seemed that nearly everyone of the thousands in attendance has a story that they want to tell.

    Of the many who stopped by the Stories To Tell booth to talk came with questions beginning: “Is it okay if I…” or simply “Can I…?”

    Absolutely! Whatever you can imagine, you can do. Conceiving of a book that is unique is a creative act. That’s what any author should be striving for. There are no rules about what your book must contain or how it must look. Your family’s history is unique and the way you capture it in a book should be unique too.

    Reflecting on the hundreds of family histories we have edited and designed there has been a huge diversity. Some have been organized chronologically, others topically, and some have employed biographical sketches. Some have combined elements of all three approaches. Some authors have focused on creating a factual documentary account of their ancestors, others have sought to make the book more interesting by capturing family stories, and those with more literary inclinations have used the techniques of creative nonfiction to dramatize their family’s history or even taken it into the realm of fiction with a novel based on the family history. All can be great ways of telling your ancestors’ stories.

    The same variety is evident in the visual approach our authors have taken. Some books are text only while others include hundreds of photos. Many employ documents to add verisimilitude. A few have used images of family artifacts. Some of the more artistic have employed original paintings and drawings to illustrate their books. The results have ranged from trade-paperback sized text-only volumes to beautiful coffee table books, to e-books with rich media and a load of links..

    If you are setting out to tell your family’s story, let your imagination run wild. You, your editor and your book designer can ultimately create what you imagine. You’ll be thrilled with the results when you see your unique vision in print.

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    Reader Comments (2)

    Excellent post! Storytelling at center stage at RootsTech 2013. Wonderful! ;-)

    Mar 24, 2013 at 10:19AM | Unregistered CommenterDr. Bill (William L.) Smith

    Thanks, Dr. Bill! The focus at Roots Tech 2013 really did shift to give storytelling an equal billing with technology.

    Mar 25, 2013 at 10:43AM | Registered CommenterNan Barnes

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