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Silver Spring, MD
United States


Stories To Tell is a full service book publishing company for independent authors. We provide editing, design, publishing, and marketing of fiction and non-fiction. We specialize in sophisticated, unique illustrated book design.

Stories To Tell Books BLOG

Writing a Family History Should be a Unique Experience

Nan Barnes

Every family’s life is unique. The process of creating a book about it should be unique too. When you set out to chronicle the history of your progenitors you search their collective experience to discover the knowledge, wisdom and values that experience has produced. The great American mythologist Joseph Campbell once said, “Life is without meaning. You bring meaning to it. The meaning of life is whatever you ascribe to it.” Creating a family history book is an instance where you do that ascribing of meaning to the lives of your ancestors. That’s a uniquely personal process.

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 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.