Writing family history essays confer you with a lot of responsibilities. You have to get the lineage right and maintain a coherent timeline.
However, genealogy essays differ slightly from other research-based essays because your narrative is unique. This essay genre uses elements of descriptive, narrative, and informative writing to outline your family tree. You can opt to choose essay writing service to write it for you, but since you are planning to write about your own family history and culture, it would be better to do the job yourself.
Like other essays, you need to conduct extensive investigations of your family history from online archives to face-to-face interviews. So, you can use personal pronouns in your essay.
But if you want to write an engaging genealogy report, let’s look at the necessary steps involved.
1. Gather information
An engaging family history essay is a product of painstaking research. Dedicate enough time to go through public records, archives, and online lineage tracers. Online resources like Ancestry.com can help you trace your family tree without a lot of stress.
Alternatively, you can interview family members for more accurate information regarding your lineage. Talk to the oldest surviving members and gather insightful stories about their survival and integration into the community.
For people living in migrant communities, gather information from relatives about your family’s migration history and survival story.
2. Choose a format
Since genealogy essays allow students to come up with their preferred narrative style, you can explore different options. Here are some family history essay formats to choose from:
- Memoir style— memoirs contain the life and times of an individual (or group of individuals). Your preferred format can focus on a specific period or cover the entire history. In essence, the memoir format allows you to tell stories based on personal experience.
- Scrapbook — this style involves the use of images to convey your family history. Scrapbooks are not widely acceptable in most institutions because instructors want students to “narrate rather than display” their families’ stories.
- Register style— The register format follows the story of the first known ancestor to arrive in the resident country. It also highlights every member of the family tree and how they established themselves in the country.
- Ahnentafel style — This format is similar to a chart that places couples in a numerical order based on their appearance in the lineage.
3. Choose a starting point
After gathering data and choosing the essay structure, work on the starting point and theme. No hardline rules exist on how many generations to include in the essay.
Your point of origin often depends on the amount of information gathered from your research and interviews. Migrants can start their genealogy essay from the first known ancestor to enter the country.
Also, look for common themes in the family history. Is your family a political one like the Kennedys? Are you a business or working-class family?
Most importantly, use famous world events to provide a relatable timeline for the reader.
4. Write with links to sources
Family storylines are often subjects of controversy. Even family members can prove disputing accounts, especially in extended families. So, always back up your narratives with links to authoritative and verified sources.
Here are some reliable sources of information for your genealogy research:
- Newspaper archives
- Online family trees
- DNA tracers
- History books
- Public libraries
- Government records
- Biographies and autobiographies
Combining the information from these sources with oral accounts from older relatives gives your narrative more credence.
5. Review all the information
Before submitting your essay or sharing it on your genealogy blog, review every piece of information you have. Confirm the spelling of the names (for non-English transcriptions) to make sure that they are correct. Besides, check the essay structure to ensure that the timeline is accurate since people with common names need to pay extra attention to details when tracing their families.
Also, use professional photograph analysts to determine individuals on old photos. This process is key to avoiding mistaken identities like the Ivan Marchenko vs. Ivan Demjanjuk debacle.
Most importantly, cross-check accounts from elderly relatives to make sure that they are similar. And if the stories conflict, seek a third opinion or consult an online genealogical research log.
6. Fine-tune the essay
After reviewing the details, go through the essay one last time to correct grammatical errors. Keep the stories streamlined and concise. You can also switch the style to create a more impactful storyline. And if possible, hand the essay to another family member to proofread and suggest changes.
Writing a genealogy essay requires hours of research and hard work. However, the presence of genealogy logs and online family trees have reduced the amount of work required. Use these tools to gather information about your lineage. Conduct interviews with relatives to find the starting point of your family’s history. Provide links to sources of information and ensure that they are reliable. And when the essay is ready, proofread and review the details before publishing.
Amanda Dudley earned her Ph.D. IN History from Stanford in 2001. Since then, she has worked in academia, lecturing on World and American History and assisting students through her work on EssayUSA. In her spare time, Amanda loves practicing her German and developing techniques to improve the experiences of students with learning difficulties as they progress through education.