Producing a Quality Family Narrative
This course explores the different ways to compile the genealogical information you have gathered, write a narrative history of your family, and distribute it on paper or electronically. Using vivid examples and case studies, it demonstrates ancestor numbering systems, proper documentation, editing and proofreading, indexing, and how to weave oral lore, treasured heirlooms, and pertinent local history into your family’s story. It shows how maps, charts and illustrations enliven your prose. Solid genealogical scholarship and narrative family history writing need not be mutually exclusive. They can be complementary. Students submit one in-class writing exercise.
This course is for any genealogist who has already gathered a substantial amount of information and wants to produce a quality finished product for future generations.
Coordinator: John Philip Colletta, Ph.D., FUGA
            John Philip Colletta, Ph.D., FUGA
            Michael Hait, CG
  • Preliminaries: What, Why, How, and For Whom Are You Writing? (John Philip Colletta)
  • Turning Biographical Facts into Real Life Events:How to Build Historical Context (John Philip Colletta)
  • Principles of Good Writing and Good Storytelling (John Philip Colletta)
  • How to Use Artifacts in Genealogical Writing (John Philip Colletta)
  • In-class writing exercise (John Philip Colletta)
  • Lineage Presentation and Numbering Systems (Michael Hait)
  • Creating a Genealogy or Family History on a PC or MAC (Michael Hait)
  • Editing and Proofreading (Michael Hait)
  • Indexing (Michael Hait)
  • How to Create a Narrative of Biographical Facts (John Philip Colletta)
  • Documentation: Important for Readers . . . and the Author, too! (John Philip Colletta)
  • Using Newspapers and Cartographic Materials for Historical Context (John Philip Colletta)
  • Evaluating Evidence and the Genealogical Proof Standard (Michael Hait)
  • Electronic Venues for Publishing Gen. and Fam. His., Part 1 (Michael Hait)
  • Electronic Venues for Publishing Gen. and Fam. His., Part 2 (Michael Hait)
  • Publishing Your Genealogy or Family History as a Paper Book (fundamentals of self-publishing and subsidized publishing) (John Philip Colletta)
  • In-Class Critique and Discussion of Writing Exercise, Part 1 (John Philip Colletta)
  • In-Class Critique and Discussion of Writing Exercise, Part 2 (John Philip Colletta)
  • Writing a Quality Family Narrative: The Pitfalls and Snares (John Philip Colletta)
  • The Larger Literary Possibilities of Family History (John Philip Colletta)
Suggested Texts:

There are no required texts. However, the following are suggested:
Akeret, Robert U.  Family Tales, Family Wisdom:  How to Gather the Stories of a Lifetime
            and Share Them with Your Family.  New York:  Henry Holt & Co., 1991.
Board for Certification of Genealogists.  The BCG Genealogical Standards Manual.  Orem,
            UT:  Ancestry, 2000.
Carmack, Sharon DeBartolo.  You Can Write Your Family History.  Cincinnati:  Betterway
            Books, 2003.
Colletta, , John Philip.  Only a Few Bones:  A True Account of the Rolling Fork Tragedy
            and Its Aftermath.  Washington, D.C.:  Direct Descent, 2000.
Gouldrup, Lawrence P.  Writing the Family Narrative.  Salt Lake City:  Ancestry, Inc.,
            1987. [This book is out in a new edition, but not published by Ancestry.]
Hatcher, Patricia Law.  Producing a Quality Family History.  Salt Lake City:  Ancestry,
            Inc., 1996.
Hinds, Harold E., Jr. Crafting a Personal Family History: A Guide Plus a Case Study.
            Three Generations of the Hinds Family in New York’s Adirondack Mountains.
            Elizabethtown, N.Y.: Essex County Historical Society, 2011. This ground-breaking
            textbook establishes the basic principles necessary to successfully research and
            document a personal family history.
Hofmann, William J.  Life Writing:  A Guide to Family Journals and Personal Memoirs.
            New York:  St. Martin's Press, 1982.
Mills, Elizabeth Shown.  Evidence!  Citation & Analysis for the Family Historian.
            Baltimore:  Genealogical Publishing Co., 1997.
Sturdevant, Katherine Scott.  Bringing Your Family History to Life through Social
            History.  Cincinnati:  Betterway Books, 2000.
Vandagriff, G.G.  Voices in Your Blood:  Discovering Identity through Family History.
            Kansas City, MO:  Andrews and McMeel, 1992.