2017 June – Writing Your Family History

Writing and Sharing Your Family History

Course Coordinator and instructor: Michael J. Leclerc, CG

Held June 25-30, 2017, at La Roche College, Pittsburgh, PA. Registration Information.

After years of research, you now have a pile of information about your ancestors. You want to share it with your family, but aren’t sure where to go next. This course will help you look at a variety of ways to pull your family stories together and share them with your relatives. Looking at both print and digital options, we will examine a variety of ways you can compile that information into a shareable product. We focus here on the mechanics of creating the product, not the nuances of all aspects. For example, we will lightly pass over creating citations. (Other courses are best suited for fully learning how to craft citations.) Our focus will be on when and where to properly place them.

Students do not need to be masters at using Microsoft Word, but a rudimentary familiarity will help. Students will get the most out of the class by bringing a PC or Mac notebook computer with the full version of Microsoft Word installed. The tablet and online versions of Word do not currently have the full functionality necessary, so using one may not allow exploration of all of the functionality discussed in the course. Students will have homework assignments to help reinforce daily knowledge and skills learned. Bring copies of research documents pertaining to a family (in either digital or paper form) to use for your homework. You may be able to take away a good start on your family history.


9:00 a.m. Getting started: How do you know you are ready?
At what point are you ready to start writing? What are the measurements and milestones you should meet as you prepare to start writing your family’s story.

10:45 a.m. Writing as you research
Genealogists often want to wait until they are “done” before writing. Incorporating writing into the research process can also be very helpful and illuminate problems for you.

1:00 p.m. Print or online: What will your product be?
In the twenty-first century, the worlds of print and electronic are getting closer and closer. There are pros and cons for each format. Deciding which format for each project before you start writing can help save you time in the long run.

2:45 p.m. Writing Proof Discussions
Proof discussions are a basic building block in writing. Whether a statement, summary, or argument, they not only help to reinforce your arguments, you can use them as a basis for your final product.

4:00 p.m. General discussion of genealogical writing, selecting projects, and setting goals.


9:00 a.m. Managing a writing project
Writing and publishing have a lot of components. Learn tools and tricks for keeping track of all the moving parts to ensure they keep moving smoothly through the process. We will also discuss ways of getting your book published.

10:45 a.m. Genealogical sketches, Part I: Ahnentafel
Ahnentafel charts are a basic part of genealogical research. But genealogical sketches, articles, and books can use this style as well. We will learn how to create them by analyzing various forms of the ahnentafel system and ways to incorporate them into our work.

1:00 p.m. Indexing
One of the most important components of a compiled genealogy is the index. Although it may sound complicated, indexes for genealogies can be very easy to create. In this session we will learn the basics of indexing, including what the parts of a good index are and how to use the components.

2:45 p.m. Using Word, Part I
This section on Microsoft Word tools will build on the last session on indexing by showing students how to index in Word. We will also discuss adding words to the dictionary, and controlling the impact of autocorrect. Students will practice using their own computers.

4:00 p.m. Group discussion on the different types of compiled genealogies and how to determine which is the appropriate one for your project.


9:00 a.m. Genealogical sketches, Part II: Descendancy
Descendancies are perhaps the most common and familiar compiled genealogies we come across. Journals, such as the New England Historical and Genealogical Register and The American Genealogist, publish many descendancies. A large number of compiled genealogies are also published in this format.

10:45 a.m. Using Word, Part II
We will learn how to use the powerful built-in functionality of Microsoft Word to help you more easily write the stories of your family. The first section deals with some of the most valuable tools for genealogy. We will discuss using bookmarks and creating an automatic numbering system to make it easier to update a large-scale project when you add in a new person in the middle. Students will practice using their own computers.

1:00 p.m. Using Word, Part III
This session focuses on styles and formatting. We will also discuss creating footnotes and cross-references. Students will practice using their own computers.

2:45 p.m. Footnotes and Source Citations
What is the difference between a footnote and a source citation? Where do they go? What do you use them for? What goes into them? Get answers to these questions and more.

4:00 p.m. Group discussion on the day’s lessons, especially around indexing and Word functionality.


9:00 a.m. The Role of Editors and Others
While writing may seem like a solitary endeavor, the best writers quickly realize that it is, in reality a collaborative effort. Editors, proof readers, and others perform vital functions in helping you do your best work. Students will practice using their own computers.

10:45 a.m. Using Word, Part IV
The final section on Word tools builds on the collaboration discussion in the last section by showing some tools that are helpful for collaborative efforts and how to format for page breaks and columns. We will also learn how to create templates for future use. Students will practice using their own computers.

1:00 p.m. Incorporating original records in your writing
We use original records to build proof of who our ancestors are. But pulling together images of original records is not a “compiled genealogy.” Learn how to properly edit your findings and how to incorporate them into your family story.

2:45 p.m. Rules for Writing
English grammar, spelling, punctuation, and writing can be challenging. For genealogists it is even more so, as the slightest changes can make a big difference in the meaning, which can also change our conclusions. We will review

4:00 p.m. Group discussion of the day’s lessons a discussion of art programs. and more practice with Word tools.


8:30 a.m. An Editing Eye
It is impossible for anyone to edit themselves completely, but it is possible to develop an editorial eye that will help you to become a better writer. Learn tools and techniques for reviewing your work to make it the best possible work.

10:15 a.m. Not just for Reading: Repurposing Your Writing
We tend to think of writing as just reading articles and books, but there are other uses for our writing as well. We will explore some of the other uses for your writing.

11:30 a.m. Certificates and farewells before lunch