05/09/2013 07:19 BST | Updated 04/11/2013 05:12 GMT

Effective Genealogy Writing: Tips to Attract Family Members to Family History

Effective Genealogy Writing: Tips to Attract Family Members to Family History


"How do I get more family members interested in my family history?" This is certainly one of the top questions I hear from readers on my website and Facebook page and read on genealogy message boards and in chat rooms.

While each family is unique and every writer has her/his favorite tips, I do believe there is an easy path to follow in order to attract more family members to our genealogy work: We need to write about our family histories by following my 'Four E's'.

Following these simple "Four E's" will creating a higher degree of involvement and interest in your genealogy writing by your family members - a wonderful and necessary goal for each of us to insure that our passion gets carried on.

My four E's are: Ease, Entice, Entertain, and Engage.

Ease: First, write with ease and know your audience. We need to write as if we were simply sitting in the parlor chatting over tea with an old friend. Unless you are writing for a genealogy journal or Society, I skip the footnotes, the jargon of our industry, and I write with the same ease with which I speak about family history. This method of writing is when our passion for genealogy truly becomes evident.

Entice: I realize that this may seem elusive, what I mean here is that our writing must entice our readers to want to continue to read, learn more about what we are saying, and find it intriguing. The best way I have found to do this is rather than focusing on names and dates, I write in mini-stories. Everyone loves a story and few things in our family histories entice us than a good story! Far more than dry dates, documents, and names that we discover in order to craft the story that accompanies them. I also write to my extended family each week with an update on whatever is new in our family history from the past week. This way I am enticing them with the fact that they can expect more of the 'story' once a week.

Entertain: We need to always focus on making our writing about our family history entertaining. After all, we are writing about people and they have, or had, real lives filled with victories, failures, ups, downs, happiness and sadness. But it is the people that entertain and capture our imagination, which in turns keeps our readers tuned into our writing. As an example, recently I receive the following as a response from one of my weekly updates: "Scott, in your smart newsletter I read some results of the research in Umbria (Italy) described like an adventure so fascinating that we cannot stop searching for fresh ancient news." All I could do when I read this was smile and think 'I got you!'

Engage: Our writing needs to engage our readers if we want to create in them with a flicker of interest burning so they want to fan it into a flame by reading more, learning more, and communicating with us more. I also engage through the use of asking open questions of my readers and always asking for them to take some sort of action in my writing. Not everyone takes the bait every time, but it is highly gratifying to see how often some members react to my pleas and take action. While I love the input of stories and photographs, the most satisfying is when a reader asks a question seeking something new or to have something clarified. At this point I know the genealogy bug is biting them just as hard as it bit me.


I hope my "Four E's" will help you draw in more family members to join you in your passionate pursuit of genealogy, family history, and ancestry.

Now sharpen your pencils and get to it. We need as many fans as we can get!