There isn’t a better way to leave your legacy then to become the first family historian. While it might sound like a lot of work, think of it as an engaging hobby. It will be a labor of love. Along the way you’ll befriend many relatives around the world that you didn’t even know existed.
Learning about your family history, recording the information, preserving it, and then sharing it with your relatives will not only be fun, but it will benefit your descendants. They will have a deeper knowledge of their roots because of your efforts. Your book may even get passed down through the generations.
Explore Your Own Heritage
Family historians focus on genealogy, also known as heritage. This is the story of a family’s origins and its history through the ages.
The first known family tree started in the 14th century because it showed off a family’s pedigree. People liked to brag about their royal ancestors and aristocratic line.
In China, the idea of genealogy went as far back as the beginning of recorded history. Confucius’s family tree, for example, went back eighty generations.
Researching Your Family History
First, research your family history by starting with some self-discovery. An excellent way to do this is to take a DNA test to find out about your ancestry.
The cost of DNA tests these days is affordable. It would only cost you from $75 to $100 to get your DNA analyzed by a laboratory. You’ll find out about your own hidden ethnicity and where in the world your ancestors lived.
Next, make a list of all your known relatives, and ask your parents and grandparents to help you expand that list.
Once you have a list, get as much contact information as possible. Write or call everyone on your list and tell them about your project.
Then, send them a questionnaire to gather important information. Ask questions about dates and places. You’ll want to know about births, marriages, occupations, and deaths. The more comprehensive this questionnaire, the better the final product.
Then, dig a little deeper. Get some family scrapbooks. Read newspaper archives that mention family members. And search through the U.S. Census.
Finally, weave everything into a story. Connect the dots. Transform all your live interviews into narratives, organize your collection of photographs, quote from diaries and letters, and extrapolate the meaning of school records and the significance of newspaper obituaries.
Publish Your Family History
Once you’ve written up an interesting family history, then you should self-publish it.
Here are three self-publishing options to consider:
- Create a photocopied book: Use a word processor, a design template, and a color printer to make it. Then get it bound by your local photocopying store. Use high quality cardstock, good photographs, and saddle stitching or spiral binding. Once you’ve figured out all the design details, print many copies. Distribute these to family members to pass down to their children.
- Find a photo book service: Consider creating a physical book that resembles a traditional one. Use a well-designed template, good quality paper, and a beautiful cover.
- Publish a print-on-demand book. Many self-publishing websites will accept a PDF file to print out a book after people buy it. Follow the strict publisher’s guidelines so your book looks beautiful when printed out.
In closing, it’s important to realize that you don’t have to do all this on your own. You can get guidance from local genealogical societies. They will help you figure out how to research and publish your family history.