The five most common excuses for not writing your family history and how to conquer them.
I DON’T HAVE TIME
No excuse. You have time to do the research, right? We all make time for things that are important to us. What could be more important than writing your family history and making it available to all your family members?
I’M NOT A WRITER
No excuse. You can (a) take a writing course, (b) hire someone to write it for you, or (c) write it yourself and have someone edit it. Your family history doesn’t have to be a Pulitzer Prize winner. You don’t have to be the next Alex Haley or Frank McCourt. Your story is yours to write however you want. Think of it as writing a long letter (albeit a letter with source citations) to a family member anyone can write a letter, right?
I’D RATHER DO RESEARCH
When you die, if all you have left is a file cabinet of notes and photocopies, what do you think your descendants will do with it? Does the word “bonfire” send shivers down your spine? Pulling all of your research together and writing your family history, even if you never actually “publish” it beyond putting it in a binder, has more meaning for non-genealogists.
I’M ENTERING MY RESEARCH INTO A SOFTWARE PROGRAM. ISN’T THAT ENOUGH?
No. There are a couple of problems here. First is the tendency to print out chart after chart. While charts may excite genealogists, for others those pages of names and dates more often inspire a yawn and a search for that match to light the bonfire. Second, who’s to say your descendants will have the computer technology to use your software in the future? (Anybody try to run a program written for a pre-Windows Radio Shack computer lately? Or an Apple II?) And do you realize that the current life expectancy of a CD-ROM is only five years before it starts to develop glitches? Awfully risky to leave your genealogy in strictly digital format.
I DON’T KNOW WHEN TO STOP RESEARCHING
OK, this is a tough one. Just keep in mind that there’s always another record to search. No one is ever “done,” and there’s never a final word when you’re writing family history. Research the day after your narrative is written and printed will reveal something you’ve been after for years. That’s genealogy for you, but you have to call a halt to research at some point if you are going to immortalize your ancestors and leave a legacy. Actually, writing your family history is a good way to see holes in your research. So even though you may discover you are not quite ready to write your book, begin writing anyway.
From the February 2001 issue of Family Tree Magazine