4 Ways to Put the “Story” in Your Family History

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Turn Facts into Stories

Think about your favorite stories. I bet what makes most of them so compelling isn’t about the events themselves, but about the people in them. Likewise, most genealogists are looking for the stories hidden in the names, dates and records that make up your family history. So how do you find the stories in the bare bones facts? What’s more, how do you share the stories you find with others? We’ve got plenty of tips and storytelling strategies in our week-long workshop, Tell Your Ancestor’s Story, including the four below.

Put the story in your family history.

Beyond the Written Word

If your first thought is, “But I can’t write well!” we’ve got great news: Stories don’t have to be written to be shared. There are plenty of ways to tell a great story; get creative with it! If you have lots of old photos, you can turn them into a picture book or slideshow. Even if you don’t have a ton of pictures of your ancestors, you can find plenty online – especially if they involve a big event, such as a world war or major historical event.

For that matter, you can record yourself or a relative telling the story. Want to get really creative and involve the kids? Have them put on a play reenacting the story. Just make sure you have your video camera or smart phone at the ready.

There’s an App for That

These days, it seems like there’s an app for everything, especially when it comes to your family history. If you have a smart phone or a tablet, you’ll find plenty of apps that let you tell your ancestor’s story. Storyworth ( sends questions to your family members weekly. Their answers are shared with you and at the end of the year, they get a beautiful bound book to make it worth their time. You can use Adobe Spark to create slideshows, even narrating the story over videos.

To see an example of a story done using Spark, check out our Family Fact or Fiction story.

Use History to Fill in The Blanks

If you know your great-grandfather was in the Great War, why not look up the information online? You can find plenty of details about the war itself, including photos, and use that to supplement what you know. Don’t just go for the big events, either. Look in the local library archives to find out if there were local events your ancestors might have participated in – and see if you can find their names.

For example, my great-granduncle, who was a lawyer, shows up in histories that detail Northern Kentucky’s syndicate activities during the 20s and 30s. Check newspapers, church bulletins and other local records. After all, you never know just where they might pop up.

Short and Sweet Family History

A story doesn’t have to be 80,000 words (the average length of a novel). In fact, there are plenty of examples of stories told in as little as 6 words. D. Joshua Taylor of Genealogy Roadshow falls somewhere in the middle, emphasizing the 6-minute story in his presentation. You can tell a clean narrative in 6-minutes, plus keep people’s attention from wandering. It also has the added bonus of keeping the story focused, perfect for when you’re crafting a story from a small group of known facts.

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These family history projects will help you use your research in new and exciting ways, with tips and strategies for publishing your genealogy in a report or blog, printing decorative family trees, saving your research in the cloud and more.