Writing Family History Tips: Which Programs to Use When Drafting Your Genealogy Stories


Don’t let the programs you use to write a family history prevent you from capturing and preserving your genealogy stories. Instead of worrying about which is the best software to use to write your story, focus on doing what works for you.


In this video, I share the most important family history writing hack is to use the program you’re comfortable in the beginning.


Watch this video on YouTube.


What is family history writing?


Before I recommend a program, I must define our terms.


When we talk about writing family histories, it’s really a huge process. The writing process beings with the first draft, continues through the editing phase, and ends with the final publication.


Where you ‘write’ will depend on which phase of the creation process you are tackling. For the purpose of this post, I’m focusing on the drafting phase.


Which Program to Use When Writing a Family History First Draft?


Your initial goal should involve capturing memories or turn information on records into sentences and then longer paragraphs. Think of this as a story-gathering phase.


What you gather and how you capture memories will depend on you and your skillset.


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Pen And Paper


You’re probably thinking, that is not a program.


You’re right. It isn’t a program; however, if you are most comfortable writing longhand, then you need to be writing longhand. Remember, the most essential part of family history writing is to get to the end of your first draft.


If a pen and paper help you write your first draft, then that’s what you use.


Video Record Family Stories


If you have a smartphone or tablet, you know it’s really super cool. You can use your camera setting to turn on the video feature.


I know some of you don’t like to be on video, but trust me. Your relatives love to see your face, so turn that selfie cam on yourself. Then hit record the record button and tell a story.


We don’t know how long we’re going to be on this earth. If you record yourself telling stories or film other people telling their family’s stories, guess what happens?


I now have a video recording. When I’m missing someone that I love dearly, I can see their face, and I can hear their stories.


The other advantage of this style of ‘writing’ is that you can use Rev or Temi to transcribe your audio and video files. These online services, for about a dollar a minute, will convert the speech into text.


If you don’t think that you can write, but you can talk, then use your camera to record a video.


Use Text Editing Programs


Finally, the last place to write your family history drafts are in text editing programs. These include Google Docs, Microsoft Office, Apple Pages, and LibreOffice. Use the writing program you have access to on your computer, tablet, or mobile device.


What Programs to Avoid When Writing Family Histories


Notice I haven’t steered you toward desktop publishing programs such as Scrivener, Adobe InDesign or Microsoft Publisher. The reason is that not everyone will self-publish their stories; however, everyone will want to draft their stories.


Write your family stories in the program that fits your needs and skillsets. When you’re ready to polish your drafts or format your tales for publication, then you can explore advanced programs if needed.



Continue Learning About Writing Family History


Review the following blogs and videos for more tips about writing family history.

  1. How to Set Up A File to Write About Your Ancestors

  2. 3 Memory Trigger Exercises for Your Next Interview

  3. 5 Tips for Recording the Stories of Your Treasures

  4. 5 Sources That Can Supply Your Story When Writing About You

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