Ten Easy Steps to Family History

Illustrations by Robert Lawson

"This is the story of my mother and my father and of their fathers and mothers. Most of it I heard as a little boy, so there may be many mistakes; perhaps I have forgotten or mixed up some of the events and people. But that does not really matter . . . None of them were great or famous, but they were strong and good."—Robert Lawson

A family history can be as simple as a bedtime story, or it can be volumes, covering generations in detail. The idea of volumes is what keeps people from writing something simple. This child's book by Robert Lawson illustrates how valuable even the most basic family history can be.

"My mother's mother was a little Dutch girl,
who lived on a farm in New Jersey."

Some of you have asked how to get started on a family history so we've created an outline.

Ten Easy Steps to Family History
  1. Make a simple chart of you, your parents, and their parents, going back as far as you want. (ex: Marty—June and Jiggs—Agnes and Axel; Adelila and Hawley.)
  2. Create a new folder on your computer and name it: Information for Family History.
  3. Create a separate file for each of the people on your chart. They will be blank except for the person's name. Drag the files into your folder.
  4. Now open each file and list the details you already know. (ex: Axel born Sweden about 1890; came to America when he was 17.)
  5. Do you remember any family stories? List them in the appropriate file. (ex: Jiggs chased by a bear; Hawley ran away to the circus.)
  6. Choose one of the stories and write it as a chapter or a blog post. Include any dates or places you're sure of.
  7. Fact check your story by calling a relative or two. (Be sure to add any stories they share to your files.)
  8. Find photos to illustrate the story if you can.
  9. Save your story in a new folder called "Family History."
  10. Repeat until you've told all the stories you remember. Then start searching for new ones.

"So they were married. They worked hard and were strong and good. They had many children and one of them happened to be me!"—Robert Lawson

For those of you who want help, Heritage Associates has a great history of writing family histories! Contact Dee Halverson at 801-532-2561.