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What is the Larger Purpose of My Family History Story?

In planning for our family history blog to book project we have asked ourselves, Why am I writing this family history book? and Who will read my family history story? Our next question towards creating a plan and focus for our family history blog to book project - What is the larger purpose of my family history story?


Regardless of whether you are writing your family history blog for your family, for other genealogists or for strangers, you must be able to convey the purpose of your story. What is the pay-off to the reader. Why will your reader relate to it, regardless of who they may be?

How many times have you tried to tell a family member about your family history and it’s fallen on deaf ears. How many times have you heard they are strangers to me why should I care? You must be able to offer your audience a purpose in reading your story. They need to understand the benefit to them.

When we read a blog or book we look to accomplish one of three things. 

  • To be informed
  • To be entertained
  • To be inspired

Ask yourself how will my family history inform, entertain and inspire my audience? If you can achieve all three with your blog to book, you've set yourself up for success. What will your readers experience? How will they react to your words? What benefit will your reader get from your story?

Ask yourself, why would a reader want to read my family history story? Is it moving, inspirational, life changing? What is the payoff?

You must be able to take your family history story and put context and theme behind it so that every reader will be able to relate to, this is what will give your blog and book legs. This is the key to making your story interesting to not only you, but to the world, this is how you will find your audience, your readers. Identifying your purpose now will translate into theme later as we move into writing your blog posts.

By considering your motivations in writing your family history – Why am I writing this family history book?, By considering  your audience  – Who will read my family history story? and now by considering the larger purpose of your family history story, you will create a focus for your blog to book project.

Here’s an example:


  • When I wrote my family history 5 years ago, I knew I want to create a lasting legacy for my family – my motivation. 
  • I knew I who my audience was – my family who ranged in age from pre-teen to 90 years old. I knew I had to create a book that would capture this wide range. I also knew they had little knowledge of our family history. I wanted it to read like a novel, but I also knew I needed plenty of documents and pictures to hold their interest. 
  • I  knew I had a purpose I wanted to convey. I wanted my family to understand how every decision and sacrifice our ancestors made had an ultimate effect on us a family, that we did not come to this place as a family randomly. I wanted my family to connect with our ancestors their life decisions. 


You can see how if I was writing the same book for other genealogists or for strangers my focus may look completely different.

For instance:



In a second family history book I am currently working on,  my maternal family line, my audience is slightly different. Although my primary audience when starting this project was family again, and again with a wide range of ages. This family has a good grasp of our family history although they may not know all the intimate details. However, I also identified that this story may appeal to a larger audience because of the purpose I wish to convey in this story.

My maternal family is primarily French-Canadian, our ancestors arrived in the earliest days of this country shortly behind Samuel de Champlain in the early 1600’s. I want to convey not only our family history but our identity as a Canadian family and our family's place in Canadian history.

By identifying this purpose, I also identified an extended audience; families who share the surnames of Vaillancourt and Desmarias. As well, I believe Canadians may relate to this Canadian family history and it's larger purpose of Canadian nationalism.

How can you uncover the larger purpose behind your book? 

(this is where you open your notebook again, and do some brainstorming)



When discovering the purpose of your book, keep in mind, what is your motivation and who are your readers. Ask yourself why would a reader want to read my book? Is it fun? Inspiring? Informational? But get specific, just what about your story will relate to your reader.

If you were to read a review on your book, what would it say? How would it impact the reviewer and why would they recommend it to the world? Write a review of your blog to book. What would it say?

Did your responses come easy to you? Where there questions you found difficult to answer. This tells you where you are in your blog to book journey and perhaps where your work lies in moving forward with your family history blog. 

Some things to consider if your still looking to answer these questions.


Do you need to visit a bookstore and find your reader?
Do you need to read books in the family history genre, and identify the purpose of these books?
Do you need to take a deeper look at your story, and journal about the impact it has had on your own life?

Answer all three questions, and you should have a very good sense of the focus of your family history blog to book project and will be ready to start your family history blog.

If you identified your readers and larger purpose, share in comments for the benefit of readers still working out their plan. 


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4 comments:

  1. These are well-expressed thoughts, and I completely agree with them.

    When I began researching my family history ten years ago, I was wondering "What were my white ancestors possibly thinking?" when they became slaveholders in South Carolina. During the years when I wrote my family memoir (just published), my purpose evolved.

    First, I wrote to explore what effects slaveholding had on slaveholders, and how those effects may have passed down through generations.

    Then I realized I was also writing to fathom the origins of racism against African-Americans, by way of the slaveholding South.

    Finally, I realized that the family memoir was also a meditation upon the nature of good and evil -- where evil comes from, and how to understand it.

    This last question was dizzying enough, and still occupies me. It was hard to write that family memoir, but I feel relief that I got those facts and stories and truths (as I believe) expressed.

    Purpose is key.

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  2. Thank you Mariann for sharing your journey of discovering the purpose of your book. By sharing you will help others to find the purpose in their own family history stories.

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  3. Now that I have discovered this whole project, you have provided some great tools. Now I see that I want to inspire others to search for the impossible. I want to share how to find the missing pieces as I am doing for the missing pieces in my husbands life. The story itself is compelling and the different ways that it has affected the children who were left behinds. Thanks so much.

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  4. @Wordstock,I happy to hear you've discovered the whole project. There is plenty more to come so please follow along. If there is anything specific I can help you with feel free to leave a comment or send me an email. Again thanks for stopping by really do appreciate it.

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