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Take the Challenge - Write Your Family History in 28 Days!

Too often genealogists put off writing their family history. They feel the research is never done and therefore they are never ready to start the writing.  

 As many of you are well aware, I am a big believer in writing your family history. 

  • First for yourself, assembling your years of research into a readable and sharable format is very rewarding. 
  • Secondly, genealogy has never just been about the research, behind all those facts and documents there hides a story. If you have done your job well, then that story will reveal itself through your research, now it’s time to write it out in an engaging format.  
  • Thirdly, it is the most concise way of educating your family about their history.

I recently read a blog post by Darren at Problogger, his New Year’s resolution was to be more of a producer and less of a consumer, and it really struck home for me. Take all that time you spend surfing the net, reading blogs, facebook, tweeting and instead turn it down a notch, and turn up the writing, and produce and create instead.

 Last year I produced a family history book, and it was an extremely rewarding experience, so I've committed  to producing again this year and cut back on the consuming. However, without a deadline and some initiative, you will forever procrastinate.

 Stop procrastinating, the research will never be done, take what you know, today, now,  and begin to assemble your stories.  Dedicate the month of February to sitting down and putting your fingers to the keyboard and write your family history.

In an effort to give many of you a giant push, The Armchair Genealogist is declaring February, Family History Writing Month and I am inviting you to join our challenge.

I am calling on all my fellow genealogist, family historians, beginner and advanced alike, to pledge to begin to write your family history during the month of February. 

You choose who you want to write about. You can pick a single individual, a surname, an entire branch of your tree, you can capture a moment in time, a decade, a century, organize it however it makes you comfortable, but commit to a number of words a day. Make a plan and get started, no more procrastinating, no more stalling. 

The Family History Writing Challenge
Feb 1st-28th
          A 28-Day Commitment to Writing Your Family History

The What, When, Where and How of it All

Why should I sign up?
To actively participate in an opportunity to write your family history, without having to worry about quality. The key to writing is to write.  Stop procrastinating; finally commit pen to paper or fingers to key board. Those family facts, finally assemble them into a format someone will read.

Whom Do I Write About?
A single ancestor, a surname, a branch of your tree, you pick.
You select the ancestor or ancestors, the timeframe, just keep in mind who you feel most prepared to write about in terms of research and interest.

How Much Do I Need to Write?
You pick the amount 250, 500, 1000 words a day whatever you can work into your schedule.
Do the math.
250 words x 28 days = 7000 words, you would be well on your way!
500 words x 28 days = 14,000 words, this would be an incredible start!
1000 words x 28 days = 28,000 words, you would be a hero!

Where Do I Write?
Write on your computer, ipad, typewriter, longhand (tough to do word count). Write in your office, at the kitchen table, the local coffee shop, the lawn chair (if your someplace sunny- lucky you), or beside a roaring fire (that would be me).

What If It’s Not Good Enough?
This exercise is not about quality. Very few of us can sit down and shoot out a masterpiece on the first draft. Newsbreak..... most of us take a half dozen passes at it before it is worthy of anyone else’s eyes.  This is about making a start.  There will be plenty of time to edit your masterpiece later, committing to the word count is a huge step to making it happen.

When Does it Begin?
The Family History Writing Challenge begins Feb 1st to February 28th. I am asking you to commit 28 days of writing your family history, in the hopes that you will get a running start and you will never look back.

Where Do I Sign Up?
Right here, leave your pledge in comments or link to your own blog post, no goal is official until you have written it down and shared it. Once you verbalize, you become more committed.  If you prefer to keep it to yourself that's ok too.  However, keep checking back or sign up through email, throughout the month, I will offer numerous posts to help keep you focused, offer you some tips for your writing and help you stay on track and reach your goals.  At the end of the month, you can share how you did again here, or on your own blog.

What is stopping you from starting your writing? Let me know, and I will try to help you overcome those obstacles. Meanwhile, you have the next 12 days to get yourself organized to start writing. 

Write your family history in 28 days, are you ready to take the challenge?


Party of 5 said...

I'm in...thanks for the challenge!! Maybe a little in my blog, but definately the writing that has been set aside for many months now.

Jasia said...

I tried doing this once for NaNoWriMo and couldn't make it work. I was successful at writing a couple of fiction novels that way because you can compose off the top of your head. But when I tried to write a family history I had to keep referring back to documents, databases, and photos for dates, timeline sequences, references to what else was going on in the world then, etc. The writing doesn't take anywhere near as much time as doing all the reference work to back up the history to make it real rather than a work of fiction. There's no room for lose truths in family history and that's what makes it difficult to write on a schedule. You never know which day's 250-word segment will require 2 hours of "look-ups" to make it make sense. It's all those darn details that get in the way ;-)

Good luck with your efforts!

Lynn Palermo said...

@Jasia, it certainly is true there is a lot of research, facts and documents that go along with writing a family history, certainly some preparation is required before you begin, however, the exercise is really about taking those initial steps, most are overwhelmed by process and never start but I did do it. Even it writing a novel you can stare at the screen for two hours and get but a sentence down. All writing starts with some preparation regardless of whether it is a fictional novel or a family history. Thanks for your comments.
@ Party of 5, thanks for joining! Looking forward to following it on your blog.

Debbie said...

I'm in! I have a lot of writing to do and this will help me do it. I may be mish-mash in my stories, as I want to write about individuals and their impact to my current-day life, but all those individual stories will be tied up nicely in a little book someday. So I'm in!

Lynn Palermo said...

Great Debbie, and that is a great approach, small individual stories that can later be tied together. It's also a great way not to be overwhelmed but get the creative juices flowing.

Kristin said...

I am going to do it. I don't know if I'll complete a piece and I will probably spend lots of time documenting what I write but that's ok. I started my blogs to get writing and I feel myself fading when I don't do it pretty regularly. This could help.

LBB said...

I'm in! I'm aiming for an average of 500 words/day.

For a couple of years I've been blogging my husband's family history as I've put it together from a huge collection of loose leaf binders that I "inherited" upon his death. (

Now it's time for me. I'll be recording my memories at my personal blog (

Thanks for the nudge in the right direction.

Cheryll Toney Holley said...

I'm in! Thanks for issuing the challenge.

LBB said...

Actually what I meant to say in the previous comment is that I "inherited" the family history notebooks when my father in law died - my husband is very much alive and well! Details . . .

Anglers Rest said...

I'm in and aiming for 250 words a day although many of my usual blog posts are more than this.

abbyb said...

What a great idea! I am up for the challenge. I think this will be the perfect way for me to share my findings with friends and family in a way they can understand and appreciate.
Thanks for the inspiration!

Shelley said...

I'll take the challenge for 250 words a day. I want to make a start on a family history I can share with my father-in-law. I'm going to do it as a Word document, although I might share some pieces of it on my blog. Thanks for motivating us, Lynn!

Lisa Gorrell said...

I just completed a 170 page history of my husband's Swedish family: a three generation study of four siblings and their descendants who came to the US in the 1880's, complete with photos, endnotes & index. I find that writing is the best way to see what holes you have in your research. So write & keep track of your sources with endnotes or footnotes in Word (they will renumber as you add additional sources). I started a blog to write about my research on my grandmother's family & hope to begin writing soon.

Jo said...

I'm am in .... will have to get busy today ... I will commit to 500 words and I will perhaps post on my blog. Hi Cheryll - fun to see you here too.

Lynn Palermo said...

Welcome, Jo, it's never too late!

Lynn Palermo said...

@Lisa, thanks for sharing your valuable advice, I will be addressing some of those very issues in upcoming posts. I love to hear from someone who has done the work and saw the rewards. I completed a 200 page history book on my Surname's family, it was an incredible learning experience and rewarding journey.

Kathy Reed said...

I am really interested in doing this but was afraid to commit. However, February has been a really good month for me so far. I had a topic I had been working on (research) and all of it seemed to come together the first of February. So no promises, but I'm going to commit to 250 words a day. At least I may be able to hit that "average". Thanks for the motivation.

Librarian Lea said...

I just HATE that I missed this!!! Please do it again!!!! Make me write that history that presently lies within heaps of paper and photo boxes in my office!

Lynn Palermo said...

No worries Lea, we will be back in February, in the meantime sign up for the newsletter Storylines.