20 Reasons Why You Should Write Your Family History: Association of Personal Historians Experts Weigh In

By | March 4, 2015

New York Public LibraryWhen a librarian by the name of Carmen Nigro published a post on the New York Public Library blog entitled 20 Reasons Why You Should Write Your Family History, personal historians and APH members around the world rejoiced. Ms. Nigro had tapped into the multitude of absolutely terrific reasons individuals, families and organisations should consider working with a personal historian to preserve their stories.

Tomorrow, we launch the first in a weekly, 20-part series inspired by the New York Public Library blog post. The following 20 members of the Association of Personal Historians will expand upon each of the 20 important motivations listed in Nigro’s article:

#1. You’ll feel wiser (by Susan T. Hessel)

#2. First person narratives and family histories are important historical documents (by Joan Tornow)

#3. You are an important person. You have things to pass on, to your children, to your local history society, to unknown future generations (by Jill Sarkozi)

#4. You and your family are important to somebody, probably many somebodies (by Jane Shafron) Bonus article by Barbara Whittingham.

#5. Family trees are abstract. Stories add depth (by D. Fran Morley)

#6. Memories over time become fragmented and distorted. People may not remember the things you told them but did not write down (by Deborah Perham) Bonus post! by Rhonda Kalkwarf. Additional Bonus article by Barbara Whittingham.

#7. Writing your family history gives you the chance to depict your ancestors how you see fit (by Susan Terrill-Flint)

#8. There is a need for diverse family histories about those who have not been represented well in history texts (by Elisabeth Pozzi-Thanner)

#9. There is a need for more family histories documenting female lines (by Shannon Stallone)

#10. There is a need for more family histories about families who are not affluent (by Jill Cournoyer). Bonus post by Just Judy.

#11. Family histories humanize the people you know or knew and remember for those who did not know them (by Linda Coffin)

#12. Information raises questions. Genealogy research has brought new facts into your life (by Carolyn Parrott). Bonus article by Barbara Whittingham.

#13. It may help you understand your current family dynamics (by Deborah Wilbrink)

#14. It will help you build or solidify a sense of family (by Susan Marg)

#15. Writing is reflective. Writing is investing in yourself (by Jean Sheppard)

#16. It can be therapeutic (by Nechamie Margolis)

#17. Don’t take for granted that the lives of your ancestors are lost. Evidence of the people they have been exists somewhere and is discoverable (by Marjorie Turner)

#18. It will have a wider impact than you might imagine (by Annie Payne)

#19. Family members and even distant cousins may become more forward in contributing documents, photos, and stories for your genealogical research (by Michelle Sullivan). Bonus post, including video, by Iris Wagner and Michelle Sullivan.

#20. You will be encouraged to archive and preserve the documents on which your family history research is based: certificates, letters, diaries, etc. (by Tom Taylor). Bonus article by Alexandra Forman.

Bonus! This 20-by-20 series of posts is so popular among APH members that we’re happy to announce that it will include bonus features by personal historians such as Barbara WhittinghamRhonda KalkwarfIris Wagner and Just Judy.

Special bonus feature 20 Reasons Why You Should Write Your Family History: #21 Remembering The Almost Forgotten by Dhyan Atkinson and Katie Murphy.

And to Carmen Nigro, the New York Public Library’s subject specialist for local history and genealogy … thank you. Your thoughtful blog post is a gift to personal historians around the world who are passionate about preserving the stories of their clients. It’s also a gift to people who have been dreaming of writing their memoirs or autobiographies but didn’t know where to start or to whom to turn for guidance. To the children and grandchildren of those people: help us help you preserve your family’s history for generations to come. Consider the gift of personal history.

To find a personal historian in your area, visit www.personalhistorians.org/tell


To purchase the books cited by Carmen Nigro in her blog post, visit the APH Store:

For All Time: A Complete Guide to Writing Your Family History by APH member Charley Kempthorne

The Story of You: A Guide for Writing Your Personal Stories and Family History by John Bond

Family Focused: A Step-by-Step Guide to Writing Your Autobiography and Family History by Janice T. Dixon

Writing the Memoir: From Truth to Art by Judith Barrington

Producing a Quality Family History by Patricia Law Hatcher

By purchasing these items through the APH Store, you help finance APH and its member and public events. We thank you for your support!

What do you think of this list of 20 reasons to write your family history? Can you think of any others?

~APH: The Life Story People~

Photo credit:Carmelobayarcal (CC BY-SA 3.0), used via Wikimedia Commons.

4 thoughts on “20 Reasons Why You Should Write Your Family History: Association of Personal Historians Experts Weigh In

  1. Sam UhlSam Uhl


    Thank you for sharing this wealth of information! I’ve sent a link to my Facebook page to share with my clients.

    It’s so nice to see all the ways we help educate the public on the benefits of preserving life stories!


    1. Michelle.SullivanMichelle.Sullivan Post author

      Thank you so much for promoting this series through your social network, Sam! It’s an important way for us to get the word out about the great work being done by APH members around the world.

  2. Paul Stefanowicz

    Do any of you recommend which of the books in Carmen Nigro’s post would help most in writing OTHERS’ memoirs?
    I am getting a few calls in writing a memoir for someone else, I guess a biographical memoir…


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *