Whether you are planning on publishing your research in a book or online, it is important to first identify your audience. If you are writing a family history to interest your children and grandchildren, then pictures and stories are items which should be included. If your audience is limited to family members, then it is best to keep the story as engaging and simple as possible. Samples of old documents can help bring the narrative alive.
A Family History for Family Members Only
If your audience is limited to family members, then footnotes may not be the best way to go. Now saying this, a list of sources is always good. However, if your work is too academic, then you risk that nobody in the family will ever read it. If your goal is to interest the family in genealogy, then you must write with that specific goal in mind.
A Family History for a Wide Audience
Therefore, it may be wise to create a second, more academic version of your family history, complete with footnotes and bibliography. This can be done in a book or online. By compiling a second version, you can reach people whom you don’t even know exist. This is especially true with an Internet version. In this setting, you will need to back up your research with footnotes, as other people may not see things the way you do. People searching online are already interested and engaged in the research process. You are not trying to create the interest. This audience will need access to your research, thus the need for footnotes, so they can continue their own efforts.
Privacy Issue in Writing Your Family History
The Internet is also a wonderful way to share family pictures and stories. However, be aware that due to privacy issues, you need to be very careful what you put on the Internet about living people. If you are using a database such as FamilySearch or Ancestry, they already have privacy policies in place. If you are developing a personal website, then you will need to be extra careful.
Privacy issues are less important in printed books as those are limited in their distribution and someone will have to go to a particular library to get the information. Even if your book is digitized, as FamilySearch is now doing, then someone would still have to find that particular book and that particular page to obtain personal information on living people.
I suggest that you develop two versions of your written family history side by side. The first for family eyes only; making it simple and engaging. Then a second more academic footnoted version too share with everybody else.
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