Thursday, February 12, 2015

Producing a Quality Family History

If you have spent any time in the genealogy world and have researched the titles of available books on the subject, you have encountered Patricia Law Hatcher, CG. Patricia is a technical writer, instructor, and professional genealogist. She has written, edited and published a number of technical publications. She writes about genealogy and co-authored Indexing Family Histories: Simple Steps for a Quality Product, as well as writing for many genealogical publications.  The book she is probably best known for is Producing a Quality Family History*. I borrowed this book from the library when I began this journey - it is available at the Charleston County Public Library (call number 808.066929) and read it from cover to cover - every single word. It was such a well-written and important research tool that I eventually bit the bullet and bought a copy in paperback from (It is also available in a Kindle and hardcover edition). I read it again and the pages of my paperback copy are covered in multi-colored highlights and margin notes.

At the beginning of the book there is a list outlining "what makes a quality family history?"  It is one of the most succinct guidelines I have seen for getting this job done. I copied it and tacked it to the bulletin board over my desk.  It floats around my computer desktop on a "sticky note". I recently re-typed it and printed it on neon-colored card stock and stuck it in my research notebook. Patricia's list has made an enormous impact on my family research and writing, and because of that, I thought I would share it with you.

What Makes a Quality Family History?
  • It presents quality research - research that is thorough, new, and based on a variety of primary sources 
  • It is well-organized, understandable, and attractively presented 
  • It uses a recognized genealogical numbering system
  • It documents each fact and relationship fully 
  • It expresses information accurately, indicating the likelihood of conclusions
  • It goes beyond records, placing people in context 
  • It includes illustrations such a s maps, charts, and photographs 
  • It has a thoughtful and thorough index 

We put a lot of time, energy and money into this research.  If you plan is to publish all that work, whether for your family or for the benefit of genealogy in general, you might as well do it right.  If this list makes sense to you - I suggest you read Patricia's book.  I think it is a must-read for anyone writing a family history.

*Hatcher, Patricia Law. "Publishing Family History in the 1990s." Producing a Quality Family History. Salt Lake City: Ancestry, 1996. Print.

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