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Writing Genealogy Articles | Our Prairie Nest
Writing Genealogy Articles

Would you like to contribute something to your local genealogical society newsletter or a magazine? It’s easier than you think. All it takes is passion for the subject, and good grammar and punctuation. Here are a few tips to keep in mind as you get started:

Read the submission guidelines

Is the publication looking for shorter articles or longer ones? What is their preferred word count? Are they seeking specific types of articles, such as how-to’s or information about a particular region of the U.S.? Your article must conform to the publication’s guidelines if you want them to accept it.

Write something engaging

While genealogy can be serious business, there’s no need to take everything so seriously. The pursuit of family history should be enjoyable, as should writing and reading about it. Try to connect with readers by sharing personal experiences or keeping your tone casual – if appropriate to the publication, of course. We want to feel like we’re having a conversation with another person who shares our love of family history. There are few things more compelling than being able to relate (pun intended) to someone about a topic.

Give the reader new information

In genealogy especially, we are looking to learn new ways of doing things or for research avenues we haven’t considered. Most of us understand the importance of the U.S. censuses, but do you have a unique way of looking at them? What about largely untapped resources? Can you explain the value of using land records or local directories? What about resources that are not yet digitized or often under-utilized, perhaps even completely overlooked, yet full of information? Genealogy is an immense field of study and if you wait for inspiration, odds are you will find something you really want to write about that will benefit readers.

Cite sources

If you are stating facts, this should go without saying, especially in genealogy. After all, we know to keep track of our sources when it comes to family events. The same applies to the written word. Whether they are books, documentaries, or websites, citations or a bibliography allows readers to find the original material relevant to your article. In particular, if you are refuting previous claims or lineages, do not overlook this step.

Share useful websites or resources for follow-up

As genealogists, we love to put information into action, so include any websites or resources the reader can use to follow-up on the information in your article.

When I read an article relevant to my areas of research, I often go from there to the internet or the library to build on what I’ve learned. Anything you can offer as additional guidance for readers – whether it’s templates for forms or charts, free ebooks, a specific blog or website, or an interesting social media account – will help them take the information from your article several steps further.

Part of genealogy is ongoing education and discovery. I believe all of us have something of interest to share that can help others in their research endeavors.

On Pen Names & Summer | Our Prairie Nest
On Pen Names & Summer

What a weird combination, right? But, first of all, I’m back to writing regular posts.

Summer kicked my butt. Not that it was an unforeseen thing. Really, it’s in the parenting job description. Have school-aged children? Is it summer? Welcome to No Rest for the Wicked. Fortunately, I was pretty smart about how I planned things. Or unplanned, rather. There were times I simply gave in. To what? Random get-togethers with friends, trying to remember how to hula hoop, drawing hopscotch courts, and rediscovering Golden Girls.

Did I write? Definitely. From May to August, I put out two novels, a bajillion short stories, and kept up with administrative work. Because, summer or not, writing is my job and I can’t drop everything just because the lightning bugs flash their butts at me in their oh-so-sassy way.

If you keep up with my Instagram feed, you know what I write. If you don’t, you can just take a peek down at the bottom of the page here to see. It’s not that it’s a secret, per se. In fact, it’s probably the worst-kept secret ever. But I do like to keep it separate from this blog and my personal life for various reasons. That’s the second reason I have pen names.

The first reason is, as many aspiring authors might understand, fear. Not fear about myself or anything like that. It was fear that I would fail and my name would be attached to that failure. With a pen name, you can experiment. If it bombs, you can drop the project and start fresh with what you’ve learned. It’s a lovely thing.

I really wanted to write what I’m writing now, so I took a chance, but the pen name gave me a degree of “separation” between the first few books and personal attachment. Once I found out I wasn’t going to fail, I felt comfortable putting more of my heart and soul into the name I was building. The stories became more personal, as well.

And, at that point, maintaining a pen name became about equal parts branding and compartmentalization. Branding is a smart idea no matter what name you’re using. But also being able to have a boundary between yourself and your day job is healthy, even if it’s your dream job.

Writing is a part of who I am. No doubt about that. I do it every day and I love it with all my heart, especially the genres I write. However, it’s nice to be able to set those boundaries, to decide what belongs where. I’d like to keep my real name is attached to genealogy and Paganism, and maybe someday I will write a book under it again. But maybe not.

Anyway, there’s an indirect tip from one writer: if you’re going to venture into writing, start off with a pen name. It allows you to try something without taking it too personally if things don’t work out.

And, as far the kids wanting attention all summer long? Do take that personally, because someday that precious 5-year-old is going to be 16-years-old and screaming, “I hate you! You’re ruining my life!” while slamming her bedroom door.