Book Review: Writing Family History Made Very Easy

Writing Family History Made Very Easy: A Beginner’s Guide, by Noeline Kyle

This book is a bit frustrating to read for a variety of reasons, and there were a couple of things about this book that made it far less enjoyable to me than it would have been otherwise. For one, this book is written from a point of view of Australian history. The author wrote a book (and for some reason my library included) a work that has a rather narrow relevance to Australian history given the author’s narrow expertise outside of the history of her country. This is a case where the book would have been far better with a far more limited focus and target audience. The second problem is a problem that the author shares with many books, and that is an irritating leftist history that tends to view patterns of generational failure in family relationships as something that is inspirational rather than something to be overcome and repented of. Although this book is not without value, it is not nearly as good as it cold have been had it been less myopically focused on Australia and written by someone who had a better political and religious worldview.

This book is a pretty average sized book at between 250 and 300 pages and it is divided into thirteen chapters. The book begins with a discussion about writing as a learned skill rather than an innate one (1). After that the author talks about how one becomes a writer through practice (2). This is followed by a discussion about how writing and research work together and encourage the other (3). The author then considers who one is writing for and looking at the intended audience for one’s works (4). This is followed by an encouragement to the reader to ask questions and find ideas (5). After that the author talks about the importance of writing about origins and arrivals and how one finds that information and tackles such subjects (6). This is followed by a roadmap to writing from the author (7), who then tackles such subjects as characters (8) and that one could hardly cope as a writer of nonfiction novels without them (which is the author’s apparent specialty). The author then looks at nostalgia and sentiment and how she tackles them (9), as well as the importance of historical context (10). The author then encourages the reader to share the writing journey (11), choose one’s format (12), and get about publishing one’s family history (13), after which there are notes, a bibliography and selection of resources, an appendix on genealogical software programs, and an index.

Despite the fact that there was a lot about this book that I did not greatly appreciate and a lot that I did not find to be particularly relevant to my own writing, there is at least some worth in a project like this so long as one reads it intelligently and critically enough. Writing about family history is not necessarily as difficult as people make it out to be, and this author’s experience is demonstrative of the fact that someone who is not a very skilled writer who does not necessarily have an appealing point of view about history or politics can nonetheless have a successful published career writing about family history. This book’s success can provide both a low bar to climb over as well as hope that one’s own writing can reach a wide and appreciative audience with talents as modest as that of the author’s own. Books like remind us that as there is a great demand for books on family history and a great many people who are interested in the subject that there will also be a great supply of works that are aimed at such an audience. While it is best to find a better one than this book is, if one does at least come across this book it can be read profitably.

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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