Telling Family Stories

The how-to blog for crafting family narratives

Talking about our generations
  • Oct 13, 2021
FHM’s generational scale sets an arbitrary Zero Generation of between 1880 and 1920
County histories: Easy digital access transforms an old medium for genealogists
  • Sep 30, 2021
Local history volumes were pre-sold to residents on a subscription basis. Buyers got a mention in the book.
The case of the missing Iowa marriage records
  • Aug 06, 2021
Why a county marriage record is available on FamilySearch but not Ancestry
Story Events feature enables complex timelines
  • Jul 30, 2021
Present visualizations with timelines and maps using this new site capability
Uff da! New "Minnesota Mix" storyspace
  • Jul 02, 2021
Twyla Eilertsen Ruby is the host of a new storyspace about her Eilertsen-Stetson-Bennett family, a blend of old-line American and upright Norwegian stock.
Use native language for Internet searches
  • Jul 01, 2021
Don't limit yourself to English-language searches. To find foreign sources, first translate your search terms into the native language, then translate the search results back into English.
Wikipedia is key for validating historical accounts
  • Jun 01, 2021
Besides the fallibility of memory, there are many reasons that an eyewitness account might not be precisely accurate. Use Wikipedia to vet historical testimony.
Film At Eleven newsletter will provide regular FHM updates
  • May 01, 2021
Yes, it's a meme. It is also the title of our Family History Machine email newsletter, featuring recent content from our FHM Storyspaces and Telling Family Stories blog.
Interpreting a spoken foreign-language interview
  • Apr 28, 2021
I didn't have high hopes that I would be able to understand a spoken three-hour interview that an ancestor had given as Holocaust testimony. Even though my German language skills are improving with written text, interpreting spontaneous speech is much more challenging.
FHM's vision of an integrated storytelling platform
  • Apr 22, 2021
Family History Machine aims to provide a modular system of storytelling functionality. Our beta site is online with a first iteration of this vision. View an explanatory graphic about current and future FHM modalities.
  • Feb 24, 2021
Your creation station
  • Feb 01, 2021
Multi-generational sagas
  • Feb 01, 2021
Network effects
  • Feb 01, 2021
Themes and techniques
  • Feb 01, 2021
Your story portfolio
  • Feb 01, 2021
Your discovery notebook
  • Feb 01, 2021
Scriptwriting tools
  • Feb 01, 2021
Spatial visualization
  • Feb 01, 2021
Charting family history
What are the essential elements of narrative? Here's the consensus
  • Jan 13, 2021
Plot. Character. Theme. Setting. Point of View. Tone.
From boring to brilliant—tips for reluctant storytellers
  • Dec 19, 2020
Here's a set of tips and techniques for family history writing from UK genealogist Nathalie Pithers
Get started with Family History Machine
  • Oct 14, 2020
Visit our Get Started Page to access and use Family History Machine for yourself.
Short stories, true stories
  • Oct 06, 2020
We have two guidelines that we strongly urge you to follow
Begin with the backstory
  • Oct 02, 2020
Backstory content enriches the narrative even if it is not explicitly used
Identify your Great Eight (or as many as you can)
  • Oct 02, 2020
One of the first things you as a site user is to name your eight great-grandparents and the family branch they come from
We are starting an alpha user program
  • Sep 29, 2020

Start your private or public blog on Family History Machine. Or migrate over your existing blog from Blogger or another platform. 

We are accepting a small number of aleph users to test out our blogging and story development system at Family History Machine. 

There are still a lot of rough edges. There will be limited handholding. But we would love to see what other users can create using the same tools we designed for our own needs. 

Our story development process
  • Sep 29, 2020

Compelling stories well told don't spring from your imagination fully formed. They are crafted in a process that moves through stages of discovery, synthesis and presentation. 

A core principal of scientific investigation, such as when conducting genealogy research, is that you must always document your results. You need a laboratory notebook or investigator's case file. 

StorySpace example: Ruby Family History Project
  • Sep 29, 2020

We built Family History Machine to tell our own Ruby family stories. Click over to the Blog page to explore scores of stories about our family that we investigated and shaped into discrete narratives. 

Navigate the family stories and blog posts according to family branch, story theme and investigative technique.

Our manifesto—It is all about storytelling
  • Sep 29, 2020

Genealogy is not about the names and dates of your ancestors. It is about bringing those people to life in the context of their place and time. 

At Family History Machine, we think the way to do that is by telling stories about our ancestors. True stories, based on factual evidence, but woven into short, memorable narratives.

A family story can be about a particular event or span generations. The storyteller picks the story and the best way to tell it.