How to tell your family story without getting overwhelmed

How to tell your family story” sounds simple enough.

But when you start to think about it, the project feels overwhelming.

You know there’s a pile of unsorted old photos in a box somewhere. (Where IS that box?) Or slides, which you can’t even view properly:

You sign up on a website for genealogists, start to build a family tree, and find you have amassed a lot of dusty facts that don’t interest even YOUand would certainly never interest anybody else.

Depressing, isn’t it. Enough to make you want to give up. But you don’t want to give up, because time is short. Your family is not getting any younger. Children are growing up, and older people, who know all the best stories, won’t be here forever.

How to make this work?

We’ve all come across stories by other people, about their families, that are gripping and moving

What’s the secret?

Introducing… The Family Project

As featured in The Guardian, The Times and The Daily Telegraph

A word about facts

One of the most important things to remember is that facts aren’t enough.

The best family stories are skilfully woven through with what the people involved were feeling and thinking at the time. And (more importantly?) with what the writer thinks and feels about it all, looking back.

Often, the story of how we discover things about our relatives is more interesting than the things themselves.

Not convinced? This video contains a short interview we did with our friend the author Roman Krznaric. He’s talking about his father. It’s short, so please watch till the end, because it puts everything that follows into context:


Did you see? It was not just the facts about Roman’s father that gave it power but how Roman came to understand it, and what he (Roman) felt about it.

If you ever saw the BBC series, Who Do You Think You Are? you probably know this already. Each week, a well known person investigates their ancestors. And some of the stories they find (with a huge amount of help from researchers) are remarkable.

But the stories and events they contain are rarely unique. On the contrary, they’re often quite ordinary.

Take Emilia Fox. She started researching her family history while heavily pregnant, and soon found two recent ancestors who had suffered miscarriage.

It was very upsetting.

But miscarriage was (regrettably) fairly common at the time.

The fact that somebody we don’t even know had a miscarriage a long time ago is not the reason we’re gripped.

We watch, and we’re moved, because we get to see how it moves Fox.

That is what makes it compelling.

Similarly, JK Rowling was surprised and moved to learn that one of her ancestors had killed German soldiers.

It hardly needs saying that a lot of people killed German soldiers in the First World War. So it wasn’t the killing itself that was remarkable. It was because this was her own relative – and we had the privilege of watching her find out.

That kind of revelation is priceless.

But here’s the best part: you don’t need to go back into ancient history to find out this kind of thing.

Because your own living relatives have had experiences that can move you just as much. As Roman discovered – and you can too.

In The Family Project, we show you how to capture those, so that you can create a beautiful, moving and inspiring family project of your own, to share with relatives and friends living today, and perhaps with others who aren’t even born yet.