Make Your Family History Website Memorable

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In a recent article, I wrote about about why you should create a Family History Website. The main reasons are to document for your living relatives and other readers the stories, photos and events of your ancestors lives; and to be used as a tool to “cousin hunt” – that is to find new relatives that may assist you in filling out your family tree, add new ancestor stories, and to assist in identifying those pesky old photos with all the unknown people in them.

To achieve these goals it is critical for the site to be attractive and to have meaningful content that allows the reader to hang out at your site and absorb information.

Furthermore, it may entice those relatives that are not prone to sharing, to actually do so, thereby enhancing the quality and quantity of your content.

Here are two examples of the content of different Family History websites. Just open each of these links and check out the Tabs across the top underneath the website title, which demonstrates the different types of content included in each site:

Website Example 1

Website Example 2

So let’s discuss what are the important elements of a Family History Website and why they are important.


You Must Have Great Stories – So Make your Blog Posts Sing

Almost all Family History Websites are set up as blogs. This enables the writer to concentrate on one person, or one sub-family, or a particular event to create a story. These stories obviously must be well-written and the length of the story is up to you. Many blogging experts will tell you that they need to be 800 or 1,000 words – but the length needs to fit your style. If you have a story that is best told in 400 words – do not stretch it to 1,000 words just because some expert says so – the reader may get bored because of repetition in the story for example.

Even though you are writing a non-fiction story – use fiction techniques.

The worst thing that you can do is start your story like the following: “Eva McGillicudy was born on August 4, 1833 in Chicago, Illinois, the daughter of James and Sarah.”

Who wants to read a story that starts like that? Even though dates and location research is a large part of family history research, just spitting out this information and focusing on this information in your story is in a word – BORING.

So what triggers a good story:

  • A happy ending to a difficult set of circumstances
  • ​A newspaper article
  • A photo
  • An accomplishment by an ancestor
  • An activity that would be frowned upon – such as a murder, or a theft, or other criminal activity by your ancestor
  • An interesting occupation, or a patent or discovery by your ancestor. Some of these occupations may indeed be “frowned upon” such as prostitution or rum running.


 The most important thing to a memorable family story is to have fun with writing it – be funny – use sarcasm – make it interesting to your readers.

Gotta Have Photos

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No website in my opinion is attractive unless it has photos or other images. What brings a Family History Website alive are the photos of your ancestors – with their diverse wardrobes, their interesting hair-dos on women and facial hair on men. You must have photos on your site. The following are some examples of the presentation of photos in a family history site.

Some of the photo galleries are hosted within the site and some take the reader outside the site to commonly available photo album storage sites, such as Flickr, Google Photos, Photobucket, etc. All of them have pros and cons. The following link is a comparison of some of these sites. 

The links below are some actual examples of photo presentation in family history websites.

  • Family Album – In this example the author included a link in his family history website to an online photo album housed by Google Photos. 
  • Tintype Photos – Here is a completely different example where the author has used a totally different technique for displaying her photos 

Artifacts and Documents – Give your readers lots to look at

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With all the documents that a family history researcher accumulates – why not put the non-sensitive ones on your site or make them available to your readers? One should never place birth or death certificates online for example because of their sensitivity and their inclusion of Social Security numbers.

But why not make available census records, or immigration and naturalization records? Or you may have special collections. In the example below the author has created an “Artifacts” tab and you will see the authors presentation of the aforementioned documents, and also special passports and other artifacts.

Again – the more information that you can make available to your readers in an attractive way, the more successful the site.


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4 thoughts on “Make Your Family History Website Memorable”

  1. The Family History Website is very important.The ways to make the website memorable are wonderful.Thank you for telling me these.

  2. EmilyAnn Frances May

    You have made many good points here. Another important element is to take the message of the story to a level beyond the family. The readers should be able to have a take-away of value to their own lives. This is why my Uncle and I place the telling of our family stories into the greater context of what society was going through at the time. We use news articles or add our discussions of supplemental readings we have done in order to understand the topic we’re posting about. This helps the reader see the individual and the society and times they lived in. Also, the writing should be a blend of factual and personal. To liven things up there can be a mix of media from youtube as well such as news clips or film clips from the popular culture of the day. Always consider the reader. You have to make them interested in your family and provide them with food for thought and a relevant message they will find a connection to.
    Blogs that just present scans and transcriptions of letters or diary entries without additional input from the researcher come off as cold or just not caring to connect with the reader. Without the additional input and research by the family historian, the entries are not inspirational. The reader is left thinking, “If you don’t care enough to reach out to me why should I spend time trying to figure this out? What does this have to do with me anyway?”

  3. This article has been very helpful! I do have a question however. All the family sites that I have seen focus on one specific surname. Do you have any suggestions for naming and formatting a family website to include multiple or many surnames?

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