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Research Recommendations: Creating a Winning Family History

(Research Recommendations) Permanent link
Michael J. Leclerc

Michael J. Leclerc
Director of Special Projects

The National Genealogical Society recently published a revised 2010 edition of Creating a Winning Family History by Carmen J. Finley. NGS sponsored its first Family History Writing Contest in 1984. In 1988 they first published Write Your Family History to accompany the contest. It has been updated and expanded several times before the current edition.


The first section deals with standards for research and writing. This area includes reference to three NGS publications that can help authors:

  • Numbering Your Genealogy: Basic Systems, Complex Families, and International Kin, by Joan F. Curran, Madilyn Coen Crane, and John H. Wray (rev. ed. 2008)
  • Evidence: A Special Issue of the National Genealogical Society Quarterly (NGSQ 87, September 1999)
  • Putting Family History Into Context: A Special Issue of the National Genealogical Society Quarterly (NGSQ 88, December 2000)

Each of these works is extremely beneficial to the potential author. Unfortunately, the two special issues of the NGSQ are not currently available for purchase on their website. Hopefully NGS will consider bringing them back into print. There are also links to numerous standards for research and writing available on the NGS website.


The next section discusses six elements of a good genealogy:

  • Research includes a broad variety of records
  • Sources are carefully developed
  • Conclusions are based upon a thorough analysis of the evidence
  • Text is written in a clear and engaging style
  • Each information item is documented
  • A standard numbering system is used

Each of these points is discussed further in the text, although some get more extensive treatment than others. The last section includes a detailed list of publications for further study. The list includes a variety of guides to assist in genealogical research and writing, but it is by no means exhaustive.


The compact guidebook also includes two appendixes that serve as a guide to the NGS Family Writing Contest. Even those who are not submitting an entry to the contest will benefit from the rules for submission, which will help you become a better writer.


Creating a Winning Family History is available from NGS at a price of $10 for NGS members and $12 for non-members. You can find more details at

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