Genealogical Writing

Genealogical writing is somewhat different from most other forms of communications. It is more technical than say writing a blog article. The majority of writers of genealogical materials need to pay attention to details found only in this type of communication.

There are a number of styles and guidelines that share common features, among them are stylistic details the writer needs to include, such as:

  • properly superscripting the given names of the family members
  • following a specific style of generational numbers, and
  • making sure indents and formatting marks conform to a specific style

Most genealogists follow two major journal styles. For New England-based families, the New England Historic and Genealogical Society Register (NEHGR) style is common. For families based in other parts of the country, or just because it makes more sense to the particular author, the National Genealogical Society (NGS) style is used. The NEHGR and NGS styles are similar in most respects but have significant differences in the way generations follow each other.

Having an editor review and revise an article before submission to a journal or newsletter speeds the process of acceptance and publishing. As well, if an author is planning to publish a family history, having an editor review it for accuracy and completeness is a good move. Copy editing and proofreading are also important to producing a high quality, publishable family history. An editor or proofreader is likely to catch, for instance a person’s name, spelled one way in one sketch, but another way in a different sketch. To make sure that it is the same person, the editor corresponds with the author and corrects one or the other under the author’s guidance.


Joan Ferris Curran, Madilyn Coen Crane, and John H. Wray. Numbering Your Genealogy: Basic Systems, Complex Families, and International Kin, Revised Edition, Arlington, Virginia: National Genealogical Society. 2008.

Michael J. Leclerc and Henry B. Hoff, eds. Genealogical Writing in the 21st Century. Boston, Massachusetts: NEHGS. 2006.

This post originally appeared in slightly different form on 09 October 2009 on the Seattle Book Scouts’ Blog as “Genealogical Writing”

© 2009, 2011 N. P. Maling – Sea Genes Family History & Genealogy Research