Feeding My Habit – And Myself By Erika Dreifus

I’m not sure how to explain the appeal of searching for documents and details about one’s ancestors, but it seems undeniable that the pull is there. I’ve fallen into the “hobby” of family history research, myself (starting with a first visit to the National Archives during a trip to Washington when I was a teenager), and I’m certainly not alone. Although Dick Eastman, publisher of Eastman’s Online Genealogy Newsletter recently wondered whether genealogy really ranks as the second most popular hobby in the United States today, there’s little doubt that investigating and preserving the stories of one’s familial past is a common pursuit.

More to the point for our purposes, an array of magazines and newsletters exists to help everyone from the avocational family historian to the more professional genealogist with this work. For the writer with interest and expertise in this field, such publications, with their staples of how-to articles, resource pieces, and essays, comprise a market worth exploring.

I have. My articles have covered everything from tips on finding naturalization records (many of my grandparents and great-grandparents were naturalized American citizens), to advice for conducting oral history interviews with family members (I’d stumbled through the process and wondered how to improve), to profiles of worthwhile websites (I discover quite a few through my research). In virtually every case, my “hobby” has led to an article idea that a little extra research made viable for a magazine, bringing both payment and publication, plus some more insight into my own process.

Genealogy magazines may not be staples of everyone’s subscription diet. But they have loyal followings. I’m lucky to be able to write about something I both know and love, and to feed my own hobby habit in the process.

Erika Dreifus is a Massachusetts-based writer whose family history and genealogy articles have appeared in Ancestry, Family Chronicle, Family Tree Magazine, and others. She edits and publishes a free monthly newsletter for fictionists, poets, and creative nonfiction writers titled The Practicing Writer, and keeps a “Practicing Writing” blog (http://practicing-writing.blogspot.com).