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GSV Writing Prize 2022

The President of GSV, Stephen Hawke was pleased to announce the winner and runner-up of the 2022 GSV Writing Prize at the AGM held on 1 October 2022.

Ian Penrose is the winner for his story 'Finding Emma: a story of my Lutheran ancestor' and Kathleen Rutherford for 'When this you see' is this year's runner-up.

Ancestry™ again generously sponsored the competition with a first prize of a 12-month subscription to their Worldwide Membership and an Ancestry DNA test kit and a 6-month Ancestry™ subscription for the runner-up.

Judges’ report 2022 GSV writing prize

The judging panel of the 2022 Writing Prize consisted of Cheryl Griffin, the guest judge, Joy Roy FGSV, the President’s nominee, and three members of the Ancestor Editorial Team, Bill Barlow, Martin Playne and Margaret Vines. The competition was administered by Barbara Beaumont, who received all the entries and sent them on anonymously to the judges. The panel met twice (on 10 and 24 September), first to establish a short list, and secondly to select the winner and runner-up.

There were eleven eligible entries. The judges found the entries interesting and admired the work put in by the authors to tell the story of their ancestors. The stories covered a wide variety of settings of time and place and included accounts of immigrants, convicts, settlers, research journeys and family tragedies almost all set in Victoria and in Tasmania.

The winning story - ‘Forgotten Emma: a story of my Lutheran ancestor’ by Ian Penrose evokes an emotional response in the reader, is well-written and well researched. The poignant story was told sensitively against a backdrop of the wider family story and in the context of Lutheran migration to South Australia. The author made good use of speculation based on fact and there was a judicious use of long quotes, well chosen to illustrate the change in circumstances. The writing is succinct, the prose is smooth. The author set the scene well and the context was clear with good use of ‘hooks’ to keep the reader engaged. The author demonstrated an ability to smoothly transition from the factual story to a personal reflection. This was a unanimous selection by the judges.

The runner-up, ‘When this you see’ by Kathleen Rutherford is the story behind a convict love token held in the National Museum of Australia. The story traces a young convict’s life in Van Diemen's Land and his success in later life. This was a great idea, well-researched and clearly told. A great deal of information was included – possibly too much. The author gave good explanations without being verbose; the work flowed smoothly, and concluded well. A very positive story.

It is vital to consider the wider audience for articles in a journal such as Ancestor and write with them in mind.

Nearly all authors had potentially interesting stories, but in some cases were not able to translate the material into a well-written story. Many stories contained material worthy of further development and eventual publication.

Narrative structure and theme are critically important. Authors need a 'hook' to keep readers involved and they need to keep their prose succinct. Most authors attempted a coherent structure, including an introduction, but in a number the ending was not well-considered. Some entries contained material that did not advance the story, or had confused themes.

The research component of the criteria was generally well covered, but the standard of referencing ranged widely, with some over-referencing and insufficient detail.

The most successful stories engaged the reader’s attention from the start, and used analysis, interpretation and contextualising to enrich their tale rather than presenting a string of facts. A maintained focus, a good ending, and an individual author’s voice were also in evidence in the better articles.

We thank all the entrants for their efforts, and wish them success in continuing the important work of documenting their family history.

From the Ancestor Editorial Team

We thank historian Dr Cheryl Griffin for being willing to act as our Guest Judge and for participating so helpfully in the assessment process. We also thank Ms Joy Roy FGSV for representing the GSV President in the judging team again and contributing her considerable knowledge of family history and editing.


Winners of the GSV Writing Prize

The Prize was first awarded in 2013

2013    Kath McKay: Finding Shakespeare in family research

2014    Anne Cavanagh: Elizabeth and the doctor elope: the story of Elizabeth Ware

2015    Marilyn Fordred: Every photo tells a story    

2016    Emma Hegarty: Finding Mary Jane

2017    Helen Pearce: Thomas Owen: the skeleton in the family’s closet

2018    Helen Pearce: Daniel Elphinstone: his son’s secret exposed

2019    Louise Wilson: Masters of the road

2020    Brian Reid: ‘Tom were the naughty lad’

2021    Susan Wight: The mystery of the extra Booth Hodgetts

2022    Ian Penrose: Finding Emma: a story of my Lutheran ancestor


Writing Prize 2023

Invitations will be called in March 2023 for the best article of 1200-2400 words on a family history / genealogy theme. Conditions of entry will be posted on the website in March 2023 for a closing date of Friday 25 August 2023.



Last updated on 11 Oct 2022 @ 4:02 pm by 36432