GSV Writing Prize 2023

The GSV is pleased to announce details of its 2023 Writing Prize competition.

Sponsored by

GSV's Writing prize donated by Ancestry

Purpose of the Prize

  • to encourage the writing of family history
  • to provide an opportunity for recognition and publication

  • to publish the winner as an example of quality family history writing


The competition is open to GSV members and all members of GSV Member Societies. Individuals may only submit one entry.

Members of the Ancestor Editorial Team, the judges, GSV staff and the winner of the previous year's prize are not eligible to enter.

The Prize

We are very pleased to announce that Ancestry™ is again generously sponsoring the competition with a first prize of a 12-month subscription to their Worldwide Membership. A prize of one Ancestry™ DNA kit for the runner-up may also be offered at the discretion of the judges.

Announcement and Publication

The winner will be announced at the GSV's Annual General Meeting in October and the winning article will be published in the December 2023 issue of Ancestor.

At the judges’ discretion, a runner-up may be selected.

At the Ancestor Editorial Team’s discretion, one or more of the submitted entries may be published in subsequent editions.

Conditions of Entry

The article should:

  • have a family history/genealogy theme
  • be the author's own original work
  • not have been previously published in any format, or be under consideration or accepted by any other publication
  • be between 1200 and 2400 words (not including title, image captions, endnotes and sources)
  • contain appropriate citations of sources

A separate bibliography is not required.

Accompanying images are desirable but are not part of the judging criteria. Up to four high resolution images (minimum 300 dpi) may be submitted. Images must be in the public domain, or the author's own, or have the owner's permission to publish. Images taken from the internet are often unsuitable for print reproduction and may not be out of copyright.

Before you enter the GSV Writing Prize

We recommend you read the Ancestor Guidelines for Authors at, and ‘Tips for writing an article’, Ancestor, volume 35, June 2020 pp26-27.

Entrants are reminded that articles should be targeted to the Ancestor readership.


The winning article will be that which, in the opinion of the judges, is the most:

  • interesting
  • well written
  • thoroughly researched and appropriately referenced

Entries will be judged anonymously by a panel consisting of:

  • three members of the Ancestor Editorial Team
  • the President (or a past or present member of Council nominated by the President, who is not a member of the Ancestor Editorial Team or the Writers Circle)
  • one other judge who is not a member of the Ancestor Editorial Team, the GSV Council, or the GSV Writers Circle

The judges reserve the right not to award the prize if the entries are not considered to be of sufficient merit, or there are insufficient entries.

The decision of the judges is final and no correspondence will be entered into.

How to enter

Submit your article as a Word document by email to or on a USB stick to the front desk at the GSV. Use a plain font, preferably Times New Roman, 12 point. Number your pages and include the title in a header. Do not put your name on the pages of the article, but include a separate cover page with your name and other details (see below). If submitting images, please do not include them in the text but send them in separate jpg or tiff files scanned at 300 dpi. Include the title of the article and a caption for each image. Hard copy will not be accepted. As USBs will not be returned, please be sure to retain a copy.

Closing Date

The closing date is 4.00 pm on Friday 25 August 2023 and articles received after this time will not be considered.

The cover page should include:

• Author’s given name and surname

• Email address

• Telephone number

• GSV member number or name of GSV Member Society and membership number of that society

• Title of article

• Word length

• Declaration that it is the author’s own original work and has not been previously published in any format and is not under consideration by any other publication

• Captions for images supplied

• Declaration regarding the images – in public domain, or the author’s own, or by whose permission they can be published

• Permission to publish the article and the images in Ancestor

• Permission to publish the author’s email address


Judges’ report 2023 GSV writing prize

The judging panel of the 2023 Writing Prize consisted of Cheryl Griffin FRHSV, as guest judge, Joy Roy FGSV, as President’s nominee, and three members of the Ancestor Editorial Team, Emma Hegarty, Tina Hocking and Martin Playne. The competition was administered by Sue Blackwood, who received all the entries and sent them on anonymously to the judges.

The panel met once (on 9 September), to select the winner. As there were only four eligible entries this year, the judges decided that there would not be a runner-up award.

The judges found all entries interesting and admired the work put in by the authors in researching and writing their ancestor’s stories. The stories covered a variety of settings of time and place, and included accounts of immigrants, settlers, and research journeys, mainly set in Victoria and Britain. Some incorporated DNA analysis as well. In selecting their topic, all entrants took into account the wider audience for articles in a journal such as Ancestor.

The winning story - ‘The Ancestor Box’ by Anne Prince - uses a family heirloom to continue a generational family history. A wedding gift to the author’s 3x gt grandmother, this wooden writing case contained a wealth of oral history in the form of family correspondence and notes, when it came into the author’s possession. Taking up where her mother left off, the author set out on her own genealogical journey. This is a reflective piece, written in conversational style, in which snippets of the family story are interspersed with well selected quotes from the family correspondence, together with the author’s own recollections of the mother’s forays into archival research. A well-researched and referenced piece, this was a unanimous selection by the judges.

All authors had potentially interesting stories, but in some cases were not able to translate the material into a well-written account. Most entries contained material worthy of further development and eventual publication, however facts alone will not necessarily make an interesting story.

Combining traditional research and DNA analysis yielded additional verification for some entries, while the utilisation of lesser-known resources opened up fresh avenues
of inquiry.

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.

The research component of the criteria was greatly improved this year, and the entrants were to be commended on their referencing. It is important that references enable the
reader to follow the research trail.

Finally the judges also stress the importance of carefully reading the terms and
conditions before entering any writing competition.

We thank all the entrants for their efforts and wish them success in continuing the important work of documenting their family history. The Ancestor Editorial Team hope
that all GSV members will consider taking part in the Prize next year.

From the Ancestor Editorial Team

We thank historian Dr Cheryl Griffin for again being willing to act as our Guest Judge and for participating so helpfully in the assessment process. We also thank Ms Joy Roy
for continuing to represent the GSV President in the judging team, also for 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

2023    Anne Prince: The Ancestor Box





Last updated on 23 Nov 2023 @ 1:38 pm by 22760