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 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





Last updated on 21 Jul 2023 @ 2:21 pm by 22760