GSV Writing Prize

GSV 2020 Writing Prize

The GSV is pleased to announce details of its 2020 Writing Prize Competition.

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 an enhanced first prize of a 12-month subscription to their Worldwide Membership and an Ancestry DNA test kit. A prize of a 6-month Ancestry™ subscription 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 2020 issue of Ancestor magazine

At the judges’ 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 for publication 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. Please see the advice on the Ancestor Journal tab under Submit an Article – the Submission of Images.



The winning article will be that which, in the opinion of the judges, is the most interesting, well-written and 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 Editorial Team or the Writers Circle)
  • one other judge who is not a member of the Ancestor Editorial Team

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 disk 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). Do not include images with 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 disks will not be returned, please be sure to retain a copy.


Closing Date

The closing date is 4.00 pm on Friday 28 August 2020 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





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



Judges’ report on 2019

GSV writing prize

The judges met on 9 and 16 September, first to choose a short list from the 24 entries, and then to decide the winner and runner-up. The five judges appointed by the GSV committee were: Val Noone, guest judge; Joy Roy, representing the GSV President; and three Ancestor team members, Leonie Loveday, Margaret Vines and Martin Playne. Barbara Beaumont, co-ordinator of the Ancestor editorial team, received entries and provided anonymous copies to the judges, but took no part in the judging process.

The winning entry was 'Masters of the Road' by Louise Wilson. This interesting story about the role of the author’s ancestors in the initiation of the Royal Mail Service coaches in Great Britain in the 1790s was clear, balanced and well researched with appropriate referencing. The introduction was good and the author integrated family history with social and occupational history, giving readers an excellent insight into the operation of this service.

The runner-up was 'Finding Johanna' by Victoria Spicer. This story, which was set mainly in and around Geelong, was built on the author’s change of mind about an Irish bounty emigrant step-great-great-grandmother who she had once scorned for being intermittently jailed for vagrancy and drunkenness. The author, who had a good storyline, backed by appropriate research and referencing, wrote with humour and empathy.

The judges were impressed by the standard of research in all entries and by the diversity of the entries. Stories covered not only settlement in Australia from England, Ireland and Scotland but also took us to a Greek island, Sweden and the USA, and the Rhineland. Most dealt with the past two centuries but a couple reached back into the eighteenth; a handful grappled with the complications of adoption. In all cases, authors showed diligence and care in the treatment of their ancestors. In a number of entries, the handling of complex family relationships could have been improved by greater attention to clarity. Most of the entries could be published with varying degrees of editing and correcting. Authors could consider reproducing their articles for family and friends, or placing their pieces in local family history magazines. The importance of writing for small audiences should not be underestimated.

The judges thank all the entrants and congratulate them on the quality of their work. Writing genealogy and family history is a noble task and the judges hope that all the authors will continue their endeavours and enter again next year.


From the Ancestor Editorial Team


We thank Dr Val Noone OAM for being willing to act as our Guest Judge and for participating so fully in the assessment process. We also thank Ms Joy Roy FGSV for representing the GSV President in the judging team and for bringing her considerable knowledge of family history and editing to us.

Date last updated: 15 April 2020 @ 11:34