Genealogy research is a highly rewarding endeavor for many people. It gives them a chance to learn more about their identity and where they came from. They find out more about their ancestors and the origin of some of their most time-honored family traditions and create a family keepsake that can be passed down from generation to generation.
Before taking on this project, there are a few things to consider.
The first – and arguably hardest part – is researching your family's history. Then, you'll need to decide what stories to include, what types of images to use, the best way to organize your book, and what materials should make up the final product.
Here, Book1One will take you through what your journey from family historian to author might entail.
Uncovering Your Family's History: Where to Look
In terms of your timeline for publishing, research will likely take up the bulk of it. Make sure you give yourself enough time to dive into your family's history and uncover pertinent information. While family photo albums, newspaper clippings from the attic, and in-person interviews are a great place to start, you may want to consider other genealogy resources as avenues for gathering information, such as:
- Public library: Many libraries offer free access to popular genealogy websites – all you need is your library card. They also may include local history collections, manuscripts, genealogical journals, and much more.
- National archives: Several national archives are accessible online for easy researching at home, while others require you to visit in person. These facilities offer several different types of information, such as:
- Census data
- Military service records
- Immigration and naturalization records
- Public land transfer records
- The Internet: You'd be surprised at how much you can find with a search engine at your fingertips. There are a host of government-sponsored websites, private genealogy websites, and DNA testing services that can aid in your research.
While each person's goal for their genealogy book and starting point might be different, a good place to begin if you're unsure might be with your parents and grandparents. After that, try to go back further and further into your family's history and see where the trail leads.
Decide Which Stories to Include in Your Timeline
Sorting through your research and narrowing down your findings make it easier to tailor the scope of your book and identify key aspects of your family's history. It's also an opportunity to figure out which stories should be included in your family's genealogy book.
At this point, you'll want to examine what you have and identify the stories that best represent your ancestors and their personal and/or professional life experiences. Essentially, find the ones that create an accurate image of their:
If you've found a lot of information on your family members, keep in mind that you may not have to include every little detail about them. A few facts and personal accounts may be enough to depict the time in which each ancestor lived and paint a broad picture of your family's history. Speaking of which, a picture is worth a thousand words – especially in a genealogy book. This takes us to the next step: finding relevant images.
Pinpoint the Most Poignant Images
Photos, graphics, and other images do more than add substance and texture to your book. They also help draw the reader into each ancestor's story. For some family historians, there are numerous opportunities to enhance a genealogy book visually. Some of the images you could add include:
- People (family portraits or community photos)
- Noteworthy places (home, work, or town)
- Event programs or tickets
- Newspaper clippings
- Charts and historical data
The more images you place alongside historical records, journal entries, and other written accounts, the easier it is to keep the reader invested in your family's history from start to finish. It also helps bring each individual's story to life.
The main thing to keep in mind when selecting images is quality and subject matter. Think about which images are the most powerful (and will add the most substance to a story) and which images are of the best print quality for your book. Some older drawings and photographs may appear too blurry, faded, or grainy for the final product.
Outline Your Genealogy Book
Now that you've compiled all your research, it's time to organize your family tree book. At this point, you should have a good idea of what you want to include and what the central theme of the book will be. Creating an outline of your book makes it easier to identify any continuity issues, ensures your book runs chronologically, and helps you identify any gaps that exist in your storyline.
Let's discuss each of those a little more:
- Continuity: Your book should seamlessly run from one family member to another. Consider including similar types of information for each person so that each story feels complete.
- Timeline: This may seem obvious, but this is a good time to make sure your research is organized in chronological order – both as a whole and by section.
- Gaps: You'll likely find more information on some family members than others. An outline will help you identify where you may need to gather some additional insights.
Many people find that there are missing pieces and unanswered questions within their family's history. If you're going back more than five generations, you may only end up with a few basic facts about your ancestors. If your research is closer to the present day, you'll likely have more personal accounts and stories to include.
For any gaps in your family's history, consider including period information. While it may require additional research, adding this supporting content can convey (in a general sense) what life may have been like for some family members.
Finding the Right Materials for Your Book
When you're ready to contact a printer, start thinking about how you want your book to look. Because a genealogy book is a collection of your family's history and personal stories, start with materials that are designed to last. That way, you can help ensure your book can be passed down through several generations. Some book design elements to consider include:
- Cover: Will print a hardcover or softcover book? Different materials may make the most sense for your family's book and play a role in its longevity.
- Binding: The binding is what keeps the pages of your book together. Some binding processes work best with specific page margin requirements, so it's important to keep that in mind when designing your page layout.
- Paper: Archival-quality paper resists fading and changing color, preserving the hard work you've put into each page.
Your printer can help you choose the best materials for your book and can provide information on the ideal size and technical requirements before you start to help the printing stage go smoothly.
A genealogy book can be a true labor of love. Aside from research, it encompasses several steps – deciding what stories to include, what types of visuals to use, the best way to organize your information, and what materials be used to craft the final product.
However, taking the time to learn more about your background and putting what you've found into a tangible collection help ensure your ancestors are remembered and their stories are told for years to come.