How To Create A Family History Book – Part 2

By | July 26, 2016

Are you ready to show off your genealogy research? In the first part of the How To Create Your Family History Book article I discussed five points to consider when writing your book. By now you will know what part of your family tree you will want to explore and write about. You will also know what kind of book you will want to write, by when you want it complete, and where to collect information.

Write A Family History Book

So what more do you need to know so that you can create a family history book?

Well, I will cover five more points to help you write a family history book that you can be proud of and that will be cherished for generations to come.


6. Using documents and records

In the previous point I discussed in detail that you could read local history books and also books about occupations. This will help you build up a picture of what your ancestors lives were really like. I also briefly discussed that you can use certificates, heirlooms, photographs and family stories to fill your family history book.

So let’s look at these documents and records in more detail.

Anything that you find around the house or that has been given to you by relatives can be put into your book, with permission of course. However, DO NOT go overboard.

Documents and Records

Stuffing all of your family documents and records will create a book that is bulging at the seams and will be information overload for you and for your readers. You don’t want to overwhelm them.

All records concerning can be filed and stored away but not all of them need to be put into a book.

You need to be selective with what you put in your book!

Try being selective and put in documents that are unusual, unique or that prove a point that you have made. You DO NOT need to put in the full record but merely an excerpt if you wish. This will also help cut down the size of your book.

When you include any document or record be sure to caption it. This way it will be clear to your readers exactly what you are referring to and how it relates to you.

This can also be done with any charts that you have created with your genealogy software program, maps or illustrations that you have. These programs are great at creating extra pieces of information that you can put into your book.


7. Include the stories

We have looked at ways to show what our ancestors lives was really like. This has been through records and documents that you have, as well as heirlooms, photographs, charts, and maps, etc. Looking at stories can also add to the detail in your book.

What's Your Story?

But who were your ancestors?

You may have heard stories and anecdotes that have been passed down through the generations to you. Why not include these as well? They are just as much a part of your family history as the physical documents that you have.

Also, if you do not include them then you will risk the possibility of losing a part of history. And they will be gone forever.

Hearing old family stories is what got me interested in family history. It it is the reason why I created this site.

These stories can add to the life story of your ancestors. It can help build up a picture of what they were actually like. The stories can be amusing, interesting or just cover the daily life of your relative. But they are still a part of history that needs to be remembered.


8. Organizing your research

By now you have amassed quite a collection of notes, documents, photographs and a lot more on your ancestor. It can be quite overwhelming with all this information in front of you. To make sense of it all you will have to put them in order.

Documents and Letters

To do this for each ancestor try putting your files in chronological order. You will then be able to see their entire life from birth to death. By doing this you may also see if there are any gaps in your research.

Organizing is a great way to check if you have all the information on your ancestor and to find out what more you need. If you can not find anything on your relative for a given period then just state this in your book.

Anyone reading your book, whether a relative or just a casual reader, they may wish to carry on the search for more information on your ancestor.

With a chronological order you can tell your ancestor’s life from beginning to end. If you continually jump around from old age to childhood then this will be quite confusing for your reader. Maintaining order to your story will obviously make the story of your ancestor’s life far clearer.

==> Organizing Genealogy Research – The Mega Collection <==


9. How to introduce your ancestor?

I have already discussed that you will need to order your notes on your ancestor, telling their life from beginning to end. But consider using a hook to grab you reader’s attention. This hook may be from a later stage in their life. Here you will need to mention something of interest.

Hook

This way the reader will be intrigued to know more about the person and will continue reading. Starting off with “My grandfather Bert was born in Norfolk, England on May 27th 1827” can be quite boring.

So let’s make it interesting!

Start off with an interesting story or point in your ancestor’s life. Your reader will be hooked and will want to know how they got to that point in their life and what happened afterwards.

For example, did your ancestor have to migrate to escape poverty and to make a better life for themself? You could start off with this point. Try to draw the reader in. Then you can start telling the story of your ancestor’s life up to that point and then what happened after they relocated.

Your book doesn’t have to be just a different form of what your records hold. Try to put some heart and soul into it. I have done the same with my family history book and I feel so much closer to my ancestors because of this.

By researching my ancestors more and discovering why they made the decisions that they made I became more connected with them. And as a result I wanted to learn more.


10. Adding an index and source citations

If you have written a lengthy account on your ancestor then you will need to include an index. By doing so you will be able to find where to add to if you come across any new information during your research. Also, an index will be invaluable to your readers.Index

Your readers may not be interested in the whole life of your ancestor but maybe a part of it that affects them. For example, your ancestor maybe a sibling of your readers and they may only be interested in what it was like growing up for them.

They may not be interested to know what happened to your ancestor after leaving home.

Don’t take this to heart though. We are all unique. So your cousin will probably be interested in your common ancestor on your paternal line, but maybe not for your maternal line.

An index is therefore invaluable to your research and to your readers experience. You could also include a surname index and also a place index.

You need to cite your sources!

Adding source citations will also prove that you have actually carried out research on your ancestor. Source citations are also useful if say anyone wants to continue exploring your family history.

They will have an account of your ancestors and where to find the information that you have used and found. So please cite all of your sources of your information.


Thank You and Please Leave A Comment

I hope you enjoyed this article about how to create a family history book. If you think that this post will be helpful to others then please share it with friends and family using the social media buttons below.

If you have any questions or comments then please leave a comment below. I would love to hear from you.

28 thoughts on “How To Create A Family History Book – Part 2

  1. Matt

    This is really cool. At first I didn’t really consider making a family history book because of all the work but it can really be a worthwhile task as this book can be passed down from generation to generation of your family and people can keep adding to it long after you are gone. The value of having your work live on after you are gone can be a worthwhile investment.

    Reply
    1. Owain Post author

      It certainly is a lot of work, but it will be cherished for generations to come. And that’s a very good point that family members can add to it.

      Reply
  2. Cambell

    I love genealogy, I am in Australia and am a 7th generation Caucasian, which is pretty rare, my ancestor came here as a convict. So I would love to preserve and pass on my heritage. I’d never thought of making an actual book though, that’s a really cool idea…I home school my son and this would make a really project…Thanks

    Reply
    1. Owain Post author

      Being a descendant of a convict is a very interesting story to include in a family history book. Especially if you know the offence that your ancestor committed. In the past being the descendant of a convict was kept quiet, but now it is something of interest.

      Reply
  3. Marlene W

    Hey Owain, I like it a lot. Thank you for all the great useful information. I enjoyed part one and two.

    This is an awesome way to pass on ones heritage to your children, and your children’s children.

    Reply
    1. Owain Post author

      It sure is a great way to pass on your heritage. You can write your family history on your computer, print out however many copies you want and you can backup your work as well. So your family history will not be lost. You will have created a truely magnificent piece of work to be cherished forever.

      Reply
  4. Mike

    Never thought about putting together a history book of the family, but what a great idea! I’m always fascinated by origin stories and what life was like hundreds of years ago. There’s nothing more interesting to me than hearing my parents and my aunts and uncles talk about what it was like for their parents when the first came to America from another country. It takes such courage and grit! Documenting these stories is something I’ll consider doing.

    Reply
    1. Owain Post author

      It would have been such a different world to them back then. It’s always interesting to know what their reasons were for emigrating. These ones are always fascinating stories. You can include in your book passenger lists and stories of the old country, and how they coped when they arrived in America. Also, whether they moved around before they settled. All the best with your book

      Reply
  5. Miles Weatherall

    Wow…this information will be so helpful to those who have an interest in creating this history. My family did it the hard way many years ago…pre-world wide web! It’s so much easier with your information to lead the task.

    Keep up the great work!

    Miles

    Reply
    1. Owain Post author

      That’s great that your family did it. And it being before the Internet there must have been much travelling to archives and wherever else they needed to go. There’s always though new information that surfaces so I’d expect there to be something on your family to be found online. Take care and thanks.

      Reply
  6. James

    I must admit as I’ve gotten older I’ve come to better understand all my dad’s work to catalog our family genealogy. It’s a complex and time consuming past time but well worth it to understand your own family history and story. There are so many interesting stories out there in average families that noone really knows or talks about. Care for these documents is another important topic. Thanks for the post!

    Reply
    1. Owain Post author

      When I was growing up I used to hear my dad tell me stories about my ancestors. Later he started to research our ancestry, which for my part I didn’t take much notice. It was only later that I took an interest when preserving the stories.

      You maybe interested in my How To Preserve Your Family Treasures which explains how to care for documents and other possessions

      Reply
  7. Holly

    I have considered putting together a family history book for quite some time,although the particular relative that I would like to write about is my great grandfather who came from New Zealand. I know that on websites like ‘ancestry’ it can be quite expensive to access international records. Do you have any recommendations in how I can gather research that would be more cost effective? Thank you for your help and great informative post!

    Reply
    1. Owain Post author

      From your comment I gather you are not from New Zealand. So visiting the local archive/library would seem more expensive. My What Sources of Information At Home Can You Find? post is a good starting point as you may have information at home. You could also ask relatives who maybe able to help you. Please check my Top 20 Family History Interview Questions which will help you with interviewing relatives.

      Also, my How Do I Start My Family History In 10 Steps post will guide you in how to best research your genealogy. Other than joining genealogy sites you could order certificates from the local archives of New Zealand online. Although this would cost.

      Hope this information has helped you on your journey

      Reply
  8. Farhan

    Awesome guide here. I assume it must be really hard to even collect information about our ancestors, and even if we do, we then need to verify the integrity of the sources.

    You spoke about organizing these information in a chronological order. This is really important, since we are collecting a whole lot of historical archives that can be hard to siff through if they’re not organized.

    Great article!

    Reply
  9. Jenna

    Owain, the 10 tips on the genealogy guide is really helpful. I especially like the part that include stories, who does not like stories? it will make the family history book sound so much interesting and intriguing! You know, the Chinese always have the surname index as that will tell the origin of the ancestors!

    Reply
    1. Owain Post author

      Stories do make a family history book come to life. It’s better to include these rather than just listing your ancestor’s name birth, marriage and death details. With my family history book I broke it down into family groups. First looking at my fathers father, and then his mother, breaking them into family groups

      Reply
  10. Illusioztan

    Hi Owain,

    I have read the second part today and I was amazed by your in-depth knowledge of this subject. I believe this family history book can serve as some kind of legacy that can be passed down from one generation to the others.

    I like the part where you provide tips on how to introduce our ancestors in the family history book. Personally, I like those eye-catching title and rather than try to read everything about someone’s life journey, I prefer to know only particular aspect of their life. What you have mentioned about the indexing is cater for readers like me.

    Reply
    1. Owain Post author

      Your family history book can be passed down from generation to generation and added to. You will have to do a lot of work to write and finish your book but it is such a joy when you have reached that stage.

      I guess we are different when it comes to knowing about our ancestors. I like to find out everything that happened to them from their birth to their death. When I wrote my book though I did write eye-catching and interesting headlines to separate the different times of my ancestors life.

      Reply
  11. Trisha

    Wow ok, so the timing of me coming across this page right now is meaningful to me. I have been thinking a lot lately about my family and that I am at an age where I could and probably should write about all these experiences that I had with my great grandmother and great aunt. The little details that I knew about them that many others never got the priviledge of experiencing. Details to go with the many pictures I just inherited. Great Work! 🙂

    Reply
    1. Owain Post author

      I asked my father to write down the family stories that he told me. I knew that he would be best as he remembers the details more about them. I then took what he wrote and added the facts.

      I think you should write down what you remember. Then when you have written all that you can then maybe you ask relatives if they know anymore details. This article may help you – Top 20 Family History Interview Questions.

      All the best with your family history research

      Reply
  12. Marlaine

    Genealogy is a fascinating subject… especially one’s own history! But yeah, starting to get it down on paper is rather daunting. My big problem is how to choose which ancestor to focus on! Do you pick the one with the most details available? Or the one that seems most interesting? I’d hate to get caught up in faking details or something to fill in blanks.
    And, do you recommend just focusing on ONE ancestor, or a family branch? Or just research like crazy and then chose later who to write about? Would love your thoughts!

    Reply
    1. Owain Post author

      The biggest problem with any sort of writing is the beginning. But once you do it will flow. I would start with an ancestor that you feel is interesting. That way the techniques that you have learned about writing you can apply to the next ancestor. If you chose an ancestor that is boring then you may lose focus.

      If you don’t know something about an ancestor then just say. I have done that with holes in my research or said I am not sure about something. Someone else can always pick up where you left it.

      You could pick a family branch, briefly discuss that family and then focus on an ancestor. I admit that it can get quite tricky what with all the connections. When I started out I did go crazy. I would go from one family to the next and then back again. No real focus but I got there in the end

      Reply
  13. Yousef

    Making a genealogy book is truly a perfect idea all the ancestors will like it and they will do their best to support the work. Old people tend to keep in memory their previous experience and the will be a good source of information. I hope one day that I know my ancestors to the Pharaohs days. The problem is in the early past where no registers founds.

    Reply
    1. Owain Post author

      Hopefully your relatives will be able to help with your family history book. Some though unfortunately may not wish to disclose any details for a number of reasons. In these cases you must respect their wishes.

      For me I have gone back to the mid 1700s with my own sources. I have found family members further back but these are based on Ancestry family trees from members. So these sources need to be verified

      Reply

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