How To Create A Family History Book – Part 1

By | July 19, 2016

What better way to present your genealogy research than in a book? So please read on as I explain to you how to create a family history book to show Uncle Charlie or your cousin Chloe what you have discovered about your ancestry.

Create A Family History Book

You may have just started to look into your ancestry or you may have been exploring your family history for many many years. There is though no set point during your research to sit down and write. You just start writing. When you start writing you will find that it will help you dig deeper into your family history.

I will explain to you what I mean!

Speaking from experience when you write down your notes your research will become a lot clearer. It is not the mass of papers sitting on your desk anymore. Everything can be put in chronological order, starting from the oldest bit of information to the present day. As you put your notes in order you may question the data that you initially found.

How Do I Start My Family History

For example, why did your grandfather’s brother die young? What was the story there? Is there anything that can be learned from that and put into the book? These sorts of questions you may not have initially thought of when you found out this relative.

So you may ask where do I start?

There are a number of points to consider when you write your family history book. I will explore what needs to be considered so that you will create a family history book that you can be proud of.

Credit:   American Ancestors

Topics discussed in this post:

  1. What do I research?
  2. What type of book?
  3. What form will your book take?
  4. When do you want your book finished?
  5. Where can I find information?

Other posts that will interest you:

1. What Do I research?

Firstly, you will need to consider the level of research that you plan to undertake. You may decide that you only want to explore one branch of your family, your last name for example. From this you can go back as far as you can along the male line and discuss your ancestors and their families perhaps.

You may however be more ambitious and Family Chartwant to find out as much as you can about your family from all branches. This is by far an enormous task to perform. When I was doing my family research I was fortunate that my father had already started on the groundwork. You though may have to start from scratch, unless you find that a relative has already begun researching.

These are just two suggestions. You could explore your male line as I have discussed or any other family line that interests you. If there is an amusing story or stories for a part of your family then you may wish to document all that you know of that branch.

You could though just document the life of just one ancestor. Or you looking at all of your grandparents, or great grandparents are other examples.

I was very ambitious when I explored my family history though!

Not only did I try to find all of my ancestors but I also tried to explore their descendants, (to some extent though). I was fascinated with finding cousins and hoping that I would connect with living relatives, which I did. Connecting with cousins I was able to discover more about my ancestors through their research.

Exploring My Family History

I do not advise this line of research though as it can become quite time consuming. It can be overwhelming at times as well when you have so many children to consider and all of their descendants.

2. What Type Of book?

So by now you may know who you will research about. This will help you decide what type of book that you will want to write. You could write a small booklet for a single member of your family or a book on a single branch. Another suggestion is to have one big book for all of your branches. You can then have all of your research in one document.

Family History Books

You could put in your book photos and charts to make it more interesting to the reader. Here you can show how exactly that your ancestor is related to you, and also add a face to the name. You may want to produce a family photo book.

These have become quite popular and can either be done instore or online. With a photo book you can add amusing anecdotes that are connected with your relative.

There maybe family heirlooms in your possession that you will want to write about. Here you can explain what they are and what they mean to you. By doing this you will have recorded a piece of history, something that will now not be forgotten. You could also include in your book documents, such as a birth certificate, or a letter, or a photo of a ship that your grandfather sailed on for example.

3. What Form Will Your Book Take?

You DO NOT want to just list names, dates and places. This will not be interesting for your reader and they will most surely put the book down. Ask questions such as why did my great grandfather move hundreds of miles away, or why did my grandfather change profession. Adding depth to your narrative will make it more interesting and rewarding for both you and your reader.

Genealogy questions

Write down what you know. Try to build up an account of your ancestor’s life. You may put in assumptions if you are not certain of something based on what you know. But when doing so clearly state this. You DO NOT want to fictionalise their life. Doing so will not be true to your research.

Your book may have an underlying plot. This could take the form of your ancestor’s migration, a rags to riches tale, or the time when he was in the army. Focusing on a theme for your book will help you concentrate on what needs to be researched and encourage you to complete the book.

4. When Do You Want Your Book Finished?

Setting deadlines is a good way of getting your book completed. You can set goals along the way. For example, try to find out a certain bit of information by a certain time and then write about it. By not setting goals you will surely lose focus. Your research will then never be done and your book will never be completed.

Set Deadlines

Not only setting a timeframe for collecting information is a great idea, but also scheduling when to write is also good. You will want to write about what you have found out. Putting aside a few hours a night or whenever is convenient for you is also important. You will need sufficient time to write up your research.

You DO NOT want ten minutes here or fifteen minutes there. You need to have enough time to concentrate and focus on what you have found and what you will write. A quiet area where all your research is laid out is also a good idea. Having to set up your notes each time you write will just cost you valuable time when you could have been writing.

5. Where Can I Find Information?

To build up an account of your ancestor’s life you may have certificates, records, heirlooms, photographs and stories that have been passed down through the generations. You can include all of this but there may come a time when there are gaps in your knowledge.

Documents and Records

You will want to fill these gaps but where can you go to?

Reading local history books on where your ancestor lived is a great start. You may be able to discover events that may have affected your ancestor. These events could have forced your ancestor to move or change occupation as a result.

Researching is all about joining the dots, but also making logical deductions. As I have said before you do not want to make assumptions. This will lead to a false account of your family history.

You can also read up on what your ancestor’s occupation was like. This will then help you build up a picture of what life was like for him or her. Other aspects of life can also be researched, such as what forms of transportation there was available, the fashion, and even their diet can add context to your book.

Ask your relatives for help to create your family history book!

As I have stated before living relatives are a great source of information. They can provide you with valuable information and fill in gaps in your research that you may have. They can also tell you in their own words the lives of your ancestors. Recording this information now is important before it gets lost in time.

Ask Our Relatives For Help

My Top 20 Family History Interview Questions article will help you when it comes time to interview your relatives. Story Terrace can also assist you with questions to inspire memories and life stories.

I have only just begun explaining what you can do to create a family history book. You can read five more points by checking out How to Create a Family History Book – Part 2.

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 1

  1. simon watson

    A superb article my friend. I have often thought about doing a family history mainly for my sister who is the matriach of the family since my mother sadly passed away. I found your post to be really very informative indeed and it has renewed my vigour for actually doing something about the family history side of thing this time instead of keeping on procrastinating, lol.
    Am bookmarking so thank you for a smashing post.

    1. Owain Post author

      You’re quite welcome and I’m glad that it’s reinvigorated you. Starting anything is always difficult and genealogy is no exception. But when you do start you do not want to stop. There is just so much that can be found on your family history.

      Thanks for bookmarking my site. There will be plenty more articles to come. Be sure to check back soon for part 2 of this article.

  2. Kathy KEith

    Nice post. Very good information here. We have a person in our family who is doing this now. I will gladly share this information with them. Thank you for sharing!

  3. Matt

    Interesting, I never considered creating a family history book. I have about 8 uncles so my family is really quite large. Although I supposed I can have a book for a person like you said but it will be hard since the majority of my family lives in Malaysia. How does it usually take to do this? How long did it take you?

    1. Owain Post author

      Actually there is no real answer as to how long it takes. The genealogy hobby is open-ending, so in fact you could go on further. My father had done quite a bit of groundwork before I decided to make a book. It was only going to be a book containing stories but then I added charts and I tried to show as much family history as I could.

      I have though decided to put a stop to it so that I can show my parents what I have do so far. I am in the middle of printing a book for my father and one for mother. Overall it has taken me six years. But that of course is working on it part time, as I work and now have a family of my own.

  4. Marlene W

    Hey Owain. This is really informative and interesting, I just cant wait to read part two….

    Off to read part two then….. 🙂

  5. Kevin

    Great info on family history. I did a lot of genealogy 10 – 20 years ago. I had a lot of help from my mom and aunt of my mother’s side. My father’s side was tougher, but I got photos of his father’s family and mother’s family. I have a photo family book that my aunt made and I made some books for some of my relatives who were interested.

    1. Owain Post author

      That is great. I have written a book myself but I found it hard to decide which photos to include. I’ve decided to just include a small sample. One day I will do a photo book as well. For now I just wanted to document the stories and history of my family

  6. Michel

    This article has inspired me to make some notes about family members I know well for future generations. My uncle did a family tree for us but it is just a bunch of names. It would be so nice to have some history on the people and also some personal stories.

    Thank you for a wonderful post.

  7. Nnanna Uma

    Hi there, I was pleased when I saw your topic. Yes, I’d like to have a family genealogy book. It’ll be an amazing venture. I like the way you talked about the book, how to start and what to look for. Many people do not know where to begin their journey with the research, and you’re so right- it can be quite overwhelming.
    It’s a good read and quite simple to understand. Well done.

    1. Owain Post author

      Thank you for enjoying the article. You may also like Part 2 where I discuss among other things, using information from documents and letters, including stories and organizing your research

  8. xristina

    Hello Owain I really found your article very informative and full of useful tips. You manage to explain everything very nice, providing information about the kind of the book, how to search, where to find our “clues” ….everything . I always enjoy family history books and i would really like to make my family’s also thanks for this great content hope for more!

  9. IllusiozTan

    Hi Owain,

    I found your page is very informative.Before reading your page,I never ever thought of researching about my ancestor. You have provided a clear guide on how to kick start the researching work. Well done!

    Creating the genealogy might be a common practice in western countries,but I don’t seen this much in Asian countries.Most of the time, Asian parents prefer to pass down the ancestor’s info to their child through verbal communication.As this is not recorded most of the time,thus the detail tend to get lost over time.

    Although creating the genealogy involve quite a lot of task,but I personally think that it is a good way to share the good value withheld by our ancestor through their life story

    1. Owain Post author

      Thank you very much. You may also like the second part to this article How To Create A Family History Book – Part 2. My ten step guide How Do I Start My Family History In 10 Steps can also explain to you what is involved when researching your ancestry.

      Thank you for the insight into Asian countries and genealogy. I did not know that, so that was interesting to know

      It is usually a lot of work. It depends on how much you want to do but also if anyone else has done any work on it that you can build on.

  10. SmileAfresh

    Hi Owain,
    This is an interesting read on how to make a family tree book and even strategies on how to approach this. I totally agree with you that this could be a very interesting thing to do and as a hobby, one cannot fail but to surprise close relative son the great amount of family history they were able to dig up. And are there people who work as consultants to research on others’ family trees? Is it a possibility?

    1. Owain Post author

      Yes there are professional genealogists who can help you with your family history. They can help you guide the way for you, bringing up records and knocking down those brick walls you may encounter. Usually they will work within an archive centre. Hope this information helps

  11. shrey

    This idea is new to me and actually never thought of doing this.I have never spent much time with my grandparents and I think I can try to write a family history book which would even let me know well about my ancestors and also allow me to bond well and spend time with my grandparents.
    I think I would try this and I really appreciate you for sharing this with us
    Thank you

    1. Owain Post author

      It would be a great bonding time with them. You can learn so much from them.

  12. Jana

    This would be a great site to show my mom. She researches family history as her hobby and has found alot of information to the point our other family members have asked her for all their family history needs. Besides books and the internet she has gone out of state to where families were born to get birth certificates and paper geneologies. . This info can also come in handy for your site visitors. They can make it fun by going on a vacation to get new family surprises. My family did and we even found buriel sites on our trip. Like a scavenger hunt but for family info.

    1. Owain Post author

      Thank you for sharing this site with your mom. In time this site will provide all the guides and information a family researcher will need.

      My family also go to cemeteries and find the graves of our ancestors. My mom in particular is the best in finding our family graves. And as you say it can be a scavenger hunt.

      Thank you for liking the site. You may wish to check out the second part of this article – How To Create A Family History Book – Part 2.

  13. Deedee

    I honestly hadn’t considered sitting down and writing my research in book form. Thanks so much for the idea, and for the ideas on how to get started. I also hadn’t thought to do research on the local area where an ancestor lived, or what their career was like. Those would likely give some great insights, wouldn’t they? Thanks for another terrific article!

    1. Owain Post author

      I have found that you enjoy your genealogy research more by writing down what you have found out. You can also see what you are missing from your records.

      Exploring where your ancestor lived and what they did can also be interesting. You will get a feel of what their life was really like by doing this

  14. Judy

    Excellent points to remember when researching and writing about your family. I love researching period. You have to have a plan, steps, rules for yourself. organization and note taking. There are more things, and it looks like you will get it all covered with the different posts. I hope I will be able to read them all soon and benefit from them.
    Best to you.

    1. Owain Post author

      As with anything you need a plan, and this is specially true when it comes to genealogy research and writing your family history book. You may also like to read Part 2 Of this article.


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