Creating a Family History Books

Published on 12 May 2023 at 09:00

In the early 1960s, someone in my maternal grandfather's family wrote a genealogy book that traced our roots back to Ireland, Germany, and a few other European countries. While researching over the years that very book has been referenced once or twice to ensure accuracy. 


Recently though the book's orange cover and black bold lettering have made me wonder what the actual goal of genealogy research is. True it should help us to remember our loved ones and preserve their memory for future generations, but I had to ask myself ultimately, is there a goal I want to achieve from having conducted my own research? 


The answer was yes. In the future, I would like to write and publish my own family genealogy book. The book would undoubtedly utilize and extend some of the research from the 1960 version. 


Then the next obvious question that I had to ask myself was what is involved in writing a family history book? Having written a few books already I can share that planning is at the top of that list. Here are a few steps to consider if thinking of putting together a family history and genealogy resource:


  • Planning


During the planning stage selecting which primary and secondary resources to use as well as images or other information is important. This includes considering how far back you want the book to go and where you would like your starting point to be. Something else to consider is whether the book will be strictly document-driven or have a story-based narrative. Once you've decided on the size, scope, and layout of the book, use genealogy tools to lay out the information and only begin writing once it's finished. 


  • Create


Write the ugly first draft. Keep all photos and text writing separate, but mark where they should go during the draft stage within the text document. Once it is finished run it by family and/or even other family genealogy researchers from within your tree (aka beta readers). Feedback does not only reinforce genealogical research but it also helps to better determine what facts, images, and details are truly important to include. 


  • Edit


Once beta readers are finished reading and reviewing your first draft it's time to edit. Editing is the most extended process when it comes to publishing. If a researcher prefers to do this themselves it is advised to utilize a variety of programs to assist with grammar, spell check, and that can catch other common errors. However, many decide to hire professional editors. A professional editor cannot only edit a book but they can help shape it and develop it into a finished manuscript. 


  • Design


As with editing, there are two options. Design your own book cover and format the book alone employ apps and various other computer programs or, hire a professional book cover designer and professional formatter. If you choose to format and design a family history book alone here are a few programs to consider: Adobe Creative Suite – Photoshop, InDesign, Bridge, Illustrator, and Acrobat. To hire pros consider Fiverr, UpWork, LinkedIn, or Freelancer as places to inquire. 

  • Publish


Publishing has come a long way since the days before Amazon KDP, and there are many presses that provide "author services" that help to publish and require minimal funds to obtain. Social media authors, writers, publishers, and editors may also provide support and resources for those seeking to self-publish books. 


It is important to remember that no one can publish alone and that publishing does not happen overnight. It is a lengthy process but one that also strengthens historians, authors, writers, yes even genealogists in their storytelling capabilities. 


Ultimately it would be my overall goal for creating such a book would be the hopes of building upon our understanding of how not just documents, text, and photos shape us but how the stories behind those people on our tree did too. 



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