Family history books are a great way to capture your family’s past. Whether it’s a history of your immediate family, or a book that documents generations of history, these books will be a priceless family treasure for decades. But what can you include in your family history book? Of course, photos and text are important, but more can be added, and these items can give your family history book a depth that photos and text alone can’t provide.
Here are 26 other types of content to consider including in your family history book. Legacy Books has worked with each of these different types of media and memorabilia, and can attest each can make beautiful, meaningful additions to your family history book.
1. QR Codes
There’s nothing quite like hearing it in their own voice. Audio and video clips let you preserve interviews, songs, storytelling, performances, award ceremonies, or even your five minutes of fame in the evening news. By adding QR codes that link to media you’ve placed online to your book, you combine your family’s history with modern technology to gain a deeper connection with the past.
2. Fold-Out Pedigrees
Have a really big family tree? Consider adding a fold-out sheet right into your book for extra space, so you can view the full family tree without any confusing page breaks.
3. Beautifully Designed Family Trees
A graphic designer can turn your typical pedigree into a handsome custom display for your book.
4. Side Stories and Photos
Even if details are scarce for a person, there’s a wealth of information to learn based on where they lived, their occupation, and contemporary historical events. Do a little research into when and where they lived, and you may be surprised what you can add to your family history book.
5. DNA Test Results
DNA unlocks your distant genealogy, back hundreds or even thousands of years. And once you have your results, you’ll want a way to record, preserve, and share your results.
6. Ancestors’ Signatures and Autographs
Trace your family history through the years by collecting the signatures of your ancestors from land records, church records, certificates, and letters. Or share your collection of autographs from musicians, sports icons, and famous entertainers.
7. Photos of Heirlooms
Got something that doesn’t fit in a book? Take a photo of it. Photos are an excellent way to preserve historical items and prevent future handling, which can lead to damage. They’re also a great way to share a piece of an heirloom with multiple family members.
Maps can bring your ancestor’s world to life. Historical maps show what the surrounding area looked like when they lived there. And modern maps help readers pinpoint the exact location of an event. You can even include a version of a map that indicates where important events in your family member’s life took place.
9. Immigration Maps
Immigration maps reveal the immigration of your various family lines, as they all converged in one place: your birth.
10. Descendant List
Descendancy lists are an easy way to capture and record all the children, grandchildren, etc., of an ancestral couple. Many genealogy programs can create one automatically from your digital records.
11. Family Group Sheets
Consider adding family group sheets in addition to, or in place of, a descendant list. This clever format displays a good deal of information in a small space and is easy to read, even for genealogy novices.
12. Family Crest/Coat of Arms
Explore your family heritage with a beautiful, full-color crest or coat of arms. Many people will have several different crests to display—one for each family line.
13. Digitized Slides
Don’t leave Grandma’s slides in a box in the attic. Have them digitized to preserve, record, and share the images. Many local photography stores offer this service for pennies per slide.
14. Handwritten Letters, Notes, and Journal Entries
There’s something special in reading about someone’s life, as recorded in their own hand. For ease of reading, you can include a photo of the original handwritten record and a transcription.
15. Copies of Everyday Documents
With a book, you have plenty of room to include whatever you like, even things that you might not consider “official documents.” Everyday items that might seem insignificant on their own—dance cards, certificates, invitations, diplomas, awards, ticket stubs, post cards, old envelopes, etc.—can add a new perspective and bring personality to a person’s story.
16. Newspaper Clippings
There’s a unique flavor to the local newspaper. Include clippings about births, marriages, deaths, and local events.
17. Census Records
Census records are a gold mine for researchers—birth place, nationality, education, occupation, family relationships. It’s all here. You can present the entire image, highlighting your particular family, or you can crop it, preserving just the header row and your family’s information.
18. Naturalization Papers and Passenger Lists
Do you have an immigrant in your ancestry? Naturalization papers and passenger lists bring their journey to life. And the documents might even reveal something you didn’t know.
19. List of Places Lived or Pictures of Homes
Create a timeline for a person’s life with a chronological list of their known addresses to help your research. You can even look up the old addresses and compare then and now photos.
20. Land Records and Deeds
In addition to a list of residences, consider adding deeds and other land records. These can be especially helpful in old research where vital records are otherwise scarce. For more recent records, check with your local officials to what’s available about a particular address of interest. Your own home might have a hidden past for you to discover.
21. Funeral Records
Funerals offer a wealth of information about a person’s life and legacy. Eulogy transcriptions, obituaries, funeral programs, remembrances, mass cards, memorial programs, and a photo of the headstone are all invaluable records.
Don’t forget to include the fun stuff! Records of good times spent together are sure to bring a smile and prompt new memories. “Do you remember the road trips to Grandma’s house every summer…?” If you have a lot of photos and memorabilia, consider a book or a chapter focused just on vacations.
23. Declassified Military Records
Ever wondered what Grandpa did in the war? Many military records can be released to next-of-kin. And more records that were once secret or classified are being declassified every year. Check your national archives to see what you can find.
24. Family Recipes
Recipes can often feel like family heirlooms, passed from parent to child for generations. And we all know that no biscuits taste quite the same as Grandma’s secret recipe. Including your mother’s, grandmother’s, or great-grandmother’s recipes in a family history book is a wonderful way to preserve that recipe for future generations. You can even include a digitized copy of her own recipe card, so that you can read the recipe in her handwriting.
Don’t overlook the value of a good index. Put all your research right at their fingertips so readers can instantly find what they’re looking for.
26. Collage Endsheets
Your readers will see the endsheets of your book every time they open it, so make the most of the opportunity with a collage of documents, photos, letters, or anything else you like. You can even highlight your grandchildren’s artwork.
If you’re looking for more content to add to your family history book, consider digging up some of the item types mentioned above. You’ll be amazed at just how much value these items can bring to your family’s legacy.