A comprehensive family history is a project of such incredible proportions that it can seem impossible to tackle. And while it will never be an easy project, breaking it out into simpler, more manageable steps can make it seem much more feasible. If you want to write and publish your own family history book, here are 6 steps that you can follow to make the task much easier to complete.
Set a Scope for Your Project
One of the main reasons people are so daunted by the idea of creating a family history book is that they don’t set a scope for the project. Your family history can expand for millennia, and branch out to include millions of people. So, you need to set a clear framework for just how much you’re going to write and publish. Are you looking to publish a family tree of all your family lines? Or do you want to do a slightly more detailed history of a single family line? How far back in your family history are you going to go?
Remember that nobody’s family history is ever truly “complete,” and there is nothing wrong with publishing the data you already have, even if it is just a single family line. If you wait around for another great discovery or gem of information, you’ll most likely wind up never publishing your family history book. Publish what you have, and enjoy the feeling of accomplishment that comes with completing such a project. Then, you can go on and work on another book to add to your family’s written legacy.
Set a Clear Timeframe
If you’ve done any reading on goal-setting, you know that setting a deadline for your goal is one of the most important steps in ensuring that it actually gets done. Your family history book is no exception. Set a timeframe for when you want to have your book completed and published, then break that timeframe down into smaller steps with their own deadlines. This gives you a clear structure to follow that will help keep you on track to ensure your family history book gets done.
Decide on a Structure for the Book
The scope that you choose for your family history book may help to guide this decision, but it’s important that you decide what kind of structure you’d like the book to have. Not all projects have to have a complete, flowing narrative of where your ancestors came from. Often, a simple collection of images and documents can make the impact you’re hoping for. You can include a few short stories and captions along with the images, but allow the documents and photos to be the focus of your family history.
Many of our clients here at Legacy Books have taken this route and have been incredibly happy with the results. So, don’t assume that there is only one correct structure for your family’s history. Take a look at the information and documents you have, and let those items guide you in choosing a structure for your family history book that is as unique as your family’s legacy.
If you’re not sure what structure you want, try to view other family history books and find a format you like. We have a great collection of images from our completed projects that can give you inspiration. Of course, you don’t have to mimic another layout exactly; just let it inspire and guide you in choosing the right structure for your family history book.
Organize What You Have
Once you’ve selected a structure, it’s time to start organizing the documents, photos, stories, and data you have. There’s no right or wrong way to organize your family history book, but here are a few options you might consider, depending on the structure you’ve selected:
- A chapter for each generation, with applicable images and stories
- A family line chart, with images next to individuals’ names
- Stories and images chronologically, with documents in the back for reference
- A family tree for each generation, with references to images, stories, and documents compiled on other pages
Once you’ve organized what you have, you can see where there are gaps, and do more targeted research to fill in those empty spaces and give your family history a richer and more robust storyline.
Supplement Individual Histories with Regional History
If you have names, dates, and places for your ancestors, but you don’t have much in the way of stories or pictures, consider researching important events in the area when your ancestor lived there. For example, if your ancestor was born in Payne County, Oklahoma, in 1894, there’s a good chance that ancestor’s family was part of the Land Rush of 1889 in Oklahoma, where approximately 50,000 settlers raced to claim unassigned lots of land. Finding and adding this kind of background information to your family history can add a new dimension to your story and give you a more complete look at your ancestors’ lives.
Legacy Books is just one of many research firms that can help with adding this depth and interest to your family history.
Have It Printed and Bound
Finally, once you’ve organized your data and done any additional research, it’s time to start working towards publication. There are many routes you can take with this, but with the sheer amount of time and effort you’ve put into this project, it is well worth the cost of having this done professionally. If you’ve put hundreds of hours into making this family history book possible, why would you settle for a sub-par product in the end?
Legacy Books creates high-quality, professional family history books that are custom designed to preserve your family’s legacy. And, we’ll save you an incredible amount of time and stress when compared to a DIY printing service. Contact us to learn more about our services and how we can bring your family history book to life.