How to Make a Family History Booklet

This weekend I finally finished writing a family history booklet on my husband’s Norwegian ancestry.  (You can see it here: Ancestry of the Olaf and Peggy (Pederson) Johnson Family of Spring Brook Township, Minnesota.)  I also just watched the BCG-sponsored lecture “Writing Up Your Research” by Michael Leclerc, CG.  Here is what I have learned in the process.

First, like Mr. Leclerc notes in his lecture, writing up genealogy doesn’t mean we have to write a book like War and Peace.  Start small, and you can build up from there if you want to later.

I wrote my booklet using PowerPoint.  My topic was the ancestry of my husband’s great-grandparents, including topics such as the immigration to America and initial settlement here.  Each page has a title and theme, just like any standard PowerPoint presentation, and about two paragraphs of text, and either one or no images, usually one.  The image is from a record, a map, a photo, or a family tree chart.  Unlike a standard presentation, I wrote in sentences rather than bullets to include more information, and because it is really meant to be read.  In PowerPoint I used the basic Office Theme, since I want to the final product to feel more like a book than a presentation.

This format with a theme per page helped me organize my information and cover just enough information on any one topic.  I enjoy watching many of the genealogy TV shows, and my husband suggested I consider the format of Finding Your Roots to help organize my booklet. The show gives interesting information about the family, often shown using documents, alternating with historical background.  The show ends with DNA information.  For this booklet I asked an older member of the family to take a DNA test, and like the show, I did indeed include the DNA test results near the end of my booklet.

The trickiest part of the writing was managing source citations.  Unlike Word, PowerPoint has no internal knowledge of source citation, neither footnotes nor endnotes.  I managed the citations on my own.  I placed the references in superscript, kept track of numbering them chronologically, and added Endnote pages.  On endnote pages I used font size 12.  This was to keep the number of endnote pages reasonable (10 out of 40 pages total), and because anyone caring to look at endnotes was probably either willing to take the time to zoom in when reading on a screen, or reading a print-out version.

With PowerPoint it is easy to create a PDF.  When I distribute it to the family, it can be read easily either on a screen or printed out, however the end user prefers.  I print it in “Full Page Slides” format.  I also tried the print in “1 Slide” format with the “Frame Slides” option unselected, to add extra margin on the page, but that didn’t end up being necessary.

Following these steps, I have created a family history booklet to share with my family.  I hope you find this helpful.  Best of luck in your research.

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