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Tips to Research, Write, and Print a Family History Book

August 23, 2022 (Last Updated August 24, 2022)

48 Hour Books

Looking to write and print a Family History book? Here are some tips from 48 Hour Books to help you through the process!

Compiling a family history can seem like a daunting task. The first decision you must make is deciding what the primary use for your family history book will be. Will it be a keepsake for other family members? Or is it a genealogy book that you are going to market and sell?  Depending on the answer to this question, you may want to take a specific approach.

Researching your family history:

Take advantage of online resources when investigating and writing your family history.

  • Enter your name into website databases on ancestry.com and myheritage.com to find details about your family history. These sites help generate family trees, some even without a subscription, which are great additions to a family history book.
  • Genealogy software can help organize data and research. Look for sites with free trials. When selecting genealogy software, make sure you can export graphics and documents as a PDF.
  • Consider DNA testing with databases such as 23andMe.com that can give you genetic breakdowns, help you locate family members, and provide evidence of ancestry.

Layout & organization:

Organization: When writing your Family History there are different approaches you can take when it comes to organizing the material.  You can take a strictly narrative approach, where you set up your book in chapters and chronologically narrate the history. You can incorporate photos in each chapter, or a montage of photos in the middle or at the end of the book. If you are writing a genealogy book that you plan to sell, you may want to take a more structural approach with different sections, based on significant periods in your history.

Indexing: Family Histories can have a dense amount of material, so it may be useful to include an Index in your book. This way, if readers want to look up a specific name, they can use the Index to quickly find it. 48 Hour Books does not offer indexing but be sure to look up how-to guides on Microsoft Word to help you create your Index.

Footnotes: Footnotes are also a useful addition when referring to certain time periods. If there is a unique word, phrase or event associated with a time period that is not common, readers can look at the footnotes for more information on the subject.

Photography:

  • A great way to display your family history is through your use of photography. At 48 Hour Books we can print black-and-white as well as full-color images. Printing in color is more expensive than printing in black-and-white, so if you have color images that you want to be in black-and-white, we can convert these to grayscale for you. If you still want some color, consider adding some color photos in the middle or at the end of the book in a montage format with captions. If your book contains a lot of color photos, we recommend 80# gloss text paper, rather than the standard 60# white offset.
  • If you are including photos, they must already be placed in the inside pages of your book before you upload your PDF files to us.
  • Many Family History books include photos that have been scanned from old scrapbooks. If the photos are old, there is a good chance that they are low-resolution. To make your photos high-resolution, be sure to set your scanner on the photograph setting and set it to at least 300 dpi (dot per inch).

Printing your family history book

It is important to have a clear vision of how you want your family history book to be set up. You should first determine the size and type of binding:

Size: 48 Hour Books offers free book templates that open in Microsoft Word in four standard sizes:

  • 4.75 x 7
  • 5.5 x 8.5
  • 6 x 9
  • 8.5 x 11

You can input your book into the template and set it up any way you choose-just make sure you convert the file to PDF format once you are done, as we require PDF files.

Type of Binding: Case Bound (hardcover) books are perfect for Family History books because they hold up well over time and can support a large page count. Case Bound books take 5 business days to print, rather than 48 hours like our perfect bound (paperback) books, so take this timing into account before you order. We do have Rush options available if you are on a time constraint! 

Covers: If you are creating a family keepsake, these can in some ways be less formal with more personal touches. When designing the cover, you might decide to make it more fun by showing a group family photo or by using a playful design.

If you are creating a genealogy that you plan to sell, you may want to design a more professional-looking cover that is eye-catching.

 If you need help constructing your cover, 48 Hour Books has a Create-a-Cover option for $100.  With this option you can choose a general layout, a background color and texture, and any additional instructions and photos you want included. Our prepress technicians take your options and then assemble your cover using these elements. The $100 is a one-time fee, so if you receive your cover proof and decide you want to change an element on it such as the background color, this is no problem.  We also have cover templates available in the 5.5 x 8.5 size that you can use to design your own cover, which open in InDesign.

Since many family history books are keepsakes, you may opt for special cover options, such as cloth and leather covers, paired with a dust jacket or foil stamping. We recommend looking at other family history books to see what book covers you find most appealing.

You can get instant pricing on your family history book using our price calculator

When you print your family history or genealogy book with 48 Hour Books, you have access to a team of experts. See our self-publishing guide and order your free copy of The Ultimate Guide to a 48 Hour Book here.

We’re here to help every step of the way. Contact us today to get started!

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Sign up for the 48 Hour Books newsletter to learn how to self-publish your book — and get it printed faster with us than anywhere else.

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