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Making a family history book

Updated on September 6, 2014

Why I decided to make a family history book

As a youth, I didn’t get the chance to visit with many relatives. My father passed away about two weeks before my seventh birthday, and my mother never learned to drive, so we didn’t get out much. I only had one living grandparent when I was born, and he passed away when I was thirteen. A year later my mother died in an automobile accident. After that, my younger brother and I lived with my oldest brother and his family.

As I matured, I felt this desire to know more about my family roots, but I really didn’t have much to go on. I knew my grandparents names, and I knew that we had Native American blood from my father’s side of the family, but that was about it. I didn’t think that I would get far, but I had to try. I began by just plugging my grandfather’s name into a search engine, and found a link leading to a post made by a cousin. She had hired someone to research our family history on my father’s side of the family. In just a few minutes of reading, I found out more about my heritage than I had ever imagined. I was able to trace my father’s family all the way back to the year 1750, and to the state of Tennessee. We had been told by some family members that we were part Choctaw, but I didn’t think that was correct, considering that our family came from Tennessee. As it turned out, I discovered that we were actually of Cherokee descent. Of course we could also have Choctaw linage as well. I went about tracing my mother’s side of the family the same way, and found a detailed family history for the Stafford side of our family dating back to 1640, in the state of Virginia. I subscribed to so that I had the ability to do my own research, and just recently I subscribed to for military records.

I now had a wealth of information on my hands, but wasn’t sure what to do with it. With as much as I had, after it was broken down and processed, the material would only fill a dozen pages, and I wanted this project to be more than just a family tree. You see, I wanted my son to know more than just the names of the grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins that he had never met. I wanted him to know about them. I was faced with a dilemma however; I didn’t know that much about them myself. It is one thing to look up family names, birth dates, or marriages with census records, but even a smidgeon of information on an ancestor's life proved to be almost impossible to come by. In the grand scheme of time, it wasn’t that long ago that my grandparents lived, worked, and played, yet today it’s as if they never existed. With these thoughts in mind, I set about laying out the design for our family history book, and I decided that the main content would focus upon the living.

My great grandparents, Noah, and Sarah Jane Stafford.  Noah was born in the year 1855
My great grandparents, Noah, and Sarah Jane Stafford. Noah was born in the year 1855

Laying out the design of your book

1. Create a cover design for the book

2. You, the primary author should write a forward, explaining how and why the book came to be.

3. A coat of arms section

4. The family tree page. Try to be creative. If you have an artist in the family, have them draw, or paint your own custom family tree. Make sure that they sign their artwork.

5. A family diagram page, as family trees can sometimes be hard to understand

6. A photo section of your ancestors if possible, along with ancestral history. Include career information. Were they farmers, bakers, or bankers?

7. A chapter dedicated to how you went about your research, including copies of census records, marriage licenses, military records and so on.

8. Let your family know about your hobbies, your favorite books and movies. Include photos to help illustrate your passions.

9. Ask each of your relatives to put together a list of their hobbies, and what makes them tick. Ask them for photos as well. For instance, If someone is a fossil hunter, get photos of their prize finds, and the story of how they found them.

10. A family story page. Almost everyone has family stories that get shared and reshared through the years. I can remember one story of a relative that was walking home one night with her husband from a rural bus stop. They say that she got tired of carrying her baby, and thought she passed infant to her spouse. When they got home, she asked, "where's the baby?" He told her that he had no idea. It's said that they got a search party together, and found the child safe and sound inside of a black bear's den. Idon't know if it's true, and it happened so long ago that it could never be varified, but it's a story worth sharing.

11. Write a conclusion that will inspire someone from the next generation to produce a sequel one day.

12. Ask everyone to chip in enough to pay for their own copy of a nice perfect bound book. You can get your book printed through for a reasonable price.

By creating a detailed family history, you can leave behind something of yourself, and your immediate kin for future generations. This is information that might otherwise be lost forever.

My grandparents, Cora and David Henry Guinn.
My grandparents, Cora and David Henry Guinn.

A family tree sample made for this article

There's a number of ways that a family tree can be designed. Unlike most, I use the roots of the tree to show my ancestors. Do we not referr to our ancestors as being our roots? It is easier to read this way as well.
There's a number of ways that a family tree can be designed. Unlike most, I use the roots of the tree to show my ancestors. Do we not referr to our ancestors as being our roots? It is easier to read this way as well.

This is a painting that I did back in 1989. I added it to our family history book, since painting is one of my hobbies.

Closing words

I chose to include a photo of one of my paintings in our family history book. The painting is a scene of Native Americans, so this fits in well with our family history. I made a sample of our family tree for this article, because the detail of ours was too small to show it properly. You should create a diagram of your family tree first, this will make it easier to create the tree. It's a good idea to have someone that can print legibly to write the names of the family in the tree. That way, if you do not know all of your ancestors names, you can add them in later on without it looking out of place. Just include empty roots as I have done in the example.


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    • Randall Guinn profile imageAUTHOR

      Randall Guinn 

      3 years ago from Pinellas Park, Florida

      Thanks for taking the time to read my stuff Joe. I appreciate your kind words.


    • Joe Fiduccia profile image

      Joe Fiduccia 

      3 years ago from Monroe County, PA

      Love tip #10. We ALL have a story to share. Whether it's a moment of fun, sadness, perseverance, or is your very suggestion in this article that will help ALL of our legacies alive, long after we say goodbye. Well done. Thank you!

    • Randall Guinn profile imageAUTHOR

      Randall Guinn 

      4 years ago from Pinellas Park, Florida

      It is good to know about where you came from and what professions and hobbies, or talents our ancestors had. Thanks for reading.

    • profile image


      4 years ago

      I have just joined Ancestry and have enjoyed finding a wealth of information. Making a family tree is exciting and fun. just being able to find our roots and close the missing gaps is so nice and will be passed on to my kids and grandkids.

    • profile image

      Randall Guinn 

      4 years ago

      Thank you so much for taking the time to read my hub Jackie. Your input is very much appreciated!

      Take care,


    • Jackie Lynnley profile image

      Jackie Lynnley 

      4 years ago from The Beautiful South

      Great informative article and I love the art; you are very good. Voted up and shared.

    • Randall Guinn profile imageAUTHOR

      Randall Guinn 

      4 years ago from Pinellas Park, Florida

      Thanks Linfcor! I appreciate you taking the time to comment, and I hope that you do find something worthy here. It can be hard to get some family members to do their part, but it's a good way to pull everyone together, and leave something for your descendants as well.

    • linfcor profile image

      Linda F Correa 

      4 years ago from Spring Hill Florida

      What a great idea and well expressed. As a professional scrapbook artist, I have to admit I never gave this ideas a thought. Will sure incorporate lots of your ideas in my future projects !


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