Publishing Family History

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Publishing Your Family History Book

By Libby Feil

Have you ever dreamed of publishing your family history research? Would you like to write up what you've discovered so that the information can easily be passed on to other family members or even to the public at large? Here are some ideas to help you with this.

First, of course, you have to carry out research on one or more families. Come in to Local & Family History Services and let us help you get started or get past a roadblock.

Next, you have to put together a book for publication. Should you include reproductions of photographs? What should you do with letters, recipes, and documents you've found? Should you lay out your family trees as charts, written narratives, or something else entirely? These helpful manuals can help you figure out the answers to these questions:


Family tree software, such as the Family Tree Maker software that the Library makes available, can help you create family trees and charts to put in your book. The Local & Family History Department has Family Tree Maker 2006 loaded on our computers, which you can use in our room, or you can check out the 1996 version from the Sights & Sounds Department.

Finally, you have to decide how to publish your work. Most family histories are not candidates for traditional publishing by big publishing houses; they just won't have a large enough audience to interest the big publishers. But you can still have the satisfaction of seeing your work in print. For most family historians, self-publishing is the way to go.

Self-publishing needn't be expensive. Consider your audience. If you just want to make a few copies to give out to your close family, if your book was not created on the computer, or if you feel that you might want to make changes later on when you've done more research, there's no point in investing in traditional bound books. Why not simply self-publish through your closest local copy store? Copy shops have become very sophisticated, and can offer you many options to make your final product look professional, including different colors and weights of paper and a variety of bindings and covers. Just make sure to request a proof and bill in advance of final printing, so you can make sure the final version looks as it should and costs what you expect.

If you'd really like to produce a more traditional hard- or paperback book, there are also cost-effective options for that. With the advent of the internet, self-publishing web sites have sprung up to help you out. All you need is a computer file of your book in any one of multiple formats (including Acrobat PDF, Microsoft Word, WordPerfect, Microsoft Works, Microsoft PowerPoint, and dozens of others). You then choose the binding, colors, and cover art, and voila! You can pay for and print as many copies as you'd like, as often as you'd like, or you can tell people about your book and let them purchase it themselves.

Whichever publishing method you choose, don't forget: if you need help along the way, you can always come in to Local & Family History and ask for help!

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Created by: Libby Feil, December 2006
Last updated June 9, 2011

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