If you have an online family tree on Ancestry.com, you know that this free service provides many, many benefits. You can connect with other researchers whose family trees overlap with yours. You get automatic “hints” of records that may contain information about your ancestors. You can easily attach records you find on Ancestry.com to your tree. You save time while searching with the “type-ahead” feature. You can access your tree when you’re away from your own computer. And you know your data’s safe because of our triple-redundancy back-up system.
Last but certainly not least, in my biased opinion, you can use the MyCanvas publishing service to create family history books and posters based on the data in your tree. If you’re new to family history, new to Ancestry.com or just new to MyCanvas, creating a family tree poster is the perfect project for you because it’s easy and fun — and you’ll get the satisfaction of seeing your family tree come to life in tangible form. You can make a poster that includes as few as four generations or as many as nine.
Step 1: Build an online tree — or upload an existing tree to Ancestry.com.
If you store your family history data in desktop software program, such as Family Tree Maker, you can export your tree as a GEDCOM file and then upload it to Ancestry.com. “GEDCOM” is the universal file sharing format for family history software.
When you create or upload your tree, you’ll be asked to choose a privacy setting. No matter what setting you choose, information about people we believe to be living (based on the birth and death data you provide) is always hidden. Your name and contact information are hidden unless you choose otherwise.
If you’re interested in learning more about the three privacy settings — Public, Private and Hidden — scroll down to the bottom of this post.
Step 2: Create your family tree poster.
To access the MyCanvas publishing service, click the “Publish & Print” button from your online family tree. You can also click the “Print & Share” tab from the Ancestry.com home page, or just follow this link: http://mycanvas.ancestry.com.
From the vertical navigation menu at the top of the MyCanvas home page, click “Products” and then click “Family Tree Posters.” Select your poster format and size. Family tree posters are available in a combination tree format, which has a bowtie shape, or a standard pedigree format. The size of your poster (20×16, 24×18 or 24×36) depends on the number of generations you want to include. You can make a combination tree poster with 4, 5 or 7 generations or a standard tree poster with 5, 6, 7, 8 or 9 generations.
If you have more than one online tree, choose the one you want to use and then pick a starting person for your poster. The starting person can be anyone in your tree. Name your project and then click the orange “Continue” button.
MyCanvas will automatically pull the relevant data from your tree to create your poster. If you have primary photos associated with the people in your tree, it will include those as well. If you have photos attached to a particular person but you haven’t designated a primary photo, no photo will show up for that person (but you can easily add photos to your poster, as described below).
Step 3: Customize the design of your poster.
If you like the clean, simple look of your auto-generated poster, you can go ahead and click the “Order” button. But I’d recommend that you spend at least half an hour customizing your poster’s look and feel. It’s easy to do, and you’ll be happier with the end result because it will reflect your own personality.
Here are some of the things you can do:
The Zoom tool may sound a bit tricky, but it’s super easy to use. I think a screen shot will help you get the idea:
Click to enlarge image
I’m not a professional designer, but here are a few simple design tips for family tree posters based on my experience using MyCanvas.
Tip 1: If you have color photos and black-and-white photos on the same poster, try changing the color photos to black-and-white for a more cohesive look. Better yet, try changing ALL the photos to sepia. Black-and-white photos from different time periods tend to have a lot of variations in tone and hue. Making them all sepia gives you more consistency. I also like the warm, brown tones. Of course, you may have different preferences. The great thing about MyCanvas is that you can experiment with different effects until you figure out what works best for you.
Tip 2: Use embellishments sparingly. A few carefully chosen embellishments can add a touch of warmth and artistry to your poster. Try using the “send to back” and “bring to front” tools to layer some of the elements on your poster. For example, you can position an embellishment so that it’s partially hidden behind a photo or another embellishment. But don’t go overboard. The main focus of the poster should always be your family history information and family photos. My favorite embellishments are in the “Pencil Art” folder. They’re subtle and delicate and won’t overwhelm your family tree data.
Tip 3: Use transparent images to add visual interest. Of course you’ll want the headshots of your ancestors to be fully opaque. But once you get further back in your tree and run out of photos, try bringing in historical postcards or other types of images.* I saw a poster made by a Mayflower descendant who had scanned a painting of America’s most famous ship and placed it over the information about her Mayflower ancestors. She made the image maybe 40% transparent and sent it to the back so that the text in front was easily legible. I’ve seen people use images of a family farm or local church in similar ways.
*Legal disclaimer: If you’re using an image you don’t own, make sure you’re not violating any copyright laws by including it in your MyCanvas project.
Step 4: Print your poster and share it with family members and friends.
Before you order a printed copy of your poster, you’ll want to preview it carefully to make sure there are no mistakes. Use the handy Zoom tool.
We don’t offer framing, but MyCanvas posters come in standard sizes. That makes it easy to purchase a frame at whatever price point you’re comfortable with, from less than $20 to, well, the sky’s the limit if go you to one of those custom framing places. As always, do what works for you.
Don’t forget that you can also share your poster electronically. This sharing feature makes it easy to get feedback from a family member before you order your poster. When you share a MyCanvas project, you can invite the people you’re sharing with to purchase their own printed copy. You can also choose to let them with create their own electronic copy of your project (or not).
Apologies for the long, rambling post. I believe I’ve told you everything you ever wanted to know about family tree posters and then some. In the unlikely event that I left something out, please post your question on this blog so that I can respond for the benefit of the whole community.
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Note about Privacy Options for Online Trees
Since the privacy options have recently changed, I’ll explain what the different settings mean so you can make an educated choice.
How do I hide my tree? When you initially create or upload an online tree, you’ll only see two privacy options: Public and Private. We’re working on getting the Hidden option added to this menu so that it’s easier to find. In the meantime, if you want to hide your tree, you’ll need to select “Private” and then click the “Manage Tree” link right under the tree’s name on your Family Tree page. You’ll see a summary page that shows how many people are in the tree, how many photos you’ve uploaded, etc. In the middle of this page is a line that says, “Is Tree Public?” Click the “change/more info” link and then check the box labeled “Do NOT include this tree in the search index.”
You may be wondering what I mean by “people we believe to be living.” If you’ve provided a birth date but no death date for a specific relative, our system assumes that person is living if he or she was born less than 85 years ago.
Here you will find informational, and sometimes fun, posts from the folks behind the scenes here at Ancestry.com. We hope you’ll notice just how passionate we are about family history and about the products we’re building to help connect families over distance and time.Visit Ancestry.com