I really like this idea. I have several projects going that include extensive family history research, but theyâ€™re not quite ready for primetime. I would like to be able to put together smaller books to give as gifts to family members. These would make great birthday, Christmas, or anniversary gifts, and they can be created relatively quickly.
The descendant format was perfect for the project Dad and I are creating that celebrates our immediate family.
A Little Family History
We want the book to include a little family history, but go heavier on photographs, biographical info, and memories. Since weâ€™re only dealing with twenty people, I was able to manually enter the data into a personal tree on Ancestry within an hour or so, rather than trying to graft a piece off our main family history file. (Personal trees can be created free without a subscription so anyone can create a similar project, regardless of whether they are a paid Ancestry member or a free registered user.)
Once the information was loaded, I selected the Publish and Print option. AncestryPress then created pages for the book using the information I had entered.
The layout it created gave me a summary page that listed the descendants of my mom and dad, my sisters and me, and all of our children, along with birth dates and marriage years.
The next page was a timeline of events that occurred during my dadâ€™s life, followed by a family group sheet, a timeline for my mom, and then timelines for everyone else. We decided that one timeline per family was enough, and we coupled it with the family group sheet that was automatically created for each family. We switched it so when you looked at the two pages together, the group sheet would be on the left and the timeline on the right.
I edited the timeline, copying the bars and adding text boxes so that each person in the family was represented. We also edited the historical events at the bottoms, getting rid of those we didnâ€™t like and adding others that we thought were more significant to the family. You can learn more about customizing the timelines in the article I wrote last October, Using AncestryPress.Â
So now we had a customized timeline for the entire family and a family group sheet, after which I added blank pages. I used a wallpaper-type background for the first spread and will be adding family portraits in frames. I have another spread for family vacations and weâ€™ll be adding other photo and memory pages as well.
From there it goes to a family group sheet for siblings and myself, along with each familyâ€™s timeline. In between each family, I created more blank pages–one for each child and grandchild. On these we plan to add photos as well as biographical information.
Here are some ideas for text we could add to blank pages to help craft our personal family history: interests, sports and activities, achievements, memories, personal messages, interview questions, and favorites (e.g., movies, books, music, sports teams, etc.)
Personal Background Images
One cool new feature of Ancestry Press is the ability to create custom backgrounds. I mentioned this briefly on the blog last week but you can read a detailed post by Stefanie Condie with some really creative examples on the Ancestry blog. Iâ€™ve also posted a sample of this with a timeline I made up. (Click on the image to enlarge it.)
As of now, itâ€™s still not possible for two people to edit the project from separate locations. Iâ€™m doing most of the assembly while my dad is scanning and sorting photographs and text to use. However, with the share function, I can send him a link to browse the book online and then we discuss whatâ€™s there and he can offer suggestions. Itâ€™s working out well, and once we get a bit further into the project, weâ€™ll be also sharing it with the rest of the family so that everyone can contribute to their respective family sections.
- If youâ€™re planning on using a photograph as a background, scan it at a high resolution, especially if youâ€™re choosing the larger book.Â
- Choose a book size carefully. Unfortunately at this time, there is no way to change it once youâ€™ve begun. You can copy pages between projects of the same size, but you wonâ€™t be able to copy pages to a project of a different size.Â
- Check out â€œManage Pagesâ€ in the top tool bar. This tool makes it much easier to delete and rearrange pages. It was also a timesaver when I had to add those blank pages. I added two blank pages side-by-side in one spread. Then when I went to the page manager, I selected â€œArrange and Manage Double-page Spreadsâ€ and kept duplicating that blank spread. Then I could easily move them to the spaces I needed in between the family group sheet/timeline spreads.Â
- Try out the transparency effect with a photo background spreads. To do this, click on â€œEdit Backgroundâ€ and then adjust the transparency by moving the bar to the left to lighten the image.
- I found the grid (click â€œShow Gridâ€) useful in lining up photographs across the page from one another. It was also a great help when I was editing the timelines to make sure my text lined up nicely.
What About You?
Dad and I are really enjoying the process of putting together our book. The new descendant format made it quick and easy to create our own masterpiece. Eventually I want to put together a more family-history-oriented book, but for the time being this project is moving quickly and we hope to order within the week.
If someone in your family has a birthday, anniversary, or some other special occasion, an AncestryPress book is a unique gift that they will treasure forever. Click here to start your family masterpiece.Â
Have you started an AncestryPress book? Share your experience and tips with us in the Comments section below.
Juliana Smith has been an editor of Ancestry newsletters for ten years and is author of “The Ancestry Family Historian’s Address Book.” She has written for “Ancestry” Magazine and wrote the Computers and Technology chapter in “The Source: A Guidebook to American Genealogy,” rev. 3rd edition. Juliana can be reached by e- mail at Juliana@Ancestry.com, but she regrets that her schedule does not allow her to assist with personal research.