Using AncestryPress: Tips from a Completed Project, by Juliana Smith

Back in June, I wrote about an AncestryPress project my dad and I have been working on, creating a descendants book for our immediate family. At that time, we had laid the groundwork and started loading images. Once we had the book formatted and photos added we decided to get input from the rest of the family.

Prior to the invitation to view the book, getting everyone to contribute their favorite family photos had been like pulling teeth. But once they saw the actual project, photos began pouring in. Perhaps it was the collection of bad 70s pictures we had included for each of my siblings or maybe just seeing the actual book got them a little more excited about it. Whatever the reason, we suddenly had proofreading help and a lot more pictures to add–as well as some requests to “Please, oh please, take that one out!” These changes prolonged the project a bit, but the extra work was worth it. Everyone had great ideas and our book is better for it.

As our project progressed to completion this past week, I learned a few tricks, so in today’s column I’ll share them with you.

Photo Folders
Our project was very image heavy. We were working with more than 100 photographs so we had to figure out a way to sort them so that they weren’t cumbersome to go through while we worked on the pages. To do this we saved them into folders on dad’s computer–one for each person (e.g., Juliana, Diana, etc.) Then when we loaded the images, we created corresponding folders in AncestryPress. These folders for me and my siblings, made it easy to select photos for one person’s section of the book, without wading through photos of other family members.

When people started sending in a second wave of pictures, we ran into some minor complications. With so many pictures scattered throughout the fifty-page book, it was tough to remember which were used and which were new. To avoid duplication, we created a second folder for each person (e.g., Juliana2, Diana2, etc.). This let us work only with the newest pictures. As each photo was used, we would copy it to the original “used” folder for use in future projects and delete it from the later folders. (To move images among folders, just open the folder you want to move it from, click on the image and drag it to the new folder. Then you can click on the link at the bottom of that window to remove the selected image.)

Another helpful tool in locating images in the photo folders was the search box. You can search individual files or all of the photos in AncestryPress by the name of the photograph. This was a real timesaver on a number of occasions.

When it came to working with the timeline and small print, I did two things that helped. First, I expanded my browser to “View Full Screen.” Secondly, whenever I was working with text, I used the slide bar at the top of the AncestryPress tool to zoom in on the page. With the full page on the screen, the type was just too tiny for my eyes to see, even with my reading glasses, and this helped me to make sure there were no typos. Then once I had entered and re-read the text, I went back to full screen and dealt with alignment and arrangement issues.

Editing the Timelines
The timelines turned out to be a big hit. As I mentioned in my last article, we changed the items in the timelines to include events that were more relevant to our family. We added the first airing of favorite television shows, sports events, favorite movies, and other fun trivia.

Dark BackgroundsAPress color vs white2.bmp
On the photograph pages, when we first started putting in the images, we went for lighter colored backgrounds, but as I looked through the pages, the photographs didn’t really stand out. We switched to darker backgrounds and I was amazed at how much it helped make the photos “pop” out of the book. We ended up choosing a particular background for each family in the book, so that their section was consistent with their color. Experiment with various backgrounds and textures and see what works best with the photographs on your pages.APress color vs white.bmp

Also, don’t look at just one page, look at the spread as a whole. You can do this by clicking on the Preview/Print button at the top of the tool. That way you’ll see how the pages look together, just as if you were looking at the real book. Doing this will help you keep styles consistent.

A Celebration Book
I was talking to a cousin who is planning a big birthday party and wants to create a similar book. The book will be about the guest of honor’s life and at the end of the book she is going to add blank pages formatted as a guest registry so that everyone at the party can write a message to the birthday girl. This is a great idea for anniversaries, retirement parties, and other celebrations too.

Last Minute Checks
I was really glad we invited everyone to view the project. The extra sets of eyes caught several typos that we had missed. As you go through the final check of your project, here are some things to consider:

  • Have everyone check their own page if it’s a family project. Or if it’s a surprise for someone, assign sections to other family members who know the person well enough to catch any mistakes. 
  • Use the grid to check alignment, and look at the red line that indicates the page crease. Make sure that no text or images cross that line and become obscured by the crease of the book. 
  • AncestryPress will flag images with a small yellow triangle if they have a resolution that is too low for a good quality print. Go through and look for these warnings. You can usually correct the problem by decreasing the size of the photograph, or by rescanning and reloading a higher resolution image. 
  • Make sure your page headers are consistent. We found several pages that were added later, either didn’t have a headline or had a slightly different format than others in that section.

A Family Affair
While I can’t wait to see the book, which should arrive in one to two weeks, the best part of the experience was working together with my family. The phone calls back and forth and shared memories as we looked for timeline items were the highlight. And when family members that don’t have Ancestry subscriptions learned that they could create projects without one, several more projects were started for the in-laws. If you haven’t tried AncestryPress, I urge you to give it a spin. It’s a great way to preserve your family history–past and present.

To learn more about using AncestryPress, see my past articles on the subject:

Using AncestryPress

A Quick, Easy Project with AncestryPress

Or, visit the AncestryPress section of the Ancestry blog.

Click here to start your family project on AncestryPress.

Click here for a printer friendly version of this article.

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, but she regrets that her schedule does not allow her to assist with personal research.

5 thoughts on “Using AncestryPress: Tips from a Completed Project, by Juliana Smith

  1. When you talk about zoom, is there a way to keep the zoom, and print it? Like in a census record-the print looks so small in my book, and I really just want the lines of my family most of the time.

  2. Gee, maybe now I can actually get around to writing the family history…I just don’t know how to make it interesting without a lot of facts about some generations, other than what I have in my Family Tree Maker file…birth, marriage, death records. I did contact that Keith at and agreed to his terms for doing research. I’m hoping he can connect my Henry, b. 1760 to Francis Hardesty, b. 1734. If that connection can be made, I can take my tree back to 1379 in Hampswaither, England!!! Thanks again for including the link to the newsletter…at least I can once again read it as it should be read!! Dick Hardesty,

  3. Is something going on at ANCESTRY PRESS that is preventing me from accessing their site? I have tried a dozen different links (including the one from my FTM 2009 software and the ones in your articles plus those from pages etc.) and not once in the two weeks I’ve been trying does a page come up.

    Hope someone can tell me if there’s a reason for this……


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