Posted by Ancestry Team on March 30, 2008 in Website

A few months ago I heard a wonderful essay on NPR. The author was reminiscing about making a lanyard for his mother at summer camp when he was a kid. The essay was addressed to his mother. He said something like, “You gave me thousands of warm meals, 18 years of free housing and clean laundry and a college education, and I gave you a lanyard.”

I tried to remember the last homemade present I gave to my mom. I think it was a pencil holder I made by wrapping yarn around an orange juice can sometime during the Ford or Carter administration.

If it’s been a few decades since you created a gift for your mom with your own hands, now would be a great time to give it another try — even if you weren’t an artistic prodigy in elementary school. The new Mother’s Day photo book template in AncestryPress makes it super easy to create a personalized gift in a couple of hours. If you have a little more time, you can take it a step further and create a family history book dedicated to your mom.

I’m going to offer a few tips for creating a photo book in AncestryPress, but keep in mind that you can use all of the backgrounds, page layouts and quotes from the Mother’s Day photo book template in a family history book as well. Do whatever works for you.

1. Pick the page layouts you like. When you select “Photo Books” from the Choose your product page and then select “Mother’s Day Photo Book,” you’ll automatically get 24 pages with pre-designed layouts. Some of the layouts include image boxes only, while others have a combination of text and image boxes. A few have text boxes only.

If you want to include some narrative text, great. You can ask members of the family to write down their favorite story about Mom/Grandma. You can interview your mom and write a brief history of her life. Or you can just put some of your own memories down on paper. If you’re not sure how to start, try finishing the sentences from D.G. Fulford on the AncestryPress home page (there are more where those came from in D.G.’s new book, Things I’d Love You to Know).

If you’d rather tell the stories through images, that’s fine too. Life is short, and there’s no reason to spend all day staring at a blank page if writing just isn’t your thing. Delete the text box pages and add some more pages with image box layouts.

To add a page, go to the “Pages” icon at the top of AncestryPress, click “New Page,” select “Photo and Text Layouts” and then click “Next.” You’ll see a menu of more than 25 different layouts. An even quicker way to add a page is to make a copy of an existing page. Just go to the “Pages” icon and click “Copy page.”

The layouts provided are meant to help you get started. If they work for you as they are, terrific. But it’s really easy to resize the image boxes and move them around, so feel free to modify the layouts and create your own page templates. And you can always add a blank page if you want to design a page from scratch.

2. Add photos to your book. To upload photos from your computer to AncestryPress, click the My Photos tab on the left side of AncestryPress and then click the “Upload Images” button. You can upload multiple images by holding down the Control key. All the photos you’ve uploaded will appear in the My Photos content tray. You can also import photos from Picasa or SmugMug. If you have an online family tree on, you can access the images attached to your tree by clicking the Ancestry Records tab.

To place a photo on a page, drag it over and drop it into an image box by releasing it when the cursor is over the box. If the image box is empty, the photo will fill up the box.


Click to enlarge image

When you place a photo in an image box, the size of the photo adjusts automatically. If the photo has the same aspect ratio as the box, the entire photo will fit inside the box. If the aspect ratio is different, part of the photo will get cut off. You don’t need to crop the photo before you place it on the page. Just drag it over, release the cursor, move the photo so that it’s positioned how you want it, and then click somewhere else on the page. The parts of the photo that were hanging over the edge of the box will get cropped off.

If you drag over a new photo and there’s already an image in the box, a blue outline will appear around the box. You’ll see a dialogue box asking whether you want to replace the image highlighted in blue.


Click to enlarge image

If you click “No,” the new photo will be placed on top of the existing image. You can then resize it and move it wherever you want.


Click to enlarge image

You can choose whether you want to see the dialogue box every time you replace an existing image. Once you’re comfortable with how this feature works, click the box that says, “Always apply during this session.” You won’t see the dialogue box again until the next time you open AncestryPress.


Click to enlarge image

Anytime you want to add a photo to a page without replacing an image, just make sure you release it in a spot where the cursor isn’t over an existing image.

3. Add captions and stories. You can add text by either typing it in or pasting it from another document. If the page layout you’re using has a text box, just drop in the text. If there’s no text box, click the “Abc” icon at the top of the page to create one. You can position the text box anywhere you want on the page. If you don’t like the default formatting, you can use the text editing tools to change the font type, size, color and style.

Here’s an example of how a page with text might look:


Click to enlarge image

4. Change the backgrounds. Every page layout comes with a default background, but you can easily change the background of any page. To browse the available options, click the Backgrounds tab on the left side of AncestryPress.

5. Add quotes and embellishments. Some of the pages in the Mother’s Day photo book template have quotes from famous authors like Robert Browning and Mark Twain. To see all of the Mother’s Day quotes, click the Other Content tab and then go to the Mother’s Day folder. A quote is just like any other embellishment. You can drag it over and place it anywhere you want.

Here’s an example of what you can do in just a few seconds with a quote and a couple of photos:


Click to enlarge image

If you like the layout of a particular page but the quote doesn’t quite fit the photos you’ve picked, use a different quote — or don’t use one at all. Again, do whatever works for you. And, as always, let me know what you think!

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

NOTE: AncestryPress is now MyCanvas

In October 2008, AncestryPress was relaunched under the name MyCanvas. It is still a free, online software program provided by For current information about products and features, please see my more recent blog posts.


  1. Tyler

    That Mother’s Day Photo Book is quite nice. The only problem I’ve having is that as I am experimenting, what I would sometimes like to do is to get back to the professional layout after I’ve fouled things up.

    Is there a way to refresh the original page — that is return to the default layout to start over again?

  2. Stefanie Condie

    Tyler, you can undo your most recent edits by clicking the Undo icon at the top of AncestryPress. If you click it 10 times in a row, it will undo your last 10 edits. I believe you can actually click it up to 50 times if you’ve made that many edits to one page. Another thing you might want to do is make a copy of the page before you start experimenting. When you’re done experimenting, keep the page you like best and delete the other version.

  3. Anja

    It would be great if it was possible to move more than one page around at a time. I am trying to sort my pages together right now and it seems a lot of work and time when i have to move one page at a time.

  4. Adelina Archibeque

    I would like some help on doing this.
    This is my first time doing this so i hope i am doing this right. Adelina

  5. Diane

    I am just unsure of how this is going to look in print. If the words look small on here, will it be too small (at 10) in print?

Comments are closed.