Posted by Ancestry Team on February 24, 2009 in Website

One of the most frequent comments I hear from members is, “My family tree goes back eight (or ten or twelve) generations, and I want to include all of them in my family history book.” So just to clear up any confusion: When you create a MyCanvas family history book, you have to START with three, four or five generations. But there’s no limit to the number of generations or the number of ancestors you can include in your book. There is a page limit, however ― 250 pages ― so if you have a very large tree you may want to create multiple volumes focused on different branches.

I thought it might be helpful to walk you through the steps for creating a family history book that goes back more than five generations. I last covered this topic in the blog a year ago. Since then we’ve made a few changes to the interface, so it’s probably a good time to revisit this topic.

If you’re new to MyCanvas,’s online self-publishing service, you can get to it by clicking the “Print & Share” tab from the home page or by clicking the “Publish & Print” button from your online family tree:

Publish and Print
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You can also go directly to I may be biased, but I suspect that this will soon be one of your favorite sites, so you’ll probably want to create a bookmark so that you can easily find your way back later.

From the MyCanvas home page, click the “Start a Project” button to see the available product categories.

Start a Project
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To explore the various cover options for family history books, click “Learn More” in the vertical navigation menu at the top of the page, then click “Covers & Binding.”

Covers and Bindings
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Don’t spend too much time obsessing about the cover options at this stage, since you can always change your cover choice later. Really the only thing you can’t change later is the size of your book, so think carefully about whether you’d rather make an 11×8.5-inch book or a 14×11-inch book.

From the “Choose a Product” page — which you can get to from the “Products” link in the vertical navigation menu or the “Start a Project” button on the home page — choose “Family History Book.”

Choose a Product
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Then select a format for your book: Standard, Combination or Descendant. The format you choose determines what kind of chart appears on the first page of your book and which ancestors are automatically included in your book.

Choose Format
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On the next page you’ll choose the size of your book and how many generations are automatically included. You’ll also select an online tree (if you have more than one) and a starting person (or couple, if you choose the Combination format) for your book. The starting person can be anyone in your tree.

Choose Starting Person
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In this example, I’m creating a combination, 4-generation book with my grandparents as the starting couple. That doesn’t mean that my book is limited to four generations. It just means that when I hit the orange “Continue” button at the bottom of the page, the system will automatically generate a set of pages — including family trees, family group sheets, timelines and record pages (if applicable) — for my grandparents and their children, parents and grandparents.

On my grandmother’s side, my information doesn’t go much further back than those first four generations. But on my grandfather’s side, I have some lines that go back eight or nine generations. I can easily include those more distant ancestors in my book by inserting additional pages. One of the lines for which I have a lot of data is my grandfather’s straight paternal line. In the family tree page at the beginning of my book, that line ends with Karl Speth, my grandfather’s grandfather.

JS Family Tree
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I can add Karl Speth’s ancestors to my book by creating a new family tree page starting with him. To do this, I click the Pages icon in the main toolbar and then click “Add pages.”

Add Pages Menu
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A new page pops up, showing me all of the available family history page templates.

Add New Pages
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I select the Standard Family Tree and click the yellow “Add Page(s)” button in the bottom right corner.

New Family Tree Page
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I select a tree and a starting person for the new family tree page. The tree does not have to be the same as the tree I used when I started the book (although it is in this case). Note that I also have the option of adding other family history pages — family group sheets, timelines and record pages — for the people in the new family tree chart.

KS Family Tree
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You can use this process to add family history charts starting with anyone in your tree, which is a good way to include distant ancestors as well as collateral ancestors like aunts, uncles and cousins. Once you’ve created all the family history charts you want to include in your book, you’re just getting to the fun part: adding photos and stories and customizing the design of your book. But that’s a topic for another blog post…


  1. Colleen Matheny

    Thank you so much for reviewing how to begin a family genealogy book. I have let you publish one book for me and now I am working on my second book gathering information, so since it’s been over a year since I published the last book, I appreciate having a review.

  2. Billy Mattox

    Thank You, I had been puzzled at how I was going to publish eight generations. A burden has been lifted.

  3. Adrienne MItchell

    Thank you so much. This information is quite helpful as I’m new to the process. Forgive me if I’ve missed the boat here, but wondering can I print out all generations (currently working on 5th generation info) to fit on one page to insert into the book?

  4. Stefanie Condie

    Adrienne, the maximum number of generations you can include on a single page is five. We haven’t figured out how to include more data on a page and still make the text legible. We have talked about possibly doing some kind of fold-out, but I don’t think that’s going to be available anytime soon.

  5. do we have to sign in each time we visit here, how do we get started? I have a list of pages and dates, of my family, dating back to my Grandfather, when he was born, when he died, also my Grandmother, when she was born, when she died, and hers and my Grandfathers 7 children, their birthdates, and dates of their death, $of children, grandchildren, great Grandchildren, I would like to get them all in book form,
    it would be great to get it done. I have been working on this about almost 10 years.

  6. I scanned many photos into but when I transfered into My Canvas to begin a project my photos did not transfer. Only the ones on the primary person transfered and not all of those. What am I doing wrong.

  7. Kristopher Baker

    I found this article very helpful. This is my first attempt to complete a record of my family and my first forey into the area of grneaology. Your article clarified several points for me. Than you.

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