How to Write a Family History Book to Preserve Your Family Stories

Family History
29 August 2023
by Ancestry® Team

How much do you know about your family history? Whether you’re just starting or have a huge amount of research, a family history book is a creative way to organize and document that information. Figuring out how to write a family history book can help you preserve family information for future generations.

Researching and preserving your family history helps you better understand yourself. It puts a personal twist on history with personal accounts of your relatives’ experiences during various historical periods. You might find inspiration from ancestors who overcame huge challenges or made a major contribution to society.

Ancestry® can help you get started on your family tree history book with genealogy research. You can access billions of records, upload photos and use Ancestry Hints® to get help with your research. With the information you find, you have a good start for writing a family history book for you and your relatives.

What Should You Include in a Family History Book?

  • When you’re figuring out how to write a family history book, you might wonder what should go into the pages. You can include as much or as little detail as you want. Focus on the family as a whole or just on a specific aspect, such as family relationships or tracking where your ancestors lived.

Custom family history books can include different formats of information. Written details and recounted stories work well, but you can also add photos, copies of records, and other ways of presenting the information you find. Some features to consider include:

  • Stories from family members
  • Family timeline
  • Maps showing where family members originated or moved
  • Profiles and photos of individual family members
  • Photos
  • Artifacts such as tickets, report cards, and handwritten notes
  • Family recipes
  • Newspaper clippings
  • Family crest
  • Signatures from ancestors
  • DNA test results
  • Letters and diary entries

How to Collect and Write Your Family History

Large family group, 1885, Wikimedia Commons
Large family group, 1885, Wikimedia Commons

Before you start looking at family history book examples or planning your own book, you need to collect the information you want to put into it. Here are some ways to find the information you need:

  • Start with your knowledge. You probably already have more knowledge than you realize about your family, starting with the relatives you’ve known in your life. Write the details you remember or think you know about those people. You can fact-check it later.
  • Ask relatives. This is your chance to expand to other living family members. You might create a series of family interview questions to gather information or simply ask them to share any stories, memories, or facts they know about the family. 
  • Check records. The records you and your family members already have, such as old birth certificates or family bibles, could have details you can add to your research. 
  • Conduct genealogy research.Ancestry can help you verify the information you have and uncover new details about your family. Start with what you know and search for more records and information as you conduct genealogy research. 
  • Document everything. Write down all information you receive, even if it might not seem significant. If you interview family members orally, take an audio recording of the conversation so you can go back over the details later. 
  • Make copies. When you can find documents, certificates, photos, journals, and other items, make copies of those things. This gives you a backup copy that you can incorporate into your book. You can also refer to the copy for details as you put together your book. 

Now that you have your raw family data, you need to turn it into something compelling that people want to read. Think about your favorite historical fiction or even present-day stories. They include descriptive language and tell a story rather than just stating facts. Starting with an outline of the information you want to include gives you a framework for your storytelling. Then, you can weave more into it when you tell the story. 

One way to make the writing more interesting is to write it from an ancestor’s perspective. Use language they would have used in whatever era they lived through. Writing it as a journal entry from the person can also add a fun twist. Other ideas include dialogue between relatives, stories told from different family members’ perspectives, and a more general history approach personalized with your family’s experiences. 

You can also choose different formats based on how you want to present the information. Try one of these options:

  • Chronological. This format moves through time, starting at the earliest point and going through the endpoint. Using a chronological format can help readers easily understand the timeline when you’re focusing heavily on specific events. 
  • Thematic. Instead of taking a strict historical perspective, choose a specific theme for the book and focus the stories around it. This might include a focus on careers or where family members lived. 
  • Memoir-based. In this approach, you tell stories about your relatives rather than just listing facts. It could be from their perspective or retellings of stories you’ve heard about them. 

Steps and Tips on How to Write a Family History Book

With your information collected and narratives written, you’re ready to pull it together into a book. Follow these steps to make it happen:

  • Brainstorm your ideas. This might include choosing a theme and deciding what to include. You might also decide if you want to create a digital book or a scrapbook-style item. Looking at family history book layout ideas can help you brainstorm and decide what you like. 
  • Plan the layout. Put those ideas into a structured format. Choose what you’ll put on each page, including written information and photos. Give it a title, which could be as simple as “my family history book” or incorporate creative details.  
  • Put together the pieces. Before you commit items to the book, check the layout to make sure you like it. Make any changes you want to make after editing and proofreading the book. 
  • Get feedback. If you’re creating the book for your whole family, invite others to provide input. They might have corrections, suggestions for changes, or additional information that could round out the book. 
  • Publish your story. When you’re happy with your final layout, you’re ready to publish. If you’re doing a handmade scrapbook, this might mean gluing the pieces to the page. For a digital book, it could mean submitting it to be printed. 

These tips will help you better decide how to write a family history book:

  • Hold the reader’s attention. Create engaging written content that’s short to avoid overwhelming anyone who picks up the book. Include lots of pictures to keep it interesting.
  • Don’t include everything. Your family history is full of details. Trying to pack it all into the book can be too much. Pick the best options for each page or theme to make it a high-quality family history book. 
  • Add fun extras. Depending on how you create and publish your book, consider adding extra details, such as QR codes that lead to audio and video clips and fold-out timelines.
  • Use quality materials. High-quality paper and covers protect your hard work to create a long-lasting book. Upgrading to better materials also makes your book look better on a coffee table. 

Ways to Publish and Share Your Family History Book

Family register, 1869, Library of Congress
Family register, 1869, Library of Congress

You can publish your family history in a variety of ways. Here are a few ideas:

  • MyCanvas: Ancestry makes it easy to create a printed family history book thanks to its partnership with MyCanvas. The family history book lets you connect to your Ancestry account to easily incorporate your family’s information into the template. 
  • Scrapbook: If you enjoy scrapbooking, create a family history scrapbook that includes written documentation along with pictures. You can easily add artifacts as embellishments. 
  • Home copies: You can create a book using editing software on your computer. You can then print and bind the pages at home.

Document Your Family History

No matter how you document what you find, starting your family history search can be a rewarding experience. You learn more about yourself while documenting what you learn for future generations so your family’s history lives on. Try to gain insight about your own family with an  Ancestry free trial

If you’d prefer to work with professional writers and designers on a family history book project, AncestryProGenealogists® has a team that can help. For more information on the products and services that are available, see