Family History: Three Things You Didn't Think About

Writing a volume of family history is a huge undertaking, and can feel very overwhelming. Don't forget some visual elements that personalize your family history, and link your family timeline to their place in the world!

Maps make fantastic graphics, whether black-and-white or color. Use public-domain maps (some maps published with taxpayer dollars will fall into this category, both modern and historic), maps with Creative Commons usage that allows publication, or draw your own. Consider adding maps that show the shape of nations at key points in your family's emigration history; maps that show a family's movements over the course of a century; maps of a significant town or county while your ancestor was in residence. Floor plans of a home or property add life to the historic narrative.

Family photos are a must, if you have them. Scan at high resolution (minimum 300dpi; 600 or higher is better), and choose your photo corrections carefully, to avoid distorting the image. Include not just posed family portraits, but the candid shots that bring out personalities. Always caption the images with as much information as you have available. Future generations will appreciate it!

Physical documents can be scanned and included, as well. Seeing Great Auntie's school photo next to her third-grade report card adds vitality to her segment of the history.  Check on-line newspaper archives for excerpts of local or regional publications to round out context with your family stories. For instance, pair a headline from the day Grandfather was born with his baby picture, if there is no birth announcement to be had. What did the local newspaper publish the week your great-grandparents were married? Capture a screen-shot with good software, and add it to your text. Was Great-Grandma of a scientific bent? Hit historical archives for notes on what scientific strides she appreciated most; transcribe them and set them off in a side-bar (with your source noted, of course!)

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