If you’re like me, sometimes it’s hard to find the balance in conversations with our relatives. While my intent is to have a casual conversation designed inspire and pique their interest in our shared history, I fear they equate me with a religious zealot trying to proselytize them. (I’m hoping my hairstylist doesn’t also feel this way; he said he was going to go home after my last appointment and sign up for Ancestry.com. I hope he was sincere and not trying to get me to shut up!) But I digress.
Sharing our interest can be tricky, but it doesn’t have to be. About two years ago I began working on the story of my ancestors, specifically Lavina Bursley and her husband, Albert Stanwood. I wanted to know who they were, not just where they lived and what they named their children. I wanted to share this information with my relatives, hoping to inspire them and not turn them off. I was a little uncertain how to tackle the sharing part of the project, until visiting Lynn Palermo’s Armchair Genealogist blog, where she has several posts about using photo books to share family history stories.
Photo books are great. The old saying that “a picture is worth a thousand words” is so true. Pictures draw the reader in. They get them interested. They don’t feel “preachy.” They make the viewer feel part of something bigger, part of a legacy. Pictures are powerful.
For Christmas, I decided to make three photo books to give as gifts to my sister and my two aunts. Each book contained two parts: a customized section with photos of the recipient’s own family and family tree, and a second, core section that was the same in each book, containing the story of Albert and Lavina (Bursley) Stanwood. The books were designed to:
- Show pictures of the generations of women in our family, going back to Lavina (Bursley) Stanwood, our oldest, photographed female ancestor.
- Add enough modern day pictures and information to make the books interesting even to the non-genealogist, and hopefully get them to keep turning the pages to read about Albert and Lavina.
- Tell our family history in a story format, bringing in details that are interesting. I included visual items as much as possible, such as the homestead documents, newspaper clippings, letters, postcards, photographs, and other items that could replace text.
The goal, of course, is that some day these books will find their way to someone who has a genuine interest in genealogy and who may want to know where this information came from. So, in addition to the photos and other items, I wished to also include about 30 pages of text with end notes, and there really wasn’t a platform with any of the well-known vendors that was designed to create both simple photo books with themes as well as books heavy in text with citations. After checking around, I did find one publisher that worked, albeit with a little creativity: Mixbook. The good news? I have family members ASKING for books, interested in the history and wanting to know more!
Here’s why I chose Mixbook:
- Mixbook allows a mix and match of themes.
- Mixbook has a family history theme already developed.
- Mixbook provides the freedom to design your own pages beginning with a blank page.
- Mixbook has a great work-around for creating the superscript needed for footnotes and end notes.
Creating the superscript was a single step process. Simply create a new text box in the Mixbook editor window, select the correct font and size, then slide the superscript into position next to the text that is to be cited. (I used a 9-point font for the superscipt, and 12-point font for standard text.)
The end notes appeared at the end of the history; this seemed more palatable to non-genealogists than using footnotes.
Here is a sample of a finished book, tweaked for web display: