Publish Your Family History
One of the joys of researching your family history is sharing the results. Family trees can be displayed and presented in a wide variety of ways. A beautiful framed chart can be hung on your wall or presented as a gift. The stories of your ancestors can come to life through a published family history book. Old family photos can take on new life as a scrapbook. Your family history can reach a wide audience through a genealogy website or blog.
Write It Down
A written family history can be as short and simple or as long and detailed as you want. To most family members, it will be priceless, regardless of the size or complexity. The first step is to decide what you want your family history to be. Will you begin with an ancestral couple and document all of their descendants, or work your way back up your own direct line? How many generations will your family history cover? Will you include family photographs? Who will buy your book or whom do you plan to share it with?
Once you've decided on some of the basics, the Internet offers a wide range of resources to assist you with your project. GenWriters (www.genwriters.com/write.html) has pulled many of these together in one place, with links to a variety of how-to articles and tips, plus a bibliography of family history writing guides.
If you don't want to do the writing or layout yourself, you can hire an individual or company to prepare your family history for you. Search for family history publishers or genealogy book printer to find companies that can help you with your project. If you're looking for someone to actually write the book for you, the member directory of the Association of Professional Genealogists (www.apgen.org) includes listings for quite a few genealogists who specialize in this area.
Scrapbooking Your Family History
With scissors, glue, pens, and maybe a few die-cuts and stickers, you can quickly spice up your collection of old family photos, and share your family story at the same time. Scrapbooking doesn't have to be fancy. The wide variety of specialty charms, stickers, papers, and other scrapbooking supplies available can certainly jazz things up, but journaling is what makes your history really come alive. Tell the who, when, and what behind every photo and you've done the most important part.
Heritage fonts can do a lot to jazz up your family history project, whether it's for printing journaling and page titles for your scrapbook or to add emphasis to a published family history. Free Heritage Fonts (http://genealogy.about.com/od/fonts) includes themes ranging from medieval and Old English to the groovy 1960s to the Wild West.
There are hundreds of helpful tutorials, templates, journaling suggestions, and theme ideas for family history scrapbooks to be found online. The scrapbooking site at About.com (http://scrapbooking.about.com) will get you started with the basics, including demonstration of a variety of scrap-booking techniques and enough layout and design ideas and links to scrap-booking suppliers to keep you busy for years.
If you prefer computers to paper, you can create scrapbooks digitally as well, with special scrapbooking software or a graphics software program. At About.com Graphics Software (http://graphicssoft.about.com/od/digitalscrapbooking) you can learn all about this newer form of scrap-booking, including how to choose and use software, enjoy dozens of free downloadable scrapbooking kits, and find links to free online tutorials, downloads, and patterns all over the web. The Creative Genealogy blog (http://creativegenealogy.blogspot.com) by Jasia is an excellent place to turn to find unique and beautiful digital scrapbooking kits with a family history theme.
Share Your Family History Online
Probably the easiest way to share your family history online is to publish your pedigree to one of the popular online pedigree databases such as RootsWeb WorldConnect (http://worldconnect.rootsweb.com), Ancestry Member Trees (http://trees.ancestry.com), FamilySearch Family Tree (www.familysearch.org), or GenCircles (www.gencircles.com). All you have to do to use these free services is to upload a GEDCOM file from your family tree program and they turn the information into a series of online searchable pedigrees. This solution allows your family tree to be found by people searching the Internet, yet requires very little work or technical knowledge.
Another easy option for sharing your family history online is to create a page on a site that offers a set of easy tools for putting your family tree online. The popular social networking site Geni (www.geni.com) is one such example. This site took off quickly after its launch early in 2007, attracting more than 5 million users in just five short months who share everything from family trees to a family calendar, messaging, and photo sharing. Geni isn't the only social networking site on the Internet working to attract family historians, however. Others, such as WeRelate (www.werelate.org), MyHeritage (www.myheritage.com/family-tree), and GeneaNet (www.geneanet.org) let you build an online family tree, collaborate with your family members, connect with other researchers, and share photos and recipes. Many offer secure, password-protected sites if you want to keep your family history in the family. You can find a fairly comprehensive list in the social networking section of About.com Genealogy (http://genealogy.about.com/od/social_networking/tp/portals.htm).
If you want a little more custom control over the layout, content, and design of your site, you may want to create a full-blown genealogy website. There are free hosting options, such as the popular FreePages (http://freepages.rootsweb.com) at RootsWeb and TribalPages (www.tribalpages.com). Alternatively, you can purchase space and even your own domain name through any hosting service. Many family tree software programs include nice online publishing features to make sure the process of getting your actual pedigree online is done in a nice, browsable format. For step-by-step guidance, check out the NGS guide Planting Your Family Tree Online: How to Create Your Own Family History Website by Cyndi Howells.
Programs that can help you get your family tree off your computer and on the web include the Next Generation of Genealogy Site Building (http://lythgoes.net/genealogy/software.php), Second Site (http://ss.johncardinal.com) for users of the Master Genealogist, and PhpGedView (http://phpgedview.sourceforge.net). Some programs, such as RootsMagic and Legacy Family Tree, also have good online publishing options built right into the software.
If you've been online at all you've probably heard about blogging. This popular web format is increasingly being used by genealogists to share their family history online. A blog, short for web log, is basically a type of online journal with text, photos, and other goodies. You don't need to know any HTML or programming to use blogging software, and you can use it through a free online hosting service such as WordPress (www.wordpress.com) or Blogger (www.blogger.com). You can also, if you choose, install the software on your own website. A blog varies from a traditional genealogy site by having each entry dated, like a journal, and therefore people expect them to be updated frequently. This makes them a perfect medium for sharing every little setback and success of your family history research as it happens! Think of a blog as your family history research log. If this sounds appealing to you, you can learn the basics of starting your own family history blog in “Blogging Your Family History Search” (http://genealogy.about.com/od/publishing/a/blogging.htm) and learn even more from Thomas MacEntee's “Genealogy Blog Primer” (www.geneabloggers.com/genealogy-blog-primer).