How to Show off Your Family History 3

Have you thought about how you are going to show off all the work you have done on your family history? My local family history group had a session recently where people brought in examples of what they had done with their family research.

The first person showed us a large book which had been compiled as a 'book of days'. For each day of the year there was some story about the family or about a place connected with that family. She said it was left on a stand in the house, open to the correct day, so that as people walk by it they can read something connected with that day.

Book of Days. Photo Credit: Jenny Joyce

The next person showed us a large A3 folder. At the beginning was a chart of her family tree, which someone had drawn by hand in 1985. The family shown were the descendants of the original couple who came to Australia in 1857, and from whom this member descends. The remainder of the book contained a combination of charts, newspaper clippings and other family memorabilia.

Family Folder. Photo Credit: Jenny Joyce

Another member brought in two publications that had been done about her family. The first was a very large (about A2 sized) book about the Cadell family. It had been printed in 1890 and copies of it had been distributed to many family members, and at least seven copies are known to be in Australia. It starts with William Cadell, born 1668 in Scotland, and traces all his descendants down until the date of publication (1890).

Cadell Family Book. Photo Credit: Jenny Joyce

When you opened it up it was arranged in a very clever way. There were increasingly smaller overlays, which allowed you to follow a particular line down without the chart becoming unwieldly. Over the years additions have been made to the book in pencil as new generations came along.

Inside the Cadell Family Book. Photo Credit: Jenny Joyce

In her family this publication is often referred to, people saying things like "oh yes, I've seen that in the Blue Book". With all the use of the years it is now in a very fragile state.

More recently another member of her family brought the tree up to date. This one is in a more manageable A4 size, and is presented in a loose leaf binder, so that pages can easily be updated as new information becomes available. The book contains charts and notes, and pages for families that came to Australia have a little Australian flag on the top.

Inside updated book. Photo Credit: Jenny Joyce

The fourth member to show us the fruits of her labours brought along three of her sixteen books of her family. Some books were dedicated to just one person, and some to a whole line. It contains life stories, pictures and documents, like an invitation to the opening of the Queen Victoria Building in 1898.

Introduction to John Shipton. Photo Credit: Jenny Joyce


About John Shipton. Photo Credit: Jenny Joyce

Then the final member showed us the way she had written up a family, and had taken it to a local stationer to print a bind. She included maps of the areas they lived, charts and photos. She also showed us how she organizes her working files, in folders, alphabetically by surname.

Introduction to the Dummelow family. Photo Credit: Jenny Joyce

Chart of Ives family. Photo Credit: Jenny Joyce

There are, of course, other ways that you might choose to present your family history. You might just want to print a big chart to go on your wall, or you might want to write a book and have it professionally printed, and then distribute it to family members. Or, if you have a particularly interesting or significant family, you might write a book and sell it commercially.

Have you given any thought as to what you are going to do?

Jenny Joyce

About Jenny Joyce

Jenny Joyce is a professional genealogist, lecturer, teacher and writer from Sydney, Australia. She specialises in Australian, English, Irish and Scottish genealogy and has deep interest in DNA in relation to genealogy, palaeography and historical photography. She is the author of the Jennyalogy blog ( and the Jennyalogy Podcast (

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3 thoughts on “How to Show off Your Family History

  • Ed Mashmann

    Hi Jenny –

    I once commented on a blog that “ll you genealogists who’ve all this information jammed into binders and boxes really have very little to show relatives what you have found.” (I actually was harsher than that.)

    In 2008 I started writing a book. The book has four chapters. My father’s ancestors, my mother’s ancestors, my wife’s father’s ancestors and my wife’s mother’s ancestors. I actually avoided writing about our grandparents. They were too close. So I started with our great grandparents. For every document I could find I wrote up a little paragraph. Then I worked backward in time tracing ancestors to their homelands. I know where they all came from except the Shuricks from Bavaria. And I wrote about their siblings and their siblings children. Then I added more chapters – one for relatives’ ancestors that I had researched, one for famous people in the past that are somehow related to us, and an odds and ends chapter. I even did a genealogy of our house, including pictures and data about people who have lived here.

    Now aren’t you sorry you asked me?

    Ed M.