Publish Your Genealogy to Preserve Your Research

Publishing has never been easier than it is today, and given the incredible range of tools available to take your genealogical research from an online tree or a genealogical software into a book, now is a good time to publish.

A Quick Guide to the Process
If you have genealogical research you would like to preserve for your family and the next generation of genealogical researchers, here is a quick, step-by-step guide to the process.

Choose What You Want to Publish
For those of you who think you do not have enough information to publish a book, if you can gather twenty-four pages, you can publish. Twenty-four pages is the minimum number of pages for most books with a soft-cover and a spine. Even eighteen pages when re-formatted for a 6”x9” book will often equal twenty-four pages.

And for those of you with an abundance of research, although it may be tempting to purge your computer of every possible name you have found descended a far-distant ancestor, please do not. Friend and fellow genealogist, Pat Roberts, calls these books the “door stops.” Overly large books are unwieldy and uncomfortable to read. Given the ease of the technology today, split your door stops into smaller books that cover a single line, trace one of your surnames, or focus on two to three generations rather than ten generations. It is easy enough to publish more than one book.

Once you have chosen the people to include, you will export from your online tree or your genealogical software program a register-style or Ahnentafel-style report along with your sources to a document you can edit—either a rich text format file (.rtf), or a word processing file (such as a .doc or .docx for Word), or a plain text file (.txt). You will be able to work with any of these formats, although the rich text format is probably easiest.

There may come a time when software and websites will not allow the easy export of the kind of reports needed to create a printed genealogy, so please consider doing so while it is still possible and relatively simple.

Edit and Fact Check
Every book deserves editing to make sure the book flows from one section to the next, as well as proofreading and fact checking to catch errors (typographical or otherwise).

Create a Style Guide
Choose styles for items such as names, dates and places so that these items appear the same way throughout the text. As you go through the text editing and fact checking, create a style guide to refer back to as you go through the text making sure, for example, you have not used Oakwood Cemetery in one place, and Oak Wood Cemetery in another.

Create a Page Grid(s) to Help Organize
While some book printers can print books of nearly any size from 2”x2” to 2’x2’ (or greater), it is almost always more cost effective to choose one of the most common sizes—6"x9," 7"x10," or 8.5"x11."

Grids are determined by the size of the page. Larger pages look best with more than one column to make the text easier to read. Smaller pages can maintain a single column, but can make use of columns to determine the width of photographs or other images.

Format the Manuscript
Format (typeset) the book so that it looks its best. The books that are the easiest to read are the ones that follow the Rules of Readability and use typesetting techniques to benefit the reader. Good typesetting is relatively easy once you know the rules.

Add Images
You will add images of people or places, and of documents to show the most interesting of your sources. While you could add an image of every possible source you have collected, you may wish to choose the best ones to include in the book, and leave the other sources for researchers to see for themselves as they conduct their own research.

Images will look their best in print if they are scanned and 300 ppi (pixels per inch) at the full size they will be used in the book. The most common mistake people make in scanning images is not making them big enough to look good in their books, and then stretching them to fit the space in the manuscript. Unfortunately, what looks great on the screen may not look good when printed because the screen displays images at lower resolution than will be needed in print. It is better to either scan as big as you could possibly need (the cover image is usually the largest image in a book) or to wait until the manuscript is formatted and laid into the page grid to determine the size of the images that will go on each page.

Choose a Book Printer
While it is very tempting to publish electronically because there is very little cost to doing so, it is important to create at least a few copies of your book in print. Some of your family members will prefer a print book, as not everyone is using tablets or eReaders to read books just yet. And, the best way to assure your hard work is preserved is to create printed copies and donate a few to the major genealogical collections around the country.

For most people, using print-on-demand (POD) technology is simplest and least expensive, especially in the case where there are no setup costs, and you can print one book at a time at a reasonable cost. Before you run down to the local copy shop to make quick copies, let me assure you that a POD printer will be cheaper and the quality of the paper and binding will be far superior to anything a local copy shop can do.

To use a POD printer, you will need a file for your book cover, and a file for the interior that printer will use to create your book. Most POD printers have simple online uploads, or you can put the files on a disk or thumb drive to mail to them, if necessary.

There are many POD companies online including some of the major genealogical websites that offer printed books of your research as an option. Here are two you may wish to look in to: (Amazon’s POD printer which has perhaps the cheapest wholesale pricing and a book catalog with an enormous number of users) and (one of the simplest to use).

Let Others Know Your Book is Available
While some of you will purchase books for family members, using a POD printer gives you the option of selling the book from the printer’s website. This is an attractive option so that you do not have to print, store and dust hundreds of copies and then run to the post office every time someone orders a book. You can direct interested people to the website to buy copies for themselves, that will be shipped directly to them from the printer.

Using a printer with a large, online catalog may also attract other interested researchers you are unaware of, but who are researching the same family lines.

There are not many people who get rich selling genealogies, but making a few dollars on each sale is gratifying, and more importantly, making your hard-earned genealogical research available to other researchers is a great gift.

Dina C. Carson is the author of Publish Your Genealogy: A Step-by-Step Guide for Preserving Your Research for the Next Generation, available from, (for Kindle) or other fine bookstores.

© 2016 Dina C Carson
Contact information:
Iron Gate Publishing, email,; Books for Genealogists and Local Historians
Boulder Pioneers Project,,