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The Hybrid Family History

It’s not your grandma’s family history.

One of my prized possessions is a family history of my Link family. It took years of

research and writing effort to create and is full of detailed information going back
nine generations. It’s a gold mine for a genealogist, but for everyone else it’s an
effort to get much further than the photos section. And, because much of it was
typed on a typewriter with some sections typed on a word processor and the photo
pages pulled together in a copy center, it’s difficult to navigate.

I want to tell my family’s story in a way that keeps both my research cousins and
the genea-challenged cousins interested. I not only want my publication to be
attractive and easy to read with lots of photos and images, I want to include all the
What’s Inside . . .
technical components like indexes, documented sources and bibliographies.
Getting Started .........................................2
I’m an avid fan of digital scrapbooking and I love the artistic quality of a beautifully
designed page. It not only draws the eye to the focus image, but it can also give a Decisions .................................................3
sense of time and place through the use of design elements. While journaling is an
important scrapbooking component, it is always secondary to the images and Technical Issues ........................................4
Legal Stuff.................................................6
My goal is to build a new type of family history - a hybrid publication - that
combines the best of both technologies to create a compelling story that will keep Next Steps ................................................7
my family’s interest and provide the detail my research cousins require.
Credits ......................................................8

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The Hybrid Family History - A Family Matters Guide

Getting Started
Each of the word processing applications I use -, Microsoft Word
and iWork’s Pages - provide the tools needed to build the technical document I
require. Each has its own set of advantages and disadvantages on the design side. I
chose to use Pages because I am very comfortable with how it operates. I am not -
yet - proficient in the advanced features I will need to use to build my documents. I
have experimented with these features in each of the systems and found Pages more
intuitive than the others. This is purely a personal preference on my part and each
individual will need to determine which tools work best for him.

I am using Photoshop Elements to build the scrapbooking layouts included in my

publications. Photoshop Elements requires more effort, but will provide the
flexibility to build a graphical element that fits into a limited space or flows around
the typed area of my history. Another advantage is the availability of howto
information and tutorials for scrapbooking tasks. There is also a huge inventory of
scrapbooking elements - backgrounds, embellishments, frames and such - which I
can use to build the visual parts of my publication.

Like everyone else involved in family history, much of my effort will revolve around
my genealogy database, my scanner and all the systems and services I use in my
research efforts. In those respects, this history is no different from any other.

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The Hybrid Family History - A Family Matters Guide

My first project is a history of one branch of my family tree that covers
only three generations. I’m building it as a stand-alone project, but I
want to create a document design that can become a template for
future projects. In this way, I can build my family history at my own
pace but later pull each individual project into one comprehensive
publication if I so choose. I also want to create an electronic
publication that’s easy to read on-screen yet can be printed if the
reader prefers.

Before we even begin writing, there are some design decisions to be made. These

• I’m choosing a landscape layout based on letter-sized paper. Using this format,
each page can be displayed on the screen in its entirety. This makes on-screen
reading easier. And, because I’m sizing my layout to a paper standard, it can be
printed without losing any formatting elements.
• Today’s word processing software includes both a word processing mode and a
layout mode. The layout mode is used to create specialty documents like
brochures, newsletters and flyers. Only word processing mode supports the
features needed for a family history, such as table of contents, footnotes and
• While a landscape layout will display the entire page on the screen, trying to
stretch a line of text all the way across that expanse will make it almost
impossible to read. Options include setting up multiple columns on each page or
to format a short column and use the extra white space for photos and graphics.
• Readability is a factor when choosing fonts too. All caps are hard to read - and
all the more so when reading on-screen. San-serif fonts like Arial make on-screen
reading easier while serif fonts like Times New Roman are better for printed
pages. A font like Optima serves as a good compromise.
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The Hybrid Family History - A Family Matters Guide

• Color is no object when creating an electronic publication. There’s no extra cost

for using color in an e-pub and if readers choose to print my history, they have the
option to print in color or not.
• Don’t forget the metadata. Because an electronic document often travels much
further than a printed document, make sure to include your contact information
in your metadata - often called document info or properties. Keywords and
summary information also make it more visible to search engines which expands
its reach even more.
• It wouldn’t hurt to include some identifying information visible on the document
itself. After all, you are also trying to attract research cousins who may
have the missing elements of your family story.

Technical Issues
While I consider myself a proficient word processing user, this project
will require learning some of the less common word processing features.
Some, like styles, are easy to use. Others will require study and
experimentation to master. Since this is the first of what I hope will be
continuing series of projects, it is worth the effort to learn these features
since they will be used for each publication.
These additional features include:
• Styles. A style is a saved collection of formatting options. When a
style is assigned to selected text, all of those format options are also
assigned to that text. Styles not only save time, but they insure
consistency throughout a long document. Styles are also the basis for
many of the other features to be used in any family history.

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• After spending the time and effort to design your document - layout, styles, colors
and such - you can save all of this as a template so that when you’re ready to start
your next history project all you will need to do is create a new document based
on this template. All those format and layout settings will be immediately
• Table of Contents Generation. This feature allows you to insert a code at the
location in your document where you want the table of contents to appear. You
define which heading styles will be included in your contents and your word
processor will scan your document to find each of those headings and determine
which page it is on, placing that information into your table of contents. As your
editing makes changes to headings and page locations, your table of contents
automatically adjusts. For this feature to work correctly, you have to assign the
appropriate heading styles to each heading within your document. Your can
choose how many heading levels (heading, sub-heading, sub-sub-heading, etc.)
to include in your table.
• Index Generation. Most word processors offer an index generation feature, but
much of the setup effort continues to be a manual process. You will still need to
go through your document and select each name, term and phrase you want
included in your index and assign appropriate entry terms for each item so the
automatic generation effort can find the items you want included in the index.
Yes, you can use the search feature to find every instance of a surname within
your document, but you’ll still need to manually identify each instance. Note: If
you are publishing your history project as an electronic document, all the text
within that document is searchable so an index isn’t really necessary.
• Footnotes and Endnotes. Unlike indexing, this feature makes managing footnotes
so much easier. Basically, you enter your footnote information at the point of
reference within your document and the word processor will make sure it appears
at the proper place, appropriately formatted. Footnotes will appear at the bottom
of the referenced page while endnotes appear at the end of the document.

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• Cross-References. If your word processor offers cross-references, use them.

These are used when you are pointing your reader to an object (like an image,
diagram, chart, etc.) within the document. Instead of typing “as shown in Figure
10”, you enter a cross-reference link to that object within your document. Now,
even if you add or remove items while editing, that
reference will still point to the correct object, no matter
what it’s number or title may be.
• Bibliography. Microsoft Word and Writer
both offer databases for managing citation information.
These can be used to build bibliographies and footnotes.
Once you build your sources database, it’s easy to add a
reference within your document or build a bibliography.
And, both applications can maintain that information across
documents so they will all be available for each new writing
• Bookmarks and Hyperlinks. If you are publishing your
history electronically, any bookmarks and hyperlinks you
include in the document will function in the e-pub. A
bookmark links to a point within your publication and a
hyperlink goes to an external web page.

Legal Stuff
I prefer to use a Creative Commons license for my publications - both family history
and my tutorial projects. My family history documents are generally licensed using
a Creative Commons Attribution - Noncommercial - No Derivative Works 3.0
license. It means anyone can use my information and graphics as long as it’s for
noncommercial purposes and they identify it as my work. The no derivative works
aspect means they cannot take my graphics, include them in something they create
and claim it as their own.

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Whether you use Creative Commons or standard copyright, include a place to

display that information in your template.
I also include a section at the end of my publications giving credit to others for the
elements I’ve used. I identify fonts as well as any graphic elements or stock photos
incorporated into my publication. When buying or downloading any of these items
for use in a publication, make sure to read the license included with the item to
insure they can be used for your purpose. When in doubt, contact the source to
request permission for your specific project.

Next Steps
The first project will be the toughest. Once you’ve mastered styles and built a
template, future projects will be much easier. As your bibliographic database
grows, reference management improves. Upcoming guides will cover these
technical issues in more detail, with step-by-step instructions to walk you through
each process.
Each guide will include a resource topic pointing you to software, reference
material and sources for additional resources to help you build and publish your
family history.
Don’t be afraid to experiment. See if you can create a family history that not only
documents the research details, but also tells the stories of the people who have
fascinated us for so long.

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The Hybrid Family History - A Family Matters Guide

The graphics and images included in this guide are not used to tell a story but to
demonstrate how a standard word processing document can be transformed with a
bit of imagination. Photos and documents are from the author’s personal
collection. Graphics are from 19th century editions of The Standard Guide St.
Augustine, Scribners and Harpers publications in the public domain. Fonts used
include: Optima, Scriptina, Mistral, Revive8, Savoye LET, Herald, Heather, Cool.

The Hybrid Family History

by Denise Barrett Olson
This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-
ShareAlike 3.0 United States License. To view a copy of this
license, visit
or send a letter to Creative Commons, 171 Second Street,
Suite 300, San Francisco, California, 94105, USA.
For more information regarding this publication contact me at or by email at

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