All About Genealogy Book Printing and Ancestry Books
With the vast sea of information that the internet makes available to us, family histories that might have molded away in far-off libraries for years can finally be found and read. People across the world are taking the opportunity to look into their family history and find their roots. But what do you do after you’ve discovered a sizable family tree? For some, it’s enough to have a digital copy, but one of the most popular uses is to print it out, along with all the details on each member of the family, in one big family history book.
Ancestry books don’t just make a great gift for a family reunion. We’ve been writing down their genealogy for thousands of years, though our motivations have changed over time. There have been kings and queens trying to link their lineage back to some great hero, to the descendants of slaves trying to trace their history back across the Atlantic crossing that erased so much of it. Unfortunately, not all of us have the resources of an ancient king to devote to writing, printing, and binding an ancestry book. So how can you get a high-quality book printed without breaking the bank?
Naturally, the first step in the process of creating a genealogy book is to collect research. If you trace your lineage back seven generations, you could be looking at hundreds of relatives, and you probably won’t be able to find interesting information on all of them. Which aspects of your family history you focus on will depend on your personal interests, of course.
No matter how you intend to have your book produced, adding photographs of your ancestors can help make it easier for readers to connect with them and imagine their lives. You can find photographs online with a basic search, but there are also ancestry databases and libraries that collect that sort of material. If you’re having bad luck finding photos, try contacting an old library in one of the communities where your ancestors lived.
Formatting and Design
Once you’ve collected the content, you have a choice about how you continue. If you don’t want to do the work of designing and formatting the book yourself, you can choose to work with a design firm. They’ll design the book, and then probably outsource the creation of the physical copies to a trade printer or bindery. Working with a designer will add to the cost of your project, of course, but it will help to ensure that you end up with a good looking, well-formatted book.
If you want to save the money that you might have spent by hiring a designer, you can design and format the book yourself, and then work directly with a printer to produce however many physical copies you need. Many printers will even work with you to help figure out certain pieces of the formatting and design. If you decide to work directly with a trade printer you will have a number of printing options to consider.
For any genealogy book printing project, you’ll first want to figure out the size of the run you are planning. Usually, if you want to sell a book on a large scale, you print a large run, and if you want just a few copies, you’ll print a small run. Most family history books are printed digitally in small runs, which keeps their price affordable, and makes for a quicker turnaround.
Large runs are possible for family history books, but not particularly useful unless you plan on selling your book or distributing it to the general public. Family history books being particularly personal works, it’s rare to see one sell on a large scale.
You also need to decide whether to print hardcover or softcover books. Hardcover book printing is more expensive, but the result is a more durable, weightier book. Softcover printing is less expensive, but doesn’t produce as sturdy of an end product.
There’s really no standard practice regarding cover style for family history books. If you want the books to be able to pass down to your great, great, grandchildren, hardcovers will give you a better chance, but printing with soft covers will allow you to get more books for your buck. Hardcover book printing also sometimes allows for certain customization options that aren’t available for softcover books, but this might not be the case for every printer.
If you decide to print with soft covers, you have a few different options for binding the books. You can go the traditional route and get a glue binding like you would find on a paperback book. Out of all the paperback binding options, this one is the sturdiest and the least likely to lose pages.
You could also use a color coil binding, which is a sturdy plastic coil like what you would find on a spiral notebook, or a comb binding, which works in a similar way but allows you to add and remove pages as needed.
Even if you’re ultimately planning to print a run of hardcover books, using a softcover book with a comb binding as a prototype could help make the revision process a bit easier. It’s always a good idea to try out your design before finalizing it, especially if you didn’t enlist the help of a professional designer.
As with any project, if you’re serious about it, you should seek out serious help. There are plenty of reputable trade printers out there, but some emphasize speed over quality. That can be useful for certain kinds of work, but not so much for the kind of book you want to pass down for generations.
The best way to figure out if a printer is right for you is to consult with them. Try to get somebody on the phone, or contact somebody via email, to ask what kind of services they offer, and how much experience they have with genealogy book printing.