Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Editing: Leave it in or take it out

Editing is one of the biggest challenges with family histories. Deciding what should be taken out or what should be left in can be very difficult, especially with very sensitive subjects like addictions and abuse. Here is my opinion about it. I hope it is helpful.
Chris Stevenson   cs@sgenealogy.com 

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Holiday Time

I love being with family at Christmas time and on other holidays. We have many family gatherings with both sides of the family. I really enjoy sharing family stories and reminiscing during these gatherings. I would suggest that you bring a digital recorder and turn it on when these stories are being told so they can be preserved and shared.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!
Chris Stevenson  cs@sgenealogy.com 

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Adding Interest to Your Family History

Here are some tips to make your personal or family history interesting to read. Good stories that the reader can picture are the key. Here is a little video clip with some tips.

Plus, I would like to remind you to capture family stories during the holidays. Here is a previous post about it.
Chris Stevenson    cs@sgenealogy.com 

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Overcoming Obstacles in Publishing

Publishing a personal or family history is a big project that involves many different steps. It is normal to run into obstacles as you work through the process. Here is a little video clip where I share some ideas of how to overcome them. I hope it is helpful to you.
Chris Stevenson   cs@sgenealogy.com 

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Pictures Add Much to a Family History

Pictures add a great deal to the look, feel, and value of your personal and family histories. Here is a short video clip explaining why I think they are so important.
Chris Stevenson   cs@sgenealogy.com 

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Good Layout & Design for Your History

How important is the layout and design in your history? Watch this short video to see my opinion. Thanks.
Chris Stevenson    cs@sgenealogy.com 

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Leaving a Legacy

A valuable part of life is having a positive influence on others that we love. Sharing your published personal or family history is a wonderful way to do just that. It will become a legacy that can be enjoyed for generations to come. Here is a short video that talks about it. I hope you enjoy it.

 Chris Stevenson   cs@sgenealogy.com

Thursday, November 10, 2011

The Satisfaction of Publishing

There is great joy when you publish your family history. Here is a short video clip that I hope helps you to keep going on your own history.

Chris Stevenson cs@sgenealogy.com

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Getting It Right

"What is the right way to make a book?" is a questions I frequently get asked. Here is a short video response to that. Hope it helps.

 Chris Stevenson   cs@sgenealogy.com

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Archival Paper

Here is a video clip that talks about the concern for acid free paper. Hope you enjoy it.

Chris Stevenson  cs@sgenealogy.com

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Interviewing Others

I interviewed Tom and Alison Taylor to get some tips about finding life stories about someone who has passed away by interviewing others. It is just a few minutes long so have a listen.
Chris Stevenson   cs@sgenealogy.com

Wednesday, October 5, 2011


Here is a audio podcast of an interview I had with the Taylors about how to use a timeline in producing a published family history. I hope you will find it helpful.
Chris Stevenson   cs@sgenealogy.com

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

We All Need a Little Help Now and Then

To keep the book publishing process manageable and not overwhelming, I suggest that you get help with the parts that you don't know how to do. In this audio file, I talk to the Taylors about this very thing. They have some very good advice. Have a listen!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Why Write a History

Continuing with the audio interviews with the Taylors, I ask for the reasons to write a history. Hope you find your reason to write and publish your history.
Chris Stevenson   cs@sgenealogy.com

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Avoid being Overwhelmed

When starting a large project like writing and publishing a personal or family history, it can seem overwhelming. This audio file has some great suggestions to keep from feeling overwhelmed. Listen and see if it will help you.
Chris Stevenson  cs@sgenealogy.com

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Organizing Pictures

This is a podcast  where I interview Tom & Alison Taylor about how to organize your pictures to use in your history. I think that they have some good advice. It is only about seven minutes long so go ahead and click on the link below.
Chris Stevenson   cs@sgenealogy.com

Friday, September 2, 2011

Writing Helps

This is a podcast  where I interview Tom & Alison Taylor about how to overcome the fear of being a good writer. I think that they have some wonderful tips and attitudes about writing. It is only about five minutes long. 
Chris Stevenson   cs@sgenealogy.com

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Odd Pages

As you organize the chapters of your book, it looks nicer to have them each start on the right hand side of the page. In order to do that, they need to have odd page numbers on them. The standard way to number pages is to have the even numbered pages on the left and odd numbered pages on the right. You might need to insert a blank page at the end of a chapter in order to start the next one on the right side. Or an idea that I like better is to have a few pictures or documents that you were going to leave out of the book ready to be placed on these extra pages.

The title page and table of contents should also be placed on a right hand page.

Chris Stevenson cs@sgenealogy.com www.sgenealogy.com

Wednesday, March 9, 2011


What kind of look do you want for your book? The justification that you choose will determine the look of your book. For history books there are two different justifications that look good, full or left. Full justification with both the left and right edges aligning straight up and down the page (like a newspaper column). Full justification will give your pages a clean orderly look but the spacing between words can sometimes look a little funny. With full justification, your headings could be either left, right, or centered on the page. Left justification has the left side aligned up and down and the right side is ragged. This gives a more conservative look to the book and the spacing between the words is consistent. If you have a book of poems, center justification will look great. The important thing is to choose one justification and stick to it. If you aren’t sure which way you want, look at a few different books to give you the feel of each style then choose the one you like best.

Chris Stevenson cs@sgenealogy.com www.sgenealogy.com

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Repeat Design Elements

Create a sense of unity to your book  by adding a few visual elements that you like, and then repeating them throughout. Look through some of your favorite books to see what they have used on their pages, you may get some inspiration. Perhaps a decorative ornament under the heading of each chapter, or a decorative drop cap to start each chapter might give your book a special look. 

Chris Stevenson  cs@sgenealogy.com  www.sgenealogy.com

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Annual Family DVD again

I just finished my annual family video DVD for 2010. They are so enjoyable that I wanted to share the same information that I posted last year (March 10, 2010). It might inspire you to make one for your family.

Each year for the past six years I have created a DVD that has pictures and video clips. My family loves watching them over and over and I enjoy making them. They take some time to make, but the end product turns out so good that it makes all worth it. I edit the video quite a bit so that it is interesting and I put the pictures into a slide show with musical background.

I thought that I would share some of the lessons that I have learned.

1. I transfer all of the video tapes for the year to the computer and then I make one set of DVDs without editing. I have found that if I make this set first then it’s not hard to cut out a lot of the video because I have a copy of the complete, raw video that I can personally watch if I want to see more. Maybe it is just a psychological thing but it works for me.

2. I work with a PC all day, every day and I love how it makes my life easier. But when it came to making videos, it didn’t work very well at all. I tried many different programs and even bought a new computer, but as soon as I did some video editing it wouldn’t work. I finally came to the realization that it wasn’t going to work on my PC. With my friend’s prompting, I bought a Mac and within a few weeks I had a perfect DVD to share with my family. Maybe there are new PC programs that will work now, but for me, the Macintosh is the only way to go. It works every time and editing is very easy.

3. Videos take a lot of memory, so I would suggest that you get as large of a hard drive as you can afford. You will also want to have an external hard drive that you can use as a back up. (See last week’s post about backing up.)

4. Plan a time of year to do it. For me, it works best to produce the DVD in January.

5. Put several different video clips on the DVD. Don’t try to put everything into one, long movie. If you break it down into shorter video segments then your family can watch the clips they want without having to sit through clips that they aren’t interested in (i.e. the clips they aren’t in.)

6. If you don’t have the desire or time to do it yourself, you can hire someone to do it for you, but remember that the editing decisions need to be yours. A stranger won’t know which shots are the most important to your family.

Chris Stevenson cs@sgenealogy.com http://www.sgenealogy.com/

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Organizing the Pictures

I found these instructions from a handout that we used for book publishing about 30 years ago. When I read over them again, I thought that they still applied to what we do today. These are the instructions when we were doing all of the picture insertion in a book. It applies either if you are inserting the pictures yourself or hiring it out. It is a great way to organize your book when you are ready to start inserting pictures.

1. Decide where each chapter or division of your book begins and place each chapter in a separate folder, sack or envelope or make a note in red, "start new Chapter", etc.
2. Decide where you wish each page of pictures to go and insert the dummy sheets [a sheet of paper that indicates the placement of pictures by drawing boxes. The boxes usually have a number in them that matches the number on the back of the corresponding picture.] or copy of the scanned photo page there. Or draw a box the size of the picture you want on the manuscript page. Write or type the caption for the picture where desired.

This is a very simple and easy way to organize all your pictures before you start putting them in the book. Then all you need to do is scan the pictures and place them with their captions in place.

Chris Stevenson cs@sgenealogy.com www.sgenealogy.com

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Page Layout

Page layout is a term which refers to the way in which text and images are situated on a page. The layout of your manuscript should be adjusted to look exactly the way you want to see it in print. Look at previously bound books for ideas. Check out several family or personal histories to see how they are done. When you see one you like then take note of the headers and footers, where the page number is located, how wide the margins are on each side of the page, and what fonts were used for the titles, text and captions.
Then you can setup your page to the same settings and see if it looks good for your book. If not then make some small adjustments until it is just how you want. This will become the template of your book and make it easier to set up the rest of the book to match. Save this layout as a separate file named something like “Book Template” and as you start a new chapter in a new file then open up a copy of the template so each chapter will match.

Chris Stevenson cs@sgenealogy.com www.sgenealogy.com

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Last To First

When you are making corrections to your book it is easier if you start on the last page and work forward. The reason for this is that as you make changes to your manuscript on the computer everything after it will move. So if you start at the first page then as you work your way through the book it will be harder to find the corrections because the computer screen won’t look the same as the printed proof copy. By starting at the last page any change you make will effect the pages that you have already edited.

If you have pictures in your book, then after you have finished the corrections, start at the beginning and check to be sure that the pictures are still where you want them.

Chris Stevenson cs@sgenealogy.com www.sgenealogy.com

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Chapter File Names

The file size of your book can get very large when you have a lot of pictures in it. And when the file is huge it can slow down your computer a lot and make editing drag on and on. If you are struggling with this then consider splitting the book into chapter files where each chapter (or two) are individual files. While you are editing them you can call them whatever you want, but I have a suggestion for when you are ready to take the book to the publisher. By putting numbers at the beginning of the name of each file they will be sorted into the order of how they appear in the book.  Use two digits for the numbers (i.e.: 01Titlepage, 02Preface, 03 Chapter one, etc.) to keep the first nine chapters in order on the top of the list.

Chris Stevenson   cs@sgenealogy.com   www.sgenealogy.com

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

First Person

When writing your personal history, I would suggest that you write it in first person. It will have the feel that you are telling your life stories to your children or grandchildren while they are sitting on your lap. It will help connect the reader to you in a very personal way. If fact, you can just grab a recorder and record some of your stories as you tell them to your children or grandchildren. Then listen to the recording to get a feel of how to write it like a captivating story (instead of dry facts). Give it a try!

Chris Stevenson cs@sgenealogy.com www.sgenealogy.com

Tuesday, January 11, 2011


Blogs have become so common and easy to use that about 50,000 are started each day. One great use of a blog is to share family stories and pictures. You can make a blog for each of your different family lines and then post information about each ancestor that has that last name or that belongs to that ancestral line. Wordpress and Blogspot are the two blog sites that are used the most, plus they are free. They have some great tutorials to help you get started and design your blog.

Here are a couple of blogs that I have made for two of my family lines. They are just an example of what you can do. I also have a private blog that just my immediate family can see where we share pictures and memories about when our children were growing up. (You can have your blog public so anyone can see it or private so only invited guests can see it.)



Go ahead and start a blog and see how it works. Experiment until you have it just the way you want and then you can make it public and tell your family about it. When it is public, other relatives can find it by searching for certain family names and will see what you have and could contact you and share information. It is a great way to share pictures and stories from your family.

Chris Stevenson   cs@sgenealogy.com    www.sgenealogy.com

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Write the Whole Picture

It is easy for us to write the good things about our relatives when writing a family history. It is much more difficult to write about the bad things and the mistakes that they made. It is appropriate to be very careful when writing about someone’s flaws so we don’t go too far and become distasteful to our readers.

I think that Dawn Thurston explains it best, “When writing family history, it’s difficult to create a realistic picture of people long gone. Genealogy data reveals little about how people looked, moved, or talked, or what strengths and weaknesses shaped their lives. Then there’s family pride. Absent any evidence to the contrary, we tend to idealize our forebears. We want them to be exemplary rather than human. I suspect the image that exists in our mind’s eye bears little resemblance to how they actually were.”

I think that we do our readers a disservice by only telling the good. A brief mention of the mistakes and bad qualities of our ancestors makes them more real. So, be brave and write the whole picture of your ancestors, then before you have it published have someone else read it over and make sure that you have handled it tastefully. You will be glad that you did.

Chris Stevenson cs@sgenealogy.com www.sgenealogy.com