Creating a Family History Book

The following was written by contributor Catherine Way of Adventures With Kids.

This giveaway is now closed.  The winner will be announced in Sunday’s Weekend Links post.  Thank you!
I’ve always enjoyed reading and learning about history.  When I was pregnant with my first child, I became quite interested in our family history.  It was whilst I was pregnant, that my husband’s grandmother died.  The thought that my son would now never know his great-grandmother prompted me to create a book for our child about his family. This would give my son a little information about his family heritage.

A Family History Book

To create the book, I compiled a list of questions and sent it to the members of our family to answer. I chose to use written questions rather than an interview, because our family is scattered around the world.  Using written questions also gave people the option of choosing which questions to answer and what information to reveal, without pressure.

I also collected photos of family members at significant stages in their lives: as a child, when they were married, while traveling and so on.

Questions to Ask

Questions in my survey included basic family tree information (name, date of birth, place of birth and so on), a little about things each person had done during their life (where they have lived, jobs they have done and so on) and questions about their beliefs (such as, what makes you angry?  what things do you think are important in life?).

Family Tree Facts

  • What is your full name?
  • When and where were you born?
  • Where and when were you married?
  • If you want to include deceased family members, date and place of death.

Interview Questions

  • In what places have you lived?
  • What types of jobs have you worked at?
  • What hobbies or other interests do you have?
  • What strengths have you developed over your life?
  • What has been important about your life?
  • What are some of the things that you think are wonderful?
  • What makes you angry?
  • What are some of the important things you’ve learned in your life?
  • My favourite memory of your mum/dad …
  • My greatest wish for you (the child for whom you are making the memory book)…
  • My prediction of what life will be like in 20 years …
  • Anything else you’d like to say …

I compiled the answers to the questions and the photos as a book.  Here are some sample pages from my book (please note, I have removed some identifying information before posting the pages here).

Here is an example of the pages I created about each person, with their photos and answers to my questions:

Image by Catherine Way

I also created pages with family stories about me and my husband, people’s thoughts on what is important in life and messages for my son:

Image by Catherine Way

And I included a family tree.  You can see one half of our family tree in the picture at the beginning of this post.

Creating the Book

I had everything printed as a hardcover book.  I felt a hardcover book would provide the most accessible, durable memento for my child.

I created this book when my eldest son was still a baby.  Now that I have more experience with young children, there are a couple of things I’d change.  I think I could have used easier to read fonts and formatting in my book to help inexperienced readers.  Also, I would add each person’s relationship to my son (eg. grandmother, father) to the pages.

Creating the book was a very enjoyable experience for me and I learned a lot of things about my family and my husband’s family. My son is still too young to read this book for himself, but he loves to hear family stories, especially ones about me and his dad growing up.  I think that as he gets older this book will give him a place to start learning family stories and a way to connect to the members of his family.

More Ideas

There are plenty of other ideas for telling family stories in a book. You could try creating:

  • A book of family faces (This would be wonderful for a baby)
  • An A to Z of  of your family
  • Tell the story behind some favorite family photos

A Scrapblog Giveaway

Hi, everyone!  This is Kara.  I wanted to thank Catherine for her article on family history books.  I’m especially intrigued by the idea of creating a photo book with the stories behind some favorite family photos and I think that is going to be the project I put together for my kids.

I also wanted to let everyone know that the generous folks at are giving one lucky Simple Kids reader the chance to win a hard cover photo book!

This giveaway, a $49.99 value, includes:

  • One 12 x 8 hard cover photo book
  • 500 credits to the site

To Enter:

  • Leave a comment on this post answering the following question: How do you share family stories and history with your children?
  • Bonus entry #1: “Like” on Facebook – and then come back here and leave a separate comment letting us know you’ve done so
  • Bonus entry #2: “Like” Catherine’s blog Adventures with Kids on Facebook – and leave a separate comment that you’ve done so
  • Bonus entry #3: subscribe to Simple Kids – and leave a separate comment that you’ve done so, or if you’re already a subscriber, let me know

Please note:  Winners outside the US will be responsible for the shipping cost.

This giveaway will be open until Midnight EST November 6th, 2010. The winner will be selected by Random.Org and announced in this Sunday’s Weekend Links post.  Good luck!

Promo Code

And, that’s not all! has also created a unique promocode for Simple Kids readers.   The code SimpleKids20 is good for 20% off of a  photobook (includes hard and soft bound books) OR 1 calendar, OR 100 greeting and/or postcards. The promocode expires on 12/31/2010.

About Catherine

Catherine Way is mum to two boys living in North Australia. They read lots, run lots, love to learn new things and are good at finding fun and mischief. Catherine blogs about her family adventures and passion for lifelong learning at Indirect Observations.

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  1. Such great ideas here! I really appreciate this post. I’ve done something similar for myself and my daughter. I’ve videotaped interviews with grandparents (and hope to continue with other family members) with similar lists of questions. Such a comfort to watch the video of my granddad, who has since passed, when I’m missing him. Would love to win the giveaway. Thank you!

  2. I’m a Simple Kids subscriber.

  3. Sara Schwabedissen says:

    I love family history! Right now I keep a journal for each one of my kids so that I can tell them all the things they do that I probably wouldn’t otherwise remember super well. It’s a way to record their own history – from my perspective.

  4. We try to weave them into our daily lives. For example if I make a dish that my mom used to make, I’ll tell my children about it. If it’s a treat, I’ll tell them about how my parents made it the first time, where we were and what it meant. On Christmas, we’ll tell them what Christmas used to be like when we were little, who was there, where, what traditions, what people did, wore, and so on.

  5. We subscribe via google reader.

  6. What a wonderful idea! I like to tell my son stories about his great-grandfather because he shares his name. I think it is important to let him know that we chose that name because of the man who had it, in addition to liking the name. I just found out about scrapblog through this post, so I’m excited to check it all out!
    Amy Watson´s latest post: A Month Of Exercise

  7. I just became a fan of scrapblog on Facebook!
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  8. I now “like” Simple Kids on Facebook!

  9. This is such a great idea! I have saved the link to this post and am going to print out the questions as soon as I have a spare minute! The way that I share family stories is through scrapbooking. I have only been doing it for the last year or so but I absolutely love it!

  10. I subscribe to Simple Kids using google reader on my igoogle page.

  11. I “liked” Scrapblog on facebook.

  12. I “liked” Adventures with Kids on facebook.

  13. We share family history through telling it verbally and pictures.

    ABreading4fun [at] gmail [dot] com

  14. I’m an email subscriber

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  15. I share stories about family all the time. Whenever the kids are doing an activity that I did as a child, I share my experience and then at bed time I tell stories about all of our family.
    Keilah´s latest post: Halloween 2010

  16. I am a subscriber via email
    Thanks for the giveaway!
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  17. I do traditional scrapbooking right now, but am so far behind I’m not sharing too many memories 🙂 I love the idea of an A-Z book. This would be great to make one for each of my children to have when they get older.
    Laura L´s latest post: 26 September – 2 October

  18. I ‘like’ on FB
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  19. I subscribe to Simple Kids by RSS!
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  20. I’m lucky that my mom has put together a heritage book from her side of the family. I keep pestering her to do my dad’s as well, but we’re seriously short on photos from that side. I need to hit my aunt up for more information. (Both his parents have passed and we don’t have much contact with him anymore.)
    And since it’s my in-laws 40th anniversary this year, my plan is to steal a ton of their photo albums for two purposes – scan in everything, get the stories of their youth, put together a couple albums for my kids, AND create a slide show for their surprise party!
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  21. I subscribe to Simple Kids via Google Reader!
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  22. Already a subscriber here!
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  23. What a wonderful idea! This is the perfect project to finish up our local history block for HS! And it will make the perfect present for grandparents for the Holidays! Thank you, thank you, thank you!!!!
    Pam´s latest post: Pumpkin Patch

  24. I really love the idea of a family history book. I have not been purposeful in this mission as much as I should be. My mom died a few years ago and I realized that I didn’t really know as much about her life as I wish I knew. Now her brother is very ill and both of their parents are gone. I rely on my aunt to tell me stories. I haven’t made anything specifically for my kids (they are 5 and 1). I usually just tell stories to my 5 year old. I really need to take the time to write things down and preserve it for them and their future kids. I have kept a journal for them, so I guess that counts. The busyness of life gets in the way sometimes though.

  25. I’m a follower via email.

  26. I “Like” Scrapblog on Facebook.

  27. I love the idea of a family tree. Creating one has actually been on my list since my son was born… five years ago! I keep getting hung up on the logistics of fitting all the aunts and uncles in. I really need to do some research and JUST DO IT!

    I love the idea of sending out a questionnaire. I think the entire extended family would love something like that.

    Right now we mostly have photos and verbal stories. My parents are 4.5hrs away and made a commitment to themselves to visit every six weeks. In her own words, “If I’m going to be part of my grandson’s life I want him to know me and see me at least every six weeks.” I love that! So our family is close. I would love to have more written down though, for when the time comes that everyone isn’t still around.
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  28. I “like” on FB.
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  29. I “like” Adventures with Kids on FB.

  30. I subscribe to Simple Kids in my Google Reader.

  31. We tell stories about our family history.

  32. Kara,

    I’m sure you knew I would be a fan of this post. I record stories for my daughter along with other women every Thursday on my blog Mommy’s Piggy Tales.

    Catherine great job putting this together for your son! The benefits of learning about and from your family are so incredible!

    I’m going to mention this giveaway to my readers!
    Janna @ Mommy’s Piggy TALES – Record YOUR Youth´s latest post: Family Values Exercise

  33. I have written a book to encourage people to save their own family stories, called Granny’s Guide to Fun & Fabulous Family Stories. It is available at my website,
    Beth LaMie´s latest post: Family Histories – One story at a time

  34. I subscribe to Simple Kids!
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  35. The kids and I talk about family members frequently. Whenever I’m reminded of my grandparents I share stories of them or of my childhood. I do the same with their grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins. Just today, my daughter had to have some blood drawn. It gave me a chance to tell her about how Grandpa Foote gives blood every few months and has probably helped a lot of people that way. Little tid bits into the lives of family members our kids don’t see all the time keep those family memebers real to the kids, and special, which they are!
    Annie´s latest post: 30 Days of Thankfulness – Day 2

  36. just “liked””
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  37. Janet Brandy says:

    My husband and I regularly tell our daughter stories about various family members. She also loves to look at my collection of old family photos. We would love to create a book about our family!

  38. Janet Brandy says:

    Just “liked”

  39. Janet Brandy says:

    Just “liked” Adventures with Kids.

  40. Janet Brandy says:

    Already subscribe to Simple Kids and follow it through Google Reader.

  41. Wow–such great ideas! I’m starring this in google reader. As for how I share stories–this is kind of weird, but I tell my girls family stories when I’m combing their hair. The HATE having their hair combed, but they love the stories, so they’re willing to sit for me. Other than that, I haven’t done a lot. Maybe I’ll try to do one of these books.
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  42. Oh, and I’m a subscriber :).
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  43. I have been scrapbooking for many years to keep our family history and this year I’ve been LOVING doing Becky Higgins Project Life! Love this idea of going back further in time to capture things that will be important to my kids.

  44. I’m a Google reader subscriber to Simple Kids

  45. How do I share family stories and history with my children? Haphazardly. And I want to change that. Love the ideas in this post, and the photo book would be a great boost to implementing them. Thanks!

  46. Subscribed to Simple Kids on my google reader 🙂

  47. What a great idea! I’m bookmarking this post. When our daughter was a baby, she was given a photo book for us to put family pictures in. It was just perfect for her and she loved looking through it. She knew names of relatives before she had even met them. Now that she’s 3, she asks for a story every night and we usually try to talk about when Mama and Daddy were her age. She loves to hear about us, when we got married, when we lived in a different state, etc.

  48. I’m already a follower through Google Reader.


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