Tag: Genealogy

Something Worth Sharing: Creating a Family History Book

You’ve put countless hours into researching ancestors, digitizing photos and collecting stories. Now what? Of course the family tree with all its records and photos can be thrown onto a USB drive and passed out to interested parties, but there’s a good chance the drive may just sit on a shelf collecting dust. Sometimes the best way to generate interest and appreciation in family heritage is to make a good old-fashioned book or poster.

As the Internet has grown up around us, we’ve begun to discover some amazing ways to express ourselves through the printed word. Services like Shutterfly, Snapfish, and even WalMart offer the ability to design and build a photo book through a web browser. Photos are uploaded to be manipulated and arranged, clip art is available to make frames or embellishments, and text can be added throughout the book as captions for photos or even entire stories. But using these sites to make a family history book may be the hard way to do it.

If you are a user of Ancestry.com, you should be aware that they actually have their own media printing service called MyCanvas. The really, really handy thing about MyCanvas is that all of the family tree work done in Ancestry.com is actually linked up to MyCanvas. To get to it from Ancestry.com, click on “Extras” along the top, then click “Photo Books and Posters.” The site has family history books and poster templates and once a project is chosen (a family history book for example), all of the relevant names, dates, locations, and profile pictures will be pulled from your tree on Ancestry.com and laid out in a book in MyCanvas within seconds. Once the general template has been filled in, pages can be added, layouts edited, media inserted, and stories shared.


I have found that the MyCanvas page editor is easy to use and very flexible for creativity. All Ancestry.com family tree records and media are accessible under each ancestor’s name, and photos not yet in your Ancestry.com tree can be uploaded directly to MyCanvas to be used within your project. Books can be made with up to 250 pages and five generations deep. Posters can be printed in various styles from the standard family tree or descendant layouts as well as a combination poster showing the union of two families. The poster can display from three to nine generations and range from 16 x 20 inches up to 24 x 36 inches.

In my experience, it has taken a lot of time and patience to tweak my books and posters to the way I ultimately wanted them, but an unexpected benefit is that the exercise actually pointed out various holes I had in my own research. It pushed me to find missing dates, spouses’ names, pictures, records, and newspaper articles. The result is something to be very proud of, something which locks context and connections together in a permanent way and gives the family’s heritage a better chance of outliving its author.


EricEric Wells is a Missouri-based construction contractor in between his genealogy work. He frequently gives talks about publishing family history to his local society and regional conferences. He has published several books and posters for his family, friends, and clients, and is a volunteer with the NextGen Genealogy Network.


Faces of NextGen: Meet Beth Wylie

Beth Garison Wylie, 39, Oklahoma

What five words would you use to describe yourself? Focused, determined, traveler, excited (about NextGen!), and family oriented.

Why genealogy? I have always loved history. I majored in it in college. I feel that genealogy makes history more relevant and personal as it connects you to the major and not so major events that shaped the world in a way that a book never can. Also, my grandmother was very interested in genealogy and she passed down that love to me.

What’s the coolest discovery you’ve made? Every month it seems I make the next “coolest” discovery! I suppose that a few of my ancestors were some of the earliest founders of this country, at Jamestown and New Amsterdam.

What are you working on this week? This week I am working on the mystery of my husband’s Wylie line. The story in his family is that his great grandfather was adopted by Scottish immigrants around 1900, but as his great grandfather has been gone many years and never spoke about his origins, it has been difficult to verify. I made some headway this week with census records, a passport application, some city directory listings and a tombstone photo. Now just waiting on a social security application to confirm his parents (adopted or not) are who I think they are. Once I have that, I will request his birth certificate.

What’s the number one secret to your success in genealogy? Patience. A distant cousin once told me that, “Ancestors will let you find them when they want to be found.” Sometimes when I hit a brick wall, I walk away. Either they aren’t ready to be found, or I need to rethink my approach.

Anything else you’d like to share? I am so excited to be involved with NextGen! I wish this group had been around in my early twenties. It is wonderful and inspiring to be involved with other young genealogists!

The NextGen Genealogy Network is made up of young genealogists with diverse backgrounds, interests, and experiences. Faces of NextGen will showcase a different member of our community each month. If you would like to be considered for an upcoming feature, simply complete our questionnaire and submit a selfie.


DNA and the Next Generation: Part II

Click here to read Part I in this series about DNA and the Next Generation. 

Genetic genealogy will play an increasingly important role in the future of family history. In fact, it has become so prevalent that we can no longer ignore DNA testing as a valuable resource for family history research. The Genealogical Proof Standard, a set of standards for crafting proof arguments, suggests that a conclusion can only be proven if reasonably exhaustive research has been performed. DNA testing is now considered to be a common element of reasonably exhaustive research.1


In order to understand the importance of genetic genealogy for this generation and the next generation of genealogists, we have to explore some fundamental questions about the nature of the field. Who researches their genealogy? Why? How? Who will be researching their genealogy in the future? What role does genetic genealogy currently play? What role will it play in the future?

In an open market, we might expect that supply of genealogical research services would be indicative of demand. A review of the largest registry of professional genealogists with the Association of Professional Genealogists shows that, by far, the most popular region for genealogical research is the United States. In regards to foreign research, within the APG registry there are twenty-two countries with more than twenty registered professionals offering research services. Seventeen of these countries were the top source populations for immigration to the United States between 1900 and 1910. Of the five remaining countries, Australia, New Zealand, and Israel also have strong histories of immigration, and the Netherlands and Spain both had major diasporas and long histories of emigration. Viewing this correlation from the other direction, all source populations that contributed more than 1% of the foreign born population of the United States between 1900 and 1910 are currently among the highest demand areas for research services according to the survey of the APG registry.

Through this observation, we hypothesize that genealogical interest is most often born of a displacement and disconnect from an individual’s cultural roots. Immigrants themselves often maintain connections to their native land. Children and sometimes grandchildren of an immigrant likewise benefit from these connections. However, by the third and fourth generations, descendants of an immigrant may not know the immigrant themselves, may not have connections with their distant family, and in their absence may have increased interest in discovering their cultural roots and heritage. Accordingly, interest in genealogy often increases about one hundred years after migration. Since the history of the United States has included frequent and constant internal migration, this constant displacement maintains a healthy culture of American genealogical investigation.

In observing this trend, we propose that growing fields of genealogical research specialty in the coming years will include Finland, Greece, Former Yugoslavia, Lithuania and Romania, since these regions experienced peak emigration to the United States approximately one hundred years ago. Similarly, in twenty years, demand will increase for research in China and Japan. In the next fifty years, demand will increase for research services in Portugal, Cuba, India, Philippines, Korea, Vietnam, El Salvador, Dominican Republic, and Guatemala. In addition to these new areas, demand for research in Mexico will also continue to increase.


However, these trends only take into account immigration patterns in the United States. Other major international migration trends will accentuate demand for the countries listed above as well as increase research demand in South America, Indonesia, Pakistan and Bangladesh. Whereas current areas of high research demand typically have good record preservation and accessibility, some areas of future research demand have suffered serious record loss and poor record preservation. Therefore, genetic genealogy will be an essential component of these research fields – compensating in genetic data for a lack of historical records. With projected expansion in these research areas, we should work now to preserve historical records and collect the genetic information that will make future research endeavors successful.

Currently, most people involved in the field of genetic genealogy fit into one of five categories: adoption, unknown paternity, recent brick walls, specific questions, and general interest. Though general interest is sometimes driven by a gradual loss of cultural connectedness, for many other participants in genetic genealogy, their displacement and disconnect from their roots is often much closer than those engaged in traditional research. As a result, many genetic genealogists are searching for answers to questions within the last thirty to sixty years. In the United States, adoption reached its peak in the late 1960s, meaning that even now, there is a huge demand for adoption research which in turn has led to increased demand for genetic genealogy research. Current statistics on mixed families, single-parent households, divorce, sperm and egg donation, and teenage pregnancies all suggest that in future genealogical research, the prevalence of recent brick walls will only increase.

In the future of family history, we can fully expect that brick walls due to lack of records, or recent disconnect due to different family dynamics, will only increase demand for DNA testing. As a result, genetic genealogy is the ideal tool for the future of family history.

1 Melinde Lutz Byrne and Thomas W. Jones, “Editor’s Corner,” National Genealogical Society Quarterly, Vol. 102, No. 3 (Sep. 2014).


Blaine Bettinger, Ph.D., J.D., is an intellectual property attorney by day and a genetic genealogist by night. He is the author of the long-running blog The Genetic Genealogist, and frequently gives presentations and webinars to educate others about the use of DNA to explore their ancestry.


Paul Woodbury is a recent graduate of Brigham Young University where he studied genetics and family history. Currently he works for Legacy Tree Genealogists as a client researcher with specialties in French, Spanish, Italian, Scandinavian, and genetic genealogy. He frequently presents on these and other research topics at family history conferences.


Faces of NextGen: Meet Jana Greenhalgh

Jana Greenhalgh, 33, Utah

What five words would you use to describe yourself? Mother, genealogist, busy, busy, busy.

Why genealogy? My grandfather inspired me as a teenager. He introduced me to genealogical research, and that led me to a BA degree in Genealogy at Brigham Young University. Genealogy makes me happy, and I’m especially happy when I’m teaching it to others or involving my six kids in my research!

What’s the coolest discovery you’ve made? Not long ago, our family discovered a beautiful old photograph of one of our ancestors. We’ve studied and admired her for years but had no idea what she looked like. A distant cousin had the photo in their possession and had recently posted it online.

What are you working on this week? A movie script with my kids. We’re using censuses and other records to tell the story of their great-grandfather.

What’s the number one secret to your success in genealogy? Enthusiasm.

What superpower would you want to help you uncover your family history? I’d like to be able to research all night long while the baby sleeps (without feeling the effects of sleeplessness the next morning).

What are we most likely to find you doing when you’re not researching family history? Laundry, dishes, carpools, kid-homework, and maybe gardening or knitting.

Anything else you’d like to share? My kids would be ecstatic if you’d check out our movies at The Genealogy Kids YouTube Channel and our blog. More views means more motivation for these kiddos! They especially like “likes,” comments, and subscribers.

The NextGen Genealogy Network is made up of young genealogists with diverse backgrounds, interests, and experiences. Faces of NextGen will showcase a different member of our community each month. If you would like to be considered for an upcoming feature, simply complete our questionnaire and submit a selfie.