Art of Family History | Episode 27


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Make Formatting Ancestor Snapshots Simple with this Brilliant Timeline Trick

PRUDENCE: Visual content is the key to getting the non-genealogists in your family interested in your shared ancestry.

Design is about solving problems and creating a visual way for people to absorb information.

So it makes sense that you’d use design to transform your raw historical data into visual keepsakes to create a picture of your ancestors.

That seems reasonable, right?

But you’re not a designer and don’t know where to start or how to make that happen. Or maybe you know you can create Family History Summaries or Snapshots but put off making them because you think they must be perfect the first time. That’s a lot of pressure!

In the Art of Family History, episode 27, I will show you how to get started quickly and easily without overthinking the process. Together we’ll convert an Ancestry timeline into a Family History Summary/Ancestor Snapshot and create the first draft of a visual keepsake.

I’ll use my Family History Summary for Individuals template for Microsoft Word for the demonstration. So keep watching if you’d want to learn my process to set up draft snapshots using details from an individual timeline. I’ll cover:

  • Copying details from an Ancestry timeline
  • Reviewing the content to know what to keep and what to delete
  • Formatting your visual keepsake in under 10 minutes
  • Finding the gaps and determining where to find the info you need

Are you ready? Then keep watching!

INTRODUCTION: If this is your first time here, hello, I’m Prudence, The Creative Family Historian. I’m a graphic designer who helps genealogists — like you — bring their family history to life by converting research into stories and beautiful heritage keepsakes.

On this channel, I provide tips on family history productivity, organisation, writing and design, as well as sharing my current journey as I undertake a genealogy reset.

Are you enjoying my family history content and want to hear more from me? Then hit subscribe and the notification bell, so you get updated every time I upload a video.

And consider giving this video a thumbs up to let me know you enjoy the topic and would like to see more content like this.

PRUDENCE: Okay, we’re in now and I’m on my ancestor’s timeline. You’ll see that’s the Facts tab.

So the first thing you want to do is actually check how many spouses and children they have. Keep that number in mind for when you’re creating the snapshot. And you’ll count those up — I’ve got one spouse and 11 children.

You’ll go to the top of the timeline, drag and hold the mouse down. Continue all the way to the end to select all events. When you’re done, press Ctrl + C and head over to Word.

Now we’re in Word, so I’m going to go ahead and create a new document of the Family History Summary for Individuals.

I’m going to the Insert tab, then the cover page option, to add my starter tree. In this instance, that’s the one spouse and ten children, based on the information that I calculated over in Ancestry.

Then the next thing I want to do is go to the very bottom of the document. There I’ll add a page break and paste in that timeline data from Ancestry. And I want to do that with Keep Text Only then we’re ready to start formatting.

We’ll add in his name George Louis Wood — perfect.

And while we’re up here, we may as well add in his photo. So we know from Ancestry we have his photo so will pop that up in. Go to Shape Format, Shape Fill, Picture from file. I’m just going to grab his portrait there and get that in. And because I’ve got a slightly secondary colour border around there, I’m actually just going to expand that a little bit.

I’m going to set it to fill. Then I’m just going to pull that out and pull it out a little bit more. Perfect. All right. So now we’ve got a photo of George added in. And if I want, I might actually just change the colour of that to greyscale. All right. I’m much happier with that.

And now we’re just going to go through and populate the tree. Now it’s time to start populating the tree. And I’m going to do that by using the information that we copied over from Ancestry earlier and popped down on those holding pages at the end of the document.

So what I’ll do is I’ll look at the starter tree and I’ll have a look at what the prompt is. So that’s the name of the child, date of birth, et cetera. Next, I’ll check that information and see what I’ve got that relates to each prompt. I’ll copy and paste it into the relevant space in my family tree. Then I’ll keep repeating those steps until I’ve added everyone to the family tree and I’ve exhausted the information I have.

All right. Now that we’ve completed the tree, what we’re going to do is go ahead and complete that summary on the left-hand side. Now, this is just a synopsis of your ancestor’s life. What I’m going to do is break it down into phases and I go-ahead to create a working heading for each of those phases. So that I get an idea of what I’m going to be able to add to them as I go through.

Then I’m going to go back to that timeline that we copied from Ancestry, and I’m going to start to write a sentence about each of the events on that timeline. Now, I’m not worrying too much about what I’m saying or the language I’m using or even my grammar at this point. It’s all about creating a draft.

And you’ll notice as I complete each of those sentences, I’m deleting that event. So by the end of this, I will have quite a few paragraphs, but I’ll have no events left because I’ll have written a sentence or two about all of them. And then I will edit it a little bit if I’ve run out of space in my summary above.

So that synopsis really is designed to be short. So it’s really just to give you a flavour of your ancestor and not the details. You can always add a second or third page to this family history summary. If you want more space, I have other options in my Template Store you can check out. There are a few releasing soon at the time of recording this, such as the Ancestor Profile and a Classic Family History Book template.

So I will just continue to work through all of the events on the timeline and some of them I may actually group in together until I get to the end.

Then all I have to do is copy those paragraphs and distribute them under the headings that I added earlier. And that gives me my first draft. After that, I am going to leave the top parts of that till later. And when I’ve actually completed those draft paragraphs, then I’ll go and do that two-to-three-line summary and the intro.

So now I just want to highlight the gaps that I have in my data. So I’m just going to do that by just highlighting them here in the document. Then I’ll pop back over to Ancestry and see if I’ve got that information over there. And once I’ve got all of my information in, I’ll come back and I’ll start to rework those paragraphs.

And that’s the first draft done. The next step is retrieving or searching for the missing data and adding that in to fill in the gaps. It doesn’t have to be more complicated than that. And if you want to continue building on the story, then you have a solid foundation in place.

So what do you think?

Are you inspired to try this approach and start setting up snapshots of your ancestors using this technique?

If you don’t have a copy of the Family History Summary/Snapshot template, then you can snag that at the Template Store. You’ll find a link to that in the description box.

Let’s continue the conversation in the comments. First, I’d love you to have a go at creating your Ancestor Snapshot using family tree timeline data. Just like I have here today. And after you do, come back, and drop me a comment about how you found the process. Was it challenging or more straightforward than you thought?

And let me know if you have a question about a different genealogy organisation writing or design problem that you’d like me to answer. Look for the link to the Ask the Creative Family Historian submission form in the description below. I can’t wait to hear from you.

That’s it from me, so I’ll see you in the next video. Until then, happy storytelling!

Make Formatting Ancestor Snapshots Simple with this Brilliant Timeline Trick