Art of Family History | Episode 32


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3 Easy Ways to Add Long Stories to Your Family History Summary

Prudence: Are you struggling with the Family History Summary template because you have more story than space?

Maybe you don’t have the template, but you find it hard to wrangle your text in Microsoft Word. There always seems to be a weird gap where you don’t want one, and everything shifts when you add more content, even though there seems to be enough space. And I shouldn’t even get you started on how easy it is to “break” Microsoft Word documents, right?

Maybe you’ve even considered abandoning a project because you couldn’t get the document to behave? In that case, this episode of Art of Family History is for you.

Today, in episode 32, I’m jumping into the Microsoft Word Family History Summary template and demonstrating how to add multiple pages of content and what to do when things go wrong. Keep watching to learn how to replace placeholder text without upsetting the column break, insert additional pages for more stories and photos, and move the position of the family tree or any other element.

So hang around for the whole video, and you’ll be creating custom family history summaries in no time.


If this is your first time watching one of my videos, let me quickly introduce myself. 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.

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Now I’m going to jump straight into the Word template so we can get started. Let’s go.


If you have the template, then you’ll know that there is some placeholder text in the first column to be replaced if you have a summary for your ancestor. So that is about 340 to 350 words. So you’ll see that there are a couple of headings in there. I’ve got a bullet point and then, but mostly it’s paragraph text.

When you’re working on your template, the first thing you want to do is select that text and see how much, how many words it is, and then you can decide how much copy you can actually place in there. So you can see that word count down here at the bottom of the screen, and it will tell you the number of words for the selection or the entire document. And then you can just double-click that section to actually open up and see the full word count.

Option One

So now that we understand those things about our document, we’re ready to insert some more text. First of all, we’re going to look at a standard family tree. So I’m going to use the default, which is one spouse and ten children. Now, families do vary. So if you are familiar with this template, you’ll know that you can go up to the “Insert” tab to “Cover Page”, and have some other options for an in-built tree. And we’ll look at some of those in our two other examples, but we’ll start out with this one.

So this is the story that I had created earlier. What I want to do is I’m just going to take a section first of all and see how many words that is. I can see that that’s like 343, which will fit in that left column. So I’m just going to copy that out and back over here in my document. I’m going to replace this placeholder text, so I’ll just select the whole thing.

I’m going to go up to “Home”, “Paste”. Now, I always choose “Paste Special As Unformatted Text”, and I do that because I don’t want to bring in any additional formatting into my document, which is what will happen if you just take “Ctrl + V”. And then I go through, and I format the document. So now that section is perfect.

Next up, I have to add in the rest of my story. So what I’m going to do is go to the end of my family tree, and I’m just going to go to “Paste”, “Keep Text Only”. Okay. So now that’s looking pretty good. So now it’s just time to go through and format it.

And of course, could also format by adding in some additional photos if that’s what you wanted to do. So that’s option one for how to add long stories into your family history summary template.

Option 2

Now let’s look at a version where we have a much smaller family tree. Okay, now with this ancestor, what is going to happen is you’ll see where we have one spouse, no children ancestor, and we want to apply their long story into the document.

So there’s going to be a couple of ways to do that. The way I’m going to do it here is I’m actually going to select their tree. I’m going to go “Ctrl + X” to cut, and I’m going to move that tree over here. So I’m going to place it under their intro summary, and then I’m just going to paste that in.

Okay, now don’t panic. While it does look like that has broken the document. All that has happened is that we’ve just put too much content in this column over here. And what we need to do here is we actually need to take some of this text out. So we’re just going to basically select all that placeholder text and delete it.

I’m also just going to remove this style here. So we would check out what that was by going into “View” and “Draft”. And I can then see that has got a “Spacer” – so that’s the style that’s applied there. So I’m going to go in and clear that formatting. Now’s the time to start putting that story in.

So I’m going to do this in two blocks, and we’ll paste that in as “text only”. Now it’s time to add the rest of the story. So I’m going to add that in here underneath my ancestors’ name. Okay. Now that all the styles are applied, it’s time for the final tidy-up. So this is where you can choose to add additional images if you want.

Add in a full-page image here to break up the text, you can have column images, half-page images, so whatever suits you. But that’s how you can get your story in, and you’ll have your much smaller tree over here on the left.

Option Three

So let’s move on to our third and final option, which is where we have the tree on the second page. Now we’re ready to put our story in. And that’s your third option on how you can add longer stories into your “Family History Summary Template”.

Okay, that was a lot, right? So how are you feeling about adding and moving content around the “Family History Summary Template” or any Word document? Hopefully, you’re feeling inspired by the flexibility of the design and the different ways you can format the document to suit your unique ancestor’s story. And that you now feel comfortable finding the word count of placeholder text so you can confidently replace that without upsetting that column break.

I’d love it if we continued the conversation in the comments. Has this tutorial inspired you to get more creative with your family history summaries?

Ask the Creative Family Historian

Do you have a question that a family history summary that you’d like answered or any genealogy organisation, writing or design problem that you’d like me to look into? Look for the link to the “Ask The Creative Family Historian” submission form in the description box below.

I look forward to hearing from you. Now, if you’d like to learn more from me, check out the video on the screen. But that’s it for me for this video, and I’ll see you in the next one. Until then, happy storytelling.

3 Easy Ways to Add More Content to Your Family History Summary