Thursday, April 24, 2014

Dear Randy: How Do I Publish My Family Tree?

Regular commenter T asked that question on my Follow-Up on Collaborative Tree - Getting It Right post (22 April 2014), saying:

"How does one go about publishing a family tree? I have researched so much of my family that no one else has and I've found errors in research done by others. One quote from a published book is wrong and I have the correct information. And once successfully published, how do I get it 'out there' for others to use?"

That's an excellent question and almost every genealogy researcher asks it at some point in their career.  It has several possible answers, depending on several factors, including:

1)  Write an article for a specific research problem or family line and submit it to a genealogical periodical - a local (e.g., Chula Vista Genealogical Society), regional (e.g., Southern California Genealogical Society), state (e.g., California Genealogical Society) or national (e.g., National Genealogical Society) genealogical organization or publisher.  Each society or publisher will have standards for content (page limits, reader interest, etc.), editing (peer-reviewed, lightly edited, or published as-is), source citations, images, etc.  You should read past issues to determine if the periodical is appropriate for your article.  An article may take some time to publish, depending on publishing schedules and editing issues.

2)  Write a family history book using genealogy software or a word processor and publish it yourself (at a copy service) or using a book publisher.  There are publishing services for small runs like CreativeContinuum ( that will publish your book and provide other services for a price.  Biff Barnes on the Stories to Tell Books website writes about this option and offers services.  There are other genealogy publishers for family history books that might have a wide reader interest.  

3)  Publishing it yourself is easier if you use a publish-on-demand service like  You create the content, edit it (or have someone else edit it), contract with the publishing service, set a price for the book, and publish it, then try to market it.  I have not done this or investigated it much.  Denise Olson on the Moultrie Creek Gazette blog has many posts about this option.

4)  You could write your own genealogy blog and write about each family or family line in your ancestry, displaying record images and abstracts or transcriptions to justify your research conclusions.  Blog posts can be found using a search engine, so your information would be found by a researcher looking for names and places and relationships.  Obviously, I do this!

5)  You could publish the whole book as a PDF file on an online website like, and other publish-on-demand services.  I've put several multi-generational family history reports together and have them on Scribd - see  I can delete them, or add more, and I can even sell them.  The information in the reports is found by a search engine.  

6)  You could use one or more of the many online family tree systems as cousin bait.  An Ancestry Member Tree gets found by the Ancestry search engine, and is free to create.  However, if you want to discuss specific research points in an AMT, you need to attach Stories to the persons rather than rely on Notes uploaded with a GEDCOM file (since Notes are not visible to anyone but the tree Owner).  Some online trees encourage discussions about research problems - WikiTree, WeRelate, Geni and the FamilySearch Family Tree are examples. Content on some of the online trees (not Ancestry, not FSFT) can be found with a search engine.  

7)  You could write posts or comments on Rootsweb surname or locality message boards and Rootsweb mailing lists about specific research problems and issues.  These are also found by a search engine.  

It all depends on how much effort you want to expend to create a family history book or article.  There are cost issues with actual paper and cover books. One risk is that another researcher will take issue with the conclusions that you've published and now you have the same problem that you mentioned in your question.

I'm sure that my Genea-Musings readers will have other ideas for reader T - please comment on this post and help T out with publishing options.  

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Copyright (c) 2014, Randall J. Seaver


Keith Riggle said...

Randy, great suggestions! Just a minor clarification: notes in Ancestry member trees can also be viewed by those invited to the tree as an "Editor".

LegacyMemoir said...

Hello Randy and T! Randy, you have a great and informative blog! Very useful information for T, also. And if T needs any kind of editing or design help, check out Aside from my services, I'm happy to offer writing and editing advice, as well as advice on epublishing, design, etc. for T's book. Just email me! Best to you. Daniel