Kind of like only better (because it's homemade).
September 29, 2011 1:19 PM   Subscribe

I want to make a really nice "family history" book (not necessarily genealogy, however)

When was first featured on the Blue, I really liked it, but I was kind of turned off by the potential data mining aspect of it, and also a bit bummed at the options for output. But it was inspiring, and I decided I want to make something similar. I want to make a really nicely-typset family "history" album, using something like an online form to collect data and output it to a something like LaTeX for a polished, print ready output.

Designing the questions and the content are one thing, and I'm more than willing to learn LaTeX as well as any other necessary web technologies to make this happen. Basically when all is said and done I want to be able to email a URL to my friends and family, have them fill out the questions, and then spin through the data to fill in the blanks, which I'll then publish through Blurb or Lulu or something like that and send to my family as Christmas gifts.

Has anything similar been done before? I've seen ads for companies that will compile your family history for you, and of course practically does this, but I want more flexibility and I want to build it myself. Are there any open source projects with a similar vibe?

What I'm looking for are suggestions, mostly on the technical side of this, of where to go and what to study to help me do this. I'm also open to any bright ideas in the content/design department. If you were making a family book, what kinds of things would you like to see in it? This isn't really intended to be an extended family history, though a nice graphical family tree could end up in there somewhere.
posted by Doleful Creature to Computers & Internet (2 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
My aunt and my mother have both done family history books for different sides of the family; both books were more story-telling than genealogy. There's plenty of oddball stories in my family, and I'm sure in most families. In my case, my father died when I was very young, and my parents married when he was in his 30s, so my aunt's memories of him as a teenager and young man are particularly special. Old photos are also really special, as you see people you know in different ways, and yourself in people you've never met.

To be honest, I think they both wrote everything in Word or possibly Publisher and then photocopied the pictures and pasted it all together, although I think the family trees at the front were generated out of some genealogy program or another.

My mother doesn't write very well, and doesn't really do graphic design (unless it's in fabric), but I got a much better picture of her family even from awkwardly worded text printed in Times New Roman. :) It's something I cherish.

(Not 100% sure if that answers your questions. MeMail me if you want pictures of the books my aunt & mom have made.)
posted by epersonae at 2:25 PM on September 29, 2011

Pictures, handwritten letters or stories, even artwork is great stuff. Check out some sites on doing oral history. Scroll down for some sample questions to get you started. A formal book with exact margins typeset and pristine can be lovely, but there's something really special about an eclectic collection of things donated by everyone. If you'd rather have a tidier book, you could photocopy and size everything the same, and then have it bound. One original copy for you, and however many more for the rest of the family. Binding it with the option of adding more pages is also nice.
posted by BlueHorse at 8:49 PM on September 29, 2011

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