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Mar 11, 2014

The Genealogy Gems Podcast
Episode 13

Originally Published 2007
Remastered March 2014
By Lisa Louise Cooke


From the MAILBOX

Hello Lisa: I have just finished listening to your podcast on tracing family
members through school records. You mentioned some sources to

Alan's Website

Many years ago I came across a list or resources to be found in the
home. I still have the photocopy I made,  but it does not say who
originally created it. I believe I found it at my local LDS.  Anyway
since putting it on my site, I and others who have come to that page
have added to it.

I really like your show and look forward to receiving your newsletter.

Allan Scahill


GEM:   Memorial Day & WW II Service Records

With the month of May comes Memorial Day, and in Episode Thirteen I thought it would be a good time to do a quick check for some military records.   If you have relatives who served in World War II here are a couple of free ‘must check’ websites for you.

The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA):

The WWII enlistment records for the years of 1938 through 1946 are listed on the NARA website.  These records contain the majority of enlistments, approximately nine million men and women who enlisted in the U.S. Army, including the Women's Army Auxiliary Corps.  What I like about the NARA records is that they include the Army Serial Number, which I’ve not seen on the Ancestry version of the records.  And of course they are free at the NARA website.  They also have searchable WWII Prisoner of War Records.

Another great website for searching for soldiers traveling overseas or returning home after the war is Steve Morse’s All New York Arrivals Search Form.

I hadn’t thought of searching for traveling soldiers until I heard Steve Morse speak about it at a recent seminar.   As soon as I got home from the seminar, I used his form and immediately found my Great Uncle Elzie returning home on the Ile de France after being injured in the D-Day invasion.  With the availability of New York passenger lists up to 1957, many new research doors have been opened.

If you’d like more information or historical background on Memorial Day, visit the U.S. Memorial Day website.


GEM:  Family History Books

By now you may have seen my videos A Nurse In Training Part 1 & Part 2 on my YouTube channel.

A Nurse In Training didn’t actually start out as a video but rather a book.  I have found that by breaking up my research into digestible chunks of time and self-publishing them in hard cover books my extended family is able to understand and enjoy our family’s history.

I started self-publishing about a year ago.  We don’t live close to our families, so Christmas gifts have to be purchased ahead of time and shipped.  Family history books turned out to be a fantastic way to start sharing some of my research findings in an affordable way that could be easily mailed.

In the past I’ve sent CDs full of photos and documents. But in the end I think they were a bit overwhelming to the non-genealogists in the family.

I think there are many reasons for this:

Computer CDs are perceived as something technical and hard to use.   The material is chopped up, and individual photos and documents don’t tell a particular story smoothly and easily.

I think they’re also perceived as very time consuming.  Folks just don’t feel like they have the time to sit down and really give it the attention it deserves.  Also, many people find reading on a computer screen hard on the eyes. 

The solution: a good old fashioned book!  Books are still hard to beat for telling a story in words and pictures in a user friendly way.

But where to begin the story, and where to end it?  That’s the big question!  The temptation is to tell the story of one generation of the family.  That’s usually just too big of a project to take on.  The book will likely end up being lots of dates and names and not a lot of room for much else.  And there’s always the risk that it won’t be completed if it’s too large an undertaking.

I wanted my family to get to know these people in our family tree intimately.  That meant focusing in much closer than an entire generation of the family.  In the end, I started with my favorite ancestor:  my grandmother. 

I’ve transcribed many years of her diaries as I talked about in Episode Two.  One of the stories that really emerged out of them was her years spent in nurses training in the 1930s.  I learned so much through her journal entries, and I knew I had a good collection of photos from that period.    

I decided that my starting point would be her graduation from high school and her decision to enter the nursing field.  By the time I had pulled everything together from 1930 to 1933, I had more than enough for a nice size book. 

It’s really important to create your book with your audience in mind.  Your audience is your family member who will be reading the book. 

Here are my Top Six Tips for making your book fascinating to your reader:

#1 The Should Book Convey An Overall Theme
Start by reviewing all the available material you have.  That will give you a good sense of what the time period was like for your ancestor.  You’ll also start to understand their goals, experiences, and emotions.  Ultimately a theme should begin to surface. 

In the case of A Nurse In Training, I wanted to communicate my grandmother as a young woman taking on a new adventure away from home that ultimately led to this warm, caring woman’s successful career as a nurse.  I also tucked a bonus subplot in there of how she just happened to meet her husband at the same time!

You don’t need every scrap of research and every photo to get this theme across.  It’s your job to be a sharp editor and to pick out the critical pieces.  You want the words and photographs that clearly communicate your theme to the reader.

#2 Create a Book that can be Read in One Sitting
Like it or not, if it takes too long read, they probably won’t.  Strive to create a book that doesn’t look intimidating.  I create books that are ten to twenty double sided pages.  People will be willing to pick up a thinner book off the coffee table.  If it’s well done they’ll find that all of a sudden they’ve finished the entire book without wanting to put it down.  The final goal is that they will walk away with a real sense of having gotten to know that ancestor.

#3 Your Book Should Contain the Best of What You Have
This goes back to conveying the theme and being a strict editor.  My grandma had many funny stories, but there just wasn’t room for all of them.  I picked the best of the best.  Anyone who reads the book should hopefully come away with the fact that she had a sense of humor and could laugh at herself.  So keep the content of your book focused, full of graphics and photos, and including the best of the best.  If you can capture their interest in the first three pages, you’ll have them for the entire book.

#4 Include Lots of Photos and Graphics
A picture is definitely worth a thousand words.  Since the number of words in this size book will be limited, photographs will be your best friend.  If you’re lacking in family photos, many of my previous podcasts will give you countless ideas for locating associated photos.  In A Nurse In Training I included scanned images of skating rink tickets, programs and announcements from my grandma’s scrapbook, and journal pages in my grandmother’s own hand.  These types of items really add texture and interest to your book, as well as help the reader to see that you’ve really done your homework.

#5 Keep It in Chronological Order
This may seem obvious, but it’s easy to get side tracked and start going back and forth in time.  Believe me, for the reader’s sake keep things in chronological order. You as the researcher know this information backwards and forwards, but this is probably your reader’s first exposure to it.  Be gentle with them and keep it straight forward and simple.  Your reader will thank you.

#6 Go for High Quality
High quality glossy pages, good image quality and a hard cover binding all shout to the reader “I’m worth your time, read me!”  For example, I found a drawing of Dameron Hospital where my grandmother worked, but it was a low quality image and didn’t translate well in the book.  As much as I wanted to include it, I ended up leaving it out. I’m glad I did; it wasn’t critical to the book and there were other ways to communicate the hospital to the reader.

Keeping these tips in mind, let’s talk about how to publish your own family history book.

I create my books in the Kodakgallery which is now Shutterfly at

There are several websites out there offering the ability to publish your own book.  I chose Kodakgallery because the program was very easy to use, the price was competitive, publishing and shipping time was FAST, and the quality was excellent.  I saw a book that a friend of mine published of his father’s World War II service years and it was gorgeous.  Again, quality is really key. Hopefully, these books will become family keepsakes and you’ll want them to be the highest quality possible.

I use the Classic Photo Book style which is 9” x 10-1/4" in size and includes ten double sided pages for a total of twenty pages, but you can certainly add more.  It comes in a hardcover that you can do in linen fabric, smooth matte or leather.  It also includes a window in the front cover that you can see your first photo through.  I really like that feature because it never fails to capture people’s curiosity and entice them to pick up the book and take a look.

They also have a larger Legacy Photo book which is 12” x 14”.  This is the size my friend used that worked really well because he was including large images of newspaper pages about the war.

I’m going to walk you through the steps of setting up a book in Kodak Gallery because it’s a resource I feel very comfortable recommending.  But again, there are other options out there, and my guess is that the publishing process would be pretty similar.  I have provided a Kodak Gallery link for you at my website at GenealogyGems.TV on the STORE page.  If you decide to use Kodak, I would really appreciate you accessing it through this link because it will help support the production costs associated with producing this podcast.  

In the Photo Books area of the website, click CREATE BOOK.

The first thing you’ll do is choose a cover material for your book.  I used black leather for A Nurse In Training which is really nice and has a light sheen to it.  It is $10 more than linen or matte.  I created a Guest Book for my daughter’s wedding where the right side pages were photos of the happy couple and the left side pages had space for guests to sign and write notes.  I used linen for that cover in the color “baby pink” and really liked that as well.  Ultimately, I think it comes down choosing a cover style that compliments the theme and contents of the book.  Once you’ve made your selection, click the NEXT button.

You will then need to choose a page design for your book.  For A Nurse in Training I used the design “Time After Time.”  It has a lovely antique look.  Go ahead and pick one you like.  Don’t worry, you can always change the page design any time before you make your final purchase.  When you’re ready, click NEXT.

This will bring up a box asking if you want to auto fill your book with photos you’ve already uploaded to the website, or if you want to add them page by page.  If this is your first book, I think page by page is the way to go.

Now you’re getting to the fun stuff: adding content to your book.  Anywhere you see a text box you just click inside of it and start typing.  The space for text can be somewhat limited though, so always preview your pages to be sure you didn’t lose any text.

To upload photos look below the image of the book and click the UPLOAD PHOTOS link.  You can browse your hard drive and select the photos and images you want to include.  On the publishing page your photos will appear beneath the book.  Just grab the photo and drop it into the DRAG PHOTO HERE box where you want it to appear.  You can preview the pages as you go by clicking PREVIEW right below the book spine.  Images can be adjusted with zoom & arrow movement features. Keep clicking next page until you have filled all the pages. 

Each page layout can be altered by clicking the CHOOSE PAGE LAYOUT button in the upper corner of the page.  Using a variety of layouts can add a lot of interest to your book.  Ultimately you’ll be selecting the layouts that accommodate your images and text.  Don’t be afraid of leaving white space on pages.  It makes the book easier to read and enjoy. 

Another nice feature of the book is the cover page.  Select a good, clear, preferably simple photo of your subject for the cover page.  It will be seen through a vellum page from the cover.  Under the photo you will want to put the title of your book, and on the second line add your name as author.

On the backside of the cover page you will want to create your dedication page using a text only page layout.  Here’s an example of what you could write:

First Sentene: State who the book's audience is

Second Sentence: Give credit to those who contributed materials

Third Sentence: STate your personal goal for the book, as well as your name and the year published.

I gave copies of my book about my grandma to my mom and my uncle.  It was the first time in years that I’ve seen tears in my uncle’s eyes.  He loved it; no toaster or tie could have made a better Christmas gift.  The following Christmas I did a book about my father-in-laws WWII naval years and sent a copy to everyone on my husband’s side of the family.  In the months following as I received RSVPs for my daughter’s wedding they were still raving about the book and how much it meant to them.  More than anything, they were so surprised to realize how little they knew about their father’s patriotic service. 

It’s a joy to create these books as well as to give them.  They’ve stimulated wonderful family conversations and I know they won’t end up in the next garage sale.  Remember: your research can be fascinating and understandable to others in your family.  It just takes a little creativity and effort.  What good is it sitting on a shelf?  Don’t wait until you are done with your research.  It will never happen.  Start putting pieces of your family history directly into your family’s hands with a beautiful family history book.