Thursday, April 20, 2023

Bite-Sized Family History: Upgrading to Professional Photobooks

For the past decade, I've been compiling bite-sized family history booklets to share facts, stories, and photos with my relatives. Choosing a specific focus helps me manage each project so it doesn't become overwhelming for me or my readers.

Now I'm in the process of converting my many paper-based family history booklets into professionally-produced photobooks, one at a time. In the past, I had a local copy shop print my bite-sized booklets in color on heavyweight paper, then I put them into a plastic sleeve or a binder for each recipient. But I've noticed the earlier booklets are becoming worn looking, pages getting creased and torn. Some of the thinner booklets have been lost in the shuffle. 

I'm ready to upgrade, little by little. Why pay more for a professional photobook?

  • Professional photobooks are much higher quality, more polished looking. The photos are sharper, the layouts more sophisticated. 
  • Professional photobooks will far outlast my previous paper-based booklets. 
  • Professional photobooks can be customized so photos are larger or smaller, text areas carry more words, headlines are in different colors, etc. The creative possibilities are endless.
  • Professional photobooks impress my readers more than the paper-based booklets. I found this out with my small (6 inch by 6 inch) photobook about ancestors in World War II. Readers responded very enthusiastically!
  • Remember: Watch for discounts and sales. Some photobook sites announce discounts for major holidays...others offer free "extra pages" or other specials. Shop around and see which site meets your needs.
At top, the cover of my latest bite-sized project in progress, a photobook (8 x 11 inches) about my Mom and her twin sister. I first created this in paper booklet form two years ago. Transformed into a photobook, it will be a more durable keepsake that readers can page through again and again for years to come.

Plus I finally know the names of all the people in all the photos so my captions will be more complete! An older cousin reached back into her memory to identify the two "mystery children" in the above photo as part of the FAN club (friends, associates, neighbors), not relatives. We also dated the photo after carefully studying the apparent ages of the kids. 

Redoing my family history into a professional photobook offers an opportunity to correct, add, subtract, and focus. Everyone is identified by full name AND I inserted info from the 1950 US Census, among other changes. The paper-based booklets looked quite good, but these look really great.

Without question, photobooks are much more costly than paper booklets. For me, after 25 years of researching my family tree, it's a worthwhile investment in memorializing ancestors for the long term--but let me stress again that I wait for a sale to order. Actually, I'll first order a single copy to see how the book looks. Then I can either tinker or reorder for all my readers (on sale of course). 


Bring Family History Alive in Bite-Sized Projects is one of my genealogy presentations--learn more here.


  1. What a GREAT idea! I love this! Yes, more durable, and a nicer presentation. PS. loved the cover to your latest project! :)

  2. I made 8 x 8 hardcover photobooks at Shutterfly for my grandchildren. The first page is their photo and personal information. Page 2 is their parents. After that I focus on my and my husband's sides of the family, going back about 3-5 generations with photos if possible. At the end I included all military information and photos. I watch for the rare Shutterfly "free photobook just pay shipping" and share them with their parent's accounts to save money.

  3. I love your "Bite-Sized" books. I've done this for family vacations but not genealogy. Thank you!