Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Giving Your Family Tree for Christmas

Reader Fawn Eutzy writes,

I am attempting to find the pricing for ancestry.com  I want to have a family tree style book made for my mother for Christmas & I am not sure the exact way of getting the information and having a book made without spending hundreds of dollars. Any suggestions and direction?

Thanks so much

Fawn Eutzy

Publishing your family tree as a gift for loved ones is a wonderful idea, but it is not without cost. Your primary cost will be in hours of preparation. And I'm always surprised how expensive a professional quality book runs. For your children, an electronic copy (PDF) can be as satisfying as a physical book. But for an older relative, nothing will be quite as meaningful as something they can hold in their hands and smell as the pages are turned for the first time.

While Ancestry.com is not the only way to publish a family tree book, it is the only one offered within my stated editorial coverage. And it is the only one I've tried. Fortunately, they also address the two costs mentioned above.

Cost in dollars

Building your tree in Ancestry.com is free. Building your book in Ancestry.com (and their MyCanvas system) is also free. And printing your book to your own printer or to a PDF file is also free. If you don't already have a PDF printer driver, you can buy one, but Dick Eastman reviews several free PDF printer drivers.

Having the capability to produce a PDF copy of your book gives you the freedom to find the most economic place to print your book. That may be Ancestry.com or it may be another online or local printer. Lulu.com is one of the more well known print on demand online printers. A Google search for "print on demand" will give you more choices and more information. Most local printers can also do print on demand jobs, including major copy centers such as Kinkos (now called FedEx Office) which offer cheaper cover/binding choices for the truly economically minded.

Costs for professional printing using Ancestry.com's MyCanvas start at $35 for a basic book of up to 20 pages. Larger pages and higher quality covers add to the price. Additional pages are 0.50 for 11 x 8.5 inch pages or 0.80 for 14 x 11 inch pages.

Cost in time

Ancestry.com gives the capability of automatically generating all the pages of your book from your online tree, which can save a substantial amount of time in creating your book. First upload your tree via a GEDCOM file. Then before you create your book, upload a primary photograph for each person on your pedigree. Other photographs can be uploaded later, but any primary photographs for persons on your pedigree will automatically be included at the appropriate places when you create your book.

If you have an Ancestry.com subscription, you can also use the shaky leaves to attach records to individuals on your pedigree. These records will also be included in your automatically created book, but can quickly bloat a 5-generation book to a hundred pages and an $80+ price tag per book.

Another time saver is the ability to use photographs you've already uploaded to Ancestry.com, MyFamily.com, SmugMug or Picasa.

If you're really pressed for time, consider creating a pedigree chart poster. I gave one to my mother last year and she loves it. Well, she tells me the picture of my father at 4 years of age is actually his brother... But other than that, she loves it.


  1. How do I save a pedigree poster I've made? I'd like to be able to use it as often as I like without making it over every time.

    1. Download the PDF. It has been so long, I don't remember the steps. But do it before Ancestry.com shuts down myCanvas on 30 September 2014.


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