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Desktop Publishing Your Family History Book

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Creating a Table of Contents and Index for Your Family History Book
A basic TOC

Any book, including family history books, benefit from having a table of contents.

© J. Bear
One of the first things your third cousin Emma is going to do when she sees your family history book is flip to the page where you list her and her family. Help out Emma and all your cousins (as well as future family historians) with a table of contents and an index.

Be sure that the genealogy or desktop publishing software you are using provides for automatic generation of an index or use third-party indexing solutions. An automatically-generated table of contents is nice, but the index is the more complex part of the book. While older published family histories may have omitted the index (before software, indexing was an often tedious, time-consuming job) don't leave out this important component of your family history book.

  • Consistency - Keep the style of your table of contents (margins, fonts) consistent with the rest of your book.

  • Branches - Use the table of contents to show general sections such as narratives and descendant charts for each main branch of the family included in your book.

  • Surnames / Placenames - Include surnames and key placenames (towns, counties) in your index. You may also want to include the names of churches, organizations, businesses, and even specific streets that figure prominently in your family history.

  • Maiden Names / Alternative Spellings - For female members or instances where the family name changed significantly in spelling, consider using cross-references to maiden and married names or alternate spellings used by the same individual.

  • Page Numbers - Don't forget the page numbers -- ideally on every page of your book but at the very least if your TOC or index references a specific page, it should have a page number on it.

Written for all types of publications, here are tips and advice on organizing and formatting a table of contents.

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