Family History Binder – Part 1 – Intro

For Christmas 2016, I put together a family history binder for my father-in-law. I began at the beginning of September with the intention of including both his paternal and maternal lines, but with a baby taking up most of my time I was only able to complete the Reynolds side. This book contains information about his father (my husband’s grandfather) and 3 generations back from there, so 15 direct ancestors total. Eventually I would love to be able to create them for all of our family lines.

When I finally finished it on December 23rd, I decided to post a few pictures of the final product in a Facebook group called “The Organized Genealogist”. Within a few hours my post had over 2000 likes and close to 500 comments consisting of hundreds of questions and requests for tutorials. So here is my tutorial that will hopefully answer all of your questions and help you create a similar book for your family.

It took me a while to get through everything since I could only work during my son’s naptimes, so I divided it up into multiple posts that can be found here:

Part 2 – Materials

Part 3 – Dividers

Part 4 – Photos

Part 5 – Timelines and Maps

Part 6 – Documents


44 thoughts on “Family History Binder – Part 1 – Intro

  1. Karen January 11, 2017 / 11:29 am

    This is amazing ! I am doing something similar but you are way more organized. This is great ! Well done!


  2. Sandra Parks January 11, 2017 / 7:26 pm

    Thank you for posting your approach to organizing family history information. I had set up binders years ago, but from time to time….okay, frequently took pieces out so I would have to carry around a large binder. As a result, I now have the most UN-organized, compilation of bits and pieces of information. I’m going to day to get all the materials you listed and will attempt to add organization to my beloved “mess”!


    • Sandra Parks January 11, 2017 / 7:28 pm

      Sorry for my above comment! I meant to say that I took pieces out so I would NOT have to carry around a large binder!


  3. Kay January 12, 2017 / 4:18 am

    My mother did this similar thing. She has 4 3inch binders of our family history that she did over 20 years ago. Now that she has passed, it is a treasure. I know the hard work you put into this binder and see somethings I going to try. Good for you.


  4. eclecticbookwormgmail February 25, 2017 / 1:14 am

    Hi! Love this project! Can you tell me which font you used for the cover? Thanks!


      • Jen May 8, 2020 / 7:59 pm

        Is your Reynolds family from Iowa by any chance?


  5. Nicki Boyle September 17, 2017 / 5:01 am

    This is truly amazingly fit!! Thank you so much for posting, this helps a lot. I am having troubles getting photos, any ideas you may have to help?



    • jessaroni October 9, 2017 / 12:34 pm

      Talk to your family! I had no idea many of the photos even existed until I started this project. When I told some aunts about it they went and pulled out boxes of photos I didn’t know they had. Also, I joined facebook groups for specific family lines and asked if anyone had pictures.


  6. Cheryl September 21, 2017 / 4:44 pm

    I have done something similar but I am up to 24 albums. I have included family info sheets for each person, then copies of important documents and then photos of that person. Of course many of the older generations do not have pictures but if at all possible I have included any stories about them that I have found. There are such interesting stories out there and those are the things I find the most interesting. My granddaughter got me re-interested in genealogy a few years ago and we spent the summer working on it. She’s in college now and doesn’t have much time but she will inherit all the work so she can pass it along to future generations.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Anonymous October 9, 2017 / 12:27 pm

    My own maternal grandmother was Annie Reynolds of Saint John NB Canada….. so a Reynolds
    genealogy like this was thrilling to me….. I have tried to do similar binders but not nearly as
    nice as this set is…. now to read as much as I can of the site. Thanks for sharing….Mary D.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Anonymous November 6, 2017 / 11:14 am

    A few thoughts: Do not EVER write in ink on the back of a photograph. It will eventually bleed through to the picture.
    Also, my daughter has a degree in scenic design( Theater costumes, lights, and scenes). She can identify within about 1 year of the date a photo was taken. Her degree taught her hair styles, clothing, items in households, etc. She had to know in order to design for professional plays. Perhaps you can locate someone in your Theater community who would be willing to help you date your mystery photos. Best of luck to all.C

    Liked by 3 people

    • Patricia August 17, 2018 / 11:18 pm

      I’ve heard this No ink admonition for years and I’ve yet to see it bleed through. On the other hand, I have some photos written on in pencil which are so faded it’s impossible to read the info.


      • Nancy July 26, 2020 / 3:48 pm

        Use an archival pen and DON’T press hard.


  9. Anonymous November 6, 2017 / 11:16 am

    Above post by anonymous C: About the ink part, use a very soft pencil to write on the back of photos. Name everyone’s full names and their birthdates. Sorry I didn’t include this above. C

    Liked by 1 person

    • Karen Kleinberg December 23, 2017 / 11:27 am

      I never write directly on the photo, I used labels that are either preprinted or wrote on in black ink before putting on the back of the picture

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Sherry Paxton Bergmark November 17, 2017 / 4:30 pm

    Jessaroni – thanks for your Family History Binder how-tos. I’ve been archiving photos of three generations of paternal & maternal sides in a software, but began a binder for tracking historical data as I was finding interesting supporting information completely new to me. I’m nowhere near as organized, but am aspirational!

    On a more personal note: I grew up in Tucson AZ, and remember a restaurant there, a favorite of my parents when I was young (40-50 years ago!), called Buffums! I can only remember the name, not where it was in town, but have never seen the name since, until mentioned in your post! Instantly I remembered the restaurant! Would you be related, since at least one of your relatives was shown in Arizona? What are the odds?


    • jessaroni November 17, 2017 / 4:35 pm

      I’m in Phoenix but our Buffums come from Kansas and New York before that. No relation to any Buffums in Tucson that I know of. I’ll have to go check that place out if I’m ever down there though!


    • Barbara Leffingwell January 19, 2018 / 2:51 pm

      sherry Paxton Bergmark, I grew up in Tucson also!! Speaking of restaurants, do you remember The Golden Drumstick on Broadway? Where did you go to school?


  11. Lisa November 29, 2017 / 7:07 pm

    I love the clean look and the organization. Did you print your pages off of the computer or use an old fashion typewriter? I’m just getting started and I’m not sure how to start documenting all of the info I have gathered.

    Take care.

    Liked by 2 people

    • jessaroni November 29, 2017 / 7:27 pm

      I did everything on the computer, mostly using the Family Tree Maker software


  12. Francis December 21, 2017 / 5:15 am

    *Comment deleted by admin*


    • Anonymous January 17, 2018 / 9:26 pm

      I think you’re in the wrong pew!


  13. letstalkaboutfamily December 24, 2017 / 12:34 pm

    On pictures, use an archival pen or something like a scrapbooking pigma MICRON pen. Also you could write on a separate piece of paper that you keep with it. Also scan pictures and write about them in the name and tags of the pictures. This book is a wonderful idea!


  14. Anonymous May 25, 2018 / 11:09 pm

    I like the idea of the binders but was considering backing up each section to a pdf so I could share it with others family members.

    Liked by 1 person

    • jessaroni May 26, 2018 / 8:18 am

      I put mine together a piece at a time and am constantly adding to it, so if I did that I’d always need to be updating the pdfs. But if it works for you, that’s great!


  15. Anonymous May 27, 2018 / 6:13 pm

    Thank you for your reply – you have raised a good point. I will try a couple of sections to see how it goes.


  16. B. H. Gambrel June 17, 2018 / 11:26 am

    What is the cosr & where do I buy them?


    • jessaroni June 17, 2018 / 11:29 am

      If you look at part 2, there is a list of materials with links to purchase each of them on Amazon. Prices are constantly changing so be sure to shop around for wherever currently has the best price.


  17. Lucy June 19, 2018 / 5:28 pm

    Finally, a system that seems to click with my brain! Some that I’ve read about sound great until I try them. At that point, my three separate (at least as far as I know) Smith lines muddy up the water. I think your notebooks just may work and keep those pesky Smiths in line. Thanks for sharing and explaining everything so clearly.


    • Candy August 11, 2019 / 8:44 am

      I can totally relate to your Smith dilemma. My maternal grandmother was Mary Smith, her father was Joseph. Her mother-in-law was Mary Smith Simmons !! So very confusing when trying to find correct records. Hope you are having better luck than I.

      I am definitely going to try this binder idea !!

      Liked by 1 person

  18. Thomas Shelby Watson August 1, 2018 / 6:52 am

    My grandmother, Ivy Estella Watson
    (born Purcell) is a third cousin , six times removed, to
    Lawrence Washington, half brother of George Washington.
    Question: Am I related to George Washington?


    • jessaroni August 1, 2018 / 8:20 am

      Not sure what this has to do with this blog but yes.


  19. Carol Swanson October 20, 2018 / 3:33 pm

    Do you have a print out of each of the parts for building binders?


    • jessaroni October 20, 2018 / 3:47 pm

      No I don’t. You are welcome to print my blog posts though.


  20. Ania December 28, 2018 / 11:13 am

    USA paper sizes must be a bit different to UK Paper sizes

    I had got some of the binders & dividers a few months ago, but the binders are a bit shorter than A4 sized paper.

    Also the binder edges are cracked & split, which is very annoying.


  21. Kristine May 12, 2019 / 12:13 pm

    How did you make your cover photo of the Reynolds family history with pics and the side Reynolds family history?


  22. Sheri Kline July 3, 2020 / 5:58 am

    Love this book. I have even working on both my and my husbands families for a couple of years now using your binder guides. Designed everything around my color likes and designs. They are beautiful. Thank you so much for posting all the instructions and your helpful hints in the posts .

    Mow I have a question. With doing all this research and archiving, how do I go about something for archiving NOW goings on. All my nieces ,nephews, cousins etc? I’m more in touch with them, have information ,pics , marriages births, everything! What do I do to organize these in a binder? Am I over thinking the unorganization it is in right now? ANY Thoughts?

    Liked by 1 person

  23. Melissa September 24, 2020 / 10:45 am

    I love how you’ve done this! I’m wondering how you incorporated siblings for each ancestor?

    Thanks in advance


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