Family History Book: Organizing Information

Where do I put the obituaries?

Writing a family history book chronicling three generations, it might not be expected that one of the most difficult aspects is deciding the organization of information.

My family history book follows three generations starting with a family of Austrian brothers who immigrated to America. Each person in the book has a chapter of their own, and the chapters are separated into sections for first, second, and third generation.

Chapters contains all the raw information you’d expect about a person: date and place of birth, death, and burial; information on spouse(s); information on children. Following this is a biography on the person.

There is additional information for each person which can be included or not in the book: federal and state census information; city directories; birth, marriage, and death certificates (or information from indexes of); photographs; newspaper articles; mention in book publications; and obituaries.


If I were to include census images, the most appropriate place could be in the chapter for the head of the household. However, a second generation person in the book will start out living with their first generation parents, then become the head of (or spouse of the head of) their second generation own household. In their old age, they may be living with one of their children, a third generation household. How should this be handled?

One option is to copy the census to multiple chapters, for each family member appearing on the census. This would result in a lot of duplication, inflating the size of the book, and should be avoided.

A second solution is to keep the census with the head of the household, then provide page numbers to the census when the person is not the head of the household.

The third solution expands on the second by placing all census images in their own section, organizing them perhaps by year or state or city. In the person chapters, census information would include page numbers for every census for that person.

Newspaper Articles and Book Excerpts

Newspaper articles and book excerpts are similar to censuses. They contain information on one or more people. This makes them difficult to include in an individual person’s chapter.

For my own family history book, I’ve aside a chapter for news articles and a chapter for book excerpts. (I may later evolve these into sections, with one chapter per article or excerpt.) These will be indexed, and likely will be referenced with page number in a person’s chapter’s list of sources.


Photographs have the same issues as newspaper articles. They may contain only one person, or they may contain multiple.

When there is only one person in the photograph, it would be easy to place the photograph into that person’s chapter.

What about if it’s a family photograph? It can go into the parent’s chapter, as (with my book’s structure) that is the main family covered in that chapter.

Not all family photographs are as easy to categorize, however. What if there are three generations in the photograph?


Obituaries are where I’ve had the most difficulty. Unlike all the information mentioned above, obituaries (generally) have a one to one relationship with people. One obituary belongs to one person (although one person can actually have multiple obituaries). This relationship lends well to placing the obituary after the biography in a person’s chapter. Obituaries for the person’s spouse and and any children not covered in the book can be included.

The big question here is: with everything else going into different sections of the book, apart from the people chapters, is it appropriate to include obituaries in the people chapters? Most of the information from the obituaries will be worked into the biography, making the information redundant within the chapter.

Should the obituaries instead have their own chapter or section, the same as newspaper articles do? This would require adding page numbers directing the reader to the obituaries, but with the same being done for other information, it would not be out of place to do so.

I’m not yet completely decided on where to put the obituaries. But it’s fairly easy for me to try out both methods and see which I like better overall.

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