Making maps, plans, and family history charts for your self-published book


1. Choose a suitable map from somewhere that you can use to trace an outline of coastline, rivers, roads, towns.

2. Reduce/ increase scale of that map using a photocopier so that you end up with a map which fits within A4 tracing paper. the map should be up to twice the final size in your book if possible

3. Using a black ink pen, such as UniBall, Artline, PaperMate, make your tracing outline of the original on your tracing paper.

4. Thickness of the ‘nib’ of the pen is important. Best to buy a range of sizes (from 0.4 to at least 1.0mm). Bear in mind that if your final image size is half that of the tracing, your lines will only be half width too. Rather than being prescriptive, try out a few sizes to see what suits you personally.

5. Don’t forget to include a scale line, and a compass on your maps and plans

6. Photocopy your tracing onto white copy paper before scanning in order to reduce the ‘grey’ effect you get if you scan a tracing directly

7. Then scan your photocopy into your computer at high resolution (once again experiment with the resolution you need – 150 dpi is adequate). Save your scan as a jpeg on your desktop, or in any other location.

8. Download into your computer Goggle’s Picasa 3 photo program. Its a free down-load. You only need to down-load it once of course.

9. Picasa I find seeks out your image and loads it into its Picasa site on your computer, without asking your leave! So when you open Picasa, you will find it sitting there waiting for you.

10. Picasa is basically a Photoshop/ iPhoto type of program. It allows you to do editing of your image. One feature it has is it allows you to write over your image, text at will. Names of towns, rivers and so on can be done easily in any size, and in any font, in bold , in italics. A very nice feature is the ability to increase/ decrease print size and angle of the text on line without saving. You see what you are doing and what it looks like. Also use Picasa to mark locations of your towns and villages using the letter ‘o’ – this is far neater than trying to draw circles by hand.

11. Picasa also lets you manipulate your image as follows: crop, straighten, red-eye, auto contrast, autocolor, retouch, fill light adjust. Usually, these are not needed.

12. One feature that I would like is to be able to colour fill areas on my map (such as the sea) but I haven’t worked out how to do this with Picasa, but understand that it can be done using Photoshop.

13. Always check that you have included a scale (miles or kms??), and a compass with north marked on your maps and plans.

14. Once you are happy with your added text, save your new image.

15. Sometimes it looks best if you place a black rectangle to ‘contain’ your image. You can always crop this out if you want later. I found it looked better on the book page, if you just give your image, a light shade of grey, and forget black line boundaries. Alternatively, you can add a text box later.

16. Once I got the hang of things, I could whip up about six maps an evening. Not very time-consuming.


I use on my Mac, the family history program called Reunion. It is produced by Leister Pro. One thing that I found when I wanted to prepare some small family history charts in my recent book ‘Two Squatters’, which is an A5 sized publication (148 x 210 mm), was that the lines and text on the chart could become quite ‘fuzzy’. After all, by the time you allow for margins on the page, your actual chart area is no more than 100 x 150 mm. First, you have to make sure your font sizes for the text will be readable when your chart is no more than 100 x 150 mm. Secondly, on a one page chart don’t overload the page with two much information. As a guide, maximum of 20 chart boxes is possible, but the chart looks better if there are no more than 15 boxes. Thirdly, to avoid fuzziness of text and lines, take the following steps:

1. In Reunion, make A5 sized chart (boxchart) normally
2. In Reunion, go File/Print/PDF
3. Then open PDF in Preview
4. IN Preview, go File/Export/choose format TIFF (here you could choose instead, PNG)
5. Set resolution higher than 150, say 450 pixels/inch
6. Save to desktop
7. Finally,  print out a copy at the size you want and see if it is sharp and readable

Am not sure how many pixels you need – maybe 300 would be enough. Probably the clue is to increase the resolution, and nothing much else matters.
In my book, (pages 308-313), I managed a two page chart for 9 children, and 16 grandchildren, but that was pushing it a bit for readability. Also it did not connect well between the two pages. My one-page ancestral line chart of four generations and three children of the last generation worked much better, as did my one page charts of the Gauntlett and of the Jennings families.


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