It’s about 100 degrees outside and I’ve decided it’s an excellent time to begin working on an interactive PowerPoint program for showing family tree information to my Mom’s family. At times, the thought of creating this becomes overwhelming because I’m the first to admit that I’m a perfectionist with OCD tendencies. I want to make this program “entertaining”, but I also want this to be informative and even a little educational. I want my family to be able to see the information that they WANT to see and also able to skip things they don’t care to see. I have to think I may be the only one fascinated with tax records, but want to make them available in case someone else is! And maybe I can make the tax records more “interesting” by creating some type of chart showing how the number of acres owned or the number of cattle changed over time. Maybe I’ll be able to create a little map showing how the tax records show the migration from one area to another – anyway, I digress…

I want the program to be informative as far as our specific family details go, but I also want to pull in some historical references to help everyone see our family in context with the times that they lived in. Newspaper headlines from the area or snippets from local history websites would be interesting things to include. Can you see why I’m overwhelmed? So I thought I’d begin with making a plan and asking for suggestions from anyone who’s interested in following along.

First, I know I’m going to want some background images that are a little more nostalgic than the typical PowerPoint slide design offers, so I’m going to begin looking online for images and textures that I can use.  For example, my mother’s family is from the Kentucky area, so I will begin looking for images of farmland, rolling countysides and log cabins that I can use as backgrounds for a typical family tree chart or family group sheet that I might want to include. I’m also going to look for images of textures like old fashioned lace or burlap or faded denim.

My program will be using a lot of hyperlinks and triggers so that anyone can click on a name or a entry on a timeline to see the source document if they want. This program will not be a “go to the next slide please” kind of program. I’m hoping it will be something that not only lets everyone see where genealogists get their information from, but also is eye opening as far as what things they might have in their possession that they never thought I’d be interested in.

My plan is that my opening slide will be a typical family tree chart with perhaps 3 generations: my mother and her siblings, their parents and both sets of grandparents. Of course, I’d love to do more, but I think that will be PLENTY for the time being. Plus, they will all be able to relate to these people more than a name from 1780 that I just say “Trust me, they are related!” – at least until they show an interest.

From the family tree, they will be able to click on a name and the program will jump to the section for that person. This page will either be a group sheet type of thing, or a timeline with a button to see the group sheet. (The group sheet will have the similar idea of clicking on a name to jump to that section.) While the timeline COULD become very complicated and crowded, I’m thinking that I need to keep it simple. I’ll begin with the obvious stuff – birth date, marriage date and death date. Then I’ll add the birth dates for each child. If there’s room, I’ll add dates of residence locations as well. Each of these dates will also be clickable. If I have a lot of information for a certain event, clicking on the item will trigger a jump to that part of the program.  For example, clicking on the marriage date could jump to a screen that shows the marriage license or registry. If I have a document, but still have questions, I can include those questions on the side to see if anyone else happens to know the answer. If I don’t have a document, then clicking on the item will trigger an information box to appear that will tell where the information came from and perhaps show a list of  the type of document I’m looking for to help the viewer think about what type of information they might have in a closet or attic.

I’ll want to include as many photographs as I can, but the further back in time I go, the fewer photos I have. So I’m also going to try to find or create some silhouette images that might illustrate an occupation of an ancestor. Not only will images like that help to make a slide more visually appealing, it will also show immediately that I DON’T have any photos of a particular person and perhaps that will trigger a memory of a photo that someone has in an album somewhere.

Several years ago, my mother put together a booklet of stories that my grandmother had told her about growing up. There are not many stories in the booklet because my grandmother did not have a very happy childhood, but if I can incorporate those stories and try to also include some images from the area she grew up in to make the stories “come alive”, perhaps that will create a desire for my aunts and uncles to tell stories that they’ve heard so that they can be included in any updated versions of the program.

So here’s my initial “to do” list in preparation for this project.

1) Begin looking for background images – landscapes and textures.

2) Begin looking through my genealogy notes and making the topics that I want to be sure to include as well as the things that might be a little too mundane for the non-genealogists.

3) Begin collecting documents that haven’t been digitized that I want to include.

4) Begin taking digital pictures of some of the items I’ve collected that were my grandmothers.

5) Make a rough mind map of what a typical section for an individual might include.

6) Begin compiling a list of internet links to include in the program so that a person who might find this “genealogy stuff” interesting can begin doing their own research.

If you’d like to follow along and make your own program as I go, you can start collecting items too and thinking about what you’d like to include information wise. I’ll be using PowerPoint 2010 for my examples, but I think most of what I’m planning to include will be doable in older versions as well.

I’m actually starting to get excited about this project! Time to tell the family they will probably be on their own for dinner for the next few days!