Scrapping Keynote: A Living History

Not long after I got my iPad, I spent a whopping $27 for an electronic book titled Digging into WordPress, the blog software I use to run the Gazette. Why would I spend this much money on an ebook? Because the authors promised a free updated copy of the book each time WordPress released a major upgrade. Since I purchased it I’ve downloaded four updated versions. In a world where printed tech books often cost twice what I spent on this book and are out-of-date before I get them home, this is a refreshing alternative. And, because it’s distributed in PDF format, it’s full of great screenshots and links to outside resources. It has a table of contents that links to each section and everything in it is searchable so I can get to the information I want in seconds.

Today’s technology makes it easy for us to create our own books with tools we already have like word-processing software, photo-editing applications and scanners. There’s no law that says a family history has to be a ten-generation, fully-documented formal history. As geneabloggers are discovering to their delight, telling the little stories can be very satisfying. And, before you know it, that collection of little stories is well on its way to becoming a family history.


My current genealogy focus is to tell the stories of the people who touched my life. These were special people to me and I want to document their vitality even more than their vital records. We all whine about missed opportunities – and yes, I’ve missed many. I want to do what I can to pass on anecdotes and memories that give personality to the photos.

How do I do this?

I’m working on a project that pulls in several articles I’ve posted over the years about growing up in St. Augustine. I’ve taken those stories and added photos – lots of photos – into a sort of magazine/scrapbook hybrid. I’m building it in Keynote, the presentation graphics app included in Apple’s iWork suite. Each little story is transformed into two or three slides and can be placed wherever they fit into the growing collection. The landscape format of the slides not only give me plenty of layout space, they display beautifully on tablet devices. Everyone in the family has some kind of tablet so this works well for all of us.

Click for larger view.
Click for larger view.

My living history book contains a table of contents which links directly to each individual story and all the text is searchable. I’m using Scribd as my publishing platform. After converting my book to PDF format, I uploaded it to my Scribd profile. Now I can send friends and family to the book page at Scribd where they can read it online and download their own PDF copy. I can even embed the book on my blog – much like embedding a YouTube video. When the book is updated with new content, I edit the book page at Scribd to add a new revision and upload the updated book. Scribd keeps track of all revisions and I can go back to look at previous ones at any time.  Now all I do is email the family to come see the latest version.

Here’s what the book looks like today. This living history will continue to grow as more stories about my home and family are researched and written.

NOTE: The links in the table of contents will only work in the downloaded PDF version.

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