My mom has been working on our family geneology for the past 30+ years. All spread out and joined together, she can "carpet" her entire house and then some. For her actual geneology books, She split each family up into individual books and where family over laps (Say, a smith marries a Jones) she includes the same photo of the "couple" in the Smith Book as well as in the Jones book. So, basically, she leveled down the primary (most common) family names and thoe became the root level books and then she built on from there. All of the books tie into one another very well.
(In her books, she has photos or the people, some photos of original homesteads, some photos of tombstones if she could not get a people picture, data sheets on each person, marriage/birth/death certificates when she can find them, etc...)
I got all confused reading your post and original question so I don't know if my answer helps.