Publishing Your Family History


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This is the final presentation from our 6-part genealogy workshop series, Finding Your Family Roots. The presentation is meant to provide an overview of methods and considerations for family researchers who intend to publish their family histories.

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Publishing Your Family History

  1. 1. Bullitt County Public Library presents Publishing Your Family History Finding Your Roots Workshop Series, Part 6 Presented 7/16/11
  2. 2. Why publish your family history? <ul><li>Most genealogists feel that the information they have collected is of interest to others </li></ul><ul><li>To document the family history </li></ul><ul><li>To share the information you have collected with other family members </li></ul><ul><li>To encourage collaboration with other researchers </li></ul><ul><li>“ Genealogy without documentation is mythology.” </li></ul>
  3. 3. When to publish <ul><li>Waiting “until it is done” may take you decades </li></ul><ul><li>Ask yourself: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>How good is my material? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>How thorough has my research been? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Does the research I have collected make the family picture fit together? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Can I prove what I have collected? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Am I a good writer? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Am I willing to share my research with others? </li></ul></ul>
  4. 4. How good is my material? <ul><li>How thorough is your research? </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Are you satisfied with how accurate your records are? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Have you documented your sources? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Are you willing to say which parts of your story are guesses? </li></ul></ul></ul>
  5. 5. Example #1 <ul><li>Aley Ledford, born 1789, in North Carolina, moved to Kentucky in 1808. He married Elizabeth Farmer in 1808. She was born in 1791. They had thirteen children. His parents died in an accident on the way to Kentucky. He was raised by his sister and her husband. </li></ul>
  6. 6. Example # 2 <ul><li>An excerpt from Generations: An American Family by John Egerton </li></ul>
  7. 7. Does my research make the pieces of the puzzle fit together? <ul><li>Are there gaps in the research? </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Has an ancestor “disappeared” for a period of time? </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Am I missing any individuals? </li></ul><ul><li>How about vital dates? </li></ul><ul><li>Do my family stories match with historical information? </li></ul><ul><li>Can I prove all this? </li></ul>
  8. 8. Am I a good writer? <ul><li>Do I normally write so that the reader is interested? </li></ul><ul><li>Can I spell well? </li></ul><ul><li>Can I structure sentences? </li></ul><ul><li>Perhaps it is a good idea to ask someone to proofread my research </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Ask a seasoned genealogist to make sure you are making good “family sense” </li></ul></ul>
  9. 9. Am I willing to share my research with others? <ul><li>If you are going to publish on the internet, are you ready to extend your research range? </li></ul><ul><li>Are you ready to invite other researchers to contribute more material? </li></ul><ul><li>Are you prepared to receive feedback (both positive and negative?) </li></ul><ul><li>Are you prepared to revise your work if you are shown alternate records? </li></ul>
  10. 10. So, where do I start? <ul><li>Choose a format for your project: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>What do you envision? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>A simple photocopied booklet shared only with family members </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>A full-scale hardback book to serve as a reference </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>A family newsletter </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Web site </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Memoir/Narrative </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Scrapbook/Album </li></ul></ul></ul>
  11. 11. Define your scope <ul><li>Do you intend to write mostly about just one particular ancestor, or everyone hanging on a limb in your family tree? </li></ul><ul><li>Choose a focus: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Single line of descent </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Begins with the earliest known ancestor and follows them through a single line of descent (perhaps ending with you) </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Each chapter would cover one generation </li></ul></ul></ul>
  12. 12. Scope, continued <ul><li>All Descendants of: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Begins with an individual or couple and covers all of their descendants </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Chapters are usually by generation </li></ul></ul><ul><li>The Grandparents: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Includes a section on each of your four grandparents, or eight great-grandparents, or sixteen great-great grandparents, or…well, you get the picture </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Each section focuses on one ancestor in particular, and works backwards or forward from his/her earliest known ancestor </li></ul></ul>
  13. 13. Set deadlines <ul><li>Set a deadline you can live with </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Deadlines will make you complete each stage of your project </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>You will still find yourself scrambling to meet them </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Get each piece done in a specific time frame </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Revising and polishing can be done later </li></ul></ul>
  14. 14. Not just for fiction… Choose a plot and theme <ul><li>Think of your ancestors as characters in your family history story </li></ul><ul><ul><li>What problems and obstacles did they face? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>What skills did they have? </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Popular plots and themes include: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Immigration/Migration </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Rags to Riches (Or Riches to Rags) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Pioneer or Farm Life </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Rising out of Slavery/Relocation </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>War Survival </li></ul></ul>
  15. 15. Make it personal <ul><li>Anyone who reads your family history will probably already be interested in the facts, but they will remember everyday details most. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Favorite stories </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Anecdotes </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Embarrassing moments </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Family Traditions </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Don’t be afraid to include differing accounts of the same event </li></ul>
  16. 16. Do your background research <ul><li>If you want your history to read like a suspense novel, make the reader feel like they are an eyewitness to your family’s life. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Social histories can help you learn about the experiences of people in a given time or place. (Maybe your family member was a coal miner, or a salt furnace worker, or a doctor during a flu epidemic) </li></ul></ul>
  17. 17. Background Research <ul><li>Read town and city histories </li></ul><ul><li>Research timelines of wars, natural disasters, and epidemics </li></ul><ul><li>Investigate your ancestors’ occupations to understand daily life </li></ul><ul><li>Read up on fashions, arts, transportation, common foods of the time period and location </li></ul><ul><li>If you haven’t already, interview family members who may be able to relate a story about the ancestor to give your history a more personal touch </li></ul>
  18. 18. Organize your research <ul><li>Create a timeline for each ancestor you plan to write about: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>This helps you outline your book, and spot gaps in research </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Sort through records and photos </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Use timelines to further develop your timeline </li></ul></ul>
  19. 19. Choose a starting point <ul><li>What do you think is the most interesting part of your family history? </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Did your ancestor escape a life of poverty or persecution (or did they lose everything in a late-night, drunken game of cards)? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Was there an interesting occupation? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Was there a wartime hero? </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Pick an interesting fact, record, or story and open your book with it. </li></ul>
  20. 20. Don’t be afraid to use records and documents <ul><li>Diary entries, will excerpts, military accounts, obituaries all offer great first-hand accounts of your family’s history </li></ul><ul><li>Anything written by or about your ancestor is definitely worth including </li></ul><ul><li>You don’t have to cite each source word for word: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Instead of: “In the 1930 census of Bullitt County, Kentucky, enumerated on the Third of June by William Watson, on Forsythe Street, Household number176, family number 177… </li></ul></ul>
  21. 21. Using records and Documents <ul><li>Use: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>After the death of her father, Auntie Rose was sent to live with her uncle, David Smith in Bullitt County, as evidenced in the 1930 Census. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Cite the source; even include a copy if you like. </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Photos, pedigree charts, maps and other illustrations can also add interest for the reader, and can break up writing into manageable chunks </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Be sure to include captions for photos or illustrations </li></ul></ul>
  22. 22. Include an index and source citations <ul><li>Unless your family history is only a few pages in length, an index is vitally important </li></ul><ul><ul><li>This helps researchers to find portions of your book that are of most interest to them </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>This also gives them just the details they are most interested in </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>At the very least, include a surname index </li></ul></ul>
  23. 23. Scrapbook/Album <ul><li>If you are lucky enough to have photos and memorabilia, you can tell your story through them </li></ul><ul><ul><li>But are you willing to share them? </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Including pictures in chronological order and with accompanying stories, descriptions, and family trees can make your story more interesting </li></ul>
  24. 24. A note about memoirs/narratives <ul><li>A combination of story and personal experience </li></ul><ul><li>Do not have to be all inclusive </li></ul><ul><li>Memoirs usually focus on a specific event or time period in the life of a single ancestor </li></ul><ul><li>Narratives usually focus on the events or time period of a group of ancestors </li></ul>
  25. 25. Family Files <ul><li>Family files are simple, unpublished works intended by the creator to be used by other genealogists </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Usually found in genealogical societies and library genealogy research centers </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Usually only found in a local area to the family </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Are not copyrighted, or indexed </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Usually can be added to by anyone, not just the researcher who originally created it </li></ul></ul>
  26. 26. Family Newsletters <ul><li>Can be used for both genealogy and current events </li></ul><ul><li>Can be shared with family members throughout the country, and even the world </li></ul><ul><li>Contains photographs, etc. </li></ul><ul><li>Usually limited in size and scope </li></ul><ul><li>Online versions are available </li></ul>
  27. 27. Publishing Options <ul><li>There are many ways to publish your family history: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Publishing online </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Publishing a hardcover/softcover written edition </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Manuscripts </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Family Files (Usually found in a binder on the shelf in a genealogy resource collection at a library or genealogical society) </li></ul></ul>
  28. 28. Publishing Online <ul><li>GEDCOM files: </li></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>GEnealogical Data COMmunication standard was proposed by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Simplify the exchange of computerized historical and genealogical information </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Saved on your hard disk </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Every genealogical software has the ability to create a GEDCOM, and most have the ability to help you upload it </li></ul></ul></ul>
  29. 29. GEDCOM <ul><li>Includes individual’s name </li></ul><ul><li>Events in his/her life </li></ul><ul><li>Parents </li></ul><ul><li>Marriages/spouse names </li></ul><ul><li>Notes and resources </li></ul><ul><li>Submitter information (i.e., contact information) </li></ul><ul><li>Search number for returning to the record at a later time </li></ul>
  30. 30. Web link <ul><li> </li></ul><ul><li>(Note this is an http s site!) </li></ul>
  31. 31. Publishing Online, cont. <ul><li>Create your own material as a webpage, and create your own website </li></ul><ul><li>Use a private website, like </li></ul><ul><li>Turn your files into a pdf, so that others can use Adobe, or another pdf reader, to see your research </li></ul><ul><li>Online On-Demand publishing sites allow you to publish your materials on their site, then charge customers who want to view them </li></ul>
  32. 32. Publishing Hard or Softcover editions <ul><li>An easy way to share your research with family―perhaps with your local library and genealogical society </li></ul><ul><li>Can include pictures, letters, and other documents </li></ul><ul><li>You decide the format and layout of your book </li></ul><ul><li>Many companies provide free software for this option </li></ul>
  33. 33. Publishing Hard or Softcover editions (cont.) <ul><li>Can be used by most print-on-demand services, order one copy or thousands </li></ul><ul><li>You can use any computer program or even just a typewriter to write your book </li></ul><ul><li>Can include any data you want </li></ul><ul><li>Can be done through an online publisher, or through a local printer </li></ul>
  34. 34. Publishing a Manuscript <ul><li>Can be written in several formats: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Narrative </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Memoir </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Biography </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Cookbook or Photo Album </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Can include: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Narratives/biographies </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Family group sheets </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Descendant charts </li></ul></ul>
  35. 35. Publishing a Manuscript, cont. <ul><ul><li>Documents </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Photos </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Letters </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Signatures </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Physical descriptions </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Maps </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Social histories </li></ul></ul>
  36. 36. Publishing a Manuscript, cont. <ul><li>You can type this on your own computer, and take it to a local printing house to make books </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Many printing houses can also print these to use in a three-ring binder, so that more information can be used later </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Can be copyrighted </li></ul><ul><li>Can be assigned an ISBN number </li></ul>
  37. 37. Obtaining a copyright <ul><ul><li>Must submit: </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Application for Copyright </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Application Fee (currently $35 for online filing, $50 for snail mail filing) </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>One or more copies of the manuscript </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><li>There are separate rules for whether you submit one or multiple copies of your work, more information can be found at </li></ul></ul></ul></ul>
  38. 38. Obtaining an ISBN number <ul><li>If you want to sell copies of your book, or to include it in libraries, you will need an ISBN number </li></ul><ul><li>An ISBN number is not necessary if you don’t intend to sell copies of your book </li></ul><ul><li>Any publisher whose intent is to sell books or a book product in physical book stores, on Amazon or other online stores, through wholesalers, or to libraries, needs an ISBN for their publication </li></ul>
  39. 39. Obtaining an ISBN number, cont. <ul><li> </li></ul><ul><li>a single purchase of an ISBN can cost about $125 </li></ul>
  40. 40. Ready to Publish: <ul><li>Check with local printers </li></ul><ul><ul><li>cost for number of pages </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>page size </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>hard or soft or spiral bound </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Comparison shop </li></ul></ul><ul><li>On-Demand Publishing </li></ul><ul><ul><li>There will be less up-front costs </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Books are printed as ordered </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>The author sets the price </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Revisions can be made as needed </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Comparison shop </li></ul></ul>
  41. 41. Ready to Publish, cont. <ul><li>Have you written the next Cane River or Generations ? </li></ul><ul><li>If you are sure the success of your creative nonfiction will be widely read/used, you will want to copyright and publish your work </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Use an agent: </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Find one in Writer’s Market , available at most public libraries </li></ul></ul></ul>