Wednesday, September 6, 2006

Genealogy book writing and publishing

I missed the last carnival of genealogy, about writing family history books, due to my vacation, but I wanted to share my experiences.

I have written and self-published two family history books so far, but I've distributed them only to my family members. As far as I can tell, they sit on their shelves gathering dust or are used as paperweights. I suggested to my family that they should keep them handy since they are real effective insonmia cures.

The first book was the ancestry of my mother in an ahnentafel report format in 1994, about 170 pages. While I was using PAF 2 at the time, I typed it into Microsoft Works by hand - names, dates, places, spouses, kids, and narrative text notes. I also included some photos and document images made from xerox copies of originals. While it was a chore, it gave me the incentive to not do it again. All was not lost, since I was able to copy and paste the text notes from the document into my PAF notes file. I published this using xerox copies, a card stock cover and a comb binding at the local copy store.

The second book was the ancestry of my third-great grandfather, Benjamin Seaver (1791-1825), in a multi-family report format in 2001, about 210 pages. I included an ahnentafel list for Benjamin Seaver so the readers could determine how everybody was related. I also included a report on the descendants of Benjamin Seaver through my father's generation, so the reader could figure out the Seaver line after Benjamin. For this book, I used the report generation capability in FamilyTreeMaker for each family line. I followed each family line from the immigrant ancestor down to the daughter who married into another family. I collected each family line report and put them in surname alphabetical order in the book, which I wrote and edited in Microsoft Word. I published this using xerox copies, a soft cover and a comb binding at the local copy store.

The challenge of both books was to get the text notes in a consistent form - I chose a narrative form that was essentially in a timeline. I transcribed wills in their entirety and abstracted deeds, other probate records, town records, military records, etc.

I cited my sources within the text notes since I had not figured out how to use the source citation in FTM effectively. I had to edit many items since the text notes do not render columns of numbers well into MSWord. I also found many typos in my text notes in FTM.

My master plan had been to write a series of books for five lines of my father's ancestry:

1) Ancestors of Benjamin Seaver (1791-1825)
2) Ancestors of Abigail Gates (1797-1867), wife of Benjamin Seaver
3) Ancestors of Lucretia Townsend Smith (1827-1884), wife of Isaac Seaver
4) Ancestors of Hattie Hildreth (1857-1922), wife of Frank W. Seaver
5) Ancestors of Alma Bessie Richmond (1882-1962), wife of Frederick W. Seaver

The last four books are the spouses of my Seaver ancestors since Benjamin Seaver. I chose to do this for two reasons:

1) It broke the research up into blocks of research and data - I could concentrate on a number of specific families - usually 40 to 50.

2) The books would be between 150 and 250 pages in size, and I could complete each one in turn easier than doing a 1,000 page tome many years from now.

I have not completed the research on the other four books. I'm bogged down at about 1725 in Middlesex MA land records, and have not done much in Suffolk or Bristol County MA records, nor Rhode Island records. I have a pile of about 1000 abstracted deeds from Middlesex County MA to enter into the database. It looks like a full time job to me, and isn't too exciting, either! I'd rather do research and write than slog through it day in and day out.

I did not create an index for either book, because of the lack of free indexing programs (I'm still cheap!) and the indexing limitations in FamilyTreeMaker. I have looked at the GenBook program (and bought an early version years ago) and it looks like it will create the index codes for MSWord, but I haven't used it yet.

Your comments are welcome - how have you written a book, what standards did you use, and how did you index it?

1 comment:

Jasia said...

Nice write up Randy. It sounds like you have a good plan for how you want to proceed. Your article inspired me to share my own experience. Thanks!