I follow Dick Eastman's newsletter daily and a couple days ago he had an article headlined, "More than 80,000 Digitized Genealogy and Family History Publications are Now Available Online."
I thought, "Great!," especially since a half dozen or so of these are my own creations. [See below] But then I soon had the next thought: What about those millions of genealogies that are not published?
What about all that family history sitting on someone's hard drive? All that hard-found material collected in those ring binders? That painstakingly-researched data languishing in all those file folders in those innumerable file cabinets across the country? What about them?
The scary part of all this? How much of that material will end up in a trash bin or recycling container, placed there by a non-genealogist next-of-kin or executor? The easy remedy is if you [Yes, You!] take that material in your hard drive-ring binder-file folder and publish it.
C'mon now, how hard can it be? Mr. Apple or Mr. Microsoft are right there at your fingertips! It is do-able. I know, because I've done it--several times. You can, too. Here's how:
When I started mulling over publishing, ten years or so ago, I decided what I wanted to do--
First, I didn't want to create "War and Peace," I wanted to write a family history of one family line. This is my O'Neill family book, now on FamilySearch Books. It's 76 pages, with a 14 page surname index. The several others I've done since on other lines all run around 100-120 pages. Piece of cake!
Second, I did not want to write a Doctoral Dissertation or even a Master's Thesis. I had enough of that stuff in college. This is a hobby, people! Get a life! I find nothing more boring than reading a manuscript of 50 pages, with 100 pages of footnotes and a 20 page bibliography. Think of your audience. For most of us that would be family members; many, if not all, are probably not academics. I wanted to make my family stories interesting, not forbidding. So, if you want permission to follow that path, you have it. Go!
Thirdly, I wanted to create these books in my spare time [Go back to that Get A Life part...] I wanted to keep it simple and as clear as possible. Language is meant to communicate; use it like that. If you want complicated, read the Tax Code or James Joyce. [See that last part? Don't do that. Don't stroke your ego by using fancy terms and obscure references. Remember KISS--Keep It Simple, Stupid!]
OK, here's the sequence I follow--
A. Whenever I start a new family group sheet in my genealogy program, I also start a Word file on that same family. The facts go in the group sheet; the facts plus opinion, speculation, and ideas go in the Word file. As I gather more facts, I alter the Word file to reflect my new positions. After I feel I have a complete enough picture of that family with my documentation [It's a judgment call--your judgment!], I combine the numerous Word files on that family line into a printable manuscript. I add as many photos and illustrations as I can--we live in a graphic society. Look at one of my books online; you can see this pattern.
B. I usually start Chapter One with an immigrant ancestor, my first American ancestor in that line. Sometimes a previous generation goes in a Prologue--if I know that group. Chapter One is all the children of that immigrant ancestor--combine the Word files. Chapter Two is that child who is my direct ancestor and all of his/her children. Chapter Three is my next direct ancestor and his/her children, and so forth, down to the present. Will I have all the data, all the answers? Of course not--that's an impossible task. Don't get into that mental trap, "I want to find that last marriage, that last migration, that last maiden name." You'll never do anything.
C. In deciding to publish a family line book, pick a date about 9-10 months in the future. Plan to have a publishable manuscript by then. Deadlines are great; they focus your mind and get you off your butt. The three-quarters of a year is enough time to scramble around and get those last few things you have been planning to do. When the date hits, wrap it up, close it out, put it together, and take it to the printer. I use Staples and usually just take them a flash drive. I have one copy printed and take a look at it. If it's OK, I get about 10 or 12 printed and bound, which run around $12 to $15 each.
D. After the first printing, I normally just produce CD's. They run around $2 each--I'm not made of money--this is a hobby! These go to more distant relatives upon demand or to libraries to put online. If it's already digital, libraries can just add it to their website. Piece of cake!
E. Now if your personality is such that you have to dress it up, add as many bells and whistles as you want. This is your book--do it your way. If anyone gripes about it, let them do their own book! For most of us, our book is "The Book" on our family line. Authorities will tell you to always negotiate from your piece of paper, and Your Book is probably going to be the authority on that family line. Get that first plain vanilla book printed and out there; if you want to enhance it later, put out Version 2.0.
F. Nail this on your wall--"If it is to be, it is up to me!!" Your ancestors are depending on you; don't let their stories be trashed! Do it!