Ten Steps to Writing and Publishing Your Family History

Welcome to today’s webinar on the basics writing and publishing your family
history. My name is Ginevra Morse, online education coordinator at the New
England Historic Genealogical Society. I’ll be moderating today’s event. You’re
here today because you’re ready to share your family story with a wider audience, be it family, the
genealogical community, or future generations. No matter where
you are in the process, this webinar will certainly inspire and
inform your next steps. Giving today’s presentation will be Penny Stratton, publishing director at NEHGS. She’s been at the Society for eight years and oversees all print publications including our
magazine, scholarly journal, and books. She’s also managed all steps of book
production for more than a dozen NEHGS and Newbury Street Press titles.
Penny will go over the ten basic steps for writing and publishing your family
history and she’ll also list some go to resources
that are sure to help you along the way. At any time during the presentation
please feel free to write a question in the panel to the right of your screen. Penny will answer as many of those as she
can in the last 15 to 20 minutes of the hour. And just as a reminder this event is
being recorded and the video will be posted to our
website in the next couple of days. So we have a lot to cover
today so let’s get started. Take it away Penny. Thank you, Ginevra
and welcome everyone to today’s presentation At NEHGS we encourage people to record
their family histories in writing. NEHGS has a long tradition of
publishing dating from 1847 when we first published
our quarterly journal the New England Historical and
Genealogical Register the flagship journal of American genealogy.
It was in that journal back in 1870 that we introduced a standardized way to
present genealogical information known as
register style, which I’ll discuss in a little bit. We
also publish the quarterly magazine American Ancestors geared toward family historians all
levels. Finally we have a very active book
publishing program publishing 15 to 20 titles per year: how-to books and books of records and also
compiled genealogies of American families which we publish under
our Newbury Street Press imprint. You’ve probably relied on various
written genealogies in your research. There’s nothing like pouring over a
family history book reading about the people in your family
and looking at photos of people and places. Let’s do a quick
survey. Who attending today has consulted a 50
or 100 year old book in researching your family? You’ll see a survey on your screen. Feel
free to answer and we’ll share the results in just a few
moments. Might be old books you’ve consulted in a library or other repository. Or books that have been passed down in
your family. Or you might have looked at digitized
books at Archive.org, GoogleBooks, or some other
internet site. But remember that those books started
their lives as printed and bound on paper. Wow, it looks like ninety percent of you have used these old materials in your research and I’m actually not surprised. Think of how
happy you are that each of the authors have those books wrote things down for you to consult. We want you to commit to being that
person, after all probably no one right now knows your family like you do. And
because you know that family story so well we urge you to make sure it’s still
around in decades to come. Write it down certainly, but make sure it
gets into print. You can take your writings to a local
copy shop or work with a book printer or publisher
or even an online service. Fortunately for us living in the 21st
century digital printing technology has made
book printing relatively easy and inexpensive. As I talk about writing and publishing
your family history I’m going to make the assumption that
you’ll be writing a book, however, you could just as easily be
sharing a part of your story in a journal or magazine article or some
other format. Although I’m referring to books many of
the steps I’m about to cover are just the same and you will find them
applicable to shorter publications. So let’s move on to look at the 10
steps involved in sharing your family history in print. Each step could almost be its own course,
but in this webinar we’ll be going over just the basics. Step number one: shift mental gears. This first step might seem obvious but
it’s so important it really needs to be emphasized. You
need to shift mental gears and stop thinking about your family
history as a research project. You need to begin thinking about it is a
publication something that will have a beginning a
middle and an end. All through your research
you’ve been making conscious or unconscious choices about your goals. My colleagues and I often make the analogy that we are acting like a camera lens, and then using a wide angle lens to get
the big picture now’s the time to step back zoom out and make another choice how to turn some of your disparate elements, notes, photos,
documents into something else step 2 consider your audience and time
frame you might be thinking in general about
the audience of the future which would be great but you might have
some more immediate considerations Do you have an elderly relative who would
enjoy reading about a particular aspect of your family history Do you want to have something to present
your grandchildren have you solved a particular genealogical
puzzle and know that other genealogists will
benefit from your research at the same time consider the time frame
you have perhaps you’re in no particular rush to
complete a family history or perhaps there’s a significant event
to use as a deadline now if it’s a family reunion this summer I’m
already a little worried about your schedule but maybe you could produce a photobook in
time for that and follow with the family history in another year In short, considering your audience and then
looking at a calendar will help you plan what is manageable for
you step 3: choose a genealogical format There are a number of models and formats to
follow: a biographical dictionary a memoir, a photo album with extensive
captions but when writing about your ancestry
there are two standard formats. The descendency format also known as register style which
begins in the past and moves forward in time and the ancestor table or ahnentafel which starts at or near the present
and moves back in time Let’s take a look at these two formats. The first, The Descendency format is
also called register style because it was developed by NEHGS in
1870 for the New England Historical and
Genealogical Register. It has proved to be a useful and highly
efficient way to organize and present genealogical
information in writing. In this format you begin in the past.
Often, but not always, with the immigrant to America and move
toward or to the present tracing some or all of
the descendants one person The backbone of this system
is the family group with key people given identification
numbers and with the inclusion of as much vital
data as possible for each person. Although you can trace all the
descendants of one common ancestor you can also trace multiple lines in this way. Because you’re coming down from a common
ancestor you treat all children of that ancestor and of
children’s offspring, lots of aunts and uncles and cousins. Let’s look at an example of a basic
family group. Think of it as a story with the
beginning, a middle and an end. We start with the person who
has an identification number, Henry Morgan and we include information
for that person and his or her spouse. Full names vital statistics, places and dates. At the end of the sketch we present
children with full names, vital statistics and identification numbers for any child
who will later be treated in full, typically a child who later has
offspring. These numbers continue consecutively throughout the treatment of the family. Note that Benjamin Franklin Morgan, roman numeral IV is not assigned an
Arabic number. He died young before having
children and so he will not be covered in his own
family group later. Finally, you include other information
known about the person. You might not know anything or you might
know quite a bit, perhaps pages worth. We’ll talk about adding narrative a little bit later. Now let’s look a bit more at the second
standard writing format I mentioned, the ahnentafel or
ancestor table. Unlike register style the ahnentafel
goes backward in time going from present to past. Usually it includes every known person in a
direct line. The ahnentafel has a very precise
numbering system also. As with register style in an ahnentafel
you present the basic data about people, but the people are arranged in a
different order. It is if you were to take a
multi-generational chart and turn it sideways. In an ahnentafel the subject, let’s say it’s you, is number one, your father is number two, and your mother is number three, your paternal grandparents are numbers
four and five, sorry your paternal
grandparents are numbers 4&5 and your maternal grandparents and
number six and seven and so on, going back in time until the numbers get into the thousands. In every father mother pair you’ll note the father has an even
number and the mother an odd number. In an ahnentafel you can find the line of descent
mathematically. You double the person’s number to get the
father’s number; the mother’s number is the father’s
number plus one. Conversely to find a person’s child you divide the father’s number by 2. And here’s what an ancestor table looks
like in writing. The subject, In this case, Janice Elaine Morgan is
number one, her parentsare numbers two and three and so on. The ahnentafel is a great format for listing all your
ancestors but the fact that family groups are not
held together can make it difficult for a non-genealogist to follow so again consider your main audience would they be able to follow this
format? Here’s a tip: look at other publications, look journal
articles, magazine articles, books. There may not be
one ideal model but you should be able to
find something that inspires you in term of its scope, level of detail, presentation or design. Step 4: Define your scope and make a table of
contents. Do you want to write about descent from one
particular ancestor or do you want to try to touch on every
single person in your family tree or do you want to list only all direct
ancestors? Again consider your audience and your
time frame. The writing project may become unwieldy if you try to include too much, and as we
all learned in school making an outline is an essential first
start to writing. This is what your table of contents will
do for you. Try drafting a few tables of contents
and see what transpires. You will already have made some decisions
about scope but now is the time to start sketching
out the actual outlines for your work. Your table of contents might be as simple as this
one. In this example from a genealogy of the Lowell family there’s a chapter on the family in
England and chapters on specific generations. it may seem overly simplistic to say
first generation second-generation, third-generation and so on but it does give us a template
to work within to cover the family prior to immigration
to America and then a certain number of generations
in America. In fact this book on the Lowell family
covers fourteen generations bringing the family
history all the way to the present time. And now,
in a second table of contents we see that the author plans to follow
five different families. In fact this is a case where we have five parallel
sections, each in register style ,each traced from
a common ancestor, and the appendix covers results of DNA
testing. Appendix is a great places to tuck
things that are of interest but don’t necessarily fit in the main
part of the book. So your table of contents is a benchmark
to return to as you write. Will it absolutely match what you end up
with? Maybe not. You might determine that you
bit off more than you can chew or when you begin to write you may find
that there’s a different angle of your story that wants to be told. Listen to those instincts and revise your table of
contents as necessary. Step 5: Create a style sheet for genealogical elements and citations. As we will see
shortly there are many conventions that have
been developed for the presentation and genealogical information. In addition you may be encountering
variant or unusual spellings in your research
notes. Before you begin writing think about what kinds of decisions you will have to make relating to capitalization, spelling, abbreviations, punctuation and the like. It’s important to be
consistent in your presentation. When a work isn’t consistent the reader
may start to wonder whether the author’s research is similarly slipshod.
Your style sheet should cover certain aspects of genealogical style, for example, how will you abbreviate the
word baptized, as well as other style points, such as
whether you’ll spell out numbers or use numerals, whether you’ll use accent marks in foreign names and the
like. In addition record how you plan to cite
census data, material obtained from internet sources, unlabeled clippings found in family
papers, and so on. And then you also want to make
a list of key references and determine what short form
to use. You can then print that list at the back
of your book in the style of a bibliography. Say you’re citing the Winthrop Fleet
by Robert Charles Anderson which was
published by NEHGS in 2012, you would cite it in full the first time
you put it in a note but then make make a written note to
to call it simply Anderson Winthrop Fleet or simply Winthrop Fleet or even just WF. Step 6: Well so far it’s been easy and you’ve
done all that prep work and now comes the scary part, you need to
write. There’s no two ways about it you just
have to start! Turn on your computer, open up your word
processing program, put your fingers on the keys and begin,
person by person, family group by family group or
generation by generation. Let’s take a very basic look at how to build a
family sketch. By looking at model publications and
familiarizing yourself with the different genealogical formats, you will better understand the standardof
writing. You may also want to include many of
these conventions in your style sheet. Now I’ll mention a number of resources at
the end of the presentation which will go into greater detail about
the actual art of writing and how Microsoft Word and other
programs can help make your life easier. Here’s an example of a descendency
or register style sketch. There are a number of things to note here. First,
in the first paragraph the person number a generational number, Elizabeth Cutts
Lowell is in the seventh generation. Here’s the lineage line. It shows the direct
line of descent starting with John Lowell, her father,,and
her grandfather also named John, generation 6&5 going all the way back to Percieval who was the immigrant and generation
number one. We give Elizabeth’s birth first, followed by her death. These are the
bookends of her life. And after that we present
information about her marriage. Note that we usually put the place first,
followed by the date. It can be the reverse, but this is our
preferred style at NEHGS. Now we want to give information about Warren Dutton, her husband, his birth, his death again place followed by date and then to
further define him the names of his parents, including his
mother’s maiden name. Let’s get down to the listing of
children. First we have an introductory line giving the full names of the parents
including Elizabeth’s generational number and her maiden name. The children numbered in
order using lower case Roman numerals, the generational number which you only need to
give for the first child again born and then died; place and then date and note this abbreviated style b for born, d for died, unm is unmarried m is married, and then an Arabic number for the child who will
be carried forward. Additional information about the family
group follows the basic data and precedes the children’s listing in a
new paragraph. As I mentioned before you might have
nothing really to add here or you might have pages and pages. Now let’s apply ahnenafel style to the
same couple. In an ahnentafel we tend to look at
couples, A man and a woman who were in the direct line of descent. First the man with the even number and
then the woman with an odd number. In essence you can think of thi sas a
registered style sketch broken in two to focus equally on the man
and the woman. Just like in register style we list
first, birth, and then death and then marriage and we
give the place and then we give the date. There’s no need to this list marriage
information for the woman because we’ve already seen it in the man’s paragraph. And then
additional information is usually given after the woman entry. Now I’d like to step back a moment and
look at what happens if you have your information in a
genealogy programs such as Family Tree Maker or Roots Magic. If you do it’s a fairly easy
matter to export what you have in a format that you can open in
Microsoft Word for further analysis. This particular example is an exportive
material in Decscendency style from Family Tree Maker, saved in rich
text format, and opened in Word. I could also have chosen to have exported
it as an ancestor table. This example shows that it’s a fine
first step in the writing process but it’s not enough .The exported
material will reflect the data as you entered it and you will need to review and revise
accordingly. For example in the first paragraph alone look at how many times we’re seeing the
Calnet is on Long Island in New York. Really we get it after the first mention.
there’s no need to repea Long Island New York each time within a family group and while we’re at it let’s decide to
spell out Long Island rather than abbreviate sometimes. You’re probably seeing many other things
you would change here, but exporting the data will give you a
good idea of what you’ve got for a manuscript and
if what you have is manageable within your time frame. So certainly it’s an option for
beginning the writing process. Regardless of how you begin, by starting
from scratch or starting with an export, you can
begin shaping your work, returning to your TLC, I mean that’s
table of contents or outline, and checking your progress as
you go. Remember to be clear, to be consistent and to add citations. Cite as you write. This is a really
important tip. A professional family history will have
a citation for each statement of fact that is not common knowledge. Some of our
genealogies have thousands of notes. This one important
tip, is just not to put this off, add them as you write, you’ll save time and you won’t need to
make as many revisions later. Another important tip is not to let gaps
in information stop you from writing. If there’s still something you don’t know about a person or a family don’t let that stop you from starting.
Add a note in your draft to remind yourself to address that gap at a later
point and if you never obtained the
information simply say so, indicating that it’s an area for future
research. Step 7: Add narrative in photos One concern we sometimes hear is that books of
genealogy are just full of data and dry as dust! But they don’t have to be! There’s plenty
of room for a narrative within the two basic formats and you
want to include additional information. One of my colleagues, David Allen Lambert
talks about filling in the dash between the birth and death dates. What information can you provide about
your ancestor. What can bring him or her to life. Your narrative can come from a variety
of different source,s both published and unpublished. For
instance, census data, ships registers, or
immigration records, wills and probate, obituaries, diaries,
letters, interviews with family, all tell a story. If you don’t have a specific story about
your ancestor consult historical sources to provide greater context. Once you’ve gathered some key resources
just start typing. In general you’ll want to enter information
chronologically and then perhaps later you’ll want to
revise it to emphasize some themes you have identified. Include only what’s of interest. Consider
omitting overly detailed information and consider omitting information that the reader can
easily find in other sources. For instance, if a relative fought in the
American Revolution you don’t need to explain why the war began. Now let’s look at a few examples of how
narrative can be presented in a publication. The first example is from a book titled The Keane and Sheahan Families of Bridgeport
Connecticut. It focuses on a small family who
immigrated from Ireland in the late 1800s. Table of contents shows us that all of
Part One talks about the family in Ireland. Part Two covers immigrant settlement
in Connecticut and there’s also a chapter about the
importance of education in the family. Those entire first two parts of the book are completely narrative. Part Three of the
book, we get to the genealogy, five
generations worth. Appendix 1 covers the genealogy of an
allied family, and then in the second appendix we have
the transcript of a conversation among five living
siblings. We’d intended to call the transcript for
details to include in the genealogical coverage of their parents, but when we listened to the
tape the stories were so compelling and we got
such a strong sense of the siblings tight-knit relationship, that we
decided to include large excerpts from the transcript in the book. It’s a great gift for the current
generation to read and I can only imagine how grandchildren
and great-grandchildren and great-great-grandchildren will value those words. And we did, in fact, include some of the
stories within the register style family groups as well. And we have lots of photos in the book.
The Keene book has 32 pages of color photos, both historic family
photos and current photos. Questionnaires were
sent to living family members and living relatives were interviewed and
invited to submit not only photos but also family stories. Because this is a relatively small
family that process was manageable. This book is a wonderful model for
anyone thinking of doing a family history. Another example is a new book called The
Ancestors and Descendants of George Rufus Brown and Alice Nelson Pratt. It’s a register style book with narrative
and photos incorporated throughout. Table of
contents here shows us that the book has many chapters. Each of
them is a separate register style
presentation with each chapter
beginning with person number one for that family. The next slide shows on the left page
an excerpt from the sketch of one individual, Riney
Brown. Look at how much detail there is about
him within this sketch. Riney kept an extensive diary and
we’ve excerpted it in a boxed insert here within his sketch. Now we have some other pages to show from the
Brown genealogy. This is the beginning of the Mather chapter showing a little
narrative introduction and an early image of the immigrant
Richard Mather which we found in an1893 published book. And the boxed insert here focuses on
some of the key ancestors in this line, three of them ministers. The examples from these two books showed that there is
ample room for narrative in a genealogical publication. Now it’s
beyond the scope of this webinar to talk about page layout. If you work with a publisher, which
will discuss in a few minutes, the publisher will handle that for you.
You can also do it yourself using Word or another program. We covered this topic in our two-day
writing and publishing seminar in Boston. Step 8: Read, refine, repeat You’ve got a draft and now you need to
read it and refine it. Self editing is one of
the most important things you can do. If you end up working with a
publishing company or submitting a short piece to a journal someone else will do editing for
publication but it’s still important for you to check and revise what you’ve
written before you submit your manuscript. For
one thing you’ll want to check and cross check your data. Doe the information in the child list,
for example, match the data in the parents sketch? Are the numbers consecutive? Are your
source citations complete? Reread the manuscript with reference to your style sheet. I
can’t overemphasize the importance of the editorial process. And just to show you the kinds of things
we catch as we edit here’s a scan of a page I had on my desk,
noting some errors found in the manuscript, a mistake in numbering, a misspelling or two, something funny with dates, a missing source. Now here’s another
important tip, ask someone else to review your
manuscript. It’s so difficult to see your own mistakes because you’re so close to
the material. So ask someone else to review your work
to get a fresh set of eyes on the case. If you work with a publisher the
publisher will provide that someone else but you might want to enlist a fellow
genealogist to read it before you even reach that point. Step 9: Index. The most useful reference works have an index. In your family history
you’ll want to have a comprehensive index that lists every name mentioned in the
text and captions. Some family histories also include place
names. Think about the reader of the book. What
will he or she want to look up. Now I’ve got an example here from a genealogy of the Saltonstall family. Here you see some general page
references for the family as a whole and you see we’ve delineated just which Abigail is which by giving
different generational numbers. Be sure to include married names of women. For instance Adriana will be found not only under Saltonstall but also
under Gianturco and Cole in this index. Now if you
have a place name index the main entry will be the state or if it’s another country the name of
the country would be the main entry. Sub entries are city or town or county. You index the name on the page, and indicate
as here if the place is now known by another
name. You can do the index yourself or hire an
indexer. A publisher will arrange this step for
you if you don’t want to index the book yourself. Step 10: Publish or print Digital printing has made it easy and
affordable to print your family histories as I said before. But what exactly is the
difference between publishing and printing? Well basically, a printer prints and a publisher
provides additional services. A printer could be Kinko’s, Staples, or a
local copy shop, usually with limited binding options. A
commercial printer who specializes in book production or an
online service such as Lightning Source. With a printer you are responsible for
all the work in preparing your manuscript and getting it to a print-ready PDF. As far as publishing goes there are two
types. The traditional brick-and-mortar publisher would take your manuscript and provide a
number of services such as editing, design, production management and
marketing and distribution. A traditional publisher also offers
royalties. Unfortunately unless you’re writing a
tell-all memoir of a famous ancestor traditional publishers probably won’t be
interested in producing your book. So we recommend
using a second type of publisher, one that offers self-publishing services. These are pay-as-you-go, but offer a wide
menu of services, such as editing, help with images, design layout,
proofing, indexing, working with a printer, warehousing and
marketing and distribution. There are many such companies online
such as Lulu, I Universe, and Create Space as well as
brick-and-mortar companies such as Otter Bay Books, Stories to Tell and
Small-batch Books, all of which specialize in memoir and
family history. By the way these are listed in the
writing and publishing subject guide and our online Learning Center and I will
provide that link in a minute. So when determining whether to work with
a printer or online publisher you need to ask yourself what are you
comfortable doing are managing yourself. How complicated is your book, how fancy a
book do you want? What can you afford? Do you need
help with distribution? Now let’s review our ten steps in
writing and publishing your family history. Number One:Shift mental gears; Two:
Consider your audience and time frame. Three: Choose a genealogical
format. Four: Define your scope and make a table
of contents. Five: Create a style sheet. Six: Write! Seven: Add narrative and images. Eight: Read, refine, repeat. Nine: Index. Ten: Print or publish. Now there are a number of resources that can assist you during the writing and publishing process. As I just mentioned you can consult our
Writing and Publishing Subject Guide which is available at our Online
Learning Center. The subject guide covers much of what we
discussed today, plus additional resources, templates, tips and how-to videos. American ancestors.org/ writing-publishing There are also some
publications you might consider purchasing or perusing. We have two portable
genealogists on the topic of writing, one on building a genealogical
sketch and the second on genealogical
numbering. Both go into greater detail and provide examples including tips on using words for
automatically numbering register style material. I’m also currently working on a new
edition of our Writing and Publishing guide due out before the summer. This will
include more in-depth coverage of what we’ve discussed today as well as coverage of using Word for
automatic numbering and index tagging. It will include a
comprehensive guide to genealogical style, covering standard abbreviations
used genealogy, applicable capitalization
rules, and how to handle special situations
such as name changes and alternate spellings. All of these
publications and more can be purchased at our online store and coming up in May we’re holding an
in-depth two day workshop on writing and publishing at our librarian archives in Boston.
We will discuss best practices and helpful tips in order to turn your research into
a publication. We’ll talk about goal setting, using
genealogical style while writing, working with images, adding narrative.
Participants will learn about working with editors, publishers and the nuts and
bolts of completing family history publications. Participants will also receive
one-on-one consultations with our writing and publishing experts.
If interested contact education at NEHGS.org or register online. Finally we will be offering online courses in the near future for current NEHGS members on getting
the most out of Word for your family history publication. And we also hope to conduct a more
in-depth online seminar on writing and publishing. So stay tuned for those. You can see
what we currently have planned at Americanancestors.org/online-programs. Remember no one knows your family’s
story the way you do. One hundred years from now we hope that
your own descendants will find your book on the library shelf and thank you for
telling this story and maybe it will inspire one of them to
be the keeper of the story and the teller of the continuing story your family. Thanks Penny for your presentation and now
let’s get your questions. if you have a question for Penny about
anything that she’s covered during this presentation go ahead and write it in that panel
to the right of your screen. Um I see that we already have a
number of questions so we’ll start getting to them . Mary Beth asks , “Well she’d like to
include as many documents as possible um in her books so her
readers don’t have to really look up the information or try and refine those documents, do you have any comments or advice for her?:
” That’s a very good question I’ve seen it done in books um.. . I’m a little concerned that can
be overwhelming to have them all mixed in
with your genealogy that you’re presenting. I applaud your interest in making them
available to others. I wonder if you can select some
key ones to include in your family history and
consider possibly making the documents available in another format for people who might
be interested. That’s a good thing to think about
and maybe you want to check back with me in a
little while and I’ll have a more well formed answer to that. But we really try to pick ones that are particularly noteworthy and sometimes particularly pretty
because they look nice in a book but if you have a complete citation for all your material people should be
able to find them. I realize that that might involve
being a member of an organization, a paying member of an organization that
provides it but um but I would urge you to be judicious
in choosing what you include in your family history. Daniel asks, ” when does it become
necessary to cite birth, death, and marriage information or
should those facts always include citation?” “The facts should always include a citation.
Anything that’s not common knowledge should have one. Um, and there are a couple
different ways you can approach this, in some particularly scholarly looking genealogies you’ll see a note number added directly after the actual fact. But what you can do is put a note number at the end the
sentence or even at the end the paragraphand then group your citations into one particular note. It makes it a
little less disruptive to the readers so they’re
not always seeing superscript numbers peppered in there when
you already maybe using generational numbers. So what you would need to be sure
to do if you do any grouping of references
is to indicate which references for which fact.
So you might have say a birth certificate and then have
parenthesis birth and a maybe something else parenthesis death and go on from there but every single fact should have a
citation.” Lori asks “What are the ethics of including living people in your work
and do you need to get their permission?” “This is something that comes up a great
deal and i know its of concern to a number of people. I
think although as we all know there’s very little privacy and a lot
of information is readily available about people um and we don’t know even anecdotally of any cases of
identity theft arising from someone reading a genealogy I think it’s good to be sensitive to
living people’s wishes. So if it’s information
you’ve obtained from relatives make sure they know it’s going to be
published and most important if they really
hesitate exceed to their wishes. In a couple of the
books we’ve published we have included information about
people but in accordance with some peoples requests its limited, maybe to birth date and not much else.” Lori also asks, ” Do you need a
traditional publisher to get your book into a library or will self publishers help with that?” “Self publishers will help with that too.
Umm absolutely and you can actually do
some of that yourself if you’ve got a number of books you may have used some libraries or
repositories that were extremely helpful to you and you
may want to donate a copy to them and they would be more than happy to
receive it I know as would we.” Great and a few people have asked if
there is a register style template that they
can use on our and our website or anywhere? Yes there is, umm, I don’t have the URL
at the tip of my tongue but I believe it’s in the subject guide that we referred
you to earlier. Umm, if you go to our website we’ve given you the URL to the subject
guide but if you go to our website and go to publications and then select register, one of the
choices that pops up on the left hand menu in the
register page um, something like registers style and submission. So it’s there, you can download
it. It is very very helpful for helping you work in Microsoft Word. Great and if they go to the subject
guide they’ll find a lot of both the template as well as in
overview of this presentation, those ten steps, and links to all those self publishers
that Penny mentioned, and also a few people have asked that we
post a sample style sheet and and some of those index entries that we provided in and that’s
something that we can certainly do as well. Absolutely yes sojust go to that
subject guiding and you will find a whole lot of information and that’s also where
we’ll post the recording to this presentation. A few people have also asked about
the number of books they should publish do you have any advice on that? The number of books to publish? Yes. Well there’s no prescribed number
but I applaud you for thinking of doing more than one. And here’s why it can be very hard to cover lots and lots of families in one
book so um we actually have a couple people that we know here who
have published, taken different chunks, slices of
their family ancestry and done books on them. Descendants of the Benson family,
Descendants of the Reid family, Descendants of the um, I can’t think of some the Wade family.
Those are all ancestors of one person, just taken
systematically. So that’s one thing you can do. Or you can do like we did in the
Brown book and do multiple families. One
possibility is to look, say at your grandparents and take their lines and focus on them, but I would say you’re limited only by how much time you have and how ambitious
you are. Great as far as I think the quantity of say one title and do you have any
suggestions as to how many copies of the book should be printed? Oh, not how many to write but how many to print.. I apologize , um how many you
can print? You can print one these days, I mean
that’s what print on demand is all about its gonna be a lot of expense going into just
doing one book but whereas before digital printing
technology came about sometimes it was a minimum like of 250 books that you could do with the commercial printer, that’s not
the case anymore. For some of our compiled genealogies we do
as few as 50, it depends on how many you think your family will want, whether you think the
genealogical community is interested and might want to purchase it, um and a whether you, how many repositories you
want to make donations to, but you don’t even have to pick a round
number, you can ask for something like 27, so there’s no right or wrong it all depends on what
you think your audience is. So now you have two different answers to that
question. Thanks Penny. Ann asks, ” In a
story style family history are end notes just as acceptable as
footnotes?” ” Yes”. “Okay” “Simply ye,s it makes, it it gives you a
lot more leeway on the page to really tell the story and if you do the level oF citation that we urge you do for um a genealogy you could be talking
about having a great part of every page taken up
with footnotes so in fact for our Newbury Street Press
books w’ere moving more and more toward end notes rather than footnotes and I
should also point out that you can put them at the end of the
chapter or you can put them at the end of the book. We tend to put them at the end of
the book just to keep all of the text running
together but it’s certainly acceptable to do it either way.” Thanks and a few people have asked about getting permission for images, maps, excerpts from books, to include in their publication. What
kind of advice you have for them? “Okay, that’s a very good question and
certainly thank you for thinking of that. Those of us who own copyrights applaud you. Anything that’s published before 1923 does not need permission and in general any text published after that the copyright laws are complicated
but the rule of thumb is if it’s before 1923 you don’t need permission, if it’s after 1923 you probably do but you have to consider fair use as well. And so if you are just taking a small amount of
text from something, fifty or a hundred words you
probably don’t have to worry unless it accounts for more than 10
percent of the original publication. So that’s text. For images the same copyright applies what I’d like to do, is use the, now with
Google Image Search and Bing Image Search you can filter your search results to find
things that are license free. I haven’t used it enough to know how
reliable it is but I think it’s a really good start and while I’m at it I’ll mention that you can also filter your search results from large
images which is good for finding things that are high resolution enough for printing in a book. So, that’s a good place to start. When you go to Wikimedia Commons which
is a good place to search for images that’s also pretty good too and there’s
usually some statement of ownership however you have to be careful because
sometimes people think oh, so this da Vinci painting is from the 1400s or whatever so I can use that
because it’s old and it’s public domain. Well not really because it’s owned by
a museum and you need the repository’s permission to use it. So be careful with that kind of thing if it’s held by a museum or some other place you need that
institution’s permission. I can also highly
recommend the library of congress, loc.gov which is a great source
of images they have a really good search function and almost everything there is in the public
domain. I hope that answers your question. I have a tough question a really tough
question for you Penny. “How do you know when to stop
researching and to start writing?” “This is probably the thing that
people struggle with the most and truthfully there’s gonna be some
crossover, you can’t completely shut off the research, the reseacher. You’re not hard wired
that way if you are a genealogist. But if you are interested in writing
you really have to go back to that step number one, and shift mental gears, just
step back, look at things in a different way, think
about what your focus is gonna be for writing and starts thinking about it as a writing project. Now if you wait until
you have all your research done you’re never gonna get it written because you
never gonna finish your research. I don’t know of any piece we’ve ever
published that has every loose end tied up in any way. In fact I was just interestingly
looking at a book last week that I had always thought was
completely about the author’s family and it turned out that four hundred pages
of it were not because he had never been able to tie
his family into this family and thought he would be able to. So you’ve just gotta take that leap and stop for now. When you’re rereading your manuscript you’ll see where the gaps are, you may
see them when you’re writing. I was just looking at a draft the other
day started by a colleague who is our editor in chief and it was full of blank lines where he
knew he didn’t have the information, born at this place on blank,
because he didn’t have the date he knew the place, but not the date or he
knew the date but not the place peppered with blanks where he knew
the information needed to be filled in but by getting it down it helped him see
what was missing and so you may see it as you’re writing,
you may see it as you’re doing your self editing, so there’s always gonna be lots
of cross over. So I don’t have a real clear answer
except that it’s something that everybody
struggles with. Just start writing. Great, and let’s just have one last
question. Fred asks, ” what is the best
program to purchase that allows you to combine text, documents and photos? ”
” That’s a great
question and something we are asked all the time and
something we think about all the time. We use Microsoft Word for writing and plenty of people use that all the way through publication. They take it all the way to the PDF. Microsoft Word offers great
functionalities for writing. For instance all those
numbers in a register style format it will automatically do for you. You have
to set it up to do it but it’s a great way to keep track of those and if you add a person or delete a
person it will automatically update which is a great function. It will
also allow you to add tags that will ultimately generate an index which is also a great feature. However Microsoft Word is really kind of fussy
when it comes to images and they want to jump all around the page. You can get them to stop doing it but it
takes some work. What we usually do is take things all
the way up through an edited manuscript until we get it about are far along as we can and then we
bring it into a program called Adobe InDesign. it’s a great program, it does a lot of
things like many Adobe products do, however it’s very expensive to buy
the full program it’s about one thousand dollars, but they have now started offering, I just looked this up yesterday in case someone asked, they have now started offering something called the Creative Cloud, is
that what it is Ginerva? First of all you can to a free 30-day
trial and then you can for seventy five dollars a month you can use that program. If you sign up for a whole year it’s
fifty dollars a month which is still pretty expensive but it makes it affordable to use it for a
short time. Now if you work with someone like a
designer or if you work with the publisher they will have a program like that and can take your word file or whatever
you’re working with and pour it into InDesign. I’ve played around a little bit with
Microsoft Publisher and even though it’s very good to use with images and text and it’s designed for publications, for some crazy reason it does not
support footnotes. So, I was able to import a Microsoft Word
document none of the footnote numbers appeared, none of
the footnotes appeared. I don’t understand that at all. So I was feeling pretty bullish
about it till I discovered that. There are other programs. Adobe InDesign is the publisher’s choice right now. it’s
really what all publishers and printers seem to be using. So I hope that helps. Thanks Penny and so there were a few questions that we
weren’t able to address in this presentation but if you would like to write to Penny
with your question you can contact her at [email protected] Also, if you have any specific
questions about your research or maybe a specific question
about your writing project you might want to consider scheduling consultation with Penny or another member of our writing and
publishing team or you might even consider hiring our
research services department as well. If you’re interested in learning more
about the services you can write to the email addresses on your current screen and I will also
include those in the follow-up e-mail that you will
receive tomorrow. Finally thank you again for joining us
today. As you leave the event you’ll have the opportunity to fill out a survey and
give us your feedback as we continue to grow our webinars
and online offerings all feedback is extremely helpful so I
think you in advance. If you’d like access more how to resources
or to learn about upcoming online educational programs please visit our Online Learning Center
American ancestors .org/learning-center I hope to see you at our webinars and online courses in the future.
Goodbye for now.

6 thoughts on “Ten Steps to Writing and Publishing Your Family History

  1. I'm only 25 minutes into this and already it's been extremely helpful.  I'm a great detective, and a huge information seeker, and I love to write and share information.  I am not so great at organization and detail work!  Having somebody lay out the possibilities and explain the process is fantastic.

  2. Missed this webinar last week and just viewed it. Thanks for helping me get a handle on organizing my writing. The steps and tips were exactly what I have needed to get going. I really appreciate the NEHGS excellent and free (!) webinars.

  3. I am presenting a Daughter of American Revolution informative presentation on how to write a Family History Book.  I made such a book through My Canvas, ancestry.com's publishing software.  I really didn't have the information about numbering when I wrote my book several years ago.  But, I am going to share your information, as well, because it's useful in correctly presenting genealogical material. Thanks for this presentation which will greatly assist me in my presentation this weekend.

  4. I've been working on a family history that seemed very manageable when I began, but has had scope creep! This was very helpful in assisting me in getting my mind around how I will do it. Thank you!

  5. My great grand pop was born 1845, he was in the Indian war's he was not sent to Liberia. Now he labeled Black & someone is posting the wrong picture; it's a cousin born in 1900. We know he's full blood Timucuan. Can we correct that?

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