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Publishing Your Research: Harder Than It Looks

We genealogists spend hours and hours (and even more hours!) on our research. We interview relatives, wade through online databases, visit courthouses and cemeteries. All of this results in mountains of information for our family trees.

What should we do with all of it? Professional genealogists exhort us to publish, publish, publish our family histories. They advise us to disseminate our information as widely as possible in order to preserve it. Heaven knows our own kids will likely throw out all the lovingly-collected documents and family group sheets once we are gone.

Last weekend I attended a workshop hosted by my local genealogy Computer Interest Group (CIG) on how to take a family history from computer to published page. The idea was that periodically along the way a genealogist should stop and compile the research results so far. Take these and use an online service to prepare a small book for relatives and for placement in public genealogy collections. No need to wait until the research is finished to do this. We all know we never will be finished with it.

For the workshop I attended, the presenter had a family line all ready to go to the online publisher. She has done this several times before. Before the seminar, she had taken her manuscript to a local printer to get a test copy, and everything looked beautiful. As we watched in a live presentation of how to build this into a keepsake book using a well-known online publisher, the service refused to accept her work. They deemed it too short for the book dimensions she had always used before.

What changed, and why? The site gave no warning of new rules. Our speaker now needs to go back and re-format everything to a different size that we hope will be more acceptable.

The first session of this workshop had given me several good ideas for books I could make to preserve histories of my own family and precious belongings. Now I wonder if I can face the same disappointment with the online publisher that we saw at this seminar.

Rules change, seemingly arbitrarily, and with no notice. Taking time to prepare a work that is accepted one day and not the next is a huge waste of one’s time. This experience makes me very wary of trying this myself.

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