Genealogy Today, by Betty Lou Malesky, CG
Where is Your Research Going?
As I sat down to begin this column, I received an email message from Nancy Waters Lauer, a fellow genealogist, announcing the publication of her book, Family Diversity, The Oler Family of Maryland with Allied Families Colley, Kennedy, Mason, and Smith 1500 to 2011, Volume III. She wrote, "After many years of endless research, dead ends, and brick walls, I decided it was time to publish. There are still many unanswered questions that are challenges to future generations to weed out."
She has taken the step many of us need to consider. How much research do we need to do before we publish? Many of us are research junkies, me included. We just hate to abandon the search. We are hooked on the thrill of the chase, the endless pursuit of one more fact, one more ancestor, one more question answered.
At what point do we give up the search, admit we cannot answer every question, put away our detective badges, sit down and begin writing? There should be no guilt in challenging future generations to pick up where we leave off -- to follow the trail we've blazed.
None of us will live forever and the number of unfinished projects we have has no bearing on how long we live. Unless we publish what we have accomplished in our lifetime, there is little chance anyone will be able to carry on with the work we've left behind. Who will be able to decipher our notes, make their way through our files, and understand the trail we've been pursuing? It's very difficult to step into another's project and carry on without their input.
"Yes," someone says, "but my family tree is preserved on Ancestry.com. My descendants will be able to find it." A family tree is not a family history. It is simply a tree, linking one generation to the next. It does not tell the story of a family. It does not put them into the context of the time in which they lived. It does not bring them to life. It's like expecting to recognize a man by looking at his skeleton. Without flesh on the bones, every skeleton looks pretty much like another.
So what should we do? Begin by writing our stories, one ancestor at a time. Before you know it you'll see the story of a family emerging from the page, a story that descendants will find interesting, one that might even entice them to continue the research.
Tackling the job, one ancestor at a time, a few pages at a time, is not such a formidable task as it is to embark on writing a 300 page book. You need not be a skilled writer to write about your family. The plot has already been set, the characters are in place, all the events have occurred and cannot be changed, and you, as the narrator, just need to follow the path laid by your ancestors.
Today there are several options available for publishing a family history. The first and most obvious is to set up a website to display your stories as I am currently doing. Another option is to publish to a DVD and send copies to your family members. Finally, you can self publish a book, a reasonably priced option, that produces a marketable product for distribution to family, genealogical libraries, etc. "Print on Demand" publishers such as Lulu.com will print any number of pages, as little as one copy or as many as a thousand at an affordable price as you need them.
For information about Nancy Waters Lauer's book available April 15th, contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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2 April 2012