Tuesday, March 24, 2009

To Publish or Not to Publish

I've long debated over whether or not to make publish a family history book. I know many genealogists do and I treasure the ones of my family that others have written, but I go back and forth over whether or not I should attempt putting one together for publication. Well, correct that, I did make a family history book for my grandmother last winter. When all was said and done, it was a nice, simple book and she loved it, which was all that mattered to me. I didn't go to Blurb, Lulu or mycanvas, I just printed off the pages from my word processor, put them in page protectors and bound them in a scrapbook-style binder. In the final analysis, I don't consider it a family history book both because of the way I organized it and because it wasn't done professionally (published like a book), but was a good project and gave me experience in the area. These are the pros and cons I can think of when it comes to publishing a family history book:


  • Makes a wonderful keepsake that can easily be passed down to future generations.

  • Looks professional, tidy and is easier to keep all the information together as opposed to loose binder binding.

  • Easy to make copies for relatives and anyone interested. Also, easier to make replacement copies for yourself. (If you are using a self-publishing service like Blurb that is)

  • More diverse formatting options.

  • More condusive to image heavy pages.

  • When you're gone and you want your local library to have your genealogy work, they won't accept loose papers and clunkily bound pages. They will however, accept published family histories.


  • Cheaper not to publish.

  • Easier to revise, take out information and add information and newer generations.

  • Easier to change formatting and binding.

  • If done on a word processor more internet and e-mail friendly.

These are just the ones I could come up with off the top of my head, I'm sure if I sat and thought about it I'd come up with more. The biggest reason for me to not publish is that second con, the one about revision and changing information. I know that I am personally always finding new information or contradictory information. I'd like to easily annotate or change my family history book, not deal with 2nd and 3rd editions and so forth and the hassels that go along with that. I was inspired by this website not long ago to try and create a book blog (not this blog) similar with same plan to eventually publish off of that, but I'm not completely sold that this is the way to go. I have a Footnote account and have been thinking that maybe People Pages would be the way to go if I did want to publish. For anyone that doesn't know, Footnote members (you don't have to be a paid subscriber) can create "People Pages" on whatever you want. For instance, I created a page that is entirely devoted to my branches from Indiana and their involvement in the Civil War. Footnote itself has also created many pages, usually of men whose deaths appeared in the SSDI. Both my grandfathers and at least one of my great grandfathers have been found in these Footnote pages and I can easily add personal information to them. The only thing to be wary of is violating any Copyright policies on Footnote. I'm not sure, but I would imagine that submitting info to Footnote's pages makes it their property, but since (if I do decide to publish) it won't be a mass market printing for profit, I think I'll be okay. In any case, there are many possibile ways to publish and many pros and cons to the process. It is something I'm conflicted about because while I love the family histories I have, the inflexibility when it comes to changing information is a real turn off to me. A general surname study or perhaps a publication on a specific person might be the exception because there is less room for error or omission when the window of study is that narrow. It is something I have been dabating for awhile, but I know that since all my info is digitized, should I bite the bullet and decide to publish, it will be pretty easy to get things in order.


  1. Here's an idea:

    You can still "go green" by publishing an e-book in PDF format.

    This way you can create updates when needed, and if a relative wants a copy, either print and send or send them the PDF as an attachment.

    There are also ways - with Adobe Acrobat, not Reader - to digitally protect your work and prevent others from copying it.

  2. That is a really good idea! I think I might attempt an e-book, I don't know why I didn't think of it before... I've done e-books in the past and you're right, there is a lot of flexibilty and control over the work that way.


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