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Archive for the ‘Books and bookmaking’ Category

Have you ever wondered if you could put a book together about your family history? Have you wondered if you have enough content? Are you looking for some ideas on what to include? Do you have technical questions about creating pdf’s, uploading them, compiling a book interior, choosing a print format and then designing a cover?

Welcome to Produce Your Family History for $20. As I build a series of courses under the name “Genealogy Skills Today,” this first course is free for all of 2020.

Follow the link to the main page of the course: Produce Your Family History Book for $20.

Click image above for the course page.

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After my recent post about buying a printed copy of a Google Book, several people had questions about digital books and how to use them.  So I thought I would review what I do with digital books.  I am an avid book collector and digital books are no exception.  I would recommend to anyone that if they find books online related to their family history, they try to save them to their own computer.

The books I am talking about no longer have a copyright, which often means they were published before 1923.  What you can do with the books varies from site to site, so let’s go through my favorite sources of digital books one by one.

Internet Archive

Internet Archive is my favorite site for finding books, because the pdf’s from there are usually OCR-searchable, meaning, once I open the pdf, I can use a search command to find a name or word in the text of the book (not a perfect search; it depends on the quality of the image and the type).

Recently, Internet archive has changed their screens.  I find the new interface a little confusing.

Click on the book to start your search.

I went to http://archive.org and chose “Advanced Search.”  I usually use the “Description” field and enter a few words or an exact term (in quotations).  In this case I entered simply Westerly Rhode Island.  Three results came up, however, if a lot of results came up, I could have limited the results further by clicking “texts” over on the side column, thereby getting rid of recordings, films, etc.   One of the results was a manuscript from a Newport Library of a “Diary of Samuel Ward.” I’ve never seen this before, but how nice to be able to look it over at home.  Yes, please.

Results of my Westerly Rhode Island search show an intriguing manuscript, "Diary of Samuel Ward."

Results of my Westerly Rhode Island search show an intriguing manuscript, “Diary of Samuel Ward.”

I clicked on the image, and on the screen that came up, I could page through the document just by clicking on it. For a printed book, the gray edge beside the pages allows you to easy click forward or backward in the book.  Of course I could also download it in several formats.  Downloading as a pdf is what most people would want to do.

The Diary of Samuel Ward on Internet Archive. The image can be clicked to page through it, or the download options at the bottom can be used to file it on your own computer.

The Diary of Samuel Ward on Internet Archive. The image can be clicked to page through it, or the download options at the bottom can be used to file it on your own computer.

Clicking PDF brings up an option to save it to my computer.  I file it properly – my folders are divided into places and family names – I choose the folder that best fits the material.

Clicking pdf brings up this screen which allows me to save the pdf to my computer.

Clicking pdf brings up this screen which allows me to save the pdf to my computer.

Google Books

I tend to arrive at Google books through a general google search, but it can be accessed directly at books.google.com.

The Google Books screen also reminds you that you can build a virtual library of books right in your Google account.

The Google Books screen also reminds you that you can build a virtual My Library of books right in your Google account.

I searched for Spaulding genealogy and clicked on the book The History of Hillsborough New Hampshire Vol 2: Biography and Genealogy.  Since Spaulding genealogy was my search term, instances of those words are bookmarked with tiny blue bands over on the side – clicking those, or clicking “previous” or “next” will let me jump from appearance to appearance.

The Google book History of Hillsborough shows an EBOOK - FREE button.

The Google book History of Hillsborough shows an EBOOK – FREE button.

Pulling up the History of Hillsborough, I notice there is an EBOOK-FREE button in red.  That means a free version is available for download.  Hovering over the EBOOK-FREE shows me the download pdf:

Mousing over the EBOOK-FREE button shows the Download PDF option - click "PDF" to download.

Mousing over the EBOOK-FREE button shows the Download PDF option – click “PDF.”

… clicking on the PDF will start a download.  Then I would save the pdf to the folder where I want to keep it.

HathiTrust Digital Library

HathiTrust.org has the most user-friendly search function.  However, in the end, full books can only be downloaded by those with a login for one of Hathitrust’s partner universities.

I searched the phrase “Marcy Ballou” in full text search.

HathiTrust search

The results were very interesting.

Search Results _ HathiTrust Digital Library

(1) Pulling up the “History of Woonsocket” I used the Search in this text box, and saw that Marcy appears on page 223:

Full View _ HathiTrust D

 

Notably, Marcy does not appear in the index to this book.  Looking at page 223, I can tell that the mention is for Marcy’s cousin, the other Marcy Ballou.  But still, I’d never seen it before.

(2) Next, I looked at a Limited (search-only) entry.

Rhode Island genealogical register. v.3-4 1980-1982

I own those copies of the Rhode Island Genealogical Register, but hadn’t noticed Marcy Ballou’s name in there before.  Turned out they both referred to other Marcy Ballous.  But in this case, HathiTrust served as a useful index.

(3) Looking at The Ballous in America, I tried to search within the book.  I searched for a variant – “Mercy Ballou”.  Unfortunately, on the copy that came up, searching was not possible.  I pulled up an alternate copy on HathiTrust and searching was possible (oddly, both versions were apparently from Google Books).

Once a page is found with information, the PAGE itself can be downloaded even without an account.  But the whole book cannot be downloaded, even though this book, from 1888, is not under copyright.  Note that the bottom corner also offers options for creating a link to a specific page or to the whole book.

Ballous_in_America

FamilySearch Books

One of the nicest features of FamilySearch.org is the BOOKS section, somewhat buried under the “Search” menu.

Books section of FamilySearch.org - I would use the search box on this page.

Books section of FamilySearch.org – I would use the search box on this page.

Searching on this page will show results from any of the libraries listed on the screen.  I searched for Lanphere genealogy.

The Lanphere genealogy search on FamilySearch BOOKS brought up 131 results. Some look new to me so I'll check them out.

The Lanphere genealogy search on FamilySearch BOOKS brought up 131 results. Some look new to me so I’ll check them out.

Clicking on one of the results will either bring up a message saying you can’t access it outside of the Family History Center OR if the book is available as a pdf it will start to download right away.  However, it’s not really showing you the exact spot where the match is.  You will have to find that on your own.  But FamilySearch books is my go-to when all else fails.  Even if it brings up a book I can’t view, at least I have a clue and I can try to see the book elsewhere, perhaps in person.  If I were trying to find a specific book I would check out worldcat.org to locate a paper copy in a library.

How to use and maintain your PDF book collection

I used to keep all books in their own set of folders on my computer.  Now, each family name or place folder has a “books” folder within it.

The most important thing to me when I use a pdf book is to save my own notes.  At the very least, I leave comments to mark each page where topics of interest appear in the book.

Opening up a book in Adobe Reader looks like this:

My pdf copy of Genealogical Records of the Descendants of John and Anthony Emery. John Emery is highlighted and has a sticky note.

My pdf copy of Genealogical Records of the Descendants of John and Anthony Emery. John Emery is highlighted and has a sticky note.

To “highlight” text in yellow, or to leave a note, I click “Comment” in the top corner to access the Sticky Note and Highlight Text functions.  The open screen looks like this, with all my highlighted text and sticky notes showing in a clickable column down the side. This way, the next time I open the book, I can go right to the places I want. You can see I have done this about a dozen times in the Emery book.

A list of highlighted text, and notes, along the side serve as bookmarks for locations within the book.

A list of highlighted text, and notes, along the side serve as bookmarks for locations within the book.

When you are ready to close the pdf, you must save it to keep your notes.  Sometimes, my computer insists that I rename it to save it.  I do that, then delete the older version to avoid confusion.

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Every genealogist imagines that someday they will pull their family’s story together into a vivid and fascinating book, complete with pictures, that will keep even the younger generation interested.  Very seldom is that goal achieved, but I recently purchased a copy of I Come From A Place Called Home, 1882-1929 by Elizabeth Burr Marquard, and I can’t put it down. She has met that goal.

I Come From a Place Called Home [Amazon link HERE] follows the story of Elizabeth’s great-grandparents: father William Seibel, mother Sophia, and 8 children, who raised fruit in rural Monroeville, Ohio.  The normal ups and downs of a large family, the strenuous labor of farm life and the simple joy of caring about and for each other are set against a background of mental illness, as the mother becomes increasingly incompetent and dependent  as life goes on.

I Come from a Place Called Home

A story of acceptance, strength and resilience, told in conversational and very realistic detail – much, but not all of it, real – takes us from the pig-slaughtering and lye-making of the 1880s to the cars and college degrees of the 1920’s, as the family experiences their share of joy and heartbreak.  I have seldom read a book that captured my interest as much as this story.  I laughed and cried along with the family.  I recommend it very highly to all readers and aspiring family historians.

I know my genealogy friends will want to know how Liz did this.  So here are Liz’s thoughts on the process and problems that she found.

An interview with Elizabeth Burr Marquard
Can you explain how the idea for the book started?

I was fortunate to grow up in a home where family stories were always shared, particularly about my maternal ancestors, the Seibels. There was a great deal of warmth and love associated with these stories, and even though I did not know the people personally, I felt their essence. My ancestors were also savers, so I had access to their old letters, diaries, farm journals, and several manuscripts about their lives. I often told my mother, “The Seibels were such an interesting family! Someone should write a book about them.” She always responded, “That someone is you, Liz.” I carried the notion of this book in my head for about 30 years. Finally, the year I turned 50 I had one of those “bucket list” moments. I started writing. My mother was THRILLED! She was my biggest cheerleader in this endeavor, and she eagerly anticipated each chapter. Sadly, Mom did not live to see the book published. She passed away in 2011, but I made a death-bed promise to her that I would finish writing the book. It was a bittersweet moment when I held the published book in my hands for the first time, knowing that Mom was not physically here to share in this dream come true.

Other family historians will be curious – how did you manage to amass enough details to fill over 600 pages?

Some people come from families with deep pockets, but as I mention in the Acknowledgments of the book, I come from a family with “deep closets.” They were savers extraordinaire! There are letters between the sisters dating from 1910 to 1957. There are diaries and farm journals as well as a copy of the manuscript “Adventures of William Seibel Out West, 1882-1885,” which my great-aunt Hermine wrote in 1936 after interviewing her father about his youthful adventures on the Mississippi. In the 1970s, my cousin, who had developed an interest in our heritage, began a correspondence with the two surviving Seibel sisters, Hermine and Minola. Her first request was, “Tell me about my grandmother Ada.” That opened the floodgates! Both sisters wrote manuscripts about their memories. Hermine, being the 4th daughter, offered an earlier perspective of life in the Seibel household. Minola, the youngest sister, was the more prolific, writing character profiles of each family member as well as manuscripts about her memories of life on the farm, in the schools, her university and work experiences, as well as her service with the Red Cross during WW II. She also included a genealogy of our ancestors, including their hometowns in Germany and the dates of their emigration. What a treasure trove! Armed with all of this primary source material, I set about compiling it into one cohesive story. About 85% of the incidents in the book are true. I had to “embroider” other portions, for example, to demonstrate Sophie’s deteriorating mental condition. I followed the rule of one of my college English professors: “Don’t just tell me; show me! Make me feel I’m there!”

I Come From A Place Called Home - back

If one person who is no longer here could read the book, who would you want that to be?

My maternal grandmother, Ada. She died when I was only 18 mos. old, so I have no memories of her. However, in writing this book, I feel that I have come to know her. On so many occasions in her life, Ada set aside her own ambitions to fulfill the role of surrogate mother to her seven younger siblings. I doubt that she was ever thanked or that she expected to be thanked—there was a job to be done, so she did it. Ada would probably be amazed that anyone thought her life story worthy of writing a book about, but I think she was an unsung hero!

The book is a tribute to resiliency, hard work, and determination. But like every family, your family had some painful stories and some rough times. How did that shape your efforts on the book?

Some of the Seibels’ most painful moments are the most compelling—the stigma of mental illness, the aftermath of the Spanish Influenza, the anti-German sentiment surrounding WW I, the lower social standing felt by those from rural origins. These incidents allowed me to highlight the Seibels’ strength of character and the incredibly deep and supportive bonds that held the siblings together.

Was it hard to include some German chit chat in your dialogue?

I wanted the book to be authentic. I knew that my ancestors originally spoke only German but slowly transitioned to English as they assimilated into the American culture. Initially, I used the online translation website BabelFish to make the English-to-German translations for the text. However, I was aware that the translations were not always accurate. Fortunately, my job brought me into contact with a bilingual German fellow who graciously fixed all of the German translations for me. I am very chagrined to be so monolingual!

How long did the writing take? How much time was added to that for design, layout, and managing the project on the self-publishing site, CreateSpace?

I have been writing this book for 9 years. (I’m a slow writer, plus “life” has a habit of getting in the way!) In May 2015, I decided the entire Seibel saga (100 years) would be too much content for one book. I broke the story after Chapter 32 (1929) and proceeded to explore publishing on CreateSpace. From my initial decision to publish until I held the finished volume 1 in my hands was about 3 months.

Are you planning a sequel, or other books?

I am currently working on volume 2, which will continue the Seibel saga and cover the years 1930-1985 (circling back to where volume 1 begins). I foresee two books as my life’s literary output.

Describe some things you learned about research and writing along the way.

I learned that I could completely lose myself in the research, which I actually enjoy more than the writing. And it is true that you can research almost any topic on the internet—how to make soap and apple butter, butcher hogs, plant strawberries, drive a Model T, dance the Charleston, speak 1920s slang, etc.

I also learned a huge appreciation for authors–even ones whose books I don’t enjoy! Writing is time-consuming, often mentally exhausting, and even emotionally draining. On numerous occasions, I cried while I wrote. There were times when I was writing that I could feel a presence in the room with me, almost as if someone was looking over my shoulder and whispering, “Tell the story.” I included a quote by Dot Stutter on a forward page of the book that sums up this experience: “I hear ethereal whispers, persuasive, soft and still. Daughter, if you don’t remember us, who will?”

Can you talk about some resources/help you found that other family historians may not be aware of?

I found a website that lists Cleveland-area weather history since 1871. This sounds like an odd resource, but when writing about a farm family, it was helpful to check how the weather was impacting their daily lives, decisions, and economy. I also found the site “Vintage Ad Browser,” which offers ads for various subjects through the decades. Besides being just plain fun to peruse, the ads provided a perspective on various eras and helped me to mentally engage with a particular time.

Do you have a few tips about self-publishing?

I researched all of the print-on-demand publication services, and good reviews pointed me toward CreateSpace, a subsidiary of Amazon. There was no cost to publish, except when I purchase a copy of the book. Initially, I struggled with CreateSpace’s formatting template. (I read many blogs for tips.) It was very time-consuming to cut and paste 32 chapters from Word documents into their 6 x 9 format. For volume 2, I have wised up and am writing the book directly into their template and saving it in that format.

I also created a Kindle version of my book. Converting it into the proper format was a rather opaque process, complicated by trying to marry 140 images to the HTML document. Once again, blogs to the rescue!

What is your advice to others who feel they have a family story to tell in a book?

Start writing—the first draft doesn’t have to be perfect. You can revise it many times, and reading what you’ve written gets the creative juices flowing. Make the story engaging–not just a retelling of dates, facts, and events. Details bring a story to life and engage the reader. If you are fortunate enough to have older living relatives, ask them about their memories and document them. Ask them to identify the people in old photos, and then write those names (and the date if possible) on the back of the photo. Every family has stories and they need to be preserved. We can’t truly know ourselves until we know where we came from. And we all “come from a place called home…”

The stash of written documents that helped tell the family's story. In addition, there were letters and also pictures, many of which appeared in the family's book.

The stash of written documents that helped tell the family’s story. In addition, there were letters and also pictures, many of which were included in the book.

I Come From A Place Called Home is available on Amazon.com in both paperback and Kindle format.

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