Thursday, December 15, 2011

One Way to Publish a Family History...

With the publication of The Drake Families of Van Buren County, Michigan, Volume 1 : Descendants of Joshua Cope Drake, I was able to put to bed a project that had been 20 years in the making.  Work had begun immediately following the release of the first edition in 1991. The goal of the original edition was to track the descendants of all of the Drake family lines that settled in Van Buren County.  As it turns out, there were eleven distinct lines. 

Joshua Cope Drake
Let me count the ways that I wasn't satisfied with the first edition...It was done on a typewriter with typographical errors, no information was documented, not enough photographs, not enough effort made to locate descendants, and a tremendous amount of information, online and off, has since made itself available. 

Steps were taken to be as thorough as possible for the second edition using the following sources:
  1. U.S. Federal Census Returns 1840-1930 (all for the county were read through manually)
  2. Van Buren County Vital Records (page-by-page read through of all available birth, death & marriage records, looking for the Drake name anywhere on the document)
  3. Cemetery Records (all cemeteries in the county)
  4. Newspapers Items (using all key dates such as births, deaths, marriages & anniversaries)
  5. All available indexes for any Van Buren County book, microfilm or manuscript
  6. Contact made with as many living relatives as possible
  7. Index searches of other court documents such as probate, circuit and land
  8. Implemented an online internet checklist for every person in the book
  9. Vital records index search of all adjacent counties
  10. High school & college annuals
 It's important to emphasize that numbers 1 & 2 of this list were done not by searching indexes, but by reading through every record.  This was a very effective method for locating those "incidentals" that I've referenced in the past, things I would not have found using the index or search box only.

All data was entered into genealogical software program The Master Genealogist (TMG).  Care was taken to be uniform with data entry, and to cite sources thoroughly on an ongoing basis.  In addition to citing sources, a transcription of each record, obituary, online notation, etc., was included, allowing the reader to witness the reasons for conclusions drawn in the book.

When the time came for the final draft, TMG was used to export a Journal Report into the format of my choosing, Microsoft Word, where I could then proofread, make format changes, and re-size things to satisfaction.  Once revisions were made, the document was then converted to a Pdf file.

This book is self-published, meaning that I researched and located the best printer (which in this case turned out to be the UPS Store), provided them with a Pdf file of the book, and had the first 20 books printed.  I opted away from having them bound and went with a three-ring binder for several reasons.  Time was a factor, expense an even bigger factor, and it's a nice concept that those who have the book can add pages to it later. 

Self-publishing also means self-promoting, using all of the tools at our disposal:  mail, e-mail, website, blog announcement, newspaper press release.  The biggest beauty of doing it yourself is the "print on demand" concept...more can be printed at any time, in any quantity desired. get to keep more of the profits for yourself.

Also, because the meat of the book ended up being about 570 pages, the index was not included.  Now, before you gasp "Oh, No!," the index will be available as an internet download that be printed, punched and added, thus keeping the price of the book down as much as possible. 

The controversial decision here was not to publish online.  Publishers have a duty to protect the privacy of living individuals, and the internet is a long way from being a "mature" environment to discourage the unscrupulous use of other peoples' work.  Perhaps someday after the web has evolved...

The Descendants of Joshua Cope Drake is available for purchase, please contact me for more information.  A Master working copy will eventually placed in the Local History Collection of the Van Buren District Library.

Nameless Picture of the Day
 unknown family group
Photographer - Reidsema, Kalamazoo

Can you identify the individuals in this apparent family group?  Do you have knowledge of the photographer? Please contact us if you any information and we will publish it in a future blog.  Please include the photo's catalog number with your e-mail.