11 February 2013

Unexpected Side Effects

     Last week my cousin Anne sent out an email regarding an upcoming Barfield Family Reunion.  Our last/first reunion was held back in the fall of 2011 and this upcoming one had been loosely scheduled for this spring or early summer.  I suggested that we start a private Facebook group to help organize the reunion, which Anne thought was a good idea. Turns out it's been a great idea - and not just for reunion planning!

     I created the group, Barfield Family Reunion, and invited a few family members who I was already friends with on Facebook.  I knew that there were more relatives on Facebook, so I encouraged everyone to invite any other relatives that they were friends with on the site.  I originally invited 8 people to the group. There are now 44 members!

     One of the first things I did when I created the group was to add a photo of the last reunion.  From there, others started adding old photos of our ancestors and their descendants.  Some of these photos have already made the rounds to some of us via email, but now everyone will have a chance to see them.  There are also a number of photos that I haven't seen before that I've been able to add to my collection.

     Although we haven't quite used the group to finalize any reunion plans, it has given people a chance to get in touch with other family members, many that they haven't seen in years.  I anticipate that the group will eventually help us with reunion planning, but until then it's been beneficial in other ways.

05 February 2013

FHWC: Words vs Images

     I've been making good progress toward finishing my Albea family book as part of the Family History Writing Challenge.  I've gotten some writing done for another generation and done a good amount of formatting.  But as I've been working, I've been wondering if I have too little text and too many images.  My book is currently 76 pages long, which is the exact same number of images that I have in the book.  This makes me wonder if I have too many images.

     Here's my concept: each generation gets a genealogy sketch, about 1,000 - 2,000 words.  This usually focuses on the father of the family, since I'm fallowing a paternal line.  The subsequent pages spotlight individual documents, such as census, court, or marriage records, as well as grave stone photos or whatever else I might have.  If needed, I'll have a paragraph or two explaining the document and what I learned from it.  I want to include as many images as possible for a couple of reasons: (1) they're cool, (2) so that I can cite my sources by including my sources.

     Here's an (unfinished) example. It shows a 1920 census page and a mortgage deed. I explain a bit about each record.  In other instances, I don't explain anything about a record if I've already talked about it in the genealogy sketch.

     I wonder if I have enough writing in this book, or am relying too much on the images?  I know a lot about these ancestors and I wonder if that is affecting my book.  Do I need to write more and explain more about the documents, or is that redundant when I've included images of the document? Is using an image in place of words a cop out?

02 February 2013

FHWC: Day One - Why Haven't I Done This Already?

     Yesterday was the first day of the Family History Writing Challenge.  As I previously wrote, my goal is to complete my Albea Family book. I have started this book twice, but have never finished it. As I got restarted yesterday, I couldn't help but think about why I'd never finished, as well as the benefits of writing a family history book.

     The main reason I haven't finished this book is fear of inaccuracy. What if something in the content is wrong?  Did I come to an incorrect conclusion?  Is there some stupid typo that I'm missing?  Have I made a mistake that is about to be put into print forever?  I think we're all scared of this. We know there is no reassurance that the book will be 100% accurate.

     Heck, I've found big mistakes before. When I first started my Albea Family book, I realized that I'd miss-attributed census records to my 6x Great Grandfather that actually belonged to his son.  I found this because I was writing the book. When you have to write out a narrative, you have to think about what you're writing, often in a different way that when you first found the "fact" and decided that it was "true."  When a fact or document doesn't fit with the rest of your narrative, you are more likely to notice it than when it's just a note in a family file.

     You are also more likely to notice the holes in your research by writing out a narrative. Maybe you assumed a fact, but when you went to write it out and cite the source, you realized you didn't have a source. You maybe you went to write about an ancestors occupation, but realized that you only knew he was a "farmer." But what did he farm? How prosperous was he? Did he employ people or was he himself employed?

     As for the typos, there are a few options.  You could hire some one to proof read or edit your book. This depends on what you intend your book to be.  If it's your life's work and you hope to see it in libraries one day, this is certainly an option.  I don't have such lofty aspirations for the book I'm currently working on.  I'll read over it multiple times, perhaps read the content aloud to make sure that the sentences all make sense (for example, I had to re-read this sentence three times before I realized I'd use "allowed" instead of "aloud.")  I might have a family member review it.  But I know it probably won't be perfect - just as close as I can get it.

     In the end, I just have to trust in my research and trust in myself.  I'm not going to rush, but I am going to stop procrastinating.  My book won't be perfect, but it will be done.  I will have accomplished my goal and will have a finished product to be proud of.


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