My new book comes off the printing press this week. Compared to my other books it’s minimal, at 11,000 words and 40 pages. But a lot of work went into it, and not just the recent writing and layout. It’s a distillation of decades of learning and doing.
This is a handbook about researching, writing, producing and publishing family history books, and it developed out of talks I’ve done at the National Library this year. Well, to be precise, one of the talks hasn’t happened yet – it’s next month.
For the first talk I was asked to supply supporting notes, which became quite long and detailed. People were saying it would be good if the notes were more widely available. So I’ve obliged, by expanding them further and adding pictures and diagrams.
In some ways it’s all faintly ridiculous, in that I haven’t been a practicing genealogist for more than ten years. But to some extent I’ve kept abreast of the discipline through friends who are still active in the area, and through publishing books for other people through my Ngaio Press business. I seem to keep getting dragged back into the area because my own family history book, Going Abroad, was well received by the family history community and still gets touted as a ‘good example’. It’s into a third printing and sells quietly all over the world.
While the writing and publishing sections of my new book are based on what I do professionally every day, quite a bit of research and talking to experts was needed to get up to date on research itself. The biggest change since I was in the game is the vast amount of information now available on the World Wide Web.
Writing and producing this book has been a bit nerve-wracking. Given that I was advising other people how to do it, my own writing and pronouncements had to pass muster and the book shouldn’t be full of typos. Serious checking has been done!
Other than the research section, which is mostly genealogy-specific, the book could be useful for others. There’s generic advice on writing, editing, working with graphics, layout, printing and promotion.
Incidentally, the family on the book cover are the MacKays – probably living in Southland when the photo was taken. Eric MacKay had been the live-in tutor at the MacGibbon Accommodation House in Mataura in the 1860s. John MacGibbon Snr and his family had gone to Mataura at the end of 1858, armed with a contract from the Otago Provincial Council to run an accommodation house and river ferry. At this time, the Mataura River was a serious barrier to inland travel between Invercargill and Dunedin. The MacGibbons, who were the first settlers in Mataura, remained there until March 1866, when they took up farming at Kelvingrove Run in the nearby Hokonuis. Eric MacKay is holding Leslie, Mary MacKay is holding Helen and the standing children are Ann, Eric and Gordon.
Your Family’s History is described on the Ngaio Press website here.