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How To Write A Family History: Preparing Your Manuscript for Printing

After compiling all the material for a family history, it's important to let it sit for a time.


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After compiling all the material for a family history and typing a first draft double-spaced with one-inch margins on bond copy paper or printing it out on a computer printer, it's important to let it sit for a time. By doing this, the writer puts some distance between himself or herself and the work. When seen after even a day or so, the writing will seem unfamiliar and mistakes will stand out.

This may also be the time to obtain some feedback from another family member or members as to the understanding of the book's content, not the writing, itself. Discuss different parts of the book with these feedback persons. What makes sense? What doesn't? Is it in logical order? Was anything important left out?

After adjusting the manuscript for feedback, look for parts to delete or rewrite. Only after the manuscript is in its final word form should it be edited for spelling errors, capitalization, etc. The polished manuscript is then ready for the printer.

With today's technology, it's possible to produce a sample copy of the book as it would look using a personal computer. Using either Microsoft Word or Corel WordPerfect wordprocessors and afterwards Microsoft Publisher, a program which allows the writer to lay out the pages exactly as they will appear, it's possible to send a printer the book electronically. Many printers are now equipped to receive material electronically in one of the above program formats. However, the writer should discuss the possibilities with the printer before sending. This will definitely lower the cost of printing the book.

Some family historians are frankly only interested in a few copies (perhaps as few as 10) to give as Christmas or anniversary gifts to their immediate family. Others, especially those with family association contacts, may want hundreds of copies. A pre-order plan works best with a family association, in which members order and pay for a certain number of books so a definite amount can be ordered. For a few copies–less than 50–consult several "instant print" shops. They can produce a 100-page book printed on long-lasting paper and bound into binders for as little as $10 or less a book.

For a larger number of books, there are dozens of publishers advertising in genealogical publications, who can produce them. Compare their bid price to printers nearby. For an order of 500 books of 100 pages each, expect to pay $5 or more each for hard-covered books and about $3-4 each for the same number of soft-covered books.

Be sure to allow for a few extra copies of the book to send to the local library, the library in ancestral hometowns, and the LDS library in Salt Lake City. It could also be sent to other important genealogical collections.

Carl Sandburg said, "When a society or a civilization perishes, one condition can always be found. They forgot where they came from." With a family history in hand, there's no forgetting, no sense of coming to an end. Because there is no end, there is only the sense of continuing.

Source Information: Everyday Genealogy, New Providence, NJ, USA: Genealogy Today LLC, 2006.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Genealogy Today LLC.

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