Monday, January 7, 2008

Publish! Publish! Publish!

By Liz Adair

You can tell by the tenseness around the lips and jaw that the smile is forced. He stands there, your latest offering held between thumb and forefinger with the title, "Johooser Fornbloot's Early Years" rippling in the breeze. Never mind that old Johooser was his third great grandfather, and that the biography (complete with pictures) you have pressed on him cost you $3.00 to print, he doesn't seem to appreciate either the time invested or the layout of money to run off fifty copies on archive-quality paper.

Never mind. Press away. Research, write, publish and distribute! Keep it up, no matter how glazed the eyes of your kin-public. For, though this particular relation might not even read your offering, he probably won't throw it away. Blood and guilt will keep him from doing that. He'll put it in a pile of things that he intends to read, or he'll file it with other family history stuff. Fifty years later, when his black-clad grandson is weepily sorting through his things, your bio of this now-fifth-great-grandfather will surface, and Grandson will shout, "Hey, look at this!"

Like a good wine, your ten page, stapled-in-the-corner, footnoted, annotated biography will have increased in value with each passing year. It will be a treasure to some historian, whether he's researching the Fornbloots, or early settlers of Peetlepaw County, or craziest patent applications in the nineteenth century. You may be long gone, or staring vacantly in some Alzheimer's unit, but your legacy to the world will be enlightening circles you never dreamed of.

So, keep it up! Whether it's your own history or an ancestor's, write it, publish it, and spread it around. Don't let any less-than-enthusiastic receptions deter you. You're not giving it to this generation, anyway. You're giving it to generations yet unborn, and they will bless your name.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

New Year's Resolution: Eat That Elephant!

By Liz Adair

This is my Year of the Family History. I have one cubic yard of letters that I have been carrying around for about forty years. Luckily I have moved several times in those forty years, and as the letters surfaced, the sheer bulk reminded me again that I needed to do something with them.

I have every letter I ever wrote my mother and every letter I wrote to my mother-in-law. My goal this year is to transcribe the letters and 'publish' them for the family. First, though, I'll use editorial license and take out all the whining. Then I will burn them all. Well, maybe not, but it will be a great temptation. Who wants to be remembered as a whiner?

I also have letters my mother wrote to me. I have already transcribed and published her letters from Afghanistan (see ), but there are lots more. Then, there are the letters from my husband. We wrote for the year I was away at college before he went on his mission, and we corresponded weekly while he was in England as a missionary. Two years ago my daughter and grandson helped me transcribe and publish those letters for the family.

I have been trying to get the oomph to sit down and categorize the letters: From Mother, To Mother, From Grandmother, To Grandmother, get the idea. Then, within that category, they need to be put into chronological order. I get tired just thinking about it. However, today I had an epiphany: I don't need to sort them at all! I shall simply take the first one in the first box and transcribe it, naming the file according to a protocol with date and to/from. Later, when I'm ready to publish, it will be easy to sort either by date or by recipient or writer, and then I can gather whichever ones I want to include in a particular publication into a larger file.

When I finish a letter, I'll put it in a "Transcribed" box and take another one from the waiting cubic yard--it doesn't matter who wrote it or when or to whom it was addressed, since the sorting will be done later. Every day I will back up my work with a copy in some remote location that will survive a fire or flood.

So, I'll eat the elephant a bite at a time. I'll savor a toe here, an ear there; I'll nibble the trunk and then the leg; I'll take a bite out of the rump and chew it with lip-smacking enjoyment because, though it's tough and stringy, I'm getting it down. I won't carry the metaphor any further, because it has to do with regurgitation as I sort and publish, and that's grosser than contemplating what chewing on raw elephant would be like.

But, you get the idea. I'm on it. This is the year of the family history elephant. Dinner, anyone?