New Strong Family Updates Books

I work for a com­pany Inbox­Dol­lars that stays com­pletely up-to-date as to var­i­ous online trends. We under­stand that in many ways peo­ple are mov­ing away from real phys­i­cal books, but also mov­ing away from tra­di­tional desk­top Macs and PCs.

The “mobile Web” is tak­ing a larger and larger share of our online inter­ac­tion. I see this every day, of course, by sim­ply look­ing around. Peo­ple are con­stantly and con­sis­tently using their phones and tablets, iPads, etc., for infor­ma­tion and enter­tain­ment. Peo­ple would rather use their phones to send a text mes­sage than use their phone to make a phone call.

Mean­while, we have phys­i­cal books, nicely-bound hard­cover books con­tain­ing the his­tory and geneal­ogy of the Strong Fam­ily in Amer­ica. We have begun to move toward PDF files and Books on CD. How­ever, when is the last time you saw some­one load a CD onto their phone or tablet? To be sure, with our cur­rent offer­ings, we have lit­tle choice.

I am now able to cre­ate true Kin­dle books of our geneal­ogy. I’m now able to start with our Fam­ily Tree Maker data­base and fin­ish with a Kin­dle book avail­able on Amazon.com, Nook book for Barnes & Noble, and so on.

That sounds sim­ple. What’s the big deal?

The big deal is that nobody seems to be doing this yet! (If you can find oth­ers who are, please con­tact me!) Take, for exam­ple, Guide to Genealog­i­cal Writ­ing: How to Write and Pub­lish Your Fam­ily His­tory by Strat­ton and Hoff, pub­lished by the New Eng­land His­toric Genealog­i­cal Soci­ety. As pub­lished by the NEHGS, this is surely one of the major works on the subject.

That book works entirely from the premise of writ­ing a man­u­script, pos­si­bly using Microsoft Word, and prepar­ing that man­u­script to be pub­lished as a fam­ily his­tory. That is, of course, how the SFAA cre­ated our five Updates vol­umes in the 1980s-1990s.

The Right Kind of Book

I have been look­ing for a dif­fer­ent approach:

  1. Main­tain our geneal­ogy as a data­base, such as in Fam­ily Tree Maker.
  2. Build the geneal­ogy por­tions of the book from the Fam­ily Tree Maker data­base. This means that as new infor­ma­tion comes in, or infor­ma­tion is cor­rected, we can rebuild the book from our database.
  3. Add other chap­ters as appro­pri­ate, for exam­ple the found­ing of Northamp­ton, Hadley, or Deerfield.
  4. Absolutely cru­cial is an index that makes sense and is actu­ally usable.

Unfor­tu­nately none of the geneal­ogy soft­ware I eval­u­ated is able to build such a book. You’d think this is a sim­ple con­cept: Instead of writ­ing a hard­bound book, write it for the Kin­dle. Peo­ple love immediately-available Kin­dle books.

The prob­lem is the index. Pic­ture a thousand-page geneal­ogy book. That will fit on any Kin­dle. But can you imag­ine try­ing to find your ances­tor in there with­out an index?

In a hard­bound book it’s easy to flip back and forth between sec­tions, fol­low­ing your fam­ily line. On an iPad or Kin­dle, that’s next to impos­si­ble. It’s quickly frus­trat­ing, which means peo­ple soon won’t bother.

The var­i­ous geneal­ogy pro­grams all say they can gen­er­ate books with indexes. What they gen­er­ate is a PDF file. On a kin­dle, when you change the size of the text, the page num­bers all change. An index by page num­ber is use­less, and that’s what the geneal­ogy pro­grams produce.

So, I wrote my own soft­ware. We can now cre­ate Kin­dle books with use­ful name indexes. Click or tap on the name in the index, and you go right to the person.

Where to Start

I think our first true eBook should be based on The Descen­dants of Fran­cis Barnard by the late Dr. Walther Barnard. It was his inten­tion for many years to bring that to the pub­lic, but as a proper geneal­ogy book. In its cur­rent form it is “merely” an exhaus­tive col­lec­tion of well-organized, sourced, well-researched facts.

Tak­ing on that entire book, many thou­sands of pages, is far too big a start­ing point.

Instead, I am start­ing with “The Descen­dants of Fran­cis Barnard: The First Three Gen­er­a­tions, Includ­ing the Chil­dren of Sarah, Daugh­ter of Elder John and Abi­gail (Ford) Strong.”

Where do we start? By tran­scrib­ing “The Descen­dants of Fran­cis Barnard” into Fam­ily Tree Maker, but only so far as the 4th Gen­er­a­tion (count­ing both Fran­cis Barnard and Elder John Strong as the 1st Gen­er­a­tion, and Joseph and Sarah (Strong) Barnard as the 2nd Generation).

I also have a num­ber of chap­ters to be included out­side the geneal­ogy sec­tions, such as the found­ing of Hadley and Deer­field; the back­ground of the French and Indian War, the Bat­tle of Bloody Brook, and the Raid on Deerfield.

Cur­rent Status

At this point I have suc­cess­fully built Kin­dle books from the Fam­ily Tree Maker files, with the all-important name index. I have typed in all names with birth/death year, down to the fifth gen­er­a­tion, from Descen­dants of Fran­cis Barnard into Fam­ily Tree Maker.

The next step is to tran­scribe every­thing we have on those first three gen­er­a­tions. We have a bit of mate­r­ial from the Strong Fam­ily Updates Vol­ume III and the Man­u­scripts in Progress. We have a lot of mate­r­ial from Descen­dants of Fran­cis Barnard. I may even have a vol­un­teer tran­scriber or two to help me out!

Learn­ing From Experience

I’m pur­posely intend­ing this book to take in as “small” a scope as pos­si­ble. Does that mean we get fewer peo­ple inter­ested in buy­ing the book? Pos­si­bly so.

But what we gain is expe­ri­ence. What is good and bad about the book? Are there ways to make this sort of book more appealing?

We may even find more peo­ple inter­ested in help­ing pro­duce more books.

Indeed there is no rea­son we need only “start at the top.” Our late Asso­ci­a­tion Pres­i­dent Bob Cihla, his sis­ter Linda Shimek, and their cousin Denny Steinke have sub­stan­tial infor­ma­tion on their piece of the Mary line. Why not tran­scribe that into our His­to­rian Data­base and pro­duce a Kin­dle book avail­able to all cousins, nieces and nephews, and so on?

We now have the abil­ity to do just that. How­ever, we first need a small man­age­able pilot project. We need to get the the­ory, and the var­i­ous pieces, into prac­tice! That’s the pur­pose of our first Book for Kin­dle, “The Descen­dants of Fran­cis Barnard: The First Three Generations.”

Posted in Sharing our Knowledge.

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