Before My Time is about the ancestry and extended family of my four grandparents: John Samuel Krentz (Indiana/North Dakota), Margreta Tjode Hedwig (Gertie) Buss (North Dakota), Rosmer Pettis Kerr (Pennsylvania/Michigan), and Evelyn Elvina Hauer (Michigan), and other topics in genealogy and family history.

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Thursday, July 22, 2010

Blurb Blurb

 Screenshot of Blurb's Booksmart software in use.
The text in this two-page spread can include all the information found
in a family group sheet, but in a visually appealing way that will draw
attention even from genealogically-disinclined members of the family.

In April, Heather Rojo wrote about using Blurb to create a blog book. There was quite a bit of interest in this topic, and she followed up with more Blurb details in answer to questions people had. I'd been leaning toward Blurb for a family history book I'm planning, so I was happy to know she'd had a good experience with it.

I wasn't quite ready to begin my project, but Heather told about Blurb's blog-slurp capability, and I decided to give that a test run using my first (non-genealogy) blog. By the end of May, I had my blog book in hand and was more than satisfied with the materials and workmanship. I started the family history book I'd had in mind, and also slurped a couple more of my old blogs.

The new-found portrait of the Schulte cousins has inspired yet another book project. My cousin Cheryl and I are putting our heads together on this one, a book about Joseph Meyer Schulte's ancestors and descendants. Together we have an abundance of material, lots of excellent photos, and a great mix of skills for getting the job done.

One of our goals is to keep the book under 120 pages. That's the cut-off point beyond which the binding of the book would be glued rather than sewn. We want the added strength of a sewn binding for our book.

Another goal is to create a book that will be interesting to all family members, including those who fall asleep when the word genealogy slips into the conversation. Think family history meets coffee table book. To that end, the first half (or more, as needed) of our book will depend heavily on photographs and narrative text pertaining to our immigrant ancestor, Joseph Meyer Schulte, and his children and grandchildren. For great-grandchildren and subsequent generations (in other words, those of us who are still living), I hope to include some yearbook-style pages, with several smaller portraits on each page identified simply by name and birth year. A section on Joseph's German ancestry is next, followed by a section about Joseph's niece Lizzie and other descendants of Joseph's ancestors. Charts, documents, and a bibliography will play a part in the remainder of the book, based on how much space is left.

I'd already roughed out about forty pages of the book when I read Denise Olson's The Hybrid Family History. You'll want to read that if you're thinking of creating a book yourself.


Moultrie Creek said...

Thanks for the shout out! I'm liking what I see so far and can't wait to see more of your progress. I'm also glad to hear your thoughts on the blog slurping thing - that always fascinated me.

Thomas MacEntee said...

See Kathy's recent Blurb book at I Will Rememeber:

T.K. said...

You're most welcome, Denise. I learn SO MUCH from you!

Even with the blog-slurping, I've done a lot of post-slurp editing, so it's not just a click-and-go project for me. I like to fiddle with the photos, layouts, etc., tweak a little text to remove references to links, stuff like that. I'm trying to finish up my blog books before the end of the month, as Blurb is running a 20% off special. One down, three in progress... what are the odds?!

T.K. said...

Thanks for the link, Thomas. I love seeing what others are doing with Blurb. Kathy did a great job designing her book cover!

Brett Payne said...

At a FH fair last weekend I attended a talk on using Blurb for writing and publishing family books, and was most intrigued at the possibilities. Your article is therefore most timely for me, and shows just what can be done. Thank you. Regards, Brett

T.K. said...

Thanks for your comment, Brett. I hope you got to handle a sample or two of Blurb's excellent workmanship. And the software is fairly easy to learn as you go. In my mind, I'm already imagining a whole row of Blurb family history books in my bookcase.

I'd love to see other geneabloggers post about the books they create in Blurb. More examples = more ideas!

Brett Payne said...

Yes, me too. I'm looking forward to seeing more. Digital scrapbooking is not really my style, but creating a book is, and ideas from examples are always a great help. The speaker did hand around a couple of examples - hard cover, good quality large format books that cost a bomb - but from one of the examples that I've seen on another blog, they can be much cheaper.

I would like to produce something that would not only look good in my bookcase, but also be cheap enough, and eye-catching enough, to attract other family members to shell out for a copy. If I send them electronic copies, the chances are most won't even bother to look at more than the first couple of pages.

Regards, Brett

Barbara Poole said...

I love how you did your Blurb, you are doing a professional job. Your screen shot of the software really shows how it is done, I think even I could do it. Many thanks for posting this.

T.K. said...

I had the e-book discussion with a family member the other day, Brett. Like a lot of younger people, he thinks hard copy books are going the way of dinosaurs. I so disagree! There's nothing quite like having a real book in your hands, especially the kind of book that's personal and irreplaceable like one's own family history, and even moreso if you're able to include ancestral photographs. E-books? Out of sight, out of mind. I think you're right that people will be less inclined to go beyond a few pages on the computer, whereas a book in hand is easily flipped through, and things catch your eye that make you want to stop for a closer look.

You're right about the cost of the larger-format books--owie! For my blog books, the 7" square was perfect. With the family history books, though, I'm using the 8" x 10" size. I'm hoping that will be large enough for the documents I want to include, and it's a great size for full-bleed portraits. And the cost of a 120-page hardcover with a jacket is $41.95 (softcover $29.95), not cheap but also not out of reach for most people. With the 12" square format being about twice the price for the same number of pages, I decided to stick with 'affordable' and maximize the photo space by skipping the scrapbooking embellishments.

Brett Payne said...

Thanks, T.K. I agree with Barbara - you have made it much easier for me to envisage that I could also do this affordably. I think I need to have a better look at the Blurb web site. Regards, Brett

T.K. said...

Thanks, Barbara. The Booksmart interface is pretty user-friendly. At the beginning, you'll want to read the instructions, but you'll catch on pretty quickly as you use it. The Help is very helpful!

T.K. said...

Brett and Barbara, I can't wait to see what you'll do with it!

Brett Payne said...

The possibilities are endless, at least as far as the imagination can take one. The time and budget are, sadly, somewhat more restrictive.

Greta Koehl said...

The more I read about this, the more I am convinced that I should go this route. Thanks for the information!

T.K. said...

Brett, ain't that the truth!

You're welcome, Greta. If you do, I hope you'll blog about your project!

Heather Rojo said...

Hey, I'm on vacation but I just checked a few blogs and found your post! I'm so glad that you are having fun with the bookmaking process, and hopefully more people will see how easy it can be. Slurping and drop/dragging images is easy, but I agree that the final tweaking and editing can be time consuming. I've made half a dozen books now, and the process is much easier after you become familiar with little quirks. And yes, the coffee table sized books can be expensive, but as a gift they are priceless!

T.K. said...

Heather, I just checked out your Blurb bookstore and have a question. I see that you've used white text on black pages for the Simmons Crew album (which is gorgeous, BTW!). I'm wondering if the white text prints as clearly as black text on white. I was going to try it on one of my blog book pages but I chickened out. I was afraid the black ink would bleed into the text and make it unreadable. I hope you'll be able to tell me not to worry about that!

Also, I wonder what size you normally use for your text. I used 12 for my blog book, but think I can go smaller and still be readable. The default seems to be 9 (is there a way to change that?) which seems a little too small for comfortable reading. I'm going to try 10 in one of my blog books, but I'm thinking about 11 for my family history books. Your thoughts?

Marjie said...

Thanks TK-this is all new info & seems like the perfect format for me! Its been a challenge trying to organize my pics, docs & info into a book that would be interesting to even my g-kids. I smell Christmas presents brewing!

T.K. said...

You're welcome, Marjie. Me too, the Christmas presents, I mean. I'm hoping we can get the Schulte book done by then. Right now Cheryl and I are in the process of trying to locate other Schulte descendants who might have additional photos to include in the book, so I don't know if we'll make it in time.

Hope to get a peek at what you create!

Terri said...

I use Blurb too! I've made a number of books with them including but not limited to Family History. I created my first book with them in 2008 and have made a total of 10 books with them now. Take a look at my first family history book on my blog, if you like - it is a full preview. It took me years of research and a year to write and restore the photo's that were included. I'd love for you to look at it - here's a link to my blog - The Ties That Bind -
The book title is - "Searching - The Habben/Ufkes Families"

Good luck with your project!

T.K. said...

Terri, your book is just stunning. You had so many fabulous photographs to work with! Gorgeous cover, I appreciated the explanation about colorizing the photos at the end of the book, and I loved the story about the goat in the bell tower! (No, I didn't read every single page, but I did look at every page, and dipped into the text here and there.)

I have questions. With so many pages (320!), does the binding seem strong? Do you have any tips, advice, or warnings that would help those of us who are less experienced with Blurb? Having had some experience using Blurb, is there anything you'd do differently when you make your next Blurb book?

In fact, I'd like to ask any of my readers who've used Blurb to answer. You're welcome to answer here, or if you've posted on your blog, you're welcome to share the link here.

pastprologue said...

I love what everyone has done with Blurb and only wish I could get it to work. I get error messages when it tries to slurp my blog. Has anyone else tried it with a non-Blogger blog? Blurb says it works with wordpress (.com, not the self hosted ones at .org).


T.K. said...

Donna, I'm pretty sure I once backed up Before My Time at Wordpress, so I thought I'd try slurping that to see how it went. Unfortunately, I was unable to find my blog at Wordpress... I have no idea what happened to it! Even a search on some key terms didn't turn it up, so maybe I deleted it at some point? Who knows! But maybe someone else will find your question here and be able to reply with their own Wordpress-slurping experience. Hope so! Alternatively, what if you tried exporting a copy of your blog to Blogger and slurping it fron there?

Family Curator said...

I found you here through your FB comments and am enjoying ALL your BlurbBook posts. Seems I have some catching up to do!

T.K. said...

Well, that'll keep ya off the streets for awhile, Denise. Just call me Blurbaholic...

Blog Archive


Our Family in Books: A Bibliography

  • My Ancestors in Books (a library of resources and notes pertaining to Reverend Samuel Stone, Major General Robert Sedgwick, Elder John Crandall, and other early Americans in the forest where my family tree was grown)
  • The Zahnisers: A History of the Family in America by Kate M. Zahniser and Charles Reed Zahniser (Mercer, Pa. 1906)
  • History of St. James Lutheran Church [full title: A little of this and a little of that in the 141 year (1861-2002) History of St. James Lutheran Church, Reynolds Indiana] by Harold B. Dodge, published at Reynolds, Indiana, 2002; 170 pages.
  • Lisbon, North Dakota 1880-2005 Quasuicentennial, published at Lisbon, North Dakota in 2005; 391 pages.
  • The Paschen and Redd Families of Cass County, Indiana by Alfred Paschen, c. 2005 (Gateway Press, Inc., Baltimore, MD); 322 pages.
  • Sheldon Community History: Sheldon Centennial 1881-1981, published at Sheldon, North Dakota in 1981; 376 pages.
  • Sheldon, North Dakota 1881-2006 - 125th Anniversary: The Queen of the Prairie, published at Sheldon, North Dakota in 2006; 498 pages.
  • A Standard History of White County, Indiana, written under the supervision of W.H. Hamelle, c. 1915 (The Lewis Publishing Company, Chicago and New York).
  • The Roots of Coventry, Connecticut by Betty Brook Messier and Janet Sutherland Aronson, c. 1987 (Coventry 275th Anniversary Committee, Coventry, CT); 206 pages.
  • "Elder John Crandall of Rhode Island and His Descendants" by John Cortland Crandall; New Woodstock, New York, 1949; 797 pages.
  • "The Descendants of Robert Burdick of Rhode Island." Nellie (Willard) Johnson, Pd.B.: H & L Creations, LLC.

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