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.

Archives, Labels (tags), and other links appear at the bottom of the page.

Content at Before My Time is protected by copyright and may not be copied for publication elsewhere without permission. © T. K. Sand.

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Monday, February 28, 2011

February Ruminations

I enjoyed watching a few of the webcasts from the RootsTech conference. It was interesting to hear about some of the issues being considered on the frontier where the techies and the genies come face to face. In the last decade or so, the development of technology, along with genealogy's embrace of it, have made astounding changes in the way we research, and in the ways we share and preserve our data. I don't think any of us who started our research the old-fashioned way would want to give up the newfangled methods that allow us to pursue our passion in pajamas.

And it's easy to see how the technologically-inclined among us are lured by the convenience of the internet, and by the expansive capacity of cyberspace, and by the amazing science behind digitization. This is the way of the future, we hear. Digitize, digitize, digitize! And back up! Not once, not twice, but three times, and update your back-ups when the technology changes or every three years, whichever comes first. Password-protect it so the bad guys can't get it. Tell someone where you've hidden the password, so they can. Oh, if only your ancestors had done that! Imagine the happy dance you would have done when your complete genealogy appeared before you on a computer screen!


Consider this: when you're watching Who Do You Think You Are?, have you ever thought they've made the research look too easy? Have you ever thought, hey, the celebrity didn't seem very excited (I recall someone saying this after the recent Tim McGraw episode)? Well, what if the scenario were this:
It's the last game of a hard-fought season, and an athletic team (the Blue-Blooded Ancestor Hunters?) suddenly finds itself short by one member. Six players are required; they have only five. You're asked to fill in, even though you have no knowledge of the game. That doesn't matter, they assure you, the real team members will carry the ball and do the scoring. All you have to do is stand where the coach tells you to, and be counted. Some sort of reward is offered--fame? fortune? undying gratitude? some skeletons for your closet?--so you accept the deal. The team wins the game, and the highly-coveted blue ribbons are passed out to everyone on the team, including you. Tell me, how meaningful is that blue ribbon to you? Isn't it pretty much commensurate with how much you've invested in the game?
Some people do genealogy because it's part of their religious practice. Some do it as a vocation. Many of us do it as an avocation and, oh, how we bristle if our pursuit is reduced to the lowly status of a mere hobby! No matter which category we fit into, though, I'd be willing to bet it's the thrill of the hunt that keeps us going, and that tantalizing prospect of another happy dance possibly just minutes away.

I started out doing genealogy the old-fashioned way. It was kind of like going big-game hunting. You had to go someplace to do it; you had to learn how to hunt; you had to plan ahead for your trip; you had to pack carefully and be prepared for anything, or nothing. It was an adventure.

The advent of digitization and online availability of records has made it a lot more like shooting fish in a barrel. A search engine, a name... BANG! Oh, look, another dead ancestor... no, two... three... But the number of records extant is finite. Sooner or later, all the fish in the barrel are gonna be floating belly-up. How long will it take? Another generation or two? When the barrel is passed on to your descendants, how much happy-dancing will there be when there's naught to do but dip out a couple thousand barcoded belly-up fish? How many of your descendants will be passionate about scanning the barcodes to look up those pedigree charts that you're so passionate about preserving? In fact, how many of your current, living relatives are passionate about it now?

The techiest of the techies see the world through tech-colored glasses. Everything, they insist, should and will be virtual in the future. Maybe they're right, I don't know. But I do know that not all people are computer-savvy now, nor will they all be computer-savvy in the future. And not all who are computer-savvy prefer to spend their time in the virtual world rather than the real world. Believe it or not, Kindle fans, some people still prefer a book with paper pages. Some would rather talk than tweet. Some would even... I know this will come as a surprise... some would even prefer to receive a bouquet of real flowers from a three-dimensional boyfriend rather than a virtual-bouquet icon from a Facebook app. Go figger!

In any case, it seems to me that it's a boon for everyone when the big players go digital with their records--and by big players, I mean any organization that has a body of records of the type we all seek as documentation for our family lines. I mean people who are in the records business (whether civil or commercial, profit or non-profit).

As for me, I'm what I would call a micro-player--gathering records (from people in the records business!) that pertain to my own lines only. For me it's not business, it's personal. And I'd be lying if I said I was doing it just to pass down to my descendants. If I can stir up their interest, so much the better, but the truth is that I have a hunter-gatherer gene that's tickled by this pursuit. I do it for the pleasure of the hunt.

I have decisions to make, then, along the way. Should I listen and learn from people with more skills, more experience, more credentials? Of course. Should I be grateful for what I learn from them? Most definitely. I am grateful. It's always better to be more informed. But should I then obediently follow all their advice?

Hell, no! I'm a grown-up. It's up to me to weigh what's been offered and make my own choices. I reserve the right to enjoy and/or employ cyberspace to whatever extent works best for me, along with the right to use real paper. Why? Because at this moment I can reach across my desk and pick up a book that was published in 1884, and it still works. Nobody had to take any particular pains to preserve it, and I don't need anything but daylight to be able to use it. Am I glad there's a copy of it in cyberspace? Yes, of course I am, that's how I discovered it and decided I wanted the real thing. And, yippee!, I was able to order the real thing for $25 and about five minutes of my time online, thanks to technology. Yep, technology is great. But am I gonna digitize everything in triplicate, pay to store it in cyberspace until I die or run out of money, and replace it triennially in case it's deteriorating?

Nope. Not today, thanks. But, reader, if it serves your purpose to do so, you go right ahead!


February Accomplishments

I've been working on books this month, as usual, but have extended my deadline for completing the Stone book.

And in the other column . . .

I still haven't vacuumed yet this year. See, the vacuum cleaner needs a new belt and, while I did order and receive said belt, I am still waiting to see if it will crawl in there of its own accord, or if I'm actually going to have to find my Phillips-head screw driver and put it in there myself. I'm all for giving it plenty of time to take the initiative.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Exemplar: A Photo-Journal and Biography Book

The Collector, the Guide and the Bone Digger by James P. Barber | Make Your Own Book

"The original scope of this book was to provide a reproduction of the wonderful photos from a turn-of-the-century expedition into the rugged Sierra Madre Occidental Mountains of Mexico led by guide Charles M. Barber. However, as I began to add a few details, the book developed into two distinct parts. This meant including the photo journal in its entirety unedited as Part I of the book. It is unique and valuable in its own right, but it was just the beginning of the journey that Charles Barber seemed to have in mind for me. His role as the guide for this expedition was only a small part of a most fascinating life that unfolded before me." ~ James P. Barber

In The Collector, the Guide and the Bone Digger, author James P. Barber takes the reader on two journeys, one his great-uncle Charles M. Barber's field research journey a century ago, and the other his own journey in creating this book. 

I don't know who said it first, but we've all heard it: the more you know about something, the more interesting it becomes. Barber's willingness to dig up a little information about the photos he wanted to preserve in book form pulled him into a much grander project, and he's presented his findings beautifully.

  • As you work with your materials, your book will start to tell you what it wants to be. Listen!
  • You may be able to find out a lot more about a photo than you ever thought possible.
  • In large or landscape-format books, large bodies of text are more easily read if presented in two columns rather than a single page-width column.
Reader, what ideas do you get from this book?

    Sunday, February 20, 2011

    Getting Ready for the 1940 Census

    These four training films for 1940 census enumerators will give you a pretty good idea of what information we'll be getting, an understanding of what some of the terms actually mean, and an occasional guffaw. Grab your beverage of choice and begin with:

    Introduction to the 1940 Census (3:19)

    Population (10:23)

    Agriculture (10:39)

    Housing (10:49)

    Aw, go ahead, you might as well watch The Three Stooges in No Census, No Feeling... I mean, since the link is right up there and all... and it is about the census... and it's colorized! ... heh, you already did, didn't ya?

    Saturday, February 19, 2011

    Friday, February 18, 2011

    Exemplar: An Album of Memories About a Special Person

    The title of this 40-page book tells you exactly what it's about. You needn't have completed and documented your entire genealogy before putting together a book like this, so it would make a great first-book project.

    Author Darlene Schneck chose to do her book in a style similar to that which I chose for my book about my mom. We both chose black text on white pages, at least one image on every two-page spread, and a fairly neutral color scheme with minimal use of color images. In fact, Darlene has limited her use of color (other than sepia tones) to just three pages:
    • page 11, images of a beautifully colored family memento--here the colors are an integral feature of the object so they really need to be there; the photo is focused in tight on the object with very little distracting background showing, and the colors of the object itself are subtle and mellowed, so the mood of the book is not interrupted.
    • page 38, a color photo of family members gathered after Granny's funeral--as the last of the book's content, this use of color brings us back to the present, but without being jarring or garish, as the colors in the photo are subtle, limited, and quite in tune with the palette of the book.
    • page 40, centered on the back page above the Blurb logo, a small color image of a cast-iron frying pan with a wristwatch in it (no background, just the white of the page); Granny's frying pan? Granny's watch?--once again, the colors are subtle, and the image has the feel of a logo. I'd be inclined to use it as such, the final punctuation in a whole series of "I Remember..." books... because, you know, Time Fries.
    • Consider creating a series of books around a similar idea. Give the project a name and a logo, so it will develop a momentum that will help keep it going. 
    • The smaller the photo, the higher the resolution you should scan it at. All those little square snapshots? Most are not much fun to look at; they're too small to really see. You'll find they're a lot more interesting if you don't have to squint to see them. Scan them at 600 dpi instead of 300 dpi so you can enlarge and crop them. Some may turn out to be not clear enough, but others will surprise you. You may be able to settle for a little bit of blur in a picture if it's all you've got. But don't make your reader go hunting for a magnifying glass.
    • Just because your snapshots happen to be in color, that doesn't mean you have to use them that way. Use your photo editing software to desaturate garish photos if the mood of your book calls for that. Or change them to a sepia tone.  Also, some of those old color snapshots have turned bad on us--faded, gone yellow or purple or some other hideously inhuman hue. Again, edit them!
    • Several color photos bunched on a page or a spread can be a visual assault that gives the viewer's eye something akin to caffeine jitters. A little quiet space around a photo lets the eye slow down and really 'get' the picture.
      Reader, what ideas do you get from this book?

      Monday, February 14, 2011

      Evelyn's Valentines

      My grandma! Honestly, I think she saved every greeting card that she ever got! I recently found an envelope addressed "To Mama" and there were several Valentines inside. Let's look at a few.

      Measuring about 3" across, this purchased Valentine was given to Evelyn (my grandma) by her daughter Mary (my mom). Mom must have been only about five years old at the time, judging from her handwriting. Was she in the habit of calling her mama Evelyn? I can't imagine it. I think it's much more likely she'd just recently learned her mama's first name and was trying it out.
      This little handmade gem is about 2.5" across, about the size of a heart-shaped cookie cutter. Was this one given before or after the previous one? The printing seems more confident to me, so I'd guess it was the year after. Notice the ribbon drawn on the front of the card. It's similar in concept to the one on the card below.

      Above: back and front of card
      Below: inside of card

      Closed, this card measures 3" wide and 4.5" tall. What does the "52" mean on the front of the card? Your guess is as good as mine. I can think of no explanation for it. But again, notice the ribbon drawn on the front. It's become pretty sophisticated:

      It's a peek-a-boo now, and pretty tidily cut, too!

      But what about FROM YOUR DAUGHTER? Evelyn had two daughters. Which one made this card, Bonnie or Mary? Again, I can only guess. I do suspect it was Mary though, not only because of the similarity in printing but also because the drawing of the ribbon is pretty similar to that on the previous card. I remember some of my own drawings from when I was a kid--I had a bed concept and a stairway concept in my head, and I repeated both in many drawings, never varying them much.

      Happy Valentine's Day!

      Friday, February 11, 2011

      Exemplar: A Then-&-Now Family History Book

      In G&G, Matthew Epler restages photos taken half a century ago to tell the life-long love story of his grandparents. The text is minimal and consists of bits of memory as told by the grandparents themselves. Used sparingly, these quoted remarks have much more impact than they would if they were lost in a large body of text.

      To view the book full-screen, click on the little square next to the Blurb logo. You might have to squint to read the text, but it's worth doing.

      • Bring new life to old snapshots by restaging them in the present. Presenting the two together gives the viewer a reason to really look at them.
      • A good, pithy quote can tell a lot more than it says. It engages the reader in a way that a thousand words of third-person explanation doesn't.
      Reader, what ideas do you get from this book?
        Last year, Jasia (of Creative Gene) used restaged photos of places to tell a story about Detroit in her post, Melancholy Too. It was a very effective (and affecting) tool. If you'd like to try it, you'll find a very detailed how-to in this "Then and Now" tutorial by John Walker. (Even if you don't plan to photoshop the dickens out of it as Walker does, you'll learn a lot from the tutorial about perspective, etc.)

        Tuesday, February 08, 2011

        Yet Another Post on Making Books!

        Because I'm a one-dimensional girl these days, totally smitten with creating family history books, today's topic is a continuation from previous posts about print-on-demand bookmaking. I want to share some thoughts on creating and pricing a book that might be of interest to an audience beyond one's immediate family.

        Currently I have another book almost ready for printing. I'll be using Blurb again, and in this case I am prepared for the book to be perfect-bound because it's well over 120 pages, Blurb's limit for side-sewn binding. I promise I won't be traumatized by that this time (unless the glue fails again!). It's a less personal book than the one about my mother. Let me tell you a bit about it.

        Reverend Samuel Stone, one of the Pilgrims who founded Hartford, Connecticut, appears on my pedigree chart as a ninth great-grandfather. In trying to learn more about him, I didn't find a biography, per se, but I did collect a generous selection of materials written by, for, and about him. I thought, ever so briefly, that maybe I should write the missing biography myself. But I don't have the time, the money, or the attention span to spend months trying to ferret out original documents and such, nor do I know enough about history to really understand the significance of things I might find, much less organize it. What I do understand at this point is that history is like a 1000-piece jigsaw puzzle on fertility drugs. Nope! I'm not goin' there!

        And why should I, when others (better suited than I) did much of that research and writing centuries ago? As I read about Rev. Stone in one book and then another and another, a sort of biography of the man began to emerge from the pieces. At this point, I'm surprised to say I know him pretty well for a guy who was born over 400 years ago. I know his core beliefs, his career, his habits (both bad and good), his personality traits, who his friends and associates were and how they interacted, and some interesting anecdotes about events in his life.

        Google Books and Internet Archive made finding all this information infinitely easier than it would have been even a decade ago. It still took considerable time though, and I wanted to bring it all together in a way that would make it readily available to my descendants. A Blurb print-on-demand book made perfect sense to me, and I began work on it as soon as I completed the book about my mom.

        I thought I could put it together pretty quickly--just choose the materials, copy and paste, write an intro, and voilĂ !, a book! However, it turns out I haven't totally gotten over that perfectionist thing... so the project is taking quite a bit longer than planned. Still, it will be a cool book when it's done, which I hope will be no later than the end of this month.

        As I spent time working on the Stone book, I began to wonder whether there might be other Stone descendants who might like to have these materials in book form. To date, none of the books I've made are available to the public in Blurb's bookstore, but this one may have a bigger audience than just my immediate family.

        Yesterday I posted a bit about Blurb's pricing structure. The prices I mentioned are base prices; i.e., they represent only the cost of having the book printed. Blurb offers discounts during promotional sales, and discounts for purchases of more than ten copies of a book in one order. They also feature a bookstore on their website where, at no cost to you, your book can be listed for sale to the public. As the creator of a book, you have the option to adjust the price upward from Blurb's base price if you wish to make a profit from sales.

        If you decide to make your book available for public purchase, you'll have to consider how to price it. Before even thinking about that, you might want to read this article by author Scott Butcher. Although the article is about traditionally published books, not print-on-demand books, it's still a good reality-check.

        At the moment, my book has 174 pages. If I edit it down to 160 or less, Blurb's price for printing would be $39.95 for softcover, $49.95 for hardcover with a dust jacket, or $52.95 for a hardcover with image-wrap. Reader, when is the last time you spent that much for a 160-page book? College? I admit, I'm more of a penny-pincher than most people, and honestly, I'd have to be highly motivated to buy a book at those prices, never mind another dollar or five added onto that. So I have to ask myself, do I think my Stone book is going to motivate the masses highly enough to get out their wallets? Well, let's see:
        • How many Stone descendants do you suppose there are?
        • Of those, forget the ones who are not reading at an adult level.
        • Of those who are left, how many of them have any idea they're Stone descendants? Forget the rest.
        • The market is shrinking! Of those who are left, how many are actually interested in family history, or in reading 160 pages about Samuel Stone? Forget the rest.
        • How many of the remaining people have computers and access to the internet?
        • Of those, how many are likely to stumble across my book?
        • Among those who do, what fraction will have and be willing to spend some money to have a copy?
        • And in the case of my particular book, this number will doubtless be reduced further by the fact that the materials I've used are out of copyright and already freely available online.

        I think most family historians will agree: doing your family's genealogy has never been a way to make money. Heck, it's not even a real good way to get your family's attention! Your best bet is to do it for the pleasure of doing it. And I think the same is true of creating print-on-demand books about your family history. The market for your book is extremely small to begin with, and there's no way you'll ever be fairly compensated for all you put into it. Maybe it's better to genuflect, whisper a thank-you to all who made it possible for you to create the book, and consider it your pay-it-forward.

        All of which is to say, if I decide to make the Stone book publicly available, I'll be pricing it at the cost of the printing, nothing more. And if the only copy sold is to myself, that's okay too. That's who I made it for, and I've had a great time doing so.

        Reader, what are your thoughts on creating and pricing a family history book for sale?

        Monday, February 07, 2011

        Blurb Anyway?

        Back in the pre-cellular day, when your phone had to plug into a phone jack in the wall, a dear friend of mine bought herself a new telephone. One could expect, back then, that such a product would last for years, but only minutes after the 90-day warranty expired, so did the phone. She was really annoyed that she had to go out and buy another phone, and rightly so. But when I asked her what kind she got to replace the bad one, she replied, "The same thing."

        Honestly, I just wanted to slap her upside the head! "You vote with your dollars," I told her. "You just voted in favor of poorly made telephones!"

        It's true, you know. Every time you buy something, you're casting a consumer vote for that product in favor of others that you might have chosen instead. And you know what they say: fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me. In other words, you need to learn from your mistakes. A bad purchase, like any mistake, is redeemed when it's understood. Caveat emptor.

        I'm sure I've flaunted enough cliches to make my point. Are you wondering how this applies to today's topic? Yesterday I posted about a disappointing result I had with a Blurb book order. Today I want to talk about why I'm not abandoning the Blurbarian ship just yet.

        If you have a look at Jason Dunn's in-depth comparison of POD publishers or click around in this Photo Book Review, you'll discover how many factors go into your decision when choosing a POD publisher. As Heather pointed out in yesterday's comments, no one is perfect, and that certainly applies here. There is no "one perfect POD publisher," as every one offers a different set of features from which to choose. Your job as a consumer is to discover which features are most important to you. You'll have to consider things like cost-to-value ratio, what skills you bring to your project or what skills you're willing to learn, how much time you want to spend on your project, how many pages you'll need to present your material and whether it consists of photos, text, or both.

        One of the things I love about Blurb is their pricing structure. Unlike many other POD publishers, you don't start with a fixed number of pages (usually 20) for a base price, and then add $1 per page for additional pages (a 'page' means 'one side of a page', not both sides). Instead, Blurb prices in increments: 20-40 pages, 41-80 pages, 81-120 pages, and so on up to a maximum of 440 pages. Psychologically, I find this very freeing when it comes to designing a book. What's more, the cost of, say, a hundred-page book ends up being considerably less expensive at Blurb than at the other POD publishers I've considered. The 120-page book about my mom, for example, at a base price of $30 for 20 pages plus $1 per page for the next 100 pages, would have been $130 using that pricing structure, but at Blurb it was about $42. That, for me, is the difference between can-do and no-can-do.

        Also, many POD publishers have a page-limit much smaller than Blurb's. My Publisher, for example, limits you to 100 pages. I love that Blurb allows for a much longer book, and that it is not just a publisher of photo-books that you can add some text to. You can do much more than that with Blurb's free BookSmart software--from creating a text-based book with no photos to a photo book with no text, and everything in between. If there isn't a template for the way you want to lay out your page, you can easily create your own layout. You can even save it as a custom layout, and select it from the layout menu if you want to use it again.

        Using BookSmart, your project lives on your computer until it's finished. Then you upload it to Blurb for printing. Thus you don't have to be on the internet to work on it. On the other hand, there's definitely a learning curve to consider. BookSmart offers a lot of control, but it's a little quirky. If you're just hoping to make one simple photo book, you may not want to invest the time on learning how to use it. (Blurb recently added an online book creation tool, Bookify, which may be simpler to use if you haven't already learned BookSmart, but it offers less control. Having learned BookSmart first, I have a strong preference for that.)

        Tomorrow: A bit about my current Blurb project, and some thoughts about pricing your book for sale to the public.

        By the way, in case you're wondering, I am not affiliated with in any way except as a customer, and I receive nothing from them for sharing my thoughts.


        You can read some user feedback on at Olive Tree Genealogy, and Cheryl Palmer has answered some questions about her experience with Blog2Print at Heritage Happens.

        Sunday, February 06, 2011

        Blurb Rant: I tried, and I tried, but . . .

        . . . I can't get no satisfaction!

        Reader, have I raved enough about Blurb in the past? I think so! I spent most of 2010 creating books--seven titles in print so far and at least another half-dozen in various stages of development--and Blurb has been my print-on-demand publisher of choice. It still is, in fact, although I am heartsick over something that happened with the printing of my most recent and most important book, Mary Roslyn Kerr: A Book of Childhood Memories. And so I'm sorry to have to backpedal some regarding my previous Blurb raves.

        Before creating this book about my mother, I created six books based on a number of personal blogs I've kept since 2005. I wanted to learn, before investing months of work creating a family history book, how to use Blurb's BookSmart software as well as what I could expect from Blurb in a finished product.

        According to Blurb's FAQ page What types of bindings and book sizes are available?:
        For you bindery aficionados, Blurb uses both "side sewn" and  "perfect bound" binding options on all hardcover books. Generally, books with fewer than 120 pages will be side-sewn. Books with more than 120 pages will be perfect bound.
        But what about books of exactly 120 pages, I wondered. Would they get sewn bindings or perfect (i.e., glued) bindings?

        I made my blog books in Blurb's 7" square format. Three of the books had 80 pages, while the other three had 120 pages. All six were made with sewn bindings. As a result, I set a limit of 120 pages for my future family history books. I am making them specifically with the intention of preserving family history for future generations, so the durability and longevity of a sewn binding is of great importance to me. My book-making dream is that my books will be handed down for generations to come, and with all their pages intact!

        Because of the information noted above from Blurb's FAQ combined with my own three 120-page book experiences, I fully expected the book about my mom to be made with sewn bindings. I ordered twelve copies of it in time for Christmas giving. I'd done my research, I'd done my homework, I'd done my test run with less important books, so I was feeling pretty confident, despite the use of the weasel-word "generally" in Blurb's FAQ.

        And of course you know why I'm writing about this today. When my order was delivered and I took the first copy out of the box to look at it, CRACK!!! went the binding of the book, and suddenly I was looking at an ugly glue-filled split between the last page and the end-paper.

        I contacted Blurb's customer service via a link on their website. A quick response was promised, and indeed it did come within a few hours. It was essentially a scripted or form response, telling me to submit a photo of the problem, which I then did. It took longer to get their next reply, which again seemed formulaic, but offered me a credit to have my book order reprinted. I asked if there was a way I could be assured that the reprinted books would have sewn bindings, and was told there would be "a better chance" if I removed pages from the book, but that there was still no guarantee that the binding would be sewn rather than glued; however, I was assured that Blurb does guarantee the quality of their products.

        To give my book the best chance, I did remove two pages, bringing the page-count down to 118 rather than 120. However, the reprinted edition also arrived with glued bindings.

        Soon there came another email from Blurb, asking me to take a survey about my experience with their customer service but saying that if my issue was not resolved to my satisfaction, I should reopen my customer service ticket rather than take the survey. At that time I was too depressed about the whole thing to deal with it any further, so I put it aside until last week, when I finally pulled myself together and contacted customer service again.

        In my email to them, I reviewed the issue I'd had, and asked them this:
        ... what I need from you today, before I write my post, is to know the following:
            1. how Blurb decides which books will be glued and which sewn--my readers
        and I would all like to increase our chances of getting the binding we want.
            2. why the customer doesn't get to decide this critical issue during the
        ordering process.
            3. whether Blurb has any plans to make it an option for Blurbarians in
        the future.
        Again the response was formulaic. It didn't add any new information in response to my first question, and did not address my second and third questions at all.

        As a result of this experience, I've learned (or think I've learned) several things about Blurb:
        • Blurb uses more than one printing company to print book orders. It seems that not all printers are created equally; some have the means to create books with side-sewn bindings and others create books with glued bindings. All of my 7" books were sent from an address in Washington, while my 8" x 10" family history book was sent to me from Missouri (both the original order and the replacement order). In my experience, the Washington printer sews, and the Missouri printer glues.
        • Even in the service of customer satisfaction, which Blurb seems to want, they have no means in place to assure than any particular book order will have a sewn binding. From my experience, it seems to depend on the luck of the draw. Maybe it depends on the dimensions of the book?
        • Blurb's customer service department seems to be scripted and unable to respond in a very personalized way, which left me feeling unheard. On the other hand, when I followed their complaint procedure, they readily replaced my order.
        I'd like to see Blurb make sewn bindings an option in the same way that premium paper is an option. I'd happily pay a couple dollars more per book for a sewn binding when long-range durability is an issue.

        I'll be sharing some additional thoughts about Blurb in my next post.

        Saturday, February 05, 2011

        Mat Thorne's Book-Design Tutorial, Part 2

        How to Sequence and Design Your Next Book Like a Pro from Blurb Books on Vimeo.

        Last Saturday I posted Part 1 of Mat Thorne's book-design webinar. This one, Part 2, covers an overview of typography, essentials of cover design, and laying out front and back matter. It runs about 70 minutes.

        Click here for additional Blurb tips & tutorials

        Friday, February 04, 2011

        Exemplar: An Artful Family History Book

        One of the best things about print-on-demand books is that you can create a family history book that doesn't have to be all things to all people. You can tailor a book to a specific audience, and later make a different book for a different audience. Marilyn Ramer Burroughs and Kathleen Ramer Harden created Cousins Remembering with the younger reader in mind. Marilyn brought her skill as an artist to the project, and the result is a great example of how art can replace photographs as a way of illustrating family history. A book like this one would be visually appealing to family members of all ages, and particularly to younger readers who might be less attracted to a book illustrated by old photographs. I enjoyed the text as well. This book will be a Ramer family treasure for generations to come.

        To view the book full-screen, click on the little square next to the Blurb logo.

        • Before even beginning to make a book, think about its potential readers and how best to engage their interest. For whom do you want to make a book? What material do you have, and who might be interested in it?
        • Consider whether co-authoring with another family member would result in a richer book.
        • Consider whether your own art skills or those of another (willing!) family member could be used to enhance the book you're thinking of making. 
        Reader, what ideas do you get from this book?

          Thursday, February 03, 2011

          Posted from Saugatuck, Part 3

          The card above was postmarked at 11 a.m. on July 21, the same as yesterday's letter. The letter below was written on July 21 after 4 p.m. However, it wasn't postmarked until July 23.

          Also, on the back of today's letter, my mother noted that it was "LETTER #1." This would have been the first thing Evelyn would see upon taking it out of the envelope. It would seem, then, that there was also a LETTER #2 sent either in the same envelope or in another envelope mailed the same day. However, at this point in time, it's missing. Oddly, based upon the first paragraph, LETTER #1 appears to have been written after LETTER #2, not before.

           July 21, 1941
          Dear Folks,
               Sunday and Monday were considerably warmer than Sat., and today, up until about 4 P.M. was really hot, but right now it is raining. That's why I'm writing another letter.
               Yesterday, or rather Friday night, we met a couple of fellows from Detroit and they are staying in Saugatuck all this week too. They live on Drexel and Lakewood.  After the dance they took us out to eat and we made plans for swimming on Mon. Well, ~ we did go swimming and am I ever sunburned! I can't hardly move. We climbed Mt. Baldhead yesterday, too, and that's 367 steps. You'd love that, wouldn't you, mom? After we reached the top & looked around, we came down the opposite side in the sand, and I really believe that is harder than walking down the stairs. No wonder I'm worn out today.

                We were supposed to go swimming again today, but my sunburn hurt so that I was afraid of getting a double dose so we told the fellows to go on alone. We, Frances & I, played shuffleboard all morning until it started to rain. It looks like it will be over soon though.
               Ethel, that girl from the office, is down here now and we've seen here quite often, but we haven't actually gone out with her. Every now & then we get together and talk things over but that's about all.
               Well, I guess that's all there is to tell you right now except ~ Don't worry. There is no need to.
               Bye now.
          P.S. Excuse the x's. I was writing too fast & couldn't stop.

          Mary Kerr, age 19 ~ Saugatuck, Michigan ~ July 1941

          Wednesday, February 02, 2011

          Posted from Saugatuck, Part 2

          Frances and Mary ~ Saugatuck, July 1941

          My mom at nineteen... this one had me laughing out loud!

           July 20, 1941
          Dear Mom,
               We are having a wonderful time! Yesterday we went bicycling and horse back riding. Then we came home, took a bath, and slept for a couple hours. When we woke up we dressed and went to the dance. It was so nice. There were hundreds of fellows and almost all of them were good looking. We just sat down when Gordon came up and asked me to dance, and he stayed with me all evening. I didn't get a chance to dance with anyone else, but it was fun anyway. He was a good dancer. He drove me home and wanted to take me to the beach today but his boyfriend was very short & Frances didn't want to go, so I left the house before he came. We met him on the street later this afternoon but we managed to get away from them after...

          ...a short talk. He was nice though. However he was only here for the weekend. He came from Chicago.
               Today we met Bill Decker. We were sitting on the dock and he came along and began talking to us. We got him to take our picture together, and then Frances got the bright idea that Bill and I should have our picture taken together, so she took it. After a while he drove us to the beach and it's so nice. All white sand. Frances kinda' liked Bill & she wanted her picture taken with him so I took it while we were at the beach. You'll be able to see him when we get the films developed. He's awfully nice.
               Gee! Mom, things sure are expensive around here. I'm afraid I'm going to need more money before the week is up. Will you stick a couple dollars in an envelope and mail it to me. Right away quick! I'm...

           ...going to need it. Just write Mary Kerr % Mrs. Dempster, Saugatuck, Mich. and I'll get it.
               Thanks loads, Mom. I don't know what I'd do without you.
               Will write again later.
               Bye now.
          P.S. I just read over the letter & it seems like all I told you about was the men folks. Really, mom, they are only incidental. We have had lots of fun without them as well as with them. And I'll tell you a secret. I still like Charles best.

          Too funny! The men are short and incidental! Send money right away quick! I wonder if my grandmother laughed as loud as I did. I bet she did.

          The photo of my mom on horseback is one of the snapshots I used in the book about my mom. I realized it was a Saugatuck photo when I noticed it had the same batch number stamped on the back as other photos now identified as being from the Saugatuck trip.

          Frances on the Chicago guy's car (Illinois plates!)

          Frances with Bill Decker

          This page from the book about my mom features two snapshots of her from the Saugatuck trip.

          Tuesday, February 01, 2011

          Posted from Saugatuck, Part 1

          In July of 1941, when my mom was nineteen, she took a trip to Saugatuck, Michigan, with her friend, a Chrysler co-worker named Frances. The other day, I found a few pieces of correspondence my mom wrote while on that trip. As a result, I was able to identify several snapshots taken there, a few of which I'd included in the book about my mom's childhood.

          Mary Kerr's friend Frances
          Saugatuck, July 1941

           My mom feigned hitch-hiking for a little photo-snapping fun . . .

          . . . but it looks like Frances had a lot more fun with that speed-limit sign!

          A rippin' good time so far, huh? Well, just wait until tomorrow, when they meet some... aw, never mind, I don't want to spoil the delicious anticipation...

          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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