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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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?

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    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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