If you have a fam­ily his­tory that you want to pub­lish, there are sev­eral ways you can do this.

Let’s assume for the moment that you want to pub­lish the book in print for­mat, but you don’t want to become a pub­lisher or main­tain a lot of inven­tory. You want to make the book avail­able to fam­ily mem­bers, but you are not mak­ing a career change!

A num­ber of print-on-demand ven­dors can help you, but I am just going to list three:

  • Cre­ate­Space — An Ama­zon com­pany — will allow you to upload book inte­ri­ors and cov­ers in PDF for­mat. Addi­tion­ally, they can design the cov­ers for you. The books get an ISBN, basi­cally for free. You have to pay for the print­ing and ship­ping of a hard­copy proof, so that you can ver­ify that what they will pro­duce meets your expec­ta­tions. Once you have approved the proof, the book can be made avail­able on, Ama­zon, and even to libraries and phys­i­cal bookstores.
  • Cafe­Press — This is one of the first com­pa­nies in the space. They started off with t-shirts and mugs, and even­tu­ally expanded to CDs, DVDs, and books. As with Cre­ate­Space, you upload  PDFs of your con­tent and cover, and they print books when some­one orders one. The down­side is that the books are only avail­able from Cafe­Press, and do not have an oppor­tu­nity for wider dis­tri­b­u­tion, but the ini­tial cost is lower, as you are not required to buy a proof if you are con­fi­dent that what you sent will work.
  • Lulu — This com­pany is a favorite among geneal­ogy cir­cles. Book titles are only sal­able through their site, though, as with Cafe­Press, you can order a hand­ful (and a dis­count) to sell. Lulu also ships for free if the order is more than $20. One thing that sets Lulu apart is that if you sell a print book at Lulu, as well as an e-book (which they dis­trib­ute through Apple’s iBook­store), the e-book is linked from the list­ing for the paper book.

I rec­om­mend that you get a proof of any print-on-demand title that you cre­ate. While each of these is inter­est­ing, for me, Cre­ate­Space is the most inter­est­ing option, because of the range of dis­tri­b­u­tion options open to me from CreateSpace.

I will post more on this topic, as well as on how to turn your fam­ily his­tory into an e-book that you can either give away for free or sell.

Books in Browsers: Brewster Kahle and E-Books

There is a lot of dis­cus­sion in the geneal­ogy world about e-books.

Of course, there are large book dig­i­ti­za­tion projects: Google Books and Inter­net Archive being the two best known. (In 2008, Microsoft can­celled a book dig­i­ti­za­tion project that had scanned more than 750,000 books.) While Google has got­ten into some legal hot water by mak­ing books that are under copy­right avail­able under an agree­ment with the Writ­ers’ Guild, which has not held up in court, the vast major­ity of books are in the pub­lic domain.

A great sum­mary of where we are in terms of e-books is the keynote speech (text and slides | see above for the video) that Brew­ster Kahle, founder of Inter­net Archive gave at the Books in Browsers con­fer­ence in Octo­ber 2010. Kahle talks about the trans­for­ma­tion from a paper book ori­en­ta­tion, through a device ori­en­ta­tion (the Kin­dle, for exam­ple), to a device-independent (browser) ori­en­ta­tion. His goal is to make books avail­able to all. He does this via dig­i­tiz­ing books and mak­ing them avail­able as follows:

  • Pub­lic Domain — Free — The Inter­net Archive now has over 2.8 mil­lion titles avail­able for free
  • Under copy­right (but out of print) — Borrow
  • In Print — Buy

One thing that sets the Inter­net Archive apart from Google Books, is that most of the titles (at least most that I have seen) are avail­able in mul­ti­ple for­mats. There’s PDF, of course, but also .epub (works in the Apple iBooks and Barnes and Noble reader soft­ware and the Nook and other ded­i­cated read­ers), .mobi (works in the Kin­dle reader soft­ware, the Kin­dle portable device, and other read­ers), black and white PDFs, HTML, and sev­eral other formats.

E-books have trans­formed genealog­i­cal research. If you haven’t used one, I encour­age you, the next time you are look­ing for a local his­tory, to con­sider using Google Books or Inter­net Archive. If the book was pub­lished in the US prior to 1923, it should in the pub­lic domain, and you may find it for free on Google Books or the Inter­net Archive now or in the future.

Dreaming of Clouds

“Cloud Computing,”Sam John­ston, 2009. This file is licensed under the Cre­ative Com­mons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 license.

If any­thing, the rush to pro­vide con­tent in the cloud is begin­ning to speed up.

On March 29th, Ama­zon announced its Cloud Drive ser­vice, focus­ing on stor­age of MP3 audio files, which can be streamed from the web with Amazon’s Cloud Player. Cloud Drive is able to store any dig­i­tal files.

On May 10th, Google released a sim­i­lar prod­uct: Google Music.

The blo­gos­phere is full of spec­u­la­tion about when Apple will release iCloud, it’s much expected, audio stream­ing ser­vice. Many Apple reporters think that iCloud will be rolled out dur­ing the Apple World­wide Devel­op­ers’ Con­fer­ence, start­ing on June 6th.

As the per­for­mance of wire­less net­works increases, the cloud becomes more attrac­tive. More and more peo­ple are using portable devices (iPhones, iPads, Android phones and tablets). These devices often com­bine min­i­mal stor­age with built-in inter­net con­nec­tions, and that adds up to a com­pelling argu­ment for file stor­age in the cloud, with access to any­thing, but min­i­mal local stor­age requirements.

Apple’s reported goal with iCloud is to allow peo­ple to play their songs with­out first hav­ing to upload them. Apple’s ser­vice would repli­cate your list of songs on its servers, and stream them from a com­mon source when you wanted them. (Both Google and Ama­zon require you to spend hours and hours, or days, upload­ing your music library.)

Unfor­tu­nately, in the  geneal­ogy realm, there is no mas­sive media con­glom­er­ate who owns archival elec­tronic records of your data.

Wait … what about Ances­try and Fam­il­y­Search? These folks have archival qual­ity dig­i­tal images of orig­i­nal records. When I log into Ances­try, it knows which doc­u­ments I have put in my shoe­box. It has all the meta­data about the 1930 cen­sus record for my father and his fam­ily. Yes, I can down­load it, and yes, I can nav­i­gate to it in the con­text of an Ances­try Fam­ily Tree, or in the con­text of a soft­ware pack­age where I have attached this image.…

But why can’t I eas­ily tag this image with my own per­sonal meta­data (as on, and see the tags other peo­ple use (as on, and why can’t I search my “per­sonal doc­u­ment col­lec­tion” for text (deliv­ered via Opti­cal Char­ac­ter Recog­ni­tion, or in the con­text of a tex­tual doc­u­ment) or for metadata?

Why can’t I search through my entire genealog­i­cal image col­lec­tion, with­out hav­ing it on my local sys­tem, with the search run­ning in the cloud?

Why indeed!

Behind the Scenes at NGS 2011: Blog Talk Radio

Thomas MacEn­tee did a BlogTalkRa­dio inter­view with Jan Alpert, NGS 2011 Con­fer­ence Chair and Imme­di­ate Past Pres­i­dent of NGS and Julie Miller, CG, NGS 2012 Con­fer­ence Chair and Vice Pres­i­dent of the NGS. This was a rare behind-the-scenes inter­view with two lead­ers who have orga­nized and led conferences.

It’s a rare look behind the scenes at what goes into choos­ing a con­fer­ence loca­tion, how patron­iz­ing the con­fer­ence hotel and lun­cheon and ban­quet events keeps over­all prices low, and your soci­ety fis­cally healthy.

This is the fourth install­ment of the weekly FGS MySo­ci­ety talk radio show. It’s a great pro­gram. You should lis­ten. I know that I’m adding it to iTunes to lis­ten in, even when I can­not make it “live.”

Here are some links:


Read it Later vs. Instapaper

Read It Later logoI have become a fan of two com­pet­ing prod­ucts, Instapa­per and Read it Later.

These appli­ca­tions sit in your browser, and allow you to quickly archive a web­page for later read­ing. They clean up the web­page, remov­ing ads and com­pli­cated script­ing, so you just have the text you want to read.

Instapaper logoYou can then read the con­tent in your browser at their sites, on a mobile phone, or on a tablet. Instapa­per will also allow you to con­fig­ure con­tent col­lec­tions to show up on your Kin­dle. Both are inte­grated with a great site full of longer arti­cles,, allow­ing you to quickly choose some read­ing before you catch that plane and lose your inter­net connection.

In terms of geneal­ogy, I use these tools to gather his­tor­i­cal pieces, such as the arti­cles the New York Times is doing on the sesqui­cen­ten­nial of the Civil War, “Dis­union,” as well as more top­i­cal items, such as John McPhee’s 1987 New Yorker piece about the Army Corps of Engi­neers and its attempts to con­trol the Mis­sis­sippi River, Atchafalaya: The Con­trol of Nature. (That was top­i­cal then, and is top­i­cal now; I found it on

Instapa­per allows you to for­mat the sto­ries for print­ing; Read it Later has a great (and not too expen­sive) iPad app that auto­mat­i­cally cat­e­go­rizes the con­tent. I find Read it Later’s web inter­face to be more attrac­tive, but some of the fea­tures of Instapa­per to be more com­pelling, includ­ing Read­abil­ity inte­gra­tion and Kin­dle auto-delivery.

I’m not sure which one of these I will choose yet, but I know I will have a lot of read­ing at hand.…

Another site to note is Read­abil­ity, which is free for sim­ple cleanup of pages you come across, but costs $5 (or more if you decide to make a dona­tion) if you want to save them for later. 70% of the pro­ceeds are pro­vided to the authors and pub­lish­ers of the content.

NGS 2011 Conference in Charleston, South Carolina

I attended the 2011 National Genealog­i­cal Soci­ety Fam­ily His­tory Con­fer­ence held in Charleston, South Car­olina this past week.

I was pleased to have been asked to give three talks: The inau­gural Birdie Monk Holsclaw Memo­r­ial Lec­ture (slides), a lec­ture on Google and search method­olo­gies (slides), and the NGS Gen­Tech Lun­cheon talk (slides), which was on the topic of social media.

It was a good con­fer­ence, with more knowl­edge­able and vol­u­ble speak­ers than one could pos­si­bly see. I espe­cially liked Buzzy Jackson’s gen­eral ses­sion talk about how she became a geneal­o­gist, and how it’s our job to make our descen­dants think of us as the ones who saved the sto­ries for them. Addi­tion­ally, I enjoyed the talk given by Glenn F. McConnell, Pres­i­dent pro tem­pore of the South Car­olina State Sen­ate about the his­tory, dis­cov­ery, and rais­ing of the H. L. Hunley.

I was also pleased that my own talks seem to have been well received.

The next major excur­sion is to the Vir­ginia Genealog­i­cal Soci­ety con­fer­ence next week­end. The sum­mer is sim­ply full of these events.