Last month, I extracted a GEDCOM (Genealogical Data COMmunication) file from the Grinnell genealogy database—the one that I still intend (yeah, you’ve heard that one before…) to make available to GFA members, along with the archive of GFA newsletters all the way back to Vol. 1, No. 1. But that’s a different topic that I do promise to address in the near future.
The GEDCOM file, containing the names of over 40,000 individuals and linked information of almost 15,000 marriages, was brought into a genealogical database program called Genbox. This program, virtually unheard of by most folks in the genealogy biz, hasn’t been updated in several years, but it has a combination of features that I have yet to find in any other genealogy database computer programs—at least for those who want to publish a genealogy:
- Exports this text into the most popular wordprocessor format, Microsoft Word.
- Takes raw genealogical data (individual name, date of birth, date of death, date of marriage, spouse name, spouse’s parents’ names, burial date and where, and all the other chunks of standard genealogical record gathering, and generates a professional, fully-formatted narrative text, per the standards of either the National Genealogical Society, or the New England Historical Genealogical Society with either society’s numbering and annotation standards.
- When exporting to a standard wordprocessing format, it invisibly embeds all this same information into that document, which is used later to automatically generate a full index (persons, places) with minimal intervention by the author (me). This index, in the case of this book, is going to run between 300 and 400 pages.
- For those genealogy databases that were created in Family Tree Maker, Genbox gives me the opportunity to automatically change the cryptic snippets of information (events that are not part of the GEDCOM standard) that it sometimes generates, into readable, narrative text.
- Here’s the biggie for me: I like to play with the overall typography and layout, including choice of fonts, font sizes, number of columns, page number placement, information for page headings, and so on. To do so, it’s necessary for a genealogy database program, like Genbox, to automatically add invisible “tags” at the beginning of every paragraph to tell the word processor or page layout program how to format that particular kind of sentence. In this case, there are perhaps four or five formatting codes that are used in the entire 2000+ page book. This means that if I change the typographical settings (margins, tabs, etc.) for the “children” tag, the settings change is made to every single occurrence of the “children” tag in that 2000+ page book without altering any paragraphs that are not tagged “children.” That means I can quickly try things out and see if that formatting meets my satisfaction.
Genbox is the only program of the five or six that I purchased that does all five of these operations. Because the book is so large, it can take many hours for some of these processes to complete; even on a very fast computer.
So, this is all the initial grunt work, which is now done. Because this file, about six megabytes in Word, is much too large to import into my page layout program, Adobe FrameMaker 12, I have broken it up into family generations. These generations are combined as the final book file is generated, much later on in this process. For now, though, I’m leaving them in Word format so I can edit the files on any number of computing platforms, including my trusty iPad. I will be going through every entry in 16 generations of the Grinnell family to deal with typos, formatting quirks, and genealogist’s notes that were never intended for public viewing. This is what I will be doing for the next few months.
Of course the basic 16-generation genealogy is just one part of the book. We also have about 50 or 60 “lineage unknown” families (those families for whom we have not yet found a link to the progenitor, Matthew Greenell), the extended histories and biographies, and various and sundry other chunks of content that I intend to fit into this book.
By March or April, I will be ready to get the book into Adobe FrameMaker 12, and generate a multi-part Adobe Acrobat PDF file that will go to our printer. The reason for multi-part is because we cannot bind 2000-2500 pages into a single book when using print-on-demand technology (it’s real difficult to bind that many pages in to a single volume for conventional print technologies, too). I haven’t yet decided on a printer, but I’m leaning toward Lulu.com, but I will be happy to listen to anyone who has had negative (or positive) experiences with them. They will be printing the book in multiple parts, binding in hardcover format on acid-free archival paper. As orders come in, Lulu.com will fulfill them (print, box, deal with postage, deal with sales taxes, etc., without any GFA folks having to lift a finger). They will set up a website, and deal with handling the money. Every month, treasurer Cathy will receive a statement and the money is automatically deposited into our bank account.
Frankly, I do not want the responsibility for storing large quantities of conventionally printed books (and I don’t think anyone else is up for that task, either), mailing them, collecting the money, paying the sales tax for each state in the Union, etc., the way Ed W. Grinnell had to do for “Charts and Chronicles.” I still have a full-time job that demands my full attention, and I hope to have that job for many years to come.
Of course, a fancy hardcover multivolume publication comes at a cost. While I don’t have final figures yet, I suspect this book is going to sell for somewhere between $200-300. Like I said, not cheap. I’m still working out the details, but I think I will have some alternatives for those of you with electronic book readers such as the Kindle or Nook. These electronic versions will be made available at a substantial reduction in cost. They will have all the content found in the printed version, plus the ability to go to the index, locate a reference, and then jump to it by tapping that reference on your screen. I do not plan to do a budget printed version using the paper and tape binding that we used for the 1997 edition. My intent for that book was to sell it as cheaply as possible and use it as a vehicle to get more information and corrections for the version I’m working on right now.
So, if all goes well, I plan to have the final files to the printer in May at the latest, so they have time to print the initial orders, which will be promoted heavily in the Newsletter and the GFA website. I still need to decide if I want the first ones shipped to New Bedford for the GFA Reunion, or have them shipped to your homes (or preferred address).
From time to time, I will give you a report on how the book is progressing, and welcome your feedback. Hopefully, I will be able to find someone to do the next one, 15-20 years hence.