Putting Your History on the Record 1

Many genealogy enthusiasts put the results of their research into family histories, usually for distribution among family members. These are valuable resources as they provide information on current families which future researchers will cherish.   It would be expected that the authors of these works would be keen to ensure that their work will be found by others interested in the same family. That presumption, however, is often not supported by the evidence.   In my role as publisher of genealogy sources through Flyleaf Press, we are constantly seeking new items to add to our guides.    We are currently updating our publication ‘Sources for Irish Family History’ which is a listing of monographs, books and articles on specific Irish families.  Most of the references in this guide are written by authors who are writing about their own family.   However, we very often stumble upon sources with titles which give no clue of their content.   In some cases it would appear that the author has almost purposefully set out to ensure that it will never be found by researchers seeking information on their family.  Examples of useless title formats (from a ‘finding’ viewpoint) are ‘From Killarney to Great Falls’ or ‘From the cabin to the mansion’ or ‘A long way from Tipperary’.  Such titles are surprisingly common and almost guarantee that the work will remain obscure. While we will try to establish what families are detailed in such works, very often it is not possible to do so.  Our inclination is therefore to leave these works out of our lists.

Therefore, I offer some suggestions below as to what to do to ensure that your private family history will be found by others interested in your family.

  1. Give your work a title which accurately describes the content.   We all operate using searches these days, so make sure that your title contains appropriate search terms.  Clearly these are the name of the family of interest,  the places they lived, and the other associated families.  If you want the title to be ‘snappy’, put the detail into a descriptive sub-title, such as “From Killarney to Great Falls:  the story of the Moriarty family from Kerry, Ireland who emigrated to Iowa in 1834 and their associations with the Scanlan and O’Sullivan families’. (I made this up, by the way).    The idea is to include as many search terms as possible, but particularly the name of the family or families and their place of origin.  Listing the associated family names in a sub-title will increase the relevance.
  2. If it is a book, give it an ISBN number.  International Standard Book Numbers (ISBNs) are issued by different authorities in each country and will ensure that your book is ‘visible’ to the book trade and will be listed on the databases used by libraries to find published material.  For full information see:   http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/International_Standard_Book_Number 
  3. Submit it for publication in a local history or genealogy journal.    While your family history may not warrant publication as an academic work, it could be of great interest to people from the area of origin of the family.  There are active local history societies in many parts of Ireland and elsewhere in Europe and they may be interested to publish your work, at least in summary form.  You can see a list of Irish local history journals at http://tbreen.home.xs4all.nl/journals.html.   Even if your work is only published as a ‘Note’ in one of these journals, you can include a reference to the full work and its library location within this note.
  4. Submit copies to major libraries.  Major libraries such as the Library of Congress or the National Library of each European country will accept relevant material, provided it meets certain standards. Libraries have policies about what is acceptable and may not accept everything submitted.  If your work is accepted and is put on their catalogue, it will be ‘visible’ to future researchers.  There are also major libraries which specialize in genealogy material, for instance the Allen County Public Library in Fort Wayne, Ind.; Clayton Library Centre in Houston; Family History Library in Salt Lake City;  and others.
  5. Submit it to the local library in the area of origin of the family, as well as your local library.  Local libraries in Ireland have active and popular Local History sections and will be delighted to receive relevant material on local families.   I would expect that this would be the case in any part of the world.  They are also likely to accept material in typescript  or other formats, unlike National and other major libraries.

Many limited circulation books and journals are now being digitised and made available for free download by Google Books and other digitisation programmes.  You have an opportunity to make information on your family freely available to everyone.  Don’t thwart this opportunity by making your work hard to find.    Finally,  if you have published a family history of Irish interest,  please let us know and we may include it in the new edition of ‘Sources for Irish Family History’.  However,  we will only include it if is accessible for readers in some format.

Dr. James Ryan

About Dr. James Ryan

Dr. James Ryan is a writer and publisher who has been active in Irish genealogy for the past 25 years. He founded Flyleaf Press – www.flyleaf.ie - in 1987, provided research services for clients for many years, and has lectured widely in North America and Ireland. His book ‘Irish Records’ (published by Ancestry Inc.) has been a standard guide for Irish genealogists since its publication in 1987. Jim is the author of IDG’s monthly column, The Emerald Isle.

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One thought on “Putting Your History on the Record

  • J Sutton

    I would like to know how to donate a book to the Clayton History Center in Houston. I repeatedly wrote and emailed them using addresses on their website to donate a newly published local history book and never received a response.