Thursday, March 6, 2008

Book'em Blogger

Recently I had a conversation about writing my family history with one of my Nearby History - Writer Friends. Like most novice family historians I started my family history in the month of August with the certain knowledge that I would finish it and send it to all my relatives for Christmas. That was three years ago and you all know the rest of this story.

Today, I remarked to my friend that I hoped I'd live long enough to finish this project. Not only that, but since I've embarked on this journey three of my oldest relatives have died. I've lost all their memories and they have lost the opportunity to experience the things I've discovered. This, I told her, makes me feel very guilty.

"Why don't you send out the information as you complete it and let your relatives put it together," she said. "That way they get the benefit of all your research all the time."

It was a great suggestion, well, it would be if I wasn't a controlling, anal, perfectionist. What if one of my relatives put something in the wrong place, or Good Heavens, never put it together. I would be unable to sleep.

I looked at the MediaWiki John (Transylvania Dutch) talked about in the Carnival of Genealogy. It's great for storing collaborative information, but I want something that looks more like a book. MediaWiki also requires server access, which costs, and I'm a Scot. (John, please correct me on this if I'm wrong.)

So I've been looking for a solution. I want something that reads like a book, can contain photos and documents, and is free. That sounds like a blog. So how do you configure a blog to be a book?

Blogger is way ahead of me. They already have a book publishing feature - how do I post a book. I took a look at it, set up my book and thus far I am pleased.

It is in the very beginning stages, but here is the start of my up-to-the-minute family history, Time and Chance -- Happen To Them All. The dedication, introduction, and the Campbell family section are active.

In the Campbells of Carrollton, Carroll County, Missouri a section of Chapter One is online to read. I am working on a method for footnotes that will allow you to jump to the footnote in a section you are reading and then directly back to the spot where you just were. Try it and see if it works.

The list of my Appendix is also online and I will begin to link documents. I haven't decided yet where I intend to upload those documents, Google Docs, or a blog post. I need to work out some of the small stuff.

I will also be working on colors, photographs and the things that will make it attractive to my relatives. Even my 84 year old Aunt Jean is online, so I think this solution just might work. Blogger also allows you to restrict access to your book to only those that are invited, keeping it all in the family.

If you've tried this and encountered any pitfalls, I'd love to hear from you so I don't have to reinvent the wheel. In the mean time, I'll keep testing.



Blogger Miriam Robbins said...

fM, I took a peek...this looks fantastic! I'm a bit tired this afternoon, so not all of this is sinking in. I'll have to go back and re-read everything, but this looks like it would be perfect for putting my mom's letters together for possible publication (letters from Alaska to my grandparents in Michigan, 1966 - 1978).

March 6, 2008 at 5:09 PM  
Blogger Randy Seaver said...


I'm thinking about my Della's Journal and the Letters from Home, plus the Della's cousins post ... I could put that together and really have something to send out to my brothers and kids.

But then they don't care that much, so why should I?

Good idea -- Randy

March 6, 2008 at 6:47 PM  
Blogger Craig Manson said...

Wow, fM, this is great! I've been thinking about how to do something like this--wonder what else is lurking Blogger that I don't know about?! BTW, I've just "finished" [is it ever finished] a different publishing project which I'll be writing about this weekend.

March 6, 2008 at 7:03 PM  
Blogger Becky Wiseman said...

Definitely an idea worth exploring. I do like your coding with the footnotes. The links took me back to where I was in the text so I didn't have to scroll the page. Very nice. I can see a couple ways this could be put to use. Though the part about editing the blogger template has me concerned. I really should get some of those other projects finished up before starting on something new...

March 6, 2008 at 7:53 PM  
Blogger Susan said...

Very nice! Classy and of course enjoyable to read too!
Sue Edminster
Echo Hill Ancestors Weblog

March 6, 2008 at 8:10 PM  
Blogger Thomas MacEntee said...

Very nice indeed! I too am intruiged as to how you coded the footnotes. I had a bad experience with my footnotes/endnotes for my recent post on the famous McEntees of Ulster County, New York: I composed the document in Word, pasted into Google Docs, then from there pasted into Blogger post. The footnote references linked back to the Google document - which was not my intention since the document wasn't public. Ugh!

So, lots of pulling of hair and gnashing of teeth followed and then manual cleanup.

March 6, 2008 at 10:12 PM  
Blogger Jasia said...

Well now, isn't this interesting? Google never ceases to amaze me. This certainly opens up lots of possibilities doesn't it?

I wonder what else is out there for writing online books. And I wonder what else Google offers that I don't know about.

You did a fine job fM. The site looks very nice and worked well for me :-) And the best part is, it's got you actually writing and publishing your family history. You're well ahead of me. I haven't even decided which branch of my family to write up first!

March 7, 2008 at 5:36 AM  
Blogger Lidian said...

This is absolutely wonderful - I can't wait to read more!

March 7, 2008 at 8:22 AM  
Blogger footnoteMaven said...


I think this has some tremendous applications for family historians.


You never know what Blogger is up to. I'm really looking forward to your publishing project - I love everything you do.


You don't really have to do a lot of coding, Blogger gives you a template to use.

I tinker under the hood because I can.


Good to see you and glad you enjoyed the beginning of the story.


I think I'll do a little how to. It really is quite easy once you get the hang of it.


I was so finished with blogger after the problems I've been having and was considering WordPress when I found this.

Hooked again.

And putting something out there relieves some of my guilt.


March 7, 2008 at 9:45 AM  
Blogger Janice said...


I'm in the midst of helping a spanking brand new blogger begin writing about his family tree. Your suggestions may be the perfect way to set up a template for him! Thank you for the wonderful idea.

Blog: Cow Hampshire

March 9, 2008 at 6:08 AM  
Blogger JEWELGIRL said...

FM, It looks like a terrific
start on your new project!

March 10, 2008 at 12:11 PM  
Blogger Terry Thornton said...


Thanks for bringing BloggerBooks to my attention! Your sample text looks simply wonderful --- and I'm most impressed. I've looked about the "How to" link and I believe you've found a solution for many of us who have projects waiting for a home. Thank you so much for sharing your work and your suggestion.

March 18, 2008 at 10:23 AM  
Blogger Chery Kinnick said...


I am so proud that you have opened up your wonderful piece of work for others to see samples of. This format works really well, and your research and writing are exemplary. You need have no doubt of that... Exciting progress!

March 18, 2008 at 11:52 AM  

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