Telling Your Family History for Future Generations with Dan Foley

At the beginning of this month, Daniel M. Foley gave an insightful presentation on how he researched and published several books on his and his wife’s family history. Daniel recently presented at the September meeting of the Scott County Iowa Genealogical Society. His talk was popular, so we invited him back!

We have 3 of his books in our collection about the Finnegan, Fleming, and Langford families. The Finnegans and Flemings are his mother’s ancestors and Oscar Langford was his wife’s great grandfather. In the books, Foley lists descendants using the Register System and includes family photographs, vital records, newspaper articles, transcribed letters & poems.

The first part of his presentation consisted of the research he did to find his wife’s “lost” family member, which resulted in his book Finding Oscar Langford: The Lost Branch of the Langford Family Tree, published in 2018.

Foley attended the August 2011 “Come Home to New England” educational program at the New England Historical and Genealogical Society in Boston where he learned about using social media to connect with other family historians who are researching the same surnames or locations. He joined Twitter and followed professional genealogists and family historians.

He found a tip about a new website called “GenealogyInTime.” He searched for Oscar Langford and got a hit that linked to historic newspapers kept at a library in New York. It turns out that Oscar Langford had written a series of letters to the editor where he told his life story. Jackpot!

Foley then gave us these useful tips on how to go about publishing your own family history, based on his own experience.

Deciding whether or not to publish your family history:

  • Take an inventory of what you have: Family Trees, Photographs, Documents, Heirlooms, Newspaper articles, Obituaries, Occasions when your ancestors were involved in major current events of their time.
  • Evaluate your computer skills. You can’t really publish without some basic skills, at the least. If I learned it, anyone can. But, at least evaluate your starting point. Do you use subscription sites? Are you familiar with what they offer? Do you use genealogy software? Can you create your own writings? Do you have your own printer? Can you scan documents? Can you publish on the internet as a blog or a book?
  • Have someone double check your work on the genealogy reports. Another set of eyes will help with typos, misspellings, or bad dates.
  • Include all of the history that you have. The events, news, pictures and significances for your ancestors are what make the family history come alive. Imagine you are writing this for your great grand children.
  • Make a nice copy at a copy store or printer. I used Staples and they were reasonable and easy to work with. You will need to make some decisions at this point about how many copies you want and how you are going to pay for them.
  • If you can, publish your work on the internet as a blog or a book. If this is beyond your capabilities, ask for help from someone who is tech savvy.
  • Donate copies to local libraries (Please & thank you!)
  • If you find significant unknown participation in major historical events, you will have a much larger book, greater expense of publishing, more need for proofreaders and genealogy double-checks.
  • You will also want to send copies to the most significant genealogical libraries.

Things to avoid:

  • Don’t put any information about people who are alive in your work.
  • Don’t include any Social Security Numbers in your reports.
  • Don’t put any verbal history in your work if you have not been able to prove it.
  • Handle new discoveries that fall into the category of bad news with care. Think about how everyone would feel if you publish anything bad about an ancestor. You can’t imagine what you might find in advance. Be judicious.

An update from the Scott County Iowa Genealogical Society:

The Scott County Iowa Genealogical Society monthly meetings (except for January and July) will be held at the Davenport Public Library | Main on the 1st Saturday of the month at 1pm beginning February 5, 2022.

(posted by Cristina)

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