One of my favourite personal pastimes of late has been creating books using Blurb.
I am smitten with the simplicity of Blurb’s service: download easy-to-use bookmaking software, create any kind of book you want, upload to Blurb for printing, and open a very satisfying package in your mail less than two weeks later.
So far I have made two family history books, two wedding books, a book celebrating a close friend, a family photo album for my mother-in-law, and a book for my toddler son filled with the photographs of all the people, near or far, who love him.
Most recently, I gifted a Blurb book to my father-in-law, who knew very little about his father’s family. They were Americans going back to the 1600s, so I was able to tap into an enormous trove of genealogical information about them from Ancestry.com and Google Books.
On Ancestry’s forums, I connected with another researcher of the same family, who emailed to me the research notes he had taken over the years. He had painstakingly copied out obituaries from libraries and inscriptions on tombstones, and he was kind enough to share his work with a complete stranger.
On Google books, I discovered two 1950s-era genealogical histories written about my father-in-law’s ancestors; one was fully digitized and downloadable, while the other was available on Amazon for a few dollars.
The two men who wrote these histories spent decades on their research. They visited numerous libraries, city halls, cemeteries, and churches to sift through records and trace the lives of people long gone. They wrote numerous letters requesting information that I can now find with a few keystrokes from my own home.
I don’t know why sifting through sometimes illegible handwritten census records, or paging through an un-indexed historical book, or browsing through an old photo collection holds such appeal for me. The men who wrote books about my father-in-law’s ancestors may have wondered the same. I assume they, like me, just liked playing detective, thrilled by the hunt for clues. And we were all similarly rewarded by the moment when we read our ancestors’ names on a piece of paper, or saw their signatures on a military draft record, or viewed a photograph of someone who bore an unmistakable resemblance to ourselves.
What about generations hence? Will my son’s great-great-great-grandchildren ever wonder about me? And if they do, what will they find if they look for clues? I imagine they will have access to all the digital data they could want about me … but will anything physical from my life remain? Something that I touched?
Maybe the book I created in Blurb will be passed from generation to generation (if my line lasts that long, that is). That’s probably a crazy hope — not to mention vain. But so be it. I will Blurb on.