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Publish and be damned

m turbayne

I spend my off moments fossicking about with my family tree. I can confidently state that I’m not related to Charlemagne, or William the Conqueror, or even God (unlike Mathew Pinsent on a recent Who Do You Think You Are).

I come from long lines of ordinary people. None of them set the world on fire. Some of them even lived in a place called Dull. They were all agricultural labourers, and fisher folk and weavers, and strong women. Strong women such as my great great grandmother Margaret Turbayne (above) who, in the late 1800s, brought up 13 kids in a two-roomed farm worker’s cottage (what they call in Scotland, a But and Ben). And then there’s my great grandmother Barbara Annan (below), who saw four sons go off to war in 1914, and only three of them come back. My grandfathers and great grandfathers might have taken ridiculously small fishing boats out on the North Sea, but it was my grandmothers and great grandmothers who waded out to the boats with their men on their backs, so that they started their voyages in dry clothes.

barbara annan and d speed

My favourite, though, has to be my great great great grandmother, Catherine Cruickshank, sometime linen weaver and agricultural labourer, who had two children by different fathers, who never married, and who died a pauper aged 58. I have no real idea why finding her popping up in all the censuses made me smile. Just her tenacity, I suppose. And when I found that she too was illegitimate, her mother seemingly seduced by a travelling salesman in 1802, (and that’s a bit before they invented Ford Mondeos), my liking for her rose even higher.  This was in a Presbyterian community, after all, and I should think that she and hers came in for a fair bit of censure from the elders of the kirk. (Bugger them, Catherine).

It takes time to find out all this stuff, and I like doing it, which is why I’m rather disheartened by Ancestry.com’s decision to close down their publishing arm MyCanvas.  I’ve put all my stuff in their lovely picture books and, if I say so myself, they look great. But they’re liquidating this service, and all the stored data, in September, and unless I get a move on all my work will be lost. Over the years I’ve researched my in-laws’ family trees, and I’ve done my mother’s. It’s involved about 1,500 photographs and certificates and census returns, not to mention laying it out and making sense of it all. And it does take years, because I am a normal person and I have a family and work, and a social life.

wonder woman

Now I’m climbing through my father’s tree, but it’s proving even more of a fiddly process than usual. There’s lots of things I don’t know about my dad and his family; he was on special operations in Italy in 1943, and there’s a second cousin who drowned mysteriously in the Panama Canal. It won’t all be done by the time I have to send it to press, and that annoys and disappoints me.

If Ancestry had not made this decision, I was planning, when I had finished my dad’s book, on going back to the other trees and unravelling the scandal over Jeffery Kaye’s will, and William Armstrong’s naval service during the Boxer Rebellion. Now, I don’t know what to do. I can’t download the MyCanvas data; all I can do is print out everything I’ve done. I’ll have to put it in a folder and anything new will just have to be stuck in. It won’t look anywhere near as good will just be a mess.

Ancestry say they’re making this move to concentrate on their core business, but without being able to publish what you’ve discovered, even if it is just for your family, what is the point? Or is that just me?

About elainecanham

I started blogging because I'm a writer, and I thought I ought to. Now I realise that I blog because I lwant to; even when I can't think of much to say. I do a lot of work for local businesses - get in touch if you like my style.


27 thoughts on “Publish and be damned

  1. Some thoughts… I’m not familiar with MyCanvas but I am familiar with how long it takes to research this kind of stuff, so I appreciate this is a really bad thing to happen. If you want to have electronic version rather than just hard copy print, try http://www.nitropdf.com/pdf-reader – it’s free and if you install it you get a PDF creator as a printer option so when you print your 5 pages at a time you can convert them into PDFs rather than just printing hard copy. I use this all the time for saving ‘prints’ of internet pages. I cannot guarantee the format of the page will be exactly the same, but it is a start. The pro version allows you to combine files to make a single PDF. I’m not sure of price for pro version, but if this was a one time operation then there is a free 14 day trial http://www.nitropdf.com/try
    Then if you want book printing options – http://www.lulu.com/ and http://www.blurb.co.uk/ both have good reputation and quality.
    OR you could lobby these two companies and Ancestry to come up with an export option into their formats.

    Posted by Karen | July 27, 2014, 10:06 pm
    • oh Karen, that’s sounds like a really good idea. Just spent three days printing off my dad’s stuff, and I can either have really good quality finish, but without all the embellishments (shadow boxes and the like) or all the pretty stuff, and poor quality. Really, really frustrating…. Will look into what you say. Thanks.

      Posted by elainecanham | July 27, 2014, 10:20 pm
  2. Fascinating – and what special characters (and strong women) line your family tree. But how very annoying that Ancestry’s change of policy spoils your project. But it might be worthwhile, transferring everything to paper – at least this will better stand the test of time (providing you use the right sort of paper, oh, and the right sort of ink). I have a family tree my mother first drew up (literally, with pens and pencils) around 40 years ago, long before online research changed the searchable landscape. Each year we would add new births, marriages and deaths, again by hand, and the foot of the page grew progressively more crowded. But I still have this treasure. Nobody’s change of policy will eradicate it.

    Posted by Jools | July 21, 2014, 3:23 pm
    • I can print it all off, and I will (swelp me, I will) get it published before the deadline. Then, when I get new stuff, I’ll just have add to the printed sheets in a folder. Which is a shame, because the finish of MyCanvas is really high quality. Never mind. As you say, the content is more important.

      Posted by elainecanham | July 21, 2014, 9:23 pm
  3. Bad luck mate, you’ll have to transfer your words. My uncle’s some big fish on one of those sites – I popped in to look, say hello, see the ‘tree…’ but they wanted money, money, money. Most of the family are poor anyways- it is very embarrassing, professionally, and such, the scum. My great grandfather’s address was ‘The Woods’ for goodness sake, humiliating.

    ‘Fossicking’ did you say? Most impressive, and drew me in. :)…I’ll go research that…instead.

    Posted by brightonsauce | July 20, 2014, 10:43 pm
    • I’m very fond of fossicking. I use it a lot. I think having The Woods as an address is brilliant. One of my husbands great great uncles had an address that was, ‘the shed’. Much more interesting than No 23 High Street.

      Posted by elainecanham | July 20, 2014, 10:53 pm
  4. Oh, that’s awful. I’m so sorry. You have some amazing stories (even ordinary people have great stories to tell) – it’s a tragedy to lose all the work you put into organizing and preparing the info. I hope you find a solution.

    Posted by Nan Sampson | July 20, 2014, 10:03 pm
    • So do I. At the worst I can just print everything out. And I’m determined to get some kind of book done about my father’s family – I’m up to 160 pages, and I’ll be damned if I see that go west. I promised myself I’d do his story before anything else….

      Posted by elainecanham | July 20, 2014, 10:40 pm
  5. I know one and only one thing about our familys history. It’s probably been somewhat fabricated over the years, and the story is very vague. I keep meaning to go and look up the history on my fathers’ side.
    Evidently, a couple hundred years ago, my fathers’ side of the family came to the US because one of my Irish forefathers tried to kill the King of England. He failed, of course, and the family fled to the US.
    Then I was born, and you all get to read Naptimethoughts. Ta-Da!!!

    Posted by naptimethoughts | July 20, 2014, 3:47 pm
  6. Since you can upload( or is it download) the data from Ancestry onto a memory stick would it not be possible to cut and paste what you want into book form yourself and print it via createspace or whatever along with photographs and explanations? Often enough I see offers for photo books with people like Groupon which I think allow text which might be another option.
    I don’t actually know if this is feasible as you’re dealing with a technophobe but createspace books are cheap enough to do and at least you can order duplicates for other family members.
    xxx Hugs Galore xxx

    Posted by davidprosser | July 20, 2014, 3:39 pm
    • But, that’s just it. You can’t download it. You can only print it. And it will only be on one side of the paper. If you could download it…..that would be fine.

      Posted by elainecanham | July 20, 2014, 4:36 pm
  7. It’s my misfortune tuat we’re not related. However, I disagree. Yourself and a few other know how to research, but the Net now is so full of genealogical misinformation that posting personal trees on public forums should be banned. It’s getting impossible to sort fact from fiction. Access to records is one thing; posting Charlemagne’s descendents is a straight fib. I’m glad Ancestry.com are taking down those pages, and I hope other sites have the courage to follow suit.

    Posted by Bruce Goodman | July 20, 2014, 3:22 pm
    • No, Bruce, these are not pages you publish to a forum, this is where you lay out your stuff in a 10×8 book and it is published and bound and sent to you, for you only.

      Posted by elainecanham | July 20, 2014, 3:37 pm
    • OK – I suppose this “removal of facilities” will become more common now with info and programmes “on the Cloud” rather than on PCs. They surely don’t have a right to delete anything you’ve paid for??

      Posted by Bruce Goodman | July 20, 2014, 3:49 pm
    • that’s a moot point. I don’t actually pay for anything until I order the book to be published. But it’s just hundreds of hours of work….

      Posted by elainecanham | July 20, 2014, 4:39 pm
    • I think I’ll shut up about this one. Ignorance WAS bliss. Now I wish I’d known about the book publishing thing, as I spent over 20 years creating my own family tree website (which no one looks at, and all the relatives ask for a hard copy).

      Posted by Bruce Goodman | July 20, 2014, 8:57 pm
    • Oh, that is frustrating. Maybe they’ll change their minds….It seems such a mad thing to do.

      Posted by elainecanham | July 20, 2014, 9:02 pm
  8. I agree. People like more than to simply know about these things, so a book would be useful.

    Posted by Charles Yallowitz | July 20, 2014, 2:26 pm
  9. That’s an awful decision. What a nightmare. Your post makes me want to read much more about your family but then I’m a history fanatic! The very least they should do is allow the download of data. I think Loretta is right about making a stink on twitter. Maybe even start a mini-campaign.

    Posted by First Night Design | July 20, 2014, 12:12 pm
  10. What a shame. Yes, I think it is rather sad not to be able to continue – maybe start up a protest on Twitter. Apparently social media is the way to go if you want these places to take notice of your opinion.


    Posted by Loretta Livingstone | July 20, 2014, 11:37 am

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