Saturday 10 February 2024

My Writing Activity and Success

In recent years I have found myself more engaged in researching material for new articles rather than in writing new blog posts. When I started Discover Genealogy in 2013, I had lots of material from my experiences as an Online Parish Clerk, in collecting data and answering queries form people who wanted to learn about their ancestors in those areas of Devon, England that I looked after.

More data for family historians has come online since then on sites such as Ancestry, FindMyPast, TheGenealogist, MyHeritage and a host of societies, both local and international. That has reduced the number of people looking for information from Online Parish Clerks and other regional helpers.

Partly from my experience in blog writing, my own activity in writing more lengthy and informative pieces took off. Since 2010 I have had 31 articles published in family history society journals. Beginning in 2017, I had my first article published in a commercial magazine. All my articles are all listed on my blog page, Genealogy Related Publications.

Most of the early articles came from work as an Online Parish Clerk and stories I discovered when helping other family historians. Those in commercial publications have been much more intensive and involved considerable research. I will spend at least six months looking for information for these larger submissions and getting a draft finished. A few that had a great deal of work in them did not even make it past the editors’ first review and have gone back to the drawing board.

I have written two books, Surviving Mother Nature’s Tests (2018) and Genealogy and the Little Ices Age (2023) and co-written another one, The Wreck of the Bay of Panama: 10 March 1891 (2022).

I am currently working on four articles scheduled for publication in Family Tree magazine (UK), three for 2024 issues and one for 2025. Another has been submitted to two international genealogical society journals and I am waiting to hear whether either one is interested. The current and recent pieces involve subjects pertaining to my own ancestors as well as some general topics that have come out of previous research, particularly regarding my interests in Mother Nature and the Little Ice Age as they relate to family history.

On the list for publication in Family Tree magazine (UK) are:

·         Maps and Marriages (tentative title) – In looking for confirmation of who the parents of my 3rd great-grandparents were, I decided to take a different tack in searching for information about their families. I thought that looking at a variety of documents and, particularly, using maps to reference where events occurred and people lived, might help in narrowing down the searches for my people. In doing this summary I put together a map that showed where certain events took place – such as baptisms, marriages, burials – and what addresses were given for businesses or residences in apprenticeship agreements, directories, and land tax lists.

·         Master Craftsmen (tentative title) – The article will focus on craftsmen and tradesmen of the past, mainly but not restricted to the 19th century and earlier periods, even extending back into ancient history. It will list sources for information for family historians and methods for searches. It will have examples of buildings (focussed mainly on houses owned by my ancestors) and the ways in which they were constructed. Emphasis will be place on the people who built the structures were viewed by their families and by the community at large. It will have lots of photos and other images showing construction techniques and building styles over time.

·         Witchcraft and the Little Ice Age (tentative title) – This article will examine the history of witchcraft accusations in the context of environmental and climatic conditions. Pertinent references to old publications explaining the facts of witchcraft and to new publications offering commentary on the phenomena of witchcraft trials will be listed. Histories of witch hunts in Europe, the British Isles and North America will be outlined. Examples of specific cases, where documents can be found, will be presented with a few familial connections reviewed. Readers may be stimulated to see if there were any individuals in their family lines who may have been part of the witch hunts.

·         The Plague Years: More to the impacts on people than just disease – While examining occasions when large number of deaths occurred centuries ago, can we confidently conclude they were due to natural causes such as epidemics (of which plague was one), famine, both, or to some other type of event? The plague years, of course, have been recognized as being some of the most devasting for causing the deaths of millions of people. The Black Death alone, introduced to Europe in 1346, is thought to have killed at least a third of the population (25-35 million people). But other natural phenomena were also present that induced or exacerbated the spread and devastation of the disease in Europe.

Out for review with two groups is another piece:

·         Effects of Strife: How disruptive and historical events are reflected in parish register entries – Significant changes in the numbers of births/baptisms, marriages and deaths/burials (BMDs) from year-to-year, or decade-to-decade, can often be correlated to specific physical, political or social incidents, many of which directly affected lives and livelihoods. The effects of historical episodes such as wars, famines, epidemics, industrial developments, government policies and edicts, and migration are reflected in graphic plots of BMD totals. The data may suggest normal social development or occasions of strife that were imposed on residents.

As an adjunct to writing, I have compiled many of my ideas and information into presentations. Some worked the other way, though, with material from a few talks used for articles. Currently I have over a dozen active presentations in my inventory. Several more are being prepared. In 2024 I have six talks scheduled, a more manageable number from the peak during the COVID Pandemic years of 2021-22 when I gave 20 online presentations.

All these projects, of course, have kept me away from blog posts.