This page is intended to give you background into the Wimble Family Chronicles project, and to provide some amount of help for other families that might like to produce their own documented living history - their own family chronicles. We will try to provide examples of how to do the many things required to publish a continuous living history, including story ideas, the mechanics of formatting the document, how to preserve the history, use of multimedia, and anything else we can think of which will help you produce a rich shared experience for your family.
For many years, I have been dismayed at how much information is lost whenever a friend or relative died. I always loved to listen to my grandmother's stories of living through the depression, or my father's stories of World War II, and so on. In order to preserve some of that wisdom and experience, I began publishing the Wimble Family Chronicles.
Every few months, I beg, cajole, or otherwise try to get friends and relatives to send stories to me about their lives. It might be a recollection of something while growing up, a recipe, a humorous anecdote, one person's view of some event in their lives, a job review, poetry, or just a letter to say hello. I also ask for pictures, postcards, business cards, school awards, graduation certificates, marriage licenses, or any other interesting documentation that I might publish in the Chronicles.
As a result, our family now has several years of documented, living history. The hope is to keep the Chronicle publication ongoing for many years into the future.
Starting out, I did not have much of an idea what the Chronicles would look like, or how much interest there would be in supporting it. I talked with my parents about the idea, and refined what it was I thought I could do within the constraints I had regarding equipment, money, and time. I managed to convince a couple of people to send me some tentative first stories, and the first edition was published. Here is an HTML version of the cover letter that went out with the first edition.
There were lots of things I did wrong in this first edition, and a few I did right. If you can view "Acrobat" files, look at the just the first page of the first article in the Chronicles. The view that you are seeing now is much better than the original printing - this view is from a reformatting project on the whole Chronicles (more on that later).
Originally, I didn't have a scanner for my pooter (yes, I know most of you still call this machine a computer), so I reserved a rectangular area on the page to hold the picture, cut out the rectangle from the printout, pasted the picture behind the page so that the picture showed through the rectangle, and then just made a photocopy of the page.
The biggest mistake I made in writing the first story was in trying to say everything at once. For weeks, I just jotted down various memories of growing up. Then I wrote a short story which pretty much talked about most of those memories. The problem is that each one of those memories is probably a story in itself. At the time, however, I didn't know if I was going to be able to convince anyone else to send material for another edition of the Chronicles. I didn't know how big the average story would be, or what it would talk about, or a host of other things. I also didn't know how to write very well.
A thing I think I did do well was to incorporate a copy of the person's handwriting, and to incorporate pictures. I typically only show the handwriting the first time someone submits a story. I think it adds to the experience of knowing something about the person. On occasion, I may incorporate the handwriting again, if the handwriting changes, or if for aesthetic reasons it makes sense to do so.
Another thing that worked out well was to use a serious publishing software program. Originally I used PageMaker, but later switched to FrameMaker for it's greater capabilities and control. This allowed me to easily create a good index to the document.
You can view the one page of the index in Acrobat format. I've tired various philosophies for the index. I personally have no use for book indexes that only show references to a few, high level items, or only references to the first time an item is defined. This index needed to serve the needs of someone who vaguely remembers part of a story, or a place, and wants to find the right story.
So I index everything that is vaguely interesting, and sometimes in multiple ways. For instance, if someone talks about a camping trip where there was some joke involving an air mattress, then "air mattress" goes into the index. If someone mentioned how he almost accidentally knocked someone out, then that goes into the index. Names and places all go into the index, usually in a hierarchical form. So, everyone with the name "Wimble" is shown in the index under the "Wimble" entry. Articles which talk about California as a state are indexed under "California", but articles which talk about Sunnyvale, California are indexed as "Sunnyvale" underneath the "California" index item. Sometimes the index has to be altered for clarity. For instance, an article which just talks about "going to the Bay" might be indexed as "Bay (Mallet's Bay)" - with the extra information to indicate which bay is being referenced - and it may also be indexed as "Mallet's Bay" under the "Vermont" index entry. So the index isn't something that can be automatically generated. It has to be hand generated after many readings of the article and after much thinking about how you want the index to be used.
Pictures were a problem. I tried using cut out rectangles, as described, and photocopying pages. I tried using early grey-scale scanners. I tried color scanners and slide scanners. I tried printing pages on ink jet printers, black and white laser printers, color laser printers, dye sublimation printers, and one or two other printer technologies. The problems revolve around the amount of work involved in preparing the document, the quality of the document, the cost to print the document, and the permanence of the document.
One sample story from The Wimble Family Chronicles is "Pescadero Bike Ride" available as an Adobe Acrobat (pdf) file ( bytes). If your browser doesn't support pdf files, here is the "Pescadero Bike Ride" story in HTML format, but it's not as pretty as the pdf format.
Another sample is "The Lolo Adventure Motorway" in pdf format.
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