I hear this question all the time:
“I’ve spent years on my ancestors’ story. Am I ready to publish?”
“Reasonably Exhaustive Search”
Can you say you’ve conducted a reasonably exhaustive search before going to press? To decide, ask yourselves these questions, also outlined by the BCG:
- Have you examined a wide range of high quality sources?
- What is the probability that undiscovered evidence will overturn a too-hasty conclusion?
Even if your answers to the questions above indicate that you’re ready to publish, there remains that fear–the fear that somewhere out there is a gold mine of undiscovered data that would render your ancestoir irrelevant and/or incomplete. But before you let that fear put your printing project on hold, consider the following:
When speaking with Suzy Barile, author of her ancestral history, Undaunted Heart: The True Story of a Southern Belle & a Yankee General, I asked her, “How did you know when you were ready to publish?”
Barile explained her own “reasonably exhaustive search” details, but followed up with this helpful anecdote:
AFTER publishing her ancestors’ story, Barile was contacted by a woman in a faraway state who had happened upon a scrapbook in a dumpster that turned out to be the scrapbook of the “southern belle” ancestor for whom this history was written. Does this mean that she published too soon? Not exactly. This new information–the previously undiscovered scrapbook–would never have made it to Barile had she not published the book. The book’s noteriety is what helped the scrapbook-finder identify whose scrapbook she had found.
In other words: don’t hold back because there might be more records out there. Get your story published *because* there might be more records out there, whose owners might not know how to find you unless you make your story public. But only do this after you can say you have completed a resonably exhaustive search. You can always publish a second addition or–better yet–a sequel or prequel!
In the meantime, try blogging about your ancestors while crafting their ancestoir. This might help bring informants out of the proverbial woodwork, too.
So keep searching, keep writing, and let me know how you’re progressing!