Re-reading the first blog I wrote on my father's book, I have become more comfortable with the shocking amount of time it has taken me to get to the stage of finalizing and printing the book. I have been working on it since before I retired, but in fact it was finished in one sense about ten years ago. That was then I had assembled my father's memoirs from all the places I found them, edited them, transcribed them into the computer and printed a copy. That copy was then read in the immediate family, including aloud by my son to my mother. Now the time has come to produce a number of copies, complete with illustrations and an index. So why do I feel apologetic? Maybe because it shouldn't take twenty years to bring a project to its final stage.
Being the first family history project I undertook, my father's book was at its start the defining moment for my interest in family history. I literally didn't know what I was getting into. I was approaching the event horizon of a black hole, about to fall in. I fell, not knowing then that there was no return
The minutiae associated with finalizing a book can be tedious. My biggest problems have to do with format such as making sure all the chapter heads are in the same font and dealing with "widows and orphans." Such as these would not be problems if I had worked on the book steadily over a period of months; they are problem when I have worked unsteadily on the book over two decades, and forget what I have done. And even after twenty years I keep finding more material to include in the book, the latest being transcriptions of newspaper clippings of letters my father wrote to the Saskatoon Star Phoenix about the political situation in Saskatchewan in the Fifties. They are worth including; they say a lot about my father. I suppose they could be appendices? To put them anywhere else would destroy my pagination and I have worked on that LONG ENOUGH. My son Jeff finally repaired the mess I had got myself into with respect to the index; I cannot alter that. Yes, I have talked myself into it. The letters to the editor will be appendices.
And there will be several appendices. From the family genealogy come Dad's ancestry and descendant printouts. There are teaching rhymes handed down to him from his grandfather; one begins, "These are the Britons, a barbarous race/Chiefly employed in war and the chase/ Who dwelt in our native England." It's a cumulative poem, each verse adding another group of the inhabitants and always ending with the first verse, like The House that Jack Built. I have tried repeatedly since I acquired an Internet connection to complete that verse, as Dad didn't remember the entire poem. His younger sister added a few lines, but the poem is incomplete and likely to remain so. There is reference to it on one site on Internet. The reference looks promising, as it is one which Dad's grandfather Henry Thomas Wake mentions in one of his notebooks of the 1850s. However to access it I would need to become a subscriber to "Notes and Queries" which seems excessive merely to find lines of an ancient piece of doggerel.
Well! A moment ago I looked again on the Internet. Since I last looked, the Oxford University Press has put ALL Notes and Queries back issues, 160 years' worth, online, and my daughter is going to drill down at that site to see if it is now possible to get the relevant article without having to subscribe to the periodical, which otherwise would be of minimal interest.
The game's afoot: "The Adventure of the Lost Teaching Rhyme." But I won't hold up finishing Dad's book for this. If I AM able to track down the full text of the poem, I will write a piece about teaching rhymes in general (incorporating my protestations about the lost pedagogical device of memorization)and my adventures with this one in particular.
Well again! I had calculated that using this blog as a way of sorting out my thoughts on my family history projects would be of value. Here is evidence of the efficacy of my calculation.
This blog has been written over several days. Yesterday my sister helped me finalize the captions for some of the illustrations for my father's book. I had been stuck on the names of some of the children in a school picture including my father at age nine - 1904 that would be. With her aid I now have them all identified. The picture includes the best one we have of Dad's younger brother Alfred, who died very young.
One thing leads to another; it was ever thus. Writing about Alfie's death, and recalling the deaths at a young age of so many of my kin a century (and less) ago - everyone's kin, one must suppose - I think there is a story there, with the underlying theme that the good old days were in fact dreadful. Deaths from communicable diseases and deaths from puerperal fever are extremely rare in this country now; this was not the case in the relatively recent past. On the Internet is a table of the names of the diseases which killed our forebears, and the present equivalent names. Consumption - tuberculosis. Dropsy - congestive heart failure. Brain fever - haven't found a clear equivalent for that yet but with it often following measles, perhaps it was measles encephalitis. I am an old nurse, and these things interest me. But I won't put it on the list yet as a project. This requires further mulling. And it represents ANOTHER value of writing this blog.