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We met John Titford to ask him more about his life as a writer

How did you get started as a genealogy writer?

I started researching my family history under my own steam. My work was entered into a competition held by the Institute of Heraldic and Genealogical Studies and won first prize. It was then picked up by the publishers Phillimore, and gradually my career progressed from teaching into writing, editing and antiquarian bookselling. I had actually written other books before this, though: back in the 1970s I wrote about Derbyshire dialects plus, in a bit of a tangent, a book about the media and communication studies.

What's the most enjoyable thing about writing?

The challenge of expressing oneself as precisely as possible, with a touch of wit and humour. I like to try to get inside the head of a reader, as well as making my writing attractive as a piece of language. I work over things again and again.

You mention finance in your book. How cheaply would you say someone could produce their own?

With modern short-run technology, it can be as little as a few hundred pounds. But my advice is to get other people to underwrite the cost - try friends, relatives and seeking subscriptions.

What if my research isn't finished yet?

I hope your family history will never be finished! No piece of historical writing can ever be complete for all time. All history is conjecture: what we need is truth, not total neatness. Not even the whole truth, either, just that part of it which you have time and energy to deal with. Set yourself high standards of accuracy, but be honest about what you can and can't achieve.

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