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It seems that there are a million genealogy blogs (waaaaaay too many to follow). I'm sure that many are begun and then abandoned, but I can't help feeling that I'm missing something... Is there a natural progression towards eventually blogging about your genealogy experiences and research? Is it a networking thing? Why do so many people start blogging about their research or the industry? Here are some reasons that I can think of:

  • You have a product or service to sell.
  • You want relatives to find you/your research and make contact.
  • You want to record your thoughts and research.
  • You want to become popular enough to make money from your blog and/or receive free stuff.

Can someone please describe the benefits of starting a genealogy blog? I feel that I already have enough commitments in my life and don't want to embark upon something that I don't need. ...but I feel that maybe I'm not aware of all the positives and may be missing out on something positive.

  • 1
    I too will be interested in reading the answers to this. As you say there are so many out there already, whatever you do has to be unique and has to get readers coming back for more. This means a regular time commitment from you to research and publish your content. I know I am not that dedicated. I have a blog section on my site but call it news and put my site / content update details in it. That is enough of a commitment for me, I prefer to dedicate my time to research. – Colin Apr 21 '13 at 6:18
  • This should prompt a very wide-ranging discussion! – Fortiter Apr 21 '13 at 11:54
  • @Fortiter It could, but hopefully someone will post an excellent answer that helps us all :) – Canadian Girl Scout Apr 22 '13 at 2:32
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Funny I only started mine two weeks ago, and I had several reasons for doing so. I began my family research about 7 years ago overcoming all sorts of brick walls, spending days looking through Parish records and microfilm etc (everyone here knows the pain). I invested a lot of time and when you look back and think about the cost also it all mounts up. I wouldn't do it any differently and enjoyed the experience.

Why a geneblog? Firstly I was was proud of my achievement and wanted to showcase it and secondly, I wanted the information to be available to other researchers who may be connected to my family. If I was starting out and I came across a site like mine 7 years ago, I would have thought I hit the jackpot.

While my blog is only a few weeks old, people are starting to contact me and we are starting a dialog, some think they are connected to my family, some just find the stories interesting. I find this a benefit and there is also the satisfaction that all the research you did was not in vain. Like you time is an issue for me, I don't have enough of it so there is also an option to create a static blog, provide your information, allow researcher to contact you and politely tell them you will respond when you can.

I guess the bottom line is, what do you want to get out of it? and think of the alternatives. Files of paper records and research on a shelf at your home, maybe even some kind of self publication (photo books are very accessible these days).

7

My first blog was started to record the events as my husband went through Cancer treatments to keep my 6 children informed and not have to repeat myself. It still stands as a memorial to my Hero. After he died, I began a blog more as a journal of my progression after my loss. While in the blogging community, I found some wonderful genealogy blogs and loved having them as "virtual friends". That was where I found Geneabloggers and the "boot camp". I decided I would write my Hero's stories so they would not be forgotten. I also tried experimenting with the Geneablogger prompts, and began recording findings and stories of genealogy research. Along the way, I became a FamilySearch missionary and I, of course, would share information about Indexing and FamilySearch changes. I have never taken money for any promotions. I love helping others become successful and promote those who are working hard to build a business. I suppose you might say, my genealogy blog has become a way of serving family to record stories and research results, and serving the genealogy community in helping them in return for all that they give to others.I love blogging, but have found lately, I have slowed and it is not a daily post any longer. I am striving for balance in my life, thus blogging has been relegated to a few times a month.

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    Welcome to site! How did you find us? – user47 Apr 29 '13 at 2:53
  • @JustinY Canadian Girl Scout had sent me a tweet about it. I came to answer her question. There is nothing worse than to ask a question and not get answers. – Fran Ellsworth Apr 29 '13 at 3:40
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It's a difficult question and may not be one that someone else can answer for you. You've listed quite a few "benefits" but it can be quite individual based on the person blogging. Many people like to have an outlet for their interests and like to share their experiences, both for their own amusement and for the purposes of helping others. Some blog so they can share their research with their extended family and because it might help find other interested parties.

There are also more tangible purposes like blogging in conjunction with a business in research or genealogy or with the hope of getting "free stuff".

Remember that people like to talk about what they are doing/interested in and this often spurs a lot of new blogs. It's a bit of an informal community thing in many ways but most blogs don't last because it IS a lot of work.

As for whether YOU should blog, I don't think that's something anyone else can answer for you. You should ask yourself why YOU feel like you want/need to and whether that's sustainable and valid reason. If you decide to blog, it is a good amount of commitment and you should have a clear idea of what your focus is and how much time you will commit to it.

Writing and blogging comes naturally to some people - some people can't help but write about SOMETHING :) But it's not as natural to others and I don't think you need to force yourself to blog if it's not in your nature and you're not doing it for a business purpose.

  • Hi, thanks for answering. I'm not actually interested in starting a blog. Just wondering why so many people seem to do it. – Canadian Girl Scout Apr 22 '13 at 6:18
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    Honestly, some folks really LIKE blogging :) – Maura van der Linden Apr 22 '13 at 18:21
4

For me my personal genealogy blog is an easy way to

  1. Track open "issues" I work with
  2. To track the progress I do
  3. Fast way to share with other people the status of progress with e.g. the DNA testing and the Stockhaus family http://minancestry.blogspot.se/2013/12/stockhaus-dna.html

And it is always available from my phone or home at the PC

4

One of the hidden benefits of blogging about your work that may not be immediately obvious (assuming that you write a blog about your own research) is that it gives you a record of your progress and your journey as a genealogist. It's a curious thing about humans, but when we learn things, we often focus so much on what we are doing at the moment, that we don't get any sense of the progress we have made since we started out. In school we learn in groups, and what we learn becomes things that "everybody knows". We learn things, and we internalize them, and the information becomes "stuff we know"; we don't think about how we learned it. Even if we graduate and get a degree, we may have a sense of accomplishment, but it doesn't necessarily give us a sense of our progress because we are moving along with a group all doing the same thing.

Once we are out of the classroom setting, and working on our own, it is only when we meet someone who knew us "back then", and we discover that our teachers or fellow students don't know all those things that we have learned since we left school, that we get a sense of how much we have learned since we left them. But if you write a journal, you have a record of your journey. You can go back and review the work of your younger self and see your own progress.

If you write this kind of blog, you don't even have to post it online to get the benefit of it. A friend of mine, hearing me complain about not being able to find good research journaling software, suggested I set up a blog locally on my Mac and to record what I did that way. I wish I had done so; it would have been a backup record of all the things I had found, which I'm now having to reconstruct after losing a database and moving to a new computer. I could have retraced my steps, and looked over the research of the early days with the experience I have now, picking up missed leads and clues.

However, it's not necessary that a blog be about your own work. One of my favorite bloggers writes about her hometown (she no longer lives there).

She may indeed make contact with relatives, but she can also interact with others who are interested in the same place -- thus her blog serves as a virtual genealogy society and local historical society. It's not only for people doing family history, but attracts a wider audience.

As far as I can tell, there is no overlap between her family and my husband's family, but any posts she makes about town history, the geography, the architecture, etc. are valuable to me, since I've never visited the town. No one person can know everything there is to know, so when readers comment, she too can learn about resources she may have neglected, or simply have someone to talk to about her hometown.

The other benefit of writing a blog, or starting a website, or any posting online like here on SE, is that it helps you focus your thoughts. Writing for an audience, even an imaginary one, makes you examine a problem again in a new way -- used effectively, it's a great way to break down brick walls.

The choice of which venue to use for your writing -- a website, a blog, SE, a mailing list, or some other forum -- depends on the individual person. But the big advantage that a blog (or another kind of dated diary) has over these other forms is that it leaves a chronological record behind so you can see where you've been and when you got there.

P.S. some thoughtful commentary about blogging vs. other means of establishing an online presence here: The Death of the Blog, Again, Again, Again from science fiction writer John Scalzi, on his blog Whatever.

3

I started a history blog on Blogger that tied into the interests of an active mailing list that I belong to, the International Black Sheep Society of Genealogists. I wrote items that interested me, mostly Black Sheep-related, like 19th Century murders and about "train-wreckers", vandals who would purposefully cause train wrecks. Even though I had followers, I also had a follow-through problem and eventually stopped.

I have read that most bloggers make a micro-pittance on their work when they attach advertising. The amounts per hit are so small that it takes many, many hits to amount to anything. So, even if the the vast majority of bloggers start with dollar signs in their eyes, they are soon disabused of that notion. Of course, there's always the occasional Julie Powell whose blog becomes a book, then a major motion picture starring Meryl Streep. (She did not begin her blog with any money in mind, however. Its popularity led to the development of those extended projects.)

Some blogging platforms, like Wordpress, do not allow you to include advertising unless you purchase a high-traffic, high-priced commercial account, nor do they allow financial click-throughs. (A modest request for PayPal assistance is allowed, I believe.) So, if you plan to try advertising, check the site's terms before you commit.

If you are interested in blogging, I suggest publishing regularly. That way, readers will hear from you when they expect to and won't figure that you are lost in the ether if you miss a post. Some people publish every few days, some weekly, some monthly. If you want to write, but the commitment for weekly posts is too much, aim for the monthly posts. It's the consistency that I recommend. And don't stray from your stated topic or you will have dissatisfied people jumping ship. (Be aware that topics may evolve over time, though, or that you can create an adjunct blog for a new topic.) Spell-check and use the best grammar you can summon.

And don't do it if it isn't fun.

ADDED THOUGHT:

Posts do not need to be elaborate. If you find a wonderful image that ties into your topic and you are up against your deadline, post that. One post I made for the "Wordless Wednesday" theme was a copy of a detailed and very humorous editorial drawing from a 1903 edition of The Evening World, New York City, illustrating a radium economy in lieu of money.

1

This isn't an answer, but rather a variation on the original question. Ignoring the two profit-oriented motives leaves (2) eliciting contacts and (3) recording one's thoughts and research.

Regarding (2), there are many non-blog genealogy websites (usually surname-specific) that showcase the efforts of one or more researchers. I'd be very curious to learn whether blogs are more or less successful in eliciting contacts than a "family tree" website of this type.

Regarding (3), my own experience is that, having probably a couple of hundred e-mail contacts with whom I go anywhere from a few weeks to a few years between exchanges, I often need to summarize my work since the point of the last exchange. Composing such a summary is, I suspect, not unlike composing this type of blog post, except that it's specific to one target individual. Is that in fact the case, are many of these blog posts research summaries of some sort?

-1

The reasons you listed are all valid. The well-known bloggers do it mostly to obtain and promote speaking engagements, which is why they have so many boring posts about who was elected or retired from various societies.

Average people blog simply to journal their research experiences, show off recent finds, and get help with brick walls. Most of their readers tend to be other bloggers.

Personally, I started a blog because another (non-genealogy) blogger made up a fictitious murder story to gain notoriety, to which I felt the need to respond.

On a more positive note, I've also used the blog to discover the titles of a couple songs recorded by my grandfather's band. The only pitfall so far is feeling guilty when you lapse too long between posts.

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