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Genealogy Blogs 101

Fun with Genealogy Web Logs

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RSS. Newsreaders. Atom feeds. It may sound technical and confusing, but genealogy blogs are actually a very neat way to keep up with the latest genealogy techniques and databases. The news comes straight to you - on the Web, in your news reader, to your email. All you have to do is choose the blogs you're interested in - the rest happens pretty much "automagically."

Why Read a Genealogy Blog?

A blog, short for "web log" is basically an easy way to post new information online quickly, in an easy to read format. When a new article or tip is posted, it is sent automatically to anyone who has subscribed to the blog. By subscribing to one or more genealogy blogs you can easily keep up with the latest techniques, tips and databases from the leaders in the genealogy field with a very small time investment. Genealogy blogs are also a great source for locating genealogical data, enlightening discussions and much more.

How to Read Genealogy Blogs

Some people already read genealogy blogs - and may not even know it - by visiting the Web page of each blog individually. For example, this site's homepage serves as a blog which you can easily read by just visiting About Genealogy. There are quite a few interesting genealogy blogs out there (check out some of my favorite genealogy blogs in the Related Blogs to the right of this article) and you probably have other interests outside of genealogy as well. As your interests grow, visiting each page individually can become a bit overwhelming. The best way to read blogs is to use a 'reader' or 'aggregator.' These tools bring all of the new posts in the blogs that interest you together into one place. Rather than visit a dozen different sites every day, you can visit just one. Think of it as targeted headlines for Web surfing.

Find a Blog Reader or Aggregator

A feed reader, blog reader or news aggregator is a simple tool that maintains a list of the Web blogs you're subscribed to, checks them at regular intervals for updates, and displays their contents in a readable format. All blog readers track what you've read previously and highlight new content for easy scanning. There are two types of blog reader or feed reader:

Application-based
Application-based blog readers or news readers are simple software applications that install on your computer or handheld device. Whenever you go online, they check the RSS feeds for blogs to which you're subscribed and pull the new posts into the reader on your computer. These types of readers tend to have the most features, but they lack mobility. Most blog readers prefer Web-based readers these days.

"RSS" stands for "real simple syndication." It provides an easy way to gather and display updated information from multiple different sources, including blogs, news stories, Web site updates and stock statistics.

Web-based
If you don't like the idea of installing something on your computer, or don't go online more than once or twice a week, you may find it more useful to use an online blog aggregator. This is basically an online blog service which works in your browser to aggregate all of the blogs to which you're subscribed in one place online. Popular online blog aggregators include iGoogle (Google Reader), Bloglines and MyYahoo. This type of feed reader is convenient because you can check your feeds from any computer.

How to Subscribe to Genealogy Blogs

One reason that many people find blogs confusing is that there is no single way that all Web sites let you know that you can syndicate, or subscribe to, their content. Most sites and blogs use an orange "XML" or "RSS" button to invite you to subscribe to their content. Other commonly used terms to identify news or blog feeds include: "Atom", "RDF" or even something as simple as "Grab My Feed" or "Syndicate This Site." Clicking the button will add that feed to your feed reader list.

If you're using an online feed reader and aren't logged in, you may need to subscribe to the site manually. When you click on a feed button, you'll be taken to a page filled with strange looking code. To add that site, you'll need to copy the address of that page from the browser toolbar and then paste it into your newsreader to subscribe to that feed.

How to Subscribe to the About Genealogy Blog

If you have an iGoogle or MyYahoo page, you can easily add the latest headlines from this site to your personalized page by clicking on the iGoogle or My Yahoo link on the top of each blog post.

If you're using an RSS reader like Bloglines or NewsGator, you can find quick links to add the About Genealogy headlines to your reader on my Stay Up-to-Date page. This includes links for RSS feeds as well as direct buttons for RSS readers such as My Yahoo and Google.

I hope you have fun in the brave, new world of blogs! Here are some fun and interesting genealogy blogs to get you started.

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