Using a Blog to Write About Family History
A blog, short for Web log, is basically a very easy-to-use Web site. No need to worry too much about creativity or code. Instead a blog is basically an online journal -- you just open it up and start to write -- which makes it a great medium for documenting your family history search and sharing it with the world.
A Typical BlogBlogs share a common format, which makes it easy for readers to quickly skim for interesting or pertinent information. It its basic form, a typical blog contains:
- short, informational entries - generally arranged in reverse chronological order
- a time and/or date for each post
- links to other blogs or Web sites for additional content
- archives of all previously posted content, sometimes arranged into categories
1. Determine Your PurposeWhat do you want to communicate with your blog? A genealogy or family history blog can be used for many reasons -- to tell family stories, to document your research steps, to share your findings, to collaborate with family members or to display photos. Some genealogists have even created a blog to share daily entries from an ancestor's diary, or to post family recipes.
2. Select a Blogging PlatformThe best way to understand the ease of blogging is to just jump right in. If you don't want to invest a lot of money in this at first, there are quite a few free blogging services on the Web, including Blogger, LiveJournal and WordPress. There are even blog hosting options geared specifically for genealogists, such as on the social networking site GenealogyWise. Alternatively, you can sign up for a hosted blogging service, such as TypePad, or pay for a standard hosted Web site and upload your own Blogging Software Comparison.
More: Choosing Blogging Software - 6 Questions Bloggers Should Ask Themselves, Overview of Blogging Tools
3. Select the Format & Theme for Your BlogThe best things about blogs is that they are very simple to use, but you will have to make some decisions about how you want your blog to look.
- color scheme and style - most blog software offers a set of pre-designed templates, so this is simply a matter of choosing the one you like
- categories - Many blogs use categories to define the general theme of each post, making it easy to find all posts on a particular topic. Basically categories are an organizational scheme. You may choose to categorize by surname or by locality. Or you can categorize by topic - census, cemetery, deaths, etc. Or you can choose not to categorize your blog posts at all.
- your content team - if you want your blog to be a collaborative effort, then you'll need to select which people you plan to give access to post to your blog
- comments - If you want others to be able to post responses to your information, then you can open up comments on your blog. This makes it easy for other researchers to get in touch with you or add new information, but can sometimes attract a few crazies as well. You can always close comments if they don't work well for you.
If you aren't sure about some of this, don't worry. These are all decisions that can be changed and tweaked as you go.
4. Write Your First Blog PostNow that we have the preliminaries out of the way, it is time to create your first post. If you don't do a lot of writing, this will probably be the most difficult part of blogging. Break yourself into blogging gently by keeping your first posts short and sweet. Browse other family history blogs for inspiration. But try to write at least one new post every few days.
More: Overview of a Blog Post
5. Publicize Your BlogOnce you have a few posts on your blog, you'll need an audience. Begin with an email to friends and family to let them know about your blog. If you're using a blogging service, then make sure that you turn on the ping option. This alerts the major blog directories every time you make a new post. You can also do this through sites such as Ping-O-matic. You'll also definitely want to join GeneaBloggers, where you'll find yourself in good company among over 2,000 other genealogy bloggers. Consider participating in a few blog carnivals as well, such as the Carnival of Genealogy.
More: 15 Tips to Increase Blog Traffic
6. Keep it FreshStarting a blog is the hard part, but your job's not done yet. A blog is something you have to keep up with. You don't have to write every day, but you do need to add to it on a regular basis or people won't come back to read it. Vary what you write about to keep yourself interested. One day you can post some photos from a cemetery visit, and the next you can talk about a great new database you found online. The interactive, ongoing nature of a blog is one of the reasons it is such a good medium for genealogists - it keeps you thinking about, searching for and sharing your family history!
More: 5 Tips to Write Blog Poss That Get Noticed
Kimberly Powell, About.com's Genealogy Guide since 2000, is a professional genealogist and the author of "Everything Family Tree, 2nd Edition" (2006) and "The Everything Guide to Online Genealogy" (2008). Click here for more information on Kimberly Powell.