Earlier this month, Weekly Genealogist survey questions on blogs prompted a range of questions and comments from readers. While some asked what blogs were, others wrote that they read hundreds of blogs a week. Based on this feedback, we asked blogger — and NEHGS member — Randy Seaver to provide some insight into blogs and blogging.
— Lynn Betlock, Editor
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Welcome to the World of Genealogy Blogs
by Randy Seaver, Genea-Musings
What do you call a writer who tells family stories, opines on current genealogy news and issues, and shares research tips on a website that encourages comments from readers? If you guessed a “blogger” — someone who writes a blog (the term comes from “web log”) — you're right.
I started my Genea-Musings blog in April 2006, thinking that the world needed my opinions on world affairs, science, religion, and sports. Well, it soon became a genealogy-only blog, with family stories, news commentary, software and website reviews, research advice, and some genealogy humor. I write fifteen to twenty-five blog posts each week, and that often consumes ten to twenty hours of my time. My blog subjects come from my own research, questions from readers, new record collections, new websites, and new software. Reader feedback is valued, and often helps me with my own research challenges.
There are over 2,000 genea-bloggers currently listed on the www.geneabloggers.com website in dozens of categories, including Acadian Genealogy, Forensic Genealogy, Libraries and Archives, Technology, and Writing Your Family History. Three to four hundred blog posts are written each day by these genea-journalists. The writers range from teenagers and busy moms and dads to empty nesters and retired researchers — all of whom are having fun writing about their passion for genealogy and family history. There are genea-bloggers all over the world.
The beauty of genealogy blogging is that anybody with a computer and genealogy stories and experience can do it for free (www.blogger.com and www.wordpress.com are two free platforms). Setting up a blog is easy — it takes ten minutes at most to create a blog title and description, and choose a blog template (layout, background, fonts, etc.). You are then ready to write your first post. A blogger might add a blog archive (previous posts), subject labels, a blog roll (list of websites and blogs), and widgets (banners, badges, etc.). Some genealogy blogs have advertisements for affiliate companies. A blog can have a free URL associated with the host site (e.g., http://wetree.blogspot.com) or a paid URL (e.g., www.cluewagon.com).
Blogs usually have from one to twenty posts on their main page. The most recent post appears at the top of the web page. All blog posts are archived, and content can be found by search engines. Most blogs permit readers to comment on each post, and comments are desired and encouraged. Many genea-bloggers post family pictures, document images, and screen captures to enhance the text.
Genea-bloggers are part of a welcoming, encouraging, and helpful community. You may know the names of some of them, such as Dick Eastman, Leland Meitzler, Lisa Louise Cooke, and Michael John Neill. Some readers will be familiar with Thomas MacEntee, Elyse Doerflinger, Michael Hait, and Amy Coffin. Some bloggers use a nom de plume, like the Ancestry Insider, DearMYRTLE, footnoteMaven, and Jasia. At regional and national genealogical conferences, “Official Bloggers” (sponsored by the conference promoters) are making their presence known, writing about classes, exhibits, and their experiences.
The most popular tool used to read multiple blogs is Google Reader. Users can copy and paste a blog URL into the “Subscribe” box in Google Reader. When a new post is published, Google Reader adds it to the user's Reader list for easy access. To comment, the user can click on the blog post title in the Reader and go to that post. The Reader reduces the time it takes to visit a number of blogs.
If you want to stay on top of the latest genealogy news, see reviews of the latest software and technology, or just read research or family stories, start reading genealogy blogs while you're having your morning cup of coffee. You'll enjoy reading about genealogical perspectives from all over the world.