September 18, 2014

Little House on the Prairie: A New Cookbook and Old Documents

my-prairie-cookbook-memories-and-frontier-food-from-my-little-house-to-yours-paperback-book_357Did you ever watch or read the “Little House on the Prairie” series? It certainly fired my childhood imagination and my lifelong love for history. The stories are based on a series of written-for-kids-but-loved-by-everyone books by Laura Ingalls Wilder. Her family helped settle the western American frontier in the late 1800s.

Now “Little House” is coming back to life in the form of a cookbook by Melissa Gilbert, who played young Laura Ingalls in the NBC television series (1974-1983). Melissa has published My Prairie Cookbook: Memories and Frontier Food from My Little House to Yours.

In My Prairie Cookbook, Melissa dishes up comforting family recipes and childhood favorites. There are prairie breakfasts, picnic lunches and treats inspired by Nellie’s restaurant (from the Little House series). Eighty delicious dishes—crispy fried chicken, pot roasts, corn bread, apple pie, and more—let you eat like the Ingalls family! The book is garnished with Melissa’s “Little House” memories and memorabilia, including behind-the-scenes stories, anecdotes, and scrapbook images.

Laura’s Early Years in Google Earth

Often when I’m teaching about how to use Google Earth for genealogy, and in particular, how to create what I call “Family History Tour,” I use Laura’s early life as an my example. Almost everyone is familiar with the story: she was born in Wisconsin, and moved to states like Missouri, Kansas, and Minnesota during her lifetime. Seeing it come together in a virtual tour brings a new tech element to a beloved historical story.

LIW how toYou can download a quick Google Earth Family History Tour of her early years by right-clicking this link and downloading the KMZ file to your computer. Click the file, and it will launch Google Earth and save the tour to your “Temporary Places” at the bottom of the Places panel on the left side of the screen. Click the arrow to open the folder (image right)

Inside the folder double click the “movie camera” icon at the top of the list to play the tour.

The tour will navigate from the Little House in the Big Woods of Pepin, Wisconsin, (with a stop to read the History of Pepin ebook right from the map if you so desire), to Rutland, Montgomery, Kansas as the family was documented in the 1870 U.S. Federal Census, and Laura was just 3 years old.

This short tour, filled with street views, videos, genealogical documents and even digital history books provides a taste of what you can accomplish with your own family. To learn more click here to watch my free introductory Google Earth for Genealogy video class.

Explore Little House in the Big Archives

Next week, The National Archives will host a program about the new cookbook with Melissa Gilbert. Why have a cookbook featured at the National Archives? Because its inspiration–the Ingalls family–was a real part of U.S. history and the National Archives houses many documents about their lives

 

Using Google Earth for Genealogy: Q&A

all_over_the_map_anim_300_wht_13636Have you ever found yourself looking for an ancestor’s address that doesn’t seem to exist anymore? Here are some strategies I recently shared via the following Q&A:

Question: From the 1881 Census in England I uncovered the address for my relative: 3 Buckingham Mews, Kensington Place, London, England.  When I enter this in the search it gives me 3 Buckingham Mews, Westminster, London,UK.

I don’t know anything about London so I don’t know if this is the same thing but just with current location names.  Any suggestions?

My Answer: As with many genealogical questions, this is a question that will likely require several sources in order to answer. I’ve been to London many times and my perception is that Kensington and Westminster are separate areas. Boundaries have certainly changed over the years in London, and England at large though. Here is the direction I would suggest:

1) Google Earth – a search of 3 Buckingham Mews, Kensington actually delivers 3 possible locations (2 in “London” and 1 in “Westminster”). You can save each one to My Places (I would recommend creating a folder especially for this question). At the bottom of the results list you will see an icon that looks like a folder with a down arrow. Click it to download the locations to MyPlaces. Also, be sure to run a search simply on “3 Buckingham Mews” and let Google Earth show you all the possibilities.

2) Go back to your original source: the census. Since there is confusion about the address of your ancestor, look for other addresses listed nearby and plot those in Google Earth. My hunch is that you will begin to build a profile of the census area, and see the relationship between that neighborhood and the 3 results Google Earth delivered.

3) Check Rumsey Historical Maps in Google Earth – LAYERS > GALLERY > RUMSEY (click the Rumsey box). You may need to zoom out a bit to locate the available historical maps. You’ll find that there is one from 1842.

4) Search for applicable maps at the David Rumsey Historical Map Collection. On the home page scroll down and click “Launch Map Rank Search.” From that page you can select London, and then narrow in on the time frame. I would go for a spread of 1870-1890 (see below: you’ll move both pink boxes to set the time parameters on the timeline). There are several excellent maps available to download from that query. Sign up for a free account on the website and you will be able to download the highest resolution maps. You can also, of course, work with the map right on the website.

David Rumsey London 1870 1890 screenshot

5) Google Search – Run some searches on the history of London boundaries and boroughs. Here’s a link to a page a found in Wikipedia  on “London boroughs.”

By exploring multiple sources you should be able to create a “data visualization” that zeros in on the correct location. I hope you’ll share what you find with me!

Google Earth for Genealogy Bundle

Want to learn more about using Google Earth for genealogy? I offer a 2-CD bundle that demonstrates how to:

  • download and use Google Earth;
  • identify where old pictures were taken;
  • explore church record origins;
  • plot ancestors’ homesteads and pinpoint their properties;
  • create custom historic map overlays;
  • save and share images and videos;
  • customize placemarks;
  • create 3D models of ancestral locations; and
  • create unique family history tours. Click here to learn more!

Use Evernote to Organize Photos? Hmm……

organize photosRecently I heard from John B., who asked a question I get a lot these days:

“Hello, Lisa,

I’ve enjoyed listening to your podcasts for a couple years now. However, I think you have given me a new choice to make. Some time back I watched your video on how to organize your genealogical files on your hard drive. That was by making folders for each family name, and then within those folders make a set of other folders for certificates, documents, obituaries, etc, I’ve found it to be a great yet simple process–except I am struggling with moving photos from all over my PC to the correct folders.

Well, I’ve just finished viewing “Organize your research with Evernote”. It appears that using the “tags” will be easier and make searching more rapid. So I am wondering if you think this new Evernote product is the way to go instead, or in addition to, the digital folders?  What say you, my Genealogical Guru?”

Here’s what I told him:

“It’s a really good question and here’s my personal take on whether to use Evernote to organize photos. (I say personal because in the end it will be decided by what works for YOU.)

I do not add all my photos to Evernote – rather I store them on the hard drive. The reason is simple: photos are large files and will eat up your free Evernote upload limit for the month pretty quickly. If you are an Evernote Premium member, this is not as much of an issue because you get up 1 GB of uploads a month.

Another reason is the sheer volume of photos that already exist on my hard drive. I add photos by dragging and dropping them in to notes only as I need them for genealogy projects I’m working on. I view these as “working files” and consider the photos on my hard drive the “master files.”

An example of why I might upload some photos to Evernote would be when I was working on unidentified photos. I created a notebook of them and shared the notebook with a distant cousin. As we discusses and identified them I was able to keep a note trail regarding the conclusions. When a photo was solidly identified, I also went back to my master photo on my hard drive and updated the name of the file to reflect the identification.

So, yes, it is a bit time consuming to collect the photos from around your hard drive to get them into the photo folders, but to me, it was worth it. Now that it’s done, finding and filing photos is always super easy. Here’s a video on my YouTube channel that you might find helpful that discusses photo filing, naming and metadata. Hope that helps – good for you for getting organized!”

Genealogy Gems Premium MembershipPremium members on my website also have access to the video tutorials, “Hard Drive Organization, Parts 1 and 2. (Learn more about Premium membership here.) Premium members can also watch an entire series on using FREE Evernote software to keep your genealogy research organized. Enjoy!

 

Childhood Friends Reintroduced as Long-Lost Siblings

introduce_the_figure_10905Recently The National Post reported that two men who were childhood friends have been reintroduced to each other–as biological brothers.

According to the article, long-lost siblings Duncan Cumming, 72, and Ron Cole, 71, lived near each other as kids. They attended the same Canadian public school and sometimes hung out. They never would have guessed they were brothers. Eventually one moved away and the friendship faded into history.

Until recently, when an agency specializing in reuniting birth relatives linked them together by their shared birth mother and got in touch with both men.

Click the link above to see the whole story, including pictures of the boys together on the beach and of each man today. And read about how this family isn’t totally reunified yet–there’s still a sister out there somewhere.

NEW How-to Help – Use Evernote for Genealogy

Evernote for genealogyI’ve got not one but TWO new resources to help you use Evernote for genealogy. Evernote is a FREE note-taking service keeps all your digitized and online research discoveries at your fingertips. It is easy to learn, sync across all your devices, and did I mention it’s FREE?

I’m so excited about Evernote’s ability to organize my family history that I’ve published two new resources to help Genealogy Gems Premium members get the most out of it:

Genealogy Gems Premium Podcast Episode 114, just published this week, reviews what’s new in Evernote. Learn how to move items into Evernote from your mobile device. Get some great tips on optimizing photos for Evernote’s OCR capability (yes, that means you can keyword-search your PHOTOS!). Then we’ll tackle the eternal question: “How do I organize my genealogical paper?” Listeners have been asking for the secrets of my system, and all will be revealed in this episode including downloadable templates.

Using Evernote to Create a Research Plan is a new Premium video class. The key to a successful family history research plan is having a set process for gathering and analyzing data. With its ability to organize, sync and save information, Evernote is ideally suited to assist you in this endeavor. Premium members can watch this 30-minute class anytime: just sign in to the Genealogy Gems website and then click the link above.

If you’re not quite ready for this more advanced topic, try my other Premium videos on using Evernote: How the Genealogist Can Remember Everything with Evernote (for beginners) and How to Organize Your Research with Evernote (intermediate level).

Genealogy Gems Premium MembershipThese resources are FREE for Genealogy Gems Premium members. Not a Premium member yet? As you can see, you’re missing out! Click here to learn about becoming one.

Ancestry App Launches With “Solid New Features”

iPad_Landscape_ss2Ancestry.com just relaunched the Ancestry App (version 6.0) for iPhone, iPad and iPod touch devices.

“This isn’t just a re-launch on a new system,” explained the Ancestry Mobile Team in a recent email. “We’ve worked hard to add some solid new features that we think you’ll enjoy.”

It was only about 6 weeks ago that we reported the last updates to the Ancestry app, but these are worth a separate mention. Here they are as described by the folks at Ancestry.com:

Prioritized Hints View

We’ve added a new section to the application which allows you to view all the hints for a given tree from a single place. We’ve added a prioritized sort order to the hints in this section so that your very best hints automatically bubble up into view. In addition to a priority sort, we’ve made it possible to view hints based on recency, with the newest hints at the top of the list. Near the top of the new hints view you will find sort order controls titled “best” and “latest” which allow you to toggle between these two sort orders to meet your needs. We’ve also included some filtering capabilities for the hints in this section which will allow you to filter hints by the last name of the person the hint is for, or to filter hints by type (photo, story or record). When you see a hint that you’d like to learn more about, simply tap; the details of the hint will come into view and you will be able to accept or ignore the hint from right there.

Comments

Every day thousands of photos and stories are added to Ancestry by users of the website and the Ancestry App. When one of these pieces of great content might be associated with a  relative of yours you will get a photo or story hint and you get to share this content and benefit from the work of other Ancestry users. Now you will have the ability to comment on these shared pieces of content directly from the mobile app – just like you can on the website. When viewing a photo or story you will notice a new comment area within the mobile app, here you will see comments from others and be able to leave comments of your own.

Comments View

The new comments section provides a running history of the new comments that have been left on photos and stories I your tree,  making it easy for you to keep up to date on the latest comments. When you see a comment that you would like to see in full context or respond to, silly tap; you will be taken to the photo or story that the comment was made on and be able to review the entire comment thread associated with the content.

Badges

You may notice a new red badge with a number in it that shows up on the Ancestry app icon. This lets you know that you have new hints or comments to review. We have also included badges on the icons representing the hint and comment sections which allow you to know exactly where the new content can be found.

Notifications

If you have enabled the Ancestry App to send you push notifications you will now be notified when the very best new hints or comments are available. When you are ready to view the new hint or comment, simply tap; the app will open and you will be taken dirtily to the hint or comment.

Tree Viewer Enhancements

In addition to family and pedigree views, you can now view your family tree in a list view. From this view you can filter the list of tree persons by name or using a number of useful filters (Direct Ancestors, End of Line, Living Relatives, People with Hints, and People with Recent Hints). We’ve also added a dedicated person search within the pedigree and family views. Tapping on the search icon In the top left corner of the tree viewer will allow you to enter the name of the person you are looking for. When you see the person you are looking for, simply tap; the tree will be refocused on this person and you will be taken directly to his or her profile details.

Navigation

We’ve simplified and updated the navigation within app. You will notice prominent tabs along the bottom of the app for Hints, Comments, Tree, DNA, and Settings. Getting around the app will now be quicker and easier than ever.

In addition to the major updates highlighted above we have worked on smaller touches within the app that enhance the overall experience. As you use the app in more depth you will likely notice other changes like: quick links to web content, side-by-side comparisons between tree and record data, quick access to profile information from hints and updated colors and styling. We hope that the new version 6.0 app experience will be a good one, and that the Ancestry Mobile App will become an ever more integral part of your Ancestry experience. If you have ideas, thoughts or questions please feel free to submit feedback by tapping on the “Feedback” tab within the Settings section of the app.

FGS 2015: Early-Bird Registration Open for “Largest Family History Event in North America”

FGS 2015 RootsTech SLCRegistration opens TODAY for the Federation of Genealogical Societies FGS 2015 conference scheduled for February 11–14 in Salt Lake City, Utah. This highly anticipated genealogy event puts the FGS and RootsTech conferences under one roof at the Salt Palace Convention Center (SPCC).

Registration opens with a special early bird price of $139 for a full FGS conference registration. That pricing is available through September 12, 2014. Attend only FGS or add-on a full RootsTech pass for an additional $39. Click here to register.

“FGS 2015 will undoubtedly be part of the largest family history event in North America,” says D. Joshua Taylor, President of FGS. “We are delighted to partner with RootsTech to bring the best of tradition and innovation to the family history community.”

Conference Highlights

  • Conference Sessions: The program features lectures for genealogists of all experience levels. Attendees will learn from a variety of tracks including Tried and True Methods, The Most Useful Records Hidden in Plain Sight, Compiling Singular Records into Lively Stories, A Retro Look at Organizing and Planning, and Modern Access to Vintage Resources. See the full program and list of speakers here.
  • General Sessions: Thursday, Friday, and Saturday mornings will kick off with a joint general session for all FGS and RootsTech attendees.
  • Expo Hall: Both conferences will share an expo hall covering more than 120,000 square feet, which will offer at least 240 booth spaces and a Demo Theater featuring special vendor presentations. Genealogy Gems will have a booth there!
  • Research Opportunity: The Family History Library is the reason that Salt Lake City is the dream destination of genealogists everywhere. The library is a located in walking distance of the Salt Palace Convention Center and the four conference hotels.  
  • Focus on Societies: Sessions on Wednesday, February 11, 2015 will give society leaders and volunteers ideas and tools to help societies promote themselves, increase membership, and develop sources of revenue.
  • Librarians’ Day: On Tuesday, February 10, 2015, ProQuest will sponsor a full pre-conference day of sessions designed for librarians, archivists, and other information professionals serving family history researchers.

I hope I’ll see YOU among the FGS/RootsTech crowds in Salt Lake City in February. Here are the presentations I’ll be giving:

Wednesday, 10:45 am – How the Genealogist Can Remember Everything with Evernote

Wednesday, 4pm - Video Marketing: Killer YouTube Strategies for Societies

Thursday, 1:30pm - Reopen Your Genealogical Cold Case: A Step-by-Step Process

Minnie Driver on WDYTYA: Family Secrets Close to Home

Photo by Simon Fanthorpe, Wall to Wall Media Limited.

Photo by Simon Fanthorpe, Wall to Wall Media Limited.

Tomorrow’s episode of Who Do You Think You Are? (WDYTYA) with Minnie Driver hits close to home–her own home. She’s not chasing stories of distant ancestors but of her own secretive father. And she doesn’t just imagine the lives of long-dead relatives: she meets living ones!

So here’s what I’m allowed to tell you ahead of time: Minnie’s parents split up when she was young because her dad was already married and had another family. She did know her dad, but he rarely talked about himself.  Her goal on the show is to learn what she can about him and pass on a family legacy to her own young child.

Using sources familiar to genealogists–live interviews, a birth record, census entries, a military history book and more–she learns how her dad’s World War II combat experiences in the Royal Air Force  affected the rest of his life. For the first time, she meets a relative on her father’s side of the family. In the process, she finds a kindred spirit in a family member she never knew about.

I can’t give away any more about Minnie Driver on WDYTYA, but I can share a couple of juicy by-the-way details:

  • The Wellington bomber you see on display at the Brooklands Museum was discovered years ago at the bottom of Loch Ness! The expert who shows the plane to Minnie spearheaded the effort to salvage it and is now trying to completely restore it.
  • Her dad’s “flying stress” wasn’t well understood by the medical community at the time. That’s probably why he was twice hospitalized for his condition. It looks like nobody knew how to help him and nobody really did.

Enjoy the episode! It airs tomorrow night, Wednedsay, August 27, 2014 on TLC. Find out more at TLC.com.

How to Start a Genealogy Blog: FREE 5-Part Podcast Series

how to start a genealogy blogHave you thought about starting a blog to share your family history research, but just haven’t done it yet?

  • It’s a free, no fuss-way to publish your family history as you write it, one little piece at a time.
  • It shares your family stories with loved ones who are interested enough to read your short snippets.
  • It’s “out there” on the internet for long-lost relatives to find and connect with you.

Family History Genealogy Made Easy PodcastWell, Lisa has just republished a FREE 5-part podcast series on how to start a genealogy blog! It’s from her original Family History Podcast, a step-by-step how-to series for genealogists. I’ve just finishing remastering the last of the how-to-blog episodes, and I’ll tell you, they are inspiring!

In fact, after one of the episodes originally aired, listener Will Haskell contacted Lisa and said he thought he’d start a blog. I was curious–did he ever do it? He DID! I found Will’s Genealogy Blog here and started reading. He’s posted all kinds of great information about his family history. He hasn’t posted much recently, so I contacted him. What he said was really interesting:

“Lisa definitely was the instigator in starting the blog. I have not been keeping up with the blog in the past couple years. Being a business owner has cut in to the family history research and blogging quite a bit. I am still amazed at how many people visit my blog even without regular updates. I have been able to reconnect with several relatives through the blog.”

So that’s another great aspect of blogging: it’s not a forever commitment, and it often continues to reward you even when you’re not actively blogging! Check out the blog series here:

Episode 38: How to Start a Genealogy Blog, Part 1. The Footnote Maven, author of two popular blogs, joins us to talk about the process of starting a genealogy blog. She gives great tips for thinking up your own approach, finding a unique niche, commenting on other people’s blogs and more. This is a fascinating inside look into the geneablogging community, whether you’re interested in starting your own or not!

Episode 39: How to Start a Genealogy Blog,  Part 2. This week we continue to explore of family history blogging. In this episode I interview TWO more successful genealogy bloggers, Denise Levenick (author of The Family Curator and alter ego of “Miss Penny Dreadful” on the Shades of the Departed blog) and  Schelly Tallalay Dardashti (author of the Tracing the Tribe blog).

Episode 40: How to Start a Genealogy Blog, Part 3: Step by Step. In this episode, learn step-by-step how to create your own free family history blog on Blogger.com. Learn tricks for designing a simple, useful blog and how NOT to overdo it!

Episode 41: How to Start a Genealogy Blog, Part 4: Blog readingsGet inspired by two seasoned bloggers who each read a great post for you. And hear a special announcement about an exciting project I’ve been working on.

Episode 42: How to Start a Genealogy Blog, Part 5. In this final episode, learn a few more gadgets for formatting your blog and making it easy for others to subscribe. Learn tips for writing that first post and using keywords that will help others researching your family to find you.

Family History Episode 42: How to Start a Genealogy Blog, Part 5

Family History: Genealogy Made Easy PodcastFamily History: Genealogy Made Easy with Lisa Louise Cooke Republished August 26, 2014

Download the Show Notes for this Episode

Welcome to this step-by-step series for beginning genealogists—and more experienced ones who want to brush up or learn something new. I first ran this series in 2008-09. So many people have asked about it, I’m bringing it back in weekly segments.

In today’s episode we finish a multi-part, step-by-step series on setting up your own family history blog. In episode 40 you decided what the purpose of your blog is, and we got you started with the free Blogger web site and picked out your blog name and set up the web address for it, and got the basic framework started. In episode 41 two seasoned bloggers inspired us with their posts.

In this episode I talk about adding a few more gadgets and details, doing a bit of pre-planning for your blog posts, publishing your first article, and then talking about how your readers will subscribe to your blog. You’ll also get great tips on how to create genealogy content that others looking for the same ancestors can find easily online.

Episode 42: How to Start a Genealogy Blog, Part 5

OK, let’s head back to the new blog we created in Episode 40. I named mine Blog Your Family History. (This is just a sample blog: my current blog is part of the Genealogy Gems website.) Please note: blogging platforms change over time. The features and layouts I mention have been updated. Just watch for similar features in newer versions of the blog platform.

So far I have the basic layout set up and I added the vintage photograph of the three ladies sharing some written correspondence. If you’re not signed in to your Google account, you’ll notice a link in the upper right corner of your blog page that says “sign in.” You’ll need to click that and enter your user name and password to get access to your blog dashboard – the area where you customize your blog and write your blog posts.

When you sign in you’ll be taken to the dashboard area for your blog. In my case I have a couple of blogs, so they’ll all be listed here in the dashboard. To get back to your blog just click the View Blog link for the blog you want to view. You’ll notice that when you get there the link in the upper right corner now says “sign out” so you know right now you’re signed in. To get back to the dashboard where we can continue customizing the blog, just click the Customize link in the upper right hand corner of the blog. So far we have a couple of “gadgets” or sections of our blog:

  • the title area at the top;
  • the blog posts box. In the case of the blog I’m creating here the gadgets run along the right hand side of the blog page.
  • About Me
  • the gadget with the photo I added
  • A followers gadget showing other blogger readers
  • the blog archive gadget – this is where readers can access blog posts that are over a month old.

So let’s add another gadget by clicking the Add Gadget link in the top gadget box and a window will pop up showing us out options. I’d like to add a search box so that my readers can easily find articles with keywords they are interested in. So just click the plus sign to add the Search gadget and a Configure Search Box window pops up so I can fine tune this gadget the way I want it. So I’ll keep the title as “Search this blog” since that’s pretty straightforward, and I’m going to just have it search this blog so I will keep that check box checked. And click the SAVE button and now I have a Search box on my blog.

So as you can see adding various gadgets to your blog is easy and you can customize them to appear the way you want. And remember you can rearrange them on your dashboard by just clicking and dragging them into the position you want. Once you get the elements of your blog the way you like them – at least for now, and you can certainly make changes any time you want – then it’s time to start blogging.

What to blog about?

Hopefully you’ve decided what you want to blog about – perhaps a specific line of your family, or maybe you’re going to just sort of journal what you work on each day. No matter what approach you take, there are a few things to keep in mind. First, each time you write an article and publish it to your blog page it’s called a “post.” Post is sort of interchangeable with article, and posting is another word for publishing – basically you’ve made the article available on the web.

When you do post an article you will want people—particularly other researchers—to be able to find it. You’ll have better success attracting readers who are researching the same families if you sort of put yourself in their shoes. Ask yourself, what will they be searching on? When someone goes to Google and starts looking for blogs about their family trees, they are using keywords to do that search.

So while you may have some very creative ideas for blog post titles, if you don’t include some of those important keywords (or at a minimum the surnames) they may never find you. And of course sprinkling keywords into your post will also increase its chances of being found. And when we talk about keywords, we’re also talking about key phrases, such as family history, or family tree. Other good keywords are genealogy, birth, death, research, location names, etc. Just the kinds of things you would search on if you were looking for people writing about your ancestors. Remember too that an ancestor’s name is also a keyword phrase.

It’s a good idea to mix it up because you never know how someone else will be searching. For example, I research my husband’s great great grandfather Senator C J Larson of Winthrop MN. So if I’m writing about him, I will use several variations of his name:

  • C J Larson
  • Carl Johan Larson
  • Charles Larson
  • Charles J Larson
  • Senator C J Larson

And of course when I use these names in combination with Winthrop, Sibley County, Minnesota, I’m bound to be found by someone also researching him and his family.

Publish your first post

OK, well let’s get right to how to publish your first blog post. At your blog Dashboard (if you’re not there just click the link in the upper right corner that says Dashboard) and click NEW POST. This is like getting a new piece of paper. You’re new post is under the Posting tab and there’s a box where you can write your text and there are some formatting buttons along the top.

My advice is to bite off small chunks. People tend to read something that looks more like a magazine article rather than a novel. And it’s easier to focus in on one topic at a time. So you may want to make your first post a welcome message and explain to your readers what they’ll will be seeing in the future on your blog. I know, you don’t have any readers yet, but since all of your posts are archived, this post will be read tomorrow and two years from now. New readers can find you at any time, and they may very likely take a look at your first post.

The first thing to do is write your post title. I used to wait to title my posts until after I wrote them because writing them often brought to mind the perfect title. But the problem with that is that so often I would forget to go back and type a title in and I would end up publishing without the title. While you can go back and add the title later, it may show up in your readers RSS feeds including those who subscribe to your blog by email. So I find that it works best if I give it the best working title I can come up with, then I write the post, and then I can go back and change it if I want, but if I forget it will at least have a basic title.

Also, remember that your readers probably have many blogs they read – but they probably don’t READ them all, the probably scan the titles and click through to read the ones that sound interesting. So your title has an important job to do. Like the blog text it should contain keywords that will help the post show up in search results, AND it needs to catch your readers’ attention.

When I first started blogging I was always trying to come up with title that as clearly as possible explained what the post was about. But over time I realized that we don’t have to explain it all in the title. In fact, being a bit mysterious or intriguing with the title can entice the reader to click through and read. They’ll find out soon enough all the details of your posting, but your title sets the tone, and catches their curiosity. Of course I don’t advocate bait and switch – but have fun with your titles and use it to your best advantage. And now FINALLY it’s time to actually write your blog post! Of course you can unleash your creativity here, but I do have a few suggestions:

  1. Keep your paragraphs shorter rather than longer – it just makes them easier and quicker to read
  2. Incorporate those keywords and phrases
  3. A picture says a thousand words – add images whenever possible and I’ll show you how in just a moment
  4. Write in your natural voice. Typically blogs aren’t formal, and you will have an easier time writing if you write more like you speak. And that will come across as more genuine to your readers.
  5. Don’t bite off more than you can chew. If you have a lot to say on a particular topic, consider publishing your thoughts in a series of blog posts rather than one really long one. And I find that readers really like following a series.

Once you’ve got it written up, it’s time to a bit of formatting. In Blogger there are a few different fonts you can choose from. Just like in Microsoft word, you highlight the text you want to format and then select from the drop down menu which font, and font size you want. The default font and size might be just fine, but it’s nice to know you do have some flexibility. You can also bold and italicize text by highlighting the text and clicking either button. And like Word you can use Control-B on your computer keyboard for bold and Control I for italicize. You can also put your text in a different color. Again just highlight the text to be changed and click on the capital T button with the color boxes and click on the color you want.

Now a word about formatting. Remember when we discussed that it was a good idea to avoid blog template designs that had dark backgrounds with light type because they are hard on the eyes and difficult to read? Well, over doing text formatting is much the same. It can get hard on the eyes. It’s like the rule of thumb that says you don’t type in capital letters because it looks like you’re screaming at the reader.

Well, overdoing the formatting with a ton of bold and italics and colors just ends up looking chaotic and nothing really ends up standing out. So keep in mind that less is more and use it sparingly so that only the most important things stand out. And just like in Word you can select whether your text is left right or centered justified, or fully justified. And you can create numbered and bulleted lists simply by highlight the text and clicking one of those buttons. And you can also use the Block Quote feature to set text apart as a quotation by indenting it from both sides.

With all of these formatting features you will probably want to see what it will look like to your readers. And that will be different to a certain extent than how it looks here in the post editor. To see it as it will look when posted, click the Preview link in the upper right corner of the text box. When you’re in preview mode the link will then say Hide Preview and to go back to editing or what they call Compose mode just click that Hide Preview link.

Next is the Spell check button, which is something you’ll want to use every time you post. Thankfully if you make a spelling error you can fix it after it’s posted, but it’s so much easier just to run the spell check before you do. There are a couple of more things you can add to this text post to spice it up.

The next button is the Add Image button and it does just that, adds your images and photos. When you click the button an Upload Images window pops up where you can browse your computer hard drive and locate the image you want to add, or if you have a website you can type in the URL address for an image you already have hosted on your website and it will use that image. Keep in mind that Blogger has an 8 MB image size limit, so you might have to reduce some of your photos and save them as smaller files to be uploaded to Blogger. This is often the case when you’ve scanned old family photos at high resolutions that create quite large files.

Once you’ve told Blogger which image to use, you can also choose how you want it to appear on the page on the left, in the center or on the right with the text around it, or you can just leave it as None. And you can also choose whether it is Small, Medium or Large. When you’re ready to go just click the orange Upload Image button and in a few moments it will be processed and you can just click the Done button, the window will close, and your image will now be in your blog post. Again, if you want to see for sure how it will look to your readers just click the Preview link.

You can even upload a video to your blog post. It works much the same way. Click the video upload button. A window pops up and you click the Browse button to locate the video on your hard drive. Blogger will accept AVI, MPEG, QuickTime, Real, and Windows Media video files up to 100 MB in size which is typically about 10 minutes at most. They also have rules about the kind of videos you can upload and require you to click the check box to agree to their terms of service, and then you just click the orange Upload Video button.

Videos take a few minutes to upload, so at first you’ll see the Blogger Uploading Video screen on the video player. You’ll see down at the bottom that it is processing. Once your video appears on the screen then you’re ready to go. If you don’t want to wait while it finishes processing you can click the SAVE button on your post and check back later to make sure it’s complete before Publishing.

And finally, if you decide you want to remove the formatting from you text you can do so with the last button which looks like an eraser. It’s called Remove Formatting from Selection. So in the case of the text that I set apart as a quote, if I want to change it back to regular text, I just highlight the text with my mouse and click the Eraser button and it will go back to normal. If you happen to know HTML you can click the HTML tab and work with your blog post code to further customize it. When you’re done just click the Compose tab to go back to regular editing mode.

Once you have everything formatted, you’ve spell checked and you’ve reconfirmed your title, your ready to send it out to the world! Just click the orange Publish Now button and it will immediately be live on your blog. The next window will say Your blog post published successfully! And you can just click the View Blog link to open a new window and see your published post.

Edit your previous posts

Now if you’re like me then occasionally you’re going to want to go back and edit one of your blog postings. And thankfully that’s very easy to do. Just head back to your Blogger Dashboard and next to the blue New Post button which you would click to create another post, you’ll find the Edit posts link. Just click that and you will see the articles you’ve posted with the most recent one at the top. If you wanted to delete the post all together you just go to the right hand side and click the Delete link for that particular post. To edit the post click the Edit link on the far left side of the post title. This takes you write back into Compose mode and you can make any changes you want. When you’re done, just click the Publish button.

Schedule posts to publish in the future

Do you want to write several posts at once, and have them automatically publish one at a time—once a day, once a week, etc? There’s an easy way to set up your posts to publish in the future. At the bottom of the Text box you’ll see a link called Post Options, just click that. This will expand the box and give you some options. Here you can enter the date and the time that you want the post to go live online. Once you’ve typed that in then just click the Publish button. It won’t be live right now, but will be published at the date and time you specified.

When I first started using this feature I kept clicking SAVE and then wondering why my posts didn’t publish at the right time. But you have to click the Publish button even though you’re not publishing at that very moment. It’s a neat feature, and works great when you’re going to be away but want articles to be published each day. Or like when we talked about breaking up a long article into a series of short articles, you could create them all and then set them to publish once a day or whatever time frame you preferred.

Now you probably noticed that you could also check a box in the Post Options for allowing your readers to post comments. But the best place to set that up is under the Settings Tab. So go to your dashboard, and click Settings. This will take you to the Settings tab which offers a lot of options. Click on the Comments menu link and here’s where you can make your selections as to how you would like your readers to be able to interact with you and your blog. Instant communication and connection with your readers is one of the really unique aspects of blogging, and you’ll find that most folks who read genealogy blogs are interested in a civil conversation. So let’s go through the options here.

  • Show: I usually have this set to show comments. But you can hide them if you want.
  • Under Who Can Comment? I would recommend that you allow anyone to comment. After all, you don’t want to prevent that long lost cousin who finds your family history blog in a search to not be able to contact you.
  • For Comment Form Placement that’s just a personal preference, but I find the pop up window is easy for readers to use.
  • Another important feature among these settings is the Comment message. And then next you’ll find Comment Moderation. I would recommend that you always moderate your comments, at least to start. This means that when a reader leaves a comment you will have the opportunity to read it and approve it to be published in the Comments section of that blog posting. That way you can eliminate offensive comments. Honestly, I’ve never received anything objectionable, but occasionally I do get people who are fishing for business and simply post “I like your blog” so that they can then tell about their company and give their website address. There’s no harm in setting it to Always and you can change it later if you want.
  • Then at the bottom of the Comments Setting I like to type in my email address so that I’ll be notified by email if someone leaves a comment that needs to be moderated. And you moderate and approve comments in your Blogger dashboard.

When you’re done just click the orange SAVE SETTINGS button. And again, you can change these settings any time you want. So how do you moderate reader comments? Well, just click on the Posting Tab, and there will be three options:

  1. New post
  2. Edit Posts
  3. Moderate Comments – just click that link. And if you have comments that need to reviewed and approved or deleted you can do it there.

Let readers subscribe to your blog

And finally, let’s talk about how your readers can subscribe to your blog. That’s the other really cool thing about blogging. Each of your new blog articles can be automatically sent to your readers who subscribe. It’s just like subscribing to a magazine. We subscribe to a magazine so we don’t have to go to the store every day to check to see if a new issue has arrived. Subscribing to a blog is the same idea but of course it’s free. And like magazines being delivered to your mailbox, blog posts can be delivered to your readers blog Reader, or email box.

Your readers subscribe to your blog through your RSS feed. RSS stands for Really Simple Syndication which just means an easy way to send out your posts. But you don’t have to know anything about RSS feeds. Blogger does it all for you and I’m really surprised how many bloggers don’t bother to make it easy for their readers to subscribe. Not everyone who wants to subscribe to your blog will quite know how to do it, or be an experienced blog subscriber. You will want to make it as easy as possible for them to get started. Here’s an easy way to do it.

  1. Go to http://www.google.com/webmasters/add.html. Here you can add an “Add to Google” button to your blog. That way your readers can easily add your blog to their iGoogle homepage or to Google Reader, a tool they can use to receive and read blogs.
  2. For Choose your content type select RSS.
  3. Under Promoting select one blog.
  4. Select the style of button you want to put on your blog
  5. Type your blog address into the box, which needs to be your rss feed. In my case, it’s http://blogyourfamilyhistory.blogspot.com/feeds/posts/default?alt=rss. You substitute your blog name in where mine is currently (your blog name in that link instead of blogyourfamilyhistory).
  6. Click the Generate HTML button. The html code you need to add your button will automatically appear in the box, and it’s already highlighted for you so all you need to do is Control C on your keyboard to copy the code to your computer’s clipboard, and then head back to your Blog dashboard.
  7. Click Layout.
  8. Click Add a Gadget.
  9. Click the HTML / Java Gadget. A window will pop up where you can type in a title such as “Subscribe to this blog.”
  10. In the big box press Control V to paste the HTML code that you copied into the box.
  11. Click the SAVE button.
  12. Back on your Layout page you’ll see at the top that you the “page element has been added” and now the top gadget is “Subscribe to this blog”

Want to see what it looks like? Just click the blue PREVIEW button at the top and it your blog will open up in a new window and there you will see the “Add to Google” button. Now EVERYONE can subscribe and follow your blog quickly and easily. Just close that window, and click the orange SAVE button on your layout page. Now click View Blog and try it out for yourself.

Note: I talk here about iGoogle, which is no longer available.

Add the blog to Google Reader to receive each new blog post when it’s published, and have a link to click through directly to the articles and the blog. It’s very convenient and keeps your blog on the minds and lists of your readers. Now you’re all set to go. You can post your articles, which your readers can follow. As you have more time you can fine tune the settings and layout of your blog. Have fun! Best wishes for connecting with other researchers around the world.

Mailbox question from Beginning GenealogistTip: In response to one of our recent tips, a reader named Sarah pointed out that there are services now to “slurp up” blogs and publish them into books. We’ll tell you about one service, but encourage you to shop around. At Sarah’s recommendation, we looked into Blurb.com. According to Blurb’s Web site, this online program works with several blogging platforms including Blogger, LiveJournal, TypePad and WordPress.com.

You can customize and edit your book in real time. The automatic slurp action imports and maps blog text, images and comments and then links it into professionally designed page layouts. What an exciting way to preserve your family history. What a great Christmas gift or Mother’s Day gift.

Once you are ready to publish your book, you can control the price by buying a hardcover, dust jacket, soft cover and other designs. These books can be up to 440 pages and as few as 40. Have a blog book within 10 days of ordering. Now, as you can imagine, this is a little pricey but still very, very reasonable. Prices start at just $12.95 for a 40-page softcover and go up from there. You get bookmaking software free!