Family History Episode 40: How to Start a Genealogy Blog, Part III: Step by Step

Family History: Genealogy Made Easy Podcast
with Lisa Louise Cooke
Republished July 15, 2014

family history genealogy made easy podcast

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https://lisalouisecooke.com/familyhistorypodcast/audio/fh40.mp3

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.

Episode 40: How to Start a Genealogy Blog, Part III: Step by Step

In the last two episodes you’ve been hearing from experienced genealogy bloggers about family history blogging. I hope it piqued your interest and got you thinking about the possibility of doing it yourself. As we’ve discussed, it’s a great way to share your experiences with other researchers and potentially connect with long lost relatives.

Well in today’s episode I’m going to walk you through setting up your own family history blog step-by-step. By the end of this episode you could have your own family history blog up and running and sharing your enthusiasm about genealogy with the world. How does that sound? Are you willing to give it a try? And even if you’re not looking to start blogging today, listen in and plant the seeds for the future.

From the Mailbox:

A long-time listener wrote in this last week about the recent blogging episodes:

“The Transcript software mentioned by Denise Levenick looks great – I downloaded and installed it this morning. I am giving a brief software demonstration at the Greater Portland Chapter of the Maine Genealogical Society’s 30th Anniversary Celebration tomorrow and I am going to let people know about this product.

Episode 38 and Episode 39 have really got me thinking about starting my own blog. It won’t be easy with my 50 hours plus a week civil engineering job, but your podcasts have motivated me. Thank you!” -Will Haskell, Listener to All Your Podcasts

Transcript software is really cool: download the most recent version for free here. And that’s just one example of the kind of great tech tips that Denise Levenick blogs about at The Family Curator Blog!

Follow-up: when republishing this episode, we were curious about whether Will ever started a blog. He did! It’s very cool! Find Will’s Genealogy Blog at http://wchgenealogyblog.blogspot.com/.

Also, listener Anne-Marie had some questions about how to make progress with her Maw-gee research, specifically how to track down their immigration records. She wrote in again to say that she’s going to follow up on our suggestions and let us know what she finds. But she also had some comments about my interview with genealogy blogger the Footnote Maven (Episode 38):

“I have begun listening to Family History and Genealogy Gem podcasts from the beginning again. When I listened the first time I was so novice that I did not always understand what I was hearing. It’s great to have this audio reference guide.”

How to Start a Genealogy Blog: Step by Step

Now before we get started on created your blog let me just say that there are probably countless websites for setting up blogs and certainly countless ways to go about it. My goal in the approach that I’m going to take is to get you up and running in a short period of time for free. This is a great way to get your feet wet, see if it’s for you, and if you decide to get more elaborate with it later you can always do that.

1. Decide what the purpose of your blog is.

When it comes to a genealogy themed blog there are still lots of options – so here are some ideas:

  • A Research Log
  • A Surname Focus
  • Family Traditions, Family Recipes, Photos
  • Genealogy News
  • Focus on a certain record type
  • Provide beginner education
  • Interviews with relatives
  • History of an ancestor’s home or community
  • Have a general all purpose blog
  • Follow a pattern for each day

And remember the Footnote Maven’s good advice – You can’t be an expert in everything, so don’t even try. To me a good way to stay out of that trap is to stay narrowly focused. If you find yourself having to be an expert in everything you’re blog theme is probably too broad. And of course, be yourself. Do what you do best!

2. Use Blogger (http://www.blogger.com) to create your blog. It’s free, and easy to use.

Blogger is owned by Google so if you already have a Google account than you’re one step ahead of the game. If not that’s the first thing you’ll need to do. Then click “Create Your Blog Now.”

Note: As on any website, the organization and features of Blogger change over time. The following description was current at the time of publication. Use this following descriptions and concepts to guide you through the current version of Blogger.

Name your blog. Of course, the name should reflect what your blog is about, but it’s also good to think of one that is catchy, and one that you can get the URL address for. The URL name you pick has to be something that isn’t already being used, so it might take a few tries.

How to Name Your Blog:

  1. Type in the Title Field
  2. Type the URL you want in the “Blog Address URL” field
  3. click the Check Availability link to see if it is available
  4. Type in the word verification code
  5. Click the CONTINUE button.

3. Select a Design Template:

  1. Scroll through the design templates and pick one you like
  2. Click the select button
  3. Click the CONTINUE button
  4. You’ll get a page that says Your Blog has been created!
  5. Click the orange arrow that says START BLOGGING.

There are a couple of more things we’ll want to do with our blog before we get to the business of actually posting blog articles. First let’s just get familiar with the blog dashboard. This is sort of the “behind the scenes,” an area your readers will never see, but where you will actually do your blogging.

There are 4 tabs along the top: Posting, Settings, Layout and Monetize.

Blog Tune Up: From the Posting Tab….Click the SETTINGS tab. Type up a short description of the blog.

Vocab Word: KEYWORDS

Keywords label your blog so that when readers go searching for a blog to read they will find it. So some good keywords for this new blog that I’m creating would be

  • Genealogy
  • Family history
  • Family tree
  • Blog
  • How to

Keywords can be single words or a short keyword phrase such as “family history” which readers will very likely be searching for. Blogger allows you 500 characters.

The rest of your options on this Basic Settings page are mostly about how your content will be labeled and found on the internet. You can take a look through the options but in most cases you will want to leave them on their default settings. When you’re done just click the SAVE SETTINGS button at the bottom of the page. And for right now you can leave all of the other types of settings as is as well. There are about 9 different categories within the Settings Tab that you can tweak, but the default settings on these are just fine for now.

4. Add at least one gadget. Click the LAYOUT tab. I love working with this area because this is where you get to customize the layout and the types of gizmos and gadgets that are on your blog. We don’t want to overdo it but there are some really good ones you’re not going to want to miss.

Blogger will automatically add a couple of gadgets to the sidebar of your blog. They are:

  • Followers – people who use blogger who subscribe to your blog’s RSS feed.
  • Blog Archive – This gadget automatically archives your older blog posts.
  • About Me – This is just a place where you can tell your readers a little more about yourself and include your email address if you wish.

To see what other types of gadgets you can add just click the Add A Gadget link in top side box. That will bring up a window with lots of choices for you:

  • Search Box
  • Text
  • Photos
  • Slide show
  • Video Bar
  • Polls
  • Lists
  • RSS feed
  • Subscription Links
  • HTML / Javascript

Each one of these is very easy to use and pretty self-explanatory. But I recommend not overloading your blog. Only include, at least to start, the items you really think your readers would get some value from. Otherwise it can just be annoying distraction that gives readers a reason to leave your blog.

How to Add a Picture Gadget to Your Blog:

  1. Cick the plus sign on the right hand side of the page for the PICTURE gadget.
  2. This will bring up a page call CONFIGURE IMAGE.
  3. Give the image a title
  4. Type a Caption
  5. Link to an image on the web OR upload from your computer hard drive.
  6. (To upload from your computer make sure the “From your computer” button is selected and then just click the BROWSE button. Navigate your way to the location of the photo on your computer’s hard drive and select it.) Once the image appears that means it has been successfully uploaded to Blogger.
  7. (If you want to link this image to another website, then you will want to type in the address in the LINK field.)
  8. Click the orange SAVE button and we’re done.
  9. Now you will be back at your dashboard in the Layout mode. You will see that the top box on the side is now labeled as the title you gave your image.
  10. Click the blue PREVIEW button at the top and a preview window will open showing how your blog currently looks and it will include the image you just uploaded.

5. Rearrange Your Gadgets on Your Blog. Hover your mouse over the gadget and your cursor will turn into a cross with arrows. Click and grab the gadget and drag it where you want it and drop it in place. Click the PREVIEW button to see how that looks.

Genealogy Blogging Summary

We’ve made a lot of progress on our blog in a very short amount of time. Take some time this week to take the steps we took in this episode:

  1. Decide on the theme or focus on of your blog
  2. Get a Google Account and create your Blogger blog account with your chosen name and secure the URL address to go with it.
  3. Pick your design template
  4. Add at least one gadget from the choices provided
  5. And move the gadgets you have so far around until they are in the order you want.

Next week we will finish up this family history blogging lesson with adding a few more gadgets and details, doing a bit of pre-planning for our blog posts, publishing your first article, and then talking about how your readers will subscribe to your blog.

Finally, here’s a link to genealogy expert (and blogging guru) Amy Coffin’s blog post, “Another Jones Surprise or Why Genealogists Should Blog.” Next week’s episode will include handouts on Amy’s great ideas for up to a year’s worth of genealogy blog posts by societies or individuals—you won’t want to miss that!

Browse-Only Databases at FamilySearch are Easy to Use

Browse-only databases at FamilySearch are easy to use and may hold the key to the genealogy brick wall you have been working on.

Don’t be scared off because the records haven’t been indexed. Guest blogger Amie Tennant Bowser show you how to take advantage of these great records!

browse only databases

New Genealogy Records Come Online Every Week

Each week, we report on the latest genealogy records to have come online.

Sometimes in our weekly record update articles we include databases from the free FamilySearch website that are not yet indexed. These collections are referred to as browse-only. Have you ever been disappointed when you realized the database you are most interested in is only able to be browsed?

Browse Only Databases at FamilySearch are Easy to Use

The highlighted genealogy records in these collections are browse-only

You may be thinking, “Good grief! I can’t possibly browse thousands of records!” and we don’t expect you to. In this article we are going to share strategies that you can use to zero in on the genealogy records you want to browse. 

Browse Only Records Versus Indexed Records

Most folks search for genealogy records at FamilySearch by typing in some key information at the home page. It might be just the first and last name, and the place where that ancestor lived. Here’s an example:

How to Browse Database

When you use this method, you are only searching for records that have been indexed. 

Indexed records are great because they have already been reviewed by one of the thousands of FamilySearch volunteers. They use online software on the FamilySearch website to download images of historical documents. Then, they read the information on the image and transcribe the information.

A second, more experienced volunteer then reviews the transcribed information to ensure accuracy before it is submitted to the website where they can be searched. It’s a huge effort to help genealogists more easily search the online records. 

So, it’s important to understand that not all digitized record images that are on the FamilySearch website have been indexed. This means there may be countless records that will not be retrieved by a name search. 

Unindexed records can only be browsed until they are indexed. So as you can see, there is a very good chance that there are records on the site that apply to your family, but you won’t find them through the search engine.

Instead, you need to go in the virtual “back door” to locate these records. Follow along with me and I’ll show you how. 

How to Find Browse-Only Records at FamilySearch

Let’s imagine you want to search probate records in Auglaize County, Ohio.

You would click the little map in the vicinity of the United States and choose “Ohio” from the pop-up box.

How to Browse Database

At the Ohio research page, you could do a general search of the Ohio collections. Again, this is only searching records that have been indexed.

Instead of using this method, scroll down until you see “Ohio Image Only Historical Records.” Look at all these databases you might have missed!

For our example, continue to scroll down until you see the database titled “Ohio Probate Records, 1789-1996” near the bottom. Click on it.

Browse_Only_Database_4

You will notice right away that there is no way to “search” this database.

Many people give up at this point, after all, who has time to search nearly 7,000,000 records. Click on it anyway!

Browse_Only_Database_5

The next screen has been broken down by county name. Choose the desired county name. In this case, I’m selecting “Auglaize.”

You are then directed to a page listing the volumes of records for Auglaize county that have been digitized.

In this example, we are seeing bonds, settlements, wills, estates, and so much more:

Browse_Only_Database_6

It is as if you are standing in the courthouse probate office surrounded by volumes and volumes of the records you need.

Select the volume you want to search by clicking the title.

“Open” the pages of the book and search like you would as if you were flipping the pages of a book or scrolling through a roll of microfilm.

Browse_Only_Database_7

Click the arrow at the top of the screen to scroll through the pages.

Friends, we want you to get excited about all the new records that are coming online, even if they are browse only databases. If you like this tutorial, share this tip with your genie friends so they can do it too. 

More Genealogy Gems on Records and Databases at FamilySearch

For more tips and tricks to help you in your genealogy journey, sign-up for our newsletter by entering your email address on this page.

If you’re looking for more genealogy records to mine, here are some of our articles. These will help you not only find new records, but also use other valuable genealogy indexes:

Family History Never Tasted So Good!

We all have cookbooks in our kitchen, many of which were handed down to us by our mothers and grandmothers. In addition to be overflowing with delectable recipes, they are often brimming with family history. Today I’d like to share with you a recipe mystery that followed me for years, and the bit of genealogical serendipity that solved it. 

family history never tasted so good: cookie recipe

I once gave a presentation called Inspiring Ways to Capture the Interest of the Non-Genealogists in Your Family at a local genealogical society. (Genealogy Gems Premium Members can log in and watch this vide class as part of their membership here.)

In it, I gave an example of some items I had found on Ebay from my husband’s Larson family. If you listen to the Genealogy Gems Podcast then you have heard me mention the Larson family. They hailed from Winthrop Minnesota and owned a hardware store and lumber business there for many years.

LJ Larson Hardware store

LJ Larson Hardware store

While I was taking questions toward the end of the presentation a woman in the front raised her hand. Her name was Harriet, and she said she was sure that she had a cookbook from Winthrop, Minnesota in her collection of books at home. She offered to send it to me and I gladly gave her my email address so we could connect.

Considering that Winthrop is such a small town, it make her statement surprising indeed! To provide perspective: Winthrop is about 1 square mile and the population hovers somewhere around 1300. So, I was surprised indeed to have someone in Pleasanton, California telling me that she had a cookbook that dated back to the early 20th century from this little town.

As promised, Harriett followed up with me by email. She asked for my address and told me that the book “looks a little worn but all of the pages are there. I hope it can be of some use to you. My sister taught either first grade or kindergarten there during World War 2 and that’s how it came in to her possession.”

The Cookbook Filled with Family History

Harriett was a woman of her word because about a week later the 340 Home Tested Recipes cookbook compiled by members of The Ladies Aid of the First Lutheran Church of Winthrop, Minnesota was in my mailbox.

The Winthrop Cookbook

The Winthrop Cookbook

It continues to amaze and delight me how powerful just putting your family history “out there” is. By regularly mentioning real people and places in your own research, it so often leads to information and items that just seem to be waiting to be found. It’s what we call “genealogical serendipity” in genealogy circles. 

But the genealogical serendipity didn’t end there. Not only did my husband’s ancestors contribute recipes to this little community cookbook, which of course I was thrilled to find – but there was a recipe in there that I had been in search of for over 25 years.

The Great Cookie Mystery

You see, when Bill and I got married, he shared his fond memories of a sour cream cookie his grandmother used to make. I’m an avid baker, so I checked with his mom to see if she had the recipe. Sadly, she didn’t.
 
Over the years I have tried to find a recipe for sour cream cookies in an attempt to recreate them. Every time I found one, I whipped up a batch. Bill would take a bite and shake his head saying they’ were good, but they weren’t like grandma’s cookies.
 

Bill enjoying baked treats with his Grandma Helen (Larson) Mansfield.

 
So as you can imagine, the first thing I looked for when I received this cookbook from the town where Bill’s grandma was born, was a recipe for sour cream cookies. There were many yummy-sounding treats to comb through like Pecan Sticks, Victoria Cookies, Father and Son Favorite Cookies, and Sorghum Cookies. 
 
I got excited as I came across names I recognized from the family tree including Mrs. Sheldon S. Larson, the mother of a cousin we had the good fortune to finally meet two years ago when I presented a genealogy seminar in Minnesota at the Swedish Genealogical Society. 
 
But the real thrill came when I made my way to page 42. There I found a recipe for Sour Cream Drop Cookies:
 

Larson sour cream cookie recipe (1)

The infamous sour cream cookie recipe!

 
Surprisingly, the recipe wasn’t contributed by Bill’s grandma Helen (Larson) Mansfield or anyone named Larson. Instead it was submitted for inclusion in the cookbook by Mrs. Hulda Anderson. That fact didn’t deter me from trying it out. In a small town like Winthrop, recipes likely were regularly swapped and handed down through various families. 
 
I immediately baked a batch and served them up to Bill. I’ll never forget his eyes as they lit up in excitement! He took a bite, and was ecstatic to once again be tasting Grandma’s sour cream cookies!
 
It may sound like a small victory in the scheme of thing, but for me it was a thrilling one, none the less!
 
I emailed Harriet and told her the good news and thanked her profusely.
 
I got a reply from her husband George. He wrote:
 
“I thought I would add a little amusement to the coincidence of the Sour Cream cookies. My father, George Anderson, Sr., was a salesman for American Steel and Wire, subsidiary of U. S. Steel, from the 1920s to the 1960s, traveling to every hardware store and lumber yard in southern Minnesota to sell fence, posts, nails etc. I don’t have any record of it, but I’m sure he would have called on your family’s hardware store in Winthrop. He knew all of his customers by first name, no doubt your in-laws included.”
 
Genealogy Serendipity never tasted so good!
 

A Genealogical Look at the Cookbook

 
I looked through the book carefully for a publishing date but none was to be found. However, there were several clues including the name of the church and the pastors name:
 
First Lutheran Church
Lambert Engwall, Pastor
 
To put these clues to use, I headed to Google and searched the name of the church, the location and the name of the pastor:
first lutheran church winthrop minnesota lambert engwall, pastor
 

Googling the pastor

Googling the church, location and pastor

 
The first result was just what I needed. The link to me to a Wikipedia page about the church: 
 

researching the pastor

The church in Wikipedia

 
It was a fairly comprehensive page, and I was specifically looking for a list of pastors who had served at the church. To save time, I used Control + F (PC) to trigger a find on page search bar. I searched for “pastor” and was immediately take much further down the page to exactly what I wanted to know. 
 

previous pastors

A helpful list of previous pastors

 
I quickly learned that Lambert Engwall served at this church in Winthrop, Minnesota from 1944 to 1972. Given that Harriett through it hailed from the World War II era when her sister lived there, and from the condition and style of the book, I feel confident it was published closer to 1944. 
 
The next steps to learn more about the relationship between the Andersons and Larson include could include:

  • Reviewing the 1940 census for Winthrop, Sibley County, Minnesota, and mapping their homes in Google Earth.
  • conducting additional research into church and their available records include church meeting minutes.
  • A comprehensive search of the Winthrop News newspaper, with a particular eye on the social pages. 

Share Your Genealogical Serendipity and Cookbook Stories

Have you experienced glorious instances of genealogical serendipity in your own family history quest? Do you have a cookbook that has been handed down to you that you treasure? Please leave a comment below and share your story!  
 

Resources

  • Learn more powerful Google search techniques and ways to use Google Earth for genealogy in The Genealogist’s Google Toolbox by Lisa Louse Cooke (2020) available at the Genealogy Gems Store.
  • The Genealogist's Google Toolbox Third edition Lisa Louise Cooke

    Book by the author

    Learn more here about how to access the 50+ video classes that are a part of Genealogy Gems Premium membership. 

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