Here are the reasons every family historian should be writing a family history blog–and how can you get started NOW.
Why Start a Family History Blog
Many of us want to write up our family stories, but with busy schedules, a 300-page book may not be in our future!
You don’t have to have a lot of time to write and share your family history. Blogging about family history is a perfect alternative. Blogs are just simple websites that present articles in chronological order beginning with the most recent. This is a great format for telling a story that travels through time.
Blogs also allow your readers to “subscribe” for free much like a podcast. In other words, your readers don’t have to remember to visit your blog and read the latest. Instead, they can receive email prompts when you publish new articles, or they can receive those new articles alongside their other favorite blogs and podcasts in a blog reader. Very convenient indeed!
Still not convinced it’s possible to start your own genealogy-themed blog? Here are 7 reasons why and how you can start a family history blog.
1. You can write a little bit at a time.
You don’t have to fill hundreds of pages or lay out an entire book. With a blog you can write as little as a paragraph at a time. There are no rules because it is your blog!
Over time, even a one-paragraph blog post, once a week, will eventually result in many pages. It’s a great way to pace yourself and still get your family’s story in writing.
2. Every word you write is searchable by Google.
Gone are the days of simply posting a query on a genealogy message board that only reaches genealogists.
By blogging about your family history, other people who are researching the same family lines can find and connect with you through their Google searches. You’ll be writing about the family they are searching for, so you’ll very likely be using many of the same keywords, dates and information that they will include in their search query. This means your blog should pop up high on their Google search results list!
Think of your family history blog as your own big message board. Your posts can be found by anyone in the world searching for the same information. The connection possibilities are endless. So essentially, family history blogs are your way to “fish for cousins.” This of it as “cousin bait!”
Blogs typically include a Comment section at the end of each of your articles, so encourage visitors to your blog to leave comments. Don’t worry, you can set your blog to only show the comments after you have reviewed and approved them.
3. You might bust your toughest brick wall.
I’ve heard and shared countless success stories here at Genealogy Gems from readers and listeners. By just “putting it out there” on a blog they have opened the door to a distant relative contacting them with a treasure trove of new information about their family tree.
“Your encouragement to blog genealogy has given me courage and a vehicle for which I can share the stories of our family’s common history. So, over the past month I’ve been posting digital images of each day (from my great grandfather’s) journal from 50 years ago, the transcription of the journal and an historical image that gives context to what he was writing about. I plan to include family photos and other documents as I expand this blog.”
– Chris C.
4. You’re more likely to spot your mistakes and missing links.
Have you ever told a story out loud and discovered in telling it that something in the story didn’t quite jive? A blog can help you tell your family’s story “out loud” too.
The process of writing up your family history discoveries can often reveal gaps, errors, or bad assumptions in your research. And that’s a good thing! Use it to your advantage to identify further research that needs to be done. But those items on your research to do list.
And don’t be afraid to let your reader know what your gaps are and where you’re stuck. They just might be able to help!
5. Your kids, grandkids, nieces and nephews, etc. are online.
Your descendants probably prefer to read quick and easy stories on-the-go on their smart phones and tablets, and a blog fits the bill perfectly.
Putting your research on a blog provides your relatives with an easy way to digest the family heritage. And of course they can subscribe to it, since blogs can be delivered to their email inbox or to a blog reader like Feedly.
Blog posts are also super easy to share to Facebook, which means your post can get even more traction.
“The family response has been amazing. The cousins, siblings, aunts and uncles think it is cool and want to see more! They love the stories and can’t wait for subsequent postings so they can hear detailed history about (him) that they never knew about.
I believe this blog will be part of how our family begins healing and comes back together again.”
6. Because there are no excuses.
You can start a blog for free, so cost is not a barrier.
There are no rules, so you can decide how often and how much you write at once.
There is just one thing you have to do to successfully blog about your family history: begin.
7. Because your blog continues to share even when you aren’t researching.
The best news of all is that your family history blog will be out there working online for you 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Even when life gets in the way and you need to take a sabbatical from blogging and genealogy, your blog is still out there ready to be found. You will still be sharing your family’s story, and attracting relatives to it. And when you’re ready, your blog will be ready for you to add the next chapter.
How to Start a Family History Blog
Starting a family history blog isn’t hard. But some people find it intimidating. So I’ve created two entire series to help you get started.
Click to watch this free series of videos on the Genealogy Gems YouTube channel These videos show you how to set up a family history blog. They are a few years old, but will give you the basic idea. You’ll see how to get started for free in Blogger, with your Google account.
(I use WordPress for my website and my blog. They have a free version at wordpress.com.) Need more encouragement? Click here to hear from other readers who are very glad they got started.
Learn More About Blogging on the Family History Podcast
Click to listen to a free series from our Family History: Genealogy Made Easy podcast(an online radio show).
Starting with episode 38, you’ll learn:
The “Footnote Maven,” author of two popular blogs, talks about the process of starting a genealogy blog. She gives great tips for thinking up your own approach, finding a unique niche, tips for getting people to comment on your blog posts and more.
We hear from two additional popular 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).
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!
In this concluding episode, learn how to add a few more gadgets and details to your blog; pre-plan your blog posts, publish your first article, and how to help your readers subscribe. You’ll also get great tips on how to create genealogy content that others looking for the same ancestors can find easily online.
Share the Blogging Adventure!
Invite someone you know to start a family history blog of their own. Send them a link to this webpage or share it through social media. They’ll thank you for it later!
And if you have started a family history blog, please comment below and share your experience.
The Social Security Applications and Claims Index was one of 2015’s most important new online resources for U.S. researchers (keep reading to see the other). No wonder it made the #7 spot on this week’s Top 10 genealogy blog post countdown!
This summer, Ancestry.com quietly released a major addition to its U.S. record resources. We already rely on the Social Security Death Index to help us find 20th-century relatives. But so many of us have lamented at how limited is the info in that index, and how expensive to order the original application when there’s no guarantee we’ll find the person’s parents names (which are requested on the form).
I’m guessing that’s why Lisa’s post on Ancestry’s new Social Security Applications and Claims Index made the #7 spot on our genealogy blog countdown this week! This enriched index adds parents’ names and more to millions of SSDI indexed entries. Click here to read more about it and search the index.
Want to read about another top database for U.S. researchers that was recently released? Click here!
Don’t forget about our countdown prize this week! Click here to see all Top 10 blog posts–and share that post on your Facebook page by THIS Friday (November 20, 2015). Use the hashtag #genealogygems, and you’ll be entered in a contest to win my Pain Free Family History Writing Project video course download, kindly donated by our friends at Family Tree University. You’re welcome to add any comments on your “shared” post, like which Genealogy Gems blog post has most inspired you or helped your research. That feedback helps us bring you more posts you’ll love.
Ready, set, SHARE! And thank YOU for helping us celebrate our 1000th blog post here at Genealogy Gems.
Lisa Louise Cooke’s free Google Earth for Genealogy online video is so popular, the announcement about it was our #4 genealogy blog post for the year! Guess what? The online video is still there–and it’s still free.
Google Earth is one of Google’s most powerful tools for helping us understanding our ancestor’s world. (And if you read our #6 top post about other Google technologies you can use for genealogy, you know that’s saying something!)
With Google Earth, we can use satellite imagery, terrain maps, 3-D views of city streets and even overlays of old maps to learn about an ancestor’s town, neighborhood and even the very property they lived on. Even better, as Lisa demonstrates in her free video, we can also use Google Earth to share those discoveries with others in multimedia style.
Click here to “fly” (as Google Earth would say) to Lisa’s FREE Google Earth for Genealogy class!
We hope you are enjoying this week’s celebration of our Top 10 blog posts. Don’t forget about our countdown prize this week! Click here to see all Top 10 posts on our genealogy blog–and share that post on your Facebook page by THIS Friday (November 20, 2015). Use the hashtag #genealogygems, and you’ll be entered in a contest to win my Pain Free Family History Writing Project video course download, donated by our friends at Family Tree University. Add any comments you’d like on your “shared” post, like which Genealogy Gems blog post has most inspired you or helped your research. That feedback helps us bring you more posts you’ll love.
Ready, set, SHARE! And thank YOU for helping us celebrate our 1000th blog post here at Genealogy Gems.
On January 28, 2015 Google announced that Google Earth PRO is now available for FREE! Not just a free trial. Google is allowing everyone to get a free key to Google Earth Pro!
In the past the software fee was hundreds of dollars. But now you can get Google Earth Pro for free and gain the ability to do things like “measure 3D buildings, print high-resolution images for presentations or reports, and record HD movies” inside Google Earth.To get your free key to Google Earth Pro sign up here. After submitting the form, you will be emailed the free license key. Copy the license key from the email, then click the link provided to download Google Earth Pro app for PC and Mac.
Everything I’ve taught you about using Google Earth still applies, but now you have more tools than ever!
Since I announced this in the last Genealogy Gems Newsletter, I’ve received several questions. Here’s what you need to know about Google Earth Pro:
From Sheri: “I did get it to finally work…..instead of my phone number running together….I added the dashes between the numbers and then it went through. FYI….in case you hear an issue from others.”
Thanks for the tip Sheri. Most likely the problem you were running into after the big announcement that Google Earth Pro went free was the sheer amount of traffic the site received. Googlers swarmed the site, and any people found it took several attempts to get a successful download. As time passes, it should get quicker and easier to download.
From Kathy: “I downloaded the Google Earth Pro BUT now I have regular and Pro on my computer and all the spots marked in regular seemed to have transferred to Pro—Question—should I now uninstall the regular version?”
Answer: That decision is really up to you. I’ve decided to keep both for a while, but only do work from this point forward in Pro. If in a few months everything is still running smoothly, then I will probably delete the old free version just to free up disk space on my computer. For now, it certainly doesn’t hurt to leave it there.
The good news is that both programs appear to pull from the same files on your computer. This means that when you create a file in Pro, you will also see it in your Places panel in the free version.
Question from Dea: “I downloaded Google Earth Pro on my main computer. I now want to use the same license key for my laptop and android, as I signed up for 2 to 5 users. I assumed that I could use the same license key. When I tried to sign up on my laptop it said I already was a user, but do not know how I can access it from my laptop. Help!”
Answer: Although the sign up page asks how many users will be using the program, my understanding is that each download key is for one device. I would guess that the user question is about how many people might be using the application on that device. (Unfortunately the website isn’t clear on this point.) I’m basing this on the fact that when it was a paid version, you had to purchase a license key for each device.
As with the original free version of Google Earth, each device you download Google Earth to has it’s own unique Places Panel. In other words, files you create on your desktop computer don’t show up on your laptop. This is because the files are stored on that particular device and not on the Cloud (for privacy reasons).
So the bottom line is that to get another license key for another device you will need to use a different email. If you only have one email address, you could create a second free email in Gmail just to have an email you can use.
Dea’s Reply: “Thank you for such a prompt reply. I am sure there must be more than one of you. I do not know how you get so much accomplished….saw you at Midwest Roots in Indianapolis and, again, at a webinar for our Genealogy Society in Terre Haute, IN. You are an excellent speaker, teacher as well as entertaining.”
Lisa: Now I’m blushing!!
Answers to more questions:
Do you really need Google Earth Pro? Probably not, because Pro was created originally for businesses. However there are some pretty cool extras that you get by going Pro:
- Movie-Maker: Export Windows Media and QuickTime HD movies, up to 1,920×1,080-pixel resolution. (Sweet!)
- High-resolution printing: Print images up to 4,800 x 3,200 pixel resolution. (The free version max: 1,000 pixels.)
- Spreadsheet import: Ingest up to 2,500 addresses at a time, assigning place marks and style templates in bulk. (My geeky side is getting giddy!)
- Exclusive pro data layers: Demographics, parcels, and traffic count.
- Advanced measurements: Measure parking lots and land developments with polygon area measure, or determine affected radius with circle measure.
Want to learn more about using Google Earth specifically for genealogy? Check out this free video class.
And there are several chapters on using Google Earth for genealogy in my brand new book The Genealogist’s Google Toolbox Second Edition (2015). You can pick up as a special bundle here with my 2 disc DVD set Google Earth for Genealogy.
Did you know that writing–and then re-writing–our personal stories can be good for our health? And even better for our future,
Courtesy Houston County, TN. Archives.especially if we are struggling to define that future optimistically.
So says a recent New York Times blog post. “We all have a personal narrative that shapes our view of the world and ourselves,” writes Tara Parker-Pope.
“But sometimes our inner voice doesn’t get it completely right. Some researchers believe that by writing and then editing our own stories, we can change our perceptions of ourselves and identify obstacles that stand in the way of better health.”
She’s not talking about writing childhood memories or ancestral anecdotes. In several studies, people who were struggling in an area were asked to write about it. Then they were presented with optimistic scenarios about how others had overcome difficulties. Those who rewrote their narratives were able to grab onto some of that optimism. They actually changed the way they thought of their “problem,” whatever it was. And long-term results in some studies showed that these people DID in fact improve.
We often see celebrities on Who Do You Think You Are? talk about how their ancestors’ lives inspire them or teach them new ways of understanding their own lives. Many who write their own family histories say the same thing. As we wrestle with memories or facts and how to present them in writing, we also interpret the past in new ways and, often, this new insight brings hope for a better future.
One more GREAT reason to write your life story and family history, don’t you think? Thanks to my brother Chris McClellan for sharing this blog post with me.
Listen as Lisa and I discuss different styles for writing about your family history in the FREE Genealogy Gems podcast episode 176. Or get inspired by the family history-themed books we love and share on our Genealogy Gems Book Club page. Click here for great suggestions on what to read!