by Lisa Cooke | Nov 11, 2015
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.
by Lisa Cooke | Oct 29, 2015
Are you using YouTube to help research and share your family history? You should be! Here are 6 practical ways and several online resources to help you do that.
YouTube is the world’s most popular online video channel and the second-largest search engine in the world. It’s now owned by Google. That means you can harness the power and flexibility of Google searching to find exactly what you’re looking for on YouTube.
Can you use YouTube for family history? Yes, in so many ways! A recent YouTube search for “genealogy” brought up 124,000 results, and “family history” brought up just slightly less. The ways you’ll use YouTube for family history are a little different than the ways you might use other search engine and “big data” genealogy websites, since every result you’re looking for is a video. But because video is such a powerful tool, when you do find something you need, it can often become one of your most valuable finds on that topic.
6 Ways to Use YouTube for Family History
Think about how to apply your own family history research to each of these ways to use YouTube for family history. Check out the many linked examples we’ve shared elsewhere on our site for more tips and inspiration:
#1 Learn more about your ancestor’s world.
Search for major historical events, images of an old ancestral town, and information about clubs, businesses, and other topics that impacted your ancestors’ lives. Was there a disaster? Find footage, like from the 1906 San Francisco earthquake (that’s my own YouTube playlist because it has relevance to my ancestors), the Johnstown, PA flood of 1889 (which Contributing Editor Sunny Morton’s ancestors survived), or a disaster like this ship overturning. Click here to read a blog post by a Genealogy Gems podcast listener who hit pay dirt with historical footage on her ancestor’s town.
#2 Find your ancestors in action.
Ever since the Internet came on the scene, genealogists have been searching online for photos (or for the distant cousins possessing photos) of their family. Apply this strategy to YouTube and video. You might find them on-the-job, out-and-about in the community, or the subject of a historical news reel. Click here to read about the stunning footage Contributing Editor Sunny Morton found on her husband’s great-grandfather.
#3 Get quick answers to specific genealogy research questions.
Got a pressing question on how to fix your Ancestry tree, or how to create crafty family history gifts? Videos on YouTube not only supply answers, but show you how. For example:
#4 Participate in online genealogy conferences from the comfort of home.
Not everyone has the time or money to attend a genealogy conference. Conference organizers understand this and are harnessing the power of online video to bring key content to users where they are.
To get started, check out the videos that feature popular conference speakers and the conference experience from channels like SCGS (Jamboree) by searching SCGS genealogy and NGS by searching NGS Genealogy in the YouTube search box or app.
#5 Make and share your own family history videos right on YouTube.
Click here to read some free tips on how to make a totally shareable video. Click here to learn more about a podcast episode and video that offer more in-depth instructions on creating a great family history video. Here are some examples of family history videos I’ve created and posted on YouTube:
#6 Learn new craft techniques and display ideas for sharing your family history.
Get crafty and creative with project ideas found on YouTube! Search for keywords such as photos, shadow boxes, quilting, scrapbooking, etc. I’ve set up a special playlist on the Genealogy Gems Channel called Family History Craft and Display Projects that is chock full of videos to get you started. Search “GenealogyGems” in the YouTube app or click here to go directly to the playlist. Recently I posted a new YouTube video that captures some highlights of projects I’ve created. You can also read Genealogy Gems blog posts that recommend YouTube videos for specific craft ideas like making a photo quilt or a message in a bottle.
Here’s a tip: When you find a YouTube channel you like, click the Subscribe button. This will set you up to be notified of new videos from that channel as soon as they are published. (Sign in to YouTube with your free Google account).
How to Get the Most Out of YouTube for Family History
Learn how to get the most out of YouTube for family history in my book The Genealogist’s Google Toolbox. There’s an entire chapter on YouTube! You’ll learn how to navigate your way through YouTube; conduct the best searches for videos; how to create a custom YouTube channel, playlists and home page; how to like and share videos; how to upload your own videos and more.
by Lisa Cooke | Oct 22, 2015 | 01 What's New, Evernote, FamilySearch, Listeners & Readers, Source Citation
Here’s how can you add family history documents you’ve grabbed with the Evernote web clipper to your tree on FamilySearch!
Recently Zooey wrote in with this question: “I’ve clipped numerous things for my ancestors [with the Evernote web clipper] that I want to put in FamilySearch. How do I do it under Documents?”
Good for Zooey for having her genealogy sources organized in Evernote–and for wanting to cite her sources on her FamilySearch family tree. Here’s how to do it:
FamilySearch Documents support the following file types: .pdf, .jpg, .tif, .bmp, and .png. Since it doesn’t currently have an “import from Evernote” feature, you’ll need to export the web clippings from Evernote and then upload them to FamilySearch.
Earlier this year I wrote an article on our blog entitled “Here’s a Cool Way to Export a Web Clipping from Evernote.” The article will walk you through exporting your Evernote web clippings as pdf files, which FamilySearch Documents can then accept as uploads.
More Evernote for Genealogy Tips on the Genealogy Gems Website:
You can find all our past articles on using Evernote for genealogy (including the one I mentioned) at the home page of our website. On the left, just under the main red menu, you will see a drop down menu called “Select Content by Topic.” Click the down arrow and select “Evernote” from the list. This will display all our past Evernote articles on your screen starting with the most recent. Or get started with these great how-tos:
How to Use Evernote for Genealogy: The Ultimate Education
Evernote for Genealogy: What It Is, and Why You Would Use It (FREE VIDEO!)
How to Use Evernote for Genealogy and Family History: Handwriting, OCR, Video and Upload Answers (FREE VIDEO!)
Thank you for sharing this post with others. We would all love our online trees to be better sourced–and for others’ trees to be better sourced, too.
by Lisa Cooke | Oct 11, 2015 | 01 What's New, Gifts, Heritage Scrapbooking, Holidays, Oral History, Publishing, Writing Family History
This 3-step project will help you capture a relative’s life story in plenty of time for the holidays!
Reconstructing the life stories of our ancestors can sometimes feel like squeezing water from a stone. By comparison, gathering the life stories of the living can be like turning on a tap. All you have to do is direct and catch the flow.
Turn your family history interviews into a beautiful book–just in time for holiday sharing–with this three-step project. Simplify it or doll it up, depending on your time, talents and what you have to work with. Just do it! Write your family history! Here’s the basic outline:
1. Record an interview. Invite a relative to chat with you about his or her life stories. Decide together what the relative WANTS to talk about: childhood memories? Stories about a certain loved one or a particular time period? A little of everything? Consider using a list of life story questions or memory prompts like those you can find in my book, My Life & Times: A Guided Journal for Collecting Your Stories.
Before you begin, be clear that your goal is to write these stories up for the family. Meet in person, over the phone or by Skype (click here to learn how to record a Skype conversation). With permission, record the conversation. Ask plenty of follow-up questions, but otherwise keep your own comments to a minimum. For more interviewing tips, listen to this free Family History Made Easy podcast episode.
2. Transcribe the interview. After you’ve finished your chat, go back and type up the interview. Give yourself plenty of time: this takes longer than you think. Consider asking a fast-typing relative to help or hire a transcription service (here’s one option). Type things just as you hear them, incomplete sentences and all. Don’t include anything your loved one wants to keep “off the record.”
3. Print the transcript. Save an unedited copy of the typescript in your permanent files. Edit it a little to make it “reader-friendly” if you want to. Print it out. Add any extras, like family tree charts or copies of photos. Bind it however you prefer. (Genealogy Gems Premium website members can check out Lisa’s 3-part Premium podcast series on self-publishing: episodes 52-54). Share copies with loved ones: they make great holiday gifts.
Here’s a page from a sample project I did. It’s a simple stapled book, printed in landscape (sideways) format on regular-sized paper. I left the narrative in the format of a simple Q&A, just like it was spoken. I did edit slightly for clarity and flow. My questions are in italics and the speakers are identified (I was interviewing a husband and wife together). I added a few photos.
I shared copies of this book with every family member as holiday gifts a few years ago. Now everyone has a special legacy gift featuring this couple: their children, their grandchildren and even their great-grandchildren.
Now is the time for you to write a portion of your family history, and I’m here to help and support you. I will be conducting a fun and productive one-week workshop called the Genealogist’s Essential Writing Workshop at Family Tree University starting October 19. You can do this and I’m here to help!
Additional Family History Writing Resources from Genealogy Gems
Disclosure: This article contains affiliate links and Genealogy Gems will be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking on these links (at no additional cost to you). Thank you for supporting Genealogy Gems!
by Lisa Cooke | Sep 20, 2015 | 01 What's New, images, Technology
Millions of us already rely on Siri (that disembodied voice on our iPhones) to find us the nearest gas station, make hands-free calls and answer random questions. Amazon Echo now offers that same kind of voice-activated help throughout your house.
There’s a lot of good gadgetry in the Iron Man movies, but my favorite is Jarvis, the virtual butler in Tony Stark’s house. He anticipates Tony’s every need, controls his home technology, even comments on his personal life.
Jarvis immediately came to mind when I heard about the new Amazon Echo from longtime Premium Member Jennifer from California. She raved about it so enthusiastically I bought one!
For $179, the Amazon Echo gives you “an always-listening Siri for your living room,”as FastCompany.com describes it. “It’s Amazon’s vision of the platform of the future, one that gives you the ability to control your home by voice.”
So why am I, a genealogy podcaster, blogging about the Amazon Echo? Well, it works as a whole-house sound system for listening to music, audio books and–you guessed it–podcasts! Thanks to the smartphone, podcast listening has become much more convenient thanks to native podcast apps like Apple’s “Podcasts”and our own Genealogy Gems Podcast app. But when it comes to listening at home, you may not always want to be tethered to your smartphone or iPod. Now, with the Echo, you don’t have to be.
The Genealogy Gems Podcast is now on the Echo. To the best of my knowledge, podcasts are only available on the Echo via TuneIn. I knew as soon as I fell in love with Amazon Echo that The Genealogy Gems Podcast needed to be there. And now it is! TuneIn has added the Genealogy Gems podcast to its lineup so you can listen with the Amazon Echo. Click here to visit our TuneIn page.
But using the Echo for listening is just the beginning! “The key is what’s inside: Alexa, an always-listening Siri for your living room,” says that same Fastcompany.com article. “It’s Amazon’s vision of the platform of the future, one that gives you the ability to control your home by voice.”
my Amazon Echo fresh out of the box
For example? It syncs with Google Calendar. Sweet! When I need to know the next deadline coming up, I ask Alexa. When I get an inspiration for the next podcast episode in the middle of making dinner (with marinade up to my elbows) I just tell Alexa to add it to my To Do list. And when I use that last clove of garlic, I just say “Alexa, add garlic to the shopping list.”
The Echo can also read you breaking headlines, tell you the weather forecast, set a timer or alarm for you, and interact with other home technologies that are gradually gaining that capacity. And of course it can answer your random questions, too. (Try these fun questions and commands from other Echo owners.)
The most challenging part of installation: “Where does the plug go?” Right here in the bottom of the Echo!
I’ve definitely gotten my money’s worth out of Echo! I just call her name and give her a command and she does it. I’m surprised how much I enjoy having her in the kitchen.
If you decide to purchase Amazon Echo, thanks for using our links! Your purchases support the free Genealogy Gems podcast and all the free content on our website.
My dog Howie listening to Alexa (you can tell Alexa is talking because the top lights up)