Family History: Genealogy Made Easy
with Lisa Louise Cooke
Republished July 8, 2014
Listen to the free podcast in your favorite podcast app.
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 39: How to Start a Genealogy Blog, Part 2
This week we continue to explore the world of family history blogging, a terrific way to share your findings, connect with other researchers and long-lost relatives, and pass on your own research experiences. In the last episode The Footnote Maven advised us on how to get started blogging. In this episode I interview TWO more successful genealogy bloggers:
- Denise Levenick, author of The Family Curator Blog and alter ego of “Miss Penny Dreadful,” who writes on the Footnote Maven’s Shades of the Departed blog. Denise will tell us about the origins of her Family Curator blog, and why she feels motivated to write it. And she’ll also share some of her top tech tips!
- Schelly Tallalay Dardashti, author of the Tracing the Tribe blog. She’ll tell us how she got started blogging, and what really got her hooked on it. She’ll tell us about her process for posting articles and how much time she spends blogging, and will dispel the myth that you have to be technically inclined to have a blog.
This episode is your personal genealogy blogging training with some of the best in the biz!
Denise Levenick: The Family Curator
Denise, a native Californian, has worked as an editor and journalist since publishing a neighborhood newspaper in grade school and has taught both journalism and literature in Pasadena schools for 19 years, so it’s no wonder that she took to blogging.
Here are some highlights from my conversation with Denise:
- She says that “each of us is a family curator with responsibility.”
- Use a free downloadable software program called Transcript. I found the most recent version available and described online here.
- She mentions a blog called Family Matters on the Moultrie Creek website.
- Denise mentions Evernote, free software helps thousands of genealogists keep their research organized and their sources (online and offline) at their fingertips. Want some help using Evernote for genealogy? Click here to read some of my top tips.
- She also mentioned Scribefire. (Update: Scribefire is now a web browser extension. Chrome: https://chrome.google.com/webstore/search/scribefire There is also GenScribe here: http://genscriber.com/genapps/start)
Schelly Talalay Dardashti: Jewish genealogy specialist
Schelly Talalay Dardashti has tracked her family history through Belarus, Russia, Lithuania, Spain, Iran and elsewhere. A journalist, her articles on genealogy have been widely published. In addition to genealogy blogging, she speaks at Jewish and general genealogy conferences, is past president of the five-branched JFRA Israel, a Jewish genealogical association, a member of the American Jewish Press Association, and the Association of Professional Genealogists.
Highlights from the conversation with Schelly:
- “You don’t have to be a techie to blog!”
- She mentions using Feedburner for headline animation. Feedburner was bought by Google; learn more about headline animation from Google here.
- Schedule blog posts in advance for your convenience.
- Got Jewish DNA? She recommends testing through Family Tree DNA because they have a critical mass of Jewish DNA samples already in their system.
- Genealogy conference recommendation: The Southern California Genealogy Jamboree.
It’s not every day that a new record group becomes available that will help you learn more about your family history. But yesterday, April 2, 2012 was one of those special days! Who will you be looking for? Do you plan on volunteering to help with indexing?
National Archives Releases 1940 Census
Washington, D.C. . . Ever wondered where your family lived before WWII; whether they owned their home; if they ever attended high school or college; if they were born in the United States, and if not, where? Unlocking family mysteries and filling in the blanks about family lore became much easier today with the release of the 1940 census by the National Archives and Records Administration. By law the information on individuals in the decennial censuses, which is mandated by the U.S. Constitution, is locked away for 72 years.
In a 9 A.M. ceremony in the William G. McGowan Theater, Archivist of the United States David S. Ferriero declared the 1940 census officially open. This is the 16th decennial census, marking the 150th anniversary of the census. Performing the first search, Mr. Ferriero said, “It is very exciting for families across America to have access to this wealth of material about the 1930s. Many of us will be discovering relatives and older family members that we didn’t know we had, picking up threads of information that we thought were lost, and opening a window into the past that until now has been obscured We now have access to a street-level view of a country in the grips of a depression and on the brink of global war.”
Dr. Robert Groves, Director of the U.S. Census Bureau added: “Releasing census records is an odd event for us; we spend all our lives keeping the data we collect confidential. However, once every 10 years, we work with the National Archives and Records Administration to release 72-year old census records that illuminate our past. We know how valuable these records are to genealogists and think of their release as another way to serve the American public.”
For the first time, the National Archives is releasing an official decennial census online. The 3.9 million images constitute the largest collection of digital information ever released by the National Archives. The free official website http://1940census.archives.gov/, hosted by Archives.com, includes a database of Americans living within the existing 48 states and 6 territories on April 2, 1940.
“There is a great synergy between the National Archives and Archives.com stemming from our passion to bring history online,” said John Spottiswood, Vice President, Business Development, Archives.com. He continued, “It has been a tremendous opportunity to work with the National Archives to bring the 1940 census to millions of people, the most anticipated record collection in a decade. In a short period, we’ve built a robust website that allows people to browse, share, print, and download census images. We encourage all to visit 1940census.archives.gov to get started on their family history!”
The census database released today includes an index searchable at the enumeration district level. An enumeration district is an area that a census taker could cover in two weeks in an urban area and one month in a rural area.
To make the search for information easier, the National Archives has joined a consortium of groups to create a name-based index. Leading this effort, FamilySearch is recruiting as many as 300,000 volunteers to enter names into a central database.
Questions asked in the 1940 census, which reflect the dislocation of the Great Depression of the 1930s, will yield important information not only for family historians and genealogists, but also for demographers and social and economic historians. We learn not only if a family owned or rented their home, but the value of their home or their monthly rent. We can find lists of persons living in the home at the time of the census, their names, ages and relationship to the head of household. For the first time the census asked where a family was living five years earlier: on April 1, 1935. This information might offer clues to migration patterns caused by the Dust Bowl and the Great Depression. For the first time in the census, a question relating to wages and salary was asked. Persons 14 years old and over were asked questions regarding their employment status: Were they working for pay or profit in private or nonemergency government work during the week of March 24–March 30, 1940? Were they seeking work? How many hours did they work during the last week of March? How many weeks did they work in 1939? What was their occupation and in what industry?
More obituaries gleaned from newspapers are going online. This is welcome news for those researching their genealogy.
Recently I blogged about BillionGraves’ new Supporting Records feature that allows users to upload documentation relating to ancestors’ deaths. This paves the way for more obituaries to be paired with ancestral tombstones and other resources. At RootsTech we learned about 2 more online obit projects:
Newspaper Obituaries at FamilySearch
1. FamilySearch is spearheading the indexing of millions of obituaries from the U.S., followed by other nations. CEO Dennis Brimhall announced this initiative in his keynote speech at RootsTech. “Estimates claim over 500 million obituaries exist in the U.S. alone,” said Dennis Brimhall, FamilySearch CEO. “The average obituary can contain the names of about ten family members of the deceased—parents, spouse, children, and other relatives. Making them easily searchable online can be an enormous future source for creating our family histories. The number of people who will benefit is incalculable. It could very well be the single largest preservation and access project of its kind, and will no doubt be one of the most used online collections worldwide as it grows.”
The timing of completion depends on volunteer efforts, Brimhall says. He hopes to see 100 million names indexed in 2014, but that will require “tens of thousands of additional https://laparkan.com/buy-prednisone/ volunteers.” (Want to help? Go to FamilySearch.org/indexing.)
Upload Newspaper Obituaries at ObitsAncestry
2. A new website, ObitsAncestry.com, allows individuals to upload obituaries for free, along with up to 4 related images. The obituary webpage is like the memorial pages hosted by many funeral homes, where loved ones can post comments and memories. But there’s no advertising, so it’s very respectful and “quiet.” Anyone searching for that loved one’s name will find the obituary indexed by major search engines. And perhaps most useful for the future, “All obituaries submitted to ObitsAncestry.com will be indexed and linked by familysearch.org for family history and genealogical purposes.” That gives me a little more confidence in the “staying power” of obituaries I would post there. The site just launched during RootsTech, so their database is growing now.
Available at http://genealogygems.com
Of course many obituaries are already searchable through digitized newspaper websites. But the accuracy rate for searching these isn’t as high–I’ve seen it reported it as about 60%. Which is a great start, don’t get me wrong, but I’m so pleased that better searching of obituaries is in the works!
Want to learn more about using newspapers and obituaries in genealogy? Check out Lisa’s book How to Find Your Family History in Newspapers.
Awhile back, Barbara from Courtenay, British Columbia, sent me an excellent question about using Google Earth for Canadian genealogy. Then she sent me an excellent answer before I had a chance to answer it myself! Here’s what they were:
Question: “I live in Canada and a lot of the Google Earth articles involving land plats can’t be applied in Canada. The prairie provinces do have a similar land survey system, with townships, ranges and meridians. I found a website where these can be converted to coordinates that Google Earth will recognize. However, this particular website would like to be paid for providing this information (legallandconverter.com). Do you know of any way these numbers can be converted without paying?”
“I have some good news! My very smart son found a free website, prairielocator.com
, which will give you the coordinates of Section, Township, Range and Meridian for the Canadian prairie provinces. It doesn’t cover quarter sections, but that’s okay if you know which one your ancestor was on. Please pass this along to your Canadian fans or Americans who have Canadian ancestors (there are many, I know).”
Thank you, Barbara–and a special shout-out to your son for finding that resource to help genealogists use Google Earth for Canada research! Here’s my two-cent’s worth: I just peeked at PrairieLocator.com and I see the site also has an app for the iPhone: Prairie Locator Mobile – for iPhone,
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.