How to Write and Self Publish Your Family History Book with Author J.M. Phillips

If you’ve been wondering how to write and self-publish a book about your family history, my guest in this week’s free webinar has answers for you!

Amazon Link to Buy the Book

Click here to buy the book. (Thank you for using this link which helps make this free show possible.) J.M. Phillips is the author of the new book Lamlash Street, A Portrait of 1960’s Post-War London Through One Family’s Story available at Amazon in paperback or Kindle. 

Elevenses with Lisa Episode 50

Join me on Thursday, April 1, 2021 at 11:00 am CENTRAL TIME for the live premiere of my interview with J.M. Phillips. I’ll be joining you live in the chat as watch together at the Genealogy Gems YouTube channel. 

In this episode author J.M. Phillips shares:

  • How to be a great family history storyteller
  • Her favorite writing techniques that help create a compelling story
  • What she learned about self-publishing (and what you need to know)
  • Her experience living on and writing about Lamlash Street

My Guest: Author J.M Phillips

Jill Phillips is a family storyteller with a passion to inspire families to connect through the telling of their past. She started life on Lamlash Street in London, emigrated to Canada, where she obtained her master’s degree, and spent 30 years working as an Occupational Therapist and Hospital Manager. Motivated by her family’s experiences in 1960’s London, Jill shares their stories to celebrate a time of close family connections in difficult life situations and a way of life which is fondly remembered. 

About the Book Lamlash Steet:

Explore a world that can’t be visited anymore—South East London, 1963.

On Lamlash Street, Cockney families have more life and character than money, living among the bombed out and condemned buildings. Post WWII London will evolve swiftly into the era of The Beatles, Twiggy, and modern, swinging London.

Experience the lively true story of a girl on her way to being a young woman, coming-of-age at a moment in London’s history unlike any other. Jill Phillips tries to capture her first kiss while navigating a world turning upside down and the trauma that her parents and uncle experienced during the war.

It’s a time when a local factory shutting down could mean more than just job loss. As families are torn apart, they rely on questionable yet quirky neighbors and find inventive ways to survive—like pay cigarette machines in the house and Christmas presents “special ordered” for a fraction of the cost.

Seen-but-not-heard by the adults in her life, Jill looks for young love and how to define herself. Stories of Nazi aircraft on the walk home from school, watching Doodle bugs (flying bombs) drop on London from rooftop perches, and her uncle’s many unsettling stories of war as young merchant mariner give her a unique lens of the world and what a better future could look like for her family.

Lamlash Street: A Portrait of 1960’s Post-War London Through One Family’s Story is a heartfelt and funny historical memoir. 

How to be a family history storyteller.

In her new book Lamlash Street, Jill talked about how her uncle often shared his stories of fighting in World War II. I asked her what she thinks the value is of passing family stories like these from one generation to the next. Jill described how sharing family stories can often form  connections between family members that previously couldn’t exist. By re-telling the past, we can learn how families can move stronger into the future. We can learn more about family decision making. Jill gained a sense of peace about turbulent times in her childhood from learning more about why her mum and dead did what they did, such as moving from Lamlash St. to Kent.

Jill’s uncle was a talented storyteller and I asked her if she had been one before writing the book. While she was emphatic  that as an academic in her career she did not consider herself a storyteller, ultimately the experience of writing the book was “one of the most rewarding things I’ve done.”

Jill now takes comfort from her mum’s stories, and feels that they connect her more with her family. Writing and publishing your family’s history can help you learn even more about it because it so often generates even more connection and conversation within the family. That was certainly Jill’s experience, although she found her family very skeptical about the book project at first!

Lisa: Were there any tangible things you did to hone your skills as a storyteller and writer?

Jill: “I told myself ‘yes, you can do this!’”

How to Get Started Writing Your Family History Book

  • Just do it
  • The more you write the better you get at it.
  • The more you tell the stories, you better you get at the storytelling
  • Don’t think on day one that you should be able to write a great massive novel. Take it a piece at a time.

5 Strategies for Writing a Compelling Family History Book

  1. Jill started by just writing down a list of the stories she could remember. Then she could add to it and go ask more questions of family members. Her advice: ‘Focus on just getting the stories down.”
  2. To turn your family history book into a page-turner, create a “washing line”. Jill started by printing all her stories and then spreading them out. She says that individual stories are the article of clothing you pin on the story line. The washing line is the way you string them together.
  3. Look for a common theme. Jill also used a single year as a theme and then string the stories to the events of the year. She would look at the remaining stories to see how she could combine them with what she had.
  4. You should always have some romance in your stories. Jill decided to include a childhood crush.
  5. Bookend the story by starting and ending with something consistent or thematic. Jill chose Christmas. The circumstances between Christmas 1962 and Christmas 1963 were dramatic, and provided contrast to the consistency of the familiar holiday.

Lisa’s tool suggestions:

  • Scrivener
  • Powerpoint slides
  • Paper, sticky notes, index cards

Jill’s Encouragements for Writing Your Story:

  • Don’t be overwhelmed by it.
  • Just stick with your family’s stories.
  • Don’t worry about stringing everything together until you have collected all your stories.
  • “Just take it a piece at a time.” You have to find what works for you.

How to Ask Relatives for Stories

I asked Jill if she ever anybody who resisted sharing their stories when she asked. Did she have any special techniques to warm things up?

Jill’s tips for gathering stories from reluctant relatives:

  • You have to be sensitive that there will always be stories people don’t want shared.
  • Keep things on the light side.
  • Remember you don’t have to include everything. Jill didn’t.
  • “I didn’t push it. Because we don’t know the details. We don’t know what happened at that time, why it’s such a sensitive area. And I really wanted something that the family would be warm and positive towards.”
  • Consider ways to make it less controversial. Jill felt that the fact that her book was about a 10 year old made it less controversial. “The whole point of this was to celebrate the family, not to cause division.” Some authors opt to do so. It’s your decision.

Publishing Your Book

Jill decided to self-publish her book because it gave her more control over the process and the outcome. It’s also an affordable option. However, she didn’t shy away from asking for help. She was very happy with the experience.

She used a full-service self-publishing company called Book Launchers. They hand-help her through the process of self-publishing and promotion. You can also go with more do-it-yourself print-on-demand services like Lulu, Book Baby, or Create Space. Need more references? Try talking to a local printer in your town.

Avoiding Self-Publishing Pitfalls

  • If you get easily overwhelmed with decisions and details a hand-holding self-publishing company is a good way to go.
  • Speak to someone who has been through the process before.
  • Understand that it’s much more complex than you can imagine.
  • Find an online self-publishing support group.
  • Relax and realize that the process of self-publishing takes a lot longer than you think it will.

 

Secrets for Turning Family History into an Entertaining and Compelling Book

  • Drop little breadcrumbs along the storyline to keep people anticipating and engaged.
  • Keep the sections within the stories short.
  • Include a variety of perspectives, locations etc. when you can.
  • Help the reader visualize the scenes with great descriptions and details.
  • Don’t get too involved in very long scenes.
  • Resist going over and over something. It doesn’t drive the idea home – it makes it boring!

 Lisa mentioned the use of linguistics in tracing heritage. You can hear Lisa’s conversation with forensic linguist Dr. Robert Leonard in Episode 89 and Episode 90 of The Genealogy Gems Podcast.  

About the Book: Lamlash Street by J.M. Phillips

(A portrait of 1960s post war London through one family’s story) Explore a world that can’t be visited anymore—South East London, 1963. On Lamlash Street, Cockney families have more life and character than money, living among the bombed out and condemned buildings. Post WWII London will evolve swiftly into the era of The Beatles, Twiggy, and modern, swinging London.

 

East London 1960s Cockney

Please use this link if you decide to pick up a copy of the book. 

Experience the lively true story of a girl on her way to being a young woman, coming-of-age at a moment in London’s history unlike any other. Jill Phillips tries to capture her first kiss while navigating a world turning upside down and the trauma that her parents and uncle experienced during the war.

It’s a time when a local factory shutting down could mean more than just job loss. As families are torn apart, they rely on questionable yet quirky neighbors and find inventive ways to survive—like pay cigarette machines in the house and Christmas presents “special ordered” for a fraction of the cost.

Seen-but-not-heard by the adults in her life, Jill looks for young love and how to define herself. Stories of Nazi aircraft on the walk home from school, watching Doodle bugs (flying bombs) drop on London from rooftop perches, and her uncle’s many unsettling stories of war as young merchant mariner give her a unique lens of the world and what a better future could look like for her family.

Learn a Little Cockney with Author Jill Phillips

Apples and Pears rhymes with Stairs
Bonnet Fair rhymes with Hair

So her mum would say: “Jill, can you go up the apples and comb your bonnet?”

Trouble and Strife is your (rhyming) Wife
Plates of Meat is your (rhyming) Feet
If your dogs are barking it means your feet are aching!

 

Resources

Genealogy Gems Podcast Episode 199

The Genealogy Gems Podcast
Episode 199
with Lisa Louise Cooke

Click the player below to listen:

In this episode, Lisa celebrates Canada’s 150th anniversary with Claire Banton from Library and Archives Canada. You’ll also hear how Lisa will be marking another anniversary in 2017: the 10th year of this Genealogy Gems podcast.

More episode highlights:

  • An inspiring follow-up email from Gay, whose YouTube discovery Lisa shared in episode 198, and a great conference tip from Barbara just in time for RootsTech.
  • Genealogy Gems Book Club Guru Sunny Morton announces the new Book Club title.
  • Your DNA Guide Diahan Southard shares thoughts about DNA testing with kids.

JOIN THE CELEBRATION! 10th ANNIVERSARY AND 200th EPISODE

 

You’re invited to send in well-wishes and win a chance at a prize!

Email Lisa by January 31, 2017 at genealogygemspodcast @ gmail.com OR call her voicemail line at 925-272-4021.

Share your first name and where you live.

Share a memory of listening to this podcast, such as: When did you start listening? What’s one of your favorite things you’ve learned from this show?

Lisa will randomly select one response to receive a free year of Genealogy Gems Premium membership. Thanks for helping all of us here at Genealogy Gems celebrate 10 years of doing something we love!

 

NEWS: ROOTSTECH 2017

RootsTech will be held on February 8-11, 2017 in Salt Lake City, UT: learn more and register.

Genealogy Gems events at RootsTech

Lisa will be live-streaming FREE sessions the marked session via the free Periscope app. Get it in Apple’s App Store or Google Play. Sign up for a free account and follow Lisa Louise Cooke to tune in. Sign up for notifications in Periscope, and your phone will “ping” whenever Lisa starts streaming! Broadcasts stay in the Periscope app for 24 hours. Like and follow the Genealogy Gems Facebook page to hear about more streaming sessions!

Rootstech Booth #1039 Schedule Free Classes

NEWS: FAMICITY KICK-STARTER

Famicity is a free, private website for families to share pictures, videos, memories, family activities and the family tree. The company has been very successful in France where it was launched, and the founder is working to bring the new English platform to the United States. He’s launched a Kickstarter campaign to support their U.S. launch. Click here to support it.

 

BONUS CONTENT FOR GENEALOGY GEMS APP USERS
If you’re listening through the Genealogy Gems app, your bonus content for this episode is a tutorial on Feedly, an easy way to consume just the online content you want. The Genealogy Gems app is FREE in Google Play and is only $2.99 for Windows, iPhone and iPad users

Lisa Louise Cooke uses and recommends RootsMagic family history software. From within RootsMagic, you can search WebHints on FamilySearch.org, Findmypast.com and MyHeritage.com. Soon RootsMagic will also be able to search records and even sync your tree with Ancestry.com, too.

 

 

 

 

Keep your family history research, photos, tree software files, videos and all other computer files safely backed up with Backblaze, the official cloud-based computer backup system for Lisa Louise Cooke’s Genealogy Gems. Learn more at http://www.backblaze.com/Lisa.

 

MAILBOX: YOUTUBE DISCOVERY FOLLOW-UP

Remember the YouTube success story from Genealogy Gems Podcast episode 198? Gay as a young woman attended a dedication ceremony for the saline water treatment in Freeport, Texas?and with Lisa’s tips she found video footage on YouTube.

 

Gay wrote back to send us more about that, including this page from her diary that day and this news clipping. Check out the news clipping to see why that plant was so important, Pres. John F. Kennedy gave the dedication speech. (See what newspapers can tell you?!)

Find your own family history on YouTube. Click here to learn how or read an entire chapter on YouTube in Lisa Louise Cooke’s book, The Genealogist’s Google Toolbox, 2nd revised edition.

Click here to learn how to turn family stories and artifacts like these into videos to share with relatives.

Learn to find articles such as this one that can put your family’s story in context?locally and even nationally. Read How to Find Your Family History in Newspapers by Lisa Louise Cooke.

 

INTERVIEW: CLAIRE BANTON, LIBRARY AND ARCHIVES CANADA (LAC)

Claire Banton obtained her Masters of Library and Information Studies degree in 2006. She has worked in Reference Services at LAC for 10 years, where she has enjoyed learning something new every day. She is currently Chief, Orientation Services, where she works with an awesome team who help people search for information. She loves being an information detective and helping people overcome their research challenges.

Claire’s tips for genealogy research with LAC:

LAC is very different from the average library. It is both a national library (search the library catalog here) and a a national archive (search the archival catalog here). You don’t have to have an account to search.

Start with the LAC website (genealogy resources page) whether you are visiting in person or not. There are loads of free databases and some unindexed digitized records. The Topics page will tell you what they do and don’t have.

There was no border control from the US to Canada prior to 1908, so there are no Canadian records of earlier crossings. [Tip: see border crossings to the US, 1895-1956 at FamilySearch.org and Ancestry.com.]

Call LAC directly for quick answers. Schedule a Skype call with a genealogy expert to get more in-depth answers: provide background information ahead of time.

Click here to explore (and join) Canada’s 150th birthday celebration.

 

GENEALOGY GEMS BOOK CLUB

The Truth According to Us by internationally best-selling author Annie Barrows (co-author, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society and author, Ivy and Bean, children’s book series)

It’s the summer of 1938, and wealthy young socialite Miss Layla Beck is now on the dole as a WPA worker, assigned to write a history of the small town of Macedonia, West Virginia. As she starts asking questions about the town’s past, she is drawn into the secrets of the family she’s staying with?and drawn to a certain handsome member of that family. She and two of those family members take turns narrating the story from different points of view, exploring the theme that historical truth, like beauty, is often in the eye of the beholder.

Click here to read an introduction to using WPA records for genealogy.

Click here to see more Genealogy Gems Book Club selections and how you can listen to Lisa’s upcoming exclusive conversation with author Annie Barrows about The Truth According to Us.

 

DNA WITH DIAHAN: DNA TESTING FOR KIDS?!

I was talking with a fellow mom the other day about all the demands that are placed on kids’ time today. They have school and homework, many have after school sports and clubs, religious meetings, some have jobs or at least chores at home, not to mention all the time required to text, check social media, and hang out with friends. As parents and grandparents, we want our children to spend time on things that matter, things that will prepare them for their future lives and mold them into their future selves.

According to a 2010 study out of Emory University, if we want to encourage kids toward an activity that will positively impact them, we should steer them toward family history. The researchers reported that “children who know stories about relatives who came before them show higher levels of emotional well-being.”

Now, I know I don’t need to convince you of this. You are already sold on genealogy. But I share this in the hope that it will push you over the edge and this will erase any hesitancy you have about sharing this love with your children and grandchildren.

Now, since you know this is me, the genetic genealogist talking, you can probably guess what I’ll suggest for getting kids interested in family history. DNA testing is a great way to personally and physically involve them. First of all, there is the tangible process of taking the sample at home, and the marvel at how such a simple act can produce the amazing display of our ethnicity results.

Since each of us is unique, it will be fun for them to compare with you and other relatives to see who got what bit of where. This will naturally lead to questions about which ancestor provided that bit of Italian or Irish, and wham! You’ll be right there to tell them about how their 5th great grandfather crossed the ocean with only the clothes on his back, determined to make a new start in a new land.

If there are parts of the ethnicity report that you can’t explain, use that as a hook to encourage them to start digging and to find out why you have that smattering of eastern European or south east Asian. Taking them for a tour of the DNA match page you can show them how they share 50% of their DNA with their sister (whether they like it or not!) and how they share 25% with you, their grandparent!

DNA test results give kids a totally unique look at their personal identity with technology that is cutting edge. Looking at their DNA test results can turn into a math lesson, a science lesson, a geography lesson, a lesson on heredity or biology, a discussion on identity?wherever you want to go with it! DNA is the perfect introduction to the wonders that genealogy can hold, especially for children who are so good at wondering.

Click here to learn more about Diahan’s series of how-to videos, available to Gems fans for a special price. Or start your DNA journey with the guide that will help you get started with kids’ genetic genealogy:

Autosomal DNA for the Genealogist

 

PROFILE AMERICA: ELLIS ISLAND

Click here to watch the official, award-winning documentary shown at Ellis Island free online at YouTube.

 

PRODUCTION CREDITSGenealogy Gems Newsletter Sign Up

Lisa Louise Cooke, Host and Producer

Sunny Morton, Editor

Amie Tennant, Content Contributor

Diahan Southard, Your DNA Guide, Content Contributor

Lacey Cooke, Service Manager

Vienna Thomas, Associate Producer


Check out this new episode!

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!

How to Find Images Online for Family History: Free Video Tutorials

Images make your family history more vivid. But how can you find just the right pictures to illustrate your family stories? These short, free video tutorials help genealogists find images online for family history.

picture is worth a thousand words

When it comes to sharing your family history, pictures are not only worth a thousand words: they’re priceless. A single image can convey an ancestor’s physical appearance, mood or attitude, living or working conditions, social environment, and more. Pictures catch the eye whether they are on coffee tables, hanging on the wall in frames, or shared with loved ones on social media, where they are oh-so-clickable.

So I was happy to get this email from Phyllis, asking for some tips on how to find images online for family history:

“Hi Lisa, I know you’ve told us before what some great resources are for locating historical photos and images. I’m looking for some from the Ragtime era (1895-1918). I don’t find much at the Library of Congress. Can you send me a few links to some of your podcasts that delve into where to find images? Thank you for all the hard work you do for the genealogy world.”

How to Find Images Online for Family History

Most recently, I shared some tips for finding images in the free Genealogy Gems Podcast Episode 194. But I also recommend this series of short video tutorials, which show you exactly how to do this.

How to Find Images Online: Use Google Images

The first place I search online for images for family history is Google Images. Watch this brief tutorial video to see how to find images using your Google web browser:

 

If you want to use your tablet or smartphone to find images for family history, here’s another short tutorial just for you:

 

How to Find Images Online: Image Search in Google Books

When I am looking for pictures of people, places, buildings, historical events, maps, and other images that commonly appear in books, I also search Google Books separately for pictures that haven’t shown up in the main Google search results. You can do that, too! Here’s how:

 

After you’ve found images via Google Books, you’ll want to save them. Here’s one last quick video to show you how:

 

 

Using the tips given in the above video tutorials, I can run a Google search to answer Phyllis’s specific question. I’ll type ragtime era as a keyword phrase and enter the range of years, separated by two dots and no spaces, to tell Google to search for any numbers within that range. Then, as shown below, I’ll click Images to limit the results to pictures:

 
 
The Image search results include some fun photos, including a photo of a ragtime band, several sheet music covers, illustrations of “ragtime dress” and even a link to old video footage:
 
 
 
Click on an interesting-looking image to see a larger version and more details about it, including the website that’s hosting it. You’ll also see the options to click through to the webpage on which that image is found (“Visit page”), or to click through to the URL for that image (“View image”):
 
 
 
 
When I want to use an image, I will take one additional step: Click the TOOLS button and select Labeled for reuse from the Usage rights menu. This generally filters my results down to those that don’t have copyright restrictions on them (although it’s up to me to verify this and cite the image appropriately when I use it). Here’s what it looks like to filter my results to those labeled for reuse:
 
 
 
Unfortunately, in this case, when I do this, all search results disappear. If you want to use images for your own personal use, try the Labeled for noncommercial reuse option. Not all images that are copyright free or in the public domain will be marked, so if you don’t find what you need, go back to your original search results and look at individual images that you like to see whether any of them come from government, wiki, or other websites that commonly offer copyright-free images. Click through to read any image restrictions or use policies posted on the site, or contact the site for permission to use them. In this case, I do find several hosted by libraries, and I will focus on them.
 
One last tip: filter your search results again for Videos, instead of for Images. An entirely new set of search results will appear, largely from YouTube but also from other websites:
 
 
 
If the spirit and movement of ragtime during this time period is what you’re looking for, watch these videos! They may not work for you if you need static images for a book, but they’re great for sharing on your family history blog or in a social media post. Just click through to the video page, click Share and copy and paste the Embed code onto your site.
 
The Genealogy Gems YouTube channel is a vast resource. I invite you to visit, explore, and subscribe. In addition to tech tip video demos such as these, you’ll also find interviews with genealogy experts. research tips for maps, newspapers and other record types, how-to series for family history blogging, creating videos, and using Evernote for genealogy, family history craft tutorials and more! Here’s a tip: Use the search box to find what you’d like to watch. (Google search operators work in YouTube searches, too. Use them to zero in on the video or podcast episode you want.)

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

Listen to the free in podcast in your favorite podcast app.

 

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!

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