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

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

family history genealogy made easy podcast

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

Download the Show Notes for this Episode

Welcome to this step-by-step series for beginning genealogists—and more experienced ones who want to brush up or learn something new. I first ran this series in 2008-09. So many people have asked about it, I’m bringing it back in weekly segments.

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

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

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

From the Mailbox:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How to Start a Genealogy Blog: Step by Step

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

1. Decide what the purpose of your blog is.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How to Name Your Blog:

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

3. Select a Design Template:

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

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

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

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

Vocab Word: KEYWORDS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How to Add a Picture Gadget to Your Blog:

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

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

Genealogy Blogging Summary

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

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

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

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

Frequently Asked Questions About the Free Podcast

Frequently Asked Questions About the Free Podcast What’s the Genealogy Gems Podcast about?My goal is to provide folks who are researching their family history with nuggets of inspiration and innovation to help them get the most of out their research time.  Episodes...

Missing Census or Missing Family: Legacy Tree Genealogists Answer

So, you think there might be a missing census page? Whether it’s a missing census or a missing family, my special guest, professional genealogist Kate Eakman from Legacy Tree Genealogists has strategies to help you figure it out. She has just the answers you need to find your ‘missing’ family.

missing census

A Genealogy Gems reader doing genealogy research in New Jersey has lost her family! Well not literally, but she can’t find them in the 1940 U.S. Census. Here’s the email I recently received from her:

I am having a problem finding my mother and grandparents in the 1940 census. My grandfather, William Charles Opfer, was born on October 15 1900. I can find him in the 1930 census living in  Glouescter Township, (Unincorporated Grenloch) Camden County, New Jersey. He is living with his wife Kathryn (Katharine) Opfer and three children: William C Jr, Robert, and Nancy (my mother).

When I search the 1940 census on Ancestry nothing shows up. So I went to the government web site and converted the 1930 Enumeration District to the 1940 Enumeration District. The 1940 Enumeration Districts were 4-57, 4-58, and 4-61. I then went through all of the pages for each of the districts looking for William C. Opfer. I did this on Ancestry, Family Search, and NARA.  No William C. Opfer.

I then went back to the 1930 census and looked at his neighbors. I searched for each of the 13 heads-of-household neighbors from the 1930 census. Two had moved 1940 and I found them. I could not find the other neighbors in the 1940 census. I am wondering if a page from the 1940 census did not get scanned? Is there somewhere else I could look?

Missing Census Answers from Kate Eakman, Legacy Tree Genealogists

First, let me say how impressed I am with this Gem’s research and her dedication to finding this census report. She has made some very thorough searches and performed a number of advanced genealogical techniques in her quest for the 1940 U.S. Census page. It hardly seems fair that all that work didn’t yield the success she surely earned.

The government website she referenced is the National Archives 1940 Census page. The use of the page “1930 Records Search” allowed her to simply locate her grandfather in the 1930 U.S. Census. Then, by clicking a few buttons, discover the corresponding enumeration districts (ED) for the 1930 ED in which he and his family lived: 4-57, 4-58, and 4-61.

I, too, have scrolled through page after page searching for that one elusive name and we know how tedious that task can be! Using three different sites was a good strategy and one that we employ ourselves here at Legacy Tree Genealogists. Different images might be easier or more difficult to read, although in the case of these three EDs, the copies seemed to be uniformly easy to read.

The first two EDs were for Blackwood, an unincorporated part of Camden County, New Jersey. The third one was for the Lakeland Tuberculosis Hospital, unlikely to have housed the entire family, but certainly worth looking through in case one Opfer was a patient there.

ED 4-58 had an interesting variation at the end of the report. The last two pages were not 15A and 15B, as would be expected, but were 61A and 61B. This indicates these households were enumerated at a later date than were their neighbors. Because federal law requires every household to be counted, and because not everyone was at home when the enumerator arrived, the enumerator had to return on a different day and attempt to gather the necessary information for those families. They were recorded separately, beginning with page 61A.

People living in hotels, trailer camps, and other places normally designed for single-night stays were enumerated a week after the initial enumeration and those pages are numbered beginning with 81A. Not every ED has a 61 or an 81 page, but if you see one, now you know why the page numbers suddenly changed so dramatically.

The writer’s use of Elizabeth Shown Mills’ FAN Club was an excellent idea, too. FAN, an acronym for Friends, Associates, and Neighbors, takes advantage of the fact that people, in general, tend to remain geographically close to the people they know. [Read more about this in our post, “The Genealogy FAN Club Principle Overcomes Genealogy Brick Walls“] If a portion of a community moves, they tend to move together and relocate in the same general area of their new location. Her instincts to use this tool were excellent, even if they did not produce the desired results. This falls under the heading of “reasonably exhaustive research” and should always be included when someone, or in this case something, can’t be found, but should be there.

The fact that the researcher was able to locate only two of those neighbors could be explained, in part, by the fact that so many were in their 60s, 70s, and even 90s in 1930. They simply may have passed away in the intervening ten years. Another explanation, particularly for the working families, is that the Great Depression caused many families to move in order to find employment.

This may have been true for the Opfers. We noticed in 1930, William was employed as a supervisor for Reading Transportation. While supervisors were important to the operation of any transportation company, it is possible William found himself unemployed, as was true for millions of other Americans. If that happened, he and his family could have moved anywhere in the United States in an effort to find work. Alternatively, William may have left to find work while Kathryn and the children lived by themselves in reduced circumstances, or with family or friends.

To this end, I searched for William and Kathryn, and then each of the three children individually, in the hope of locating one or more family members. Using the “less is more” strategy which is often an important part of genealogical research, I searched with and without the family members’ ages, places of birth, and other family member’s names. Because the surname “Opfer” might have been misheard by the enumerator or grossly misspelled, I even searched for the various members of the family with no surname. Since we did not know where the family may have lived between 1930 and 1944, we included all of New Jersey, Delaware (the home state of Kathryn), as well as neighboring Pennsylvania and New York in our searches. The lack of positive results meant we needed to expand our search to the Eastern seaboard, and then the entire United States.

We also identified the names of William’s and Kathryn’s parents, William and Sallie Opfer and Raymond and Corrine Mason, and searched their households and neighborhoods for William and Kathryn. They were not there. Walter, William’s younger brother, was not hosting the family, either.

The writer had asked if it was possible that a page from the 1940 U.S. Census did not get scanned. Since the 1940 census has only been available for four years, it is still possible, although not probable, that there are one or more pages missing unbeknownst to anyone. Our research revealed only a few pages from a couple EDs in Ohio and South Dakota that were missing from the FamilySearch collection. There is no indication anywhere that there are missing pages from New Jersey. In addition, the pages in the three possible EDs for the Opfers were all included and in the correct numerical order, with no indication of any missing pages at the end. Therefore, I think we must conclude that missing pages do not explain the Opfer family’s disappearance.

Other Databases to Help

There are two other databases which might provide some insight into the location of the Opfer family. The first is the set of 1942 World War II draft registration cards. All men between the ages of 18 and 65 were required to register for this draft. The draft registration cards would have included the address at which William lived in 1942; however, there was no card for a man named William Opfer (or with only the surname “Opfer”) born between 1895 and 1905.

The final search was the database of city directories. A poorly-indexed city directory reported the Opfers lived in Haddonfield, New Jersey in 1943, but there are two directories contained in the same book, and the listing was actually for 1947. It reported William and Katherine lived at 209 Washington Avenue with their children William and his wife, Robert, and Nancy. William’s brother, Walter, and his wife Edith lived nearby. Unfortunately, the search for them in 1940 revealed that 79-year-old widower William Pape lived at that address with his household servants who were not the Opfer’s.

missing census alternative

The William Opfer family in Haddonfield, New Jersey in 1947.Photo courtesy Ancestry.

Although the turmoil and upheaval of the Great Depression meant families were scattered, and it would have been easy to miss enumerating many households in the mid-1930s, by 1940 the U.S. was recovering from the effects of the Depression. Some agencies, such as the Works Progress Administration (WPA) and the CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps), were in place to provide work for men. Many war-related industries on both coasts were revived by the Allies’ efforts to stop Hitler.

In other words, there should have been work and stability for the Opfer family by 1940, and they ought to have appeared in a census report. The evidence of the 1930 census and the 1947 city directory strongly suggest they remained in or close to New Jersey, but all of the efforts to locate them have failed to yield positive results.

One Last Scenario

One possible scenario which would explain the Opfers apparent absence from the 1940 census is a simple one: perhaps the family was in the process of moving from one location to another in the month of April when the census was enumerated. Although the census was supposed to be enumerated on 1 April, the reality is that it was simply impossible to knock on every door and obtain the necessary information in one day. Some enumeration districts were fully counted by the 4th of the month. Other places were not completed until the 30th. This was true even in the same town.

If the Opfers had moved across the street from 206 Washington Avenue to 209 Washington Avenue in Haddonfield, for instance, between the 5th and the 14th of April, they would have moved from one enumeration district to another. Because the 209 Washington Avenue address had been enumerated on 4 April, they would not have been counted in that new location. And, because the 206 Washington Avenue address was not enumerated until the 15th of the month, they would not have been included in that EDs census report. We have seen this happen in the reverse and a family was enumerated twice because they moved during the enumeration, so it certainly could have happened the other way around. This is the only explanation we can find to explain the absence of the Opfers from the 1940 U.S. Census.

More About Kate Eakman at Legacy Tree Genealogists and SAVE $100!

Kate Eakman grew up hearing Civil War stories at her father’s knee and fell in love with history and genealogy at an early age. With a master’s degree in history and over 20 years experience as a genealogist, Kate has worked her magic on hundreds of family trees and narratives.

Areas of expertise:

-Native American Genealogy

-U.S. Civil War & Victorian America

-Narrative Biographies

-Irish Genealogy

The team of expert genealogists at Legacy Tree Genealogists can help bust through your brick walls. They do the research and you enjoy the discoveries!

3 Sparkling Ohio Genealogy Research Gems

Ohio genealogy resourcesA listener sent in her favorite resources for Ohio genealogy research. Could any of these help you find your Buckeye State ancestors?

Recently we heard from Genealogy Gems Premium member Kate, after she listened to Premium podcast episode 125 with Cheryl McClellan (available to Premium members). “That [episode] was perfect for my situation. I am looking at our budget and thinking of letting my 12 year subscription to Ancestry drop. Cheryl’s comments helped me make that decision….Lisa, you always have answers when I most need them.”

“Wanted to share a few sources that have I have found very helpful in Ohio genealogy research. We live in Michigan but have used the Toledo Public Library for research for years as many ancestors have lived there.

  1. Toledo Public Library: The Blade obituary index, 1837 to present. Through an online search from your home, you can request an obit and there is no fee. You may request up to 3 at a time. They will look them up when they have time and email you an image of the obit. It has taken up to a couple of weeks. They are very helpful. They also gave me a link to Google News so I can look myself on the Toledo Blade images. As you know there are gaps and not all images are legible. The Library has the paper on microfilm to fill in where needed.
  2. FamilySearch has an index and images for Ohio Deaths 1908 – 1953. This has the full image of death certificates. You have to create a user account to see the images. Wow, what a great help to understand how all these people are related. Just one example in my tree: there are 11 Mary Lehaneys. Some never married, some did. They all died as Mary Lehaney and if their husband died, they are listed as Mrs Tom Lehaney etc.
  3. FamilySearch has the Toledo Catholic Diocese record images. My paternal line is mostly Catholic and lived in Toledo area for many years. Again, not indexed, but when you know about the time [can you can find] not only birth and marriages, [but] the complete burial records from the Catholic Cemeteries.

Genealogy Gems Premium Membership and PodcastAnyone who researches in Ohio may find these [resources] invaluable….Lisa, keep your beautiful smile and thanks for all your help!”

Thank YOU, Kate! We hope her suggestions prove helpful to many of you doing Ohio genealogy! Anyone can become a Genealogy Gems Premium member like Kate. Members get 12 months of access to monthly Premium podcast episodes and the full Premium podcast archive–all packed with genealogy news, tips and interviews like the one that helped Kate. We also have more than 2 dozen in depth video classes for Premium members only, with more added regularly. These include our entire series on Evernote for genealogy! Click here to see the current list of Premium videos.

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