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.
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.
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.
Creating and maintaining a genealogy blog is a fun and rewarding way to share your family history. Blogging is also effective in finding cousin connections! If you are worried your blog isn’t pulling in the cousins you expected, elevate your ranking in search results by implementing these 3 ways to improve your genealogy blog.
I recently received this exciting email from Ruth:
“Thank you, thank you, thank you! Several months ago, I attended one of your all-day seminars in Bossier City, Louisiana and I must thank you for motivating me!
I’ve been researching my family tree off and on for 25 years or so, and at times it has taken a back burner to whatever was going on in my life; only to be dusted off when I would get an inquiry or perhaps when someone in the family passed away. In the last 3 years, I have been attending these local seminars with a distant cousin. They were fun and I learned a few things, but none had generated the enthusiasm that I have at the moment!
The knowledge that you share and the easy manner in which you deliver your presentations are so down-to-earth and it inspires me to learn more. I left your seminar with a Premium Membership package and I have been listening to your podcast ever since.
You also encourage your readers to blog about their genealogy. I took your advice and I’ve done just that. Please take a look at my blog – any suggestions you might have would be welcomed. The title is My Family Tree: Hobby or Addiction? and I have dedicated it to my father who passed away in 2005! Here is the link: http://myfamilytreehobbyoraddiction.blogspot.com/
Thank you again for all you do that encourages us and for the new tools that you share with your listeners to help their journey along the way!
Ruth Craig Estess”
Ruth, thank you and congratulations!
I love hearing how you have put it into action what you learned at the seminar.
Tips for Improving Your Genealogy Blog
Ruth is doing a terrific job including family information on her genealogy blog that others might be Googling. That means they are very likely to find her. But there’s more that can be done. Here are 3 additional tips for Ruth and anyone who wants to get more traction with their genealogy blog:
“1. Add more images. Google looks postively upon websites that have images. It considers the website to be more of an authority on the subject covered in the blog. Images improve Search Engine Optimization (SEO.) In layman’s terms, SEO refers the ways in which you have made your blog easy to use, and easy for Google to understand what it is about. The better Google understands the subject, the better chance it has of delivering your blog as a result when people search on things you write about (like your family tree!) It’s important that your image files have names that accurately reflect what they and your blog post are about. Therefore, it’s a solid strategy to include relevant genealogical information such as names, places and dates in the image titles. If you don’t happen to personally have photos about the subject of your blog post, include images of documents or other related items.
2. Include a Call to Action. At the end of each post, invite your readers to comment and contact you if they are researching the same family. It’s amazing what a little invitation will do to prompt interaction. If you skip this step, your readers may just “lurk”, or in other words, quietly read and then go on to the next website. That’s a missed opportunity for connection and collaboration. Even though a reader may be researching the family you are writing about, they may not think to reach out to you or comment unless you prompt them to do so.
3. Make use of blog categories. Categories and Labels help organize you blog content. Create a category for each surname you discuss on your blog. The category can appear in the side column on your blog. That makes it easy for readers to click a surname they are interested in and jump directly to your posts that discuss that name.”
Categories and Labels are great for SEO too. Google loves well-organized websites because they are easier to understand and deliver in search results.
More Gems on Creating Your Own Genealogy Blog
Ruth wrote to tell me she has already started putting these ideas into practice. She’s on her way to rising in the search results and hearing from distant cousins. How exciting! Click below to continue reading about rewarding and effective family history blogging.
Are you going on a road trip this summer? Do you have a genealogy playlist ready? Here are some favorite resources for creating the ultimate genealogy playlist for the open road.
Whether you have an Android, Apple, or Windows device, plan your own audio genealogy playlist for your next road trip. Here are some of our top picks:
1. The Genealogy Gems Podcast App allows you to listen to our regular podcasts with tips and tricks for genealogy and includes extra bonus content you won’t find anywhere else. By downloading the podcast before you hit the road, you won’t have to worry about using your data or hoping you have enough bars! And don’t miss the Bonus content available in many of the episodes. It’s a nice perk of our app.
2. AudioBooks from Audible. Audio books are a great idea for any road trip. For the highest quality reading voice, consider downloading a free app like AudioBooks. With 180,000 available titles, you will be sure to find something you like. AudioBooks offers a free 30-day trial and includes one free audio book. After the trial month, you can download a new book each month for $14.95, or purchase any book you want for the listed price.
3. Kindle Audio App is also free and easy to navigate. Once you have downloaded the app to your device, you can sign-in with your Amazon account to purchase the books you want. You can even sample books before you buy! Kindle Audio App allows you to experience “immersion” reading by allowing reading and listening simultaneously. Or, turn your Kindle e-book into an audiobook by having your iPhone read it to you: click here to learn how.
Genealogy Playlist Book Recommendations
Would you like some great summer reading options? These Genealogy Gems Book Club titles are some of our picks for listening on the road, on the beach, or wherever the sun takes you.
The Summer Before the War by Helen Simonson is a fun read about Beatrice Nash who lands in East Sussex, where locals aren’t exactly thrilled to meet her. She spends the summer fighting for her job, meeting a local cast of engaging, eccentric characters (both gentry and gypsy,) and trying not to fall for handsome Hugh. Then, the Great War breaks out. Listen to a free excerpt of an interview with the author in The Genealogy Gems Podcast episode 192.
Orchard House: How a Neglected Garden Taught One Family to Grow by Tara Austin Weaver, author of the internationally-acclaimed blog Tea & Cookies. This memoir is one part food, one part gardening, and two parts family drama, liberally seasoned with humor and introspection. Tara’s mother moves to Seattle to be near her. Together, they purchase a home with a wild garden. The challenge of reinvigorating the garden is nothing compared to the challenge of renewing their troubled relationship. It’s an honest (and mouthwatering) story of planting, cultivating, and harvesting the fruits of family and garden. The Genealogy Gems Premium website members can access the full interview in our premium podcast episode 133 or click here to hear a free excerpt.
The Lost Ancestor (The Forensic Genealogist)by Nathan Dylan Goodwin. This is the most recent book in a “genealogical crime mystery” series by the British author. Forensic genealogist Morton Farrier is hired to find out what happened to his client’s great-aunt Mary, who disappeared without a trace a century ago while working as a maid at a grand English estate. The author joined us on the June podcasts if you would like to take a listen. Genealogy Gems Premium members can hear the entire interview here. Other titles in the series: Hiding the Past and The Orange Lilies: A Morton Farrier Novella.
Orphan Train,by Christina Baker Kline,spent five weeks at the #1 spot on the New York Times Bestselling list and top of The Bestsellers List in Canada. The novel intertwines the stories of Vivian and Molly. Vivian is an Irish girl who lost her family in New York City and was forced to ride the ‘orphan train’ to find a new home. Decades later, the aged Vivian meets a teenager, Molly, who is struggling to find identity and happiness in the modern foster care system. Click here to catch highlights of our interview with Christina Baker Kline on the The Genealogy Gems Podcast. Genealogy Gems Premium members can click here to listen to the full-length interview.
The Texas State Genealogical Society 2015 Family History conference kicks off in less than 2 weeks. I’ll be there! Can you come? Here’s a discount code just for Gems fans!
My home state of Texas does EVERYTHING in a big way. So it’s no surprise the upcoming Texas genealogy conference will pack so much into their 2-day event, October 31 – November 1. Here’s a run-down of the weekend AND my friends-and-family discount code that you can use to save on registration.
2 KEYNOTE SPEAKERS. I’m looking forward to sharing the keynote stage with J. Mark Lowe, an expert genealogist and a very skilled and fun teacher. I think we’ll all have a lot of fun during these presentations.
GET-IT-DONE WORKSHOPS. Come and learn super practical skills to move your family history research ahead! I’m teaching “Learn How to Time Travel with Google Earth” and “How to Use Evernote for Genealogy” (Levels 1 and 2). Mark will teach a workshop on Genealogical Research in the South and another called “Following a Case through Court.”
43 CLASSES IN 14 TRACKS. Beginners are welcome–and intermediate/advanced researchers will have plenty to chew on–during 2 days of breakout sessions with topics that include: Genealogy for Beginners, DNA, African-American Research, Courthouse Records & Records Loss, Adoption, Hispanic Research, Methodology, Libraries & Repositories, Historical Context, Societies & Communities, and Digital Genealogy.
Early-bird registration has officially ended, but I have coupon code that passes on my friends-and-family discount to YOU. Use coupon code family20 to get $20 off the $150 fee for the full 3-day registration or coupon code family10 to get $10 off any single-day registrations. Click here to register now.
P.S. You can share this code with YOUR friends and family! Please do, in fact! Thank you!
Click below to read more about attending genealogy conferences:
AUDIO PODCAST SHOW NOTES: Whether you want to visit the village where your ancestor was born on your next vacation, or you just want to find their records, you’ll need to know the exact place name and location. Professional genealogist Rich Venezia of Rich Roots Genealogyjoins me in this video to help us pin down those ancestral places.
This interview is also available in video form here on the show notes page (below). And if you’re a Genealogy Gems Premium Member, you’ll be able to download those show notes as a PDF cheat sheet in the Resources section at the bottom of the page.
Listen to the Podcast Episode
Click the media player below to listen now (AUDIO ONLY):