Find out how blogs can facilitate your family history research.
Have you entered the blogosphere yet? A fast-growing Internet trend, blogs (short for Web logs) hit the mainstream during the 2004 political conventions and have been popping up by the thousands ever since. In case you've missed them, blogs are online journals where people can post anything on their minds. Type a subject into a search engine, and you're bound to find a blog devoted to it. Genealogy's a hot topic—we've turned up thousands of family tree-focused blogs.
So how can this trend help your family history research? Blogs are ideal for connecting with far-off kin—and even distant cousins you haven't met yet. Once you sign up for a blog, you can post your research brick walls and break-throughs, reunion details, old photos, links to your favorite genealogy Web sites and anything else related to your family tree. Then anyone who reads your blog will know what you're up to.
Consider setting up a blog for each of your family's surnames, or create a single "umbrella" blog with separate categories for surnames, places and pictures. Just remember that blogs are public, so you don't want to post personal information such as your phone number or address.
Most blogs are free and easy to set up—you don't have to buy special software or know a thing about Web coding. Here's how to get started.
First, you need to select a blog host. Some of the most popular are Wordpress
. The setup's about the same regardless of which host you choose. Simply pick a user name and password, then a name for your blog—for example, "Sullivan Genealogy Research" or "Ross Genealogy in Florida." Choose a name that truly reflects your subject matter, so fellow genealogists will be able to find you. Then pick a template (most blog hosts offer attractive ones) and start posting.
Blogs are designed to look like actual diaries, and typically comprise short daily entries arranged in chronological order. The home page will contain your most recent entry, as well as links to the last five or 10 messages (depending on your blog host). Blogs usually archives articles by month and make them accessible through links on the homepage.
Worried about becoming a lone voice in the blogosphere? Don't, because visitors can post via a "comments" link. This feature allows family historians to share findings, photos and research notes. Most blogs have a setting in the control panel that lets you hid comments from public view or allow only comments from people you designate.
Of course, one of the major advantages of posting to a genealogy blog is that other researchers can connect with you via search engines. Each article you write will have its own Web page, and the blog software automatically will give the page the same name as the article. For example, if you post an article titled "Coleman Surname Research in Bismarck, North Dakota," the Web page will have that title, too. So when an online genealogist searches for coleman genealogy "north dakota," your blog probably will show up in the search results.
Don't be shy about inviting relatives to participate. After all, the more content on your blog, the great the change a distant cousin will find you online. Genealogy Ralph Brandi connected with some Polish cousins via his blog, where he'd mentioned the town Lemierzyce, his great-aunt's home after World War II. Click over to Brandi's blog to see how he's posted research notes as well as photos of tombstones and vital records.
If you're one of those people who bemoan the lack of ancestral diaries, now's your chance to create a journal of your own. Involve the whole family, and before long you'll have a diary to pass on to your descendants—it'll become a treasured memento from their 21st-century ancestors.