As the writer, editor, cook, and bottle washer of several blogs, starting a family history blog was easy for me. What wasn’t easy was my family’s understanding what our family history blog would contain. If I want your family’s help on your family history blog, you have to help them understand what information goes into my blogs so they can choose to contribute or not.
There are different types of family history websites and blogs, but first, let’s clear up the difference between a family history website and a family history blog.
A family history website is a static billboard on the information highway. It is merely a process of producing static pages on a website with information on your family, family tree, and maybe a few stories about the family’s history. It has contact information and then just sits there, waiting for people to visit and read and leave. It is typically maintained by one person.
A family history blog is a chronological posting of articles, stories, news, tips, and information on the family’s history. The website is dynamic, with the front page changing with the addition of new material. It is also interactive, as comments are allowed, giving people an opportunity to comment and give feedback on the information you have to offer. A family history blog can be maintained by one person or dozens.
Blogs are exceptionally easy to create today with great blogging programs like WordPress and others. It’s free for those who aren’t sure about all this blogging stuff through free blogging services such as WordPress.com. They allow you to easily publish your family stories, news, and tips, sort the information in categories, and automatically alerts search engines to each new post so your blog gets listed in the search engine databases waiting to be found by those searching for your information. They do most of the work for you so you can concentrate on the content, not the work.
In general, today’s family history sites should be blogs as they offer powerful tools and online publishing with great simplicity and ease.
What Do I Put On My Family History Blog?
That’s the key question. Before you begin your family history blog, you have to have a plan for what is going to be published on your family history blog. If you don’t know what you’re going to do with your family history blog, how can you ask for help from your family?
As a rule, you will definitely want the core information about your family history, family tree, and some stories about your family. The use of names, dates, and places in your family’s published information provides keywords to help those searching along your family lines to find your information.
After that, then what?
It all depends upon the type of blog you want to offer, how much time you have to spend on the blog, how many people are involved helping you maintain the blog, and what is your end goal.
A key to this understanding is why you want a blog in the first place. If your purpose is to share your information with others, great. If it is to share information with others in the hopes that they will find you and add more information to your family’s story, then even better. This is where the social interaction of a blog will best meet your needs.
To be found, your blog must be “findable”. It must be written with the keywords used by those searching for your family’s information. Thus, the more of those keywords you use in the content on your site, the more “findable” you are. This dictates the content you may want to consider sharing on your family’s blog.
This means that you need to “develop content” on your blog, not just write down the bare essentials. You want to showcase information about your family and its history, as well as your discoveries and methods along the way, right?
Creating content for your blog means creating an outline of what you want to put on your blog. It means making a plan and setting some project goals like a biography of your great-great grandmother, information on the wagon trains to the West your family traveled with even though you don’t have specific information on your family’s trip, links to family history sites of family members related to yours, and similar content projects.
The goal is to expand the information on your blog and help link your research with other family history blogs and other family members.
Here are some other styles of content you might want to consider to expand the content on your family history blog.
Share Family Stories
Tell stories about your family and about your ancestors in your blog. There are so many stories that can be told about your family, not just from a hundred years ago, but of family members alive today.
During this year’s holidays, I was able to spend an extended amount of time with my husband’s family. I asked them all kinds of memory questions such as favorite Christmas memories, favorite holiday presents, what’s the favorite gift they gave, and so on. These are precious moments in a person’s life and make for great stories for sharing.
These stories not only help to define a life lived, but they help tell the story of your family, the relationships, lifestyle, and preserves those precious memories for generations in the future.
I was very lucky to have two great uncles who were very prolific, writing extensive stories about their childhood growing up in the wilds of northern Wisconsin and coming to Washington State during the early years in the state’s history to help develop the area in which I was raised. These Knapp brothers left a great wealth of stories I’m slowly editing and sharing with family members and others about where they lived, how they lived, and who lived around them.
You can share family stories on your blog in many ways. You can write them from your memories, ask the storyteller to write their stories to share, record the stories and make digital records for playback, or even use digital videos to show them telling the stories. All can be posted on your blog for easy viewing by visitors.
Share Family Facts
There are a lot of facts you will find about your family as you research your family history. Facts are more than stories, they are the truth about how your family born, lived, and died.
Many turn these facts into biographies of their ancestors, helping to flesh out the names, dates, and places into real people with vibrant lives.
Some of the facts you may want to share are not directly related to the family intimately, but associated with where they lived, why they lived where they lived, their religious affiliation, and history.
For example, many people lived in a specific community because of their religious or cultural affiliation with the community. Many Norwegians, Germans, Dutch, and other groups tended to stick together, often continuing to speak their native language for two or three generations after their arrival. Their community centers and churches would keep alive their homeland traditions, bringing their old country into the new.
Some people migrated due to political or economic pressures, forced to find work and a life free of persecution away from their native lands.
Once your ancestors arrived in, say, the new United States, maybe they were attracted by the “Go West, Young Man” or rush for gold “in them thar lands”. Information about such migrations are also facts you can add to the published information about your family and why they may have done what they did.
There are also facts and information about the areas they lived in which are great articles to add to the wealth of information. I’m currently doing research on the logging camps of Marinette County, Wisconsin, where my Knapp family lived for many years. The stories of these logging camps tell of the live my family may have lived and worked in the area, and how when the logging industry died off, they were forced to leave the desolate area and make their way across the country to a new strange forest land in the Pacific Northwest, brining their logging skills with them.
There are many family facts you can share to help expand the information about your family’s history on your blog.
Share Family News
A new child in the family? A death? Marriage? Divorce? Illness? What about a family reunion, party, or other family news worth sharing?
There is a lot of news about your family you can share via your blog. It can be major announcements like the ones above, or simple ones like baseball schedules for grandchildren, school events, or other activities your family may want to know about.
And what about honors and achievements your family makes? If a member graduates from high school or college, or is honored with a best of show in a school talent contest, isn’t that information you’d be proud to publish?
Share news of a new job, lost weight, recovery from illness, moving, or even an announcement in the newspaper about a family member.
These announcements can include photographs or video, adding more fun to the story of the accomplishment.
Your blog can be about those living today providing information to family members around the world on how things are going, so you can all celebrate together.
Share Tips, Techniques, and How Tos
As you researched your family tree, I’m sure you’ve learned a thing or three along the way, haven’t you? I sure have. The amount of information I’m learning is often hard to keep up with.
By sharing the lessons learned in researching your family, you are helping other family members as well as others learn from your mistakes or wisdom. I’ve learned plenty from reading about how others decided to change the path they were on to look under a new rock to discover new information on a family member. I’ve learned from great tips other genealogy bloggers offer on how they do this or that, use a particular software, or researching a new online resource.
The wealth of information out there is growing and there is no excuse for you not to share your experiences and knowledge with others. Consider it a way of giving back to the genealogy community, too.
Share Genealogy News
Like sharing tips and techniques on genealogy research, you might want to consider sharing the news you learn about the family history research industry on your blog.
This is a challenge as there are so many blogs specializing in blogging about the genealogy industry, but sometimes I run across news that relates to my family research. I want to remember it for the future, and help others researching my family tree, so I will often post a link and a quote from the article on my blog.
For example, because I’m researching so much about northern Wisconsin, I found information on Links to the Past Blog for Milwaukee, Waukesha, and Manitowoc County Wisconsin Genealogy and History, Wisconsin Family History Detectives Flock to Marinette County, and an announcement for an online book called “History of Door County, Wisconsin – The County Beautiful”, all great resources that will help me learn more about the area and what genealogical information is there.
A few news stories also trigged ideas for things I want to do on my family history blog such as Watching Climate Change Through Family Photo Albums makes me want to publish comparative pictures of postcards from my family’s collection from 50-100 years ago alongside photographs of the same area today to see the change in the location.
A news story on bringing 200 year old seeds to life inspired me to write Bringing the Past Alive in Historical Gardens, highlighting many of the historical gardens I’ve explored around the world as well as other places I might want to explore, learning more about the plants and agriculture of my ancestors’ past.
Expand the Family History Blogging Opportunities
You never know where an idea will come from, and you never know what bit of news might help you uncover more about your family’s past. By publishing topical news bits, you give yourself reminders on your blog, and possibly help open a new door for others to trace their family through yours.
If you really want to dig into a wide range of content resources for your family history blog, check out my huge list of 100s of Resources for Finding Content for Your Blog. There isn’t much genealogy related, but you never know where a great blog idea or family discovery may be found.
Most Recent Articles by Lorelle VanFossen
- The Myths and Mysteries and Hunt for Nicholas Knapp
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- GenSmarts: Reminder to Not Assume
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- Digging Through Historical Newspapers Online