Open Thread Thursday: the benefits of blog reading and why I blog


The world is your family tree oyster with blogging. Edited image from Office Clip Art.

The world is your family tree oyster with blogging. Edited image from Office Clip Art.

Thomas McEntee of Geneabloggers fame has raised the question of why we blog and why so few family historians/genealogists follow one or more blogs. A recent survey by the New England Historic Genealogical Society in Boston revealed that blog reading and engagement is followed by less than 40% of genealogy researchers.

There are a couple of reasons why people might not engage with blogging and the obvious ones seem to me to be:

  1. Don’t know how: there are great suggestions from Lynn Palermo at The Armchair Genealogist on getting engaged with the online genealogy community.
  2. Don’t know they’re out there and what benefits they will hold. It’s up to bloggers to promote these benefits within our own societies, communities and networks: write a story for our magazines, send a note to go out with the society flyers.
  3. Don’t want to write a blog: you can follow one without actually writing one.
  4. Time: so many things compete for our time but as family historians we’re an obsessive bunch: once we know what we can gain from following blogs we’re likely to “make” time.

Why do I blog and what’s in it for me?

Why I blog

The reasons for this have changed since I began blogging nearly 2 years ago. I’d been thinking of starting up a family history web page for a number of years, but couldn’t get on top of the process and was ambivalent about disclosing all my research details on the web. Blogging seemed a great compromise and it has proven to be more rewarding than I anticipated.

1.      Sharing research findings or “getting it out there”.

This remains my key goal for the blog. It’s a way of crystallising my thoughts and actually documenting what I’ve found, though I’m still selective on what I choose to publish. I try not to always make it specific to my family but include some element which might be useful to other researchers. It’s a form of “show & tell”: these records helped me, they may help you.

We nearly all say we’re going to write up our family stories. This is a bite-sized way of doing so, and then you can always put your posts together and publish it either in the public domain, or just for family.

2.      Making family history connections

By having my family research on the web, it increases the chances that someone who is connected to my families will make contact. Of course much of this depends on using keywords and tags to maximise the search outcomes. Funnily enough my most successful page is that on the emigrants from Dorfprozelten to Australia…the joys of an unusual place name. As a by-product it means that I’ve been able to connect families who are related…some days I feel a bit like Yenta the matchmaker from Fiddler on the Roof ;-) Hence the importance of leaving comments so other relatives know you’re out there, whether you choose to blog or not.

3.     Learning

This has been one of the unexpected outcomes of blogging. Once I learned about Geneabloggers, it opened my eyes to the wider geneablogger community. I use Google Reader to stream all my favourite blogs into one location. I’ve learned so much about new research and writing strategies and innovative technologies through my blog reading, not to mention the as-it-happens release of world-wide genealogy information. With the proliferation of data online these days, having lots of watchers makes a huge difference…a bit like many hands etc or two minds being better than one.

4.      Community

This has been the completely unexpected benefit of blogging. Not only do I get to learn about people’s lives through the 52 weeks of personal genealogy and history series, but I learn more about family history and how it’s done around the world as well as the progression into researching our families’ communities. Bloggers are doing great things with transcribing community information, writing about family diaries etc. Through comments and reading their blogs I now feel part of a community which goes vastly beyond my geographical boundaries. It’s why I make time in my week (not always every day) to read the blogs, and comment regularly on them. Love it!

These are the highlights of what I get from blogging, I hope I’ve tempted you to dabble in the blogosphere and see what you think. I’d be interested to hear from newcomers to the blogging world.

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17 thoughts on “Open Thread Thursday: the benefits of blog reading and why I blog

  1. Enjoyed your post–which I found via “blog-hopping” through several other interesting posts on the same topic. I’ve just passed the halfway mark for my own first year of blogging, and I have to agree most heartily with your last point–that of finding community. However, I’d say I’m not just looking for generic community, but a niche within that community. Exploring others’ genealogy blogs helps me discover those who think along the same lines as I do. I don’t just want to “do genealogy” as in names, dates, facts, but to put flesh on those bare bones and breathe life into those ancestors’ lives. I’m finding some other writers who are seeking that same goal, and it’s great to let iron sharpen iron as we collectively pursue these mutual goals.

    • Thanks very much for commenting Jacqi. We obviously have similar views on family history. The dates and list of names do nothing for me even though they are the building blocks. You’ve made an excellent point about a niche community: those with whom you are simpatico or those who challenge your thinking or practices, or, for me, those whose writing style I like.

  2. I somehow missed this post earlier in the week. Thanks to Deb Ruth mentioning it I found it this morning.

    It might be an idea for me to write something for my two local society’s newsletters. When I ask people there can I take their photos for my blog they always say yes but from the looks they give me I can see that they are not too sure about this blogging business.

    Thanks for another thoughtful post.

    • Thanks to Deb are due! I think we should all bombard our societies about this…would be interesting to see the outcomes. I think it’s one of those things that are a mystery, and a bit scary, until you’re in the deep end.

  3. I am with you; the greatest surprise about blogging has been discovering genea-blogging friends around the world. This work can be quite solitary and I have found such relief and joy in being inside community! Thanks for a great post!

  4. Still not ‘ready’ to blog since I’m not certain I have much to share that’s interesting to others – but I love reading bloggers – I have several dozen in my GoogleReader blog feed on genealogy, and enjoy them a great deal. Thanks for your great post on the blogging world. Cheers.

  5. I enjoyed reading this hugely – it echoes some of my thoughts and spurs me to dive into the community more. I’m a relative newcomer; I stared blogging because there was just too much information and bite-sized seemed to be the way to tackle it. I also wanted to connect with relatives. A surprise plus was the geneablogging community.

    After a year of blogging I feel I’m finding my feet and I’d encourage anyone who would like to try it to have a go. Apart from anything else, it’s fun! And I’ve met some great people.

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  7. You sum it up so beautifully. One of the most common questions I get asked is “What’s a blog?” The second would be “Why do you do it?” the third is “What do you get out of it?”

    The first two are easy to answer… the third either gets eyes rolling when I answer, or gets a number of throwaway comments, such as

    ” it’s ok for you, I don’t have time ”
    ” I’m not one to talk”
    ” I couldn’t be bothered “… the list goes on.

    So, what DO I get out of it? So much that I would need another day to explain, but all the same things you have mentioned, a release… somewhere to add thoughts and notions, somewhere to share this passion for family history, to preserve things for my own family and that of others, to link people across the globe… just a few thoughts, but mainly, I get out of this far more than I put in.
    I started my second blog simply because I didn’t have the time to send out constant newsletters to my fellow volunteer transcribers, connected in the main to Clare Roots Society
    http://www.clareroots.org/ This way I can not only keep them up to date with what’s happening in Clare, but Irish research and news in general. i can add so many more items of interest than I could ever keep up with in newsletters and the response I get from posts directly to me, shows that this works.

    • Thanks Crissouli. I’ve heard the same sort of comments including from society members. In some ways following blogs is easier than having lots of email links etc. You’ve encouraged me to get back into my Clare research which has been rather neglected.

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