Second anniversary of my blog – sharing and learning in community with other genies around the world.

The world is your family tree oyster with blogging. Edited image from Office Clip Art.Today is my second anniversary of blog-writing. It’s been a fascinating journey and one which has taken me on a different path from what I originally anticipated. When I began I wanted to share information on “my” Dorfprozelten immigrants, try to attract anyone with Broadford or East Clare ancestry and share some of my family history research and a little bit about living in the Top End of Australia. I was totally naive about genealogy blogging and didn’t even know Geneabloggers existed or how many genealogy bloggers were out there sharing their research, skills and knowledge.

My first year was a “toe in the water” year as I was still working full-time, unsure about my posts, and not devoting much time to the blog. After finishing work this time last year I ramped up my blog presence and thanks to people like Geneabloggers came to realise just how many fascinating blogs were being written. Tips from other bloggers like Geniaus and then RootsTech 2011 also expanded my techno skills in this area. In those early days, comments from fellow bloggers like Carole Riley inspired me to keep writing and let me know I wasn’t writing into a vacuum.

After two years, I’ve found that it’s the comments from fellow bloggers that I value most of all and so I also make an effort to comment on the various blogs I read. I’m not sure Google Reader is such a good idea because I now have a long list of blogs I look at in varying detail and some I read faithfully every post. :-)

My most popular single post has been my Dorfprozelten page about the immigrants from that small village on the River Main in Bavaria, Germany. It’s been a great meeting place for people with ancestors from there, and there’ve been wonderful times when I’ve felt a bit like a match-maker connecting linked families. A big bonus! I’m considering splitting this theme off into a separate blog in 2012 and adding more of my research.

I’d love to have heard more from people with ancestors from anywhere in East Clare (from the Limerick/Tipperary border across to Ennis) and especially Broadford, but this hasn’t been as productive as the Dorfprozelten page.

This year I’ve participated in the series designed by Amy Coffin, 52 Weeks of Personal Genealogy and History as well as the Geneabloggers Advent Calendar of Memories. The topics have made me dredge my memory for things that have been mentally filed away for years, so it’s been a great opportunity to revisit them and document the history. My main motivation for posting on these topics has been to leave my own history for my children and descendants so I will be combining these posts into book form (Olive Tree Genealogy has some tips here). It’s also been great fun to do some of the geneamemes that have come through…inspires me to think about what I might do differently, what skills to add to my repertoire and consider which things I want to include vs which I don’t. I also had a crack at a geneameme myself, Beyond the Internet, with the goal of highlighting just how much genealogy information is still off-line and what can be found there.

A while ago I posted on Open Thread Thursday about The Benefits of Blog reading and Why I blog, based on my experiences over the past two years. It’s been a great journey and I’ve gained so much from being part of the online genealogy community – even more valuable to me as I live away from many of the resources and learning opportunities others take for granted.

To all my followers and occasional readers, a HUGE thank you! You have become my online community and it’s your visits and especially your comments that make blogging so interesting and keep up my enthusiasm levels. I look forward to “speaking” with you again in 2012.

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.

Beyond the Internet Geneameme

Following on my posts about the changes in family history over the past 25 years I thought it would be good to look at family history resources beyond the internet and how we use them today. I’ve built up a list of 60 resources or activities that take our research beyond the digitised records (much as I do love them!). It will be interesting to see which resources people are using most, and perhaps tip off new researchers on just how much is hiding in archives. To draw up my list I’ve used my own experience and referred to Judy Webster’s Tips for Queensland research and the PROV’s book Private Lives, Public Records. New researchers might also be interested in the Unlock the Past book It’s not all online by Shauna Hicks.[i]

Overseas researchers may want to add to the list or replace items with ones relevant to their own research. Remember this is all about locating information from sources not on the internet (with a couple of small exceptions). Please add your responses to the comments and I’ll put up a consolidated list in due course.

As usual the process is as follows:

Beyond the Internet Geneameme[ii]

Things you have already done or found: bold face type
Things you would like to do or find: italicize (colour optional)
Things you haven’t done or found and don’t care to: plain type
You are encouraged to add extra comments in brackets after each item

  1. Looked at microfiche for BDM indexes which go beyond the online search dates.
  2. Talked to elderly relatives about your family history.
  3. Obtained old family photos from relatives.
  4. Have at least one certificate (birth/death/marr) for each great-grandparent.
  5. Have at least one certificate (birth/death/marr) for each great-great-grandparent.
  6. Seen/held a baptism or marriage document in a church, church archive or microfilm.
  7. Seen your ancestor’s name in some other form of church record eg kirk session, communion rolls.
  8. Used any microfilm from an LDS family history centre for your research.
  9. Researched using a microfilm other than a parish register (LDS family history centre/other).
  10. Used cemetery burial records to learn more about your relative’s burial.
  11. Used funeral director’s registers to learn more about your relative’s burial.
  12. Visited all your great-grandparents’ grave sites.
  13. Visited all your great-great-grandparents’ grave sites.
  14. Recorded the details on your ancestors’ gravestones and photographed them.
  15. Obtained a great-grandparent’s will/probate documents.
  16. Obtained a great-great grandparent’s will/probate documents.
  17. Found a death certificate among will documents.
  18. Followed up in the official records, something found on the internet.
  19. Obtained a copy of your immigrant ancestors’ original shipping records.
  20. Found an immigration nomination record for your immigrant ancestor[iii].
  21. Found old images of your ancestor’s place of origin (online or other).
  22. Read all/part of a local history for your ancestor’s place of residence.
  23. Read all/part of a local history for your ancestor’s place of origin.
  24. Read your ancestor’s school admission records.
  25. Researched the school history for your grandparents.
  26. Read a court case involving an ancestor (online newspapers don’t count for this).
  27. Read about an ancestor’s divorce case in the archives.
  28. Have seen an ancestor’s war medals.
  29. Have an ancestor’s military record (not a digitised copy eg WWII).
  30. Read a war diary or equivalent for an ancestor’s battle.
  31. Seen an ancestor’s/relative’s war grave.
  32. Read all/part of the history of an ancestor’s military unit (battalion/ship etc).
  33. Seen your ancestor’s name on an original land map.
  34. Found land selection documents for your immigrant ancestor/s.
  35. Found other land documents for your ancestor (home/abroad)
  36. Located land maps or equivalent for your ancestor’s place of origin.
  37. Used contemporaneous gazetteers or directories to learn about your ancestors’ places.
  38. Found your ancestor’s name in a Post Office directory of the time.
  39. Used local government sewerage maps (yes, seriously!) for an ancestor’s street.
  40. Read an inquest report for an ancestor/relative (online/archives).
  41. Read an ancestor’s/relative’s hospital admission.
  42. Researched a company file if your family owned a business.
  43. Looked up any of your ancestor’s local government rate books or valuation records.
  44. Researched occupation records for your ancestor/s (railway, police, teacher etc).
  45. Researched an ancestor’s adoption.
  46. Researched an ancestor’s insolvency.
  47. Found a convict ancestor’s passport or certificate of freedom.
  48. Found a convict ancestor’s shipping record.
  49. Found an ancestor’s gaol admission register.
  50. Found a licencing record for an ancestor (brands, publican, etc).
  51. Found an ancestor’s mining lease/licence.
  52. Found an ancestor’s name on a petition to government.
  53. Read your ancestor’s citizenship document.
  54. Read about your ancestor in an undigitised regional newspaper.
  55. Visited a local history library/museum relevant to your family.
  56. Looked up your ancestor’s name in the Old Age Pension records.
  57. Researched your ancestor or relative in Benevolent Asylum/Workhouse records.
  58. Researched an ancestor’s/relative’s mental health records.
  59. Looked for your family in a genealogical publication of any sort (but not online remember).
  60. Contributed family information to a genealogical publication.

[i] I do not receive any remuneration from any of these people or organisations. I’ve just found them to be helpful in my own research.

[ii] The Geneameme is a new term coined by Geniaus.

[iii] Pastkeys’ indexes to NSW Immigration Deposit Journals 1853-1900 might be helpful as a starter.