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.

RootsTech -Bewildered and Bemused -but resolved

After listening to five of the seven online video-streams, I was thoroughly bewildered by all the choices: so many strategies, so many concepts to absorb. If I felt like this after such a small smattering of talks, I can’t begin to imagine the impact of listening to all the sessions live. Or the thrill of meeting delegates from so many places. It must have been incredibly stimulating.

So why am I bewildered and bemused?

Having started my research in advance of the digital era my records are a mix of hard-copy, written notes, digital files, hard-copy or digital photos, super 8 film, video film and so on.

Where to start with ensuring its all preserved, put online, kept up-to-date and accessible for future generations? How long will that take (how long is a piece of string)?

A prevailing assumption throughout the talks was that everyone’s research is predicated on recording our family stories and I’m sure that is the intention of every family historian. But how successful are we at doing this? The very bower-bird habits that make us love the hunt for new clues, names and locations, tends to inhibit us from actually documenting our stories….we’re never really “finished” on this trail of ancestors, so we can’t write/record it, can we? This is possibly our greatest weakness as we collect our maze of information which may be indecipherable to even our closest kin if we don’t draw it together.

Lynn at The Armchair Genealogist http://www.thearmchairgenealogist.com/ has a great blog to help anyone kick-start their family history: to paraphrase Ancestry “you don’t need to know what you’re going to write, just start writing”. Again the strategies are important, but getting started is the first, most important, and somewhat scary step. Lynn has also challenged fellow family historians to commence their project this month, and even though we’re half way through February, there’s nothing to stop you beginning now, using her posts to help you along.

Each of the RootsTech speakers I heard challenged us in different ways:

1.      To include newbies in our enthusiasm for our obsession, sorry, hobby.

2.      To ensure we keep us with technology, and ensure our own archives remain accessible to the new technology

3.      That we need to have a web presence if we want to spread the word about genealogy generally but our own family research in particular

4.      To volunteer to digitise or index records for all to access

5.      To maintain the security and integrity of our records

6.      Get our stories “out there”

  To respond to Carole Riley’s twitter challenge (@CaroleRiley):

My own take-home messages from the video-streamed sessions were:

1.      The importance of actually recording our family and personal stories, for current and future generations: that’s what all the online resources are provided for. Blogs do provide a great way of sharing our information.

2.      The importance of keeping our digital archives in multiple locations, selecting the right format to use, and to review and update the format regularly. (A lot of work in this one).

3.      The potential influence of family historians on archives and libraries and in particular the digitisation of records.