Having a genealogy blog can beneficial in many ways, but it can also feel daunting to start one. Here are some tips to show you how to start your own genealogy blog.
Generations Cafe Podcast, Episode 16
You can listen to this episode by clicking the play button below. (You can also listen on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Stitcher, and most other podcast apps.)
Length: 32 minutes.
Benefits of Having a Genealogy Blog
Writing about your ancestors can be a way of analyzing what you know about them. It makes you take your notes and put them into something cohesive. When you do that, you might just find some gaps in your research or some inconsistencies or conflicting information.
Blogging can be a form of “cousin bait.” You put the information out there and wait for it to attract others who are researching the same family.
It’s a way to preserve your research. It gets it out of your genealogy software and into a format that is readily accessible to others. You can also take your blog posts and turn them into books.
Know Your Why
There are other ways that you can analyze your research, set cousin bait, or preserve your research... so why blog? That's a question you need to answer for yourself. Do you want to share family stories and photos? Do you want to share information about your ancestors? Do you want to teach others how to research? Are you a professional genealogist and are hoping to attract clients or a genealogy society that wants to engage with current members and prospective members? Are you wanting a creative outlet?
The only "wrong" answer to this is "Because everyone else has one." Blogging is an ongoing endeavor, one that takes time and energy. If the only reason you want a blog is because it seems like everyone else has one, I suggest you think long and hard before starting one.
What Is Your Focus?
There are countless ways you could blog about "genealogy" or "family history." Do you want to highlight your ancestors? Do you want to focus on your research process? Do you want to share genealogy news or your opinions about what's going on in the field?
List Specific Post Ideas
Before you create your blog, take some time to come up with 8-10 specific blog post ideas. Don't have something general like, "I want to have a post about my great-grandfather." What about him do you want to write? Have a more specific post idea like "Great-grandfather Smith deserting from the Civil War."
If you can't come up with 8-10 specific blog post ideas or you really struggled to get there, you might want to re-think the focus of your blog.
How Often Should You Post?
There's no one correct answer for this. My best advice is to come up with a schedule that works for you, one that feels comfortable and that you can maintain.
You do NOT need to blog every day! It's better to post less frequently, but have higher quality than to publish "something" just because you "need" to.
Blogging isn't something you do once and you're done. It's something you'll do over and over again.
Naming Your Blog
There are two parts to the name of your blog:
- The name, which appears at the top of the blog
- The URL, which is what people will type to get to your blog
You can change the name of the blog (the part that shows up at the top) any time. The URL, on the other hand, is much harder to change.
If your blog is on Blogger or WordPress.com and you haven't paid for a custom domain name, your URL will be example.blogspot.com or example.wordpress.com. You'll pick the part before the first period ("example").
Remember that the URL will be one word (no spaces and you should avoid dashes and underscores). Be on the lookout for "hidden" words that created when you take a phrase and mash it all together into one word. (Pro tip: have a 12-year-old look at it. If he or she starts giggling, there's probably a "hidden" word that you don't want!)
Don't get hung up on this step, but do spend some time come up with various ideas, as your first choice might already be taken.
The two biggest free blogging platforms are Blogger and WordPress.com. Both are free, though they each also have add-ons you can pay for, like custom domain names (URLs) and extra storage. However, you can do them completely free.
Blogger, owned by Google, is a bit easier to use. WordPress.com has a little bit of a learning curve, but it has more functionality. You might want to look at some online tutorials to get a feel for each before deciding which one you want to use.
Pages vs. Posts
Blogs are made of pages and posts. Think of posts like individual articles (like the one you're reading right now). Most of what you'll be writing will be posts. Pages are meant for static content, like an "About Me" page (which I highly recommend you create).
What's Your Style?
It can be difficult to find your "voice." Almost every blogger struggles with that at some point. You'll find your writing style as you blog more. You'll discover what feels right to you. If you don't want to write in a scholarly style, don't. If you don't want to be casual, don't be. It's up to you.
Who Is Your Intended Audience?
One of the first rules of writing is "Know your audience." Are you writing for family members (including those you haven't yet met)? If so, you'll probably write differently than if you're a professional genealogist who is trying to attract clients.
Keeping your audience in mind will also help you choose your post topics.
Advice from Experienced Genealogy Bloggers
I asked a group of genealogy bloggers what advice they would give or what they wish they knew when they started. Here's what they said:
- Amanda Pape of ABT UNK suggested having multiple ways of contacting you other than leaving a comment on a post
- Diane Gould Hall of Michigan Family Trails said that it's important to post links to your blog on social media. People can't read your posts if they don't know about them.
- Melissa Barker of A Genealogist in the Archives recommends using images in your posts
- Sue Thomas McNelly of Kindred Past recommends having a blogging calendar/editorial calendar to help plan your posts
- Elizabeth Handler of From Maine to Kentucky recommends keeping your blog posts short; tell a story.
- Randy Seaver, the mega blogger from Genea-Musings, suggests using your blog for crowdsourcing. Blog about a problem and ask for input!
- Mags Gaulden of Grandma's Genes and Lorine McGinnis Schulze of Olive Tree Genealogy both recommended to be consistent. As Mags said, "It's not the amount of blogs that you, but the quality."
- Blaine Bettinger of The Genetic Genealogist said, "It's a marathon, not a sprint." So true!
- Devon Lee of Family History Fanatics, Jill Ball of GeniAus, and Pat Richley-Erickson (better known as DearMYRTLE) all said: Just do it!
You might also want to check out GeneabloggersTribe.com, a network of genealogy bloggers.
I love the observation by Laura Wilkinson Hedgecock of Treasure Chest of Memories. She didn't know when she started blogging, "That I'd love it so much and that blogging would open so many doors for me."
How about it? Are you starting a genealogy blog? Feel free to leave a link in the comments!
Great insight Amy! Please remind your followers that if they do decide to start a blog, the GeneaBloggersTRIBE (Geneabloggerstribe.com) is there to support them. We’d love to have them aboard.
Definitely! I’ll add that to the post!
I write a blog, but I break most of the rules/suggestions here. I very rarely use images, for instance. My advice is to know what you can do, and get started with that. If you want to learn, for instance about adding images, do so, but don’t wait until you know how to do that, to get started. And don’t be afraid to be wrong! We all make mistakes. For instance, I’ve posted three blog posts about people who turned out to not be ancestors after all. I did updates explaining my error, but left the blog posts up. I was contacted on two of those posts, by people who were related to those subjects, and were thrilled to have that much information about the person. So your mistake could very well help someone else! Just do it, indeed.
I cannot tell from your blog which platform you use . . . could you let me/us know, please? And a particular reason for that choice? Thanks!
I use WordPress, but a different version than WordPress.com. What I use is WordPress.org, which is sometimes called “self-hosted” WordPress. It has by far the most functionality, but it has the tradeoff that I’m responsible for all of the maintenance. I also have to pay for my hosting.
I created a video about precisely this back in 2016 when helping mentor an Introduction to Family History course. Here is a link https://youtu.be/5JnZzpYrLxY
I currently have a family history/genealogy blog on WordPress.com on which I post factual stories of ancestors and cousins ranging from biographical sketches to accounts of murders. The most prominent are my stories of family members in wartime, from the Civil War to World War II. The most widely read was the story of a 204 year old house in the hills of Tennessee. The name I chose for the blog was The Ramblings of Uncle Thereisno: From Aachen to Zymurgy. The link to it is http://www.unclethereisno.com. I find that researching the era involved and other factors surrounding the story and including pertinent pictures help to give credence to my ramblings.
This was hugely beneficial! I was skeptical at first that it would apply to me since I already have a genealogy blog and consider myself “beyond” the planning stage, by Amy had some great advice that I’d never thought of, such as using a blogging calendar to plan posts in advance, and really focusing on the “why” behind the blog.
I’d love to hear a follow-up podcast related to items after the blog is established. Things such as how to keep posts organized. Pros/cons of using tags. Tips for staying on schedule. I’d also like to know if there have been things that seemed great at first, but ended up being a waste of time.
Thanks, Amy, for all the work you do for the gene community!
You’re welcome! Glad the podcast and post were useful to you. And thank you for the idea for a follow up 🙂
I started blogging on word press last year when I was inspired by joining Amy’s 52 ancestors in 52 weeks! It was much easier to blog than I thought it would be! I wanted to share my ancestry research with relatives and it works! I learned how to add images, etc, as I went along and I still have more to learn. I couldn’t do all the weeks last year as we were in the middle of selling our house and moving but plan to keep up better this year. Sometimes I use the weekly hints and sometimes just blog what I am working on. I look for the stories to share and there are so many! I have found some cousins too! All in all, JUST DO IT! It will be so rewarding in so many ways! Thelyonstracks.com
I have listened to Janine Adams’ organizing interview on your podcast (https://www.amyjohnsoncrow.com/organizing-genealogy-files/) and also listened to your podcast about starting a blog (https://www.amyjohnsoncrow.com/how-to-start-a-genealogy-blog/) and, lo and behold, I have started one myself! I can’t believe how easy it was to create one! I only have one post so far, but I have created an editorial calendar per your tips so that I know what I am going to post about next and can promote it at the bottom of each post. It is called Shaking My Family Tree and can be found at https://www.shakingmyfamilytree.com/. I invite you to take a peek and I welcome feedback.
Awesome! Welcome to the wonderful world of genealogy blogging! I look forward to reading more of your posts!
I’m glad I listened to this podcast again as I am working my way through all of your programs. I was gung-ho about blogging but then hit a snag. Life happened. I need to get back into it but just blog once per week instead of three times. Having the blog editorial calendar was a godsend. Thanks for the tip!
Amy, I’m really sorry, but I can’t find the show notes! I’ve made a goal to start a wordpress blog, but I admit I feel really intimidated by this!
These are the “show notes” 🙂 (It’s how they describe a blog post that accompanies a podcast.)
I recently (like 1 month ago) started a blog. I still work full time, and do not have a lot of time to write, between putting the thing together, work and writing I do not have much avaiable at the moment. I have ran into quite a few people on DNA matches that really are not sure where to start, so I email them several copies of information I have from when I first started with the DNA. That coupled with those elusive ancestors blog soumded lime it may be the way to go,
I started a blog in 2013 with the goal of averaging one post a month. I did pretty good in the first two years and then fell off. My goal for 2019 is to “get back on the horse”. I started it for pretty much the same reason why I started genealogy — to give voice to my family. One time I was happily surprised when a former employee of a place I wrote about made a comment to one of my posts providing historical information. I’m still hoping for the “cousin bait” aspect. My blog is called Ancestor Callings: Georgia and Mississippi Roots. The link is http://ancestorcallings.blogspot.com/
thrilled to find your post about finding a blog.
I have used Google’s Blogger for years and my understanding is that they are shutting down????
So I’m out frantically trying to find another platform. Blogger has been easy to use with little change.
So you think WordPress would be the next best free blogging site?
I don’t want to lose my family info.
I would appreciate any thoughts or suggestions!!
I was thrilled to come across your blog about blogging!!
I have been using Blogger for a number of years for my genealogy blog and from my understanding, they will discontinue Blogger.
I’m trying to find a free blog platform and it seems that WordPress would be the best to transfer my blog over??
Right now, I’m copy and pasting my pages of family information into a word document to save them.
Any suggestions would be appreciated,
How searchable is a blog? I I google my last name will I have blogs in my list? I have never noticed a blog post in my searches.
I’m considering starting a family genealogy blog and I’m wondering if I should actually start two, one for my Dad’s side of the family and one for my Mom’s side. It seems to me that the two sides are of interest to completely different people.
Congrats on starting a blog! I would start with one. You can categorize the posts so that it’s easy to find posts related to the different parts of the family. Having two blogs is twice the work.
Thank you so much, for providing us a complete knowledge about Genealogy & Family Tree.
I read your blog and get some new thoughts about Genealogy and i also trying to provide some knowledge about Ancestry Research , My Family History so if want more about it please visit http://www.familytreesbyjackie.com/.
Hi, That is good piece of information. I am trying to build a blog with family tree integrated in it. Do you have any ideas how should I proceed.
If you’re using WordPress, TNG (The Next Generation of Genealogy Software) has a plug-in you could use.
Hi Amy I am researching my family tree iit is on my heritage under anne mccutcheon. It is strange that I should find your information at this time.