Blog Your Way to Genealogical Success

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This is the syllabus for a class taught by the Ancestry Insider at the 2010 NGS Conference and other conferences.

Instructions match the Blogger interface as it was on 3 May 2012.

Further ideas from others are welcome at the end of the syllabus.


Introduction[edit | edit source]

Attendees of this presentation will learn how to create a blog and post simple articles and photographs. Blogs allow anyone to freely and easily publish information to the Internet with very little technical knowledge. You can use your blog to publish your research results or publish your dead ends. As others search the web for their ancestors, they can find your results and your questions. Without disclosing your e-mail address, you will be notified when others post answers, comments or questions on your blog.

Blogging Benefits[edit | edit source]

Blogs are used for different purposes by different people.

  1. Some use blogging to socialize. There is a large community of genealogical bloggers who have become fast friends, reading each others’ blogs, giving encouragement, even getting together at genealogy conferences for dinner or drinks.
  2. Blogs make great organization newsletters. Members of your society, user group, or genealogy organization can sign up for e-mail notification of blog posts. Editors can post meeting announcements, articles, reminders, and so forth.

    In this presentation, we’ll focus on these uses for blogging:

  3. Blogs are an easy way to publish information on the Internet. Remember that book you’ve been planning on publishing about your family? Yes, I understand you’re still refining the material before publishing it. Well, while you’re perfecting it, you should share it on your blog. Then others can benefit from your work, review your conclusions, make suggestions, offer new information, and more. Plus, blog posts can always be revised as you touch up your research findings. Try that with a book!
  4. Before message boards, there were newspapers and newsletters that published genealogical queries. “I’m researching Paul Raymond, b. abt 1770, d. abt 1845 Bristol, Vermont. Please contact me.” Membership had its privileges and joining a genealogical society always came with a couple of credits for queries in the society publication. Blogs allow you to post all your dead ends, for the entire Internet world to see and to respond. Unlike message boards, you can revise your queries; even delete them, as your research progresses.
  5. Blogs make a great research log. In fact, the word blog is a contraction of web log. By putting your log on the web, you’ll have a copy of it wherever you go. Never again will you find yourself at a genealogy library without a copy of what records and sources you’ve already considered.

Principles and Philosophies[edit | edit source]

In this presentation, we follow several philosophies and principles. These guide the choices I’ve made.

  • KISS – Keep it Simple, Stupid! This presentation is aimed at beginners. We’ll avoid most bells and whistles. As you learn more, there’s lots more you could do. But the bells and whistles aren’t necessary to accomplish the benefits we’ve identified, above.
  • Free – We will depend entirely on free software and services. Others may recommend things that cost money. As a beginner, you don’t need them. In fact, you may never need them.
  • To be taken seriously, your blog should look serious.
  • Like a book – Think of your blog like a book. Think of each post as a page in the book. Divide large amounts of text into multiple posts so that each post can be printed on one, two, or maybe three printed pages.
  • Deceased only – Never reveal any information about yourself or any other living individual. Unless you actively follow Internet crime, you will never be aware of what is safe to publish about living people. It would amaze you, and in some cases sicken you, to learn what seemingly innocuous information has enabled the commission of crimes. This prohibition extends to photographs.

Websites mentioned in this presentation[edit | edit source]

Here are the important web sites mentioned in this presentation:

Create a blog[edit | edit source]

In keeping with the KISS principle, I’ve illustrated just one of many ways to set up a blog. Follow these steps:

  • Go to If you have a Gmail, Google, or Blogger account, sign in. Otherwise click Sign Up and create an account.
  • Click the big orange button (Get Started or Continue).
  • In step 2 provide a title for your blog and choose the web address. The address you choose is only part of the entire URL, which will be of the form http://________ . blogspot . com so you should pick something easy to remember. Think of it as the short name for your blog.
  • In step 3 (which weirdly is again labelled step 2), choose a simple template. You can change it later.
  • If you wish to jump right in and post something, click the big orange button (Start Posting or State Blogging)

Click on Design in the bar at the top of your blog to change the design and settings of your blog.


Template Designer[edit | edit source]

To start Template Designer, click Design, choose any template, and select Customize. Explore the templates in Template Designer. Blogger provides many different layout templates. Try to find something you like that is easy to read and has a dark text color on a white background. Pick a template that gives your blog a serious feel.

To keep things simple, I suggest starting with the Simple template. Later you can personalize the layout, or even switch to a completely different template.

On the menu on the left, click Layout. Pick the Body Layout that has a single sidebar on the left. Pick the Footer that has a single box. In the preview at the bottom of the screen, make these changes:

  • Remove the default gadgets in the sidebar (Blog Archive and About Me) by clicking Edit > Remove.
  • In their place, use Add a Gadget to add a Labels Gadget. Set the Title to “Ancestors and Articles.” Sort alphabetically.
  • Use Add a Gadget to add a Text Gadget. Set the Title to “About Me.” Set the Content to something like this: “I am researching Wickliff Clayton Raymond and his ancestors. To contact me, please leave a comment on any post.”

Click Adjust Widths on the menu on the left. Genealogical materials need wide columns. Increase the width of the Entire Blog until is nearly fills the screen. Then decrease the width of the sidebar to about 250.  Click Apply To Blog and then click Back to Blogger.


Recommended settings[edit | edit source]

Select the Settings tab and set the options as follows. Ignore any settings not mentioned here.

Basic[edit | edit source]

  • Title: If you ever need to change your title, do it here.
  • Description: Add a one paragraph description of the purpose and content of your blog. This will be displayed on your blog beneath the title. For example, “This blog contains information about Wickliff Clayton Raymond and his ancestors. ‘Clate’ Raymond was born 13 March 1898 in Smithfield, Cache, Utah and died on 25 January 1993 in Logan, Cache, Utah.”
  • Privacy: Add your blog to our listings? Yes. Let search engines find your blog? Yes
  • Blog Address: If you ever want to change your blog address (URL), do it here.
  • Permissions – If you wish to allow multiple family members to post, you may add additional blog authors.

Posts and Comments[edit | edit source]

  • Show at most: Pick the number of posts you wish to display on your “home page.”
  • Comment Location: Embedded. This is how others contact you without your e-mail address.
  • Who Can Comment: Registered User. This increases the chance that you can return contact to those that leave comments.
  • Comment moderation: Always? Never? We’ll discuss this in the presentation.
  • Show word verification: Yes
  • Show Backlinks: Show

Language and Formatting[edit | edit source]

  • Set the various date, time, and language settings according to your preferences.

Get a blog editor[edit | edit source]

An easy to use, free blog editor is Microsoft Live Writer. Download it from Click the Download button first and then select Writer. Follow the instructions to install and run Writer. When asked, “What blog service do you use?” select the option that includes “Blogger.” Follow the instructions to add your blog account. Writer is easy to use and is much like many word processors or e-mail programs.

To insert an image into a blog post, click on the Insert menu and then on Picture. With the image selected, adjust the various options shown on the right side of Writer. Under the Advanced tab, adjust size, rotate, and crop the image. You can add text to an image with the watermark option. You can also adjust the size of the image by dragging one of the corners of the image. The Effects tab allows application of effects such as Black and White or Sepia.
Before you publish a post, use the Category list to list the name of each ancestor talked about. To list ancestors alphabetically by last name, put the last name first, then a period (commas are used to separate entries), and lastly the first name. For example:

Pitcher. Ireta
Raymond. Alma
Raymond. Alonzo Pearis

Get an image editor
[edit | edit source] is a free, easy to use image editor. Go to and click on the link on the right-hand side underneath “Get it now (free download).”

Conclusion[edit | edit source]

You can see the results of these steps at . It really is that easy!

Further Ideas From Others[edit | edit source]

Genealogy Gems videocasts that show how create and maintain a blog: