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This is the syllabus for a class taught by the Ancestry Insider at the 2010 NGS Conference and other conferences. Further ideas from others are welcome at the end of the syllabus.


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

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

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.

Web sites mentioned in this presentation

Here are the important web sites mentioned in this presentation:

Create a blog

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

  • If you don’t already have a Google Mail address, go to mail.google.com and sign up for one.
  • Go to www.blogger.com and login using your Google Mail account.
  • Click Get Started (the big orange button).
  • 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 called step 2), choose a template as explained in the next section.

Choosing a layout

Blogger provides many different layout templates. Choose a template that is easy to read, with high contrast between the background and the text. A very dark text color on a very light background is best. Some clipart works best on a white background. Choose a template that gives your blog a serious feel. Don’t pick a template that limits the column width as genealogical material needs wide columns. To keep things simple, I suggest starting with the Simple default. Later you can personalize the layout, or even switch to a completely different template.

Recommended settings

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


The Design tab

  • Page Elements
  • Remove each of the default gadgets by clicking Edit > Remove. These may be Followers, Blog Archive, and About Me.
  • In their place, add two gadgets, a Labels gadget and a Text gadget. 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.”
  • Edit HTML
  • These settings allow minute changes using HTML coding. For the sake of KISS, leave it alone for now.
  • Template Designer
  • The template designer is full of choices which we don't have time or space to cover. Here are some of the most helpful settings.
  • Maximize the column width of your blog by clicking on Layout, then Adjust Width, and setting the width to the maximum value.

The Settings tab

  • Basic
  • 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.”
  • Add your blog to our listings? Yes
  • Let search engines find your blog? Yes
  • Show Quick Editing on your blog? No
  • Show Email Post links? Yes
  • Select post editor: Updated editor
  • Show Compose Mode? Yes (although I don’t recommend using it)
  • Enable transliteration? Disable
  • If you changed any settings, don’t forget to click SAVE SETTINGS
  • Formatting
  • Show: Pick the number of posts you wish to display on your “home page.”
  • Set the various date, time, and language settings according to your preferences.
  • Convert Line Breaks? Yes.
  • Enable Dynamic Views? Yes
  • Show Title Field? Yes
  • Show Link Fields? No
  • Enable Float Alignment? Yes
  • If you changed any settings, don’t forget to click SAVE SETTINGS
  • Comments
  • Comments: Show. It is important to show comments. This is how you allow others to contact you. You don’t need to display your e-mail address if you use comments.
  • Who Can Comment: Registered Users. This increases the chance that you can return contact to those that leave comments.
  • Comment Form Placement: Embedded below post.
  • Comments Default for Posts: New Posts Have Comments
  • Backlinks: Show
  • Backlink Default for posts: New Posts Have Backlinks
  • Comment moderation: Always? Never? We’ll discuss this in the presentation.
  • Show word verification for comments? Yes
  • Show profile images on comments? Yes
  • Comment Notification Email: Specify your usual, personal email if it is not Gmail
  • If you changed any settings, don’t forget to click SAVE SETTINGS
  • Archiving
  • We won't cover this in the presentation because the defaults match the desired settings. Normally, you don't need to change these settings.
  • Archive Frequency? Monthly
  • Enable Post Pages? Yes
  • Permissions
  • If you wish to allow multiple family members to make posts, you may add additional authors to your blog.

Get a blog editor

An easy to use, free blog editor is Microsoft Live Writer. Download it from download.live.com. 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

Paint.net is a free, easy to use image editor. Go to www.getpaint.net and click on the link on the right-hand side underneath “Get it now (free download).”


You can see the results of these steps at http://claytonraymond.blogspot.com . It really is that easy!

Further Ideas From Others

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