By: Carolyn L. Barkley
I have been “blogging” now for slightly more than a year. While I confess that I don’t know a great deal about the technical side of blogs (widgets are still beyond me, for example), I have learned how valuable blogs can be in our ongoing education as genealogists. In the past, formal learning opportunities for genealogists have taken the form of local, state and national seminars, workshops or conferences, available one or two times per year, depending on the sponsoring organization. The cost of attending these programs often meant that we had to pick and choose which ones we could attend. With the advent of genealogical blogs, however, extensive learning resources are available to us online 24-7, with the number of posts increasing exponentially. It is truly a wonderful time to be a genealogist. As our research moves into new geographic locations or as we encounter new types of records, a wealth of information is available to us through the blog format.
When I write articles for this blog, I almost always go to Cyndi’s List to see what is available online on the specific week’s topic. When preparing for this article, however, I tried a different method and Googled “genealogical blogs.” Within .23 seconds, I had a response listing 233,000 entries. My first choice from that list, Genealogy Blog Finder provided me with links to 1,296 blogs in 29 categories – still a large number of hits, but much more manageable than 233,000. In the face of such largesse, I quickly abandoned my original article concept to provide a top ten list of genealogical blogs. Instead, I decided to investigate this directory site and share with you the different types of blogs available to assist with your research.
The largest grouping of blogs (622) appears under the heading of “personal research.” These are indeed very personal web sites providing insights into individual experiences in researching a family. One distinctive example is Sense of Face in which the blogger chooses a member of her family each week and provides a picture and a “story that goes with it.” It is an intriguing visual concept. Other sites discuss specific families such as the Bird family that emigrated from Birmingham, England, to Utah in the middle 1800s. This blog provides a rich combination of text, pictures, and digitized documents. Be sure to check to see if a blog exists for your family. You can search both the blog directory (titles and headings) of blog posts (a kind of keyword search) to see if a surname of interest can be found. When I searched the blog directory for “Barclay,” there were no matches, but a search of blog posts found 52 sites, including archived articles of this blog where I often use Barclay research as examples. One of the sites, Glasgow Ancestry, provides a photograph of a wonderful Barclay grave stone. Other Barclays can be found at a site called GenDisasters. When I searched for Barclay on this latter blog, I obtained a list of disasters involving either place names such as Barclay Bridge, or accidents involving individuals named Barclay.
Two other large categories of blogs include locality specific sites (255) and sites for tips, resources and reviews (246). Alabama Genealogy 7 is posted by a group of family history researchers with African-American Alabama ancestry. The site includes family history information, reunion announcements, photographs, and other information of interest to Alabama researchers. Ancestor Research Log is the genealogy blog for the Plymouth (Michigan) Public Library. One of my favorite blogs providing tips, resources and reviews is About Genealogy, the “Family Tree and Genealogy Resource Guide.” Written by Kimberly Powell, this site provides information on surname meanings, genealogy 101, 10 steps for finding family trees online, the top 10 genealogy questions and answers, and more. Regular posts provide readers with information about genealogical news such as Roots Television and the just discovered Red Cross War Dead archive from World War I. In addition, if you don’t already read some of the major news and tips blogs, you will want to read Eastman’s Online Genealogy Newsletter, Randy Seaver’s Genea-musings, 24-7 Family History Circle, and Leland Metzler’s Genealogy Blog.
Genealogy Blog Finder identifies 16 podcasts including Dear Myrtle’s Family History Hour, Drew Smith and George Morgan’s Genealogy Guys, and The Genealogy Tech Podcast that offers tips and tricks on using technology in your genealogical research. Documentary blogs share digitized and transcribed documents (check out the Maine Genealogy Archives and Lineage Keeper). Cemetery blogs include sites for specific cemeteries, as well as a helpful blog Cemeteries and Cemetery Symbols, that explains “cemetery symbols and graveyard mysteries.”
Other blog categories include single surnames, GenWeb, photography, famous folks (such as Babe Ruth, Barack Obama, Cornelius Vanderbilt, and Matisse), libraries, associations and societies, obituaries, humor, and vlogs (blogs with video clips).
If you have a genealogical research need or interest, there is probably a blog that may be able to provide you with needed information, or link you with researchers who can assist you. Blog directories such as Genealogy Blog Finder, or listings on Cyndi’s List, will help you identify blogs that you may want to read regularly, as well as others that you may consult as a specific research need arises. You can subscribe to your choice of blogs through an RSS feed (most blogs provide access to RSS on their sites) and have their posts come directly to your email box. Alternatively, you can read blogs of your choice by using a service such as Google Reader.
One of the strengths of blog postings is the invitation to interact with other readers by posting comments and sharing helpful information. Dialogue with others interested in our surname, specific family, or locality offers the opportunity to enrich our information, learn new techniques and resources, and just maybe, solve a problem that leads to a breakthrough in our research. Who knows, you may even want to create your own blog about your family and your research!