Saturday, June 29, 2013

You Are Blogging, Aren’t You?

In the past few days, I’ve been capturing some thoughts triggered while attending the Southern California Genealogical Society Jamboree earlier this month. The focus of this series has been to encourage you to avail yourself of every local and online community outlet possible in pursuing your family history research.

Most of the tools that come readily to mind are resources where we go to get information.

With today’s post, I’d like to turn that mindset around. Sometimes, you first need to give to get.

One of the simplest methods you can use to spread the word about what you are pursuing in your research is blogging. Given the right tools, blogging is free, has very low barriers to entry, and can hand you a world-wide platform, once you gain a facility with social networking.

While I know many of you who are regular readers here at A Family Tapestry are also talented bloggers in your own right, I want to focus today on encouraging those of you who are not yet blogging to consider giving it a try.

Why Try?

If you’ve ever stared at a blank computer screen in frustration over a genealogical brick wall and just typed your most wanted’s name in the search bar on Google™, then you know how easy it can be to bring up thousands of results in less than a second.

Not that those results are always pertinent to your research efforts, mind you. Just that they can be readily at hand.

Now, imagine if, by including a modifying term, such as “obituary” or “family history,” you could narrow your search for your mystery relative in such a way that you find some extremely viable results.

Maybe even results that connect you to a distant cousin you never dreamed you had.

Take that one step further: let’s reverse the roles, and think of the possibilities if you had already launched a family history blog of your own.

What if it was your blog that came up as the number one result when that proverbial distant-cousin-you’ve-never-met entered a name in the Google™ search bar?

As has been said many times before, “If you build it, they will come.”


How to Start

Of course, coming up with irresistible “Cousin Bait” (as some researchers have called it) is not necessarily as simple as it sounds.

You knew there was going to be this caveat.

Just like fishing, it may take some sacrifices before you land your big catch—like getting up early (or my preference: staying up later), shivering with doubt in the momentary cold, preparing ahead of time by getting decent equipment to use.

Since this is just a blog post and not the genealogical version of Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary for blogs, I won’t be going into the step-by-step of setting up your own blog. But I will suggest some resources so you can explore the subject on your own.

For those of you who learn best by watching instruction, I recommend you check out Anne Gillespie Mitchell’s “Cousin Bait: Blogging to Find Your Family” on YouTube. A companion pdf file can also be accessed here. Anne is with, and also maintains her own blog, as well as a presence on Twitter and on Facebook—a good person to follow.

While Anne focuses primarily on using Blogger in her presentation, if you are wondering about WordPress—or the greater possibilities inherent in hosting your own site, and maybe even generating some income from your writing—you may want to visit the blog at where “Mike” walks his readers through many levels of blogging possibilities.

There are myriad other sites aimed at helping bloggers in general get started. I tend to trust those from a genealogy slant, such as these links provided by Thomas MacEntee.

How to Spread the Word

Setting up a blog is your first step. After that comes consistency—regularly publishing articles that will lure others to visit your site and, hopefully, connect with those missing cousins.

While being diligent in producing compelling content is important, you can’t really impact others with your research if they don't know you exist. You need to attract an audience.

It can get pretty lonely performing to an empty room. Somehow, you need to find ways to spread the word about your fledgling project.

I would be remiss if I didn’t first mention the best way to share your family history blog with the rest of the genealogy world: gaining the opportunity to be mentioned at GeneaBloggers.

GeneaBloggers, the brainchild of Thomas MacEntee, the “Genealogy Ninja” of Chicago, invites new genealogy bloggers to submit their launch’s press release to the site for inclusion in their weekly announcements. All you need do to be included in the GeneaBlogger’s Blog Roll is submit your request. (An added bonus is inclusion in GeneaBlogger’s in-site search mechanism—yet another way other researchers may find your blog.)

Social media helps spread the word, too. We’ve already talked about getting on Twitter and networking in real life with your local, regional and state genealogical societies. Mentioning your new blogging project on Facebook, on Cyndi’s List, and other information outlets helps, too.

If you really are keen on honing your blogging skills further, Darren Rowse of ProBlogger will take you way up the learning curve with useful tips that cross-apply to what we hope to achieve as family history bloggers.

How to Dangle That Bait

Once your blog is up and running, you want to produce articles that serve as your siren call for others seeking information on your target surnames. Here are a few posts I’ve appreciated (well, some in a love-hate sort of way):

Amy Coffin of The We Tree Genealogy Blog provides a tutorial on just how to write that Cousin Bait blog post.

When it comes to the concept of “Cousin Bait,” I like the way Valerie Craft put it:
“Cousin Bait” is the concept of putting information about your ancestors out on the web to attract the attention of other descendants.
Sometimes that is more challenging than you’d think. Take, for instance, the delicate task facing author Mariann Regan, in broaching the subject of biracial descendants, a painful legacy of historical injustices. Suddenly, the concept of “Cousin Bait” takes on a different cast.

And yet, even for the same researcher, there can be research wealth in cousin connections.

In this process of seeking heretofore unknown cousins online, if nothing else, heed the advice of blogger Kenneth Marks and strike these seven tactics from your Cousin Bait tackle box.

For those of us already blogging, it never ceases to amaze when we are contacted by remote relatives, as librarian Deb Ruth has found. If you are not yet up and writing, consider giving blogging a try. Not only is it an excellent discipline for getting your family’s stories down on (virtual) paper, but you never know when you’ll be found by a long-lost relative.

Who knows? Maybe you’ll even discover that you are related to a fellow blogger.


  1. As always, a wonderful post Jacqi. I really need to get mine going again. Thanks for the kick in the pants, I needed it!

    1. Yes! I would love to see you back at blogging. It is a lot of work, but worth it!

  2. Great tips, Jacqui. I tried for about a year until I finally found a groove. I will check some of your links for refreshers, too. Geneabloggers is a great tool, as well as Twitter, Google+, etc. Thanks!

    1. Sally, sometimes it does call for a lot to come together before things gel just right for a blog. Glad you found just the right combination to get you going, Sally.

  3. OK, how did you get that Feedly Follow button to work?

    1. Oh, Wendy...that Feedly button! Is it working? I'm still wondering, myself...

  4. Jacqi, you've collected many useful resources here for the fledgling blogger. I'll be this post will encourage some on the verge of blogging to go ahead, give it a try. There is nothing to lose. I heartily endorse your opinion that it's a great way to find lost relatives -- they can't contact you if you don't put yourself out there for search engines to work on! And let me add . . . within the last week, two new biracial relatives located and contacted me! So even in that more delicate circumstance, extending yourself to unknown cousins does work. It really does.

    1. You've made some great connections in your project, lately, Mariann! And you have been so careful in those delicate situations. What a story!

  5. While it wasn't cousin bait - I found someone with my blog too...

    1. Thanks for sharing that link, Iggy. What a story! It's amazing the connections that can be, friends, previous neighbors--or previous complete strangers :)


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