Julie's Genealogy & History Hub

Julie's Genealogy & History Hub -

Follow Up & Reflection on ‘What Happened to Genealogy Blogging?’

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Funny thing. When you write a thought-provoking blog post, you really need to make sure you have time to react! Honestly, I didn’t know that Saturday’s blog post What Happened to Genealogy Blogging? was going to be so comment-heavy, but it certainly was (heck, I didn’t even know if people still read my blog!).

A very big “thank you” to everyone who took the time to comment, both here and on Facebook. This blog post is intended to sum up what people said, and I also reflect personally on some of themes a little more.

I do want to clarify that neither this, nor the previous post, are meant to criticize genealogy bloggers who aren’t blogging regularly or at all anymore. I get it, I mean what of significance have I posted lately?!? Zip, zero, nada! I just saw this big hole and wondered why. I know what my reasons are, but I certainly can’t speak for everyone else.

The comments I received were a clear indication that my “lack of time” reason is only one of many out there. As a researcher, my inquisitive mind wanted to know more, to understand. While I don’t hold all the answers, there was certainly a lively discussion.

As I mentioned in the opening paragraph, I really didn’t expect such a response. But, I’m glad I took the time to post and that others were happy to share their thoughts. One thing I found was that it inspired others who are in the same position I’m in to take a moment and either go out and post something (hey, I’m still here!!) or to seriously think about how they can reincorporate genealogy blogging into their routine. I myself have discovered the true nature of my posting decline, but more on that later.

An Important Aside

Before I get into the nitty gritty of this post, I wanted to comment on a few remarks I received that don’t really answer the question of why people are not blogging, but are important to the conversation nonetheless.

Tony Proctor and Heather Wilkinson Rojo brought up a good point about new blogs I may have missed in the last 18 months. And even though I haven’t done any analysis on these newer blogs, I can only say that, in my opinion based on observations over the last several years, I’m willing to bet many may succumb to the same fate, if they haven’t already. This isn’t the first time I’ve cleaned out my reader—I used to do it regularly for years. While I noticed this same phenomenon in the past, it was only a handful of blogs at a time, so it didn’t really hit me then. It was only when I had so many at once that I began to really wonder and decided to investigate further. All that said, my reader is a little lonely, so if you enjoy a newer blog that I may have missed, I’d love to know about it!

The Discoveries

So, what happened to genealogy blogging? In a way, nothing. Genealogists and family history buffs are still using blogs to share their stories and knowledge, whether with family, the genealogy community, or both. New blogs pop up everyday. Sadly, some bloggers slow down or even cease publication. In Saturday’s post, I was very curious to hear about the reasons for the latter.

Blogging Alternatives

A few people mentioned alternatives to blogging. For example, some mentioned that things they might have posted on their blogs in the past, they now just share as a quick post on Facebook. I suppose this might be a small part of my problem, one that didn’t even occur to me. In fact, just hours before I started cleaning out my reader, I made a discovery and I almost went to Facebook to talk about it. But then I decided that because of the nature of the find (and a lesson to be reiterated), it would serve better as a blog post. By that point, I had run out of steam (I had been researching for hours) and decided to do a mindless task, like cleaning out my blog reader (and we all know what that turned into!).

Others mentioned other alternatives such as Instagram. I can’t really speak to this because I know absolutely nothing about Instragram, except how to spell it! But, as I thought more about possible alternatives, I can see where video has caught the attention of some bloggers with the advent of Google Hangouts and Facebook Live.

Because I’ve “been away” for awhile, I’m curious to know what alternatives people are using, either in place of or in addition to, blogging, and how they’re being used.

Blogging Is Harder Than It Looks

A few people mentioned that blogging is harder than people think. I can see both sides to this, so my initial response is that blogging can be hard if you make it so. Bloggers who want everything to be perfect (myself included) easily impose the hardship upon themselves. The same goes for bloggers that want to present many thought-provoking posts and heavy-duty, in-depth research stories. Jacqi Stevens puts it eloquently: “I also noticed that some seemed to pour every ounce of effort into polishing that opus one. It’s no wonder the writer soon fizzled after that massive outpouring!” But genealogy blogging doesn’t have to be so overwrought, especially not all the time or for every post. Bloggers that have been around for years, and are still going strong, have a mixture of posts and I have a feeling that’s what keeps them from burning out. So if you’re a genealogy blogger who is feeling overwhelmed by the thought of keeping up with your blog, think about ways to mix it up so you get stuff out there, but it doesn’t take so much out of you that the thought of blogging is dreadful. (Note to self: Follow your own advice!)

The best way to avoid burnout is to have a plan. Know your objective—why you want to blog—and your audience. And this isn’t just for new bloggers; it applies to all of us because as our interests change so might our blog (my blog has gone through many changes over the years). A tool I find helpful is an editorial calendar. My method for this calendar has morphed over the years, but it always helped me stay on track. (I did post about this back in 2008; it’s a little outdated, but you’ll get the idea.)

One final thought on this topic—the writing. Some people just hate the thought of writing, and while they want to share their stories and blogging is a way to do that, they get stymied by the writing process. For those who fall in this category, maybe an alternative such as video or digital scrapbooking are better options. Others may not mind the writing, but fear they’re not good at it. For genealogy blogs, especially those that exist to tell the stories of the blogger’s ancestors, who cares? Isn’t it more important to get your story out there for your family and future generations? So what if a comma is out of place or you accidentally used “their” instead of “there.” If you blog’s mission is to share family stories, don’t let a comma stop you!

No Time for Blogging

Of course the most frequently mention answer was a lack of time and competing priorities. No surprise there, however, some dug a little deeper into this reason. Those comments were extremely enlightening and I am thankful to the people who wrote them, as they made me really think about my own “lack of time” excuse and got me thinking of ways to get back to blogging.

Brenda Leyndyke helped me see a deeper reason for my “lack of time” excuse. As she puts it: “I don’t want to post anything that is not good quality and good quality takes me time.” I think I knew this in the back of my mind, but this made it blatantly obvious—this is my specific problem. Is it one that I can overcome? Do I have to be such a perfectionist (it’s a blessing and a curse) with every single post? Can I find ways to be more efficient with my time and still post quality articles? This is something I really reflected on, and I will talk a little bit about it throughout the rest of this post.

Elizabeth Handler shares a similar sentiment. She says: “I think that the novelty of blogging and sharing the ‘low hanging fruit’ in my first couple of years made it easier for me back then.” She goes on to say that her research interests have taken her into the world of DNA and that it can be difficult to write about the topic. I couldn’t agree more, and her thoughts helped me reflect on some of the questions that I formed when reading Brenda’s comments.

Elizabeth, like many others, does simple weekly posts based on a theme. I myself have done these from time to time and it really helped me to keep blogging regularly. Shauna Hicks mentioned something similar: “I haven’t done as much genealogy blogging mainly because of other commitments but I also find that if I am not participating in a regular blog challenge there is not the same pressure to write something.” I’m willing to bet that many others would agree with Shauna, and it’s probably the reason many bloggers write around weekly themes and/or special challenges (e.g., 52 Ancestors)—it “forces” them to write and fulfill their commitment.

Sadly, I quit doing Wordless Wednesday years ago because I didn’t keep track of what I had already done and it became a nightmare. I quit doing my Saturday in the Attic posts around the same time for the same reason. In 2013 I started doing Surname Saturday (and tracked each week, lesson learned!) and participated in two challenges: Family History Through the Alphabet and Genealogy By the States. I completed the two challenges, but quit the Surname Saturday posts because the way I was doing them was a lot of work (and because I had to be careful about what I published because I planned to submit a portfolio for BCG certification). For me (and I suspect for others), I need to have that weekly thing to encourage me to post, so I’ve been playing around with a new column idea, Tips from an Editor, which in many cases can be short, anecdotal posts. The Tuesday’s Tip theme is another one that I can do fairly quickly too. So maybe I have found some solutions!

What’s sadder, I have several post drafted, some nearly final, as well as plenty of ideas. Apparently, I am not alone, as others mentioned the same thing. For me, it all ties back to the quality=time thing. I really need to find a way to overcome this when it comes to my blog or else it will continue to hold me back.

Final Thought

My intention for Saturday’s post was to understand why so many genealogy blogs have declined over the years. I figured the biggest reason was simply “life happens” and there are just not enough hours in the day. That was the reason heard most often, and of course, no surprise to me because that’s my reason too. But there are other reasons, and some interesting discussion came out of this. Because of this, it not only helped answer my initial question, but it also helped me see more clearly my own problem and I am now encouraged and inspired to get back to blogging. Perhaps others will be inspired too.

Category: GenBlog
  • tonyproctor says:

    For those who do want to write, I have to say that the available tools are poor. I suspect that there’s still a feeling in certain circles that blogs are only going to be a couple of paragraphs of plain text — possibly like the old “web log” predecessor. The end result is that we get little in the way of formatting/structure, and people like me have to jump through hoops to deliver something we feel happy with.

    For instance, footnotes, including but not limited to source citations. There is nothing in blogger that generates them, let alone clickable ones. I know, … not everyone wants to generate these, but what about tables, or simple indentation, or different styles for transcribed text, etc. There’s a wealth of stuff that would help genealogy writers to produce better articles.

    Ideally, genealogy sites should provide something fit for this purpose. But they don’t and so we resort to blogs. Even then, the genealogy sites ignore those blogs, and dedicated Web sites, for no good reason that I can see. They’ve given you trees, and you’ll damn well use them as far as they’re concerned.

    (Am I getting cranky with age?)

    April 18, 2017 at 4:01 pm
    • Julie Cahill Tarr says:

      Not cranky! I understand your frustration. Many years ago, when I was still using Blogger, I was fortunate to stumble across Windows Live Writer and have used it ever since (I hated Blogger, with a passion!!!!). It’s just like working in Word and for me it’s a comfortable fit (this program also lets you manipulate the HTML code if need be). I think the last version was 2012, but if I remember correctly, it was the last version and support was going to be limited (and probably go away). Regardless, it still works. WordPress isn’t too bad…my biggest complaint was that I don’t like to type in a small box within a giant window, but it seems with each iteration, it gets closer to full screen, so if I ever had to work from there, I think I’d be able to do it with minimal frustration.

      April 18, 2017 at 5:38 pm
  • Linda Stufflebean says:

    In terms of knowing what I’ve already posted, I use Excel and enter every post with the date in it. It takes less than a minute. I can add notes so if it was a wordless post, I could describe the photo. I started blogging in 2014, but didn’t get to it regularly until that fall. I quickly realized I needed some organizational tool and Excel works perfectly. It can be sorted by any of my categories.

    April 18, 2017 at 4:10 pm
    • Julie Cahill Tarr says:

      Thanks for sharing, Linda. When I started to do the Surname Saturday theme, I actually used my ahnentafel chart and went numerically, which made it easier to track. I also use a spreadsheet for my orphan photos (which I haven’t done in years!) and planned to do the same if I started Wordless Wednesday back up (but I’d have to go back through all of the posts and record them before I get started).

      April 18, 2017 at 5:43 pm
  • Cathy Meder-Dempsey says:

    I was amazed with the positive response to your post on Saturday. I didn’t comment because I am still blogging (3+ years).

    One of the ways I’ve kept up with the posts I’ve written is putting the html code for the link to the post in the notes of the person or family in my genealogy program. This actually serves two purposes. First, when reviewing a family group, I see what I’ve written or not written. Second, I have my GEDCOM online on RootsWeb’s WorldConnect and the link in the notes sends viewers to my post. I’ve been working my way back through the generations in a very strict order (ahnentafel) and posting under the 52 Ancestors theme.

    Re: Tony’s comment on available tools for genealogy bloggers.
    I have a large collection of old photographs I shared and over time the posts became longer and more complicated as I did more research on each. I still need to write one more post about all the connections made through the photographs but am overwhelmed with how to do it. I need a huge easy-to-use mind mapping tool. Preferably one that uses telepathy.

    I am presently doing only one post a week as I’ve become more active in my genealogy society. I have some ideas for a 2nd weekly post but time is a factor. Isn’t that the overall concensus?

    April 19, 2017 at 3:42 am
    • Julie Cahill Tarr says:

      That’s a really smart idea, Cathy. I use tags for my posts so I can easily pull up all the posts by surname, but I like the idea of having a link in my database…I may have to steal that idea!

      April 19, 2017 at 1:10 pm
  • Wendy L. Callahan says:

    For me, it was just a matter of changing priorities. I’ve blogged for 10 years now and during a good six of them (2010-2016), I was living overseas, going through a divorce, a marriage, and having a new baby, and then moving back to the U.S. It was an exhausting time. And then I had to find a job to support my family, so my time and energy were prioritized elsewhere.

    So I think “life happens” is generally true.

    Now that I work for myself, I’ve actually made creating a content calendar and blogging twice a week a priority again, starting this month. And I’m very excited to focus on it again. 🙂

    April 19, 2017 at 9:54 am
    • Julie Cahill Tarr says:

      My goodness, that’s a lot to go through all at once! Glad to have you back and I hope things are now going well.

      April 19, 2017 at 1:12 pm
  • Fran Salyers says:

    I read this post with much interest. I started blogging 10 months ago. I started the blog, 72scrapbooks.com, to capture and share the family and community history discovered in the 72 scrapbooks handed down from my husband’s grandmother, Sarah Eva Howe Salyers. In just 5 scrapbooks (plus some other family materials) I found enough material for 60 posts! Now that the scrapbooks are covering Sarah’s adult years (1910-1950), my enthusiasm is lacking. For whatever reason, I find it hard to keep going. (For example: I came to my computer determined to start writing a blog post. So far, this blog about what happened to genealogy blogging is just one of my distractions.) The writing challenges that work for so many other bloggers don’t seem to fit with my blog based on family scrapbooks. I think my best bet is to commit a specific schedule to paging through the scrapbooks and finding new material, then writing. I’ve got to get my enthusiasm back!

    April 19, 2017 at 10:19 am
    • Julie Cahill Tarr says:

      Wow, Fran, 72 scrapbooks! What a treasure trove!! I hope you’re able to get back in the swing of things and keep sharing. Maybe you just need a bit of a break. Although time seems to be the biggest issue for many of us, I think burnout is a subset of that. I find that sometimes I need a break from genealogy research (like this week, I’m putting it to the side because I have spent the last four weeks solid working on a particular project) and I suspect others do too. Maybe we all just need a blogging break too so we don’t fizzle.

      April 19, 2017 at 1:18 pm
  • Jo Henn says:

    The description section of my blog at the top says in the first line that my posts are sporadic because I tell my family’s stories as I find them. So I figure that’s fair warning. 😊I still work at a job with long hours and I have a couple chronic illnesses that sometimes impact my research and writing time. Some years my posts are more sporadic than others, lol. Last year I eventually admitted I was taking a break to do another project because it turned out I couldn’t do both (because the 365 Photography project on Instagram helped me fight my depression better that year because it forced me to stay in the day/moment and to get out and create and accomplish something each day; and I was stuck on several branches in my genealogy which was discouraging). This year I’m back to the genealogy and blog about it but to stave off frustration and depression I’ve set a personal goal of 1-2 posts a month. It would be nice to do more, but I won’t beat myself up if I don’t or don’t make my goal (as I didn’t in March when my health went haywire for a bit). My blog is mainly to spread family history to family members who are all over the country and interested in results but not so much in the research, and cousin bait, not a business draw or income producing thing. So I just make sure it shows up in Google searches, and repost my posts to Facebook (for family) and Twitter and Google+. I used to do a weekly round up of interesting blog posts (I know I included some of yours), but have conceded to myself that I can’t currently keep that up without getting sick from doing too much. I’m planning to retire in a a bit over 3 years, so maybe I can pick that back up then.

    I just made a breakthrough on one of my Mom’s branches and did a brief post last week, and may get another up by Monday — fingers and toes crossed. Stop by and see: Climbing My Family Tree, https://jahcmft.blogspot.com.

    April 19, 2017 at 1:45 pm
    • Julie Cahill Tarr says:

      Hi Jo, I am a follower of your blog 🙂 I also have a chronic illness so I can relate to that aspect. You’re about the fourth or fifth person to mention Instagram…maybe I need to look into this!

      April 19, 2017 at 4:03 pm
      • Jo Henn says:

        Thanks! I’ve followed you through Feedly but just decided to do it by email. 😊 I think Instagram would work better for sharing more recent family stories as it’s photos (with text). I don’t know how it would work if you don’t have pictures. I like taking pictures of things folks don’t necessarily notice and showing their beauty/interest, (and some normal pictures). There I’m under henn.jo.

        April 19, 2017 at 4:24 pm
        • Julie Cahill Tarr says:

          Thanks for the tip.

          April 19, 2017 at 6:04 pm
        • Julie Cahill Tarr says:

          Wow, Jo. Your photos are stunning! You have a great eye! Have you thought about putting them on stock photo sites to make some money on the side?

          April 19, 2017 at 6:13 pm
  • luvviealex says:

    Julie this is such an interesting post. Thank you for all your good ideas about what stymies us in blogging. I do confess to getting distracted by contributing to other social media. I’ve even contributed to a genealogy meme on Instagram – who knew??? I was interested to hear about Windows Live Writer as an alternative platform too. You have a new subscriber now 🙂 I have a blogger blog as well at Family Tree Frog dot com.

    April 19, 2017 at 3:06 pm
    • Julie Cahill Tarr says:

      Thanks for sharing your blog with me. I see you’re doing an A-Z challenge. I’ve thought about doing it again with a different theme than I did the last time. More things to consider!

      April 19, 2017 at 3:51 pm
  • tonyproctor says:

    II think you’ve identified the need for a “bloggers support group” Julie, and I’m not entirely joking when I say that.

    April 20, 2017 at 3:12 am
    • Julie Cahill Tarr says:

      🙂 I guess in a way, that’s why Thomas started GeneaBloggers years ago.

      April 20, 2017 at 2:32 pm
  • Linda J says:

    Julie, found your 2 articles through Randy Seaver’s weekly “Best” blogs – which I try to keep up with! And how he blogs daily and keeps up with all the blogs he follows I’ll never know!

    I have thought about blogging, even reserved a name, and just paid renewal, but haven’t done anything more: partly the frequently mentioned “life/death happens”; partly just fear of getting started, etc, etc.

    However, I have followed Thomas’s “new genealogy blogs” for about 1-1/2 years, looking at the listed blogs 1) to see what I liked & Did Not Like About Design; 2) to check surnames and locations that might lead to family and 3) just interesting blogs about research, or any topic.

    Thoughts so far:
    1) Design: I discovered some blogs are so hard to read it is not worth my time ( type too light, background so messy it is hard to read, very poor organization, etc. – I know each of us designs his/her blog to their taste – colors, style, etc. – but it should be easily readable or what is the point? We all have many demands on our time.
    2) Information: it is amazing to me how many blogs Do Not List Family Surnames and Locations! If they are cousin bait it would seem that would be the first item on the front page of your blog. A drop down menu or a list on the side – Julie, yours is great!
    3) Perfect: Interesting blogs? Well, I would suggest that we Not try to be “perfect” – and I am one of the worst offenders. Try for a shorter blog – if it does not have good research points, or a very interesting story I don’t read long posts. Does it matter in the scheme of things if the grammar is not perfect English? Does it matter if there are a couple of misspelled words? Yes, we would like our posts to be “perfect” but if no one reads them what is the point? I’m not saying a post should be sloppy but there has to be a happy medium.
    4) You, and the comments, have mentioned several technical details. It would help if there was a class, or – heavens a Blog – helping out; it seems to be a learn as you go or trial and error system.
    5) And finally, Thomas McEntee has certainly tried his level best to form, and keep up, a genealogy Blogging community. Note: I did watch his webinar on blogging and still have the notes – guess I need to review them!
    6) I am over-committed through June but maybe I will really try to get going later this summer –
    Maybe!
    7) And finally, one last note: I have a FB account, but do not have a page. I check a few family or genealogy pages but consider it a monumental time-suck (obviously older generation here).

    Julie, thank you for posting about this subject.

    April 24, 2017 at 1:35 pm

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