Genealogy meets the blogosphere: Using social media for family history research

More people use technology to advance family's history

By Hillary Bowler

Mormon Times

Published: Thursday, July 14 2011 8:00 a.m. MDT

SALT LAKE CITY —"I'm just kind of flabbergasted that you found me," said Margaret Cason, a genealogy blogger from Bountiful, when called for an interview. "I'm not accustomed to having anything I do found by anybody else."

A number of people have found Cason's blog, "Their Hearts Shall Turn," since she started it in March. It's likely that even more people will connect with her and follow her entries now.

Cason first started her genealogy research after a Sunday School lesson in her LDS ward particularly struck her with the importance of finding her ancestors. When she attended a RootsTech conference in February and learned about technologies to advance her research, she made the transition to the blogosphere.

Cason has since joined a listing of roughly 2,000 blogs related to genealogy and family history on GeneaBloggers.com. Browsing through the collection, you'll find quite the variety. Some may think that genealogy is just a "Mormon thing," but Mormons, Catholics, Jews, Baptists, atheists, etc., find a common interest in studying and finding their ancestors. While the blogs listed on GeneaBloggers are predominantly in English, there are some in Polish, Spanish, Dutch, French and Norwegian, just to name a few. You might even find one that's multi-lingual.

Genealogy and technology: A perfect match

Jim Ericson, product marketing manager for FamilySearch and a proponent of social media for family history, said that genealogy has been "entrenched in technology as technology has evolved." Genealogists have jumped onto the computer and Internet bandwagons in the past; it's time they join the social media world, he said.

"Genealogists seem to be 55-plus, so right away they don't see the merits of having a blog," said Thomas MacEntee of Chicago, founder of GeneaBloggers. But, he added, people are starting to recognize that blogs and other forms of social media work for genealogy — and they work really well.

"What you're really doing is populating the Google search engine," said Lisa Cooke of San Ramon, Calif., founder of Genealogy Gems, a company that offers instructional materials about genealogy.

Cooke also released a series of videos on how to make a genealogy blog. When information is posted on a blog, someone using any search engine can find what's been posted.

"One of the nice things about blogs and social media is that it allows people to share (family history) more broadly," Ericson said. Personal findings can be easily accessible to others.

Social media is really all about connecting, and for genealogy, it can even mean collaboration.

"I have met a second cousin who I never knew existed," MacEntee said. "She found my blog."

Mona Magno-Veluz, a blogger from Manila, Philippines, has connected with countless people through both her how-to and personal family history blogs. One of her favorite connections was with a fourth cousin whose search for an ancestor's name led him to her blog. It turned out that ancestor's house had been preserved and is one of the oldest homes in the Philippines.

"There are many, many stories of people finding their relatives on the pages on my blog," Magno-Veluz said via email, echoing the sentiments of many genealogy bloggers and countless stories of meeting distant relatives or collaborating with others in work on the same surnames.

Such connections can prove valuable in getting help as well.

"The genealogy community is very helpful period, but especially the bloggers," MacEntee said. He went on to explain how one can simply post a question to their blog or write a post about something they're struggling with. Other bloggers or even genealogists post helpful information in the form of comments on the blog post.

Creating a blog

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