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Effectively blogging about your family history

Published: Monday, Feb. 10 2014 5:00 a.m. MST

James Tanner speaks to RootsTech guests about creating useful family history blogs.

Katelyn Guderian, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — In his class “Using Tools and Organization for Creating a Valuable Family History Blog,” RootsTech conference presenter James Tanner, creator of Genealogy's Star, began by asking his audience, “Why do you want to blog?”

As blogs become an increasingly popular way to document thoughts and ideas, more and more family historians embrace the potential blogs have to help gather data and link families together.

For genealogy enthusiasts hoping to share their stories through blogs, Tanner cautioned against doing so half-heartedly.

“Here’s the important thing about blogging — you need to have something to say,” Tanner said. “You need to be very passionate about what you’re blogging about. If you’re fixated on the fact that you’ve only got 20 people reading the blog, you’ve missed the point of blogging.”

Tanner stressed that blogging is not about the numbers, but also explained the possibility of many others viewing your content if you choose to keep your blog public.

“You might think, as you begin to do genealogy, you are working on (only) your family,” Tanner said. “You are really talking to all of the people to whom you could potentially be related.”

With many family history participants turning to blogs in hopes of finding more information on their ancestors or extend family, it is important for genealogy bloggers to narrow their focus and understand their purpose for writing.

Tanner broke the art of blogging down into six steps for his class:

1. Be passionate: Focus on the thing or things you really want to write about, and stick with them. Make sure you have a lot to say about your blog topic

2. Decide on an audience: Are you writing this blog just for you and your personal records? Is it meant to link all members of your extended family? Is it a how-to blog for other members of the genealogy community? Choose beforehand whom you are intending to address.

3. Decide on a title: Tanner suggests being extra careful with this step. If you haphazardly choose a title — or if you choose an extremely long or specific title — your readers may get confused. Also keep in mind that people identify you based on your title and it becomes a sort of “brand.” Changing your title midway through a blog’s lifetime could result in loss of readership.

4. Decide how often you want to post: Committing to blog every day or even every week can be a big undertaking. Pick a frequency that’s realistic for you and your schedule.

5. Decide if the blog will be public or private: There are pros and cons to each, but if your purpose of blogging is to spread your family history and connect with others, make sure you keep your content accessible to the public.

6. Decide if the blog will be free or commercial: Are you open to the idea of having paid advertisements to help fund your efforts? Or will the blog have strictly family history content?

Email: kguderian@deseretnews.com

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