But there's a way to spend less time trolling message boards, forums and online archives, and more time responding to leads that come to you: starting a genea-blog.
By now most people are familiar with the concept of a "blog," a regularly updated online journal. Unlike a website, a blog requires no programming skills and may not even cost a thing, if you use a platform such as Blogger or Wordpress.com. Many traditional genealogy blogs offer information on performing research, upcoming conferences or new advances in information storage and retrieval.
A genea-blog, however, is different. It is a personal blog describing one person's genealogical search, including names and locations the researcher has or is looking for. Why should you throw a list of all your ancestors into the vast well of cyberspace? "If you have a genealogy blog, the surnames you are researching get picked up by the major search engines such as Google," explained Thomas MacEntee of Geneabloggers.com in an e-mail. "I can't tell you how many stories I hear from fellow genea-bloggers about finding long lost cousins or even family relatives they never knew existed."
When someone types one of your ancestor's names into Google, the search results may include an Ancestry.com listing, a long forum thread from 2001, and your genea-blog. Your genea-blog will be the most appealing. It will probably have the most information on your ancestor, his known relatives, and his location. It will also have your contact information and, we hope, be up-to-date: encouraging the searcher that you haven't abandoned your blog and will answer emails. When that person contacts you, you may have found a new piece of your family puzzle.
How Do I Start a Genea-Blog?
While it may seem daunting, starting a genea-blog is not very difficult. Free blogs available at Blogger or Wordpress.com can have you posting information in minutes, and the Geneabloggers.com website has an excellent primer on getting started. Geneabloggers recommends reading different genea-blogs to get an idea of the writing style and format you want to use for your own blog. It's a good habit to get into, because part of the fun and value of a genea-blog comes from interacting with the genea-blog community.
How Other Genea-Blogs Help You
Geneabloggers.com has over 600 bloggers listing their genealogical pursuits. The website has divided them into ethnicities and locations, including Acadian, African-American,Welsh, Indiana, Iowa, and South Carolina. If you post a comment or send a friendly e-mail to blogs that are searching the same territory you are, you'll be able to share valuable knowledge. The more you interact the more well-known your genea-blog, and its surnames, becomes. Geneabloggers.com also invites new bloggers to list their blog in a searchable database.
Besides comments and e-mails, many genea-blog groups hold "blog carnivals." A blog carnival is a collection of different writing from different blogs, but about the same subject. One blog, serving as host, will simply list all the different posts contributed, with links to the original blogs. Examples of genea-blog carnivals include the Carnival of Irish Heritage and Culture, and the Carnival of Central and Eastern European Genealogy. It's a good opportunity to find a lot of information at once, as well as have your information and blog read by a wide group of people.
This Sounds Like a Lot of Work!
Running a successful genea-blog doesn't require you to spend 12 hours a day on the Internet or to write a daily 5,000 word opus on each line of your family tree. Genea-bloggers have come up with traditional posts to make it easy to update your blog on a regular basis. On "Tombstone Tuesday," bloggers post a photo of a cemetery marker, along with a brief description of the ancestor's life. "Wordless Wednesday" posts consist of just an image, with perhaps some identifying information. "Madness Monday" is the day to write about a brickwall ancestor that is driving you crazy, or more seriously, about a relative's struggle with mental illness. A genea-blogger may only post a few days a week or weekly if he or she chooses.
Responding regularly to 600 genea-blogs is impossible - focus on a manageable number of blogs that you would like to follow and occasionally comment on. Find a blog carnival that interests you and would fit perfectly with a post you've written. Don't pressure yourself to create a brilliant blog that is updated every 12 hours. MacEntee advises that the most important thing is to get those names out there.
You may find that genea-blogging, like genealogy itself, can become addictively fun. It's a way to find out more about your family tree, connect with far-flung relatives, express your feelings and share a love of genealogy with others. Being able to stop posting might end up being the hardest part!