GenVines Your lifeline in a flood of information Tue, 17 Feb 2015 04:35:41 +0000 en-US hourly 1 On Hiatus…. Mon, 17 Nov 2014 04:33:24 +0000 A couple aspects of my day job have taken over the extra time I’ve had to work on this site. Sorry for the lack of updates for so long, but I haven’t abandoned it. I’ve just had to postpone what I’m doing for a little while. I’ll be back!

]]> 0
Publicize Your Genealogy News Blog (and your business?) Mon, 28 Jul 2014 13:35:54 +0000 This is 9th in a series of articles on genealogy news blogging (by locality). Click here to read the 8th part, What do they want to know?

megaphoneWhether you are a professional genealogist building a business with your blog, or someone who sees a need and wants to create something of value, you want your blog to be found by those who it will help. There are many things you can do to publicize your blog, and many resources out there to help.

Here are a few ways to get started.


Make your blog findable through search engines

Using SEO (search engine optimization) and social media are two of the best ways you can make your blog findable by those searching for genealogy help online. It’s important to spend time learning about these two topics to make sure that you can make the best decisions about how to use the tools available to you. Here are a few of the best resources to get you started:

Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

    1. What is SEO?
    2. The Beginners Guide to SEO

Social Media

    1. Getting Started with Social Media
    2. 6 Uncomplicated Social SEO Tips for Small Businesses


Share your posts in relevant social media groups

You are probably already a member of Facebook and Google+ groups for research in your chosen area. If not, search for “[locality] genealogy” and join the groups. When you post about news and information for that location, share with them a link to the article. Generally, as long as you’re not selling something, members of those groups will appreciate the updates. When posting about databases, you can also add it to this non-locality-specific Facebook group.


Build a Network Offline

Although your blog is online, and there is an active community of genealogists online, there are so many others out there who have no idea that an active genealogy blogging community exists.

Contact local genealogy societies and organizations to let them know what you do. Offer to write something for their newsletters that would appeal to their members. In the article, or the bio, encourage the readers to find you online.

Mention these organizations in your posts, then be sure to let them know when you mention them, and they will be even more likely to share your blog with their membership. This article explains how valuable this approach can be. (Though it refers more to online “authority figures,” the idea is the same.)

Additionally, if you are building a business, your end goal is to build your business, not just your blog readership. Think about potential clients and how you can reach them. One specific idea comes from Thomas MacEntee. He created a genealogy guide for a small town in upstate NY and sent copies of it to bed and breakfasts in the area to generate leads. Thomas adds:

When marketing a genealogy business, we need to keep in mind that location is no longer our master. With the Internet and social media, potential customers or society members can find us and connect with us in an instant.

So don’t be afraid to ‘go local’ yet still ‘stay global.’ This means having materials available for those visiting a small town where their ancestors lived. Create a ‘freebie’ like a genealogy guide that a local bed & breakfast can place in its library. Or contact a local newspaper and write an article about genealogy. Just because you can’t physically be at that location, doesn’t mean you can’t connect with folks from that area.”


Get listed in directories

Geneabloggers: The GeneaBlogger network, started by Thomas MacEntee many years ago, is the main blogging directory for all genealogy bloggers. He has gathered quite a few resources for bloggers and are definitely worth spending some time with. Click here for guidelines for submitting your blog.

GenVines: GenVines’ goal is to provide a network of bloggers who are regularly posting news and resources about specific localities. As you get going, contact me to be listed in the directory and spotlighted in the blog.

Association of Professional Genealogists: If you are a professional building a business, you likely already have this one covered. Just be sure your listing is up to date and highlights your blog as a resource.


Let readers know about your services

If you are a professional genealogist, using your blog to build leads for your work, it’s ok to do things like adding a footer to your posts that lets your readers know about your services. It’s not intrusive, and because you are doing so much to keep the readers informed, it comes across as being helpful, not annoying. Chris Paton does this well.


Publicity and advertising are not the easiest things for many of us to do. If it doesn’t come naturally, it’s pretty hard to stick our necks out there and let people know about us. Just remember–you’re in it to help others, to create something of value. Share that value with the world, and people who need what you have to offer will find you.

What do you do to get the word out about your blog? Share in the comments!


Coming Next: Be an Advocate


Photo: Unknown, US War Department 1917-1918. National Archives and Records Administration, ARC Identifier 533698. Accessed July 28, 2014. 

]]> 4
The FamilySearch Worldwide Indexing Event – what it means Fri, 25 Jul 2014 11:53:30 +0000 WorldwideIndexingBadge_EnglishGenealogists care. They love being a part of something bigger than themselves. And…they especially love online (and searchable) records! These are just a few of the things that were proven by the worldwide indexing event earlier this week.

Have you already seen the numbers? 66,511 genealogists came together and submitted 5.7 million (million!) records in just 24 hours. That’s 5.7 million more records that can now be found by people searching for their ancestors. Incredible.

Another thing I learned? That just one person can make such a huge difference. DearMYRTLE’s GeneaSleepOver made the event much more enjoyable, and brought people together by simply indexing together. Lots of people commented that it was more fun to index just because they were able to listen in while indexing.

Have you ever wanted to be that person? To make an impact in a meaningful way? It starts with having a desire to help others, and finding in yourself a passion to do something meaningful. How do you want to contribute? It doesn’t even have to be to the genealogy world. But what you do every day matters. I hope you know that.

If you joined in, be sure to grab your badge over here.

]]> 0
FamilySearch Indexing Worldwide Event – Morning Report Mon, 21 Jul 2014 12:51:11 +0000 As of 6 hours ago, almost 18,000 indexers had submitted a batch! The system was very slow last night as thousands of people tried to get in to download and submit their batches. We should find out in a couple hours how things went overnight with Europe waking up and jumping in too.

As of this morning there are English projects in the UK (Manchester), Canada (Saskatchewan), South Africa, Norway, Philippines, and the US (AK, AZ, AL, AR, CO, FL, IA, ID, IL, IN, LA, MN, MO, OH, OR, TN, UT, TX, VT, VA, WV, and Puerto Rico).

If you are a blogger, please help spread the word, we have until 6pm Mountain time to hit 50,000!

And a personal thank you! to everyone who is helping out – you’re helping me to find my ancestors by indexing these records.


]]> 0
What Do They Want to Know? More topics to blog about by locality Sat, 12 Jul 2014 15:53:28 +0000 This is 8th in a series of articles on genealogy news blogging (by locality). Click here to read the 7th part, Tips for Following Genealogy Websites.

newsstand2As a blogger, your best way of getting noticed is to repeatedly blog about what your potential readers want to know about. So, what do they want to know when they follow a blog about genealogy research by locale? To this point in the series, most of the examples we shared have related to sharing news about online records. That is a natural place to start (well, for most localities) because there are so many records being digitized and placed online. But that’s certainly not the only thing that people want to hear about when they follow genealogy news for a specific locality.

Here are a few more topics that readers love.

How to Use Online Databases

Organizations share so much information online, and they haven’t all figured out how to make it user-friendly yet.

Any database that you had to spend time trying to figure out is a good candidate for a step-by-step tutorial, with screen shots. A tutorial is a great way to introduce a database to your readers and start a conversation about how useful that database is. Then you can share your own success with the database, or give readers an opening to share theirs.

Here are a few examples:


Case Studies and Success Stories

We all love to hear about success stories. If you just made a major find, share that success with your readers. You don’t have to get into a ton of detail, but as your readers get to know you they will love it when you share your success with them. Encourage them to share their successes with you too!

If you do have the ability to get into the details, walk through a case study and map out the methods you used and the resources you discovered that led to your find. Seeing a real-life example is a great way to learn.


Online Webinars

Keep an eye out for organizations who will be holding webinars covering your area. They might teach how to research in that location, or how to use specific archives, libraries, or even specific collections. Follow GeneaWebinars to stay up-to-date on who is hosting these webinars. And…be aware of the national organizations too. Even the Library of Congress offers webinars to teach how to use their collections.


Volunteer Indexing Projects

While online records are great, online and indexed records are amazing. Many organizations have indexing projects that people can be involved in from anywhere in the world. Ask the societies in your area if they have any volunteer projects that people from a distance can help with, and you can help promote them. In return, they may be willing to let their members know about you too. FamilySearch Indexing and Ancestry’s World Archives Project could both have indexing projects going on at any given time for your locality.

While genealogy volunteering might not be as “popular” as other topics, as bloggers, we have a voice that others will listen to. We need to encourage people to do this kind of volunteer work to help get more records available online. Each time we do, more will join in. You’ve probably heard of the rule of seven – we all need to hear something new multiple times before it really sinks in. Help spread the word!


Coming Next: Publicize Your Blog

Photo: Hine, Lewis Wickes. Newsstand. 1913. Color digital file from b&w original print with adjustments. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division, Washington, D.C., accessed July 5, 2014.

]]> 0
Join the Worldwide Indexing Event Tue, 01 Jul 2014 13:59:01 +0000 The Worldwide Indexing EventEvery once in a while, an event comes a long that just about every genealogist can participate in. The FamilySearch Worldwide Indexing Event on July 20/21 is one of these events. On this day, they hope to have at least 50,000 people come and help index between 6pm on the 20th and 6pm on the 21st, Mountain Daylight Time.

It’s important to note just how big of a goal this is. When we all chipped in to help with indexing the 1940 census, on the biggest day of indexing there were 49,025 indexers. And that was a huge day! Since then, the number of people indexing has dropped. (Nothing brought the genealogy community together quite like the 1940 census.) So getting back up to 50,000 will be tough – but it can be done!

Join in the fun on July 20/21, and contribute to a good cause while you’re at it. See the Facebook Event page for where the event starts and ends in your time zone. (Click the See More link in the description area for time zones.)

Spread the word!

If you blog, take a look at the indexing project list between now and then to see if there are projects for the area(s) that you like to blog about. (new projects are added almost every day). Invite your readers to index the project with you, share information about how to index the projects, etc. You can make a difference!

]]> 2
Tips for Following Genealogy Websites with Online Records Fri, 27 Jun 2014 13:16:36 +0000 This is 7th in a series of articles on genealogy news blogging. Click here to read the 6th part in the series, Identify Organizations to Follow.

following websitesWebsites that publish collections online have many different ways to update their users – updates pages, blogs, simple news pages, and more. Additionally, each organization updates on its own schedule.

Because of all the differences in how sites keep us updated, there are a number of tools you’ll use to keep updated:

  • An RSS reader such as Feedly.
  • Your browser Favorites/Bookmarks.
  • An account on a change tracking website such as
  • Even your e-mail.

Identify how the sites you follow update their users, and these steps will help you be able to keep an eye on many sites easily.


Blog / RSS Feed

Many sites post news about new collections on their blogs, or through an RSS feed. To follow these sites, create a folder in your RSS/news reader where you will house all of the feeds that post about genealogy news in your area. When you add a new RSS feed, be sure to add it to this folder. (I’m guessing you know about RSS already, but just in case you can find a good explanation here.)

Second, when you visit a sites with a blog or RSS feed, subscribe to that RSS feed and add the feed to the new folder you created. Add a link to that specific folder in your Bookmarks so that it’s part of your schedule to check on a regular basis.

How do you know if a website has an RSS feed? Most sites use this icon to link you to their RSS feed, but your browser can also detect one if you have a plugin installed. It’s a handy tool to make sure you don’t miss something they don’t show.

  • In Chrome, install the RSS Subscription Extension.
  • In Firefox, install the RSS Icon Extension.
  • In Internet Explorer, the feature is built in. Turn the Command Bar “on.” The RSS icon there will show in orange if there is a feed. (To show the Command Bar, right click in the top area of the browser to see the different options to display. Select Command Bar if there isn’t a checkmark in front of it.)



Static News Page

Some organizations have a news page that doesn’t have an RSS feed, they just add a bit of news to the page when something new happens. When you come across a page like this, simply add it to your Bookmarks to check regularly. (Most make it easy to see what was added when, but if they don’t, use, described below.)



Collections page

Some genealogy websites have a collections page that shows a list of all of their collections. There are two ways that they are organized:

  • By date updated
    For these sites, set a Bookmark to go to the updates page and check it regularly.
    Examples: FamilySearch, Ancestry
  • By name, no date updated
    On these types of sites, it’s hard to know what was added when. This is where comes in handy. Set up an account there, and set it to monitor that page. Then, add a Bookmark to the results page on ChangeDetection to review on a regular basis. See how it works here.
    Example: Findmypast


Press Releases

Some of the larger organizations send out traditional press releases. Find their media contact and request to be added to the distribution list.

A lot of smaller organizations don’t send press releases, but would be happy to let you know when they make updates. Contact them as well and let them know that you would like to help spread the word when they publish records and information. Many will appreciate the help. But if they don’t respond at first, they may not understand what you are asking for and wary of your intentions. Don’t give up. Keep contacting them so they know you are serious.


Coming Next: More topics for genealogy news blogging


Binoculars – a working collection courtesy of jlcwalker, Flickr

RSS Icon courtesy of Ysangkok, Wikicommons

]]> 0
Identify Organizations to Follow – it’s time for a list! Fri, 20 Jun 2014 11:53:08 +0000 This is 6th in a series of articles on genealogy news blogging. Click here to read the 5th part in the series, Getting Organized.

to-do- listAnd finally, we get to the fun stuff, research! Next in the process of setting yourself up as a genealogy news blogger is to make a list of those organizations who publish records online or share other types of news and how-to information for your locality. There are sites like FamilySearch and Ancestry, who publish records from all over the world, as well as smaller county- and even city-level organizations to follow.

As you identify these sites, you will learn how to follow them and add links to their “updates pages” to the folders created in Getting Organized.


Follow the “Big” online records providers

I’ve written a couple of blog posts about how to follow the larger websites that publish records online. Follow any of them who could publish records for your locality. You can find the instructions here:


Find additional organizations to follow

After you have a system to follow them, you’ll expand your list and find organizations that focus in local records. There are many ways to discover these organizations. Likely, you already know about most of them through your own research. Here are a few ideas to expand your list:

  1. List the genealogical/archival organizations in your area.
    Start with those in the larger population centers, and just take them one-by-one. This can come to grow quickly when you look at genealogy societies (and more here), historical societies, archives, genealogy libraries, and universities in your area. So start with those that will be valuable for the majority of your readers.
  2. Check the FamilySearch Research Wiki, Online Genealogy Records links.
    These pages have been curated by expert genealogists and share popular online databases for many regions. Here is an example for Kansas.
  3. Set up Google Alerts for your keywords.
    Google provides a service that will do a regular search for keywords and send you the results of that search. You can set up dozens of alerts for the counties and cities in your state so that you know when blog posts and news articles are published about genealogy for that area. Set them up here.
    (Important: News articles about specific US county records do not always include the state name in the article, that’s why it’s good to set it up for both counties and cities. Additionally, the word genealogy may not always be mentioned, “history” is another good word to use.)


The Process is Coming Together

This is finally where everything in the previous steps begins coming together. Now, you have:

  • a set time in your schedule to check what’s going on with these websites and organizations,
  • a list of websites to check,
  • and an efficient way to check them.

You are ready to go!


Let me know if you’ve been considering adding this to your blog (or starting a new one), or you know someone else who is already doing this. A few of us are creating an online group and would love your thoughts.


Coming Next: Tips and Tricks for Following the Websites (no matter how they keep you updated)

Photo courtesy of Rory Finneren, To-Do List

]]> 0
Getting Organized – Browser bookmarks, keyboard shortcuts, and more Wed, 11 Jun 2014 12:55:10 +0000 This is 5th in a series of articles on genealogy news blogging. Click here to read the 4th part in the series, The Secret to Getting Things Done.

OrganizationAs a genealogy news blogger (by locality), you are trying to learn everything you can about not just how to do research in an area, but how to keep yourself updated with what new is happening in that area. By starting with a schedule and a system, it makes it much easier to find and post about news in a limited amount of time.

In the last post in this series, we ended with this first section, but it bears repeating:

Set a Schedule

This is one of the most important parts of the entire process—set specific times to check for news and information. You might want to look at websites every day. You might only want to look once a week. Or you might fall somewhere in the middle and check a few times a week.

This schedule is the foundation for setting up a reliable system that will set you apart from others.

Decide now – what time will you check? How and where will you do it?

That’s it. Short and sweet, and yet one of the most important things you can commit yourself to doing.

Set up a Structure

Once you have your schedule, you’ll start gathering the websites to check for news and information. It makes it much easier to check these sites on a regular basis if you have them organized well in your browser’s bookmarks.

Put all the sites you want to check at the same time in the same folder in your bookmarks. Then when you are ready, all you do is right-click on the folder name, then click the option that opens all of them at once. It might sound small, but it’s a big time-saver. Depending on what browser you use, the option is:

  • Open all bookmarks (Chrome)
  • Open All in Tabs (Firefox)
  • Open in tab group (Internet Explorer)

This opens up all the websites to check at once in separate tabs in the same window, and then you can just click through them to capture any items of note.

So, first create one folder that includes the little things you need to check each time you begin working. In it, include:

  • Your “New Post” page – the page for your blog that lets you create a new post
  • Your statistics
  • Your e-mail and other social media sites you may need to respond to
  • Anything else that you need to look at every time you post

Second, create a series of folders based on how often you are able to work, and which websites you want to check together. Some options are:

  • Folders for different types of organizations – societies, archives, major websites, etc.
  • Folders for each day of the week (or each week of the month)
  • One folder for everything (might work in the beginning, but as you add more sites to check this gets a little unwieldy)

Here are what a couple of my folders look like:

Daily folder

Check All folder

(The Check All folder includes those websites I check when I want to find out what databases have been updated for a specific location in, say, the last 30 days. It’s a little on the long side, but it includes most of the websites that could publish about anywhere in the US.)


A Final Tip – Keyboard shortcuts

When I was posting more about the online database releases, I tended to flip back and forth a lot between different sites and the post I was creating.

One of my favorite keyboard shortcuts is Alt+Tab (in Windows – Cmd+Tab on a Mac). That flips me between two different windows that I have open at any given time and makes checking the website in one window and writing in another one so easy.

So here’s what I do:

  • Open my “Daily Work” websites in one series of tabs in one window
  • Open all the sites I want to check in a 2nd window

Then I click through the sites I want to check in that 2nd window, and Alt+Tab back and forth between that set of windows, and my new post, to quickly capture the news items that I want to write about.


Once you figure out a few little tricks, it really speeds up the amount of time it takes each time you sit down to post.


Coming Next: Identify Organizations to Follow

Photo via Adam Rifkin, flickr

]]> 0
May Digitization Round-up Tue, 03 Jun 2014 13:36:16 +0000 Every month there are many announcements of new counties digitizing their records, or invitations for you to bring your own photos and records in and get them digitized locally.

Each of these projects are started by just one person, or a small group of people, who want to make a difference. What can you do to make a difference? (No doubt each of these projects could use a few more volunteers….)

Organizations digitizing their records

British Columbia



New Jersey




Bring your records in for digitizing


North Carolina




Did I miss your organization’s project? Let me know!

]]> 0