Ancestry Blog

My Writing Process

Last week I posted a photo on Facebook of my mother on a “Charabanc” I was surprised to see the comments & “likes” rolling in so quickly. Experiencing my Mother’s history like this had me hooked!. The research began & in the process I learned a little more about her life. The questions I should have asked her have been answered. From start to finish the journey has been a happy one. It seems I have found a formula for writing that works for ancestry blogs. It’s time to share!

Image of a women sitting at a computer in a small campervan
Ancestry Blogs Can Be Written Anywhere

Starting Your Ancestry Blog Post

I’m sorry to have to tell you this but the very first step to starting a post for your ancestry blog is all yours! It’s an internal process where you have the smallest seed of an idea in your head. (I like to put insomnia to good use!) My opening paragraph is where the seed was planted and what follows is the flow of ideas that came and ended up on my Notepad. They are largely unedited as the ideas came to me. The images and headings have been inserted later to add clarity to the text.

Capturing Writing Ideas

A screen capture showing the index of Notepad and titles of individual pages.
Ancestry Blog Posts

  1. If you have an idea about a post note it down immediately! Each post should have it’s own page from the start.
  2. START writing
  3. Failed first blog: no networking, wrong focus, boring topic
  4. SEO chasing a) Fermented Pickles REALLY stupid idea I don’t like pickles, no room on a boat b) Making bathroom fragrances equally ridiculous I don’t have a bath (See Below)
  5. First post disclaimer one story at a time  = relief, no pressure
  6. Stats almost led me astray now mostly in control
  7. First ones easy, personal, cathartic, off my chest
  8. Following posts = confidence dip to what now and mild panic
  9. Noticed a routine/organising theme emerging
  10. Looked closer and this post is the result
  11. Organising folders to posts not grouping (See Below)
  12. Google images “for re-use” or ask permission. Identify the difference when saving (I use NO) (See Below)
  13. Notepad for some SEO gathering but generally only to see if anyone is interested only (formulas binned!)
  14. Work on more than one post  because replies take a while e.g. Tait & Lyle, this one and Father’s Army Record
  15. Have a personal one like this in the mix as a “go to” while researching
  16. Check other similar blog posts after notes………brainstorming is better done uncluttered
  17. Other blogs not specific enough for family history GOOD
  18. Research and photos may dictate content sometimes ACCEPT
  19. Write what you know and enjoy.
  20. Start with good opener
  21. Use images and media. Readers like visuals
  22. If you see the possibility of a post leading to another one note it down immediately!
  23. Just START

Work In Progress

  • Something on paper? Grab a coffee and read what you have written. Ask yourself……
  • Was it honest?
  • How did you feel when you wrote it, there should be some emotion there
  • What did you leave out and why
  • If you’re really unsure, be brave and give it to someone else to read? I have only done this once as my first experience was not a good one! I gave it to a family member whose only response was to correct a spelling mistake and a typo. I was gutted. After posting I received this comment which has stayed with me whenever I doubt myself.

A Love Letter For Jimmy

Hello dear friends, I was enchanted by this poignant story. A lost brother found

Publishing Your Ancestry Blog Post

  1. After posting: Don’t fret the stats but see if there is a trend you can use
  2. Network constructively. Facebook works at my level, but don’t overload it ………give back to other bloggers
  3. Design posters specifically for this task. I use Canva.
  4. Followers: Compared to where I was with first blog, Fantastic!
  5. Compared to profitable sites Abysmal!
  6. Freebies not adding to numbers. Work in progress
  7. Monetisation: UMM? Up in the clouds so far. Enjoying where I am
A collage of three posters advertising three posts. Ancestry bloggers, All Aboard The Charabanc and Genealogy: A Smart Hobby

Blogging About Blogging

It didn’t take me long to realise that most of the financially successful bloggers were “blogging about blogging” rather than a specific or personalised topic. I have neither the skills nor the interest in doing this and if this post has raised gaps in specific technical skills then you know the answer I’m sure. Research.

Images shows a poster labeled "Ferment Naturaly" and slogan "nature's own food"
Search Engine Optimisation

The whole point of this post is to share with you my “best practice” for writing a post for your ancestry blog. But, it’s definitely not how I started! The learning curve for bloggers is steep. I have gathered some technical skills and discarded just as many! A good example of this is chasing Search Engine Optimisation. It’s embarrassing to admit but I actually spent money on the premise that “Fermented Pickles” had excellent numbers and was on trend. Researching how to make Kombucha, sauerkraut and Kimchi took many hours. Downloading images, making a headline banner and visuals took even longer. Then, thankfully, in a moment of clarity I stopped. I don’t like the taste of Kombucha or sauerkraut. I live on a boat so storage was always going to be an issue. Who was going to eat the fruits of my labour! The outcome of all this wasted time and money was “wartsandall.blog” . Every cloud etc.!

Researching For Your Blog Post

A very long time ago I used to spend one week a year at a University that specialised in “mature” students who were studying “extra-muraly” Education by correspondence meant that married women could look after their children, work full time and study for a degree all at the same time! The up side to this was the University being a plane trip away! For a whole week I could write, study and lose myself in the vast libraries. All I had to do was go to the canteen for meals, make my bed (sometimes) and keep myself clean. Heaven! But if the “R” word immediately makes your eyes glaze over may I suggest you think about how long it took you to find your 5x great-grandparent? A little bit longer to make your post flow and grab the attention of the reader is going to reward you many times over.

Screen capture showing two folders. One labeled "Hop Picking" the other "Scrapbooking"
Organising Material

When writing your ancestry blog post you have to know what material you have to support your writing. If you are fortunate to have records and photos coming out of your ears then this is particularly important. In the beginning I kept my material in folders grouped by type but as the time it took to find them became more frustrating I now find it quicker to save them under each post title.

A screen capture of Google Image tool bar showing "Labeled for reuse"
Images Copyright Laws

If your material is sparse then the task will take a little longer. You

will have to troll the internet to find snippets of information that are different from all the other posts you have read. Think outside the box and resist to the temptation to just “find something” Here is an abridged version of the route I took for my “Charabanc” post.

A visit to your local library is a must but searching the shelves can be a daunting task. From my “later in life” student days I knew that books were not the only asset in the library. Librarians are often an untapped resource and they are usually only too happy to put their hours of research study to good use. I am the first to admit that the phrase “social networking” seemed an oxymoron as I was more comfortable with the idea that “social” and “face to face” were a better match. I have had to eat my words as I now rely on social media to send readers to my blog. Until such time as Googles marauding search engine “bots” find me, both Facebook and Pinterest, are keeping me busy. The final tool in my box is google images. Providing you only use photos that have been “labeled for re-use” you will be safe from any copyright issues. But, if you do come across an image that is just what you have been looking for, a simple e mail is often all it takes to get permission to use it. I have had many positive replies taking only a couple of days ,which makes it well worth doing.

If you compare my brainstorming notes with the expanded examples of how I used them, you may have noticed two things. Firstly, some ideas didn’t make it & secondly, 1 & 2 are the same as 22 & 23! The ancestry bloggers circle is complete!

Conclusion: Your Seven Step Plan

  1. Begin with an idea that is something you will enjoy researching and writing
  2. Check out the keywords that people are searching
  3. Brainstorm your idea using Notepad or something similar. Let it flow!
  4. Take stock of the material you have and link to your brainstorming
  5. Gather supporting material. The more time you spend now the easier the writing will be.
  6. Plan your writing content around what you have
  7. Be honest about what you have written. (Reminder: Work In Progress above)
Poster showing an open computer and writing beside it the quote"You can always edit a bad page. You can't edit a blank page" Jodi Picoult
Ancestry Blog Post

I hope this post gave you food for thought. If you would like to share please leave a comment below or just hit the “Like” button.

Just Vicki

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