Sunday, December 15, 2013

What Is A Genealogy Blog? (December 15, 2013)

Recently, as The Prism was on the cusp of the last month of its first year, I spent the Thanksgiving holiday with my extended family and we celebrated my father's 91st birthday -- which fell on Thanksgiving Day for the twelfth time in his life.  [See the November 28, 2013 post about the changing  dates for our national day of Thanksgiving.]  There was more than one occasion during the days of family celebration to mention and discuss my blog AND genealogy played more than a minor role in the birthday recognitions for my father (which will be the subject of a future post or two).  Some of the discussions about this blog with family members got me thinking about the nature of a "genealogy blog" as I tried to formulate answers to some of their questions and as I showed The Prism to an aunt who had heard about it, but had not been able to view it.

"What exactly is a 'genealogy' blog?" is a frequent question not only from those who have no idea what a "blog" is, but it is also an inquiry from those who have visited one or two sites that style themselves as "genealogy" blogs.  My blog card, for example, reads "Filiopietism Prism -- A Genealogy Blog."

It is true that genealogy blogs come in many shapes, forms, and flavors. Geneabloggers has provided a rough classification system in its "New Genealogy Blogs" feature whereby blogs are labeled briefly by Blog type such as: Family; Genealogy Education; Research; and numerous national, regional, state or local designations. But where do genealogy blogs fit into the larger field of "Genealogy" writ large  -- and is the role of genealogy blogs affected (diminished?) by the recurring debate about professionals vs. amateur hobbyists within the citation/GPS (Genealogical Standard of Proof) polemic?

After giving the subject of genealogy blogging some thought during and after answers to recent family inquiries, I believe I have developed some examples and context to use when faced in the future with the question, "What exactly is a genealogy blog?"

It is too simple to merely provide what could be a dictionary definition for "genealogy blog."  Such an answer would simply state that "blog" is a word created by truncating the words "web log" and that a web log is a site located on the World Wide Web where the author/owner discusses personal views or opinions by publishing discrete articles or entries known as "posts."  By extension then, a genealogy blog is a web log where the posts involve discussions or opinions about genealogy and family-related history.  But does this really capture the spectrum of blogs out there that call themselves genealogy blogs?

Some genealogy blogs seek to be research and education based.  They concentrate on discussing genealogy as an academic discipline and will emphasize the need for careful research using the GPS or Genealogical Proof Standard and careful source citation form.  Other genealogy blogs take a specialized approach or view by concentrating on a particular family, region, or subject and most often without any pretense about or objective of being the equivalent of an academic genealogy journal.

Examples of some specialized genealogy blogs would include Judy Russell's The Legal Genealogist. Judy is a lawyer and genealogist and her blog generally presents a legal perspective and explanation of genealogy-related subjects carefully explained and sourced with citations.  Judy self-describes her blog as "Genealogy, the law and so much more"; but her blog could be seen as a genealogy "blawg" due to her frequent focus on legal aspects of genealogy.

Midge Frazel  is a "Graveyard Rabbit" -- in fact she is a charter member of The Association of Graveyard Rabbits. Graveyard Rabbits are "dedicated to the academic promotion of the historical importance of cemeteries, grave markers, and the family history to be learned from a study of burial customs, burying grounds, and tombstones; and the social promotion of the study of cemeteries, the preservation of cemeteries, and the transcription of genealogical/historical information written in cemeteries." Midge has a blog that emphasizes her interest in grave markers and the information to be obtained from cemeteries.  Her genealogy blog is wonderfully named Granite in My Blood and presents most often her text and photographs of grave stones in and around New England.

Diane Boumenot, author of One Rhode Island Family, blogs about the various branches of her family in Rhode Island and the places they came from or went to.  Diane's posts are always well sourced and illustrated with careful attention to what conclusions can be drawn based on her research and what has yet to be explored and proven. Heather Wilkinson Rojo's Nutfield Genealogy  is similarly a family history oriented blog that provides good sourcing and generational run-downs with photographic illustrations.  Both Heather and Diane, who are based in New England, provide information about resources such as genealogy libraries, organizations, and history that is of particular interest to them and others, but their focus is principally on their families and their genealogies.

Then there are other genealogy blogs such as the wonderful family, technology, and resource oriented blog of Randy Seaver at Genea-Musings blog. Randy provides in depth examination of his family genealogies with source information, but he also has a great mix of genealogy issue discussion, resources for genealogists, technology examination, and regular shout outs to other bloggers. 

Thomas MacEntee at Geneabloggers takes on the awesome task of gathering and mentoring all blogs that style themselves as genealogy blogs.  This blog by Thomas (he has more than one), provides blogging prompts, resources and tips on blogging, and a regular interview feature to highlight particular genealogy blogs and bloggers ("May I Introduce to You . . ." handled for Thomas by Gini Webb). 

Harold Henderson at Midwestern Microhistory: A Genealogy Blog provides a good example of what is called "microblogging" -- the posting of small pieces.  Harold's posts often emphasize the value of professionalism in genealogy and the need for careful source citation; but he also provides bits on available resources, etc.

Genealogy always involves at some point and on some level the artifacts created and left by our ancestors.  Pam Beveridge has a genealogy blog that concentrates on finding and publicizing these genealogy treasures.  Her blog, Heirlooms Reunited, is dedicated to "researching the genealogy and family history of orphan heirlooms."  Pam provides wonderful photographic illustrations and transcriptions of the artifacts she has collected and would love to reconnect to their families.

I could provide many other examples of genealogy blogs and the special twist or emphasis they bring to the genealogy blogosphere, but to return to my initial thought process . . . where does this leave me in trying to explain genealogy blogging and The Prism in particular to family members and others?  What is the nature of The Prism and why do I do it? I have decided my answer is as follows. . . 

The Prism is a genealogy blog and part of the genealogy blogosphere.  I write about my family genealogy and items of history that I can relate to genealogy generally and to my family in particular, but The Prism in no way strives to be an academic journal presenting detailed citation and full explanations of genealogical proof standard examination of my research.  In fact, I have come to realize that The Prism is not actually a vehicle for publishing my genealogy research as much as it is a vehicle for sharing widely photographs, stories and some family artifacts so as to preserve them via free and open dissemination on the web.  If and when I make "cousin connections" I am more than happy to share what academic, GPS-based research I have, but it is not the vision or intent of my particular genealogy blog to do that in the first instance.  

My notion from almost a full year now of blogging and surfing the genealogy blogosphere is that the great majority of "genealogy blogs" are NOT about being academic fonts of GPS research on particular families. They are an organized way of sharing and thereby preserving family data, memories, stories,  photographs, artifacts, etc., and for this reason they occupy an important place in the field of genealogy.

BLOG ON!!   
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For more information on "blogs" see the Wikipedia article on blogs and blogging.
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Copyright 2013, John D. Tew
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  1. I like your descriptions of the various genealogy blogs. As I noted when I started blogging: "I keep telling various family members that I will write up a little something to tell them about a particular branch of our family or research success that I've had, but I never seem to get around to it."

    I knew I would never write a book and, as you note, blogging seemed to be a good way to share what I have.

  2. Congratulations on your first year of blogging. I always learn something from your posts and I appreciate the variety of topics you blog about, as well as the number of posts you've produced! I think you did a great job introducing a bunch of different types of blogs, too.