When I started blogging last August, I had a short list of purposes for my blog which I enumerated in the first post, “Goals of this Blog.” That short list actually boiled down to one main reason: to share information with others researching (or at least interested in) the same families.
And then something interesting started to happen. The motivations for the blog have grown and evolved during its existence and now constitute a longer and more complex list, which I have boiled down into a Letterman formula of 10:
10. An outlet for the technogeek: I love all the widgets, gadgets, and other whizbang features. I am someone who is sadly lacking in technology talent, but for a few brief minutes now and then can indulge in the illusion (however unjustified) of technological competence through the wonders of Blogger and the fantastic advice of people like Thomas MacEntee.
9. An outlet for the visual artist (OK, pretty limited): picking the colors and frills (not too much done there) and even, thanks to Thomas’ virtually foolproof instructions, creating a banner for the blog.
8. An outlet for written expression: To provide a little bit of amusement, enjoyment, and information to my readers, and for myself, possibly a bit of venting, gloating, commiserating, or just a written form of the “happy dance.”
7. A way to keep my family (not just “distant” cousin researchers, but the cousins I grew up with, for instance) up to date on family research without having to send out repetitive e-mails. I can also share family pictures this way and perhaps prod my relatives’ memories.
6. A way to organize and evaluate my research and see the information gaps and logic lapses. The first time I wrote a couple of articles for one of those county genealogy society books, I realized I would have to do something similar for all of my “serious” research. Some of the problems I can see myself, while for other problems I rely on feedback and advice from readers.
5. A forum for recording memories, sharing and analyzing pictures, etc. that I would be too lazy or disorganized to do otherwise.
4. A way of sharing tips and techniques and soliciting help with brick walls. This is still a biggie. I often think of the genea-blogging community as an informal University of Genealogy: the learning can be intense, but it is always enjoyable.
3. A way to share in the community of genealogy people (and people in associated areas and “subcultures” – graveyard preservation & research, photographic restoration, and “living history,” to name just a few). Sometimes having fun, sometimes encouraging one another and spurring one another to dig just a little deeper in that research, but always participating in the camaraderie of people who share our obsession.
2. A way to get in touch with other researchers and share information. This is still high on my list, even though I know that I have to keep “investing” even when I can’t see any immediate “returns” on this investment. We have to remember that this is a long-term goal and not get discouraged. Just like the inquiries we post in various forums, we may not realize this goal until months and years after we have posted the relevant information.
1. The most important reason may be one we do not realize at the time we start our blogs. A few days ago, I was contacted via e-mail by someone who had read my post on my father’s Air Force unit … and realized that we might be related. That person was my younger half-brother, whom I have not seen nor been in contact with since he was a month old. This reason alone, even if all the other criteria I have listed had not been met, would be enough to justify the existence of this blog and all the time and effort I have put into it. I’m still floating.
The point of this post is this: we may start out with certain goals and purposes in writing our blogs, but I am convinced that these reasons will evolve and that what actually makes our blogs useful and worthwhile may surprise us in the end. We all have to take breaks from time to time and we cannot let the blogs get in the way of family time or regular research. However, no matter how many readers, comments, and responses we get or do not get, we derive a benefit from the writing itself.
From other bloggers I am learning how to write, how to approach analyzing pictures, how to focus my research, how to get my pathetic and messy genealogy files organized … you name it, some genea-blogger out there has some great advice on it. Someone mentioned that they do not get as many comments on pure research articles as on general-interest articles. While I may not always have a pertinent comment to make, I do look at other bloggers’ research reports, especially if we have a particular geographical area of research or type of research problem in common. I am getting decently competent at digging things up, but I can always learn more, and I definitely have a long way to go in learning how to present that research, in terms of both organization and readability. The genea-blogging community is full of people who are superbly talented in that area, not just among the “pros” and “old-timers,” but among the newer bloggers as well (one example I can cite just off the top of my head is Patti Browning’s Consanguinity – I just discovered this “newish” blog and am enjoying it immensely).
If this sounds like a lot of rah-rah for the genea-blogging community, well, it is. Not everyone is going to find a long-lost brother, but … you never know what you will find, whether it is today or five years from now.