Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Blogging prompt #18: Blog Showcase - Part 1

“Blogging Prompt #18: Showcase a favorite blog or blogger. This is a great way to share some blog love and introduce readers to new genealogy writers.”

When I first saw this prompt, I thought: “Yay! It will be easy to come up with a blog that I like and write something about it.” My second thought was: “Uh-oh. It will not be easy to come up with just one.” Anyone who has had trouble narrowing down their list of blogs to 5 or 7 to be given the latest Blog Award making the rounds will know what I mean.

So I have decided to fudge it. I am going to write a series of posts, “Blog Showcase,” each focusing on a handful of blogs that I really like and visit regularly. The number will vary, they will be posted as I have time (I couldn’t think of a catchy title that would be alliterative with one of the days of the week), and they will in no way indicate an order of preference. There will be “big-name” blogs (footnoteMaven, Apple’s Tree, kinexxions, Hill Country of Monroe County Mississippi, Grace and Glory, Facebook Bootcamp for Genea-Bloggers, Genea-Musings, Ancestories, and Creative Gene, among others), as well as newer blogs (I figured limiting my choices based on starting date would make it too difficult to decide which cutoff date to use). There are various things I look for in the blogs I follow: common areas of research, good research tips, examples of good research approaches and presentation that I would like to emulate, original and thought-provoking ideas and questions, good writing, and good illustrations when appropriate.

Today’s picks:

Genealogy Traces – Judith Shubert’s blog meets all my criteria, and on top of that we have a lot in common, starting with our Texas heritage (I’m not going to deny it, Texas blogs are always high on my list) and extending to some eerie coincidences (family names that we can almost, but not quite connect, a photograph Judith posted that jarred me with a sense of recognition). And Judith’s writing and research are impeccable; take for example, her recent post on “Charles H. Richards Appears in Republic-era documents.” Superb.

footnoteMaven – I hesitate even to make a comment on this “must read” blog, so in awe am I of footnote Maven. One thing I particularly admire about fM’s writing style is that she can tug at your heartstrings without indulging in gloppy sentimentality. Her writing style, while elegant, is so transparent that she can let the facts and events speak for themselves. It’s nearly impossible to pick a single favorite, but to illustrate what I mean by the previous sentence I’ll point to a recent post entitled “Today I Understand – I Wish I had Then”- I’m definitely going to reread this one on Mother’s Day. Whether her articles are directly written for edification or are stories that keep you on the edge of your seat, there is always something to learn from footnote Maven.

Everything’s Relative – Researching Your Family History – Some people love to follow the stories in their “soaps.” I follow several genealogy blogs that have far better stories and much better writing. I particularly like Cindy’s blog because I can sense that she feels much the same way about her “subjects” – the ancestors that she is researching – as I do about mine. These include ancestors who are not direct ancestors but nevertheless have their own compelling stories to tell. See, for example, her post on her great-uncle John Bellow, “My Heart Just Broke.” If you like mystery stories, you’ll love Everything’s Relative.

Find Your Folks – Professor Dru makes you want to be able to do genealogy the way she does genealogy and also makes you want to be part of her family (see “Aunt Della’s 99th Birthday Party” as well as “Finding Aunt Della’s Birth Year”). I love that she posts links to instructional genealogy video clips – these are very useful. But I also love her fabulous postcard collection and family pictures. Don’t miss this one – food for the head and for the heart.

Desktop Genealogist Unplugged – This was one of the first blogs I started “following.” I had found genealogy blogs before this one that provided useful information, but when I came to this blog I also had a sense of finding a kindred spirit in Terry Snyder’s slightly sardonic take on her own family history. Terry combines skills in many areas of writing, but she is particularly strong in the area of humor, whether it is the one-line quip under the photographs she posts or seeing the humorous side of adding another blog (a Graveyard Rabbit blog) to her already full plate in “Graveyard Rabbits AND My Mutated Gene.”

They That Go Down to the Sea – The atmosphere of this blog is often pensive and nostalgic, from the banner to the tone of the writing. Downtothesea excels at describing the experience of doing genealogy, both the intellectual aspect and the emotional aspect (an area that fascinates me) as well as at showing the interplay of family history with the lives we currently lead. Every post is a gem, but I think “A well-traveled clock,” wherein the main character, a clock named Clock Miller, emerges as a real personality with a fascinating story that you just can’t put down, is a masterpiece. If you haven’t visited this blog before, don’t just read the recent articles, read all of them. If they were put together into a book, I would buy it.

Flipside – This blog is in the classic H.O.G.S. (History, Observations, Genealogy, Stories) mold as set forth by Terry Thornton of Hill Country of Monroe County, Mississippi. There are wonderful portraits of ancestors and relatives interspersed with family memories and glimpses of the home front and lots of wonderful photographs. The history is backed up with strong research (with footnotes to make … footnote Maven proud!) and a genuine enthusiasm for the subjects. Two outstanding examples of Linda Hughes Hiser’s upbeat and enjoyable style are “My Oh My … It’s Zwieback Pie!!!” and “Bound for Mom Milepost #2: Roadside Café.” Linda's enjoyment of genealogy, blogging, and life in general are contagious.

Photo-Sleuth – Though photography is a fairly small sub-community within Genea-Bloggers, it is extremely well represented by some amazingly talented people (including footnote Maven, but I’ll save those specific accolades for Shades of the Departed). For Brett Payne’s Photo-Sleuth, awe is the operative word, and sometimes “Aww” as well as you read the stories that go with the photographs. Brett captures both the aesthetic attraction of the photographs he investigates and the draw of the mysteries associated with them. His recent post on “Henry & Henrietta Payne – A ‘Noble’ Life” and his series on “A Mystery Marriage in Barton-under-Needwood,” are magnificent examples of this. Their skillful combination of old photographs, present-day photographs of the same locations (including satellite imagery!), older and newer maps, scholarly sleuthing, and straightforward reporting of the results absolutely blew me away. I’m sure that I’m not the only one who, in my fantasy genealogy life, imagines myself as a sleuth with Brett’s skills.

Bootcamp for Genea-Bloggers – This blog is run by several of my idols in the genea-blogging world. I have particularly benefitted from the technical advice provided by Thomas MacEntee, a talented and industrious contributor to our community and a selfless mentor to and cheerleader for us and our efforts. At least two of the many other blogs Thomas writes or is involved in – Genea-Bloggers and Destination Austin Family – are also must-reads, but this blog is particularly dear to my heart: for the tech-savvy this blog is relevant and informative and for the tech-inept (as in, Yours Truly), it is a Godsend. My favorite article was “Creating a Banner Image”; another important article is the most recent one, “Footnotes – How to Cite Sources in Blogs and Websites.” Whatever the genea-blogging equivalent of the Jean Hersholt Award is, Thomas definitely deserves it. (Side note: I’ve been a big fan of Jean Hersholt ever since I saw him play Heidi’s grandfather in the Shirley Temple movie.)

We Tree – I’ll close with another blog with strong Texas connections (hey, if there are any blogs with a strong focus on South Carolina, give me a holler!). Amy Coffin is another major contributor to the genea-blogging community, not least of all through her brilliant inspiration for 52 genealogy blogging prompts. The blog features outstanding coverage of current genealogy-relevant events, Amy’s own experiences in genealogy research and education, and her reflections on what various aspects of genealogy mean to her, and the writing and photography through which all of this is done is top-notch. Among my favorites are her articles on “Looking for Sargeant Jones”: Amy is one of the few people who could make a description of a courthouse research trip both exciting and heart-wrenching. And if you haven’t seen her “Christmas Oddities,” do take a look.

As I've said before, being a part of the Genea-Blogging community is like going to Genealogy University. I know that for certain subjects, blogs cannot totally replace classes and books, but I have had some fabulous results by following tips in some of these blogs, and there is nothing like seeing how people actually do the research and write it up.

More later.


  1. Hi, Greta. I think sharing your favourites in a 'Blog Showcase' is a great idea. I hadn't read Amy Coffin's very moving piece on “Looking for Sargeant Jones” before this. Thank you for pointing it out. I may be following your lead with this idea soon. Hope that's ok.

  2. Wonderful idea Greta! Great post and great choices! And I agree, thanks for the links some of us may have missed!

  3. Thank you so much, Greta, for your very kind comments. Cheryl is right - it's a great idea, but the problem for me is that there are not enough hours in the day.

  4. You are so sweet to mention my blog. I'm glad my favorite blog post is yours, too.

    Please fudge the blogging prompts all you want. They're not rules, just ideas to get people writing. If it gives you 3-4 days' worth of topics, then that's great!

  5. Holy Cow! I didn't even notice my blog was listed!!! THANK YOU Greta! AND I have a little something for you over on my blog--which, by the way, was there for you even before I saw your listing.


  6. Thanks for your commments!
    Diane - Please do use the idea; I'm so flattered. Writing reviews is so much fun - I think I'm a frustrated movie and music reviewer.
    Cheryl - Thanks - it sounds silly, but it almost feels like getting a newspaper scoop.
    Brett - You are very welcome. I know I took the prompt farther than the original suggestion, but it turned out to be so enjoyable (I've already got some of the next set written).
    Amy - Thanks again for the inspiration.

  7. Greta, you're absolutely inspiring! What fantastic reviews. I've found new posts on several of these blogs that I'd missed. They are all included in my favorites, as well.
    I'm so honored to have you list Genealogy Traces in your "line-up of stars". I am always pleased to have you, especially, read and comment on my posts. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

  8. I'm always the last to arrive.

    I am so GeneaSmacked to be selected by you, as I really admire your writing. And, I have never considered myself one of the "big-names." Seeing myself referred to in that way is a little unnerving.

    You said such lovely things about my writing, thank you. And thank you for acknowledging the fine line that has to be walked not to become maudlin.

    Greta, thank you, I'm honored.


  9. Judith and fM,

    You are both so very welcome. I get such enjoyment from your blogs and learn so much from them.