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Genealogy Blog: What’s the Difference Between a Genealogy Blog and a Normal Blog?

Knapp Family Generation Tree, from the family history blog by LorelleI’ve just started my article series on building a genealogy blog, which includes all aspects of blog building and development, and I wanted to explain the differences and similarities between a normal blog and a genealogy blog.

There are many types of blog models. A blog model is not just about the style of writing and blogging, but about the content, layout, format, tools, and techniques used within the blog. Blog models include a review blog, political blog, personal journal blog, photoblog, commercial or corporate blog, and genealogy blog.

Different types of blogs may have distinctive features unique to its model. For example, a review blog would have a rating system, not just for the post authors but also for the audience to “vote for their favorite” or “rate” their opinion of the review or the reviewed subject. A political blog might feature podcasts and polls, inviting the audience to give their opinion through a polling system. While many blogs can feature ads, a commercial or corporate blog is built totally around the advertising quality, not just with ads but writing style. A photoblog is not about the words but about displaying the photographs, and can include galleries and viewing of images at various sizes and resolutions.

Let’s look at the similarities and differences between the traditional blog model and the genealogy blog model. Traditional blogs and genealogy blogs commonly use the following blog elements:

  • comments
  • informational and educational content
  • feeds
  • podcasts
  • video
  • tables
  • graphics
  • photographic images
  • thumbnail and full size image links
  • static Pages
  • blogroll/link lists

Some traditional blogs and genealogy blogs may host specialized features such as:

  • forums
  • wiki
  • live chats
  • email subscriptions
  • newsletter registration
  • replacing the built-in search function with offsite search tools such as Yahoo or Google which allows searching not just the site but offsite search launching as well
  • site registration
  • multiple users and contributors
  • multiple administrators and editors

The features found on many genealogy blogs, and rarely found on normal blogs, are:

  • Citations: Often highlighted on a specific page or in a foot note, citations credit and may link to the source of the information as verification and proof.
  • Footnotes: Used as citation and bibliography references1, or notes to help the context.
  • Credits: Credits must be given, not just for citation and in footnotes, but also credit for sources, permissions, and research assistance. Credits need to be linked and referenced from within the post as well as to credit and source pages within the blog.
  • Captions: Genealogy blogs use a lot of photographs and images in various forms and these need more than a title in the image link. They need captions to identify the image and credit the source and permission for use of the image. The captions may also include links, dates and more information about the image than just a title and brief description.
  • Name Lists: A genealogy website is all about the names. People search for names of their relatives and ancestors. Most genealogy blogs and websites feature name lists. The list of names are often put inside of links which generate search results based upon that name, similar to site search tags. Name lists can be generated as test or web pages from some genealogy programs, but to work on your blog, the link must be able to work within your blog and its content.
  • hand tracing of Ruth Primley, Wisconsin, 1916, from the Knapp Family Journal, used with permissionScanned Documents: Part of the record of a family’s history is their legal documents. These include immigration papers, birth and death certificates, marriage licenses and certificates, baptism records, court records, property records, and more. Permission to use these documents must be provided, and privacy protection rights must be considered. And publishing these records requires some technical ability for scanning and preparing the images for display on a web page, as well as using thumbnails with links to the full image size, and the web design process of displaying such images within a blog’s format.
  • Strong Inter-linking and Relationships With Outside Resources and Content: Most blog content is featured on the blog itself. Many genealogists publish their family trees and information on or other genealogy-based websites. Articles and posts about ancestors, and where and how they lived, would be contained within the blog, with all references to the family tree directed to the off-site location.
  • Integration of Non-Blog Format Web Pages: Most all genealogy software programs today feature export-to-web-pages technology. Family trees, family charts, source lists, ancestry and descendant lists are just a few web publishing formats. The pages come out “web-ready”, but they don’t arrive “WordPress Theme friendly” or ready for inclusion in any blogging program. They have to be cleaned up and integrated into the Pages of WordPress or on independent static web pages that look like the rest of the blog’s web page design, and are strongly inter-linked to from within the blog.
  • Integration of non-WordPress Tools and Utilities: Genealogy programs are now available for displaying family history information, photographs, and references within PHP or other programming languages, often database-driven, that require integration within WordPress or your blogging software program. Sometimes they can’t be integrated fully and must run along side-by-side with your blog. Other programs can be closely knit in enough to resemble your blog’s overall design, structure, and layout.
  • Privacy Statements: While many blogs offer legal statements stating how information collected during a visitors visit is to be used (or not used), hold harmless statements that protect the author from actions against the content they publish, and so on, a genealogy blog is about the lives of people, living and dead. The owners and authors of a genealogy blog have to work within the laws of their country and community to protect the rights of the living. This includes publishing information about the dead that might harm the living. Some genealogy blogs decide to never publish anything about anyone still alive in the family. Others will publish information about the living, but carefully and only those who are age 72 or older. Some won’t even publish information about the dead unless they have been dead at least 25 years. Each genealogy blog must make their own decisions and publish that information.
  • Permissions: Just as privacy rights must be protected, so should copyrights. Permission must be granted for publishing anything about, belonging to, or owned by the living, or a recently deceased family member without permission from a direct relative or the family estate or executor. This includes permissions for publishing written or legal documents, recorded sound and/or video, photographic images and artwork. These rules, guidelines, and legal documents must be written up and published on the blog to establish the ground rules and protections for the blog owners and authors.

The biggest difference between the average blog and a genealogy blog is that many bloggers like blogging with some privacy protection. They blog anonymously, restricting what information the reader should know about them.

A family history blog or website is all about letting people know about who you are and who your family is, while still protecting their privacy. It’s an open door to the history that created you. While you may hide “you” in a genealogy blog, you can’t hide your grandparents, great grandparents, or their ancestors. That’s the purpose of a genealogy blog.

1. Citation and bibliography references provide links and information to support a point.

Genealogy Blog: Building a Blog Series

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Copyright Lorelle VanFossen, member of the 9Rules Network

Member of the 9Rules Blogging Network


  1. Posted April 19, 2007 at 9:52 am | Permalink

    Great work, Lorelle! I am pleased to add this post’s link on my knoweldge management blog.

    Thanks a lot!!

  2. Posted April 19, 2007 at 9:56 am | Permalink

    Lorelle!! A mistake in earler comment!! I posted the link to my this knowledge management blog.

    Thanks for this great work again!!

  3. susmita
    Posted February 1, 2008 at 11:06 am | Permalink

    Great work

  4. Posted June 9, 2008 at 12:02 pm | Permalink

    Keep up the great work!!!!

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