Saturday, August 31, 2013

The Bloggers' Geneameme

The Bloggers' Geneameme

Some of my fellow geneablogger friends....

Here is my post in response to Geniaus's 2013 geneabloggers' geneameme. Thank you Jill for once again creating an interesting compilation of questions designed to make 'we' bloggers think about our blogging and why we do it! And from me, a personal thankyou, for helping me to step out of 'essay' mode and back into blogging....

1. What are the titles and URL's of your genealogy blogs?
    I have four genealogy blogs.. one for my personal family history, another for exciting family history  'finds' and genealogy tips, a theme based blog (which sadly has been a little neglected of late) and my newest blog where I post my convict ancestor related jottings.
http:/   Better known as FamilyHistory4u

2. Do you have a wonderful 'cousin bait' story?
    I have written quite a few blog posts which have resulted in my being contacted by relatives. One of the reasons I decided to blog my family history, apart from my pure love of writing itself, was to connect with people related to me who might have information to share. Many of my posts have attracted interesting responses, and if not from actual relatives, from informative folk with generous offers of assistance.  Since writing a post entitled 'Music in the Blood' about my Scottish McDade ancestors, I have been in contact with many descendants of  Agnes McDade, sister of my great great grandfather, John McDade . Although these cousins all live in America, we have become good friends and exchange family stories and we now chat on a daily basis on Facebook.  The photograph below of my great grandmother, Elizabeth (Gibson) McDade, which I included in another post about the same family, connected me with a second cousin who recognised it as a similar photograph to one she herself had. We have exchanged much information since and discovered that family anecdotal 'evidence' can vary in most fascinating ways.

Elizabeth Gibson McDade in Glasgow

Other stories written on my blogs have resulted in the exchange of information with relatives both here in Australia and overseas in England, Ireland, Scotland, Germany (my highschool and university study of the German language has proved to be useful), Switzerland, South America and New Zealand. One family history blog which I posted concerning MacDonalds of Skye, was read by an unrelated person in Ord on the Isle of Skye, who kindly described the family home (Ord House) to me and included a wonderful tale of two seeds of a particular palm tree which was sent as a gift to Ord House and to the Botanical Gardens in Kew from New Zealand. The palm tree did not survive in the gardens at Kew, however to my delight, my reader informed me that the large New Zealand palm still grows to this day in the walled garden at Ord House on Skye. It is fascinating snippets of our family history such as this which can be gleaned from responses to blog posts that makes blogging so rewarding.

Ord House - Ancestral Home of the Charles MacDonald of Ord

3. Why did you start blogging? Is there someone who inspired you to start blogging.

Until 2009, I had not heard of blogging.  I had been researching my family history for many years, and I had collected a great deal of information, but until that year, I had put few family stories in writing. In late 2009 I went to the cinema to see the movie Julie/ Julia. This movie is the true story of well known cook named Julia Childs  (brilliantly played by Meryl Streep) and an ordinary young woman named Julie Powell ( Amy Adams) who decided to blog her way through 365 days of Julia Child's  recipe book, Mastering the Art of French Cooking.

I found the movie to be an extraordinary story, and with my passion for writing ignited, I walked out of the theatre and announced that I was going to start a blog! That very night I googled 'blogging'. After a little research, I arrived at a choice between Wordpress or Blogger as mediums for my as yet ' undecided what to blog about'  blog.  Finding Blogger easier to use, I set up my blogger account and feeling very pleased with myself I sat back and thought, 'Now, what on earth will I blog about?"
I had never read a single blog. I had no idea what people even blogged about, apart from Julie Powell, and although I love to cook but I had no desire to repeat Julie's year long cooking exercise. Topics flew through my brain... art... books... a daily diary... Then suddenly I had one of those Eureka moments, much akin to breaking down a stubborn brick genealogical wall. I knew my blog had to be a Family History Blog and so was born my first blog.  

4. How did you decide on your blog's title?
    If I had my time over again, I would think up a much more creative name for my blog. I follow some other genealogy blogs with fabulous names. As a beginner blogger, in 2009,  I merely thought to connect the title with the topic. I now  have several non genealogy blogs (coming along slowly but surely) with more creative titles, such as Tales of Life and Teapots. I also have a new convict ancestry blog commenced this year with the title Family Convictions and another soon to be commenced genea blog entitled Traits and Traces which will display photographic likenesses between ancestors and modern family members.

5. Do you ever blog from mobile devices? What are they? 
   I find blogging from my home computer or my laptop much more Blogger friendly especially with regard to downloading photographs and having access to my huge store of scanned family documents. ( I do have back up copies on USBs but I rarely carry all my USBs around with me). Blogging as bloggers well know, is somewhat addictive ( which goes hand in hand exceedingly well with the addictive nature of family history research itself) so when I travel and invariably pick up an ancestral trail, (as family historians on holidays are wont to do) I need to be able to blog. When travelling, I blog using my Ipad and even my Iphone (though blogging on a smart phone should come with a warning that for one's eyesight,  blogging in small print is a health hazzard!).

6. How do you let others know when you have published a post?
    When I finish writing each blog post, I publish it easily via Blogger's 'share' facility. I publish all of my blogs on my Facebook wall, on Twitter and on Google Plus. I am also a member of a geneablogging Facebook Community so I can publish blog posts on that page as well as my own. I publish my blogs to share my family history and to connect with relatives as well as to share what I have learned with other family historians.

7. How long have you been blogging?
     I have been an avid blogger since 2009, although this year due to study in the  history and family history field, my blogging has had to take second place to essay writing.

8. What widgets or elements do you consider essential on a genealogy blog?
    I have a similar layout for all of my blogs with a relevant but not overpowering background. I like to keep the background for my actual writing, undecorated and uncluttered. In the sidebar of a genealogy blog it is important to have a clearly visible way for readers to Follow the blog. On my blogs I have widgets for readers to follow through Blogger, Google Plus, via Email and Twitter. One of the unfortunate things about Blogger is that readers need to have a Google account in order to follow blogs and to leave comments. I find that more people follow on other social media sites such as Twitter, Google Plus and Facebook rather than the blog itself for this reason. People are able to leave comments or connect with me in a number of ways through the sharing of my blog posts on various social media sites. I also enjoy displaying any awards I receive for my writing on the sidebar of my blogs. Awards are controversial in the field of family history, however, I believe that it is always rewarding to have one's hard work appreciated by others and I love to see awards proudly displayed on other people's blogs.

9. What is the purpose of your blogs? Who is your intended audience?
     My genealogy blogs have a number of purposes. Firstly, I am recording my family history for myself and for family. Through my blogs, I am privileged to be able to connect with family members, many distant and whom otherwise I would never meet. Through these connections, I am fortunate to exchange valuable information and family anecdotes. Many of my blog posts are intended to provide information about how to research family history. My blog posts in last year's ' Family History Through the Alphabet' challenge was an excellent opportunity for me to research a variety of subjects and to pass on through my blogs what I had learned. Through my own experiences in researching family history, I hope that through my blogs I can pass on some helpful tips to others. A slightly more unusual purpose for blogging family history for me, is to 'return' photographs and family documents which I come across, to families to whom they belong. I have found and returned to families, several diaries, as well as a number of photographs and family documents.

10. Which of your posts are you particularly proud of?
       Someone commented to me recently that she had read some of my early blog posts and that I 'have come a long way'. This was intended as a compliment, however, I suspect that in my early blogging days I had much to learn. I am proud of my early posts however, as  most of these were anecdotes about ancestors and tributes to parents and grandparents. Those early blog posts may not be written as well as later posts, but are dear to my heart. Perhaps one post I am most proud of is the one that I posted in March, 2013, entitled 'Escape from Barrenjoey - Customs House Boat Crew.'  This post can be found on my newest blog at the following URL -
This post related a story about my convict great great grandfather, Michael Frayne and his escape from the Customs Bay House at Barrenjoey Head. A great deal of research contributed to my discovering that my g g grandfather was one of the five convicts who built the stone steps which lead all the way up to what is now a lighthouse at Barrenjoey head, Broken Bay. The customs house was built to enforce law and order in 1842, amidst widespread smuggling operations in the area north of Sydney. It was more than the written post that I was proud of, though, since having not long recovered from a serious episode of pleurisy, I managed to climb the convict steps, a gruelling 45 minute climb to walk in my ancestor's footsteps.

Climbing in my convict ancestor's footsteps..

11. How do you keep up with your blog reading?
        I enjoy reading about history and collecting history books, so I have a large library of resources at my disposal. I usually research a topic which interests me and take notes with a blog in mind. I always make a note of sources and page numbers as I read to refer to when writing. At the moment I am studying the Advanced Diploma of Local, Applied and Family History through  the University of New England so reading history books is an essential part of every day and blogging is having, for the time being, to take a bit of a back seat. With each topic I study however, comes numerous ideas for future blogs!

12. What platform do you use for publishing your blogs?
       I use Blogger for all of my blogs although I have tried Wordpress as well. I find that Blogger permits me to be more creative in my layout, however, I haven't really spent much time with other blogging platforms. Blogger's mobile Apps need improving, but on the whole I have been happy with Blogger.

13. What features would you like to see in your blogging software?
       I'm not sure if Blogger can help me but I need a proof reader! I am a terrible typist...

14. Which of your posts has been most popular with readers?
       My posts about reuniting photographs and diaries with families have been quite popular with readers. I think that every family historian loves this kind of feel good story.  Posts on my new blog about my convict ancestors have proven interesting to readers with convict ancestors. Recently I was approached as a direct result of these convict ancestor posts, by a large genealogy company with regard to some media opportunities, which is a most exciting reward for my blogging.

15. Are you a sole blogger or do you contribute to a shared blog?
       To date I am sole blogger but as a sole blogger I find it exciting to be an integral part of a larger blogging community.

16. How do you compose your blogs?
       I usually spend time thinking and reading about the topic about which I intend to write before actually beginning to write. I write directly on Blogger, although if a great deal of research is required, I will take notes to refer to as I write. I usually rewrite a few times before I am satisfied with my blog posts. My biggest failing is proof reading.... I need an editor. (though I am grateful to my friend Chris Goopy for keeping me on my toes).

17. Do you have any blogs that are not genealogy related?
       I have a non genealogy blog in the making, entitled Tales of Life and Teapots which I intend to be an anecdotal creative writing blog.( Possibly a platform for launching several novels I have in progress....?)

18. Have you listed your blogs at Geneabloggers?
       Two are listed. Thanks for the reminder, Jill Ball to list the others.

19. What resources have helped you with your blogging?
       I use too many resources to list them all however they include books, local studies sections of libraries, local history centres, online resources such as digitalised newspapers and gazettes (Trove, PapersPast, London Times Archives) and Google Search. Google books and maps have proved very useful.  I have written several blog posts about different resources. I try to cite as many resources and sources as I can at the end of my blogs to help others in their research.

20. What advice would you give to a new Geneablogger?
       If you are contemplating blogging your family history, just start. Through blogging I have made many new and very special friends, with whom I share a love of family history and writing. I have met some of these online friends and I can recommend the blogging 'family' as being a fun, helpful and friendly community. I have learned so much more about my own family history through connecting with related people and through blogging, my research skills have improved tremendously. And best of all - bloggers wear beads! ( become a geneablogger and you will understand...)

Geneabloggers at a conference wearing identifying blogger beads...

21. The last word: an unexpected outcome of blogging.
        When I began blogging I did not have in mind making friends with other bloggers. One of the greatest joys I have discovered through blogging is the many friends I have made, both online and subsequently whom I have met in person. Some of those friends are pictured above in a group geneablogger photograph taken at a genealogy conference. I am most fortunate to be able to count Jill Ball, author of this interesting geneameme, as one of those good friends.


  1. Sharn, I am so pleased that this geneameme distracted you from your studies. I have missed your well researched and thorough posts.

    Thank you so much for this comprehensive meme contribution which I really enjoyed.

  2. You made me smile, you don't need much 'keeping on your toes'...

    Loved your responses to Jill's great geneameme... just have to try to get my act together, and hope Jill doesn't mind a slight delay.

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