Sunday, May 10, 2009

The Blog as a Viable Tool for Genealogy Research

Posted by: Kathleen Schaible | April 22, 2009

For those of you fairly new to the technology world, or just discovering blogs for the first time: the word ‘blog’ is the popularized short form of “web log” and can be either a noun or a verb. You can read or write a blog and the act of creating or adding fresh content to your blog is called ‘blogging.’ I’m blogging right now in writing this, etc…

There are many different kinds of blogs, from subject matter to the types of content and then how that content is delivered. Subject matter is literally as infinite as our own imaginations but there are only 4 basic types of content: text, images (pictures), video and audio. A blog can integrate any combination of these data types.

There are also basic categories of blog, including personal blogs (the most common form) that amount to a daily personal commentary on the blogger’s daily life and experiences (like a diary, journal or scrapbook). Another type of blog is known as a corporate blog. Corporate blogs were created for some business purpose such as marketing, extending a brand or increasing public relations. This blog can be considered a corporate blog since it is “the official blog of” Of course, we don’t really see it that way since we are a two person operation and not some giant corporation- but if we must be categorized within a genre, then that is where we fit.

Other types of blogs include video (vlog) and photo blogs, or can be categorized by their specific subjects (this is more where ‘Tracing Your Routes’ fits in, I think) or genre such as politics, news, travel, genealogy, etc. The blog can be a very powerful tool for conveying information, and can contain anything from the daily ramblings of the average Joe or more educational type of content, such as news articles, how-to’s and so on.

Anyone can create a blog. This has both it’s ups and downs from the audience perspective. As a member of the general audience, diversity of material can be a great thing because it means multiple resources and perspectives and a wide pool of insight into any given subject. In my mind, this is priceless.

In the recent debate over the viabiliy of blogs as a tool for genealogy research, the main argument against blogs is (basically) that blogs are a source of unreliable information simply because anyone can make one regardless their credentials. Of course I find this absolutely ludicrous! Of course, there are those out there that pull content from the blogs of others just to entice you to their site so they can try to sell you something on ebay or whatever and to me THOSE are the sites that give us all a bad name.

You don’t have to be a doctor of history to create a meaningful blog; any blog that respects it’s subject matter, takes it and it’s audience seriously is a valid creation and worthwhile resource.

3 Types of info you can take away from a blog:

1) Preliminary genealogical data about individuals. This can be marriage, relational, military, census, etc – anything. Source citations (see the first installment of this blog series for more on that) are a good place to start with when going to find this data yourself. If there are no visible source citations, you can always contact the blogger and ask them where they got their info. If nothing else, this data can be a flicker at the end of the tunnel- if they found it, so can you!

IT IS IMPORTANT TO VALIDATE AND CORROBORATE AS MUCH OF THIS DATA AS YOU CAN!!! Information you get in a blog- especially genealogical data as outlined above should ALWAYS be vetted for accuracy before you consider it as valid. Blogs are not official archives, but a way to find leads. (for more on quality data, see Issue#1 in this series).

2) Experience, insight and perspective. These things can be a tremendous help to both the seasoned pro and the newcomer to genealogy research. For the experienced genealogist, the blogs of others can provide inspiration for new ideas, remind of things forgotten, show new avenues to traverse. For the newcomer, blogs can be an educational guide – how to, if you will. It can also convey the community (you’re not the only one who hits a wall in research, you’re not strange for undertaking the genealogy endeavor), provide a springboard for launching research and provide some sense of direction to get you started.

3) RESOURCES! Blogs generally contain resource links as well as some review of the blogger’s experience with them- this can be very helpful- especially when you think you’ve exhausted every avenue!
For more information on where to find genealogy blogs, see Issue # 2 in this series about social networking

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