Prior to establishing my blog, I have been reading about 35 blogs. I was impressed with the quality of writing and the breadth of interest. I was particularly interested in Amy Coffin’s “52 weeks to Better Genealogy.” I actually did some of the exercises in my mind and had considered doing them privately. When I began my blog, I was intimidated by the thought of jumping right in and showing the world how little I knew about genealogy. What a mistake! Two learnings: 1) I have learned that the geneablogging community is very gracious and accepting of bloggers at all levels of competence and writing ability. I wish I had immediately entered in. 2) I have learned that geneablogging is a collaborative activity, not a competitive one.
Initially I wondered if anyone would be interested in reading my musings and if so, why? After all, there are so many highly qualified genealogists and exceedingly competent writers, why would anybody be concerned with what I have to say. After 4 initial posts that set the scene for my blog, the first real post received a comment from Karen of AncestorSoup. Wow! Someone actually read one of my posts. Dr. Bill (William L.) Smith commented on a number of posts saying, “Keep these ancestor stories coming!” There are 52 people who “follow” my blog and 60 different individuals who have commented on one or more blog posts. Greta Koehl of Greta’s Genealogy Blog heads the list with 15 comments; Tonia Kendrick of Tonia’s Roots comes next with 11 comments. Perhaps Greta said it best, “we seem to share an interest in musing on the ‘deeper significance’ of genealogical research.” Yes, I am always looking for the deeper, symbolic meanings (occupational hazard for a Presbyterian minister). 3) I have learned (actually “re-learned”) what a friend once told me as I began a new career venture: “Figure out what you do best and do it most!” That relates to geneablogging, as well as ministry and other ventures in life.
4) I have learned to do the genealogy “happy dance.” I was surprised when one of my post on “The Eight Stages of My Genealogical Development” got mentioned in Greta Koehl’s Follow Friday Newsletter. Soon thereafter 5 or 6 posts were mentioned in Randy Seaver’s “Best of the Genea-Blogs.” I was beginning to get “heady.” Randy Seaver then used my “Sears Catalogue of Genealogists” as the basis for his “Saturday Night Genealogical Fun.” I began to think that I must have “arrived” as a geneablogger. Actually, the learning was somewhat more painful. 5) I have learned that a lot of attention and affirmation can be an addictive trap. For a couple of weeks, I was writing in order to be recognized – that is, to be listed in someone’s “best of.” I quickly discovered that my ideas were drying up and my writing suffering. 6) I have learned that getting mentioned in Randy Seaver’s Genea-Musings blog is a remarkable source of referrals. 251 visits to my blog have come by way of www.geneamusings.com; 180, via www.littlebytesoflife.com. Thank you Randy Seaver and Elizabeth O’Neal
Fortunately, Tonia Kendrick had issued the invitation for other geneabloggers to join her for 31 Weeks to a Better Genealogy Blog. That challenge was just what I needed to get me back on the path! Week by week (for 13 weeks now) we have been focusing on one specific way to improve our blog and our blogging. Tonia’s summarizing of Darren Rowse’s book, “31 Days to Build a Better Blog,” and he outlining of specific tasks for each week have been very helpful… and productive. 7) I have learned that the discipline of regular involvement in a challenge organized by another geneablogger helps keep the blogging juices flowing… and it has put me in contact with another group of blogger. What a bonus! I wish I had been willing to do this earlier in my blogging.
Saving the Best for Last: 8) I have learned that the geneablogging community is a remarkably collaborative and caring community that
shares from the heart stories, practices, and struggles
builds upon good ideas and practices
reaches out to its members when they are facing difficult times
enables geneabloggers to learn from and with one another
provides a venue to “pay it forward”
Genealogy blogging is a very collaborative venture. Darlene of “My Colored Roots” raised a question concerning my mentioning a swimming pool from my childhood in Youngstown, Ohio. She was right, I had not remembered correctly. (How many times does that happen in genealogical ventures?!) Her comment caused me to do a bit of research, which corrected my memory and my records. Sometimes we want to do better as genealogists / family historians, but feel intimidated by the high quality, highly competent (often professional) genealogists who blog and hold up very high standards. 9) I have learned that the geneablogging community wants to help. Put your thoughts and ideas out there. You might be surprised who responds to encourage and support you. Often we aren’t aware of the effect we have on one another through our blogging. Perhaps the most gratifying response I have had came from George Geder, commenting on my “On Not Listening to the Genealogy Gods.” He said “Thank you, thank you, thank you! You’ve made my head stop sweating from the brow. You’ve reduced my blood pressure. You’ve just echoed the worries of so many family historians who don’t want to spend enormous amounts of time slogging through the citation maze.” I am humbled by such a comment.
(A revision:) In addition to #9, above, I have two additional learning that I missed when I first published this blog. 10) I have learned that creativity and initiative is appreciated. You don’t have to copy someone else’s style. Be yourself. Your ideas and practices will likely strike a positive chord with somebody. And, 11) I have learned (and this is a minor, technical point) that I probably should have named my blog “Stardust and Roots” instead of “Stardust ‘n’ Roots.” When the name gets translated in html markup language, it sometimes prints as “Stardust ‘n’ Roots.” (That is pretty ugly when it is present in someone’s list of blogs that they follow.)
In conclusion, 12) I have learned that I enjoy geneablogging as much as I do genealogy itself. Margaret Wheatley, in her newly revised Leadership and the New Science, reminds us that information is not just facts but “networks of relationships.” Genealogical research involves finding our ancestors in the facts and their contexts. But what we are all about, as meaning-making beings, is entering the ‘networks of relationships’ with our ancestors. Geneablogging helps this relational processing. Dr. Bill has it right: “Keep these ancestor stories coming!” I am deeply grateful to all the blogs I read, and all the bloggers that read mine.