Thursday, October 20, 2011

Hello, My Name Is… Part 1

Name Back in late August, Lynn Palermo wrote an article entitled, New Genealogy Bloggers…Who Are You?, where she essentially challenged new all genealogy bloggers to, at a minimum, include their name somewhere on their blog.  Ultimately Lynn pleaded with genealogy bloggers to have an “about” page that tells their audience a little bit about themselves.  Her advice was general in nature and applied to all genealogy bloggers.

The other day, Kerry Scott, of Clue Wagon, posted the following comment on Facebook:

Clue: Unless you are independently wealthy or otherwise don't want anyone to ever hire you for anything genealogy-related, your blog needs to list your real first and last name. It also needs to have enough information about you so that I can decide whether you know enough about a genealogy-related topic that I might want to hire you. … I've been recruiting for 15 years, and this is the only field I know of where people work so hard to be un-hireable. Opportunity cannot knock if you barricade the door. Sheesh!

Kerry’s comment was geared toward professional genealogists who have blogs.  Both of these wonderful gals make some great points, but I’d like to take each a step further.  This first post will focus on genealogy bloggers in general.  In the second post I’ll turn to the professional genealogists who have a blog and/or website.

As researchers, it’s important for us to be accessible, especially when we publish our work, regardless of the media we use.  By creating a genealogy blog, you’ve already decided you want to share your research or family stories, whether with family or the world.  And blogging is a great way to accomplish this since it’s free, easy, published on your timetable, and far-reaching.

Think for a moment:  If you were to publish one of these research stories in a society journal, you would certainly use your real name and a valid email address, wouldn’t you?  Of course, you would, so why should your blog be any different?  You need to provide a way for people (whether long-lost cousins or fellow researchers) to know who you are and how to contact you, just like you would if you were publishing the research in a traditional publication.

Let me illustrate it another way.  I have been blogging for over three years now, and in that time I’ve had several people contact me through my blog.  In one instance, a cousin who I had not seen in over ten years found me through my blog and emailed me; we’ve been in touch ever since.  In other cases, other researchers have contacted me asking for and/or offering up information pertaining to a family I have blogged about.  I have made several cousin-connections through my blog, simply because I’m out there and ACCESSIBLE!  I shudder to think how different things would be if people hadn’t been able to contact me through my blog.

Conversely, as a researcher who reads other genealogy blogs, I find it frustrating when someone doesn’t provide their name or a way for me to get in touch with them.  Sure, I can leave a comment on a blog post, but who knows who’s behind the magic curtain.  I want to know who you are and how to contact you!  The same applies to websites.  If you’ve created your own genealogy website with all sorts of great information, please tell me who you are and how I can contact you.  You’re doing yourself a huge disservice by not providing this information on your blog or website.  You never know what genealogy mysteries could be solved had you only provided a means of contact!

Bottom Line:  Include your name—first and last—and some way for people to contact you (email address, contact form, whatever) somewhere on your blog (and really, don’t make me waste time searching for it, make it obvious).  I also think a short bio should be available somewhere on your blog, that lets readers know not only who you are, but what your research experience is, what topics you are interested in, and the names and places you are researching.  Blogging is not only a way to share your stories, it serves as a research tool in and of itself.  It’s also a way to connect with other people, which is so important in the research process.

And, I hate to say it, but if you’ve created your blog for the sole purpose of sharing it with family, and therefore don’t really have a need to tell them who you are, then I suggest you make the blog private and add those select people as readers.  But, more importantly, if you decide to leave it “public” but you would rather be invisible, then don’t publicize it…don’t list it with GeneaBloggers, don’t tweet about it, don’t talk about it on Facebook.  There’s no sense in telling the world about your blog when you don’t want the world to know about, or heaven forbid, contact you.  Sorry to be blunt, but it is what it is.

As an aside, I realize people are concerned with privacy issues.  However, it’s no different than being listed in the white pages both in the phonebook and online.  Just be smart and use caution when responding to someone’s inquiry about your family. 


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