Archive for August, 2011

Follow Friday: Historic Wanderings

It is Follow Friday! This is a blogging meme in which authors recommend other blogs, websites, repositories, or anything else. In keeping with the theme of this blog, I will spotlight different resources for professional and aspiring professional genealogists each week: not only genealogy-related, but also others of interest.

This week I would like to spotlight the Historic Wanderings blog by my friend Maddy McCoy.

Though Maddy is a genealogist, Historic Wanderings is not a genealogy blog. At least not in the traditional sense.

Instead, Maddy takes photos of historic buildings and locations–often in Virginia or Maryland, but also in Washington, D. C., Delaware, West Virginia, and (due to her attendance at IGHR this past June) Alabama. These photos are absolutely beautiful. If you have ancestry or research interests in any of these states, you are likely to find photos of interest on this blog. Maddy’s most frequent photo subjects are historic mansions, churches, and cemeteries. Especially sites of significance to African-American history and genealogy, betraying Maddy’s interest in the subject as creator of the Fairfax County, Virginia, Slavery Inventory Database.

Some of the most recent subjects have been Barratt’s Chapel in Frederica, Delaware, the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, Virginia, and Thomas Jefferson’s historic Monticello mansion and its “burial ground of the enslaved.”

31 Weeks to a Better Genealogy Blog Week 6: Must-Read Tips

This blog post is a response to the series “31 Weeks to a Better Genealogy Blog,” at the Tonia’s Roots blog. This series is based on the Darren Rowse (ProBlogger) e-book 31 Days to Build a Better Blog.

Genealogy bloggers are ultimately writers. Our posts may be very personal. They might relate to our own families, showing how we have broken down a “brick wall,” or describing a brick wall yet to be broken. Or our posts may be general. They might offer advice to beginning or even more advanced researchers. They might describe a new (to us) or little-known record group, or may simply offer some news related to genealogy.

Despite the focus on genealogy, however, our blogs can learn much from other blogs and bloggers in other subject matters.

Consider, for example, the advice provided by the article “A Sample Blogging Workflow,” by Chris Brogan. Mr. Brogan describes several “Goals for [specific] blog POSTS (versus goals for the blog overall).” Those he identifies are:

  • Seek link traffic;
  • Seek advice [in other words, start a conversation];
  • Establish thought leadership [blog about subjects that no one else has discussed];
  • Promote something interesting;
  • Link love to others.

These goals will inform individual blog posts, but should be considered in the terms of the larger goal of your blog itself. In my earlier post in this series, “31 Weeks to a Better Genealogy Blog Catchup Week 1: Elevator Pitch,” the larger goal and purpose of the blog was discussed.

Mr. Brogan continues to provide several tasks that we should consider completing for every post we write. A few of these tasks include:

  • “Read material first.” Mr. Brogan suggests not only reading other blogs related to our topic (genealogy), but also reading blogs on unrelated and even “fringe” subjects.
  • “Consider pictures.” There are quite a few websites available that offer photo content with Creative Commons licensing. These photos are free to use as long as we properly cite the source. As genealogists, of course, we would never dream of doing otherwise.
  • “Announce your best posts.” Mr. Brogan suggests using the same methods as were discussed in “31 Weeks to a Better Genealogy Blog Catchup Week 3: Promote a Blog Post.”
  • “Check traffic and logs.” Mr. Brogan also recommends that we search for mentions of our blog, and add to the discussion there as well by adding comments.

Once we have an idea for a blog post, and understand its purpose in the context of our blog’s larger goal, we will need to actually write the post. Sarah Fudin wrote “How to write a perfect blog post: 10 tips,” in Ragan’s PR Daily. The ten tips she provides are:

  1. “Pick the ideal title/headline.”
  2. “Make the main point clear right away.”
  3. “Compile a list.” List posts were discussed in my earlier post “31 Weeks to a Better Genealogy Blog Catchup Week 2: List Posts.”
  4. “Make it link-worthy.”
  5. “Make it attractive.”
  6. “Include multimedia elements.”
  7. “Stick to the point.”
  8. “Use keywords.”
  9. “Keep length in mind.” Ms. Fudin recommends that blog posts always be less 1000 words, but generally between 500 and 800 words.
  10. “Be original.”

Writing blog posts, of course, is not the ultimate goal. Ideally, someone will read the posts.

Pamela Wilson wrote “8 Incredibly Simple Ways to Get More People to Read Your Content,” in the Copyblogger blog. This post reveals some very interesting information about the way people “read” online content. Citing a 1997 survey, Ms. Wilson informs us that 79% of web users scan content rather than reading it. The rest of this article describes the best way to take advantage of this knowledge, by creating content that is easily scannable.

  1. “Embrace the line break.” In other words, write small paragraphs, creating a lot of white space. White space makes the content less daunting and more easily read.
  2. “Break up your content with compelling subheads.” Ms. Wilson recommends writing your headlines and subheadlines first. To me, this seems like a great way to organize your writing, and keep yourself on track.
  3. “Use bulleted lists.” Another blogger has recommended using lists. This tip seems to be consistently recommended by all professional and well-established bloggers.
  4. “Use deep captions.” A deep caption is a two to three sentence caption, and should ideally be paired with a striking image. This may entice browsers and scanners to read the whole article.
  5. “Add highly relevant links.”
  6. “Use strategic formatting.” Use bold formatting to highlight only the most important concepts being discussed. Just be careful not to highlight too much. Highlighting everything is about the same as highlighting nothing.
  7. “Harness the power of numbers.” “You can often make a post more compelling just by numbering your main points.” If you want to see this in action, take a look at the most popular blog posts at some of the more popular blogs.
  8. “Check your dual readership path.” Once your post has been written, read it again, but only looking at the highlighted material: the headings and subheadings, bolded points, bulleted lists, etc. Can the reader understand the point of the article? I believe that this is an extremely interesting way to view your posts: it offers the perspective of the casual scanner, rather than the deep reader.

Using these tips and many others, blog writers can certainly improve the quality of their content and the number of readers.

Articles cited:

31 Weeks to a Better Genealogy Blog Catchup, Week 5: Contact a Blog Reader

I recently discovered a series entitled “31 Weeks to a Better Genealogy Blog,” at the Tonia’s Roots blog. This series is based on the Darren Rowse (ProBlogger) e-book 31 Days to Build a Better Blog. Unfortunately, I am coming into this about a month late, so I am playing “catchup.” Once caught up, however, I plan to keep up with the series.

The activity for this assignment involves interaction with one’s readers. There are four ways suggested:

  • Directly email new readers who leave comments on your blog;
  • Leave a comment on the blog of a reader who comments on your blog;
  • Follow a reader on Twitter;
  • Respond directly to comments on your blog.

I already read, and if appropriate, comment on the blogs of those who leave comments on my blog. I truly enjoy reading about genealogy from different perspectives.

I also follow many of my Twitter followers. Unfortunately for some, I have been trying to limit the number of people I follow. I currently have over 1500 followers and follow over 1100. It is simply not useful to follow this many people, and I have tried to go through and clear out all of the people that are either no longer active on Twitter, or do not often tweet items of interest to me. This is a long process (as you can imagine with 1100 following), so it happens in spurts, with no end in sight. But whenever I am able to finish the process of making this a more manageable number, I will probably spend just as much time building it back up again. I’m a glutton for punishment and social media.

I try to respond to most of the comments I receive on my blog, other than those that do not say anything more than “Great post” or other kind words. It is not that I do not appreciate all of these compliments, and I certainly enjoy knowing that certain posts are useful, educational, or just interesting to my readers. Perhaps a short “Thank you” note would be appropriate.

A different kind of comment, though, provokes more active responses from me. In general, I do not post ideas that are not thought-out ahead of time. I try to edit myself pretty thoroughly before I push that “Publish” button, including often scheduling them a day or two after I write them, so that I can go back and edit them again if further thoughts arise. These are habits from my non-blog writing. I always let an article sit before submitting it to a magazine publisher.

So when a commenter challenges one of my posts, I feel justified in arguing my position, always respectfully. In some cases, I will change my mind based on the points of the commenter. In other cases, I will convince the commenter of my point. Sometimes we can simply agree to disagree. This is ok too. But I feel that the constant dialogue between the blogger and his audience is the primary benefit of blogging. When two opposing sides are able to argue their respective opinions, it allows each to view the issue from a new perspective. If done productively, this can add to the continued development of our field.

I would add a fifth suggestion related to this last point, as a way to engage one’s readers: the “response post.” A response post is a post that either originates as a response to another blog or a comment on your blog. I have written several response posts to both other blogs that I have read, sometimes agreeing and sometimes disagreeing, as well as to comments left on posts in my blog. These response posts allow me to directly address opposing viewpoints or objections to a certain way of doing things.

This is the last week that I missed, and is therefore the last of the “catchup” posts. This series will now be posted on the set schedule that appears on Tonia’s blog, every Sunday. I look forward to learning more about my blog and other successful blogs as I work through this series.

31 Weeks to a Better Genealogy Blog Catchup, Week 4: Analyze a Top Blog

I recently discovered a series entitled “31 Weeks to a Better Genealogy Blog,” at the Tonia’s Roots blog. This series is based on the Darren Rowse (ProBlogger) e-book 31 Days to Build a Better Blog. Unfortunately, I am coming into this about a month late, so I am playing “catchup.” Once caught up, however, I plan to keep up with the series.

This assignment is to examine a specific blog, see what they do right, and apply these lessons to your own blog (without losing your own identity and voice, of course).

Choosing a blog for this analysis is difficult. For one, I read quite a few blogs, but some of them are more limited in their genealogical focus, and thus have relatively small audiences, and others are completely unrelated to genealogy. It may be interesting to choose a top genealogy blog and compare my analysis to that of a non-genealogy blog.

Now, how do I define a “top genealogy blog”? There are several high-profile genealogy blogs, like Eastman’s Genealogy Newsletter, GeneaBloggers, DearMYRTLE, and Genea-Musings. These blogs are very similar in some ways, and very different in other ways. They all post several times a day, and often cover genealogy news and current events, but each has their own voice. Dick Eastman, for example, often covers topics on the forefront of technology, such as his recent posts on “Windows is Dying… and so are Macintosh and Linux” and “Edit Photos In the Cloud.” Thomas MacEntee’s GeneaBloggers blog generally covers genealogy blogging topics, including posts covering each day’s blogging memes. Randy Seaver’s Genea-Musings blog covers a large range of topics, including Randy’s personal ancestry as well as reviews and tests of the genealogy software like RootsMagic and Family Tree Maker. However, these blogs are also quite different from my own.

Instead, I will analyze a blog whose purpose and outlook is very similar to my own: Marian Pierre-Louis’s blog Marian’s Roots and Rambles. Marian is also a professional genealogist, and I have mentioned her blog on several occasions in this blog. (See “What Exactly Do I Research?” and “The top 5 books on my bookshelf.”)

For the non-genealogy blog, I will analyze one of my favorite writing blogs: Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen’s blog Quips and Tips for Successful Writers.

Content

  • What topics are they covering?
  • What topics are they ignoring?
  • How often do they post?

In Marian’s Roots and Rambles, several recent posts have discussed books and publishing (“The Top 5 Books on My Bookshelf,” “Authors – Get Strategic,” “Is it worth transcribing for publication any more?,” “Is There a Disconnect with The History Press?,” “Essential NON-Genealogy Books about New England,” and “Why Do Authors Bother with Publishers?“). I can only hope that this trend indicates that Marian will soon be publishing her own book. She has also discussed other issues related to genealogy, such as the Boston University genealogy certificate program and “Planning a Research Trip.” She does not, on the other hand, cover general genealogy news that does not affect her own personal or professional genealogy interests. In terms of frequency, so far in 2011 she has posted every 2-4 days. (More specifically, the blog archives show the following numbers of posts per month: January, 13; February, 13; March, 15; April, 8; May, 9; June, 15; July, 8; and so far in August, 3.)

Quips and Tips for Successfuly Writers is not organized in chronological post order, but in categories on her home page. In addition to her “Featured Articles” and “Recent Articles,” the following topical categories appear: Freelance Writing, Writing Skills, Making Money Writing, Blogging & Web Writing, Interviews with Writers, and The Writing Life. A few of the recent articles that interest me are “How to Improve Your Blog – A Quick Website Review,” “5 Tips for Getting Things Done Before the Deadline,” and “Tips for Bloggers Who Want to Help and Inspire Readers.” One of the reasons that I have followed this blog for almost three years is that Laurie is not simply a writer, she is a freelance writer in the Internet age. Of course she writes about blogging, but she did not start there. She (like myself) started writing for paper publications, but has migrated into web writing for further avenues of publication. It is virtually impossible to determine exactly how often she posts by looking at her website, because the posts are not individually dated, and are not organized chronologically. However, I can say that she posts a few times a week since the posts show up in my Google Reader about that often. ;)

Reader Engagement

  • What topics generate the most comments?
  • What styles of posts seem to connect with readers the best?
  • Are they using any tools to connect with their readers (i.e. forums, Twitter, newsletters, activities, etc.)

The following recent posts in Marian’s Roots and Rambles have generated the most comments: “Planning a Research Trip” (10 comments), “The Top 3 Changes in Genealogy” (9 comments), and “Why Do Authors Bother with Publishers?” (8 comments). There is no common thread connecting these three posts, so the reason for their comment-popularity does not immediately present itself. As for connecting tools, I know that Marian is active on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+. Not only does she post links to her own blog posts, but also to other blogs and articles of interest to her.

In Quips and Tips for Successful Writers, the following posts (all appearing on the home page) have attracted the most comments: “What Does It Mean to be a REAL Writer?” (44 comments), “Online Writers – Should You Get Paid Per Post or Per Click?” (16 comments), and “5 Steps to Writing a Killer First Chapter – How to Wow Readers” (12 comments). One notable observation is that the top two comment-getters are both “Featured Articles.” The post with the most comments has a particularly catchy title–one that would immediately attract anyone who would be interested in this blog. The second post covers a topic that often provokes readers’ passions–money! Provoking reader passions is an obvious way to attract both readers and comments. I know that Laurie uses Twitter, and that she often responds on her blogs to reader comments, but I do not know any further detail concerning how she connects with her audience.

Design

  • What’s your first impression of their design?
  • What have they done well?
  • Is there anything that could be improved?

The design of Marian’s Roots and Rambles is extremely simple. It is your basic, run-of-the-mill BlogSpot blog design. The audience of this blog probably does not require much more. With most genealogists, content outweighs design.

The design of Quips and Tips is quite different. As already mentioned, the blog posts are not organized in a reverse chronological list from most recent to older posts, the way most blogs are organized. Instead, there are several categories that appear on the home page, with the most recent article for each category appearing on this home page. This works well, as Laurie touches on several different topics that can be easily categorized: fiction writing, blogging, freelance writing, etc. In writing, much like genealogy, timeliness is not crucial. It is not necessary for the posts to be listed with the most recent first.

Monetization

  • Are they doing anything to make money from the blog? Affiliate programs? Google ads? Do they have sponsors?
  • If yes, what kinds of advertisers are targeting this blog?
  • How do they implement monetization efforts on their site? Sidebar? Footer? Within the content?

Marian only includes a single revenue-generating element in her blog: Google Ads. The ads are contained in the right sidebar, among several other non-revenue-generating elements, like a list of subscribers, the blog archives, popular posts, and non-affiliate ads for GeneaBloggers and an upcoming New England genealogy event. She occasionally mentions or links to content on her professional website: Fieldstone Historic Research.

Laurie makes her full income from writing, and one can see that a significant portion of this income stems from her blog. She has static affiliate banner ads at the bottom of the home page, and several text affiliate ads in the sidebar, where they are indistinguishable to her blog posts. While this is a little sneaky, in my opinion, it is also probably relatively effective. She also uses the website to sell several e-books that she has authored, including “Want to be a Writer? 73 Ways to Fire Up (or Just Fire!) the Muse” and “Want to Earn a Few Bucks? 75 Ways to Make (More) Money Blogging.”

Summary

One notable difference between Marian’s blog and Laurie’s blog is that Marian’s was particularly personal while Laurie’s was not. Marian blogs about what she wants to write about. Her blog is not concerned with making money on its own. For Laurie, however, writing is her career. It is what she does to pay her bills. Even her blog. So Laurie’s blog provides content that readers want to read, not what she wants to write. She also includes far more options for her blog to generate income. While I cannot know how much comes from the blog through affiliate sales and ebook sales, it is certainly enough to make writing the blog worthwhile.

I can learn from both of these blogs. I should continue to write about issues and topics that I want to write about, but I should also bear in mind what my readers want to read. I should consider additional ways to earn income through the blog, aside from links to my home page, but these advertisements should not be intrusive.

One thing is certain, however: conducting a survey and analysis of blogs that I myself enjoy reading is a good way to gain insight into what my audience would like to read.

31 Weeks to a Better Genealogy Blog Catchup, Week 3: Promote a Blog Post

I recently discovered a series entitled “31 Weeks to a Better Genealogy Blog,” at the Tonia’s Roots blog. This series is based on the Darren Rowse (ProBlogger) e-book 31 Days to Build a Better Blog. Unfortunately, I am coming into this about a month late, so I am playing “catchup.” Once caught up, however, I plan to keep up with the series.

This assignment is definitely one that I am at least experienced with, if not mastered. Tonia presents a list of eleven ways to promote a specific blog post, originally noted in Darren Rowse’s e-book. My thoughts on these promotional ideas follow.

Pitch to other bloggers: ask another blogger to consider linking to your post. This gives me the heebie-jeebies. I really don’t like asking people to do things for me.

I have never asked another blogger to link to one of my posts. On the other hand, I believe that providing quality content will inspire other bloggers to link to your posts of their own accord. For a list of mentions of this blog in other blogs, see http://haitfamilyresearch.com/blog.aspx, at the bottom of the page, where I have linked to all of the posts I have found that link to this blog. Others may exist–please let me know about them if you find them in the comments here.

Social Messaging: use Twitter, Facebook, and other social networks to promote your post. Darren says “the key is not to incessantly spam your followers and your friends with your link.”

This blog is a part of the Networked Blogs application on Facebook. My settings automatically post links to new posts to both Facebook and Twitter. The one drawback to this is that it is not always entirely evident that my posts on Twitter relate to genealogy. To amend this, I will often re-tweet the automatic NetworkedBlogs tweet with the added hashtag “#genealogy.” I would recommend that anyone tweeting any content related to genealogy always use the #genealogy hashtag to set that content apart.

I also have a WordPress application attached to my LinkedIn profile, so new posts are automatically added to my profile. And of course (like so many others) I have recently joined Google+ and have been submitting links to my posts on that site as well.

Social Bookmarking: promote selective links on sites like Digg or StumbleUpon.

I used to use Digg for all of my articles, and this might prompt me to start doing it again. I also like StumbleUpon, and have already submitted some of my blog posts to the site, but should probably do the rest as well.

I would also add another similar site to the assignment: Reddit.

Internal Links: what posts within your own site can you link to a given post? Have you written on a topic before? Are you writing a series? Link them up. Another way to do this is to use automatic apps, like a related-post plug-in if you are on WordPress, or a widget like LinkWithin, which I believe works on both WordPress and Blogger. You can also add a section in your sidebar with “Latest posts,” “Popular posts,” “Featured posts,” etc. WordPress makes this very easy to do; I’m not sure about Blogger.

I do this all the time, as you can see from the “pingbacks” that appear in the comments of many of my blog posts.

Newsletters: shoot an email out to your newsletter list, if you have one. (Does anyone do a newsletter? I’d like to hear more about how often you do that, what kind of content you include, etc.)

I don’t have a newsletter, and probably will not create one for the purposes of promoting a blog. In my opinion, blogging has replaced the very “Web 1.0″ email newsletter list.

Other Blog’s Comments Sections and Forums: leaving good-quality comments can help drive traffic to your site and leaving a link can be appropriate if it is germane to the discussion. (Just a note here, I use a plug-in called CommentLuv that automatically inserts a link to each commenter’s last post, if they’ve signed up for the service. And since, I’m signed up, my links are left on other bloggers’ sites, if they use CommentLuv.)

Unfortunately, the free version of WordPress that I use does not allow the installation of plug-ins, so I can’t use CommentLuv. It sounds great, though! I am a little wary of blatant self-promotion in the comments of other blogs, but I have done this on occasion if it is appropriate and on-topic. One non-intrusive way to accomplish this would be when links are invited, such as with this blog series or with Randy Seaver’s “Saturday Night Genealogy Fun” posts at Genea-Musings.

Email signatures: Darren suggests including links to recent posts, instead of just your blog’s front page URL.

Not a bad idea, but not one that I will do. I would hate to have to change my signature every time I post a new article. I write a lot of emails, though so this would certainly get the word out to a lot of people.

Follow-up posts: write a new post that picks up where another left off, like a series, or adds new information to a previous post, then inter-link them.

I love series of posts. In this blog, I have written several popular series, including “Source Citations: Why Form Matters” and “Source Citations: Getting it ‘Right’.”

Advertise Your post: You might consider a small ad campaign for a post you are particularly proud of, using AdWords, StumbleUpon, or similar services. This probably isn’t something most geneabloggers would consider, but it might be worthwhile for those who are professional genealogists.

Not too interested in buying ad space for a blog post. For one thing, as a professional genealogist, my blog is to a certain extent as much a marketing venture as it is a communications venture.

Pitch Mainstream Media: You might want to do this for a really interesting post. Again, I think this would be more suitable for the pros.

I have never pitched to mainstream media, but my posts have occasionally been picked up on their own. Most recently, my post “Five things you have to know about every record” was mentioned in the online edition of the American Library Association’s American Libraries Direct.

Article Marketing: Rewrite some key articles and submit them to article marketing sites.

I am not really sure what an article marketing site is, but I have a feeling that it is what is often negatively called a “content mill.” I already have two columns on Examiner.com, which is at least a few steps above a content mill, but I have a little more integrity than to submit to some of the lower-quality sites. I have read quite a few of the genealogy-related articles on these sites, and they are generally not very good.

So, I do have a few tasks to work on in conjunction with this assignment. Most notably, to submit some of my articles (if not all) to Digg, StumbleUpon, and ReddIt.

31 Weeks to a Better Genealogy Blog Catchup, Week 2: List Posts

I recently discovered a series entitled “31 Weeks to a Better Genealogy Blog,” at the Tonia’s Rootsblog. This series is based on the Darren Rowse (ProBlogger) e-book 31 Days to Build a Better Blog. Unfortunately, I am coming into this about a month late, so I am playing “catchup.” Once caught up, however, I plan to keep up with the series.

The second task required in this series is to write a “list post.” A list post is exactly what it sounds like: a post that is a list of something. Anything.

I am relieved to see that I must be doing something right with this blog! I have already written a number of “list posts” in the past few months:

There are also quite a few small lists held within other posts.

And, by writing this post, I have created another one. This fits the definition of the third type of list post, as noted in Tonia’s post on the subject:

Lists within posts – in this post-type, the list (or lists) is a way of breaking up the text. There may be some narrative in paragraph format, then a list, then another paragraph, etc.

The catchup will continue in the next post…

31 Weeks to a Better Genealogy Blog Catchup, Week 1: Elevator Pitch

I recently discovered a series entitled “31 Weeks to a Better Genealogy Blog,” at the Tonia’s Rootsblog. This series is based on the Darren Rowse (ProBlogger) e-book 31 Days to Build a Better Blog. Unfortunately, I am coming into this about a month late, so I am playing “catchup.” Once caught up, however, I plan to keep up with the series.

An “elevator pitch” is the common name for a brief summary of what you offer. All salespeople, business owners, and authors, among many other professions, are encouraged to create an elevator pitch. This summary should be just a few sentences, and describe in precise (and memorable) terms exactly what it is you do.

For a blog, an elevator pitch would be somewhere in between a tag line and an “About” page, in both length and detail.

Tonia offers the following tips for creating your elevator pitch, derived from Rowse’s e-book:

  • Define your audience – who are you writing for? You may have more than one elevator pitch that you use for different audiences.
  • Keep it short – no more than 100-150 words. “Get to the point, eliminate unnecessary words and make it punchy!”
  • Be energetic – show people that you are passionate about what you are doing.
  • Know what you are trying to achieve – your goal is not tell everything about your blog, but to interest people in visiting – or staying – and reading.

I created an “About Me” page when I recently revived this blog as “Planting the Seeds,” from its earlier incarnation as “Tricks of the Tree.” The short summary of this blog reads,

This blog will discuss issues relating to professional genealogy, including research methodology, educational opportunities, best practices, and other subjects. Will also periodically discuss case studies and ‘Ask a Professional’ questions/answers.

This is already in the form of an elevator pitch. It is brief, to the point, and quickly summarizes exactly what this blog is about. I actually had the idea of an elevator pitch in mind when I wrote the paragraph.

I have also, in three months of regularly writing for the blog, pretty much stayed within the confines of my original vision for the blog. This actually surprises me, as my mind (and writing) tends to wander at times.

So, rather than making any changes, I would like to ask my readers:

What would you change about my “elevator pitch”?

A Friend of Friends Friday: Division of the Negroes of Thomas Lucket

This post is written as part of the weekly “A Friend of Friends Friday” genealogy blogging meme. Visit the GeneaBloggers shared Google Reader list for additional entries from this and other blogs.

The following record appeared in the Charles County, Maryland, Inventories register in the October Term 1827:

Thomas Lucket Reappraisement & Division

Inventory of the Reappraisement of the goods, chattels, in part of the personal Estate of Thomas Lucket late of Charles County deceased in Dollars & cents viz.

Property

Value

1 Negro man Samuel 31 years old

300.00

1 ditto do Grandison 28 ” “

350.00

1 do do Horace 17 ” “

300.00

1 Woman Lindia 50 ” “

80.00

1 ” Lucy 45 ” “

80.00

1 ” Silvia 23 ” “

275.00

1 do Lindia 15 ” “

275.00

1 do Charlotte 13 ” “

250.00

1 do Maria 19 ” “

275.00

1 do Harriot 20 ” ” & child 15 mos old

540.00

1 Girl Jane 20 mos old

50.00

1 Boy John 8 mos old

40.00

1 do Samuel 2 mos old

25.00

7 Shoats @ $3.00

21.00

13 shoats @ .75 [cents]

9.75

1 Boar

2.00

 

$2672.75

We the subscribers do certify, that the foregoing is a true and Just Inventory and Valuation, of the reapraisement of the goods, chattels, in part of the personal estate, of Thomas Lucket, late of Charles County decd. as far as they have come to our sight and knowledge. Witness our hands and seals this 3rd day of December 1827.

William P. Ford [seal]

Francis Thompson [seal]

Reappraisement and Division of the Negroes of the Estate of Thos. Lucket, late of Charles County deceased.

Lot No. 1. Elizabeth Lucket

 

 

1 Negro man Sam

$300.00

 

1 ” Woman Linda

$80.00

 

 

 

$380.00

Lot No. 2. Hezekiah Luckett

 

 

1 Negro man Grandison

$350.00

 

1 do Woman Lucy

80.00

 

 

 

430.00

Lot No. 3. Reason Boswell

 

 

1 Negro man Horace

$300.00

 

Lot No. 4. Henry Luckett

 

 

1 Woman Linda

$275.00

 

Lot No. 5. Marcus L. Luckett

 

 

1 Woman Silvia

$275.00

 

1 Boy Samuel

25.00

 

 

 

300.00

Lot No. 6. Mary R. Lucket

 

 

1 Woman Maria

$275.00

 

1 Boy John

40.00

 

 

 

315.00

Lot No. 7. Adeline A. Lucket

 

 

1 Woman Charlotte

$250.00

 

1 Girl Jane

50.00

 

 

 

300.00

Lot No. 8. Thomas L. Lucket

 

 

To be paid by the Representatives

 

$298.33½

The aforegoing acct. is rejected, And it is ordered by the Court, that the Admr. sell the whole of the personal Estate of his Intestate, upon the usual terms.

Test. Wm. D. Merrick

Regr. of Wills

Decr. 11th. 1827

This estate inventory unfortunately does not contain some of the information that genealogists have come to appreciate. The slaves are listed in descending age order, rather than in any semblance of family groups. No family relationships whatsoever are stated, other than that between Harriot and “her [unnamed] child.” From the information provided in this record, the genealogist cannot endeavor to reconstruct any of the families.

It is unlikely that the slaves living in this household comprised married couples. One hallmark of farms of this size, with slave-holdings of less than 15-20 people, is that the slaves are often closely related, and therefore look to other nearby farms and plantations for marriage. Cross-plantation or “abroad” marriages were extremely common in the state of Maryland.

After the initial reappraisement of Thomas Lucket’s estate, the record continues to include the division of his slave-holdings among his heirs and representatives. One can witness the unfortunate circumstances that led to the break-up of many enslaved families. Each of the heirs only received one or two of the slaves from the estate in this division, due to the relatively small size of Thomas Lucket’s holdings and the almost equal number of heirs. Given that several of these heirs were males, it would be reasonable to believe that each of these slaves would have ended up on a separate farms or plantations.

The record also notes, following this recorded partition of the slaves, that this division was rejected, and the Orphans’ Court ordered the slaves to be sold. In this particular case, the record of the sale does not appear with the record transcribed here. It is likely that the sale–assuming that it actually took place–would have been recorded in either this register or the “Account of Sales” register.

Information on the decision to reject the division would likely be found in the Orphans’ Court proceedings. I would recommend that probate court dockets and minutes always be consulted in addition to other probate records, where available. These court proceedings can provide much more of a “behind the scenes” glimpse into the estate administration process.

SOURCE: Charles County, Maryland, Inventories, 1825-1829, pp. 363-364, Thomas Lucket estate (1827); Maryland State Archives microfilm no. WK 253-254-1.

If you would like to cite this post: Michael Hait, “A Friend of Friends Friday: Division of the Negroes of Thomas Lucket,” Planting the Seeds: Genealogy as a Profession blog, posted 23 Jul 2011 (http://michaelhait.wordpress.com : accessed [access date]).

Follow Friday: David Airey, graphic designer

It is Follow Friday! This is a blogging meme in which authors recommend other blogs, websites, repositories, or anything else. In keeping with the theme of this blog, I will spotlight different resources for professional and aspiring professional genealogists each week: not only genealogy-related, but also others of interest.

This week I would like to spotlight the blog of David Airey, graphic designer. I have enjoyed this blog for a few years now.

David Airey is a graphic designer, and the author of the book, Logo Design Love: A Guide to Creating Iconic Brand Identities. His blog reflects his interest in design in all its forms, but also the intersection of design and business branding.

In his blog, David often shares interesting designs — not only logos, but also product packaging and the work of other graphic designers and artists. David’s philosophy can be summed up in a Gerard Huerta quote from a recent blog entry: “When you are stuck, walk away from the computer and draw. It will teach you how to see.” [SOURCE: David Airey, "On Creative Block," David Airey blog, posted 28 July 2011 (http://www.davidairey.com/ : accessed 4 Aug 2011).]

This artistic sensibility informs David’s blog. His posts, complete with photos, are often among the most beautiful that I have read in any genre.

In other words, if you are at all interested in design or branding yourself as a professional or a corporate entity (no matter how large or small), I would recommend that you follow David Airey, graphic designer.

Handwritten newspapers: 19th century (and older) blogs?

Part of completing a “reasonably exhaustive search” for relevant records is knowing what sources exist. As such, we as genealogists should never rest on our knowledge of resources, but instead always be looking for “new” historic records. I recently ran across a website that provides an annotated bibliography of handwritten newspapers.

The (Carolina) Rebel (SC, 1863)

According to the Editor of the site, Roy Alden Atwood, Ph. D., who is the President and a Senior Fellow at New Saint Andrews College in Moscow, Idaho,

This site contains bibliographical data, images, resource links, and research notes about hundreds of rare and simply amazing manuscript publications produced under extraordinary conditions in remarkable settings. Most of the works contained here are from North America, particularly Canada and the United States. Most were published during the 19th century. However, the complete collection here includes works from around the globe–including Asia, Europe, and Australia–and they date from the ancient world (Rome’s Acta Diurna) to the present (see the stories linked here about a Japanese handwritten newspaper published March 2011 after that nation’s devastating earthquake and tsunami wiped out its printing capabilities and about an Urdu language paper in India still handwritten today).

Dr. Atwood compares these handwritten newspapers to today’s blogs–writings intended for a public audience that serve as “a testament to the universal journalistic impulse–the desire to share news and information with others–that refuses to be constrained by mere convention or technology.”

As many of us are aware, the Library of Congress has created a directory of newspapers published in the United States since its earliest days. However, according to Dr. Atwood, this directory suffers from a “print prejudice.” The Directory project simply did not include guidelines for inclusion or exclusion of handwritten newspapers. Therefore the Directory includes some and excludes others, based, not on a set criteria, but on a series of inconsistent and individual decisions, also leading to inadequate cataloguing of and search capabilities for these publications.

To rectify this lack of representation, Dr. Atwood has created The Handwritten Newspapers Project, to provide information on handwritten newspapers around the world.

Each entry contains Publication History, including place of publication, frequency, size and format, editor, and title changes and continuation; General Description and Notes; and Information Sources, including bibliographic resources and current archival locations of issues. These categories are comparable to the information provided by the Library of Congress’s Chronicling America directory.

Of particular interest, I note several handwritten newspapers published by both Union and Confederate prisoners in prison camps during the Civil War. The Libby Prison Chronicle, for example, was written by Union soldiers held at Libby Prison in Richmond, Virginia, in 1863. Regarding this paper, the site reports:

Several numbers of The Libby Prison Chronicle were written weekly in manuscript in 1863 at the Libby Prison and printed in 1889.  One Libby prisoner, Capt. Frank Moran, of the 73rd New York Volunteers, recalled the Chronicle in a personal letter:

“The spirit of Yankee enterprise was well illustrated by the publication of a newspaper by the energetic chaplain of a New York regiment.  It was entitled The Libby Prison Chronicle.  True, there were no printing facilities at hand, but, undaunted by this difficulty, the editor obtained and distributed quantities of manuscript paper among the prisoners who were leaders in their several professions, so that there was soon organized an extensive corps of able correspondents, local reporters, poets, punsters, and witty paragraphers, that gave the chronicle a pronounced success.  Pursuant to previous announcement, the “editor” on a stated day each week, would take up his position in the center of the upper east room, and, surrounded by an audience limited only by the available space, would read the articles contributed during the week.”

According to Starr, some prisoners regretted leaving Libby camp because,

“Classes are organized in Greek, Latin, French, German, Spanish, Mathematics, & Phonography, while there are plenty of surgeons and chaplains to encourage amateurs in Physiology and zealots in Dialectics.  The ‘Libby Lyceum’ meets twice a week, with spirited debates, & there is a MS newspaper styled The Libby Chronicle.”

No copies of this newspaper remain extant, unfortunately, but some images and transcriptions were published in an 1889 book, as well as this transcription online. The content was often relatively light in this newspaper, quite telling of the spirits of these men in quite difficult circumstances.

On the other end of the spectrum is The Right Flanker, published by Confederate prisoners held at Fort-La-Fayette, a Union prison camp in 1863-1864. The site’s description of this newspaper reports,

The Right Flanker is the only known manuscript newspaper published by Confederate prisoners confined in the North during the Civil War.  The paper was written in pen and ink, and after its staff was released, copies were taken to England and printed in book form (1865).

The introductory issue said the purpose of the paper was “to relieve the monotony of prison life, by calling into action the taste and faculties of those who are capable of contributing to its columns; instructing and amusing those who cannot, and to furnish to all who are to share the spice of excitement, which the risk of such a contraband undertaking affords, something of which it is hoped, reference can be pleasantly made by them in after years.”  The editors then introduced themselves and their personal histories prior to imprisonment, but used no names, apparently to avoid punishment for the production of “contraband.”

The printed “transcript” of The Right Flanker runs 90 pages, but it unclear how faithful the printed version is to the handwritten originals.

The printed version depicts a paper devoted largely to an analysis of the war (based on New York newspaper reports), life in the prison camp, and the arrival of new prisoners.  Humor or light features are infrequent.

Again, no known copies of the newspaper remain, but all of the existing issues were published in book form in England in 1865.

The site is well organized, allowing researchers to search for information on newspapers by state, time period, and subject matter. There are also both alphabetical and chronological lists of the included papers, for browsing.

Dr. Atwood has also included links to other resources for historic newspapers, including the Library of Congress directory; the U. S. Newspaper Program, with contact information for participating states; and national Newspaper Repositories, such as the American Antiquarian Society and the New York Public Library.

For further information,

SOURCE: Roy Alden Atwood, Ph.D., editor, The Handwritten Newspapers Project (http://handwrittennews.com/ : accessed 31 July 2011).

If you would like to cite this post: Michael Hait, “Handwritten newspapers: 19th century (and older) blogs?,” Planting the Seeds: Genealogy as a Profession blog, posted 1 Aug 2011 (http://michaelhait.wordpress.com : accessed [access date]).

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