Some people eat, sleep and chew gum, I do genealogy and write...

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

The Role of a Genealogical Blogger

Back in the 1960s Bob Dylan wrote a song called "The Times They Are A-changin'." The opening verse says:
Come gather 'round people
Wherever you roam
And admit that the waters
Around you have grown
And accept it that soon
You'll be drenched to the bone.
If your time to you
Is worth savin'
Then you better start swimmin'
Or you'll sink like a stone
For the times they are a-changin'.

As a group, genealogists are likely some of the most conservative members of our society. I don't mean politically conservative, I mean that genealogy is time consuming and absorbing avocation and leaves little time for many other activities. However, the times really are changing. When I was younger, I was very much involved in stamp collecting. At a very early age, I realized that the easily available media at the time, mostly newspapers, TV and radio, rarely mentioned stamps at all. I did however find that there was a rather developed philatelic news network, primarily lead by Linn's Stamp News, a tabloid sized newsprint publication which I could read in libraries (when I was 9 or 10 years old, I did not know you could subscribe to magazines and newspapers). I also traveled on my bike, across town to attend the meetings of the Phoenix Stamp Club, mostly attended by a group of (to me) really old men. My interest in postage stamps continues to this day, but now all of the information about stamps is online.

My experience with stamp collecting is merely another example of the way our method of obtaining information is changing. If you haven't ever noticed, there is virtually nothing in the popular media about genealogy. Except for an occasional mention of the popular TV show, there is no where in any of the major news outlets that talks about the genealogical community. This is not surprising since very little of local or limited interest gets into the news. Unless there is some bizarre murder or kidnapping a war or political issue including taxes and such, the focus of the popular national and even local media is rather narrow. When was the last time you hear genealogy mentioned on talk radio?

Just like with the specialized publications dealing with philately, genealogy has had its own specialized publications. One of the longest lasting publications was Everton's Genealogical Helper Magazine, which shut down after 52 years of publication. There are literally thousands of other publications, but most of them had and have a very, very limited circulation. If you went to your local public library and looked at their offerings of magazines, it is highly unlikely that you would find even one publication dedicated to genealogy. A search of the catalog of the Mesa Public Library showed that they did not have one genealogical periodical publication. Not one. By the way, they no longer carry Linn's Stamp News either.

There are some very good genealogy magazines, such as Family Tree Magazine, with a respectable list of subscribers, but you will probably never see them in your local supermarket magazine rack.

If the newspapers, TV, radio and other commercial media (except specialty magazines and journals) have ignored genealogical subjects, where do we now get our genealogy news? One word. Bloggers. Bloggers have almost entirely replaced any of the traditional media outlets for specialized news and unless some genealogists goes berserk and shoots up a genealogy library (don't laugh, it happened at the Family History Library), the trend to using Bloggers as the primary new outlet will likely continue.

Case in point, the RootsTech conference coming up in February, is using Bloggers as one of the primary news and information outlets for the conference. Here is a shot of the Official Bloggers as of the date of this post:

Salt Lake's major newspaper, The Deseret News, shows only two genealogy related articles in December, one of them was an announcement about RootsTech and the other about the updated website.

So, if you want to know what is happening in the world of genealogy, click on those RSS Feed buttons and sign up with a reader and start your morning with the genealogy news.


  1. I have to agree with you that bloggers are the primary source of information for genealogists. Ironically, though we can wait for records patiently in the mail we are very impatient when it comes to hearing our genealogical news. Luckily there are some great folks filling that role. It's a bit sad about the decline of printed magazines. I wonder what blogs will evolve into?

  2. I enjoyed this article for two reasons. First the genealogical / blogging aspect and finding another stamp collector (my collection is at least 55 yrs. old, and I don't know what to do with it...can you address that later in a post? Only kidding.)
    Bloggers can get the word out in a flash. In retrospect the magazines, like Family Tree Magazine take too long to get something published. Why does it take almost 1/2 years to post the winners of the recent contest? That is insane, by then I've lost interest, and some bloggers may not even be blogging. Sorry James, I kind of ran with it.

  3. It's very surprising that a country as big as America is so lacking in genealogy magazines. We have four in the UK which are on sale in all the major newsagents and are usually on display in public libraries too. I wonder if the UK journals will eventually go the same way as the ones in the US.

  4. The internet has changed the revolutionised the world of genealogy. Here in the UK there are numerous genealogical magazines, perhaps too many, even my local garden centre stocks two family history magazines by the till,perhaps an interested staff member? That said, after more than 20 years have recently stopped routinely buying genealogical magazines as I find that most of the news items has already been published somewhere on the net - a mailing list or published on someone's blog, even some of the articles. Out of interest I also collected stamps as a child and still have that collection, perhaps it is that trait of always seeking something, a missing stamp, an ancestor....

  5. Mesa Public Library does in fact carry a genealogy magazine - Ancestry. They also carry the Ancestry database, and the Heritage Quest database. In this era of difficult budgets for everyone, that is a good thing that they carry that much.

  6. I spoke too soon. Ancestry Magazine has been discontinued (as are many magazines):
    Mesa Public Library has some back issues, not the newest, because there are no newest to have.

  7. Everton's also discontinued publication. So it's not that the library is at fault - it's a symptom of the publishing industry.