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    In every family, someone ends up with “the stuff.” It is the goal of The Family Curator to inspire, enlighten, and encourage other family curators in their efforts to preserve and share their own family treasures.

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    Research in Boston with a Virtual Visit to NEHGS and 4 New Online Journals


    I love Boston, but if NEHGS keeps adding online material my visits might get fewer and farther between. Just this week, the New England Historic Genealogical Society announced the launch of “Genealogical Journals Online: A National Collection.”

    The Journal web page brings together access to several of the country’s premier publications in one easy-to-navigate place. At present the site includes searchable online databases for

    • The American Genealogist
    • The Connecticut Nutmegger
    • New England Ancestors Magazine
    • New Netherland Connections
    • The New England Historical and Genealogical Register
    • The Virginia Genealogist

    Membership in NEHGS is a great value if you live in New England or can conduct research there in person frequently. But if you have New England ancestors and live in another part of the country, it’s an exceptional value for the quality and quantity of available online resources. The only drawback is that membership doesn’t include clam chowder or a lobster roll.


    Thank You for Nominating The Family Curator


    The Family Curator is honored to be nominated for the Family Tree Magazine 40 Best Genealogy Blogs in the Photos/Heirlooms category for blogs whose content focuses on “sharing, researching, and preserving family photos and/or heirlooms.” The final list of the FT40 will be announced in the May 2010 issue of Family Tree Magazine.

    Since The Family Curator’s early days in 2007, the number of genealogy blogs has multiplied many times to nearly 1500 blogs, making it truly a compliment to be among the outstanding blogs nominated for the Family Tree 40 Best.

    Voting is open through November 5, 2009 at the Family Tree website where the nominations are listed in 10 different categories. Voters are asked to select a specified number of top blogs in each category. Nominations in the Photo/Heirloom Category include

    Above the Trees
    Sense of Face
    Shades of The Departed
    The Family Curator
    The Practical Archivist

    A helpful list of all nominated blogs with links is available at footnoteMaven where I am finding “new” favorites to add to my blog reader as well. Congratulations to all the nominated blogs and bloggers!


    Looking for Ideas? Genealogy and Family History Blogger’s Almanac Is Here




    Hot off the presses delivered right to your desktop. The November 2009 Genealogy and Family History Blogger's Almanac will debut this week at The Family Curator. Just like the old-fashioned Farmer’s Almanac, the Blogger’s version will feature seasonal tips for making your (blogging) life easier.

    from the Introduction

    The days are growing shorter, there’s a chill in the air, and the holidays are just around the corner. Long-time bloggers know that the months of October through January can be the toughest to maintain momentum in blog writing. Have you thought about how you will manage your blog during the busy months ahead?

    Veteran bloggers have learned that by planning ahead with a stock of prepared blog articles it’s possible to blog and have a life too. The Genealogy and Family History Bloggers Almanac combines a planning calendar with focused blogging prompts to offer scores of ideas to make your blog life easier. Combine the seasonal subjects here with daily blog prompts at and you can avoid the dreaded question, “What can I write about today?”

    The November Almanac will be available as a FREE PDF download at The Family Curator.


    Samuel Chamblin, By Many Other Names, Still Sam Chamblin


    Sam Chamblin, but which one?It’s not surprising that Samuel Chamblin shouild appear in the 19th century U.S. census under many guises, but I didn’t expect him to appear under an alias during his lifetime as well.

    Moving back through time, census records for my great-great-grandfather, Samuel Chamblin, husband of Mercy Winsor, seemed to begin with the 1885 U.S. population schedule where he appeared, age 35, with his wife and three children (ages 14, 10, 8) living in Grasshopper Township, Kansas. He did not appear in any earlier census – at least not under the name Samuel Chamblin.

    In 1880, he is listed as Samuel Clin, age 32. The indexer dutifully recorded what appears to be a hasty census-taker’s abbreviation. At least he fully recorded the name below, that of wife, Mercy Chamblin. The family of five (three children of the correct names and ages 9, 8, and 4) were again living in Grasshopper Township, Kansas.

    Ten years prior, in 1870, Samuel would have been 20 or 22, depending on which age date was more accurate, however, Samuel Chamblin or Samuel Clin, does not appear in the census in the state of Kansas, Illinois, or Missouri. The children would not have been born in 1870, and a search for Mercy Chamblin finds only Charles Chamblin, age 29, living with Mary Chamblin, age 20, with 8-year old Edward Galen and 24-year-old William Chamblin. Is this the missing Samuel Chamblin?

    Another census search reveals a young Charles Chamblin, age 5, living with his parents, Samuel and Carolin Chamblin, in 1850 and with Samuel and Caroline Chambler in 1860 in Illinois. Among the many brothers and sisters is an older brother William Chamblin (age 16) and sister (age 13).  A little math shows that this Mary Chamblin could not be the same Mary Chamblin living in Kansas in 1870, as the Illinois Mary would then be 33 years old. William, however, could be represented as 24; perhaps he was working when the census-taker called and Mary did not know his exact age.

    Could “Charles” actually be “Samuel” and “Mary” actually be “Mercy”? Perhaps the best supporting evidence is the fact that the household is found living directly next-door to the Henry M. Winsor family, parents and siblings of my ancestor, Mercy Winsor Chamblin. But why is Mercy’s husband here called “Charles” and in later census reports named as “Samuel”?

    One possibility is apparent in the 1880 and 1885 census reports where Samuel/Charles and Mercy/Mary name their son as “Norman Chamblin.” Family photographs and letters bear witness to the name of this son as “Samuel N. Chamblin” not Norman, although the initial may indicate that this was his middle name. Perhaps family naming traditions held that the youngest son was named after his father but used a middle name while the father was living.

    Death records from the Missouri State Archives show that Samuel Chamberlain (yet another name variant) died in Kansas City, Missouri on 18 September 1889. This naming theory might be proven if records were discovered showing that Sam [Junior] began using the name Samuel rather than Norman about this time.

    In addition, the eldest Samuel Chamblin, born about 1813 in Virginia, appears in the Illinois census with his wife and family in 1850 and in 1860 and on the IRS Tax Assessment lists for 1864 and 1865. He and his wife, Caroline, are not found in the 1870 census. More research in newspaper obituaries and state death records may result in finding his death record. Could Samuel/Charles name use indicate a year of death for his own father?

    Another, less innocent reason why Charles may have started using the name Samuel might have to do with his military service record. In 1864 a Charles Chamblin, living in Leavenworth, Kansas enlisted as a Private in the Union Army. He deserted his regiment one year and seven months later. Could Charles have been avoiding the Army?

    Further research may reveal the true identity of Samuel/Charles Chamblin, but for now, I am building a growing list of aliases to use in the search:

    • Surnames: Clin, Chamblin, Chamberlain, Chambler
    • Given Names: Charles/Samuel, Norman/Samuel, Mary/Mercy

    Tech Tuesday – Advice for Conserving Your Family Treasures at the NEDCC Website

    What’s the difference between acid-free, buffered, lignin-free, and archival? They are all terms frequently used to describe supposedly safe storage boxes and other enclosures for paper documents and photographs; however, according to The Northeast Document Conservation Center in Andover, Massachusetts these labels do not all refer to the best storage solutions for your family treasures.

    The NEDCC is a consortium of state libraries in New England and the Atlantic states sharing a conservation facility which provide services and educational workshops for historical societies, college and university libraries, public libraries, and town and state archives.  The organization also offers twice yearly conservation workshops and a series of pamphlets on conservation techniques.

    Family historians will be interested in The NEDCC Resources for Private and Family Collections which addresses questions such as how and where to store family documents and photographs, as well as how to choose suitable archival storage enclosures (hint: not “acid-free”).

    The article reiterates advice to keep documents and photographs out of light and heat or fluctuating temperatures, but also addresses specific tips for special situations such as wedding photographs, removing staples safely, and preserving newspaper clippings.

    The NEDCC also hosts a series of one-day Fall and Spring Workshops in Andover on a variety of conservation topics. Fall sessions run September 29 – October 8. The Spring 2010 session will be held in March and feature workshops on scrapbook preservation, metadata basics, grant writing, and preserving oversize artifacts. While the program is aimed at conservation professionals, some workshops are open to interested individuals as well.


    Tech Tuesday: Shhh… please don’t tell Facebook, I’m a Grandmother

    Wonderful news – we have a new leaf on our family tree. It’s been a blizzard of activity since the little guy’s earlier-than-expected arrival, with hardly time to pack my suitcase for a visit. I had great plans for an official announcement here and in RL (Real Life) but I discovered today that I’ve been pre-empted by Facebook.

    The lesson seems to be that granny’s gotta get moving, or Facebook will leave us standing in the dust with our little brag books in our hands and nobody to share them with who hasn’t already heard the news.

    So much for paper, ink, and postage stamps. Might as well set aside the photo-lab color prints. Hardly need them now.

    It doesn’t seem to matter that I’d decided NOT to post photos or vital statistics myself in the interest of personal privacy, or that I thought I made a pretty good case for restraint with the alarming stories in last week’s Tech Tuesday article --

    • the mom whose picture ended up in a Craigslist adoption scam
    • the parents whose chiildren were being enjoyed by voyeurs (and worse) on Flickr
    • the children who are victimized by identify theft

    So, if you heard it on Facebook or Twitter or some other virtual space before I had a chance to tell you myself, I’m sorry. The Little Old Lady from Pasadena just isn’t moving fast enough.


    Tech Tuesday: Protecting Young Leaves on the Family Tree; Does Your Blog Need a Standard of Privacy?

    If a blogger writes a post revealing the birth date of Great Aunt Martha, the worst result might be Auntie’s chagrin in discovering discover that the secret of her youth is “out.” The potential outcome, however, of posting family photos on a personal blog is unfortunately much more sinister.

    Jenni Brennan is a Massachusetts mother who discovered that a photo of her smiling son was apparently lifted from her family blog and used as part of an adoption scam advertised on Craigslist. After an email alerted her to the scam,  Jenni responded to the ad posing as a potential adoptive parent and received a picture of her son, along with a request for $300 to begin the adoption. The case is now under investigation.

    While the actual physical risk here may be small, the sense of violation and exposure is quite real.

    An ongoing Flickr discussion on posting children’s photographs offers another chilling look at who may be looking at your children, and why. Self-avowed voyeurs have found a treasure trove of titillating children’s photographs on public photo-sharing sites, and a strangely supportive parent-body to support their taste. Some users like muddylemon became alarmed when they discovered certain photos from their image file were scoring thousands upon thousands of hits; after following the trail of those marking the pictures as “favs,” parents decided to change the images from Public to Private.

    Yet another prevalent concern for family bloggers is the growing business of children’s identity theft . In 2007, the Federal Trade Commission estimated that about 400,000 children per year were victims of identity theft, according to CBS News. Children make especially good targets, it seems, because they have a clean credit record. Teens can be cautioned not to give out personal information, but what about infants and young children? Family bloggers might not post a social security number, but stories often reveal a child’s full name, mother’s maiden name, and address.

    Personal bloggers can minimize exposure to abuse of their family information by adopting a few tactics:

    1. Protect children by posting photos and anecdotes on a password-protected blog or website.
    2. Use low-resolution and/or watermarked images to deter easy pilfering.
    3. Restrain from publishing any personal information on a public blog.

    Julie Brennan never expected to see her son “up for adoption,” and muddylemon didn’t think his son’s bathtub photos would become “hot hits” at Flickr. The Brennans now blog at a password-protected site and muddylemon has marked his son’s photos as Private.

    Family history bloggers can also protect the use of their family photographs and information by devising a Standard of Privacy for their blog. Many bloggers already work with a loose, unwritten guideline, but the exercise of forming a written statement will help firm up your thoughts and make it easier to decide what material to post. Bloggers might consider

    • the purpose of the site and what level of access is desired; public or password-protected?
    • resolution to use in posting images; watermark or other protection?
    • whether or not to invoke Copyright or Creative Commons licensing
    • what level of individual to write about or include in photos: only non-living, only photos/information 25 years or older, only adults over age 21?
    • what level of privacy to afford when writing about other individuals: first names, initials, no maiden names? It is common for family history bloggers to omit full names and addresses of living individuals. It is also courteous to ask permission before posting photographs of family members, no matter how innocuous the image may seem.
    • how much personal information to reveal; a family photo with home address clearly displayed, children on the front school steps, pets and their names?

    A Blog Standard of Privacy can be as casual as a bullet-list tacked above your desk, or a formal as a typed statement posted on your blog. It can evolve as issues arise and decisions are made about what to include and not include on your site.

    Not everyone will agree with the need for such prudence, of course, but many careful genealogy researchers have considered the evidence and chosen to err on side of caution whenever an individual’s privacy is at stake. You will find them blogging on a variety of focused topics, with only an occasional discrete mention of family or personal life. It doesn’t mean they “have no life,” just that Real Life is separate from Virtual Life.

    Further reading -


    Blog Writing 101: Grab the Gold Ring with A Memorable Carnival Post, Part 2

    In Part 2 of this feature, Carnival Hostesses with the Mostest share some of their favorite carnival entries and talk about what makes a memorable article.

    In Part 1, Grab the Gold Ring With a Memorable Carnival Post discover what is a blog carnival and how you can participate. Carnival hosts also share their experiences and describe what it takes to run a successful carnival event.

    Carnival hosts have two thing in common – they love what they do and have a tough time singling out “favorites” from the many wonderful entries to the events.

    Carnival Entries That Make the Hostess Smile

    Jasia relates that after nearly 80 editions of the Carnival of Genealogy, “it’s more the edition topics that are memorable. . . but a few articles stand out for two reasons, passion and talent. The authors are all passionate about the topics they’re writing about, and they are very talented writers. It’s just that simple.”

    FootnoteMaven says, “In the case of Smile for the Camera it’s all about the photographs; the sheer joy of seeing how each participant interprets the word prompt in a pictorial submission. I’m also a sucker for a creative blog name. It always gets my attention.”

    For the Festival of Postcards, Host Evelyn Theriault notes that what stands out most to her is when bloggers do something different for them, such as a geneablogger “paying attention to the postcard publisher or postcrossers adding little research blurbs to accompany their modern postcards.” She likes seeing the ways that bloggers from different niches approach the postcard subject.

    When coaxed, the carnival hosts gave several examples of what they consider memorable entries, and it’s easy see the qualities that makes these articles stand out from the crowd. Careful research, humor, creativity, and good writing are all evident in the following articles (presented here in alphabetical order) –-

    Be Yourself

    Most importantly, memorable articles are written by bloggers who dare to “be themselves” and let their own unique voice be heard. Whether you are new to blogging, or an old hand looking for a fresh perspective, it’s a refrain that never gets old, “Be Yourself” as footnoteMaven says.

    “When writing for the COG, your article will be appearing alongside many others. Develop your own voice to stand out from the crowd,” Jasia advises writers. “if you’re quick-witted, go for some humor. . . if you’re detail oriented, deliver your content with source citations in all their glory. If your talent is writing emotional posts that touch people’s hearts, don’t submit anything less.”

    “I am continually amazed at the effort Smile participants put into each post,” adds footnoteMaven. “There’s a lot of love going on with those photographs. You cannot help but be touched by the enormity of pride, and the value to our family history that the participants place on, often one of a kind, photographs.”

    This pride of family is often the spark that moves an someone to respond to a particular carnival edition. If the theme fails to resonate, the writing can fall flat too for lack of passion. In fact, according to Jasia, passion is one of the key factors to a successful carnival posting. Without passion, the article will likely not be memorable at all.

    Mini-Step: Write a Very Short Piece

    Does an upcoming carnival topic appeal to you? Perhaps you have the perfect story to tell or photograph to share, but you’re still timid about joining in. Consider the words of Evelyn Theriault and “focus on writing a very short piece – a few paragraphs at most.” Don’t be intimidated, she adds, just do it.

    Write a mini-article, post it to your blog, and complete the submission form or email to meet the deadline (even better, be a day or two early). When the carnival goes online, post another article announcing it at your blog, and be sure to provide links from the original article to the carnival article as well.

    Mini-Step: Join the Carnival as a Commenter

    Another way to ease into carnival participation is to be an ACTIVE reader. Carefully read entries to current carnivals, ask yourself what you like about the article, what you might do differently. When you find a particularly memorable article, take time to leave a comment. These mini-moments are great writing practice and help you focus on what you really want to say, all useful in honing your own style.

    Comments are also the best way to convey your appreciation to the carnival hosts and writers. A few words lets them know that you enjoy the time and effort they give to producing the event, and encourages them to continue.

    Next Step: Just Do It, With Passion

    “To anyone contemplating participating in a carnival,” adds footnoteMaven, “Do it! I have always found it to be a very rewarding experience regardless of which side of the post you find me on.”

    “Just do it,” writes Evelyn. “

    Bring your passion to your piece, and, as Jasia says, “When the passion is there, the article will likely be memorable.”

    See you at the Carnival!

    Thanks to footnoteMaven, Jasia, and Evelyn Theriault for sharing their thoughts on hosting genealogy blog carnivals for this two-part article. Please leave your comments for the Carnival Hostesses or the author, Family Curator.

    What does it take for a carnival article to be your favorite?


    Grab the Gold Ring with a Memorable Carnival Post, Part 1

    Carnival Hostesses with the Mostest share their favorite carnival entries and talk about what makes a memorable article, as well as describe what it takes to run a successful blog carnival in this two-part article for Write It Down at The Family Curator.

    Are you ready to join the carnival, but wondering if you have what it takes to be a real Carney? Or, are you an old hand at the game but looking for a few new lines? Blog carnivals and festivals are one of the best ways to participate in the blogging community and interact with other bloggers, and with several great events offered each month, you are sure to find a subject that appeals to your interests. Read on to learn exactly what is a Blog Carnival, and how  you can join one.

    A Carnival is Not The Circus

    Popular podcaster Lisa Louise Cooke confessed while interviewing carnival hostess footnoteMaven that she was a bit confused about carnival protocol for her first entry to the Carnival of Genealogy.

    “I took it very literally, I thought we were doing ‘Carnival’ theme,” she laughingly admitted. “I did a Louise merry-go-ground, a mashup of images of all the women named Louise. . . travelling around on this carnival.”

    And, no wonder Lisa was confused. The notion of “Carnival” conjures up all kinds of visions. Some folks think of country carnivals with mechanical thrill rides, a house of mirrors, and the midway crowded with ring-toss games. Others recall the three-ring acts under the big-top. It’s a small group of bloggers, indeed, who think differently when hearing the term “Carnival.”

    Carnival, Festival, or Challenge – all are themed writing events designed to bring together articles on a given subject. Typically, the Carnival Host will announce the a Carnival Theme and invite participants to submit entries. There is no formal application or registration. Yet, there are a few informal rules that help make things run smoothly.

    Every Carnival Needs a Manager

    Organizing, promoting, and publishing a blog carnival is a big job. Ask hostesses Jasia, footnoteMaven, and Evelyn Theriault.

    evelynEvelyn Theriault, A Canadian Family, has hosted the the Festival of Postcards for five months, bringing together images and articles from a variety of genealogy bloggers and postcard collectors.




    FootnoteMaven, Shades of the Departed, counts 17 months, 17 editions of Smile for the Camera, a carnival focusing on memorable photographs bringing “subjects, poses, or information we’ve never seen before.”



    jasia Jasia, Creative Gene, is already planning the 100th edition of The Carnival of Genealogy, and can count over 2000 genealogy-related articles in past editions. Jasia hosts the carnival and coordinates the various bloggers who take turns hosting this long-standing favorite.

    Each carnival host may spend as much as two days promoting, assembling, and commenting on entries. Some bloggers make their job easier, and some make the job harder. Typically, the host will announce the subject of the next carnival and give a deadline for entries along with instructions on how to participate. The blogger does not actually submit the article to the host, instead the article is posted on your own blog, and the link and a brief summary are submitted to the carnival host. Then, the real work begins for the host. They must take all the entries and assemble them into one cohesive article.

    smile-for-the-camers If the number of entries is manageable, a host may read and comment on each one individually. FootnoteMaven notes, “I receive between 30 and 52 submissions for each carnival. I use the submitters’ photograph or avatar in the compilation. Sometimes finding a photograph requires a lot of searching.” She then tweaks the photo in Photoshop, resizing and adding a drop shadow. Next, she reads the submission and writes an introduction. Finally, fM moves on to create the logo for the next carnival. All in all, about “two days if you don't do anything else.”

    carnival-of-genealogy1 The COG, managed by Jasia, has grown so large that Jasia no longer has the time to write individual comments to each article, unfortunately her favorite task as a carnival host. Instead, the carnival submission form allows for a brief summary by the author, which makes it very important to complete this section. “I enjoy the enthusiasm that comes (from the authors) when I’ve picked a topic that’s really popular, she adds. “My favorite part used to be when I commented/introduced each article in each edition, but I had to let that go when the number of participants grew beyond the time I had for putting the COG together.” Even with the carnival submission, Jasia, and other COG hosts, must spend several hours compiling posts into the final Carnival article.

    logofestivalwishyou Carnival hosts seem to love reading the articles that come their way. Evelyn Theriault says, “putting the issue together allows me to really focus on each in such a way as to capture their individual essence. This is enjoyable, but also educational as it allows me to grow as a blogger.” The Festival of Postcards requires about thirty hours each edition, notes Evelyn, although technical glitches can bump the time spent considerably.

    Lessons from the Managers, or, How To Be a Carnival Host’s Dream Blogger

    Whether you are an old-hand at Carnivals, or looking to join the fun, here are a few tips that will make the manager’s job easier and ensure that your entry is guaranteed time under the spotlight.

    1. Meet the deadline. Post your entry on your blog AND follow the carnival guidelines to submit your article well before the announced deadline. Don’t make the host’s job harder by asking for an “Excused Tardy.” Just be on time, if not early. Remember that even blog services sometimes go down.
    2. Submit everything requested by the host. Typically, this will include Blog Name, URL to entry post, Post Title, Brief Summary; it may also include a photograph or avatar of yourself. Make a list and check things off as you include them in your submission.

    Today we’ve focused on what is a Blog Carnival, and how to participate Effectively. Part 2 will include more tips from carnival hosts on How to Write a Memorable Carnival Article and examples of great entries from the archives.


    Patriot Day Remembering 9-11

    In Honor of Our Servicemen and Women and the Patriots of September 11, 2001


    Hostesses With the Mostest Reveal All


    The Family Curator is pleased to announce the debut of a new department, “Write It Down,” premiering Friday, September 11 with a special two-part interview of Blog Carnival Hostesses footnoteMaven, Jasia, and Evelyn Theriault.

    These Carnival Hostesses with the Mostest share their favorite carnival entries and talk about what makes a memorable article, as well as describe what it takes to run a successful blog carnival in the first installment of this two-part article.

    “Write It Down” will offer feature stories on family history bloggers and events, writing tips, topic ideas for blog posts, and resources for family history writers. Articles will be posted at The Family Curator blog feed and also available at the Write It Down page at The Family Curator.


    Tech Tuesday: Back to School and Time for Roll Call

    The day after Labor Day is traditionally the first day of school in many parts of the country, but as a former high school teacher, the only homework for The Family Curator today is to welcome readers and take attendance!

    In recent months, I’ve noticed a marked decrease in comment interaction throughout the genealogy blogging community. Is it that posts are less stimulating? Did the blog feed get lost in updates and moves? Or has Twitter replaced the old comment box as the preferred way to respond?

    Several bloggers have noted the decrease in comments in proportion to the increase in Twitter activity. And as much as I enjoy the immediate action of Twitter conversations, I miss the longevity of a blog comment. Sometimes I learn as much from comments as I do from articles.

    Today’s Homework

    What do you think? Do you Tweet? Has Twitter impacted your commenting activity? We are taking Roll Call at The Family Curator and asking for your input – are you out there Reader? Please, leave a comment and let’s tally the results.


    Penny Dreadful Writes Again at Shades of the Departed, “Returning to the School of Life”

    Prompted to pull out her typewriter once again by a curious photograph from footnoteMaven’s archive at Shades of the Departed, Miss Penelope Dreadful has brought forward yet another tale of tragic drama, hope, and redemption.

    The story of young college student, Gareth Scriven, struggling to overcome his grief after the untimely death of his beloved older brother will bring tears to your eyes and a sob to your breast. Yet, ever mindful that the human condition will seek solace at last, Miss Dreadful finds hope for Gareth in the correspondence of a very young teacher in a western town.

    Visit Shades of the Departed today to read the Gareth’s thrilling story in “Returning Back to the School of Life.”


    Tech Tuesday: Why Every Family Needs a Blog

    People say California doesn’t have seasons; but natives know that isn’t true. Like every other region, we too have four seasons – Fire, Flood, Drought, and Earthquake. And once again, it’s Fire Season in Southern California. Right now, the San Gabriel foothills are burning and flames are visible from the long view up my street. Smoke hangs heavy in the air, made worse by our famous L.A. Basin inversion layer, and over 6,000 homes have now been evacuated.

    My home is probably out of the danger zone for this fire, but only two years ago my sister and her family spent two weeks out of their home in Silverado Canyon when another blaze forced the evacuation of hundreds in their little community.

    silverado-livesYou may not live under the threat of California wildfires, but you probably have other potential natural disasters hovering nearby. Maybe you live in tornado or hurricane country, maybe your region is frequently flooded, or maybe you just like to be Boy Scout Prepared for any contingency.

    Using a family blog to stay in touch during an emergency is one of the easiest and most efficient ways to communicate. When the fire started in my sister’s neighborhood, she quickly found that she didn’t have time to deal with scores of phone calls from worried friends. In a very short time, however, I was able to set up a family blog at Blogger where we could both post updates about the situation as a communication center for people who wanted to send her family their good wishes.

    What makes a family blog different from a genealogy blog, or another type of blog or website? It all depends on your purpose. I won’t go into the specifics of how to set up a blog here; Geneabloggers has done an excellent job in their Blog Primer, and Blogger makes it easy, easy for first-timers. Instead, here are some things to think about when starting a family blog --

    Purpose – Do you need a short-term blog intended as a News Center for a specific event, disaster, or crisis? This could be anything from a family reunion, to a natural disaster, to a serious illness. Or are you setting up a permanent family blog which will be available in the event of an emergency? Perhaps you already have a family blog, but you are thinking about how you might handle an event where special communication was needed. Consider a link from your permanent family blog to another special blog. Do think about your purpose, and plan accordingly.

    Access – Who do you want to read your blog? If you need to communicate with close friends and family about a seriously ill family member or even a new baby, you may want to restrict access with a password. If you want to act as a News Center for any and everyone you may want to leave all access public.

    Expertise – What’s your Geek-Ability? If you already have a special-interest blog and are comfortable in writing and posting, you will be able to put together a special-needs blog quickly and confidently. On the other hand, if you are completely new to the blogosphere, you may want to go slowly at first by using Blogger or another full-feature platform. Whatever you do, make it easy on yourself. This isn’t the time to challenge your tech skills. It’s all about the information.

    Privacy – Along with access, privacy is paramount. If the public has access to what you write and you may be evacuated from your home, maintain some level of privacy. Do not post your street address; avoid using full names; be wary of announcing when and where you will be. This isn’t as hard as it sounds. Your friends know who you are, and first names or nicknames let them know what is going on.

    Name – Choose a blog name that is easy to remember, to spell, and to communicate. Spread the word. Every comment from a friend is one less phone call to handle. Mostly, folks want to say “We care,” blog comments are a great forum for this.

    Description – Include a short profile description that identifies the purpose for the blog.

    Blog Authors – If possible, ask someone to be your co-author. Many days my sis was exhausted and too emotional to describe her current situation. Later, the blog served as a place for her to share her thoughts and then to thank friends for their prayers and good wishes.

    Post Frequently – Especially if the purpose of your blog is for communication, make it your goal to keep it updated frequently. Friends and family will turn to the blog if they know they can find current information. During the Silverado fires, I found local sites that provided fire maps, evacuation orders, and press releases. By extracting information pertinent to my sister’s neighborhood, I was able to keep the blog updated with the fire status.

    Remote Posting and Social Networking – Veteran bloggers know that there’s more than one way to post a blog article or photo. By setting up a blog before you really really need it, you will give yourself the time to learn how to send posts from your cell phone, and how to incorporate social networking tools such as Twitter and Facebook updates with your family blog.

    KISS – Keep It Sweet and Simple. Remember the Purpose and try not to get sidetracked with fancy widgets or images. Focus on information first.

    Most importantly, don’t wait for disaster to set up a Family Blog. Get one going now and use it for holiday greetings or family gatherings; Be Prepared.

    More on Family Blogs:


    New Member for Midge’s Couch Potato Club

    It’s Fire Season in Southern California – scorching hot, smoky, and sooty – which means instead of enjoying the famous California sunshine, we are trying to stay cool and calm indoors. Last week Midge Frazel posted Couch Potato Family History at Granite in My Blood, her latest find in the genealogy mystery genre, The Blood Detective The Blood Detective by Dan Waddell. She even posted images of her Twitter conversation with the author. Quite impressive.

    Okay, Midge, I’ll see you one and raise you two (volumes) – have you discovered one of my very favorite genealogy mysteries, Bloodline (Natasha Blake, Ancestor Detective, Book 2) by Fiona Mountain? Natasha Blake is a professional genealogist in England who finds out "research is murder." I don't think it's available for the Kindle, alas. For instant gratification via wireless download I also like Mansions of the Dead (Sweeney St. George Mystery)  by Sarah Stewart Taylor. Her protagonist is an art history professor who specializes in mourning jewelry and spends a lot of time in cemeteries. Sound familiar! Maybe you can add to the list!

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