Digital Project Draft: Homegrown History

At this time I’ve got my family history blog, tentatively titled “Homegrown History,” up and running with some basic information about the blog, its intent and scope, and its first few posts. As mentioned in my original proposal, the scope of this project is essentially to provide a resource for people looking for information on how to get started in writing family histories. Based on feedback I got in class, and from conversations I’ve had with friends, I opted to take an approach with two components. The blog is one part a personal experience/reflective log about my own ongoing efforts to get into this style of history, and one part educational resource, with planned posts on basic research methods, resources available to users who do not have access to academic facilities/journals, as well soft and hardware tutorials.

What’s Next?

  1. Finish rolling out my Interview Preparation post. Even though it now seems I will be unable to actually publish an interview piece, at the very least the preparation post is still feasible.
  2. Finish my post on using census records, both in terms of the source and the platform you use to access them. I’ve already got most of the screenshots/documents I need.
  3. Create a Using Secondary Sources to Augment Family History post.
  4. Create a Resources and Suggested Reading tab.

Some Issues

The biggest issue I’m facing at the moment is that, due to unforeseen circumstances, the two family members I was planning to interview next weekend for a few blog posts are no longer available to do so before the semester ends. (They’re fine don’t worry).

There is also the issue of the title. I’ve never been particularly good at coming up with snappy titles, and I’m even less familiar with doing so in the context of brand-building. Does “Homegrown History” work/send the right message?

The other issue is that, the site, to put it frankly, is pretty ugly. The free version of WordPress seems to be fairly limited in what you can do to customize things without knowledge of CSS so I’m at the mercy of their editor/customize tool. If anyone has any tips about spicing up a free WordPress site I’d be happy to hear them. I have been reluctant to start dropping images into it, which would really help with the visual interest component because I’m not sure how image copyright works when posting to a blog. Also not really sure what images to even use. You can only use so many stock images of a family before it gets weird and I would rather not upload pictures of my own family onto the site. I lack the artistic skill to draw a site logo as well.

3 Replies to “Digital Project Draft: Homegrown History”

  1. It’s great to see this project coming together. Overall, the blog is looking good. From the first few posts I can get a sense of the direction and approach you are taking.

    A few comments on the site so far. It would be great to get some images in the posts. If you don’t want to include images of your own family, you might think about different kinds of sources or documents or images related to some of the tools you are using to do the interviews. Your blog post theme has a bold look, but I’m not sure it’s the best way to go. Your index page only shows the titles of the posts, and I think the site might work better for your users if they could see the text of the posts too.

    Overall, your approach here makes a lot of sense. I think you are well on your way to having a set of content that would illustrate the overall concept for the blog. I think you may want to think about categories or other ways of structuring the site too. So you might have some posts that are more “how to” about ways of doing things and then others that are your own family history that serve more as examples. My sense is that would be something to think about categorizing with tags or something. That would let you then have those show up separately if there were users that wanted to get at one or the other kind of post.

    If you were to go further with this after the class it would be important to think about somethings about how you would get the word out about this. It would also be good to think about what an editorial calendar would look like for an extended period of time. The success of blogs is largely contingent on them generating engaging content on a regular schedule.

  2. Hey Sean! I really like your site so far. I agree that pictures would improve the site, but I do not have any great insights on that front. I think you’d probably be okay posting images of documents from digital archives as long as you cite them correctly, as many archives allow free use for educational purposes.

    My main reason for commenting is the contact tab of your blog. Since there are so few tabs (though I know you are adding more), they all carry a level of importance. I think it would be helpful to add a sentence or two on the contact tab about why people should contact you—are you willing to answer more in-depth or specific questions? Hope that helps!

    1. Thanks for your feedback Emily! I think you’re completely right about the contact tab and am definitely going to add some content as you suggested to it. As it stands now it’s definitely too bare and doesn’t exactly invite people to reach out and get involved as I would like them to. For the pictures I was considering adding some screenshots of the Census images and other official documents I’ve found so far.

      They’re not the most visually interesting documents, but they do have a certain mystique to them. My dad and I were looking at a few the other day and both observed how wild it was to us that we were looking at a form filled out for the 1940 census. It conjured up this imaginary scene where we felt we could almost see my great-grandmother, slightly annoyed at the interruption of her day, answering the census-taker’s questions.

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