Archival Blogging

I love blogging! It has so many advantages for the genealogist/family historian that I can’t imagine trying to research without including a blog in the process. Not only does it allow me to write the stories of my ancestors as my research develops them, it’s also easy to update those stories when new facts come to light. And, it’s amazing how quickly that collection of family stories grows! While even the idea of tackling THE FAMILY HISTORY is overwhelming, blogging “little stories” is a joy.

Blogs are also cousin magnets. Even if your blog stats show few visitors reading your posts, the search engines are keeping a sharp eye on even the smallest blog and will deliver a research cousin in a heartbeat when their search matches your content. Then there is the commenting system included in most blog platforms which have turned blogs into community centers where people gather to share information and inspiration.

There is one issue that has been a concern – a rather serious concern. Most blog platforms have limited backup capabilities and trying to move content from one platform to another is a nightmare. And, there’s the dreaded shutdown notice giving users a short period of time to grab their work before the platform is taken down.

How do you protect your work from crashes, shutdowns and old technology? Here are a few ideas for developing “archival quality” blog posts.

Writing Platforms

This article was written using the Byword [Mac – $9.99, iOS – $4.99] text editing app. It supports Markdown making it a lot easier to incorporate HTML code especially when writing on a mobile device. It also includes an optional Publish feature – a $4.99 in-app purchase. With it you can publish your Byword files to WordPress, Tumblr, Blogger, Evernote and Scriptogram. Byword is just one of a growing number of editing and journaling apps that support blog publishing. Not only do they make it easier to write articles, you also maintain archived copies of them on your desktop. This is handy when you decide you want to turn some or all of those articles into a published book.

Writing apps that support Markdown have another advantage . . . they produce archival quality text. Unlike word-processing apps, each with its own proprietary data structure, Markdown apps save your stories as plain text with simple codes to define formatted elements like bold, italics, bullet points and more. We all have experienced unreadable “orphan” documents created with software that no longer exists. Plain text hasn’t changed since the beginning of the digital age. Using Markdown insures that future generations will be able to read your stories.

In addition to Byword, you can also take advantage of a number of journaling applications like WinJournal – $40 and MacJournal [Mac – $40, iPad – $3.99] as well as desktop blog editors like Microsoft’s free Live Writer and Blogo [Mac – $30]. Note that not all journaling and blog-editing apps support Markdown.

There’s another advantage to using a writing platform for your blog posts. As your collection of stories grows, you’ll find it very easy to reorganize and repurpose those articles into all kinds of family history publications. For example, you could pull out all the articles on family members who served in the military to create a Veterans Day (November 11th) memory project. Use them to commemorate a special anniversary or honor someone who has passed away.

You’ve done the heavy lifting – researching and writing each story – with your blog posts. Now you can enjoy the fun part of family history publishing – turning those stories into beautiful treasures.

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