I have been a WordPress fan for many years and during that time my admiration for the platform – and the people who have developed it – only continues to increase. WordPress has been designed to be flexible. A beginning blogger can easily get started, then, as experience and confidence increases, expand the platform to be whatever she wants it to be. The base platform can be customized using plugins to provide additional functionality. For example, the BuddyPress plugin can turn a WordPress installation into a Facebook-style social center in a matter of minutes. Another plugin, Anthologize, offers a way to collect posts from across your blog, organize them into a single publication, then export it as an ebook in a number of formats. As a matter of fact, the PressBooks project is building an amazing e-publishing platform with WordPress as its core.
There are two groups of users in the WordPress community. The first group manages their content on sites hosted at WordPress.com and the second hosts their own WordPress installation. It takes more time and effort to host your own site, but these users also enjoy a lot more flexibility. For those family historians considering their own blog, the WordPress.com platform is a good place to begin. If you do outgrow it at some point, moving your content to a self-hosted version of WordPress is a relatively-easy process.
Yes, it will take a few minutes longer to learn the basics of WordPress, but those few minutes are worth the effort. That time will be spent learning how WordPress organizes content. These organizational tools will allow you to write your stories as your research leads you to them, yet keep things arranged so that when a research cousin stumbles on your site she will be able to easily find all you’ve written on a specific family or location. It’s these organizational tools that make it a genealogist’s dream. Instead of a sidebar list of monthly archive folders, you can present sections spotlighting your surnames and any other topic you want to make sure your visitors will find. And, the effort it takes to make all this happen is surprisingly easy.
What you see here is part of the home page at Moultrie Journal, my personal blog. The theme I’m using [Modesty by Elegant Themes] includes the photo carousel you see here. The visitor clicks on one of the side images to rotate through the carousel. For the author, each photo is a separate blog post that contains an image with a description below it. It has been identified as a spotlight photo which tells the theme to only work its magic on that category of posts.
You’ll also notice the menu across the top of the screen. Several of the menu items identify a category of content included on the site. Click on one of those menu items and you will be taken to a screen presenting just that category of content. Other menu items will take you to a specific page. WordPress separates content into pages and posts. Posts are content items that are organized in reverse chronological order so the most recent post is always located at the top. WordPress provides a system combining date published with categories and tags to improve on the default order. Pages are for more static content. The About page is a very good example. Pages are organized in a hierarchical arrangement using a system of parent and child pages. Here at the Gazette you can see a Book Notes item in the top menu. There you will find two pages, one for each of my books. Underneath the published book – The Future of Memories – there are several child pages used to provide links to resources related to the book. Later this month, when the Toolbox book is published, you’ll also find child pages for its resources. This allows me to include a link in each of my books which will take a reader right to that book’s page and any additional pages used to provide resource information. Although it’s difficult to update a book once it’s published, this arrangement makes it easy for me to keep the resource information updated for both current and future readers.
One reason genea-blogging has become so popular is that it allows us to tackle our family history one story at a time. Each post is a challenge, but not near as intimidating as tackling a formal family history project. There’s no requirement to blog in consecutive order and, if we don’t have all the information, it’s all right to state that and keep going. We can always come back and make changes at any time. All blog platforms make this possible. Where WordPress shines is once the collection of single-story posts has grown. It helps you pull those scattered posts together on your site for those who come to visit.
This is the first in a series showing how WordPress can support both your research and your writing efforts. I’ll use different writing and research projects to show you what you can do with WordPress. If you have questions, I’ll be happy to help any way I can. This is a learning process for me too and I hope we’ll all learn how to kick our family history efforts up a notch [sorry Emeril].
This post – along with the rest of the WordPress 101 series – is also available at Scribd.