Sunday, November 17, 2013

SLCC Genealogy Course: Post #13 - Mid-Term Project Completed

Somehow, this week, after attending a two day genealogy conference, having a new hard drive put into my computer, re-installing all my programs, and having my modem start to die, (which required a reset every half hour), I was able to complete and submit, 15 minutes before the Wednesday midnight deadline my Salt Lake Community CollegeGenealogy Course 6 hour mid-term project.

What I created for the project was a family blog, that looks like a website, so it would be easy for me to update. This "website" was for all the descendants of my parents, Philip & Alice (Weatherwax) Harris. My parents joined The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints when I was 4 years old. They gave us a legacy of faith and I wanted to record and pass on our stories so the following generations would be encouraged to follow in their footsteps.

Originally when our family decided, at the beginning of this year, to gather our faith promoting stories, I was going to create a book and send it to everyone for Christmas. The more I thought about indexing such a book I decided it would be easier to create a website instead. I had attended a class by the Ancestry Insider on turning a blog into a website a couple of years ago that inspired me to use this approach. I figured that I could use Labels to tag the stories by people's names or categories they belonged in.  By adding a list of the labels they would become links to the stories they belonged to. For example, if you clicked on a person's name, all the stories they were mentioned in would come up. If you click on a category like Healing, you would get all the stories that mentioned the experiences of miraculous healing.

Blogs always display the newest story on it's home page. I wanted a post that would be static and not change. I needed to create a post that would become the home page and then publish  it. After it was published I went back and edited that post. I changed the post date to 1 Jan 2099. This was so far out in the future that this would always appear as the newest blog article and never be replaced.

So the beauty of using a blog as a website is that I can now go in and just post any new story.  I just have to make sure I add the labels that apply to it.  Now everything is automatically indexed and I don't have edit anything else.  It will be very easy to maintain.

The challenges I had were finding a blog title that wasn't already taken. All the good names I wanted were no longer available. I finally found one that would work "Harris Memories". The next challenge was deciding on a blog template. The simply thing to do is design something in your head or on paper and then create it. I'm just not built to think that way. I used the trial and error method that takes much longer and is way more frustrating. Surprisingly, I did settle on a template I wanted, it was the layout of the elements, picking colors and things like that, that I changed a zillion times.

I was quite pleased with the way the website/blog came out. The blog address is . If you just tried to go to that link you will find you need an invitation to view it. Here is a screen shot of the home page.

That comes to another point of the beauty of using a blog as a website. Not only is Google Blogger a free place to host your blog, it also allows you to make the blog private. I have control over who can visit this website/blog.

The reason I wanted the website private was because I had a few other things I wanted to share that need to stay private, namely a calendar and a family directory.

The calendar probably took me the most time to do. I looked for a gadget to put on the blog for a calendar but nothing fit. I finally discovered by Googling that I could embed a Google Calendar into a website. Which meant I could also embed that into a blog post or page. Blogger allows you to add tabs under your header that are called Pages. You can then either create a permanent page or link to another website. Adding these Pages or tabs really make the blog have a website appearance.

It took FOREVER, for me to add all the family members birthdays, anniversary and special family events. I set the dates up to repeat yearly so I never had to edit them. I guess the ones I will have to change are the baby due dates coming up in the family. I can just go in and switch them to the babies birthday's when we know what that is. Once again setting it up on this type of calendar means very little maintenance for me. Not only is the calendar embedded in the website/blog it also can be shared with other family members so they view it in their Google Calendar.  No more excuses missing a birthday in the family now.

The other item I mentioned I wanted in the website/blog was a family directory. I hunted for a gadget to add one but couldn't find one.  I saw such a gadget for the Google Sites - free websites, but nothing that would transfer to a blogger gadget.  I then had to think outside the box. I finally figured out I could create with Google Drive a spreadsheet and then embed that spreadsheet into the website/blog.  On the spreadsheet I created columns for each person's name, address, phone numbers, email address, parents/spouse. I didn't have a chance to but I want to add another column and put in small pictures of each family member. I think that would be fun.

Now that the family directory is in a spreadsheet I don't have to worry about updating and sending that out to everyone. This is going to be really easy to update as needed.

The last Page I added to the blog was a link to my family website. I have room to add more Pages if I want to. Something I will do in the future is add our family recipes. Blogger has a gadget so you can allow people to search the blog. I added that so if the family wants to search for something that I didn't think to create a label for it will be no problem.  

My final step to the whole project was to add the stories. I was lucky they were all typed up. It was a matter of coping & pasting the text and then adding the right labels to go with the posts.

The day after I submitted my website/blog as my mid-term project, I turned around and sent invites to all my family members to access it. I think they must be still in shock over the fact that they got their Christmas present way early this year. No one, except my husband, has given me any feedback. He commented on what I really wanted everyone in the family to appreciate, and that is the stories and how inspiring they are. I still have my fingers crossed that the family will appreciate the same thing.

I am actually grateful for the opportunity this mid-term project gave me. I feel really good about what I created for my family. It will meet so many needs and there is room for growth, without a lot of work on my end managing it. During this whole process I've been thinking of the movie "Field of Dreams" and the phrase "Build it and they will come!" It's only been 3 days so I guess I can wait for them to still come.

See ya tomorrow, for tomorrow is always another genealogy day!

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