UPDATE: Thank you to Cathy Meder-Dempsey for reminding me that Colleen Greene originally came up with the genealogy sketch box and created the first one. Colleen’s site is ColleenGreene.com.
Ancestor Sketches are something I’ve worked on here and there to add to my blog. Last year, Cathy Meder-Dempsey, who writes Opening Doors in Brick Walls, helped me create a template box. If I remember correctly, someone else created the first box (if you recognize this idea and can name the original blogger, please let me know) and Cathy then created her version.
She helped me tremendously and I ended up with a template that looks like this:
The one thing I’ve never been able to figure out or correct is that my published sketch has a double border around it, although neither the template nor my post from the admin side has it. However, I can live with that.
I created a few sketches at the time, but then never seemed to have time to get back to it. This week, I decided it was time to get serious about creating sketch boxes for each ancestor for whom I’ve told a story and, after two years of posts, there were quite a few.
My mother, who always had lots of sayings, often said “Necessity is the mother of invention” and I am a believer! The sketches were quite simple to create since all I needed to do was fill in some very basic information – names and a few years. The real time killer was sifting through two years’ worth of posts looking for the correct links to each person.
Then, it hit me! Excel! I started an Excel spreadsheet which I named, with my usual uncreative thinking, Ancestor Sketch Blog Links. In less than two hours, I had gone through all of my blog posts, added the names of persons in them (last name, first name) and pasted a link to that blog post in Excel. When I finished, I sorted column A and they were in ABC order.
The two hours I spent on this was well worth it because it took me about six hours to create 18 sketches and the huge majority of that time was spent slogging through the posts for the links.
When I first saw the idea of Ancestor Sketches, I liked the idea of being able to showcase basic facts about ancestors. I also decided that it would be fun to insert a photo of the person if I had one. That turned out to be very easy because the template allowed me to click and insert it.
As I’ve been working on these, I realized that the Ancestor Sketches could be much more than a highlighting of a person’s life. They could also be a quick, one page index to stories written about ancestors for as far back as the line goes. Live links were a simple indication that there was more information available for that person/generation.
Here is an example of what I mean. Elsee Larrison Ketchum Stufflebean was the wife of Revolutionary War soldier John Stufflebean. They had quite a few children and I have written something about most of them. If another Stufflebean descendant wants to see if I’ve written about his/her line, the Ancestor Sketch is a lot quicker than looking through the categories link on the left side of the home page because there are a lot of Stufflebean posts.
Elsee Larrison Ancestor Sketch
Let’s say one of Richard’s descendants wants to read about him. He/she can click the live link and go right to that post.
Since I am writing about both my family and my husband’s ancestors, that can lead to many, possibly too many, ancestor sketch pages. Right now, I am posting sketches for grandparents and earlier generations and any ancestor for whom I have a photo.
I’ve mulled the numbers over in my mind and have decided that the most manageable way to populate those pages is to only post the earliest known ancestor of each family name. That will be the ultimate goal and a few of the more recent ancestors who currently have sketches posted will be taken down and substituted with one about the earliest ancestor.
How can readers access the Ancestor Sketches? There is a tab in the header just below the Empty Branches photo:
Ancestor Sketch Tab
A drop down menu will open with a list of all the sketches in surname ABC order.
I’ve thought of one more idea to make it easy for readers to check the sketch list. Each time I write about a person, couple or family that has an Ancestor Sketch, I will post a note at the beginning of the blog post, alerting readers that there is more to be found about that family.
For those readers who also blog – if you have writer’s block and need inspiration for a new story, check your ancestor sketches to see where there are no live links. I took one look at those and realized I have plenty of family information to share!
Please take a moment to check out my Ancestor Sketches and leave a comment about your thoughts.