27    Jan 20123 comments

One blogger’s story: Denielle Radcliff Koch

There are more than 2,000 genealogy blogs – known as geneablogs - in cyberspace, and more appear every day.

While some focus on a researcher’s own family, or specialize in a certain country, town or ethnicity, others provide assistance to researchers via tips and tricks of the trade.

Blogger Denielle Radcliff Koch, 29, of North Carolina, fits into several categories with two working blogs and another in planning.

Her mother always told stories about her family. In her teens, Denielle dabbled in genealogy by just talking to relatives. She began seriously researching when her great-grandmother passed away soon after her daughter’s birth. 

“Once I got going, I was hooked.”

When she first began researching, her daughter was a colicky baby and Denielle and her husband were on a very tight budget. She couldn’t afford to pay for genealogy website subscriptions. Library visits with the baby weren’t in the cards, either.

“So I started searching the internet to see what I could find for free. I was surprised to find that there’s actually a lot of stuff out there. “


Two years ago, Denielle’s first blog - Free Genealogy Resources - was started to share what she had found, hoping it would help other budget-challenged researchers. In addition to freebies, she provides tips on getting started and dealing with common problems.

Her second blog was born after she read other bloggers write about being contacted by distant relatives through their blogs. She began to document her personal research, with Ancestrally Challenged.

“In the year since I started it, I have been contacted by several relatives; including a cousin I had met on Facebook who didn’t realize it was my blog. Since my eventual goal is to become a professional genealogist, I also use the blog to talk about my steps towards that goal.” 

She’s planning a third blog to document her husband’s family. 

Married seven years with a daughter (now 5), Denielle says “First and foremost, I’m a mom.” She also does her husband’s business bookkeeping and works as a freelance writer.

Family History Grabs You

Denielle has always loved mysteries and puzzles, and family history gives her both. She likes taking the pieces and watching the stories unfold.

“My ancestors are more than just names to me. I want to know everything about them-who they are, what they did, their failures, accomplishments and dreams.”

Although her husband doesn’t understand why she’s interested in genealogy, Denielle says he’s still very supportive. She began researching when her daughter was only six months old, so her daughter “probably thinks my obsession is normal, and wonders why other moms don’t do it.”

“Although she’s only five, she’s already starting to show an interest. I couldn’t have been any prouder than the day she asked me for a camera of her own so she could photograph headstones, too.”

Like most genealogists we know, Denielle is a voracious reader:

“If you only knew how many books I have, both genealogy and non-genealogy. And I just ordered more! At the moment, my favorite would have to be The Researcher’s Guide to American Genealogy by Val Greenwood. It’s a great all-around reference. It lays a good foundation for not only researching in specific record types, but also genealogy research as a whole.”

Ideas from Everywhere

We asked Denielle where she gets her writing ideas. “From everywhere,” was her reply.  Books, music, television, things people say and life in general.  Her recent very popular post - The 100 signs you’re addicted to genealogy - was born when she saw someone’s Twitter profile that said the person was “addicted to genealogy.”

“I started thinking about what the signs might be, so I began writing down ideas, no matter how crazy they might be. The experience with older handwriting came in handy when I was trying to decipher my notes so I could organize it into a post.”

Denielle tries to write every day, whether she feels like it or not. Not everything is her best work, but she thinks it’s important to try to keep ideas flowing and avoid writer’s block.

“If it’s not up to par, I save it as a draft. Once a month, I go through all my drafts and decide whether to polish it for posting, combine it with another post idea or just delete it. I keep notepads all over the place (in my purse, car, living room, etc.) so I have one handy to jot down ideas when they come. If I can’t think of anything to write, I check those for inspiration. For really bad cases of writer’s block, I take a break for a while and go do something else.”

Social Media

Although Denielle is on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+, she’s more active on some than others. She’s surprised what social media has brought her.

“Thanks to Facebook, I’ve met cousins that I either didn’t know I had or only knew as a name in my tree. They’ve shared family photos, stories and clues about our mutual brick walls. A couple of cousins are also researching our family history, so we’ve shared our research.

She also uses social media to keep up with what’s happening in the genealogy community and to interact with other researchers. 

“I’ve met some really great people through social media and learned a lot from following conversations or shared links. It’s also a good way to get help if I have a question or need suggestions.”

The Future

What does Denielle’s crystal ball reveal about the future of our shared passion?

I think with the growing number of genealogists online, we’re going to see the emergence of virtual genealogy conferences. We already have a variety of courses and webinars available online so it’s only a matter of time before someone puts together a conference. It will open the doors to more options for genealogy education for those that are unable to go to conferences in person.”

What new technology would she like to see emerging?

“I would love to see a technology that would allow easier digitization of genealogy records on a large scale. If it were easier to digitize the records currently hidden away in courthouses, local genealogy and historical societies, archives, etc., area volunteers could do the digitization. The digitized records could then be uploaded to a central site, perhaps FamilySearch, to be put online for everyone to see. “

Visit Denielle’s blogs via the links above, and connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.

Search for your ancestors:

Comments (3) Trackbacks (0)
  1. Danielle I loved your blog. I too love the mysteries there are in the family tree, begging to be solved.
  2. Very encouraging and such good simple tips! Thanks!
  3. It is amazing where you find information, and I have found that you may need several to verify you are on the right trail! Loved the post!

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