Molly’s Canopy: Reflections on Ancestors from A to Z

Reflections:  Molly’s Canopy and the April 2016 Blogging From A to Z Challenge — in which I was survivor number 1127 my first time out! Here’s a summary of my Ancestors From A to Z journey.

imageNow that Molly’s Canopy is proudly sporting a survivor badge, it’s time to kick back and reflect on my first-time participation in the April 2016 Blogging from A to Z Challenge.

Overall, a positive experience!

Because I learned about the challenge only a week before it began, I missed the Theme Reveal and had no posts written ahead. What I did have was a desire to celebrate my Second Blogiversary in style — and a sketched-out list of potential posts.

So I decided to go for it and added Molly’s Canopy to the list of challenge participants. Amazingly, when I jumped a net did appear!

Week one — described in Yes! Almost there! — was a hectic process of writing and scheduling enough posts so I could settle in for the blogging marathon on the theme of Ancestors From A to Z.

Fortunately, I was able to establish and maintain a steady pace for the rest of the challenge — keeping up with posting, doing pretty well with commenting/responding, and even stopping by the weekly #azchat on Twitter to see how others were doing.

Connecting with kindred spirits

One of the best parts of the challenge was connecting with kindred spirits — genealogy and family history bloggers and others — who care passionately about their subjects and are dedicated to sharing them with a wider community.

For an entire month, the A to Z Challenge united us in a virtual space where we moved together toward a common goal — encouraging one another as we went — and that was an empowering experience.

Speed posting and social engagement

Another plus for me was learning to speed post on a blog topic — complete with a photo and links. I typically post weekly, which allows for longer, deeper posts — sometimes in a series — examining my ancestors’ lives and the research techniques used to find them.

But not all ancestors’ stories require this in-depth treatment. During the A to Z Challenge, I experimented with shorter vignettes and discovered — through visitor feedback — that these self-contained posts can be equally satisfying to readers.

Social engagement for Molly’s Canopy showed improvement, too. Traffic, sign ups and follows on blog feeds increased, and the number of comments rose as well — even through letter Z, when we were all getting pretty tired!

Many thanks to everyone who visited, subscribed, followed and commented on Molly’s Canopy. You  made my first A to Z Challenge so rewarding!

Seeking a Genealogy/Family History (GF) category

Quite a few enthusiastic genealogy and family history bloggers participated in this year’s challenge — which was great! — but it was hard to find them without a dedicated Genealogy/Family History (GF) category.

Because GF bloggers combine specific research and sourcing techniques with history and memoir/oral history to create blog posts, none of the existing A to Z categories seemed to be an exact fit. So I suggested to the A to Z Team — by email and on #azchat — that they consider adding a Genealogy/Family History (GF) category next year.

A dedicated category would make networking easier among participating GF bloggers — especially those like me without “genealogy” or “family history” in their blog titles — and it might encourage more GF bloggers (there are thousands of us!) to join the next A to Z Challenge.

Would I do it again? You bet!

Was it worth it? Yes! Would I do it again? You bet! Like any marathon, the A to Z Challenge was not easy — it was a long, sustained trek outside the comfort zone. But it was also an instructive, energizing and affirming journey through an enchanted forest of friendly fellow bloggers.

That’s why — about two thirds of the way through — I sat down and put together a theme and tentative list for the April 2017 Blogging From A to Z Challenge.

Next year, I’ll be ready! Here’s hoping you’ll join me! Until then, stop by any time — Molly’s Canopy will leave the comment box open for you.

© 2016 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

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21 thoughts on “Molly’s Canopy: Reflections on Ancestors from A to Z”

  1. Molly we were in the same boat. I also got a late start and basically flew by the seat of my pants the first half.

    You’re right about the GF category. I was surprised at how many family tree blogs I discovered.

    Can you give more detail on your ‘speed post’ strategy? Do you mean you just wrote shorter posts, or did you have a specific work plan you followed?

    1. Thanks for the GF category support! As for speed posting, my plan was to try for shorter posts than usual, but then I found myself writing posts of about the usual length. So I focused more on ancestor stories and vignettes that I could write quickly, rather than more in-depth genealogy pieces that would require sources, etc. Hope to have more of a work plan next year 🙂

  2. Congrats on completing the challenge 🙂 Wow, having next year’s theme and topics already chosen is some serious organizational skills!

    1. Thanks, Debbie. Congrats on being a fellow A to Z survivor! I was having fun during the challenge, so felt inspired to see how it would be if I planned ahead next year. Visiting other blogs helped give me some ideas, too.

    1. I kept to my theme this year, but there were many changes on the tentative list of posts as I went along. I’ll have to see if I still like my 2017 theme when January rolls around 🙂

  3. I can’t imagine keeping up with it, but you did and you did an amazing job. It was interesting to read the benefits you received from it because they were things I would never have thought of. Maybe I will try it next year….it’s quite the marathon!

    1. I was also pleasantly surprised by the benefits of the challenge, which flow in part from the A to Z Team’s recommendation to visit and comment on five blogs a day. A kind of team spirit developed, I stopped by blogs I might never have visited and likewise got new visitors…and the feedback helped me keep going. The weekly #azchat on Twitter helped as well. That said, I now think planning ahead is key to a fruitful challenge experience. You should definitely think about joining us next year!

  4. This beginner has forgotten the pain already and is planning next year’s posts – on two blogs maybe?

    I’m sorry that I only found you via Pauleen late in the challenge so I haven’t read all your posts. I’ll look out for you next year.

    1. Hi Jill, thanks for visiting! I think planning ahead is the key, now that I have completed a jump-in-and-swim A to Z experience. I have also seen your comment’s on Pauleen’s blog. Will check you out in the coming year as well.

  5. You did a great job and I’m sure you’ll be even better next year. Speed blogging is definitely a skill – lately, I have favored longer posts, but sometimes that’s not possible in a short time frame, and there’s an argument that it’s better to post something short and imperfect than nothing at all.

    I’m curious since you have experience w/ family research, what basic tips you might offer someone who has relatives who don’t really talk to each other and wants to find out basic information. I just talked w/ my aunt and she mentioned one of her nieces, one of my cousins – I have my other aunt’s name and state (but not address), and I’m not sure how to look up my cousin w/o going through an expensive search process and when part of the family doesn’t really talk to the other part of the family. I am not related to them not by blood, but by adoption. Maui Jungalow

    1. The A to Z Challenge lends itself to shorter posts…something recommended by the organizers. This year, most of my posts were close to the usual length…I guess because that’s what I am used to writing…but might have been easier a bit shorter. On your family history question, I will contact you off line with some tips. Meanwhile, keep those Maui posts coming!

  6. Molly, A number of family history bloggers have suggested a category for us. This would be a great idea. How I found the ones I ended up following was by checking the comments on other family history bloggers to find more to follow. Gosh! you are preparing for next time already. I have been thinking about a theme but nothing stands out yet. Looking forward to your non A to Z posts now. Fran

    1. When I emailed suggesting the GF category, Arlee Bird said he would forward the request to the A to Z Team for consideration. Fingers crossed that we get a category next year! I also checked out comments on participating blogs to try to find genealogy/family history bloggers to connect with. Great minds! For next time, I plan to try for shorter posts so I can spend some quality time networking. Until then, looking to your regular posts.

  7. Ditto with me and my experience, fairly last minute entry, therefore not as prepared as I would like, met some greet and had a wonderful time! Sorry to have only just met you, but as they say better late than never – see you next year!
    Wren x

    1. Interesting to hear this. Seems that many of us decided last minute, yet were able to make it to the finish! Congrats on making it through and on to 2017!

  8. Your experience mirrors mine pretty closely! I heard about it and signed up just a few days before the start, so I had to scramble. Imade a list of obvious genealogy bloggers using ctrl+f on the Challenge site list, but missed many prompting me to also write and ask for a dedicated Genealogy category. There were a few, like yours, that I came to late but I enjoyed catching up and following.
    AND my second anniversary of blogging fell on the same day as the Letter Z.
    I enjoyed the experience thoroughly, and I look forward to seeing what you’ve got for next year!

    1. Glad to hear you also requested a dedicated Genealogy/Family History category. A tipping point for me when deciding to sign up for the challenge was finding a few GF blogs on the list, so this might encourage others in the future.
      Congrats on your second blogiversary…and so near mine! I guess year two is a time to grow our blogs. And kudos for completing the challenge, too. Looking forward to your posts as well in the coming year.

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