I dislike the terminology cousin bait. However, I have found blog posts to be a great way to attract cousins.
Early in the pursuit of the history and stories of my ancestors, I developed my simple blog http://www.gatheringleavesformyfamilytree.com. That’s a long name. If I had to do it over again, I would certainly make it shorter. The principal purpose of my blog is to help my sons and extended family learn about their ancestors. I started late in life, and over the ten years I have been searching for my ancestors, I have heard from cousins who are also involved with genealogy and cousins I didn’t know I had.
I spend a lot of time educating myself on how to improve and enhance my genealogy skills. I read a lot of blogs from fellow genealogists. The terminology “cousin bait” comes up frequently. Excepting a few cousins, I can’t say that I have learned much from those who contact me. No matter, I am always happy to hear from them.
I believe cousin bait works best for those in the genealogy community who have a sizeable profile within the community. They have achieved this through attending and speaking at genealogy conferences, writing books, and publishing blogs. In other words, they have been practicing genealogy for a long time and have become icons through their actions within the community. I have learned a lot from them and am thankful for the example they have set for those of us who are still learning.
Writing is easy for some people. It has taken a while for me to have the confidence to create a blog and publish articles that I think people are interested in reading. The most important thing I have found is to write and not worry about what other people think. “52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks” has been a challenge. It is quite a commitment to write an article every week based upon a theme or prompt that may not speak to me. The prompts have helped me consider ways to put the lives of our ancestors in the context of the time in which they lived.
Blogging has been a slow process for me. I have learned that I have to publish consistently; it’s time-consuming. Every time I write a blog post it takes time to determine the subject of the post, several hours to write and edit it. Pictures are important to the experience of people reading your blog. They add interest to your story and increase your blog views. I can reach people who are searching for my family lines through the effective use of names, dates, tags, and hashtags that Google and other search engines use to put my blog high on their search results. I try not to pay too much attention to the stats in my blog. But it is very satisfying to see your viewership increase over time.
Networking is also an important component of attracting cousins. I am not averse to contacting people I don’t know. Most of the time they don’t return my emails, but I don’t let that deter me. I have two successful contacts with unknown cousins who have led to extending my family tree several generations. Our DNA matches have confirmed our paper trail.
There are other ways of attracting cousins that include the use of Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter; there may be more. I enjoy the research online and in courthouses too much to currently expand my outreach in other areas.
You can’t publish a blog and expect an immediate response from your cousins. It takes time and a range of activities to attract cousins that may or may not be successful. If you don’t try however, you don’t know what is out there waiting for you to discover.