Starting Your Own Family History Website. Creating your family tree on sites such as Ancestry and Find My Past is a great way to connect with fellow researchers and allowing family to view your genealogy, but you are constrained by the templates they use and can’t control many aspects of the display. For instance I always want far more room in Ancestry’s description box than they allow for and also if I create more than one description box I can’t guarantee they will be shown in the order I want then to be seen. (That is one of my real big niggles with the Ancestry trees)
More and more people are opting to set up their own family history website. Here are some of the main reasons:-
- It’s the perfect way to share your research and photos with family and fellow researchers.
- If you want to get children and young adults to take an interest in their genealogy then this is a media that they can relate to.
- It is a great way to back-up your precious work which has often taken years to create.
- You can share old photos, documents, maps etc online and know they are safe from fire, flood etc.
- And last, but not least it is a whole lot of fun!
You can use free online sites like Google Blogspot and create your family history there for nothing, but you need to realise that you don’t own the site and are at the mercy of the likes of Google who can delete a site or alter conditions of use without notifying you beforehand. Many years ago I spend hours creating a website for one of my family names, after a couple of years of it being online and me adding to it regularly the company concerned decided to focus attention on other areas of their business and pulled thousands of web sites down overnight. I can’t really blame the company because I hadn’t paid anything to have the space on the internet, but it was a shock never the less and I did lose all my hard work.
I have seen a description of the difference between free website hosting and one where you pay a small monthly fee as being similar to renting a house where the landlord can evict you at a moments notice plus you can’t alter the interior to suit your needs and owning your own home where you can paint the walls the colours you want and you know that as long as you pay the mortgage you are secure. The website is yours and yours alone and for a small monthly fee it can stay online. Should you wish to change your web host in the future this can be done easily and smoothly as all web hosting business are set up to do this. And of course you get to choose the design of your site and also the domain name by which your site is known and found on the internet.
Starting your own website is a lot easier and less expensive than most people think. Let me walk you through how to get your own dedicated web site up and running…
Starting Your Own Family History Website. – Get Your Genealogy Files Ready
If you are using a genealogy software programme such as Family Tree Maker or Roots Magic they have a facility whereby they can create a complete website using the data you have already inputted into the programme. If your family tree has a large number of individuals and you don’t want to spend hours entering them onto your website then this is defiantly the way to go.
If your genealogy is on Ancestry or FindMyPast and not on a software programme then you can download a GEDCOM file of your online trees and a “Plug-in” ( a type of accessory you can download onto your website) called Rootspersona will take the GEDCOM file and download all the information and allows you to create pages featuring your ancestors and/or evidence with a variety of panels that can be customised. Rootspersona is free, but you can give a donation to the creators.
This is a good time to give some thought to the fact that you won’t want to put online details of family who are still alive, so be prepared to remove that information manually before you hit the go live button and allow your website to go out into the world. Ancestry and FindMyPast automatically remove the data of everyone whose birth date is less than 101 years ago unless there is a death date entered. You will need to do this manually. You can put that the person is male or female, but really you shouldn’t add any names, dates or places.
Starting Your Own Family History Website – How Much Does Self-Hosting Cost?
The good news is that self hosting your website will only cost you a few pounds a month. I use BlueHost as a host and have found then very good. They are an American company, as most of the webhosting companies are, and their basis plan is very affordable starting at $2.95 a month which is the equivalent of £2.20 at today’s exchange rate. Their basis plan will more than suit your needs to host your genealogy.
Also the great thing with Bluehost is that they offer a 30 day money back guarantee which means if you decide within 30 days that blogging is just not for you then you can get your money returned.
BlueHost also offers a free domain name for a year (that is the name of your website such as Madaboutgenealogy.com). Keeping your Domain Name renewed each year isn’t expensive. When I come to renew my rights to my domain name it costs me £7.99 for a whole year. Do spend a little time thinking of what you want your Domain name to be. Search on Google the name just to make sure that no one else has it.
All these costs are correct at the time of writing this post – October 2017 and whilst I will try to document any price changes please check for yourself before you commit.
Starting Your Own Family History Website – Are you ready to start ?
- Click here to start your blog using BlueHost as your webhost. Click on the “Get Started Now” button.
- Decide which package you are going with. I recommend the Basis Plan and if you are building your website for any length of time then the 3 year plan gets you the best rate.
- Sign up for your Domain Name. Decide what you want this to be before you get to this stage and check online that no-one else has it, it pays to have a couple of alternatives in case your favourite one is taken.
- Enter your personal and payment information.
- Next enter a password. make sure you chose a secure password that only you will remember. You may want to jot your username and password down to make sure you don’t forget it. Keep it safe. This is your way to get into the BlueHost website at any time in the future.
- You will get to a page that offers add-ons/extras, personally I make sure these are all un-ticked. If you don’t want your name and address to be publicly available from the Domain Name list then you might want to tick that box and pay a small fee per year to keep it private. I think it is currently about £10 a year.
- Install WordPress on Bluehost. Click on the “Install WordPress” icon.
- You will be asked to pick a theme and be offered themes that you pay for. Themes can be changed very easily so you can chose a free one or just scroll to the bottom and skip this step which is what I did. Once WordPress was installed and I was on the site I simply clicked onto to “Appearance” and then “Themes”. You can then browse through thousands of designs. This MadAboutGenealogy blogsite uses Anissa which is a free theme from a company called WPAlien, take a look at their themes both free and paid for. I think you will be impressed like I was. Another theme that is popular and easy to use is the free WordPress theme Twenty Eleven, it’s a clean looking, no nonsense design that could be adapted for a genealogy website very easily.
- Click on “Start Building”
- You will be asked to choose between Business or Personal – it really doesn’t matter which one you choose.
- You will then be taken through the final process and at the end you will have your very own WordPress website!
If you are confused by anything then don’t hesitate to use BlueHost’s Help or what I think is even better is click on the tab “? Walk Me Through” which is situated on the left hand side of their screen towards the bottom. I found this very helpful when I set my blog up. They also offer a 24/7 phone number to call if you get really stuck.
An important point is you will be sent an email giving you your WordPress login details. This is different from your BlueHost user name and password. Print it off as well as keeping it in a separate folder in your email account. It is the only way you can access your blog site, you don’t go through BlueHost to work on your site you go directly to your site.
Starting Your Own Family History Website – A Word of Caution
Because I like to be very upfront and honest in everything I put on this site I want to add a few words of caution before you decide to get your website started !
If you are a complete novice at computers and you can only just about switch it on then the learning curve is going to be a bit steep! But remember that they say a good way to keep Alzheimer at bay is to challenge your brain! Paying someone to set a website up for you is quite reasonably priced and if you are pressed for time or feel very unsure of being able to do everything yourself it isn’t going to cost a great deal to get it done for you. There are links on Bluehost of people who will do this for you, I haven’t tried them, but comments on Facebook indicate that they are good.
Youtube and also companies like BlueHost have videos showing you how to do set up your website. I use Youtube a lot as I am a visual person who finds it easier to follow instructions if I have seen a demonstration first.
I strongly suggest that you check out the Rootspersona website which tells you all about what that plug-in offers. I haven’t tried it, but it has good reviews and it sounds straight forward and it appears that people have transferred trees that contain several thousand people without a hitch. The image in this post is of a couple of reviews left by users who have transferred large GEDCOM files.
If you use genealogy software then take a look at what they offer in the way of transferring your data onto a website, remember that if in a few months time you want to pull all the pages off the website and start again you can – it’s your website.
If you decide to go with Bluehost then you have the 30 day money back guarantee. So if you do decide it’s not for you, you can apply and get a refund.
And finally don’t forget to harness the knowledge of family members and friends if you get stuck at some stage. My grandson is only four, but already is quite technology savvy and I have him ear-marked as my new technology guru in a few years time!
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