A milestone

Late in the day on Wednesday, Vita Brevis marked an important milestone: 3,000,000 page views since it launched in January 2014. In that period, 151 bloggers have published 1,774 posts on a wide range of subjects of interest to genealogists.

Looking back at the top ten most popular posts for the period 2014-2022, I am struck by the top three: Jean Maguire’s announcement that the legendary Boston Transcript genealogical column (1911-41) was now available online, and Penny Stratton’s twin posts on elements of style: how not to make words plural, and how to feature dates in genealogical works. These three posts, from 2015 and 2016, account for about 77,000 page views, and no doubt they have driven traffic to other posts over the years.

Two posts by Chris Child come next, focused on names in the news: the maternal family of Meghan Markle, as she was about to marry Prince Harry (in 2018), and the ancestry of Robin Williams following his death in 2014. These posts account for about 30,000 page views.

The blog’s role in giving genealogists guidance – already glimpsed in Jean and Penny’s posts – recurs in Lindsay Fulton’s 2014 post on naming conventions for children born out of wedlock. Ann Lawthers’ 2016 post on her great-grandfather’s death (“Death by hiccups”) marries modern research and historic newspapers and letters, and the list wraps up with the first blog post, from 2014, outlining the aims and aspirations for the new publication; Katrina Fahy’s 2015 post on the uses of surname distribution maps in genealogical research; and Chris Child’s 2017 post on multiple gravestones for a single person. These five posts were read roughly 49,000 times.

So the top ten posts have reached 150,000 or so readers over the years, leaving another 2,850,000 distributed between 1,764 posts. How can we measure the value of those posts in the middle or at the tail end of the queue, reached, perhaps, by a Google search or a random result on Facebook?

While breaking news has not been as paramount as seemed likely when the blog launched, notes on results – and accounts of strategies and intuitions that failed as often as they succeeded – have given readers hints and suggestions on how to tackle intractable research problems. Patience is a frequent mantra, but so, too, is a careful marshaling of facts on hand when considering a new online database, or – as presently seems exotic – an in-person visit to a new repository!

Which Vita Brevis posts – individual ones, or unfolding series – have you found useful?

About Scott C. Steward

Scott C. Steward was the founding editor at Vita Brevis; he served as NEHGS Editor-in-Chief 2013-2022. He is the author, co-author, or editor of genealogies of the Ayer, Le Roy, Lowell, Saltonstall, Thorndike, and Winthrop families. His articles have appeared in The New England Historical and Genealogical Register, NEXUS, New England Ancestors, American Ancestors, and The Pennsylvania Genealogical Magazine, and he has written book reviews for the Register, The New York Genealogical and Biographical Record, and the National Genealogical Society Quarterly.

8 thoughts on “A milestone

  1. Thank you for your work on the blog, a treasure trove of genealogical wisdom. You and all the bloggers deserve a hearty Great Job! Thank you.

  2. Am not sure where to begin but I love the blogs, Penny Stratton on how to write dates may be the place. I ran into what computers require early on with using numbers for birthdates, without the 07 not just the 7 for example. It was most frustrating in filling out a form to get our Booster shots recently online when it sent me back for correcting because I put only the single number for the way they wanted it without the 0 in front of the number. Want to dwell however on her idea of finding a way to “rewrite,” a sentence such as she suggested with the surname Bates. I have the same trouble with Brooks. Brookses is awkward for sure:)

  3. Alicia Crane Williams’ posts for her astute fact gathering and deductive reasoning; Scott C. Steward for teaching me while entertaining me at the same time; Michael Dwyer for his posts on absolutely the most amazing genealogical finds; Philip Grover, Andrew Searle Pang, and especially Jan Doerr for their invaluable attitudes, humor, and friendship; and of course Pamela Athearn Filbert for her kindness that always shines through. Oh yes, and I suppose those posts of guy named Chris Child who always takes the time to answer me and who just happens to be an amazing player of “Genealogical clue.”

    Many thanks. You guys rock!

    “…accounts of strategies and intuitions that failed as often as they succeeded –”

    Hear, hear!!!

  4. When Chris Child writes blogs about his family tree, it’s sometimes very useful to me, as we are distantly related. Without him, for example, I would not have found my relationship to the Queen (not that I was looking for it – I had no clue she and I are related). It all started with a humble Reverend and his wife, in the 1600s…

  5. Belated thanks to all for their kind words about the blog! The idea has been to be entertaining as well as informative — and I think we’ve met that goal over the last eight years.

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