Apr 272012

I have really enjoyed setting up and writing my blog, the technical side has been as much fun as the writing and researching. If you have a desire to share your research with others I hope you will be tempted to join in and set up your own blog this weekend. This is the first of three posts over three days, but you may want to spread the tasks over a longer period.

Today’s post focuses on registering with wordpress.com, choosing a theme and personalising the theme a little so that the bare bones of the blog are in place. Tomorrow, we will customise the sidebar, including looking at follow options. We will also set up the essential pages and menus. Finally, on Sunday,we will write our first post and look at how to publicise the blog so that people actually read it!


Task 1: Choose a name for your blog

Some bloggers manage to think up a clever, witty, or creative name for their blog, which can be great. Other bloggers prefer a straightforward descriptive name, such as Smith Family History.

Hopefully you have been reading some blogs this week, but if you need some inspiration take a look at the list of UK genealogy blogs at Geneabloggers.

Obviously, the name you choose will depend on what you plan to blog about. Finally, check that no-one else is already blogging under the same name by googling!


Task 2: Sign up at WordPress.com

Go to https://en.wordpress.com/signup/ and enter your chosen name:

I set up a blog for the Hagger branch of my tree and entered the name MyHaggerAncestors, at this point WordPress will tell you if your chosen name is available, it might also give you the option to pay to have the name myblogname.com rather than myblogname.wordpress.com. It is up to you whether you want to have your own domain name, if you think you may want to switch to a self hosted blog in the future, then it may be beneficial, otherwise it makes no practical difference. If the .com name is not available it may suggest alternatives such as .org, however if you do want your own domain name .com is best.

The name you enter as your blog address does not have to be identical to your blog name, you may wanted to use an abbreviated version for example. If you want to change your blog name, you can do so at any point whilst keeping the same address.



Complete the form by entering a username (this can be the same as your blog name), password, and email address. Finally, press the create blog button, there is no need to think about upgrading at this stage.

You will receive an activation email, you need to click on a link in the email to activate your blog.


Task 3: Edit your blog name and tag line

When you click on the link in the activation email, a wordpress window will open up inviting you to choose a theme, you can select any one of the themes offered that you like the look of, or click on the link at the bottom opting for the default theme. It really doesn’t matter at this stage, as we will be exploring themes and you will probably change it. There are many more free themes available than are offered on this initial screen.



You will then be taken to your wordpress dashboard, this is where you control everything on your blog:



If you click on your blog name in the top left-hand corner of the screen you will be taken to your blog:



On the theme selection page I clicked on default and was allocated Bueno (there are a number of themes used as defaults). As you can see it looked very pink! My blog name had been inserted exactly as entered for the address, and the tag line (at the top of the page in Bueno) read JUST ANOTHER WORDPRESS.COM SITE.

Return to your dashboard by hovering over the blog name in the top left-hand corner and selecting Dashboard from the menu that apears.

From the menu on the left hand side of the dashboard go to settings and general, which will bring up the following screen:



You can now edit your blog name so that it appears as you want it. The tag line can be used to clarify what your blog is about. Occasionally I see blogs with tag line left as the default, don’t do this! Change the tag line to something meaningful, if it is not perfect that does not matter as you can change it at any time in by coming back to Setttings. While you are here you can also make changes to the time zone and date format if you wish, I like to change to an English date format.

Finally click on the blue Save Changes button at the bottom of the screen.

You can return to your blog to see the effect of the changes by clicking your blog name in the top left hand corner again.


Task 4: Choose a theme

Now the fun starts! I have been looking around at wordpress genealogy blogs, and it is clear that certain themes are more popular than others. I have created a gallery of wordpress.com genealogy/history blogs which I hope you will find useful.

If you browse the gallery and click through to some of the blogs you will hopefully start to develop ideas on how you would like your blog to look. One thing I noticed is that most bloggers have chosen a two column theme, often with a right sidebar, as I did for The Genealogy Workshop. This type of theme works well as it avoids the screen looking too cluttered and is easy to navigate.

To see the full range of themes available to you, go to the Appearance menu on the left hand side of the Dashboard and select Themes. You should now see a screen showing thumbnails of all the available themes, some of these are free, and some paid for (premium), I suggest you ignore the premium themes. Underneath each thumbnail you can click on Preview to see a larger version of the theme with your blog name and tag line. Often header images, colours and backgrounds can be changed so a theme does not have to look exactly as the preview image.

As well as the overall look of the theme you may wish to take into account which features are available, as these vary with each theme For example, some themes can have widget areas in the footer, whilst others can’t (if you don’t know what a widget is yet don’t worry!).

It is very easy to switch between themes, so you need to worry about picking the wrong one, if the first one you try doesn’t give you the result you want you can try another, this is one reason to stick to the free themes as a new blogger.

I decided to be adventurous, and try a theme for my Hagger blog that I had not seen anyone else use, Spectrum, here it is in preview:



Click Activate under your chosen theme to switch your blog to that theme.

I chose this theme because it is a two colum theme with nice clear text and I like the title ribbons and general look. I don’t like the background, but that can be changed.


Task 5: Customise your theme

Start by going to Appearance (on the left-hand side of the dashboard) and selecting Theme Options. Different themes have different options here, Spectrum has only some basic colour options (for the title ribbons) and the option of removing the tag cloud from the footer. I chose to leave these options unchanged, I suggest you try out the available options in your theme, returning to the blog to see their effect. You can change these options whenever you like, and as many times as you like.

Next, again under the Appearance menu in the dashboard, select Header. Many themes offer the option of uploading an image to the header, some offer a choice of pre-installed images also. If you want people to remember your blog I strongly recommend not using a pre-installed image. It is very easy to upload an image, you can create one specially with the correct dimensions or simply upload any suitable image from your computer and crop it within WordPress.

A good header image can make a blog memorable, even when using the very popular Twenty Ten theme, a good example is A Rebel Hand. Some themes offer the option of removing the blog name text and incorporating the blog name in the image, but this can be a bit tricky if you are not used to manipulating images.

To upload a header image, click on the choose file button and select an image file from your computer, then click upload. If the image file is not the exact dimensions of the header, you will be given the option to crop the image in wordpress. Some themes give you the option of uploading multiple header images which will change as you move between pages.

Finally, I wanted to change the background of my blog. Some bloggers choose a picture background,  History Zone shows how effective this can be. Others just change the colour. Again, this is done from within Appearance, this time select Background. If ou want a plain coloured background and you know the hex code of the colour you want, just enter it into the Background Color box, otherwise click on the Select a Colour link and choose your colour. I decided to upload a textured background image, this is done in a similar way to uploading the header image.



My blog now looks like this:




Hopefully today you have:

  • chosen a name for your blog
  • signed up with wordpress.com
  • edited your blog’s general settings
  • chosen a theme
  • customised your theme options, header and background


Not bad for the first day! If you are not sure whether you have made the right choices, don’t worry, there will be lots to think about tomorrow, and you may change your mind about some of the selections you made today. That’s fine, you can change any of the above at any time.

Tomorrow we will be:

  • looking at widgets
  • setting up some pages
  • organising the menu
  • thinking about follow options

I hope you are pleased with your results so far, do let me know how you are getting on! I would love to hear which themes you like, include a link to your blog. If you have any questions I will do my best to answer.

It would be lovely to have a follow up post next week with links to your new blogs.

Visit My Hagger Ancestors, but don’t forget it’s a work in progress!


Now read Start a WordPress Blog: Day 2


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  2 Responses to “Start a WordPress Blog: Day 1”

Comments (2)
  1. A great, easy to understand guide! Let’s hope this inspires more genealogists and family historians to blog – the more the merrier, and we can all learn from each other.

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