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Open Thread Thursday – Embedding Research Content on Your Blog or Website

open thread

This week’s topic for Open Thread Thursday is:

Are you frustrated with the inability to embed certain aspects of your genealogy research, such as a family tree, in your blog or website? Are genealogy vendors and service providers adequately addressing the need to visually depict our research for other family members to share and enjoy?

Post your responses in the comments or at a post on your own genealogy blog and place the link here in the comments.


This topic is not new to the online genealogy community but I’m picking up the conversation again on the advice of Chris Whitten, creator of WikiTree.  Readers may remember that a few months ago I reviewed WikiTree and also interviewed Chris about the product.  The following is some more background information on this issue from WikiTree and some questions for the community:

At the time of the release of the WikiTree participation widget <>, Elyse Doerflinger, Thomas and I were talking about what else WikiTree could offer the blogging community. Our discussion led back to an Open Thread Thursday post from last November on embedding a family tree in a blog post <

In that old post, Thomas was riffing off a suggestion by Carol Nettles of the Eastern Washington Genealogical Society. He asked, “Have you ever attempted to display in a blog post a family tree chart so that your family could get a better understanding of your genealogy research?  It isn’t as easy as you would think.  Some have simply placed links to PDF or image files.  Others have displayed images of family tree charts in a blog post.”

So, we set out to create an embeddable family tree for bloggers. Our Family Tree Widget is essentially ready. Here’s are two examples:

We’re hoping to get feedback from GeneaBloggers and then incorporate your ideas into a range of options that bloggers could choose from.

To get the conversation going, here’s a restatement of Thomas’s questions in the Open Thread Thursday post from November.

* * *

1.) “What approach have you used to display family tree charts in a blog post? Images? Embedded PDFs using Scribd? Or perhaps a slide show using Slide Share?”

If you have ever done a custom tree design, will you show us what you did? Be sure to note whether you would object to us stealing your layout idea.

2.) “How important is the visual aspect of your genealogical research? Does a visualization work better than an Ahnentafel report or some other genealogy report?”

The number of generations on our draft widgets is very limited, just three, since it has to fit in a relatively narrow space (e.g. 400 pixels). We could have an option for five generations if people don’t mind it being wider.

Going in the other direction, there could be a plainer Ahnentafel-style. That would enable more generations to display in a narrower space.

What would you want to use? Thoughts on the style, dimensions, or number of generations?

3.) “Do genealogy vendors need more ‘social media hooks to share family tree charts created online? What if a genealogy vendor allowed you to embed a family tree chart but there was an ad or an enticement to purchase a copy through the vendor?”

Regarding ads, there’s no need for them on WikiTree Widgets. The widgets are themselves ads for WikiTree. (WikiTree is free. Its funded through ads on public pages. For example, if you embed a family tree widget for George Washington in your blog and someone clicks over to see GW’s profile on WikiTree, they would see an ad. I think that’s a fair deal.)

4.) “If you could design your own application that allowed you to embed a family tree chart to a blog post, what features would you want? Linked to an online tree at a genealogy vendor? Social media features? The ability for family members to add or change data?”

Names on our family tree widget would be linked to the individuals’ full profiles, family trees, and/or descendant lists on WikiTree, as in the example above.

If a name is missing, our convention is to highlight the blank space, e.g. [grandmother?] with a link. Collaboration is what WikiTree is all about and generating new collaboration from these widgets will be one of the main benefits of using them. Since the widget is dynamic, when data is updated it will automatically update the widget to reflect the changes.

For example, let’s say you have a brick-wall ancestor and you don’t know who their parents are. You add a blog post to fish for information. The family tree widget will show your readers what you know and what’s missing. As more information is collected, the content of the widget is updated. (Depending on the permissions and privacy settings you choose on WikiTree, you might be letting others make changes or making changes yourself.)

Maybe you have ideas that we haven’t considered? As Thomas asked, “If you could design your own application that allowed you to embed a family tree chart to a blog post, what features would you want?”

All thoughts or suggestions are welcome. If you prefer to keep them private, you can e-mail me at chris at


This is a great topic for this week’s Open Thread Thursday! And please, if you have a topic you’d like to see discussed among your genealogy blogging colleagues, please contact us and we’ll take it under consideration.

Disclosure statement: I have no material contacts with WikiTree or its creator, Chris Whitten. To review the other material connections I have with genealogy vendors, please see Disclosure Statements.

©2011, copyright Thomas MacEntee

10 thoughts on “Open Thread Thursday – Embedding Research Content on Your Blog or Website

  1. I don’t do much blogging about multiple generations. If I mention an ancestor at all, I’m usually talking about either that person or the method used to find that person…not so much his/her ancestors or descendants.

    For a variety of reasons, I keep my trees private, so the whole public sharing/collaboration thing isn’t a big attraction for me. For someone without my rather unique situation, though, I can definitely see the appeal.

  2. Wouldn’t it be nice to share your family tree online? I mean who knows that one of your relatives would come to stumble upon your family tree and then know who their relatives are? Instant relatives you would have…

  3. Hi Everyone! Thank you so much for the great feedback.

    I am so excited about this widget – I really believe it will come in handy for my surname saturday posts!

    Does anyone have any feedback concerning the sizes of the widgets (height and width)? Do these widgets look like they’d fit on your blog?

    How do you all like the background images? Are there other images or colors you’d like to see?

    We really appreciate all of your feedback!


    WikiTree Evangelist

  4. Howdy,
    I do like the idea of being able to embed a tree on the fly in a blog post – and including images and clickable links is a nice thing to have in those examples above.

    But, on the flip both of those examples are a little overwhelming visually to me. I guess if the look and feel of them could be modified via css etc to fit into my own blog design I would be more likely to use them.

    On my own blog’s ToDo list for awhile has been to try out Emporer by Ben Crowder. It looks to be an elegant tool to embed a simple tree –

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