The Carnival of Genealogy: Century Edition

It was that moment in the family reunion when all the food is packed away, the tables are clean, and things have grown quiet.  And Cousin Jonathan said “Uncle Craig, tell us a story of the old days in the geneablogosphere!”

Though it was August, the old man drew his shawl closer and said, “Well, you don’t want to hear those old stories again, do you?”  He smiled.  Jonathan wanted to hear them for the umpteenth time.  He collected GeneaBloggers trading cards. Danny, though, wasn’t sure that he wanted to hear the stories again, but he knew that Uncle Craig would like to tell the stories again.

“Okay, now,” said Uncle Craig, “one quick one about the Carnival.”  He cleared his throat as if he were about to give a great oration.

You see, it was back in’ 04 when I started my blog.  I didn’t know, and at the time didn’t especially care if there were other people out there blogging their genes off, and if so, who they were. The whole blogosphere wasn’t that big in those days, and it was a far piece between geneablogs. Little did I know, or for that matter,  did anyone know in ’04  how the geneablogosphere was about to explode.

It started gradually at first. Like travelers awakening on a long extraplanetary journey, bloggers began to discover one another.  One day, while out surfing, I came across a blogger calling herself  Jasia.  She ran a little place called Creative Gene, located in virtual Detroit.  She was a beehive of activity with genealogy and photography.  She served up hot steaming platters of Catholic tales, Polish roots, tech tips, with generous side orders of scrapbooking and potato salad. [Potato salad?].  As the small community of genealogy bloggers grew in those early days, Jasia’s became a favorite neighborhood haunt.  Come in almost any night of the week, and you might catch Denise Olson or Janice Brown or Chris Dunlap or Randy Seaver (before he became a surname-less phenom like Beyoncé, Madonna or Cher).

[Young Jonathan said, “Who’s Cher?” Danny said, “Who’s Madonna?”  And Jackie said, “Who’s Beyoncé?”]

[Uncle Craig pulled out some photos and spread them on the table.  The three young cousins squealed with delight. Jonathan said “That’s Miriam Midkiff! I’ve got her card!” pointing to one of the photos. And Jackie said, “is that the footnote lady dancing with Steve Danko?” The footnoteMaven, Uncle Craig corrected.]

Anyway, I was saying, on any given night, you might run into  Lee Anders or Maureen Taylor or Susan Kitchens hanging out at Jasia’s.

Always with a great sense for talent and full of ideas, Jasia saw an opportunity for collaboration and promotion of great writers and great writing.  So two weekends a month, she turned the place into a Roundtable-like salon for genealogy writers dubbed “The Carnival of Genealogy.”

Attendance on those early Carnival weekends was sparse.  Even some of the regulars stayed away from their local.  But gradually word got around and those two weekends a month picked up dramatically.

Then at some point in about ’07, the dam burst, so to speak, and the geneablogosphere was flooded with new blogs and bloggers.  Among these were the MacEntees and the Sheri Fenleys: you know that crowd.  The new kids took to the Carnival like ducks to water.  The Carnival became enormously successful.  Jasia was hailed as the Queen of the Carnival.  But change can be chaotic.  What had been a palor of sedate discussion threatened to turn into a raucous roadhouse of  indisputable talent and enthusiasm.  The apparent transition from salon to saloon did not go well with everyone.  While all of the pioneers welcomed the newcomers, in private corners of the room, you could hear whispers: there’s just too damn many of them!  The sheer numbers threatened to overwhelm the Carnival and bring the tent down.

And then there was the Queen herself.  She was doing it all: introducing new acts, playing MC, and taking a turn at the mike herself.  It was really a grueling pace.  She farmed out some of the hosting responsibilities to other venues.  And the show went on.

After a while, however, it became apparent that more change was needed to keep the Carnival of viable.  For one thing, there were now numerous other carnivals in town, and there seemed to be more every day.  So the Carnival continued to evolve in order to maintain quality writing and a diverse readership.  Through it all, Jasia burnished her reputation as a social media monarch and continues to reign today.

Jonathan said, “She reigns?”
“No, she rocks,” said Danny.  “I think she rules!” said Jackie.

What’s the appeal of the Carnival?  Well, it is a themed writing prompt, which helps some people, including me from time to time, to get started writing.  But there’s more to it than that.  The Carnival is emblematic of the core values of the early days in geneablogosphere.  Collaboration.  Appreciation.  Learning.  The Carnival has introduced great writers to the blogosphere and encouraged many others to keep going or to get started.  The Carnival has grown from just Jasia’s place to being one of the several town squares in our virtual community.  The writers are encouraging, nurturing and supportive of each other and of their crafts.  Newcomers continue to show up at the place where everyone knows your ancestors.

The Carnival marks its 100th edition this week with 100 posts~a far cry from the twelve or so that typified the tent in 2006.

This week has seen many return to the Carnival and many new arrivals.  It’s just like a family reunion!


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