Posted by Ancestry Team on January 10, 2014 in In The Community

I write about genealogy as part of my job. So what’s something I do in my off hours? Write about genealogy. Last fall, I decided to take a look at how I was doing my personal blogging and launched No Story Too Small. As the name implies, all of the stories that we find about our ancestors are important. Our ancestors didn’t have to be famous (or infamous); they didn’t have to be part of a critical moment in history. My goals with No Story Too Small have been to remind myself that it’s alright to blog about just a portion of someone’s life and to inspire others to do the same on their blogs.

52ancestorsOne of the best ways to keep writing is to have goals or a calendar. (“I’ll write sometime” is usually a doomed strategy.) So to challenge myself and others to write at least once a week, I started the 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks Challenge. The premise: write about one ancestor each week this year. It could be a story, a photograph, a document, a pesky research problem — anything, as long as it involves one ancestor. The next week, write about another ancestor. Doing this will get you to look at those people in your family tree in a different light. What is it you want to say about that person?

To say that 52 Ancestors has taken on a life of its own would be a slight understatement. As of this morning, 157 bloggers have said they are taking the challenge. On January 8, I posted the Week 1 recap, which had links to 123 entries! Four bloggers have already made connections. (Yay, cousin bait!)

The entries in Week 1 were as varied as you might expect. Ancestors ranged from parents to at least one 8th-great grandfather. Some of the posts that stood out to me were:

  • The Meanest Man Who Ever Lived” by Peggy Clemens Lauritzen on her blog “Always Anxiously Engaged.” First, it takes no small amount of courage to describe your great-grandfather as the meanest man who ever lived. Peggy’s description of how she looked at his life in total, using things like timelines and examining the neighborhood and extended family, is a lesson in how to learn more about the person.
  • Catherine Conway Sawyer” by Susan Clark on her blog “Nolichucky Roots.” Susan describes Catherine as “the Nolichuckiest of my Nolichucky Roots.” If that isn’t a great description, I’m not sure what is.
  • Laura Cecile Donald” by our own Ancestry Anne, Anne Gillespie Mitchell, on her blog “Finding Forgotten Stories.” Anne is taking the challenge one step farther and aims to focus solely on the females in her family tree.

Each week, I’ll try to put together some of my favorite 52 Ancestors posts and share them with you here on the Ancestry blog.

If you’d like to join the challenge and be included in the weekly recap, leave a comment below or on my blog and include a link. (When you do blog something for the challenge, please put “52 Ancestors” in the title so I have some hope of finding it.)

It’s not too late to join the challenge; indeed, it’s never too late to start writing about your ancestors!

My paternal grandmother Adah Young Johnson, the subject of my 1st "52 Ancestors."
My paternal grandmother Adah Young Johnson, the subject of my 1st “52 Ancestors.”



  1. Amy Johnson Crow

    Anita — That is quite the project you took on! Very nice!

    Tracey — Two of the most popular places to start a blog are (connected to Google) and Both are free and both have many how-to tutorials online. Pretty much, if you can type, you can blog.

    Maeve — You can catch up or not; it’s completely up to you!

    Bernita — Thanks for the kind words!

    MiChal — That’s a good bit of writing! Kudos for telling those stories.

  2. Shannon Carr

    My Fritz. He isn’t just my Fred any longer, it turns out, he is a lot of people’s Fritz! When I started researching Fritz, I did not realize how extensive his (our) family is. Since researching, I have had the pleasure of introducing myself to so many people of the “Simmen” clan! I am the luckiest genealogist I the world! Fritz was one of many early advocates for public physical education! He was a member of the Turnverien organization that is responsible for revolutionizing what is now what the kids call ” gym” clas. He taught gym since 1902 in the Pittsburgh public school system. His son Oscar was also a prominent gym teacher in Monongahela school system in Pa. At an age somewhere over 50 did a giant swing WITHOUT A THUMB!!! I believe he is my favorite ancestor because starting at such a young age, he was always the ancestor that was most talked about and that my grandmother was so proud of her grandfather. I followed in his footsteps and was a gymnast for nearly 10 years. I may not have met this man, but the connection to family is definitely there.

  3. Cathy

    Amy, I accept your challenge. It may be a tall order, but surely I’ll come up with at least 52 great stories in the family tree. Now, it will be a bit harder to find the time to tell them all. Here goes…..

  4. 52 Ancestors –
    Uncle Carl [Charles A. Schuh] was my inspiration for beginning my family history. He was born in 1892 and lived until 1993 [101] years old. He always had a great story to tell, and was a guest lecturer for the Buffalo, NY Historical Society.

  5. Aymee

    What a great idea!! This has inspired me to take my research to a new level. Been researching my family for 13+ years and have so many stories that probably should be put down into writing. Going to look into starting my own blog. I’m not a writer, and not sure how to start a blog, so any suggestions would be great!

  6. Pat Stoughton

    This is the first I’ve seen this blog. And I get your updates on a regular basis.

    However, besides that, this seems doable. As a substitute teacher, I often have downtime (prep period, lunch, etc.) I could actually take a name and do this. I don’t have a lot of stories since everyone died when I was young. There are family tales, however, that have taken a life of their own and have sometimes been proven to be untrue.

    So how do I start? Maybe with the time of the picture? Who was in office?


  7. Anna K. Brown

    Is there a place on Ancestry where we can post a blog so that others doing research on the same people might find our posts?

  8. Brad Watson

    OK – Let’s try this again. My previous TWO posts seem to have been snagged by a spam filter for some reason. I’ll leave off the blog URL from this message and hope that does the trick.

    16,000 people in my tree – I’m sure I can find 50 stories from that kind of selection!

  9. Peggy Sternberg

    This fits right into a class I am taking at our public library. We meet once a month to share our writting assignment for that week and get our assignment for the next class. All of this is leading us to write our family story.

  10. What a great idea. I am up for the challenge. I just posted by first week and I’m rather excited. I hope it’s ok I used your 52 week ancestors image in my introduction. Let me know if its not and I’ll change it.

  11. FHC Librarian

    I have been researching my ancestors for 30 years and I have always looked beyond the births, deaths, and marriages. Your family history isn’t complete without these stories. Some are more difficult to find and take time, consequently I only have a few thousand people in each tree, because I do this.

    There are many trees on Ancestry which don’t even have source information. Many show a relation to my people and many are incorrect. I don’t have time to contact all these people who have mistakes.

    Needless to say I don’t trust anyone’s tree without facts and sources. Having stories that can be checked make them more accurate and interesting.

  12. Angela Reed

    What a great idea!!! I have been trying to write about some of my ancestors the past few months of last year so now this gives me more impetus to continue doing so and expand the project even further. I have never started a blog but will be adding information to my Family Tree Maker file and my tree.

  13. Just yesterday I was looking through my blog noticing it’s lack of recent entries. Perfect timing. And as you say, you can start anytime, and just continue for 52 weeks! I accept! Good luck to all of us!

    I’ll be writing about my husband’s side of the family at

  14. Lisa Bullock Mings

    I would love to be involved in your challenge. I need to be challenged to get good results. Thanks for this opportunity.

    52 Weeks

  15. This is a wonderful idea. I (sadly) think my ancestors must have had something interesting or heroic about their lives before I write! No wonder I don’t get much done on that – mostly we have no idea what their challenges were. I’ll have to catch up and the challenge for me is to keep it simple.

  16. I had resolved to start writing about both my husband and my ancestors this year and so deciding to take up you challenge is something I want try. I love history and what can be more personally important than your own family history. I’m starting with my 2nd great grandmother, Sarah Babcock.
    Arlene Baker

  17. Observer

    What a great idea! How are you able to stop researching and start writing? Every time I am ready to catch up on adding newfound ancestors into my family tree maker program, wouldn’t you know it… I discover a gr. gr. grandmother who I thought died dirt poor in a sod house inheriting over a million dollars. In 1880 money no less! And when discovering things like this, I immediately go into research mode to learn more. Thus the stop and take a breath moments never come.

    I don’t think I’m alone in this. Do you have any pointers? And by the way, the inheritance story never made it to my father’s generation. So I keep soldiering on trying to learn more to tell a proper story. Leaving so many other worthy stories untold.

    I hope this makes sense. Thanks for any tips.

  18. Pat T

    I have started to write a profile on an ancestor, but do not know anything about blogging. Can you tell me exactly how to participate, as in Step 1, Step 2. Sorry, this is probably easier than I am making it, but it seems a bit confusing and I need it spelled out in elementary steps! lol!
    Once I am logged onto a blog site, what is the next step and How do I connect to … NO STORIES TOO SMALL or 52 WEEKS.

  19. Amy Johnson Crow

    Several have asked about how/where to start blogging. Two easy-to-use, free blogging sites are and If you don’t want to blog, how about adding a note to that person’s profile on your tree on Ancestry? You could also send an email to a group of family members. The important thing is to write something, no matter where you write it.

  20. Judean A. Wise

    Amy, Do we need to notify you every week about our blog entry? I’ve posed two so far this week.

  21. Caroline Mohr

    Amy, what a great idea. But rather than blogging, I’m going to make a digital storybook with one page for each of the 52 weeks/stories. My mother’s 93-year-old brother passed away last Saturday. That will definitely be the story for that week. Thanks for the idea.

  22. Kay Vawter
    I think this will really be interesting and will also encourage me to continue on with my search for information.
    I am pretty new at this blogging, but I am excited to learn.

  23. Hi Amy. I’ve started my blog and I thought I posted the information to you last weekend and sent a comment yesterday but I think they went into some abyss somewhere. could you please let me know if you have my blog site and link etc. thanks, Karen

  24. Elise Olsen

    I will be blogging on on my familytree. My goal has been to get a story or picture on each ancestor I possibly can. Is it necessary to create a blog or is familytree okay?
    Thanks for the inspiration, Elise

  25. 52 Ancestors – my first post for this challenge. I thought I’d do just a short thing on my great grandmother and then started checking some facts, and then finding some more information, and pretty soon I had found her mother’s surname, and another generation back from that! Even if I only did one week, this was a very productive and exciting find! I’ve looked for these people for years and years.

  26. As we are into week 3 I have posted 3 Ancestors on my Facebook page. They are Rev. John Lothrop, Henry Adams & Samuel Morse. I welcome all comments, especially if anyone shares these Ancestors.

  27. I’m posting my 52 ancestors for the challenge on the Bubblews site. To keep track of them, I’m keeping pinboards on Pinterest for each family line.

    Already 3 others on Bubblews have joined in.

  28. Terry Murphy Mallett

    I love the idea and will join the challenge. I have years of research to write up if it is to be shared with others. I don’t have a website. DO I need one? Not sure how to get one and advice will be appreciated.

  29. Amy Johnson Crow

    Terry – If you’re interested in starting a blog, two free options are (requires a Google account) and But the goal of the “52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks” Challenge is to write more about your ancestors, no matter where you do that. It could be on a blog, Facebook, emails to a group of relatives, a journal, etc. You can add stories to your ancestors’ profiles in your family tree using Family Tree Maker or your online tree. Recording it is the main thing; where and how you do it is up to you.

  30. Just learned about this challenge and it is a great excuse to make me write! I have been putting small stories on our blog but think I will make these be ‘full life’ stories. Eager to get started at

  31. I’ve never written a blog before either although my website designer kept suggesting it. Do you mind if we join the challenge from the UK? Would love to give it a try 🙂

  32. Sheena

    This is a great idea. I’ll try to work out how to set up a blog over the next few days. I have quite a few interesting tales, rumours etc that I could start with.

  33. I have been working on a blog for awhile now. It is a combination of both my family genealogy and my love of cemeteries (and a member of, now part of ancestry).

  34. Susan fires

    I started doing my tree to find out who paternal great grandmother was as she died in childbirth and no one knew her name, I have ended up finding that I have royal ancesters but am wondering if I have just got on a wrong line as it all seems a bit unrealistic to me, and I still haven’t found out who my great gran was after 2 years

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