10 Ways Marketers are Making you Addicted to Genealogy


In Goshen New Hampshire, ‘landing a pike’ is
serious business. Like the famed Frankenstein-
hunting mob, the locals gather with spears and
clubs. Then they stand poised, as if to
pose for a photograph on the banks of a
lake, ready to strike. (I hope you
realize this is humor).

What better way to start a blog post about click-bait than by creating one? The title of this post is a lie, of course. A click-bait title is melodramatic, sensational, excessive, and shocking. It draws on your guilt or your sense of disbelief. “That cannot be,” you think, but you mouse click just to be certain.

Old postcard of Meredith New Hampshire's dock and fishing trophies. The bait must have been good.

Old postcard of Meredith New Hampshire’s
dock and fishing trophies. The bait must have
been good.

Before I continue with the meat of my article, I want to share a list of other click-bait titles that you may find amusing. Laughter may ease whatever disappointment you may be feeling right now that I have tricked you into reading this story.

I used a fun “Link Bait Title Generator” set up to include the word “genealogy” that resulted in some of the following mock titles. I have added asterisks to some titles to keep them PG-13.

–The Top 43 Genealogy Blog Titles I Hope To Never See Used–

1. The Connection between Genealogy and S*x.
2. 10 Ways Genealogy Can Help You Live To 100.
3. Guns Don’t Kill People — Genealogy Kills People.
4. 10 ways Genealogy Can S*ck The Life Out of You.
5. The Most Boring Article About Genealogy You’ll Ever Read.
6. Why Genealogy S*cks.
7. 8 Reasons Genealogy Will Change the Way You Think About Everything.
8. The Most Incredible Article about Genealogy You’ll Ever Read
9. How Genealogy is Destroying America.
10. 11 Ways Investing in Genealogy Can Make You a Millionaire
11. Why You Should Forget Everything you Learned about Genealogy.
12. The Rise of Genealogy and How to Make it Stop.
13. 13 Amazing Facts about Genealogy.
14. 8 Deadly Uses for Genealogy.
15. A Genealogist Dies Every Minute You Don’t Read This Article.
16. 9 Reasons you can Blame the Recession on Genealogy.
17. 101 Unusual Uses of Genealogy.
18. Why you Should Give Up S*x and Devote your Life to Genealogy.
19. 12 Reasons Genealogy is the End of the World As We Know It.
20. 8 Things the Media Hasn’t Told you About Genealogy.
21. What this Genealogist Did Is Genius.
22. 8 Unbelievable Things You Never Knew about Genealogy.
23. 7 Things Lady Gaga Has in Common with Genealogy.
24. 6 Reasons To Be Addicted to Genealogy.
To this list I add a few more [plagarizing the Buzzfeed & Upworthy Clickbait Generator], and the Upworthy Generator (its a Parody).
25. The Top 10 Hottest Genealogists.
26. New Program lets you Harvest a family tree Automatically without Disturbing Genealogists.
27. 21 Painfully Real Struggles for Everyone with Bloated Family Trees
28. 24+ Brilliant Surnames You Should Add to Your Family Tree
29. 27 Astonishing Genealogy Things That Can Never Be Unseen Again
30. 31 Things Every Genealogist Will Understand
31. LEGO Creates Plastic Anti-Genealogy Slippers to end Future Years of Horrible Pain.
32. 13 Things to Remember When you love a Genealogist Who Has Research Depression.
33. Harvard psychologists have been studying what it takes to raise ‘good’ genealogists. Here are 6 Tips.
34. That Moment When a Genealogist Refuses to Research.
35. I Thought my Genealogy was a Disaster. But Then I Saw This Revolutionary One Minute Video.
36. What the Government Doesn’t Want You to Know About Genealogy
37. My Stomach Sank After Hearing These Two Genealogy Words.
38. You Have to Hear the Awe-inspiring Three Sentences This Blind Genealogist Wrote.
39. What Happens When One Unknown Genealogist Gets Real About the Biggest Problem in America.
40. Here is What Happens when a High Schooler Talks about the Genealogist in the Room.
41. Headless Genealogist in T*pless Bar
42. Ten of the Most Awkward Genealogy Photographs You Will Ever See
43. Young Genealogists See a Paper Fan Chart for the First Time–Can You Believe What they Do?oddity-party

Okay. Enough already. I know you are thinking it. All right. Enough.

Now to my actual topic–Click-bait aka link-bait. Is this technique of using emotionally charged and often misleading titles ethical productive (‘genius’ in a sense) to use to bring visitors to your blog. Or rather is this practice exploitative, tabloid journalism at its finest? Is it still considered “click-bait” if the story actually has something to do with the title, or only if it’s entirely different?

Have you ever used a “click-bait” style in your blog titles? Did you get positive results (lots of visitors), an increase in comments, or whatever your goal was for using it?

I confess. I have used a minor version of click-bait, but only a few times, when I felt that it fit the story I was writing. Most of my titles are probably considered ho-hum, stick-to-the-facts ones. I include the person or place I’ve researched, add an even more boring dates, and voila I’m ready to roll. But if I use a dramatic title, you are going to be reading about that topic when you click. I won’t offer you an ax-murderer and instead give you a story about making a chicken dinner from scratch.

My glaring exceptions to title boredom are listed here, with an explanation for my shameless titles:

Pine Island Park Gate, circa 1953, photograph by Peter Caikauskas. Manchester Historical Association Photoprint Collection. Used with permission.

Pine Island Park Gate, circa 1953, photograph
by Peter Caikauskas. Manchester Historical
Association Photoprint Collection. Used with

The Darker Side of Manchester NH’s Pine Island Park — Pine Island Park was a lovely amusement park that was open from 1902-1963. Many adults who grew up in Manchester, New Hampshire still have fond memories of us. When I was researching this park, I happened to find many stories about deaths and accidents in connection with the location. I decided to share the ‘darker’ stories. I must admit this story resulted in the greatest number of clicks on my blog in a single day.

Lebanon New Hampshire’s “Man Who Survived With A Hole in His Head”: Phineas P. Gage (1823-1860)
I realize I could have made the title: “Lebanon NH Man with Head Injury, etc”. but I didn’t. It was a very unusual event, and even today medical practitioners are amazed that he lived. It wasn’t really just click bait. I actually wrote about the topic and added some valuable Gage genealogy.

Gilmanton New Hampshire Serial Killer: Herman Webster Mudgett (1861-1896)
At the time I wrote this back in 2006, I thought the title was ultra-dramatic. Since then several books and now a recent movie have been released with much murkier click-bait titles such as “Devil in the White City,” “Depraved,” “Inside the Murder Castle,” etc.

New Hampshire Epitaph: Killed With An Axe By An Insane Brother
Yes, I know, I could have just called it “Keeping Murder in the Family,” or “Spaulding Family Secrets,” but I didn’t. The words are on an epitaph that several people asked me to research. So I did and I feel justified with the dramatic title.

To recap: I hope you enjoyed these examples of click-bait titles for genealogy blogs. I would love your comments on whether you have you ever used a sensational title to spice up a blog post. Share it here with a link to it, and why (or why not) you felt the title was important to the story.  I also hope that my regular readers forgive me.  I have spent months writing about young men and women who died during WWI, and to take a small break, I thought I would make living people die from laughter instead (and figuratively).


WIRED: You’ll Be Outraged at How Easy It Was to Get You to Click on This Headline

The Atlantic: It’s Everywhere, the Clickbait

The Daily Beast: ANNOYANCES–Saving Us From Ourselves: The Anti-Clickbait Movement

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13 Responses to 10 Ways Marketers are Making you Addicted to Genealogy

  1. heatherrojo says:

    LOL! Yes, I sometimes use click-bait styled titles of posts. Today’s blog post is a good example “Great New Hampshire and Massachusetts Cemetery website (You’ll wish your ancestors were buried here!)”. For the past several months I’ve been doing “Top Ten” posts on the 10th of the month, and those blog titles always sound like click-bait titles even without trying.

    • Janice Brown says:

      Heather, it was just coincidence that you and I both used clickbait titles today. My story has been preset in the ‘que’ for a few weeks. I LOVE your titles, and really smile when I see some blog fishing.

  2. I had enough around #7 or so. I knew where you were going with this. I’ve been so frustrated with “friends” sharing “click-bait” articles. They get mixed in on my newsfeed and hide the important things. But still, last week I tried the “click-bait” system with my post “6 AncestryDNA Notes for Easier Comparison.” It had my stats booming on my blog. Was it the subject, using the number in the title, or the Facebook DNA groups I shared it with? I have no plans to continue using this method to drive traffic to my blog. However, if the shoe fits I might do another title with a number, just for fun or on a serious topic.

    • Janice Brown says:

      Cathy, I understand about having enough around #7. Genealogists tend to be serious people sometimes, our research often involves discovering that bad things happen to good people and vice versa. I think genealogists should use click bait more often, but be selective. If we say “Headless Woman in my Family Tree,” it needs to be about an ancestor who was beheaded. As long as there is a bit of truth, I am never upset about it. Thanks as always for reading and commenting.

  3. Amy says:

    LOL! I would have clicked without the clickbait as I always enjoy your posts! I don’t ever think in these terms either—but sometimes I do want to let readers know that there may be something humorous or touching or ironic in a post rather than just putting names and dates. I never think of it as clickbait—but maybe I should!

  4. Marilyn says:

    Well done Janice, even though I read your blog, it may not always be at the top of my list!! However the “click bait” words for me were “addicted to genealogy”‘ SO….I had to read it right away!! I thought perhaps I shall now find out WHY I spend so much time reading old newspapers and documents instead of romance stories!! LOL!!! As they would say in Ireland, “well played!”

    I hope you are doing a piece on our old granny Susannah North Martin!

    Love your blog!

  5. Titles are the hardest part! I’m a sucker for numbered lists, but haven’t used any. My titles are all pretty ho-hum, no shocking stories to write. I’ve tried to be intriguing or humorous sometimes, but don’t really know if they came off that way. So, where is the link to #25? LOL.

  6. Yes I needed a little something different tonight. Hmmm I think I could write a couple of blog posts on those titles – LOL. Some were quite funny. I haven’t come up with a “click bait” topic yet, but I”m putting it on my list! Thanks for the laugh.

  7. ValSG says:

    #27 had me sputtering my coffee. TOO true… it screams, “Ancestry Trees”…. We all know those bloated ones…. yeah, they ‘are’ painful… LOL

    I took all these with a good sense of humor. Loved them all. Laughed & giggled through them. I’m very serious on my research, but I still have fun while working on it. Ask anyone who has worked with me. Working on genealogy, you have got to have a sense of humor. Hasn’t anyone noticed, the sense of humor of ESM? She’s dead serious in the facts, but her humor is always present and she would be ever so fun to work on a case file with.

    That’s what keeps her sane doing this. If not for humor while working, I would have lost my mind a long time ago while working on my lines. I could give a list of reputable researcher names that have said, “my head is spinning” or, “how do you keep up with all this?”, or “I had to print this and study it over and over… trying to wrap my brain around it all”… and all of it is proven fact.

    I love writing my proof summaries… keeps me in fits of giggles over the convoluted details involved. My readers either also in up in giggles over it all, or else if you listen closely, you can hear their brain wires frying. ^_^

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