Many genealogists use hosted WordPress.com or Blogger.com for their blogs, but as costs continue to fall, an increasing number of family history enthusiasts are registering a domain name and managing their own WordPress websites. Most web hosting providers have starter plans with introductory prices of less than $5 a month and even after the first year when the plan reverts to the regular price, costs can be well under $100 per year. I host my websites with SiteGround (starter plans at an introductory $6.95 per month) but many other companies advertise similar rates including Bluehost and Inmotion Hosting. Initially, the idea of managing a website might sound intimidating but setting up a WordPress website is getting easier everyday with guided installation wizards.
Once you’ve chosen your hosting provider and WordPress is up and running, there are literally thousands of suitable WordPress themes for genealogists, far more than with conventional blogging sites. Many themes are free while some of the more customisable themes are for sale for prices in the $30 to $100 range. Whether you opt for a free theme or decide to invest in a paid one, the only challenge is actually choosing one!
I am already running three WordPress websites and have a different theme installed on each of them which I’ve highlighted in the reviews below. Since I’m focusing primarily on themes that are designed for writers and bloggers, these will also be fantastic choices for genealogists who want to start a self-hosted WordPress blog or simply want to redecorate and rejuvenate their existing blog. Below are my reviews of some of the themes I liked the best.
One of the best places to browse for free themes is at the WordPress.org website. Some are more customisable than others and you can spend a long time viewing one after the other (trust me on this or check it out for yourself!). Search for writer to narrow down the choices.
Themify Basic by Themify.me
This minimalistic free theme is crisp and clean. It has a responsive layout (meaning that it works equally well on mobile devices such as iPhones, iPads and Android devices) and has many customisable layouts including full width, sectional, and sidebar left or right. Configure footer widgets to display extra content and easily include quotes, maps, columns or even buttons in your posts.
Editor by Array
Of all the free themes, I really liked Editor. It is very fresh and clean looking and the side menu toggles with the widget menu with the click of a button. Each post gets it’s own mini sidebar that shows the category, tags and comments. Like most themes, it is responsive and it offers post features like block quotes and pull quotes for your posts you can enable infinite scroll so your readers can just keep scrolling and reading.
2016 by Wordpress.org
Every year, WordPress.org releases a new theme and the one for 2016 is pretty sweet for bloggers. No fuss, no gimmicks. Just a blog.
In addition to this website, I have another hosted WordPress website for my freelance writing work at bjstarmans.com. I’ve tried many free and a few paid themes over the years on these websites but the following are what I’m using now. Because they are both so customisable, if I decide my websites need an update, I can easily get a fresh look just by changing up some of the settings.
Canvas by Woo Themes
The Out of My Tree Genealogy website and blog uses the Magazine News – Motive theme by ThemeSphere. It has a 4.75 average buyer rating and 849 sales on Theme Forest alone. Surprisingly, with all the features it offers, it was only $44.00 which is a little on the low end. Despite that the theme has some impressive features.
Avada by ThemeFusion
My freelance writing website uses a different theme called Avada by ThemeFusion that I purchased from Theme Forest. It too is highly customisable and adding sliders to my home page is on my list of things to do when I have some time. To really appreciate all of possibilities with this theme, you have to view the demo.
Literatum by Kohette
For The Social Historian, I’m using the Literatum theme. It is compatible with the Aesop Story Engine which is something I’ve wanted to try for quite some time and I like it’s modern look. I also like that the posts I write will be organised on separate pages according to the categories.
Whichever theme you choose, it is a lot of fun setting it up to uniquely represent your family blog.