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Genealogy, Volunteerism, Collaboration, Sharing and Social Media

(Third article in a series, “Introduction to Genealogy”)

 By Karen S. Campbell

Southwest Ohio Research

American genealogists and family historians have always been social. They have always practiced volunteerism and collaboration.   The Genealogical pursuit of information is a community endeavor of familial and friendly contacts. Local genealogy societies are funded and maintained by volunteers. Long before the invention of the personal computer, genealogy researchers were phone calling for information or writing snail–mail inquiries or even sending telegrams to each other nurturing all kinds of interconnections. Inquiries were saved and filed in surname files. Interesting tidbits, inquiries, and transcriptions were published in monthly society newsletters.  Sharing information freely with each other was a courtesy and was expected. One would write up the family history using 5-generation charts, family group sheets, and other standardized forms with the intention of sharing them with others by depositing them in the local library’s surname files, for example, or, perhaps by seeking professional publication of the family genealogy if the work had been carefully referenced.  Many of the older publications that were organized with one of the traditional numbering systems used by genealogists to create reports, had little or no narrative, unlike today’s emphasis on including the genealogical reports with story narrative.

Genealogists generated piles of paperwork, handwritten and typed; actually typed on a typewriter!  Even today, I have many boxes of my father’s research, much of it handwritten.  It includes handwritten letters and notes from relatives, information received from archives, as well as his own research notes.  Email and scanners for attachments did not exist back-in-the-day and so the U. S. Postal Service was the primary means of sharing research. I remember Dad filling out request forms for records and mailing them off to the archives or libraries. I remember as a child waiting eagerly for  packages in the mail from the National Archive with the Compiled Service Record of one of my Civil War ancestors, or, requested information from the Daughters of the American Revolution library in Washington, .D. C.

The advent of word processors, home computers, digital cameras, and scanners made the work of compiling records and writing so much easier and faster. Genealogy software that we downloaded into our computers helped us organize our “piles” of records and photographs.  The digital world has continually evolved and today genealogy software is available in the “Cloud,” aka the Internet, as well as storage space for our research. “Word” processing programs are still with us in our home computer suites of software, but beyond “Word” in our home computer, there are many digital writing tools a genealogist can choose from, which are also  “cloud” based.

Because of desktop publication, publishing has become personal and affordable.  For example, genealogy software programs do provide publishing tools within their programs if one wants to attempt a book.  There are many choices about publishing that a family history author can make today, i.e. a prolific author may choose to become his/her own publisher. There are many options with print-on-demand and e-books. These developments continue the deeply ingrained tradition of sharing genealogical information and family stories with the family history/genealogical community.

Genealogists and Family Historians have been so “social” and desirous to share with each other that a newcomer’s choices of “how to get involved” can be down right scary and overwhelming!  Methods of communication have grown exponentially with the explosion of information available online.  There are innumerable choices on how to communicate, cooperate, and share!   This article can only give a brief overview of the development of genealogical Internet cooperation over the years and can discuss just a fraction of the presence of genealogy and family history sites online today.

Genealogists have also been enthusiastic joiners. For example, membership in local lineage societies is a popular goal with potential members when they fulfill the requirements for membership; when they prove their lineage.  Here in Ohio there are four lineage societies:

First Families of Ohio
Settlers and builders of Ohio
Society of Civil War Families of Ohio
Century Families of Ohio

Local county genealogy societies have similar lineage societies for their members to join, i.e. First Families of Our County, Later Builders of Our County, Civil War Families of Our County, etc.  Another goal is to seek membership in one or more of the many national and international heritage and lineage organizations such as the Colonial Dames of America, the Sons or Daughters of the American Revolution, the Sons or Daughters of the Union Veterans of the Civil War, or the Descendants of the  Illegitimate Sons and Daughters of the Kings of England, etc. Actually, there is no end of organizations as long as you can prove your lineage.  Some other organizations are:  ethnic organizations (i.e. Italian Sons and Daughters of America), military organizations (i.e. Alamo Defenders Descendant’s Association), and religious organizations (i.e. The Society of the Descendants of the Colonial Clergy).  If you’d like to blow your mind over possible lineage associations to join, go to Cyndi’s ListLineage Societies” page: http://www.cyndislist.com/societies/lineage.  Filling out the membership forms with your lineage information is just one more way to share with other genealogists. And, the information you submit for membership, can become a source of evidence for some one else.

There are state and national level genealogical organizations to join as well, i.e. The Ohio Genealogical Society (http://www.ogs.org/) and the National Genealogical Society (http://www.ngsgenealogy.org/).  These and many other organizations offer annual conferences on various genealogical topics.  The Annual Ohio Family History Genealogical Society Conference is in mid-April and The National Genealogical Society Family History Conference is in May.

Genealogist and Family Historians earnestly promote continuing education and eagerly assist newcomers to learn the ropes.  Researchers love to see the passion in others.  And, yes indeed, genealogy and family history research is a passion!  We like to foster that passion and share our experiences. There is a deep camaraderie among researchers and this solidarity has increased over the last forty years.  Who would have believed, especially when we remember the nature of the genealogical pursuit in the 1950s and 60s, that genealogy would become as popular as it is today?  The popularity of TV shows such as “African-American Lives I and II”, “Faces of America”, “Finding Your Roots with Henry Louis Gates, Jr.”, and “Who Do You Think You Are?”,  is absolutely astonishing! Close to 90% of Americans when polled say they are interested in their family histories.  We are a society “passionately” looking for community and connections.

There are many genealogical conferences, workshops, and seminars available for the novice and the experienced genealogist, too, see http://www.cyndislist.com/ education/ conferences-seminars-and-workshops/.  Today, because of advances in social media, people can attend these conferences at a distance, some for free and some for a fee, i.e. Family Tree University’s Virtual Conferences, http://www.familytreeuniversity.com/virtual-conference.   The Family Tree Magazine website itself is a typically  interactive genealogical site, http://familytreemagazine.com/:

  • Offering interactive webinars on a variety of topics (fee)
  • Offering audio podcasts on a variety of topics
  • Offering education videos through subscribe to the Family Tree Magazine YouTube page: http://www.youtube.com/familytreemagazine
  • Offering three blogs for interactive discussion:  “Genealogy Insider,”  “Photo Detective,” and “Family Tree Firsts,”
  • Family Tree Forums

Legacy Family Tree (http://www.legacyfamilytree.com/Webinars.asp) offers wonderful free webinars, for which one must register. If a live program has been missed, it can be listened to for free up to 10 days after the live podcast.  After that, the program can be purchased on CD-Rom for a reasonable fee.

Ancestry.com also provides free webinars (http://www.ancestry.com/ cs/us/videos). Ancestry is extensively interactive.  The site is full of educational articles, hosts an ancestry.com blog, the sticky notes blog on Tumbir, maintains  facebook and twitter pages, live stream videos, and a YouTube channel.  Besides these educational opportunities, Ancestry provides researchers with millions of records, see their list of data bases at: http://search.ancestry.com/search/ cardcatalog.aspx#ccat=hc%3D25%26dbSort%3D1%26.

The truly revolutionary aspect of Ancestry was the easy access to the digital images of records in their data bases, not merely access to indexes or transcriptions of records.  Ancestry also encourages researchers to upload their genealogy, their photographs, images of documentation, and family stories to share with others.

There are available today, for those looking for more professional expertise, online distance four year bachelor degrees, a two year’s association degree, and certification programs in Genealogy.  These virtual educational programs are interactive and utilize social media:

The remarkable expansion of online records as well as the commensurate  advances in communication and education have lead to the rising ideal of  higher professional standards for genealogical research.  The expansion of public interest in genealogy has also had this same excellent effect.  For years, professional historians viewed genealogy as the “ugly step-sister” of serious historical research.  In some ways, they were correct in their assessment.  Many family genealogists were not as careful in their research techniques as they should have been.   Many incorrect assumptions were perpetuated and not substantiated.  Many genealogists have found errors in previous research and have had to correct the circumstantial  evidence.

Technically, there is a difference between “genealogy” and “family history.” The first, “genealogy,” puts emphasis on proving lineage, which focuses more on kinship and proving descent from an ancestor.  The second, “family history,” puts emphasis on understanding ancestors in the context of their lives; in historic context. Today there is more emphasis on the narrative of ancestors’ lives and this has encouraged a more balanced view and  higher standards of research.

Another popular form of genealogical education, which should be mentioned, is the combination of a genealogical conference with a cruise.  Some
examples are “Genealogical Conference and Cruise” hosted by Wholly Genes, Inc. (http://www.whollygenes.com/Merchant2/merchant.mvc?screen=CRUISE);  the “Legacy Genealogy Cruises” (http://www.legacyfamilytree.com/ CruiseInfo_2012.asp), the “Unlock the Past Genealogical Cruise” hosted by Unlock the Past (http://www.beholdgenealogy.com/blog/?p=1076), and the “Genealogy Cruises” hosted by Voyages of Discovery (http://us.voyagesofdiscovery.com/voyage_type.php?type_id=30).  What could be more social and fun!

A genealogy researcher is usually also  a devoted volunteer, who can choose to get involved in a number of genealogical projects with a lot of other people.  Genealogists, both professional and hobbyist, are expected in some way to contribute to making genealogical records more accessible. They can help transcribe probate records for their local genealogy society and donate time to help maintain their society’s library.  They can do “looks ups” for inquirers, produce finding aids, or participate in a wide range of projects such as the transcription of and digital photographing of tombstones in a local cemetery.  This kind of cooperation and sharing first starts with your relatives who, hopefully, cooperate with you as you research your family, but it should also extend outward to friends and fellow researchers via local genealogy societies, heritage & lineage societies, educational opportunities such as conferences, workshops,  webinars, and professional training.   Genealogy is certainly a social activity!

An example of a huge project that genealogists from all over the country have been invited to participate in is the indexing of the digitized 1940 Federal Census which was released on April 2, 2012 by the National Archive and Records Administration amid great fanfare.  FamilySearch is looking for volunteers to help index the census, see their website: https://www.familysearch.org/ 1940Census.  Information can also be found on their twitter account and on their facebook page.  To volunteer also see, the 1940 U. S. Census Community Project at https://the1940census.com/home/.

The genealogical community quickly embraced computers, email, and the Internet and it has always embraced new technological developments as they developed.  Today, the genealogical community is one of the largest communities on the Internet.  Early entre into this digital world for most of us was through the incredible Family Search organization of the Church of the Latter Day Saints, which includes:

  • the awesomely huge educational & database Family Search website,  https://www.familysearch.org
  • the 4,500 Family History Centers which offer public access to genealogical records from all over the world, which range from the world’s largest genealogical library, the immense Family Search Library, in Salt Lake City (https://www.familysearch.org/locations/saltlakecity-library) to locations in more than 80 countries
  • the large network of indexing volunteers
  • the GEDCOM genealogical data exchange format, which led to the easy transfer of genealogical information between different genealogical software.

Genealogists who have been around for a while, have probably cut their teeth on microfilm machines at a local Family History Center and possibly learned the basics of research at a Family History Center and at one of their locally sponsored genealogy conferences. Of course, for many genealogists, undertaking a trip to Salt Lake City to visit the Family History Library is akin to a pilgrimage to Mecca.  The Family History library itself hosts many classes (https://www.familysearch.org/locations/library_class_schedule) and gives  group tours  (https://www.familysearch.org/locations/library_group_visits).

The digital revolution also profoundly effected libraries and archives, whether public, private, or college/university.  Old fashioned card catalogues, made up of thousands of note cards, were digitized and put online.  Email made it easy to contact librarians and archivists to plan genealogical trips or request to have research done at a distance.  Over the years many archives have also digitized their photograph and document collections and have created wonderful digital exhibits.  Pathfinders and lengthy descriptions of collections are available online, too.

The best known archival website is the National Archives and Records Administration’s site: http://www.archives.gov/.  The “Wow! Factor” is in effect here!  There is so much information on this site that it could easily be the topic of an academic course.  It is best to start on this page and continue reading what is offered to the researcher: http://www.archives.gov/about/.

Volunteerism and collaboration has continue and increase online. One such group of volunteers, for example, is “Genealogy Trails History Group. They transcribe genealogical and historical records in the United States for the free use of all researchers, see: http://www.cyndislist.com/volunteer-projects/ genealogy-trails-history-group/.  Genealogical Webrings, interlinked genealogy sites with shared topics, are usually administered by volunteers.  Cyndi’s List has compiled many look ups and free searches made by volunteers (http://www.cyndislist. com/lookups/general/).  She also lists look ups and free searches under: “Local Specific” and “Mailing Lists, Newsgroups, and Chat.”

The non-profit USGenWeb Project (”Land of the free. . . genealogy”) and the WorldGenWeb Project are enormous and helpful networks of volunteers.  Sadly, one of the great cooperative volunteer traditions of online genealogy, the “Random Acts of Genealogical Kindness” (RAOGK) site was forced to signed off in October of 2011 but with the hope that it will eventually resurrect.

As things became more high-tech, it became easier for researchers to contact and share with each other. It is an understatement to say that the amount of genealogical information on the Internet was becoming and is ever still mind-blowing! The development of a variety of genealogical software (PAF-Personal Ancestral File (http://www.familysearch.org/eng/paf/), Family Tree Maker (http://www.familytreemaker.com/), Family Origins (http://formalsoft.com/), Legacy, The Master Genealogist (http://www.whollygenes.com/Merchant2/ merchant.mvc?screen=TMG), RootsMagic (http://www.rootsmagic.com/), Ancestral Quest [http://www.ancquest.com/index.htm]) made sharing research easier and faster.  The days of handwritten charts and notes was coming to an end.  Researchers could now more easily organize and upload their information to the subscription/fee online databases online (familysearch, ancestry.com, rootsweb, genealogy.com, etc) and with individual researchers online.  Genealogists eagerly learned how to navigate databases burned on disks and online and gladly participated in the above mentioned online message boards, mailing lists, newsgroups, webrings, and forums.  Today because of the “cloud,”  researchers can choose not to purchase genealogical software to run on their own personal computer’s hard drive.  They can now choose to use cloud-based software applications and writing tools which can be synced between their computer and hand-held devices (see below).  These little hand-held computers have made research more convenient.  How nice it is to take a photograph of a document or any resource (with permission, of course, and without the flash) with your cell phone.  It’s like a scanner in your hand.  I should add, however, that there are specialized hand-held scanners that can be purchased, see http://blog.eogn.com/eastmans_online_genealogy/2010/04/-a-tiny-handheld-scanner-that-slides-into-your-pocket.html.

Cyndi’s List is an ever evolving resource of genealogical knowledge online.  It is probably the best know genealogical portal.  It will help a researcher keep on top of new developments.  I also highly recommend the Eastman’s  Online Genealogical Newsletter: http://blog.eogn.com/. Subscribe to it.

If you go back twenty-two years to 1990, the highest tech then available were databases on the old floppy disks and then, the next development, on compact disks produced by Infobases.  They began by offering Latter-Day-Saint information on disks.  The first CD-Rom set was the LDS Collectors Edition, released in April 1995, selling for $299.95, which was offered in an online version in August 1995.  The collection was continually updated with more and more sets, which genealogists could purchase such as “Illinois Land Records,” “Index to Passenger Lists,” “Mayflower Passenger List,” “1851 British Census,” and on and on.  Today, these databases are available online and genealogists purchase access through subscriptions.  You can still buy the CD-Roms if that is what you prefer.

After multiple business mergers,  Ancestry.com as we know it today, came into being.  Ancestry.com, formerly known as The Generations Network, a gated-subscription site, was the leader among  data sites, which has accumulated an incredible amount of reliable information and data bases of primary sources.  It proudly boasts of five-billion records online. Subscription data base services like ancestry.com usually offer a few free databases but then charge various fees (yearly or monthly) for  bundles of other coveted databases.  Thus was  introduced the idea of for-profit genealogical services online. Today ancestry.com is the largest for-profit publicly-traded since 2009   (NASDAQ: ACOM) genealogy company in the world.  It also administers Genealogy.com, MyFamily.com, ProGenealogists, and Rootsweb.com,  and it also owns Footnote.com. Ancestry owns websites in European countries, Australia, Canada, and China (see: http://corporate.ancestry.com/about-ancestry/properties/).

 Ancestry does, however, give more than a nod to the entrenched genealogical tradition of volunteerism by inviting researchers to upload their genealogical research to share with others.  Thirty-one million family-trees have been uploaded and shared in ancestry.com.  Members are able to contact each other, share research, and the one who posted the family tree will be notified when others add new content about your ancestors to their family trees. Ancestry

has also developed another website which is a free social networking site and interactive.  See http://www.mundia.com/us/  as well as the Mundia facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/Mundia.

Because genealogists have always incorporated new technology into their research “toolboxes,” it is not surprising that they would also embrace the many social media platforms as they have developed and continue to proliferate. Social media are web tools which help genealogists connect online with their sharing, knowledgeable, and dynamic online peer communities.  Interaction within these communities have always broaden perspective,  educates, provides information (both primary and secondary sources), and facilitate collaboration to create something greater than the original work.  Like email, social media transcends local connections and links a person through cyberspace with state, national, and international colleagues, but social media does this more directly within real time.  Sir Timothy John Berners Lee, the inventor of the World Wide Web (WWW), envisioned the WWW to have within it the ability to be dynamic.  The “World Wide Web” has evolved from a static model of observed content through a browser on a home computer to a “Read Write Web,” a dynamic creative model shared among interested collaborators who use mobile devices as well as home computers.  Another way to put it is that the Internet has moved from version “Web 1.0” to “Web 2.o.” We have moved from passive content created by one web-master to  dynamic content created by multiple users.

Many people today would rather use chat on facebook (launched in 2004) and twitter (developed in 2006) than conventional email.  Apps have made it easy to use cell phones to receive messages from social media as well as email.  Ironically, institutions of higher education, who were among the first to connect with each other via email beginning in 1969, are now considering contacting their students not only through email but also via facebook.  Facebook is more popular today than email.  Social media is providing new tools to do what genealogists and researches have always done:  volunteer, share, collaborate, and engage in conversation and creative thinking.

The books of Don Tapscott (Growing Up Digital, Wikinomics, Grown Up Digital, and Macrowikinomics)  help to understand the tremendous changes our culture is undergoing due to this major paradigm change.  The World Wide Web initially was the source of an awesome communications revolution in the presentation of information. One can think of the Internet as a gargantuan  cyber-library online that provides every kind of information desired and generated by humankind.  Websites were like books made up of web-pages in the cyber-library.  Just as in concrete  libraries, which contain books both good, bad, and everything in-between, one must be critical of the information found on the Internet. But, the Internet provides far beyond mere access to content. In the cyber-library limited paradigm people are consumers or passive observers and receivers of information. But embedded in the Internet was also the seeds of transformation.  Users of social media are actively engaged in the creation of information and its transmission, not just passive receivers of it. This is the new paradigm of collaboration. It is in many ways more democratic than representation democracy because people can speak their minds with each other with an immediacy never before encountered. One person can speak to millions of people.  People not only learn from each other quickly but also can act immediately; multitudes at a time.  This comparison probably dates me, but I think of this networking via social media to be similar to “phone conference calling and faxing but on an immediate, massive, and limitless scale!” It is “consensus decision making” on a vast scale. Social media is transforming the way we communicate, the way we work together, the way we learn, and the world itself.

Compare this Internet revolution with the first media revolution in Europe, the invention of the printing press, which suddenly provided many more people with written knowledge. What a revolution of freedom that led to!  In the first phase of the Internet revolution was the “.com era.” People became publishers, not just passive receivers of content. Social media has gone beyond publication and is about “networked intelligence.” Each of the communication revolutions has lead to greater actual engagement of individuals in the decision making of their era.  The recent international causes listed below, because of social media platforms, have gone viral and have made a profound impact:

  • the Arab Spring uprisings,
  • the Syrian blogger, Razan Ghazzawi, who was detained by the Syrian government for her comments on her personal blog and on twitter,
  • the support of Ai Weiwei, the Chinese artist and dissident, who twitter his messages of freedom,
  • the Kony 2012 campaign
  • and the campaign to educate people about the situation in theSouth Sudan.

Social media that is  content oriented is known as “blogging.”  Blogs are “websites” but they are not static like a book; they are interactive.  Blogs are also known as “Web Logs” in which an author can publish a post online and the reader is given the opportunity to respond or “Comment” concerning the content of the post.  The ability to “Comment,” which can lead to a conversation, and other interactive “widgets” that can be found on the website, make the blog relational; a social media platform. Most blogs are written blogs (personal/diary style or a brand/advertizing style),  but there are also:  art blogs, photo blogs, video blogs (vlogs), MP3 music blogs,  audio podcasting blogs, enhanced podcasting with images (i.e. vodcasting with videos), and microblogs (i.e. twitter).  All these kinds of blogs can be utilized by genealogists. Some blog sites are free and some are free but can be upgraded for a yearly subscription fee to gain more storage space and more bells-and-whistles on your blog.  If you want to write a blog, make sure your read all the options before you commit.

Some genealogists share their research experience and their family history online with a family history blog.  Some examples are:

A content oriented blog can be used like an ongoing newsletter.  It is awesome to subscribe via email to the e-newsletters of genealogical web-blogs.  They provide a wonderful way to keep up with the constantly changing genealogical world.  Some examples of these are:

Facebook is a free social networking service and platform launched in 2004. There are a number of ways facebook can be utilized by genealogists.   A user can sign up for a personal facebook site with a Timeline.  I have put a lot of my family genealogical information and family stories on my personal Timeline.  But, beyond this a user can create other “pages,” which can be used to promote businesses, brands, celebrities, and organizations.  Many genealogical organizations have facebook pages. Below are just a few examples:

Once you have joined the facebook community by signing up for your own personal page, then you can subscribe to interesting pages like those listed above by clicking on the ”Like” buttons at the top of their pages.  When you do this, you will receive their posts on your personal facebookNews Feed.”  It is similar to subscribing to a e-newsletter via email.  This is another great way to keep up with what is new in genealogy.  But, a reminder, facebook is interactive.  You can comment and respond to the posts.  Ask questions.  Make comments.  Start conversations.

 Facebook pages also have a feature (located on your applications list in the left column) called “Notes” which can be used like a blog.  Your “notes” can be longer and more detailed than the typically short posts on your facebook timeline.  This is particularly nice for detailed genealogical or historical information and stories,  For an example, see “My Notes” page: https://www.facebook.com/notes/me/. Other genealogical third-party applications that you can download to your facebook page are:

  • We’re Related  application by Family Link
  • My Family application also by Family Link
  • Family Tree application by Family Builder   
  • Genoom application by Genoom ~ Private Family Network

Type the name of the application into the search engine at the top of your facebook page and follow the instructions.

Many, if not most, genealogy sites online today can be directly linked to facebook.   You use your facebook login to sign-in to the site which gives permission for the site to access your facebook information.  Once linked, it is then becomes very easy to share information with friends and family.

Another great  featured apps on facebook pages is “Events.”  You can notify people of upcoming events.  You can invite people to real-time events like family history conferences or reunions, or remind them of important webinars coming up online, or perhaps you could arrange that you and your friends have a discussion using “chat” about a certain genealogical topic of common interest.

There is also the option of  “group pages” on facebook.  Potential members of a group have to ask the page administrator for permission to belong. Group pages are good for smaller groups with specific interests.  Many family reunion organizations, for example, utilize facebook group pages. (Their group pages can be private or open).  Many genealogical organizations utilize their group pages like ongoing newsletters (They are open to be viewed by the public but a person still needs to ask the administrator for membership to be able to interact with the posts.)  Some examples are below:

Examples of open facebook group page:

An example of a private family reunion group facebook page:

Regular facebook pages are also used for family reunion pages:

Facebook reunion pages are used to advertise upcoming reunions, plan collaboratively for reunions, and to stay in contact with family members between reunions.

Please be aware that facebook pages and group pages have privacy controls.  You can stipulate who will be able to read and respond to your posts. You could set up your family reunion page so it can only be accessed by your family members, or you can make it open to your “friends,” or make it public.  It’s up to you.

Other possible uses of facebook pages are  memorial pages for deceased and for specific famous or interesting ancestor pages.

Many family associations have had websites or blogs for many years and have started to add a facebook page and a twitter account to their Internettoolbox.” Twitter is another free social networking service.  It is a tiny microblog.  Messages are limited to 140 characters (letters, grammatical marks, and spaces).  A twitter message by its nature must be succinct.  Many bloggers can set up their blog page so that the web address of every new post will be directed to their twitter account and to their facebook page. You can also interlink with your Linkedin page. This makes an incredibly fast way to get information out to family and friends in your network.  One can twitter with fellow genealogists who are researching the same family (same surname), working on similar brick walls, or are researching in the same area. Genealogists love to share new interesting websites, articles online, new Internet tools. Like with all things genealogical on the Internet, the genealogy twitter community is very friendly.  There are a multitude of apps for digital phones and i-pads and other hand held devices.  Through those apps, one can respond to facebook posts and twitter messages away from your home computer.

When you set up your account, make sure your “profile” truly reflects your genealogical/family history interests so perspective twitters will know. You can also include a photograph of yourself. To get started after you set up your twitter account, go to the twitter search page, https://twitter.com/#!/search-advanced, and type in “genealogy” and/or “family history.”  A very long list of genealogists and genealogical organizations will appear.  Pick and choose some of them to subscribe to; to receive their tweets.  If you keep your messages to the point, people will subscribe to your tweets.

Another social media platform, which is  the very essence of “networked intelligence,” is a “wiki.” Probably the most famous “wiki” on the Internet is “Wikipedia.”  This incredible “encyclopedia” online is a huge “groupware” interactive site.  The readers of the articles on “Wikipedia” can be authors, too, and edited the article with additional or correcting information.  “Wikis” provide editable web pages.  Of course, the site is administered and all additions are examined and approved before incorporation into the original text of the article.  Many genealogists and family historians have embraced “wiki” platforms to work collaborative with their families and other researchers.  One such “wiki” site is Genealolwiki, http://www.genealowiki.com/bin/view.cgi/TWiki/WebHome.  Other examples  of genealogy “wikis” are the WeRelate World’s Largest Genealogy Wiki, http://www.werelate.org/wiki/Main_Page, the Hammond Genealogy Wiki, http://hammond.wikispaces.com/, Ancestry.com Family History Wiki, http://www.ancestry.com/wiki/index.php?title=Main_Page and, the Whitney Research Group, http://wiki.whitneygen.org/wrg/index.php/ Main_Page. To participate in a “wiki” one must apply and gain permission.

There are genealogy social networking sites, “Web 2.0” platforms, for those looking for a safe and private place online to share information with a limited number of people; their family members.  Some are free, some are fee based.  Another quality of the “Web 2.0” is that it is “cloud” based.  The “cloud” itself is the Internet; it’s cyberspace.  All this means is that the sites listed below are not only used for  “networking intelligence” and also for the storage of software and the networked data; but not on your personal computer’s hard drive as in the past.  The sites below provide users with genealogical software and a place to blog and share, and store photographic albums.  This frees up space on your hard drive.  You don’t have to worry about downloading updates or maintenance of programs.   The same can be said for blogs, facebook, twitter, and all social media.  For example, much of my information, photographs, and a considerable part of my research are stored in the “cloud.” None-the-less, I still use Family Tree Maker software which is located on my hard drive.

Below are a few examples of 2.0 Web safe and private places for families online :

Another type of content sharing are social bookmarking sites, for example StubleUpon  (http://www.stumbleupon.com/ ) and Delicious (http:// delicious.com/).  I particularly like Delicious and use it for storage of  my Internet research.  I have twenty “stacks” of information, which are interactive.  People can view them and contribute if they choose.

Even the writing of genealogies and family histories has been transformed by the digital revolution.  Many writing tools are now available in the “cloud.”  First of all there is “Google docs,” (https://docs.google.com/).  You can upload your files off of your hard drive and utilize Google’s desk top applications. You can use Google’s word processer, spreadsheets, and you can edit presentations, create charts and diagrams, and create forms.  They are interactive and others can edit and contribute to your work if you so choose.  Other popular “docs” online are:

There are many writing aids that can be downloaded into your computer and connected with your hand held devices.

  • http://www.evernote.com/ (EverNote)
  • http://www.literatureandlatte.com/scrivener.php (Scrivener ~ “Scrivener is a powerful content-generation tool for writers that allows you to concentrate on composing and structuring long and difficult documents. While it gives you complete control of the formatting, its focus is on helping you get to the end of that awkward first draft.

Mentioned above were other types of blogs besides the classic content blog:  Here are some examples of how genealogists and family historians have utilized them:, photo blogs, video blogs (vlogs),  audio podcasting blogs, MP3 music blogs and art blogs.  The lists below only scratch the surface of what is out there.

Photo blogs ~ upload your photos off your hard drive:

Video Blogs (Vlogs) ~ upload your videos off your hard drive:

Visit the YouTube website and in its search engine type “genealogy” or “family history.”  You will find a huge genealogical presence on YouTube, which includes videos produced by genealogical websites, businesses, organizations, families, and individuals!

Podcast and Vodcast Blogs:

This article is only an introduction. It is a broad overview of genealogy and family history on the Internet.  The last forty-years have seen incredible developments; Web 1.0 and Web 2.0.  One ponders what amazing developments Web 3.0 will bring us in the future!?

At the end of a long day of researching, whether in an archive, or on the Internet, I first pull up “Spotify,” (http://www.spotify.com/uk/) a streaming music site, or perhaps download some favorite music from I-Tunes, (http://www.apple.com/itunes/).  Then I click on beautiful Impressionist paintings from the “Vincent Van Gogh Gallery and Art Information Resource” website, http://blog.vangoghgallery.com/, an art blog.  And, with my drink of choice in hand, an ice cold Diet Coke,  I kick back and enjoy interesting blog posts about Vincent and his art.

Remember to enjoy the Internet as well as working the Internet.


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