Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Social Networking for Genealogists

     The Internet is in the process of changing from a collection of corporate, organizational, and personal websites to a social network of dynamic services full of user-contributed content (think Wikipedia, Flickr, YouTube, etc.).  The benefits of participating in this universe of expanded and shared information are incalculable and will lead, potentially, to the greatest exchange of information in history.  Genealogists in particular will thrive in this new Internet environment of sharing, exchanging, and interacting.

     There are a wide array of social networking services that are now available online that can be used by genealogists to share information, photos, and videos with family, friends, and other researchers.

     You may want to incorporate some of these powerful new tools into your family history research if you not already utilizing them:

  • Blogs
A blog (a blend of the term web log) is a type of website or part of a website. Blogs are usually maintained by an individual with regular entries of commentary, descriptions of events, or other material such as graphics or video. Entries are commonly displayed in reverse-chronological order. Blog can also be used as a verb, meaning to maintain or add content to a blog. 
  • Collaborative Editing
Collaborative editing is the practice of groups producing works together through individual contributions. Effective choices in group awareness, participation, and coordination are critical to successful collaborative writing outcomes. 
  • Genealogy-Specific Social Networks
What is social networking? According to Wictionary, it is the interaction between a group of people who share a common interest.
  • General Social Networking (Facebook)
General social networks or friends-based social networks are those that do not focus on a particular topic or niche, but rather put the emphasis on staying connected to your friends. The more popular of these being  Facebook, but there are a number of popular friends-based social networks on the internet. 
  • Message Boards and Mailing Lists
While mailing lists and message boards are similar in purpose, the difference lies in the way the information is distributed. With mailing lists, with every message that is posted to the list, a copy is sent to all of the list's subscribers. In addition, most lists have an online archive where past messages can also be searched.

Message boards are online forums where each message is posted to the board. Users can choose to receive notifications when items are posted to boards of interest. Message boards are also searchable.

  • Photos and Video Sharing
Photo sharing is the publishing or transfer of a user's digital photos online, thus enabling the user to share them with others (publicly or privately). This function is provided through both websites and applications that facilitate the upload and display of images. The term can also be loosely applied to the use of online photo galleries that are set up and managed by individual users, including photo blogs.

The first photo sharing sites originated during the mid to late 1990s primarily from services providing online ordering of prints (photo finishing), but many more came into being during the early 2000s with the goal of providing permanent and centralized access to a user's photos, and in some cases video clips too. Webshots, SmugMug, Yahoo! Photos and Flickr were among the first.
  • Podcast
A podcast (or non-streamed webcast) is a series of digital media files (either audio or video) that are released episodically and often downloaded through web syndication. The word replaced webcast in common vernacular due to the fame of the iPod and its role in the rising popularity and innovation of web feeds.
  • RSS Feeds
    RSS (Rich Site Summary) is a format for delivering regularly changing web content. Many news-related sites, weblogs and other online publishers syndicate their content as an RSS Feed to whoever wants it.

RSS solves a problem for people who regularly use the web. It allows you to easily stay informed by retrieving the latest content from the sites you are interested in. You save time by not needing to visit each site individually. You ensure your privacy, by not needing to join each site's email newsletter. 
  • Sharing Personal Libraries
Here's a way for genealogists to share their personal libraries with others by using a web site that allows you to catalogue all the books in your personal library, tag them by subject, rate them, review them, and search them from any computer with internet access or even a cell phone. But the best part of all is, you can share your catalogue with all your friends. 
  • Tags

Tags are like keywords or labels that you add to a photo to make it easier to find later. You can tag a photo with phrases like "catherine yosemite hiking mountain trail." Later if you look for pictures of Catherine, you can just click that tag and get all photos that have been tagged that way. 

You may also have the right to add tags to your friends' photos, if your friends set that option in the privacy settings for their photos. 
  • Virtual Worlds
 A virtual world is a genre of online community that often takes the form of a computer-based simulated environment, through which users can interact with one another and use and create objects. 
  • Wikis
A wiki is a website that anyone can contribute to by creating new pages or editing existing pages. A wiki makes it easy for a dispersed community to work together, furthering common goals and sharing information.  One way to use wiki’s is to share research tips with others. 

We’ve all learned things as we’ve researched our family history – how to research in specific places, where to find and how to use certain kinds of sources, how culture, ethnicity, and occupation can provide additional leads, etc. Why should people starting out have to learn these same lessons all over again? What if there was a way for you to share what you’ve learned with others – giving them the benefit of your experience as they start out? 

It seems that if we make family history research easier for beginners to get involved in, then more people will take it up as an interest, which benefits everyone. More people doing family history means more people available to transcribe records, greater incentive for business to provide better software and access to information. 

    Tuesday, May 10, 2011


    By Mary Penner, genealogist 09 May 2011

    http://c.mfcreative.com/offer/us/amu/2011/05/feature image1.jpg
    Even when all of the signs seem to indicate that a certain great-great-aunt was married, it can still be tough trying to determine when, where, with whom and how many times she tied the knot. It’s even tougher when marriage records are AWOL from a county courthouse or when you just don’t know where to look.
    It turns out there are great sources at Ancestry.com that hold clues to past trips down the aisle. Here are five of my favorites:
    1. Census records. Marital status hints first appeared in the 1850 census when residents were asked if they had married within the year. Census takers posed this same question in 1860, 1870 and 1880. It’s a handy detail to have. For example, in 1860 William and Adeline Knapp were newlyweds, but a nine-year-old boy with a different surname lived with them. Does that mean there was a previous marriage for Adeline? (Check the 1850 census for an Adeline using the same surname as the little boy to see if you’re onto something.) In 1900, census takers asked for the number of years married. In 1910 they clarified that question by asking for the number of years in the present marriage. In 1930 they inquired about your ancestors’ age at first marriage. A little math will help you determine if that was the same marriage as the one they’re in during 1930.
    2. Draft records. The military wanted to know if potential soldiers were single or married. You may land upon a clue to a previous marriage when a draft registration from the Civil War or World War I lists a single man with dependent children.
    3. City directories and gazetteers. These forerunners of phone books are dandy sources for spotting widows. That’s because they often noted which women were widows, and sometimes were kind enough to include the name of the deceased husband, too.
    4. Death records. Most death certificates include the deceased’s marital status; some include the spouse’s name. Pay close attention to the informant’s name: it could be the spouse, since he or she was the one who often provided the death certificate details.
    5. Newspapers.  Historical newspapers frequently chronicled the vital events of our ancestors’ lives including engagement and marriage notices. Divorces often made the news, too. Review obituaries for your ancestor and other family members as well – you may learn maiden names or the name of a deceased spouse.

    Thursday, May 5, 2011