Monday, December 16, 2013

Facebook for Genealogy: Threads

There are now several thousand genealogy groups on Facebook. Some are for commercial enterprises and some are for researching in a specific locale or for a specific topic or surname. They are all community forums in which we can participate and help one another with our research. Social networking on Facebook is a great way to meet others, to teach others, and to help others. In order to make it a productive and helpful tool for our research, there are several things we should all put into regular practice.

Today's Topic: Threads

A thread in an online forum refers to one conversation: the initial question or post followed by all the replies, comments, and answers to that post. On Facebook after a certain number of replies, the thread will "collapse" which means it will show up as a shortened version with only the most recent comments displayed. At the top under the original post it will state "View previous comments" and show the number of current comments on the thread, such as "11 of 112."  This means that it is showing the most recent 11 comments out of a total of 112.

When participating in a conversation, be sure you first read the entire thread. Doing so means you will know what others have already said and how other answers were shared. Quite often people do not read an entire thread, but they go ahead and reply, answer a question, or ask another question in their comments. This almost always means there will be duplication in the answers received or assumptions made about the depth and breadth of the conversation.

Common Rules to Follow in a Thread:

  • Read the initial post carefully to be sure you understand the comment or the question.
  • Before replying, be sure to read the entire thread first so that you don't repeat something that has already been said by someone else. Unless, of course, it is something that bears repeating.
  • Be thorough in your reply if you are offering advice or answering a research question.
  • If you are stating a personal opinion, offer some reasoning to back up your statements.
  • Do not assume that the reader has the same knowledge-base that you do about the topic or about genealogy in general. 
  • Remember that the reader of the thread isn't just the person who wrote the original post. Everyone who belongs to the group can read what your replies contain. This is always an opportunity to keep in mind that you may be sharing information with new genealogists and you might be helping them to learn new ways to do their research. You might also teach the veterans a thing or two.
  • If your reply includes a reference to something found online, be sure to include the URL (web address) for the reference. Copy & paste it from your web browser directly into your reply to be sure it is accurate and will work properly.
  • If your reply includes a reference to a specific work, online or offline, be sure to include the complete title so that it will be easy for others to track down.
  • Stay on topic. If the topic strays from the original post, it might be time to start a new thread.
  • If the thread becomes more of a personal conversation between you and another person, it might be time to move it to a private message conversation instead of using the public forum.
  • Respect the opinions and advice given by others. Have a thoughtful conversation with others, encouraging a good-natured exchange of ideas and research methodology tips.
  • Mind your manners. A public forum isn't the time or the place for anyone to do or say something that they wouldn't do or say in person, face to face. It's sad that I have to include this bit, but I've seen tempers flare far too often. Treat others with the same courtesy you wish for yourself.

See also: Facebook for Genealogy: Posts, aka Queries

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Why Genealogy on TV is a Good Thing

Well, I think I've reached my personal limit with regard to the nay-sayers about the various television programs that feature genealogy. I'm so tired of listening to the complaining. In fact, I tend to think that the nay-sayers are a small number, yet they seem to holler the loudest. And this isn't a new thing when it comes to genealogy.

When I was first online in 1995 I watched the Internet take off in an astronomically fast upward spiral with regard to genealogy. I started keeping track of my bookmarks for genealogy, which at that time printed out on one piece of paper. Within two years of the launch of Cyndi's List the total went from 1,025 to well over 26,000 links. And that is in the infancy of genealogy online. By the 3rd anniversary the site had more than 20,000,000 visitors to the front page. Clearly, the Internet was popular with people who were interested in their family history. And that is when the nay-sayers started their Internet-hate campaign. Some of the things I heard or read on a regular basis:
  • The Internet is a fad.
  • The Internet is going to kill libraries.
  • The Internet is going to kill genealogy societies.
  • The Internet produces junk genealogy.
  • The Internet encourages junk genealogy.
  • The Internet isn't for serious genealogists.
18 years later I think each of those statements have now been proven to be extreme, overly reactionary, and just plain wrong. First of all, the Internet isn't a magical machine bent on destruction. Genealogy online is the work of human beings. And it is up to the genealogists online, especially the veterans and the professionals, to make the Internet work for us as a positive thing. The Internet is a venue for publishing, education, archiving, backup, records access, meetings, and socializing. Each of those things can be used in a way to enhance everything we do in genealogy. But, back in the beginning, each of those things were seen as negatives when it came to the nay-sayers. Well, they were wrong. I'm wagging my finger at them and sticking out my virtual tongue. I believe that people now see the Internet as a valuable tool and an asset to libraries, societies, and the entire genealogical community.

In my opinion, what the Internet has done for genealogy has been a wonderful thing. Supposedly genealogy is the second most popular topic online. The Internet has made it easy for long-lost cousins to find one another. And it's easier to learn, to publish, to share, and to move forward in our research faster than we could have done in the past. This also means that more people are interested in genealogy now than before computers and the Internet. More people find it accessible. Prior to this it was the hobby of retired people and those who had the time and money to do a lot of traveling for on-site research. The Internet opened up research to people who were on tight budgets or housebound for a variety of reasons. Younger people and stay-at-home moms or dads can now spend time on genealogy. It is now a hobby for anyone that has an interest in learning more about their ancestors.

So, how do we take the next step to encourage people to become interested in genealogy? When I started in genealogy in 1980, in Washington state, I had no idea that there were genealogy societies or libraries with genealogy collections. I worked in a very small vacuum in the Pacific Northwest, with no money and no car to drive. It took me several years to learn about where to go and what to look for in my research. My first exposure to genealogy beyond my small world was the media. A syndicated newspaper column by Myra Vanderpool Gormley. Through Myra I learned about genealogy books and magazines, genealogy libraries, genealogy societies, and that there were actually large groups of people out there who were also interested in this unique hobby. Myra's column told me that there was more out there. Myra's column, because of the nature of a nationally syndicated newspaper column, didn't teach me everything I needed to know to turn me into the world's perfect genealogist. My expectation wasn't that I would learn everything I ever needed to know just by reading her column. But it did keep my interest alive and it prompted me to go look for more. My Grandma Nash & my Aunt Daisy gave me my first taste of family history. It was Myra's column that let me know that there was more to it than just compiling names and dates. If it wasn't for Myra, I wouldn't have gone further.

And with that I come to the point of this article. Television is good for genealogy. And I'm so tired of hearing the nay-sayers when it comes to the television programs Who Do You Think You Are? and the Genealogy Roadshow. In both cases genealogical research for the people featured on the show is presented in a one-hour time slot. There is no way to fit everything a person needs to know about how to do research for________ [fill in the blank] in a one-hour show. So, it isn't a reasonable argument to say things such as:
  • If I had money to travel all over the world, I could do that too!
  • Celebrities have it easy.
  • The show misleads people by making it look too easy.
  • Wouldn't it be nice to have a clerk just hand you the documents you need without any work?
  • They are just handing a bunch of stuff over without telling them how to do the research.
  • They make it look like you can find these things without any work.
  • They aren't teaching them anything about genealogy.
C'mon people! Really? Behind the scenes of the genealogy television programs there are teams of professional genealogists doing the research, sometimes for several months. And all the research they did wasn't necessarily included in the one-hour program. You know why? Because there was a lot of editing done to the thousands of hours of research and hundreds of hours of filming in order to condense it to a one-hour show. And because TV is supposed to entertain us and engage us and draw us in. The purpose of these shows is to highlight the topic, not to be the end-all educational option for genealogy. In the same way that Myra's newspaper column opened my eyes 33 years ago, these television programs are letting the world know that this hobby is fun and interesting and personal and enthralling. These programs are today's media outreach to a new generation of genealogists. Television producers and directors edit and present the programs to bring in the targeted audience. And we need to remember they aren't necessarily targeting us—the genealogists who already know how to research. Once that targeted audience is here, it is our job to help them learn and to point them in the right direction to become great genealogists. Let's get them in the doors first. To just unilaterally dismiss the television programs by portraying them negatively is short-sighted. So, I'm wagging my finger at you nay-sayers again. Let's see these programs for what they are, a positive and entertaining introduction to genealogy, rather than for what you think they should be. Quit with the negativity and the bad-mouthing. Because I said so.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

The special offer below has now expired. 
Thank you for your support!

An Additional Special Offer from My Heritage
Cyndi Ingle HowellsThank you for all the support!  I appreciate the many purchases you have made of this great product.
I have also heard from many of you that you would like full access to everything MyHeritage has to offer.
MyHeritage has provided me with another great offer for those of you who are looking for full access to MyHeritage trees and content.  Get this special offer – 50% off MyHeritage Bundle – PremiumPlus account and MyHeritage Data, both good for one full year.
This Special Offer is only good through Tuesday April 23rd  at midnight so sign up soon!
 (If you have already purchased the Data only and would like to make an upgrade to the full plan please send an email to me and we will handle the upgrade.)

50% off MyHeritage Bundle – PremiumPlus account and MyHeritage Data

Disclaimer: This blog post was written by me after spending time exploring the features of the subscription-based MyHeritage genealogy web site. The material written here is in my own words. Any purchases/subscriptions created from the link in this article will result in a donation from MyHeritage to Cyndi's List.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

The special offer below has now expired. 
Thank you for your support!

A message from Cyndi Ingle Howells, founder of Cyndi's List

Cyndi at RootsTech 2013As you may know it takes a lot of time and money to run Cyndi's List, to keep the links up to date, and to keep the directory growing.

MyHeritage has authorized me to pass along this great deal to you -- 50% off their MyHeritage Data Subscription. For each sale they will donate a substantial amount back to Cyndi's List, helping me to continue to provide Cyndi's List as a free research tool for all of you.

Since they made this generous offer, I have been busy exploring and researching to see what there is to offer at MyHeritage. At the recent RootsTech conference in Salt Lake City I also had a chance to meet with many of their team and I've been pleasantly surprised at the many features of MyHeritage and some of their recent updates as well.
  • MyHeritage, launched in 2005, is now the 2nd largest genealogy company in the world with the recent additions of FamilyLink, WorldVitalRecords and Geni to their family.
  • MyHeritage hosts more than 4 billion global, historical records. Later this month the record sets will also include the complete U.S. Federal Census, 1790-1940, with all images indexed.
  • MyHeritage offers free family tree web sites that you can share with others. The sites can be completely private and hidden from the public, or they can be searchable and shared with the public. 
  • With MyHeritage you have the option of creating your family tree via their web site, their free app for your mobile device, or their free Family Tree Builder software for Windows.
  • Some of the things that impress me most are all the privacy options built into the family tree sites. Privacy is a top priority at MyHeritage. You can lock down your personal profile to protect your own privacy. You can also limit access and content through privacy settings for each of your family trees.
  • MyHeritage has a spiffy face recognition feature that helps to tag people in photos within your family trees. Its algorithms learn the faces and remember them, returning you matching results from the growing collection of photos uploaded by other viewers. Yet another way to connect with possible cousins online.
  • Smart Matching compare your family tree and matches it with millions of other family trees on MyHeritage. Smart Matching works with almost 40 different languages. When it comes to matching names it will work at matching all possible versions of a name, including those in different languages.
  • One of the most striking things I learned was how MyHeritage benefits U.S. genealogists in a new and unique way. MyHeritage was founded in Israel and has members from all over the world. This means it is relatively new to the U.S. market. Smart Matching has the ability to match U.S. researchers with distant cousins in the old world, using technology to help bridge that sometimes difficult gap.
  • Record Matching works in much the same way as Smart Matching. It looks for historical records in the MyHeritage data sets that may match people in your family tree and the events in their lives. It is unique in that it also includes newspaper articles.
  • SuperSearch allows user to search through billions of records across all of the data sets and all of the family trees available on MyHeritage.
  • MyHeritage also offers DNA testing and they can help you showcase your research with printing of personalized charts for your family tree.
  • And on a personal note, I was pleased to learn that the founder of MyHeritage started his own genealogy research when he was 13 years old. I started when I was 17. I like knowing that there is a long personal history of genealogy behind a research tool of this sort and that the founder and CEO of MyHeritage is a genealogist.
MyHeritage is a company on the forefront of new technology that enables your family tree to find content matches even as you sleep! This is a company to watch and I highly recommend you give them a try. For the next week only take advantage of this 50% off the data subscription deal and help both your family history research and Cyndi's List at the same time. Thank you!

Cyndi Ingle Howells

Disclaimer: This blog post was written by me after spending time exploring the features of the subscription-based MyHeritage genealogy web site. The material written here is in my own words. Any purchases/subscriptions created from the link in this article will result in a donation from MyHeritage to Cyndi's List.

50% off MyHeritage Data Subscription