Friday, August 12, 2016

Family History Research Today - it's not your Grandma's Research

Welcome back! I have had all sorts of ideas floating through my head on what to write about but just haven't had the time recently. Currently, I am working on setting up the first Indian River Genealogy Conference, scheduled for March 18, 2017, managing a Family History Center and preparing training opportunities for the family history consultants since I was just called as the Vero Beach Stake Family History Center Director, helping to organize a new virtual genealogy society on Second Life called the Second Life Virtual Genealogy Society (SLVGS), and just doing my usual things. Isn't it great to be ADHD? But with all that going on I decided to take off work today and do some things around the house, including adding a new blog post.

So, what have I been thinking about lately? As you can see, I was writing some posts about various online archives in Europe. Before that I was writing about some of the apps that have been developed for FamilySearch. But today I began to think about how genealogy research has changed over the 20 or so years that I have been working on it. I grew up in the computer era. My first computer was a RadioShack Tandy CoCo color computer. You used a TV screen as the monitor. The modem was a telephone you placed on a cradle, the hard drive was a cassette recorder, and I had a 9-pin dot matrix printer with spooled paper. Now we all walk around with cell phones, tablets, and touch screen computers. Our printers have built in scanners and we can make color copies of photographs, take pdf and jpg images of our documents, and a large portion of the records we need to start our research are online and available for us to research at the push of a button, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. We have been spoiled by all of this technology, but we do need to realize that only a small portion of all the records are available online. There are many other records out there that we are under utilizing because they are stored on shelves or boxes in a storage room in the basement of a courthouse or the attic of some long lost relative.

In the old days, some of you still remember, we had to take road trips or fly to our homelands to find records. We would search through page after page of records looking for that elusive name or date. Today, many of our records have been indexed by volunteers or contractors, and we have the capacity to use optical character recognition (OCR) so many typed records are now transcribed by computers. Just look at all of the newspaper archives that are opening up online (Fulton History, Chronicling America, Genealogy Bank, and so many more). One of my favorite places to search for newspapers is Wikipedia. Did you know that they have an ongoing project to list the available newspapers at their List of Online Newspapers page? If not, you may want to check it out.

Also, today family history is a collaborative project. Sites such as FamilySearch have one tree where researchers from all over the world can work together building a more detailed record of our families, contributing copies of the documents and photographs that they have in their possession. Social media sites have also been taken over by family history researchers. How many of you use Facebook as a research tool? The number of Facebook groups dedicated to genealogy research are growing exponentially. There is even a list of all the Facebook groups dedicated to genealogy posted on the web. Another rapidly growing genealogy resource is Pinterest. You can search projects, posts, photographs, and other items on Pinterest and you can store your photos there also. Have you thought about setting up interest areas on Pinterest that focus on your interests? A friend of mine, Becky Jamison, has been blogging about a site called Trello. Trello is a site that helps you organize your records in such a way as to tell a story. I suggest that you look at Becky's blog and search for Trello since she has several posts describing how she is using it for her research.

The internet is growing so rapidly that no one person can know where all the necessary records are located. Through collaborative research we will be able to have a more complete story of those who have come before us and really get to know who they were. I challenge each of you to find a seldom used site, get away from the big sites, take the plunge in social media, find new cousins, and build collaborations to increase your research capabilities.

I hope everyone has a great weekend and discovers some of those branches and new leaves that we all know are on our trees.


Becky Jamison said...

What a wonderful recollection of how it used to be and what we've advanced to today, Miles! And all in a few short decades. Your challenge is accepted, as I'm going to check out the Wikipedia newspaper listings and investigate more of the little-known sites. I'm currently adding my Cousin Connections from Relative Finder onto a new Trello board. Thank you for the shout out on my Trello posts. You've given me a few more ideas for blog posts and Trello boards. And most of all, thank you for calling me your friend. I'm honored.

Miles Meyer said...

Becky, I enjoy reading your posts also. They give me so many ideas. Good luck researching.