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Kimberly Powell

Collaboration & Networking for Genealogists

By September 9, 2008

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As many genealogists are on Facebook these days, I must have met at least as many at the FGS Conference last week who either had never heard of Facebook, or who thought it was just for "young" people. But as with many other social networking tools, the benefit of Facebook is the interaction it offers with fellow genealogists. A way to become friends with genealogists from all over the world. To interact with and learn from your peers. To keep up with all of the latest trends and techniques. Genealogy can often feel like such a solitary pursuit since the people we spend so much time getting to know are no longer with us in person. Social networking is an answer - bringing genealogists together across the globe.

At Facebook, genealogists are creating profiles, posting updates on their current research or endeavors, posting online family trees with special Facebook applications, working together to solve genealogical mysteries (such as with the Unclaimed Persons group) and sharing little bits of themselves and their lives. The beauty of Facebook is that you can be as involved or as passive as you wish. You can choose to share many personal details, or keep primarily to yourself. It took me months before I even got up the nerve to post a photo of myself! But Facebook definitely helped me feel more at ease last week when I attended the FGS Conference - I felt like I already knew so many people because we were "Facebook friends!" And it was awesome to meet all of you in person - especially my dinner buddies!

Another application which just launched which has a potentially interesting application for genealogiss is Screen2, a collaborative "Internet surfing" tool. This tool allows people to share the view of your Internet browser with anyone online - so one user can surf the Web or search a genealogy database, while the other user can tag along and watch what they are doing, or try it for themselves. Unlike desktop sharing applications, Screen2 only shares the browser view, and it requires no software installation. I haven't tried it out personally yet, but it seems like it could be an interesting tool for collaborative online genealogy searches.

And then there is the very unique genealogy collaboration going on in Second Life - a virtual world complete with avatars. Two well-known genealogists, Pat Richley (aka Dear Myrtle) and Craig Scott can be found there on Tuesday evenings meeting with other family historians from all over the world in Just Genealogy - a comfortable place to learn how to research your family history. Craig, whose avatar is named Krag Mariner, is easy to spot in his kilt, while Myrt (avatar Clarise Beaumont) looks like a true southern belle. In this virtual world, you can listen to the genealogy discussion, and those with headsets or microphones can join in verbally. Those without mics can participate via chat. There are other genealogy groups hanging out in Second Life as well - check out UGG - the Union of Genealogy Groups to find more.

If you want to check out Second Life for yourself, you just need to create a virtual persona and download some software. The free account will allow you to explore the virtual world and participate in the various genealogy groups. What a interesting application for genealogy collaboration!

Do you have a favorite online place or tool for online genealogy collaboration and networking? Share it with us!

September 9, 2008 at 3:46 pm
(1) Free Genealogy says:

Great article on social networking and how it fits into Genealogy and building your Family Tree. There’s a site called Familybuilder.com that might be of interest to review that allows you to build your tree in one place and then use these social networking sites such as Facebook, MySpace etc to search for family members.

September 9, 2008 at 5:31 pm
(2) Kate says:

Very informative article, Kimberly. I am new to Facebook myself and got a chuckle when you said it took you months to post your picture. I still haven’t posted one of me! I do find Facebook a little difficult to navigate, probably an old dog trying to learn new tricks though. Connnecting with other genealogists is a bit like a snowball effect – one adds you as a friend and then others see that and familiar names pop up every day. Fun!

September 9, 2008 at 7:43 pm
(3) Terry Thornton says:

Interesting post — thanks. Of course, many in genealogy haven’t heard of Facebook. Let’s face it. Most of us are as old as dirt! My grandchildren, however, are envious that their Grandpa got kicked off Facebook the other day for posting too many messages to my Genea-Blogger friends.

Please don’t forget the rapidly growing group, GENEA-BLOGGERS at Facebook. We are going places! And I’m glad you are with us on that journey.

Terry Thornton
Fulton, Mississippi

September 9, 2008 at 8:38 pm
(4) Miriam Robbins Midkiff says:

Kimberly, I was glad to see your post about Facebook. I joined Facebook about a year ago, but rarely did anything on it until this summer, when I found genealogists galore joining by the day, thanks mainly to Megan Smolenyak’s Unclaimed Persons project! It’s been so fun to connect to both amateur and professionals, pure genealogists and family historians, lecturers and bloggers!

Speaking of bloggers, I agree with Terry Thornton’s comment above that the Genea-Bloggers Group on Facebook (http://www.new.facebook.com/group.php?gid=30305424880) has been a great support system for those of us who journal about genealogy in general and our family histories in particular. We’ve even gone so far as to start our own blog on how to use Facebook successfully to support our Group and our blogging (http://fbbootcamp.blogspot.com/)! We invite other genealogy blog readers and writers to submit a request to join our group.

September 9, 2008 at 8:46 pm
(5) Denise Olson says:

Although I’m sure there are many genealogists who haven’t discovered Facebook yet, there are many who have. The Genea-Bloggers Facebook group is growing daily and by offering both support and inspiration to members of the genealogy community who do make their way here, they have energized their members. Events like scanfests, carnivals and the recent genea-games are just the beginning. This group is leading the way to the joys of Genealogy 2.0!

September 10, 2008 at 1:07 am
(6) Elyse says:

Thanks so much for this article Kimberly!!

While I am only 19, I nevered joined Facebook until I discovered the Unclaimed Persons group. I thought of Facebook as a place to brag about the latest party you went to and to discuss who you’re latest boyfriend is…it all just seemed like too much drama!

Then I got on Facebook and now I have so many wonderfully helpful and kind friends on there who are genealogists. Because of the Genea-Bloggers group, I got up the nerve to create a blog on genealogy, similar to the Youtube videos that I make.

The possibilities are endless – and it sure is nice to talk to other genealogists. (Especially since I don’t have the money to go to conferences)


July 11, 2009 at 10:55 pm
(7) Robyn says:

I have often wondered if Facebook could be a good tool for today’s genealogist. Thanks for the great information; I may just have to give Facebook a try.

April 4, 2010 at 11:13 pm
(8) Eric Brian Brewster says:

Kimberly I am a serious genealogist, I have researched my family lines for 19yrs, it is now finished. I am descended through the family lines of Fergus Mac Gillicuddy, whom is supposed to be Queen Gweniyiviere’s father. if the names Fergus Mor mac Eirc and Loarn mac Eirc mean much to anyone then my family lines become crystal clear as being cousins to the Royality of Europe in the Dark Ages.

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