Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Genealogy in social media

A wee bit of civil controversy appeared on the Association of Professional Genealogists mailing list last week (under the heading, "Facebook for Genealogists genealogywise"), as posters took note of the increased popularity of Facebook among our crowd, and the appearance of Genealogywise, which is basically facebook for genealogists.

Do these sites add value beyond sociability and (for practicing professionals) exposure? (There are other sites but I haven't done them -- in fact, the burden of having to track multiple social media was one issue discussed.)

On Facebook, the Geneabloggers group distributes blogging tips and invitations to various carnivals, which are convenient although probably just as doable by e-mail.

On Genealogywise, which is pretty new, the groups so far consist of people listing their surnames or asking if anyone has heard of anything that will solve their problem. For those who are (in Tom Jones's juxtaposition) more interested in genealogy than in ancestors, it was interesting to see Ginger Smith's post in the Indiana Genealogy group of some images from the handwritten grantors index to Putnam County deeds, Volume 3, April 1824 - Aug 1863, for surnames beginning with the letters T-Z. She invites visitors to post their transcriptions.

Of course, it's not like Indiana doesn't already have a major transcription project under way, but doing this kind of thing on Genealogywise might attract some new participants . . . and get people thinking about the stupendous mountain of valuable records out there (the deeds themselves) that are undigitized and likely to remain so.


Thomas MacEntee said...

What I don't understand is the way in which many "certified" genealogists continue to divide the genealogy community with such comments as are rife on the APG lists.

I've seen it in comments on genealogy blogs as well - people stress that they are "_____ certified" and poo-poo the idea of having a genealogy blog as if it were beneath them or unprofessional. Quite frankly I've heard enough of this talk of who is inside and outside of margins set by people who can't even manage a civil conversation on their own mailing list.

Harold said...

Hi Tom! Actually most of those who post on the APG list are not CGs, and many are not even members of APG. The list is open and (unfortunately) not "managed" by anyone, to date. Even so, I've never seen it anywhere near as uncivil as the general run of political blogs.

I don't recall seeing much one way or the other on the APG list about blogs, but I could have forgotten. The recent discussion I was spinning off from was simply someone questioning what these new media offer that's that different from e-mail, which seems like a fair question and easy enough that even I could answer it!

geneabloggers said...

Thanks Harold for the clarification - I was unaware that it wasn't a monitored list. I've heard many complaints about the APG lists and if I were running it - as complicated as it would be - I'd limit access to APG members I guess.

I think too many people in the genealogy field - whether by hobby or profession - are adverse to social media (Facebook, blogs, Twitter) but there are many of us who are breaking down brick walls everyday with these tools.

Jasia said...

I seem to be one who swims against the current when it comes to social networking sites. I'm not fond of them, at least not as a substitute for or adjunct to genealogy blogging. I think they'd be a great place to participate in memes or pass along blog awards though, you know, the fluff stuff.

I miss the days when I only had to follow one feed reader and we all touched base with each other via blog comments and personal email. Those were the good old, simple, days!

Harold said...

Tom -- yeah, genealogist do skew old, so I tend to see resistance to new technologies as more a function of being set in one's ways than of being a genealogist. The other thing is that for some people it may be just a time question.

Jasia, I was actually very resistant to joining facebook for the reasons you say, and it does take some time. The advantage for me is that I can keep in casual touch with friends and family who live in very different worlds most of the time -- some genealogists, some chess players, some former work colleagues (back when I had a job!), cousins I don't see hardly ever. So far it hasn't been a research tool for me, but at least in terms of finding distant cousins with helpful info, I can see that it might be. We all have to find our own balance and help each other with the rest.

Oxa said...

"I tend to see resistance to new technologies as more a function of being set in one's ways"

This statement reveals more about your biases than about the real issues with Facebook or other social networking applications.

Read "I'm On Facebook, So Now What?" and you'll find out that it isn't just aging fuddy-duddies who don't like the Facebook hegemony, and it isn't just for reasons of "resistance" or "being set in one's ways."


Cheryl Rothwell said...

Social genealogy isn't for everyone. Let's not try to force everyone into a certain mold. Those who want to can join social genealogy sites. Facebook is a good way to connect with others whether personal or genealogical. I expect a proliferation of such sites so that soon they will not be useful - no one can be everywhere.