As a researcher of my family history, I am always interested in new and different ways to assist me in finding my ancestors. This website is named for that endeavor - The Ancestor Hunt, which for me is what it is all about.
A lot of researchers use Social Media to help them not only find possible relatives, but also to stay aware of all the new tools, toys, and online databases to assist us in our endeavor. Twitter is great for keeping up with what's happening; I have found some success in connecting and finding new relatives with Facebook, as just two examples. All are great for connecting with other researchers, both experts and amateurs.
The most recent big change, at least in my mind has been Google+. I had been a Google+ member for 18 months or so like many, but had not used it much until Google+ Communities were made available in early December, 2012.
And ....BAM... the amount of activity regarding Google+ began to really take off and is increasing rapidly. I recall a conversation with a colleague, Caroline Pointer where we discussed the value of the brand new Google+ communities. Within hours, Caroline started what is now the Largest (1316 members at this time) Genealogy related community Tech for Genealogy & Family History Researchers
as well as a Private Community for researchers Genealogy & Family History for Non-Professionals
intended to be a place for non professionals to collaborate in a safe, non judgmental space.
There were many other Google+ communities set up in the first days of December - Genealogy
, Genetic Genealogy
, Lynn Palermo's Family History Writers
, and Susan Sabia's Family Ancestry
. I belong to most of these and get good information from them, as well as participate. I later set up two specialized communities myself related to my interest areas - San Francisco Genealogy
and Genealogy and Newspapers
. It is difficult to count them all but my guess is that there are somewhere between 100 and 200 genealogy or family history related Google+ communities.Tessa Keough was the pioneer for Hangouts. Tessa has been a huge Google+ proponent since its inception. Her Legacy Virtual Users Group Hangouts on Air (HOAs) which are recorded and available on her YouTube channel were instrumental in helping others to find out the tricks of using this valuable tool.
Soon many folks were starting to take advantage of the Hangouts and Hangouts on Air capabilities. I hosted a Hangout regarding Newspapers and Genealogy very early in February, but because of other life priorities have not been able to be more participative with Hangouts. And the video activity has taken off!
I can't speak to all of the Hangout/Hangout On Air activity, but there are two that come to mind that you should be aware of. The first is Caroline Pointers' weekly What's Up Genealogy? video interview series. You can catch all of the episodes on her 4YourFamilyStory
YouTube channel. The second is "our friend in genealogy" Pat Ericksons' Dear Myrtle
YouTube channel as well. Pat, as I recall was motivated by the ease of the Hangouts (as well as the low cost - free!) to move her weekly webinars and other activity to Google+. She also later created a growing community DearMYRTLE's Genealogy Community
where her followers can keep track of her activities.
Just this past week, Google made many changes to Google+ which in my view further enhance the usefulness of this magnificent resource. You need to check them out.
So - this is not a comparison of Google+ versus Twitter versus Facebook. But an encouragement for you to see that there is an abundance of activity that will help you connect and learn.
So Genealogy and Family History is alive and well on Google+ and you need to join in. You will be glad that you did. As I used to say many many years ago - "It is a Happenin' Place."
OK - I have to admit - I am a newspaper researching junkie. I am addicted. I love finding the stories of my ancestors in newspapers. Whether I find obituaries, or marriage announcements or other stories, it thrills me to see my ancestors names in the papers.
I have found articles about attempted murders, fathers pimping out their stepdaughters, men sued for not marrying their impregnated fiancees - you name it. And all of these articles were about my ancestors! What a bunch!
NONE of this information was based on stories passed down from living relatives (there aren't many left to talk to anyway!).
ALL of this information came from newspapers.
Now I am not talking about information that requires the Genealogical Proof Standard. These ancestors have already been evidenced as having the same "blood" as me. This is all about their STORIES.
So how did I find all of this stuff?
Well - there are three major sources of newspaper articles that require a subscription - Genealogy Bank, Newspapers dot com and Newspaper Archive. And they have tons of stuff that is valuable to access. And there are others - Fold3 and ancestry dot com for example.
But we also like FREE - don't we?
So here are some recommendations for upping your game vis a vis newspaper research of your ancestors:
1. Check out my post Researching Newspapers for Free
- in it is a short video that shows you extremely useful sites, as well as 5 entries that contain hundreds of links to free newspaper research sites.
2. Check out my post Researching Newspapers for Free Using Google News Archive - in it is another short video showing you how to best navigate this site as well as covering a couple of anomalies that you wlll need to know to obtain the best results.
3. Join the Google+ Community "Genealogy and Newspapers" - this community has many members who are sharing their ideas about finding
newspaper articles as well as sharing new sites that are available.
First of all I wish to express my thanks for all the terrific results that I have been able to find on the various iterations of the FamilySearch website. The earliest that I remember was when I found my great grandparents marriage information, and was introduced to the Braunhart branch of my family tree. This branch, and the relatives that I have found have given me great joy as I have traveled the path to find my ancestors.
So THANK YOU, FamilySearch.
Recently this organization (which has provided the genealogy community with so much free information) has introduced some well-designed (in my view) capabilities that allow users to enter their family tree information, and upload photos and stories about their ancestors.
I had previously chosen to make my ancestors' photos and stores available via a couple of family history websites that I had created and currently own. That way at least I had some level of control. This was a personal choice at that time.
In reviewing the new FamilySearch tree, photos and stories features, I asked myself why would I want to put all of MY research on someone else's website? You should know that I am not a big fan of the "One World Tree" concept. Not because all of them have so many user submitted errors, but also because none of the sites where I have submitted trees have resulted in many "finds," with the exception of a half dozen connections I have made via Ancestry Family Tree.
I was intrigued by the new FamilySearch Photos and Stories capabilities however, so I did a little research, and this is what I found:
First of all, you must know that I am not a lawyer, nor have I had any legal training, but I have dealt for years with many hundreds of contracts in my pre-retirement profession. So I am not afraid of legal language, even if it is often difficult to decipher.
I was curious about the "ownership" issues regarding the uploaded photos and stories to the FamilySearch website, so I reviewed what is called the "FamilySearch Content Submission Agreement" which is available on the LDS.org website as a link from the Photos Agreement page, which one can get to by clicking "Photos" from the main FamilySearch web page.
There were two pertinent paragraphs that I found interesting and they are reproduced word for word below:
4. Licenses and Rights Granted to Us. By submitting content to FamilySearch, you grant FamilySearch an unrestricted, fully paid-up, royalty-free, worldwide, and perpetual license to use any and all information, content, and other materials (collectively, “Contributed Data”) that you submit or otherwise provide to this site (including, without limitation, genealogical data and discussions and data relating to deceased persons) for any and all purposes, in any and all manners, and in any and all forms of media that we, in our sole discretion, deem appropriate for the furtherance of our mission to promote family history and genealogical research. As part of this license, you give us permission to copy, publicly display, transmit, broadcast, and otherwise distribute your Contributed Data throughout the world, by any means we deem appropriate (electronic or otherwise, including the Internet). You also understand and agree that as part of this license, we have the right to create derivative works from your Contributed Data by combining all or a portion of it with that of other contributors or by otherwise modifying your Contributed Data.
Again I am not an attorney but my reading of it basically says that FamilySearch can do anything they pretty much want with the photos and stories that you upload, including creating derivative works, and that they can edit the material for any reason.
Because of these restrictions as well as what appears to be the loss of rights to the material that I upload, I choose to not participate, for what I think are obvious reasons.
What do you think? Any attorneys out there that care to weigh in?
Over the recent year or so, there has been quite a bit of writing, blog posts, and chatter about what terms in the "genealogy" arena appeal or do not appeal to those of us interested in the quest for our ancestors.
Many believe that it is all "genealogy" and then there are those that believe that it should be called "family history."
I am NOT going to present the arguments that folks have presented for either term - you can find those arguments on your own by performing a Google search and reading the arguments yourself. Nor will I present my own opinion. For those of you that know me, that is unusual.
Part of the argument is also - what terms appeal to newer and younger researchers as we encourage them to join us in this incredibly rewarding endeavor.
So - here are the facts - presented as data via Google search terms and trending information from Google themselves. Using Google Trends, essentially this can help us gauge interest in and usage of pertinent search terms. There are a variety of options with this analysis tool, such as geography and categorization, as well as assessing term usage over time.
But let's make this simple. Let us gauge first the use of the term "genealogy" and its trends since about 2004 (the chart on the top), and then the use of the term "family history" for the same time period (the chart right below). As you can see, since their peaks in 2004, both terms' usage have taken a nose dive in popularity, with the term "genealogy" taking a bit of a deeper dive.
Now let's compare the two terms in the same chart and add Google's forecasting algorithm, which shows at the past and current levels of usage what the trending usage might be in the next year or so. The red line is "genealogy" and the blue line is "family history"
As you can see, the terms are "neck and neck" but the forecasting algorithm shows "family history" surpassing "genealogy" by just a bit.
And now for the big surprise I added a third term "ancestry" (which is orange) to see how it fared. Take a look at the results from the data:
As you can see, "ancestry" surpassed "family history" in early 2010, and surpassed "genealogy" in late 2010. One could make the argument that the company Ancestry.com and all its advertising might influence this data, but I am not sure that it would have this much of a significant effect. Maybe so.
So, you can read the results from Google searches and the resulting trends; and you can make allowances if you want to for advertising effects.
But you can't ignore the data, can you?
Maybe "ancestry" should be the new buzz word. Then again, maybe not.
You be the judge.
There are several subscription websites for researching City Directories to find your ancestors, including ancestry.com and fold3.com as just examples.
But are you aware of two free ones that are quite useful?
The first is well known, and that is Internet Archive (www.archive.org
). Just enter "city directory" with the quotes in the search box and depress the "Go" button. At the time of the publication of this post there are 1,696 results. You obviously would wish to refine the search by entering your city of interest, but it tells you that there are a lot of city directories available to you.
The second site, (Don's List) has a far less number of directories available, approximately 10% of the Internet Archive collection, and also includes some international directories. You can find the directory links at http://www.donslist.net/PGHLookups/Dir1Win.shtml. The international links are on the right side of the page about half way down.
I have not done a comparison to see the overlap between the two sites, but either of them are extremely useful for finding out where your
ancestors lived. And in many cases, their occupation and given name of spouse is provided, depending on the directory.
City directories are an under-appreciated form of research. Lots can be learned and if your ancestor owned a business, even more can be ascertained.
Give it a try!
Freedom of Speech is protected by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. With a few exceptions, you can say just about anything to anybody, and this includes writing.
Recently there has been quite a bit of writing that I have read from genealogists of all shapes and experiences expressing dissatisfaction with a number of websites that either have been changed recently, or continue to change.
What do all of these websites have in common?
They are FREE! That is - they do not cost the user a dime - only their time.
Following is my discussion of the issues and why I think these folks are missing the point.
Oh, by the way - did I mention that these websites are FREE?
The most recent example is the new rollout of the interface for FamilySearch. There were several well known genealogists who complained about having to perform 4 clicks of a mouse rather than 2, as they had done previous to the website modifications. Good for them I guess, because their complaining led FamilySearch to make a few changes. Of course they could have bookmarked the page that they were interested in, but that apparently was not desired for some reason, or too difficult (that generally requires one click).
Now I have to disclose that I am quite fond of FamilySearch and because of its rather sizable FREE database search capabilities, I was able to find my great grandparents marriage certificate, which by naming the maiden name of my great great grandmother, has led to an entire branch of my family tree that has been awesome and life changing for me.
So here's the deal - I love FamilySearch. If you don't, either don't use it, or at least tone down your complaints or take them up privately with FamilySearch directly.
Facebook is everyone's "whipping boy." It changes all the time, and has had complicated privacy settings in the past and - "oh my God" - it has ads. So does television - but at least with television we get to pay an outrageous amount to get to see these ads (Yes - that is sarcasm).
Facebook is FREE. So to me, ads are not a big deal.
And Facebook has been extremely useful to me in connecting with previously unknown "cousins." On several occasions.
But people love to complain about it - all the time.
Hey - it's FREE - if you don't like it - cancel your subscription.
Google is amazing. There are so many FREE capabilities with Google, that it boggles the mind. Besides searching for ancestors and relatives, I use it for searching books, scholarly articles, newspapers, patents - all FREE. I also use Picasa for online photo albums of my ancestors that my relatives and "unfound" cousins can view - for FREE. I have two Blogger blogs - both FREE. Oh yes - Google Drive provides 5 GB of FREE storage and several very useful applications. And then there is Google PLUS - also FREE.
And yet people like to bash Google because it is perceived as a huge controlling mega monolith that has too much of your private information. Not to mention that they pull the rug away from users by discarding popular features such as Google Reader.
Message to Google - please bring Google Fiber to my town. I will gladly pay for it!
Here's the deal, readers - whether it is FamilySearch, Facebook, Google, Twitter, Tumblr, LinkedIn, etc. (ALL FREE), nobody likes to listen to or read stuff from a WHINER.
You are FREE to whine, bitch, moan, complain, etc. Those rights are guaranteed by our Constitution.
But there are lots of people who are tired of hearing you.
There are many websites that provide the ability to search newspapers. Some are subscription based, such as Genealogy Bank, Newspaper Archive and Newspapers.com; but there are tons of free sites that can give you hours of fun finding interesting articles about your ancestors and relatives.
For a review of these free sites and link aggregation sites, please check out a recent post of mine: Researching Newspapers for Genealogy for Free
One site that I neglected to add to that list is the Google News Archive. Although Google has not increased the size of their collection recently, there still is a ton of material that can be found in Google's offering. While doing a search there you will be presented with both free and pay-for-view results, but there are plenty of free ones. [IMPORTANT NOTE} - when Google presents the search results, when selecting the Free results - it is inaccurate - it fails to include ALL the free ones.
Below is a short video showing how to get the most out of the site. Also included is a tip on how to get a clean snippet of your article that does not include the ever-present highlighted text in either blue or yellow - which is not highly
desirable when downloading an article for your own use.
Following this video is a link to all of the hundreds of newspapers that Google has included in their collection.
I was talking to a friend of mine today about the reaction that I had received from a post on my Family History website Braunhart Mania
regarding the imprisonment in 1920 of two of my ancestors. Shortly after sharing the story, which was included in a letter from one of the prisoners wives in Berlin to her sister-in-law in Brooklyn, I received an email from the grandson of one of the men incarcerated. He was totally shocked and surprised by the story and had never heard it before.
I related to my friend about how important it was for me to get as many family letters, artifacts and other precious materials from as many relatives as possible quickly (I am not getting any younger). Her response was that I was like a "pit bull" in my quest.
In discussing the whys and wherefores of my research project, which has become almost an obsession with me, it occurred to me that being passionate about one's research is absolutely essential to success and your happiness as a researcher.
You see, I have received incredible joy by performing my research. And it is not as you might think. The joy that has been bestowed upon me is really the satisfaction that I have been quite instrumental in writing the life stories of over 50 people. Without this research and certainly the cooperation of a small few of my "cousins," these stories would never be available and therefore could not be read by future generations of Braunharts; or Smiths, or Jones for that matter.
So as a result, my ancestors can indeed live forever - in their stories, photos, words and their deeds.
Furthermore, and this is equally if not more important, I have made a few connections with cousins that have been life altering because of researching our ancestors. One of my cousins for example, knew nothing of her ancestors because of the severe trauma of one of her parents in their childhood and the fear of revealing and re-living that trauma. Thus the child, my cousin, was never able to connect with her ancestral family. Through this research she is now able to do so, and it has been life changing for her.
It doesn't matter to me whether you are a great researcher, or a lousy one. I also don't care whether you can write 100% accurate and complete source citations, or whether you know your way around a cemetery or a courthouse.
The ultimate question you must ask yourself is:
Are your TRULY passionate about your ancestors? Do you really care about them? If the answer to either of these questions is no, or even maybe - then that means you are faking it, so why are you even bothering with this at times frustrating and always challenging exercise? Your ancestors deserve better, don't you think?
I got quite active with Twitter in May of 2012. I had not been involved in what I like to call "The Gen World" with other researchers, prominent genealogy bloggers and some professionals prior to that - even though I have been doing family history research for quite a few years.
Now I don't have over 1,000 followers or do I follow that many - but I do follow most of the prominent genealogy bloggers.
At first, I found it a terrific way to find out what others are writing, and also a way for me to post links to my blog posts and hopefully make a few "real" connections.
And indeed that did happen - and Twitter became my "friend."
I used it a lot and enjoyed the short conversations and the access to others blog post links. So it was a valuable 9 months or so of happy tweeting.
Someone related to me recently that none of the genealogy community that tweets owns Twitter and anyone can tweet about what they want. I actually agree with that statement.
But I have noticed lately that Twitter has become less and less useful to me for genealogy connecting. And this is why I think it has become less useful:
- Some people retweet everything and most people retweet nothing
- I was initially enamored of the #FF idea, but have seen less and less of these lately. I am not sure that the sentiment (which is a good thing) has not been overtaken by one's desire to get their mentions up to improve their Klout score.
- In looking at what gets retweeted (and not just mine), most genealogy related tweets rarely get retweeted over 3 or 4 times
- I have participated in several tweet chats and I find them a totally useless expenditure of an hour of my time. Most of been from Ancestry, a few from other genealogy "venues" and some totally unrelated to genealogy. It is my experience that they are like a "food fight." It's hard to distinguish the macaroni and cheese in your face from the cherry pie. And it is even worse with all the food stuff on the wall. It seems that most recaps are edited by the originator of the chat so one does not actually get the entire flow and content of the chat
- I have found no "cousins" via Twitter, although I have via Facebook and Google+
- Even creating Twitter lists of my favorite tweeters has not reduced the amount of time scanning for something "good."
- There seems to be an increasing amount of tweeting of old posts and links.
The moral of the story is that I am using Twitter less and less. Maybe that will change - but I doubt it.
Recently, Google launched Google+ Communities and Google+ became for me a very viable platform. More serious, more professional and more room to write and share (not to mention - integrated with Google search and the Google monolith.) Oh and by the way, in two short months, my Google+ referrals to my blog posts are triple those of Twitter according to analytics statistics. But more about Google+ in a future post.
In a word are you using Twitter "More" or "Less" and why?
I have read recently many people complaining about Ancestry Family Trees. The reasons are articulated below. But I see them a bit differently - I just see them as a "tree of clues."
People (genealogists, researchers, etc.) complain all the time about the contents of these trees, and these are their complaints:
Well, none of that bothers me - and never has.
- Unsourced entries
- People copy entire poorly sourced trees and call them their own
- People upload their photos and then others copy them and often change the names with no attribution to the original photo provider
- "Unqualified" people have access and upload junk.
Why is that?
It's simple - this is the Internet world where everything is typically an unlocked door and anybody can pretty much post, steal, copy, or plagiarize anything they want. Doesn't make it right - but it is true.
And special pledges or semi-locked doors, while admirable in their intent - do not stop junk from being uploaded.
Fred Sanford made a business out of junk (as did a couple of my ancestors, by the way). I just see some of the relevant so called "junk" info as merely a clue. Maybe a clue to help me find someone. My experience has been that I have found "cousins" or they found me; we have collaborated at times and my research has been augmented as a result. I don't upload photos to these trees because I find that to be "extra" work.
So if you wish to expend energy complaining - go for it. I will spend my time researching to see if some of these clues can be substantiated.
And I will look at these trees as merely "Clues Trees."