RootsTech and FGS 2015

FGS2015_Logo_01The annual RootsTech conference has been one of the most consistent prompts for me to write a post on this sorely neglected blog. The reasons why are not rocket science:

  1. I ♥ conferences
  2. I ♥ technology
  3. I ♥ family history

A + B + C = I am going to RootsTech.

This year, the Federation of Genealogical Societies is getting in on the action, holding their own annual conference in conjunction with RootsTech and I couldn’t be happier. The 2014 FGS conference in San Antonio was my first, and though I was under the weather for the bulk of the trip, it didn’t dampen my genealogical spirits. This week, they bring serious genealogical “street cred” to the RootsTech proceedings which have been a bit lacking in the non-tech fundamentals during previous years*

As a result of this crossing of the streams, we’re likely to see a much richer set of options for attendees already experienced at researching their family histories, while also letting newbies have lots of beginner options.

All in all, I’m excited to be heading to Salt Lake City once again. You may not find me posting much from the expo floor. But I will probably be tweeting. So keep track of me either through the attendees section of the RootsTech app or by following me on Twitter. And if you want to get in on some of the conference yourself, make sure to tune in to the RootsTech website, where some sessions will be livestreamed throughout the week.

* That’s a broad generalization, but previous RootsTech conferences have been noticeably lacking in “advanced” genealogical lectures, providing lots and lots and lots of beginner classes, leading some serious researchers I know to dismiss it.

Blog Caroling with footnoteMaven

BlogSongBookI may be nursing a cold, but that just gives me an unusual amount of time before Christmas to contemplate the blog caroling tradition from the fabulous footnoteMaven.

Of course, I have a favorite. Though my tastes tends toward secularism with a dash of iconoclasm,  there has always been a special place in my heart for the 18th century English hymn, God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen.

So why this song? Sure, Silent Night is haunting. My snow hating self dreams of a White Christmas when Bing espouses its virtues. And Jingle Bells is downright jubilant. But I’ve never bought a Christmas Album which didn’t include “God Rest You Merry Gentlemen.”

The cadence has always been the biggest draw. So few songs I heard growing up had both reverence and energy. Of course, there has to be a little controversy, which Wikipedia details. Apparently, I learned the more modern adaptation, with “ye” rather “you,” making it sound more archaic than it was when originally published.

Plus, it’s cool that a hymn can inspire such varied musicians as Annie Lenox and Dio:

Epic, eh?

Definitely, but I think I’ll stick with this one….

Clearly I haven’t shaken my iconoclasm.

See you in the new year. Till then, I’m wishing you a joyous holiday season.

O tidings of comfort and joy…

Facebook and Genealogy

Social Media icons on a smartphone
So many networks, so many family members.

Any discussion among genealogists nowadays will eventually lead to social media, and more specifically, Facebook. They may not be discussing it as a venue for serious research or a way to find that crucial elusive record to break through a brick wall, but Facebook is neither a search engine nor a research focused medium, so though it may be tempting to want something out of FB that it is not intended or suited for, it  would be foolish to consider it that sort of venue. But what it does, it does well.

What Facebook (and Twitter) does provide is a way to interact with contemporaries — family members and other genealogists.  I’ve posted interesting research discoveries and started conversations with my siblings and cousins who generally show little genealogical interest.  The presentation of small doses of background on one 19th century ancestor allows my sisters to take in a bit without being overwhelmed by the onslaught of info I might present when I have a captive audience.  Our exuberance to share the passion of genealogy with family can make it overwhelming leading to the dreaded eyes-glazing-over.  Facebook allows this information to be shared in discrete nuggets, which may capture family’s attention or pass them by if they’d prefer.

I’ve searched for distant cousins and found them on FB, along with other information like their siblings and the names and birth dates of their children allowing me to fill out my tree whether or not I contacted them (though I do suggest caution with this method — who knows if a child is adopted or someone is lying about their own birthdate as many do).  In one instance, a cousin’s mugshot as a profile picture made me question whether I even wanted to get in touch.  Facebook gives a snapshot of someone’s life as it is now, or at least, how they present themselves now.

Despite its attempt to be the sole destination for everyone on the Internet, Facebook’s lack of quality archive capabilities means they will not completely replace boards like rootsweb. Inquiries will have a more limited time to be viewed.  I contacted someone based on a rootsweb board posting from 2002, nearly a decade ago.  On FB, on the other hand, I can’t look at status messages more than three days old unless I go into the individual’s “wall.”  Facebook isn’t about archiving information, but rather about being in the moment.

Recently, the “groups” function of Facebook has provided a newer method for genealogists to come together to share techniques, as proven by the growth of groups like “Social Media for Genealogy” or “Technology for Genealogists.” And due to it’s appeal to commercial interests, Facebook gives everyone a ripe target to applaud or complain about the policies of our favorite (or least favorite) genealogy website.

You wouldn’t look to a marriage record for a death date, nor a city directory for a probate record.  Equally, Facebook is unlikely to be considered a source for intense genealogy records, but rather a way to keep in contact with other members of the family who are living.

So when considering what place Facebook has in your genealogy, keep in mind what it does well.  Resist the temptation to consider any website for something for which it is not suited.  Social media is not everything.  But what it does, it does well, and I would encourage using it.