Saturday, August 28, 2010

Where do genealogists meet on the internet?

A few years ago to find me on the internet you needn't look further than the Rootsweb TGF or old APG lists.  After some continued bickering on those lists I stopped following them, only to check in periodically.  Lately I've been spending more time on Facebook.  I find that the interactions on Facebook suite my personality and I like the way multiple people can join a conversation.  Seeing photos of people's faces is an advantage too.  Somehow it's just more personal.

Recently, I decided to give the TGF list a try again. I would pop in over there to see what was going on.  Do you know what I discovered?  Some of my Facebook friends who don't say much on Facebook have a whole lot to say on the TGF list.

That got me thinking.  Where are genealogists "meeting up" these days on the web? And what is their preferred place to discuss what's on their mind?  In the "old days" it was all about the APG list.  Then the TGF list came along and a lot of folks migrated over there.  But now there are lots of options - Facebook, Twitter, GenealogyWise, Second Life, LinkedIn and old fashioned regular email.

Not only that but blogs and bloggers have really come to the forefront of the genealogical community.  Much
discussion and ideas are shared there as well.

So where do genealogists meet now?  Is there one place?  Is the community segmented so that only the most devoted follow all the possible outlets?

One of my Facebook friends announced today that she is going to have two Facebook accounts - one for family and friends and another one for genealogists.  I tried the two Facebook account scenario once and it didn't work well for me (learning how to use groups in Facebook properly did, but that's a topic for another blog post).  Is what she is doing further segmenting genealogy and genealogists?

Where is our community today and what is the glue that sticks it together?  I'm interested in hearing your thoughts on this.


  1. Interesting article and very thought-provoking. I've given this subject a lot of thought also--and my conclusion is that today genealogists are far more spread out than we were in the early days when almost all discussion revolved around RootsWeb and the genealogy Usenet Newsgroups.

    However, the RootsWeb mailing lists and especially the RootsWeb/Ancestry message boards still provide a valuable place to discuss research issues, and blogs certainly have taken over a large share as has Facebook. I also still follow the APG list. You are right that it is nice to put a "face" to our online genealogy friends as we can do on Facebook.


  2. For making genealogy friends and networking, Facebook has been most effective for me. I "friend" someone on Facebook & we get to know each other online. When we meet in person, it's like we've known each other for years.

    I have a single Facebook account, but it's divided into lists. I have a genealogy list and talk shop with only those people. That way, my old high school friends don't get bored. Also, I spare my genealogy friend my PTA mom talk.

    I do not like email lists because they can be verbose and occasionally hostile. I've left messages on boards, but receive few replies.

    Google Reader helps me manage my blog reading. Twitter is like a news stream to me. LinkedIn helps me network with the business side of genealogy. Social networking is where I interact.

    Great post and discussion topic!

  3. I'm really looking forward to seeing the responses on this.

    My favorite place to talk to other genealogists are definitely Twitter and Facebook. I like Twitter because the messages are short, so it's easy to keep up (or fade in and out if I'm very busy). I like Facebook because I get to know a little more about people...what part of the country they live in, what they're working on, whether they have kids/grandkids, etc. I'm definitely an introvert, so it's a more comfortable way for me to make new friends. I also use LinkedIn, which is a habit left over from my corporate life; genealogists don't seem to use it much.

    I also read a lot of blogs and comment as much as I can. Blogs are a great way to get a sense of where people are in their research and their professional growth, and I enjoy that. I also like the conversational aspect, and it seems that the discussions are often more civil than those on the old lists.

    I do still read the APG and TGF lists (although I'm usually behind), but I don't always enjoy them. If they were my only connection to other genealogists, I would be very discouraged.

  4. Great questions! When I returned to college it left me stranded from genealogy friends. Facebook has been a great avenue to stay connected and continue to meet other genealogists. I enjoy email lists but am often behind in the discussions and yes angered at the discussions being hijacked and taken off course. Although some family has connected with me on Facebook, I prefer to use it as a friendship network within my educational and professional connections.

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  6. Good blog, Marian. There is too much bickering on the APG list. I prefer Facebook - where else would I have been introduced to so many wonderful blogs?

  7. I would say "all of the above" but nothing can beat meeting fellow genealogists in person. The friendships that I have struck up going to conferences and even local society meetings attest to that. Though I have also made great friends just by spending a lot of time at the Archives.

  8. I agree with much in your post and the folks who have left comments. The various mailing lists leave much to be desired and there is way too much nitpicking, tedium and bickering. If I want that I could just go visit my family (lol).

    I do think that social media has to be a "blend" that works for you. Genealogists shouldn't feel they have to use one venue just because others are using it - especially if that venue doesn't serve your needs or you don't feel comfortable with its technology.

    One think I'd like to see is perhaps RootsWeb do more social media marketing of their various lists and message boards.

    And finally, I agree with you Marian that two Facebook accounts is too confusing and too much to handle. I keep hearing genealogical society officers saying they want to create a separate profile for their society. Not necessary - that is what a Facebook page is for. You can have one Facebook account and multiple Facebook pages or groups which you administer.

  9. Facebook has been invaluable in getting to know genealogists from around the country (actually, around the world). When we meet for the first time, there is a sense of familiarity and comfort because we "know" each other online.

    I subscribe to numerous Rootsweb lists to keep my fingers on the pulse of what's going on in the specific geographic areas I'm researching. Once in a while I will post a question; and in the past, I was active in responding to queries regarding Los Angeles County.

    If I was stranded on a desert island, I would pick Facebook. If I was stranded at a genealogy conference that was held on a desert island, I would vote for face-to-face contact.

  10. Thought provoking post! I use facebook to meet new genealogist and my blogs. Yes I participate on mailing lists and message boards but almost exclusively to respond to queries not ask any. I'm on linkedin but use it for business only. Twitter is for abrief news checkin. I thought Genealogywise might be a great meeting place but alas no. Lists on Facebook work well and anyway isn't it against their TOS to have two accounts? I agree that we genealogistts are far more spread out these days

  11. The TGF list is much improved, having eliminated a particular individual who dominated discussions and created controversy. The APG (member) list is somewhat quiet these days. It was a great list when the public and private lists were combined. The same individual managed to destroy that list, which never bounced him/her.

  12. I like Facebook. You can see a photo of the person you're "chatting up" and link to their blog, family photos, cemetery photos, videos, other genealogy groups, and websites. There are ongoing discussions at several genealogy FB groups (like the NEHGS site, and Mayflower and surname groups). I like how NetworkedBlogs works on FB, too. I've been on Facebook since 2005, and I started there as a place to post unlimited cemetery photos. Now look at how its grown!

  13. I wholeheartedly agree with Amy that it is courteous to use Friends *Lists* in Facebook to control who sees which of your messages. I named my lists AFriend (for very close personal friends), Genie (genealogy colleagues), Relatives, School, etc. Close friends / relatives who are also family historians are on two lists (AFriend+Genie / Relatives+Genie). It works well for all of us. For personal news I still prefer to use email, but Facebook is handy if friends who are travelling cannot access their email account but can log on to Facebook in a library.

    I subscribe to / unsubscribe from locality-specific Rootsweb mailing lists according to how much time I have and how much the messages annoy me. Once a year I do keyword searches in the list archives. I have access to Rootsweb's Personalised Mailing List because years ago I donated dollars to Rootsweb; so I receive a PML email when one of my specified words or phrases appears on any mailing list. (I keep forgetting to check whether I can do something similar with Google Alerts.)

    I am biased against Twitter after an experience with an ill-mannered person who was constantly tapping keys on her mobile phone while supposedly talking to invited guests.

    Genealogy Blogger is correct: Facebook's terms do prohibit one person from having two accounts. Facebook is an easy way to quickly read multiple bits of news from friends, colleagues, entities such as Gould Genealogy, and some blogs. And I like seeing faces! Like Michael, I enjoy talking to people at genealogy conferences and in the lunchroom at the Archives. For a long time, though, I was too shy to do that. I wish Facebook had been around back then!

    I love blogs. So many good ideas, new perspectives and stimulating discussions - and all indexed by Google!

  14. I am not a profesional, and did not know about those groups, I googled them, but I see they are not for me. I belonged to other ethnic mailing lists, and people are so picky about small things as any other list, I glance through the emailed ones and I am done.

    I tried black sheep,but couldn't stay cause I have no black sheep to qualify.

    I have Face book and started two accounts and haven't kept up on the second. When you join the games, etc, it's a good idea. Others complain about the farmville mail.

    I shall have to find out how to list my friends.

    I joined some genealogy groups there at face book, but saw little discussion, but then I haven't checked it out that much. Maybe later.

    What I would really like to see is a place that has such discussions like this one for genealogy bloggers. Not just a google blogger group for problems, etc. If you know of any give me a line.

    I recently entered into a german group, which has monopolized my time as of late, but at the same time, it tickles me to death how nice they are despite my language handicap and my difference of interest and intent than theirs. [it's a secret for awhile.]

    Great post.