Friday, February 25, 2011

My Challenge to Genealogists: It's Time to Get Hip

The librarians have done it.  The knitters have done it.  Now it's time for the genealogists to do it.

I was just reading James Tanner's blogpost "Who do they think we are?" In it, he explains why people give blank stares when someone tells them they are a genealogist.  He says, "Part of the reason, I am sure for the reaction to genealogy stems from the common viewpoint that the whole subject is the purview of slightly (or more than slightly) balmy older people who have failed at shuffleboard."

Folks, it's time for genealogists to get hip.

The librarians did it first.

We've seen librarians do Lady Gaga

This video was created by Students and faculty from the University of Washington's Information School. More info here

Even the knitters are getting hip with their graffiti bombing activities.

So genealogists, I challenge you! 

What you are you going to do to show the world that genealogists are hip?

Hmmm...maybe I'll even come up with a prize for the best submission.  I'll be back later with a prize and a deadline.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

The Digital Age Discourages Sharing

Yes, that's right I said the digital age discourages sharing.  Ok, so it doesn't really, but it should. Ever since the internet and the spread of information digitally there has been a little too much over-sharing.  Look at the internet and the widespread misconception that copyright doesn't apply there.

This is not going to be another discussion on copyright.  It's all about sharing and how we now share.


Back in the day, say in the 1960s or 1970s, people would freely share photos and school pictures with their friends and family.  No one gave a thought as to what the recipient would do with the photos.  They hoped that they would display them prominently somewhere in their home or carry them around in their wallet.  Rarely did people think "I need to make copies of this photo."  If they did want copies, they would contact the person who gave them the photo.  Another thing preventing the reproduction of photos was cost.  If the owner of the photo or the recipient wanted copies they needed to pay for them. 

Fast forward to today and photo sharing is rampant.  Not that that is a bad thing in and of itself.  The entire process of taking photos is now free as there are no processing costs and rarely do people print photos to share them.  You can send photos by email or post them on the internet.  Within seconds thousands of people can view your photo.

My beef with the digital age has to do both with privacy and copyright.  Once a photo is made digital and shared electronically you no longer have control over it, even if you try to copyright it. I love sharing photos with my family and friends.  I trust them, really I do.  But it's not about trust.  It's about technological savvy.  Not everyone has it.

Imagine this scenario.  You post a photo of your kids on Facebook for your family to see.  You tag your family members in the photo.  It now becomes visible on their wall.  They enjoy looking at the photo and leaving you a little comment. But your sister who doesn't use computers much doesn't really know how to change her security settings.  So everyone with a Facebook account can view her wall.  The next thing you know your smiling family photo is in an advertisement on the side of a bus in the Czech Republic. That scenario is a bit contrived but it did really happen.

It's not about you trusting what your family and friends will share.  It's really about their understanding of internet technology and security. There is no possible way that you can keep track of all the security settings of everyone you know.  They can't even do it themselves.

For me that means the digital age discourages sharing.  I am not eager to share my personal digital photos with anyone except my closest family members because I'm just not sure where they will end up. That's sad but unfortunately that's the reality of the situation.

Another issue with digital photos is personal security. I'm not going to talk about that here but you can read Dick Eastman's discussion about it.


Just like photos, what you write is subject to oversharing.  This could apply simply to what you write in an email.  But let's expand it to your personal writing - poetry, essays, draft manuscripts.  With the digital age it is very easy to share proprietary written information.  People these days don't think twice about forwarding something that has been sent to them.  Again the idea of copyright amongst friends gets a bit fuzzy.  She's my friend so she won't mind if I share her poem with my other friends.   But who's going to tell your other friends not to share it forward?  Soon your personal writing is out of your control.

Recently, a friend of mine decided to share a story with me.  She has been writing it in installments and emailing it along to me. Even though this is in essay format I knew that it was a private piece of writing that she didn't want made public.

The story is enjoyable, well-written and fascinating.  How easy it would be for me to forward it to my friends and say "Wow, you're going to really love this story."  But I didn't.

In fact, I felt compelled to write to my friend and tell her explicitly that I would not be sharing her work with anyone.  That I felt it was not mine to share and that it would go no further than me.  She never asked me to say that but I strongly felt the need to reassure her.  And it won't go further than me.  I won't even show it to my husband (don't we feel like spouses are somehow exempt from the sharing rule?!!).  The reason is that it is her work and I need to respect that, whether there is a copyright notice or not.  That's how I would like to be treated.  When in doubt - ask.


This line of thought applies to genealogy too.  Sharing family information amongst distant cousins is good but when you receive a gedcom file do you really have permission to re-post it everywhere on the internet?  Unless, you specifically ask the sender, no you don't.

The same goes for old family photos.  If a distant relative sends you a hard copy of a photo in the mail, or even emails you a scanned copy, does that mean you should share it with the world?  I know the tendency is the more sharing the better.  Play it safe and ask the sender how they feel about you sharing their photos. Better yet, if they say yes, make sure you have their written permission in the form of an email.  This will save you from having problems later if they change their mind.

The Future

I read an article about social media this morning that said "Transparency was the mantra of social media's early adopters. The larger second wave of social networkers gleefully followed, but the more conservative third wave watched in dismay as minute details of their friend' lives were posted to Facebook with abandon.  Today, privacy is back in vogue."1

The author was talking about Facebook but he could have talking about any digital communication.  The digital age has provided tremendous benefits in our ability to share information quickly and easily.  I'm just suggesting that perhaps we need to consciously think more before we share, especially when it's somebody else's stuff.

1. Quotation source: Turner, Jeff. "Manage Facebook with Selective Transparency." Realtor Magazine. March 2011.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

A Bold Move in a Virtual Direction

I have to tell you I am very excited about a new program.  The Southern California Genealogical Society, (SCGS) which hosts the Southern California Genealogy Jamboree each year, is going in a bold new direction.  They have decided to supplement the Jamboree with what they are calling the Jamboree Extension Series.

The Jamboree Extension Series is a new program that provides webinars for FREE to genealogists.  All you need to participate is access to the internet. The program will offer Jamboree-style seminars for up to 1000 attendees per session.  The only catch is that only SCGS members will be able to access the archives to view a repeat of the program at a later date.  So if you are not a member of SCGS you will have to be sure to catch the program live. The programs will be held the first Saturday and third Wednesday of each month and will run from March through December 2011.

Other organizations such as and Legacy Family Tree have also offered genealogists free webinars.  But this is the first time such an extensive offering is being presented and scheduled at regular intervals.

Webinars - What To Expect

A webinar is a seminar that is held over the internet.  You log in through an email link onto the internet.  During the presentation you will view a live slide presentation on your monitor and hear the presenter's voice, also live (so you need to make sure you have speakers).  You will have the opportunity to send comments/questions via chat to the organizers/speaker.  Sometimes as the end you can even ask questions with your voice using the audio function.

Why This is So Great

I am a strong supporter of webinars and virtual presentations.  It is a great way to expand your genealogical knowledge without having to travel to a conference or seminar.  It doesn't really take the place of an in-person conference but for those who aren't able to attend meetings it is a great alternative.  I guess it sort of levels the genealogical education playing field a bit.

I am very happy to see the Southern California Genealogy Society provide this series and applaud them for being so forward thinking.

This also gives you the chance to hear my lovely Connecticut accent if you decide to tune in.  Not only am I interested attending online webinars but I am also keen to present at them as well.  Look for me on the schedule as a presenter on Saturday, April 2, 2011 at 10am PST / 1pm EST and Wednesday, August 17, 2011 at 6pm PST / 9pm EST.

See you on the web!

Friday, February 18, 2011

Where I Get My Information

Keeping up with news and information about the genealogical community can be an overwhelming task.  Here's how I get my information so that I stay up-to-date.


There are so many genealogical blogs these days.  It seems nearly impossible to try to keep up with them all.  I only sort of try.  To make it manageable I use Google Reader.  I have organized Google Reader into folders and placed the blogs by subject to make them easier for me to find.  While I have many folders there are only two folders I read regularly.

The first folder I check is my "Gen News Blog" folder.  That contains the blogs Dear Myrtle, EOGN, Genea-musings and Geneabloggers.  I will soon be adding GeneaPress to that folder.

The other folder I read daily is my Top 10 list.  These are the bloggers whose posts I don't want to miss.  I won't post those here because the list changes regularly as I move blogs in and out of that folder.

I get to the rest of the hundreds of blogs I follow when and if time allows.

Otherwise, I rely heavily on "Best of the Week" posts.  Certain bloggers have already taken the time to read the blogs and find the best ones.  They do a good job with this and I generally agree with their judgment.  Here are the best of the best.

Genea-musings - Best of the Genea-blogs - this comes out every Sunday night

Greta's Genealogy Blog - Friday Newsletter and Follow News - every Friday

Long Lost - Friday Follow: Around the Blogosphere - publishes on Friday

Little Bytes of Life - Best Bytes for the Week - every Friday


I also follow genealogical news on Twitter.  Twitter is sort of the CNN of genealogical news.  When you want the most late breaking news you'll find it first on Twitter.  I use TweetDeck.  I've set up a column for #genealogy so I can see all the genealogy related items quickly.  TweetDeck has little flashing notifications that appear in the upper right hand corner of my screen that alert me to new tweets.  This can be helpful so that I don't miss anything but it can also be annoying and interrupt my using other software programs that require pressing something in that same corner.  But for now I haven't turned it off.

TweetDeck is a program that you download onto your computer.  There are other Twitter programs such as HootSuite that are web-based for those who prefer not to run a separate application.  I like the interface of TweetDeck so that's why I use it.


I also get news and links to blog posts from postings by my Facebook friends. This is a bit more random for me.  I have a lot of Facebook friends so I tend to miss items because of the shear volume of activity.  I need to use lists more in Facebook similar to what I do in Google Reader.  Once I get that set up I will miss fewer things.  However, some things go viral and get re-posed by many people so I don't usually miss those items.

Mailing Lists

I *try* to follow three mailing lists: the APG Private List, the APG Public List and the TGF List of Rootsweb.  I've been doing better lately but it goes in phases for me.

The APG Private List is only available through membership in the Association of Professional Genealogists.  The other two lists are available publicly to anyone on the internet.  They are free but you need to subscribe to the lists in order to post comments.  They are a great way to keep up with the genealogical community and also to learn how to become a better genealogist.

That's the bulk of how I get my information.  I'd be curious to hear if you do the same or if you have a different system.  I'm always open to hearing about new sources.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

How Do You Use Google Alerts?

I've been thinking a lot about Google Alerts lately.  I think Google Alerts are great. It's a great way to have information pushed to you without you having to go and search for it. Google Alerts pull information from news sites, blogs, videos, discussions and something called Realtime.  Basically, if anything new on your topic hits the web, you'll hear about it.

I read an interesting post on using Google Alerts by Lisa Swanson Ellam over at The Faces of My Family blog called "Another Google Alert Makes My Jaw Drop - Part 1". Then I wrote my own post on how to set up Google Alerts for finding gravestones online at my Symbolic Past blog.

But I still can't get Google Alerts out of my head.  I guess it's because I don't want to leave people short.  You can do so much more with Google Alerts than just find gravestones.

How I Use Google Alerts

My main use of Google Alerts is to track myself on the web.  If you are a speaker you will want to know when your speaking venues are publicizing your talks.  If you are a writer or photographer you will want to know if someone has mentioned your writing or photos on the web.  Of course, the ugly side is that the Google Alerts will also alert you to who is stealing your content.

Me, Myself and I

I have an alert set up for my name "Marian Pierre-Louis".  I put it in quotation marks so that it will give me exact hits.  I don't want to see all the other people with a first name Marian (and some other last name) or folks who share the Pierre-Louis last name but have a different first name.  Now that I think of it, I should really have alerts for mispellings of my name too.  People seem to mis-spell my name a lot. I also have an alert for "Fieldstone Historic Research" which is my company name.

Don't forget about your blogs.  I have an alert set up for "Roots & Rambles" and for "Roots and Rambles" because you just don't know how people are going to write things.

Beyond Me

There are a few organizations that I follow closely and like to keep up with.  Instead of having to remember to search the web regularly I have Google Alerts set up to alert me whenever there is something new about them.  This is particularly useful for smaller organizations that are not in the press a lot or only make the local papers.


There are some journalists that I follow because I like their content.  I've set up alerts for them as well.  For instance, if you wanted to follow Sharon Tate Moody's genealogy articles in the Tampa Tribune you could do an alert for "Sharon Tate Moody" +"Tampa Tribune".  You won't ever miss an article again!


As Lisa described in her blog post, you can also use Google Alerts to find your ancestors.  This works best of course with unusual family names.  Names like Smith, Johnson and Murphy will return too many hits to be useful.

How Do You Use Google Alerts?

There must be a million different creative ways to use Google Alerts.  What are some of the ways you use them?  Do you use them to keep up with topics on a regular basis or to help find that needle in the haystack?  I want to hear from you because there are probably lots of ways that I haven't thought of yet that could be really helpful.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

What Genealogists Want! Conference Organizers Take Note.

Genealogy conference organizers should have been paying special attention to the recent RootsTech conference.  Genealogists have spoken with their feet, their wallets and their broadband and they have spoken loudly!

If you want your conference to be a continued success in the future perhaps you should implement changes to answer the call of genealogists.

Here's the message I heard from observing the conference from afar:

1) Technology Topics - Genealogists don't want conferences just to be lectures on traditional aspects of research and methodology.  They want to hear lectures on technological tools that can help them in their research.  That means topics on software and gadgets.

2) Bloggers - Many conference organizers have not embraced bloggers yet.  Those that haven't will soon find themselves far, far behind.  Bloggers provide the number one source of timely information for genealogists - both hobbyists and professionals.  Bloggers will help you get the word out about your conference ahead of time and let people know how great it is during and after.  Provide a dedicated blogger lounge at your next conference and designate official or honorary bloggers.

3) Blogging - Not only are bloggers important but genealogists want to learn about how to blog.  Lecture topics need to include introducing genealogists to blogging so that they can share their family history on the web.

4) Virtual Attendance - RootsTech proved that not only is virtual attendance viable but the wave of the future has already arrived.  Anyone who tuned in to the live streaming of certain lecture sessions was wowed just as I was.  It will be interesting to see who will be embracing the concept of live streaming first to provide a discounted registration fee for virtual attendees.  Let me tell you, I will be one of the first to sign up.

5) Media - The blogger booth in the middle of the exhibit hall for recording live interviews was shear brilliance.  It was a win-win situation for everyone - the bloggers doing the interviewing, the exhibitors who got exposure, the speakers and the attendees.  We want more video interviews from conferences.  And we want them posted shortly after on the web/blogs.

6) Twitter - Conference organizers have long been afraid of Twitter. They are afraid that it is copyright theft or a distraction to the speaker.  What RootsTech taught us is that Twitter helps non-attendees and virtual attendees engage in the process by following their favorite Tweeps.  Not only that, in at least one specific case, questions were taken from Twitter during the lecture and answered by presenters.

7) Wifi - One of the messages that came across loud and clear was that genealogists want wifi access.  The exhibit hall didn't have wifi access but there was an internet cafe set up to help alleviate that need.  This often isn't an issue that conference organizers can change but in the future they can look for venues that overcome this problem.

Yes, RootsTech was specifically a technology conference.  But at 3,000+ strong, and I've heard the largest attendance record ever for a US genealogy conference, who can deny the writing on the wall? When was the last time you had 3,000+ people at your genealogy conference?

I'm sure I've missed other points.  Genealogists please let me know what you think were some of the key take-aways from the RootsTech Conference.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

In Defense of Tim McGraw

I know I am going to take some heat for my comments, but here goes.

Episode two of season two of Who Do You Think You Are? (WDYTYA) featured country singer, Tim McGraw.  The show made a quick leap back to late 1700s Virginia and then wrapped up with early 1700s New York.

Every episode of  WDYTYA needs to be different in terms of historical content as well as personality in order to reach out to a broad group of people.  Last night's show was very different from the Vanessa Williams episode.  There weren't any emotional tugs or teary moments.  We weren't cheering Tim on in the same we were cheering on Vanessa.

The fact is that the Williams episode was more of a "chick flick" and the McGraw episode was more of "man's man" show.  I'm not saying that all genealogists like chick flicks but genealogists certainly do like a good story.  For me, last night's show was something that a regular guy could appreciate.  My husband is not into genealogy but I think he would have appreciated the McGraw show.  The Tim McGraw episode appealed to a much broader male audience.  If that's what it takes to get folks interested in researching their family history then I would consider the show a success.  So while everyone may have expected the episode to appeal more to women, ultimately it appealed more to men.

I found Tim McGraw to be genuine without being sappy.  His consistent curiosity throughout the show was his way of being a part of the discovery process.  Clearly, McGraw, who is not a genealogist, quickly grasped the concepts that were presented to him by the professionals.  The researchers got to shine in this episode and I appreciated that as well.

I found the historical topics to be very interesting.  I knew little about the frontier history of Virginia and its connection to Native Americans and George Washington.  So that was informative for me.  I was very happy to see the show feature the story of the Palatines, being descended from them myself.  It seems like the Palatines are a small segment of history that don't get featured prominently very much.

Was this episode the home run that the Vanessa Williams episode was?  Perhaps not, but I still think it was really good.  It reached out to a different demographic in a different way.  Hopefully the viewers will be inspired by this episode to look into their own family history.  If the audiences goes off and  has that first conversation with an uncle or an aunt to start learning about their history then that's success.

I think the Tim McGraw episode succeeded.  Maybe not in the way you were expecting but it definitely succeeded.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

An Interview with Leslie Albrecht Huber, Author of The Journey Takers

Leslie Albrecht Huber, the author of The Journey Takers, will be speaking at the New England Regional Genealogical Conference in April 2011. I recently had the chance to talk to her about her book.

The Journey Takers is part family history, part historical fiction and part memoir. It describes the real life journey of Leslie’s ancestors who left Europe and made the arduous journey to America. She includes factual details of her ancestors mixed in with fictional snapshots of their lives based on the social history of the time and places they lived. The constant thread running through the book is Leslie’s own story as she shares her personal journey of discovery against the changing background of her life.

The Writer Inside

Leslie has wanted to write a book since she was five years old. The desire for writing has been a constant in her life. When she was a twenty-one year old college student she traveled to Germany for an internship. During this trip she researched the lives of her Albrecht ancestors. The story of this family appears in the first four chapters of The Journey Takers. Right after she got home from Germany she started writing her book.

The book has been a work in progress for many years. Leslie re-wrote the book several times as she evolved as a writer. She had never intended The Journey Takers to be a family history. She wanted to write a book that everyone could relate to. She worked to create the story of the ordinary immigrant experience based on her own family.

Writing Groups

During the process of writing the book, Leslie participated in a writing group. I was very curious about the impact of the writing group on her work. She joined a writing group while a graduate student in Madison, Wisconsin. The group met twice a month with the participants submitting their materials in advance for critique. Leslie said that one of the things a writing group teaches you is how to handle feedback. She explained, “It’s important for writers to get used to handling criticism. It helps you become a better writer." Participating in a writing group can also build a writer’s confidence.

Leslie cautions, however, that not all writing groups are the same. She recommends attending a few meetings of a writing group before officially joining to make sure there is a good fit. When you find the right group it can be a great support for your writing development.

Distant Relatives Come Knocking

After writing The Journey Takers, Leslie received many emails from distant relatives. She enjoyed hearing from people who shared her same ancestors. Publishing the book has strengthened her ties with living descendants and reminds her of all they have in common.

The people of Wayne County, Utah so strongly identify with parts of her book that to them it feels like their local history. This past summer Leslie drove across country with her children on a promotional tour and got to visit all the American ancestral locations in her book. Some of them she visited for the very first time.

Social History

One of things I like best about the book is the inclusion of social history as a tool to bring alive the stories of her ancestors. Leslie explained that when beginning a new genealogical research project she often starts with a general history book of her target geographical region. She feels this is important to put the records she is researching within context. When there is a lack of records, which happens quite often, social history can help us connect to our ancestors in a way that otherwise wouldn’t be possible.

Write Your Own Family History

When it comes to encouraging others to write their own family history, Leslie says, “Just do it! Leave the worry and hesitation behind." Your family history doesn’t need to be a book or even be very long. It just needs to matter to your family. Leslie also suggests not waiting until you have researched “the last piece” of information. Set a goal and a deadline and get started.

Leslie Albrecht Huber will be presenting “Journey Takers: An Inside Look at Immigration Research” on Thursday, April 7, 2011 at 12:15pm at the New England Regional Genealogical Conference (NERGC). NERGC is being held in Springfield, Massachusetts from April 6-10, 2011.

The Inheritance Dream and the Genealogy Fairy

Ever since I was a teenager I've had a secret wish that some relative that I never knew died and left me a ton of money.  It's not nice to wish people would die so that's why it always had to be an old, secret relative that I never knew about.  It's sort of like the lottery dream but only a little more desperate and unlikely.

Now that I'm a genealogist I'm afraid it's even more unlikely that this will happen.  I mean, I'm pretty sure I'm aware of all my distantly connected living relatives.  And the ones I do know about either aren't rich or aren't going to leave me any money.

Now I have a new dream.  I dream about the Genealogy Fairy.  This Genealogy Fairy magically provides me with the whole tuition cost to take the Boston University Genealogy Certificate Program.  The Genealogy Fairy could also potentially provide me with the tuition money for the Rhode Island School of Design certificate program in Historic Preservation. And somehow the Genealogy Fairy would also make it ok with my husband that I spend so much time away from home and working on my studies.

If any of you have any inside connections with the Genealogy Fairy, will you please put in a good word for me? Thanks!

Monday, February 7, 2011

My Big Plans for 2011?

The year 2011 started with two very interesting blogging events.  The first was a Carnival of Genealogy (101st Edition) that focused on Genealogy Research / Writing plans for 2011.  I read many of the posts with great interest.  They were perfect for inspiration and fascinating to see what others hoped to accomplish. They really got me thinking about what I want to accomplish in 2011.

The other Blogging Event that really piqued my interest was Week 4 of the 52 Weeks of Personal Genealogy & History.  This particular week focused on the home. Bloggers were asked to describe the house they grew up in and mention if it was still there today.  As a house historian I was excited every time I saw a new post on this topic.

Both of these series got me thinking about what my goals are for 2011.  Just what do I have up my sleeve for 2011?

I have tried to keep my goals for 2011 on the small to manageable side. With the NERGC conference in April, I'm tied up the first quarter of 2011.

But....if I could achieve anything this year....I would like to start a newsletter. 

The newsletter would come out monthly and would focus on the things that I love - house histories, cemetery research and New England genealogy.  Think of all the exploring and photographs I could take while preparing content for this newsletter!

Let me know if you like this idea and what topics you would like to see covered. I hope to get it started by July. 

So that's my big plan for 2011!

Beware of Multiple Facebook Accounts!

A few months ago a Facebook friend sent me a friend request from a new Facebook account.  I thought that was a bit strange but accepted the request anyway.  Later I queried that friend to find out that the account had been hijacked and the new friend account was an impostor.  So I severed the link to the impostor.

I've had the reverse situation happen as well.  A friend gets locked out of their own account by a hijacker and then they start a new one.  That's a more difficult scenario.  In that case a friend of his posted on his wall that he had been hijacked.  The problem with that is all his other friends might not see that wall post.  I emailed him, he explained the situation so I went to his wall and saw the note from the friend about the hijacking.  (Now why the hijackers didn't delete that wall post I'll never know.)

Beware of Multiple Facebook Accounts

If you are already Facebook friends with somone and then you receive a request from a different account, use caution!  Post a note to their wall or send emails to both accounts.  Ask for an explanation.  One of the accounts will likely give you an explanation that sounds plausible.  It's so easy so accept a friend request from a name that you are familiar with. Sometimes you forget to check that you are already Facebook friends with someone.  Especially when you see other friends have already accepted the second account. Staying on top of this will protect you from unnecessary exposure to account hijackers.

Heads up to All My Facebook Friends

Just a heads up to all my Facebook friends - if I get a second account request from you I won't accept it without an explanation.  I've got to stay safe too.  Be on the lookout for my emails/wall posts and let me know what's up.

I got another such request from someone this morning.  I immediately wrote on their wall and emailed back the second account request.  I got a quick email reply but it didn't address why they created a second account.  I sent a second email that said "I can't accept this friend request until I hear back from your other account. Two accounts is suspicious." I didn't get any reply to that. And still no response to my wall post.  My apologies to this Facebook friend if it is legitimate but until I know for sure I'm in wait and see mode.

Stay alert and stay cautious folks!

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Thank you, NBC, for Not Dumbing Us Down

Last night was the premier episode of season two for the NBC television show Who Do You Think You Are? (WDYTYA).  For those who are not familiar with WDYTYA it is a program that follows a celebrity as they trace their family roots.  It's a voyage of discovery.

When the program began last year there were certain flaws to the program.  Most genealogists tolerated the flaws out of appreciation for having a program of this kind on mainstream tv.  There was quite a bit of discussion on the internet about the pros and cons of season one.

I'm very happy to say that the producers of the show must have been listening.  Episode one of season two featured Vanessa Williams - without any of the annoying aspects of season one.  The producers did away with the incessant previews and recaps that occurred before and after every commercial. Those recaps insulted the intelligence of viewers.  Did they think we were so slow that we couldn't remember what had just happened?  This year NBC is treating us like intelligent human beings.

There may have been other tweaks to the show that I can't quite put my finger on.  The show seemed more genuine.  Vanessa Williams didn't over-emphasize her reactions to discoveries.  She seemed very authentic.  Last season there was one show in particular where the actor was a little unrealistically exuberant in their reactions.

Numbers and Advertising Down?

Today Thomas MacEntee of Geneabloggers reported in a post about the show that the ratings for adult viewers age 18-49 was down 18% from the debut last year.  Though he does note that another source says the numbers overall reached a series high.

Last year I remember seeing a tremendous amount of advertising for the show before its debut.  I don't recall seeing a single advertisement this year.  Could it be viewers in the 18-49 bracket was down because they didn't promote it as much?  It could be that *I* didn't watch much NBC in the weeks prior to the start of season two.

If you saw advertisements on NBC ahead of time please let me know.

Bottom Line 

The bottom line is last night's episode featuring Vanessa Williams was excellent.  It was warm, educational and interesting.  It provided great information on African American history and did a great job of breaking some African American historical stereotypes.  I think we were all rooting for Vanessa by the end of the show.  What fulfilling and reaffirming discoveries she made about her own family!

And that's the point of family history.  Researching our family history helps us connect to our ancestors and to understand our current family in a meaningful way that often provides a sense of peace.  I hope people take away from the show they don't have be famous to feel the same kind of connectedness to their own family.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Let the Speaking Season Begin!

This past Saturday I gave my first talk of 2011 at the Brooks Free Library in Harwich, MA (Cape Cod). This particular talk was about cemetery research in
New England. The Brooks Free library itself is located in a beautiful late 19th century historic building. Harwich, as is all of Cape Cod, is steeped in genealogy and history. And just down the road from the library was an historic cemetery. Truly this was an ideal and fun location for me to give a talk. If only it had been July!

Lots of Conferences

This is the start of a very busy spring season for me.  I will be speaking over all Massachusetts.  Three of the dates are conferences: The New England Family History Conference in Franklin in March; The New England Regional Genealogical Conference (NERGC) in Springfield in April; and the Worcester Public Library Genealogy Conference at the end of April.

New Topics, New Talks

I have a few new talks this spring in case anyone is looking for a speaker. They are all about social media for genealogists.  This is rapidly becoming an important and popular topic for online genealogists.

My new talks are:
  • "What is a Blog Anyway?" - Everything a genealogist needs to know about blogging.
  • "Facebook and Twitter for Genealogists" - This is an introduction to these social media sites.
  • "Advanced Facebook Tips for Genealogists" - This is for genealogists who are comfortable with Facebook but want to take it to the next level.
You can see the entire list of my available talks on my website.

I still have to put the new talks up on my website but they are available for booking now.  I will be giving "What is a Blog Anyway?" at the Massachusetts Genealogical Council Annual Seminar in July.

Anyone who is interested in attending one of my talks can check my schedule for times and locations.

If there are any groups or organizations looking for a speaker I am available to speak throughout the Northeast United States.  I may even head down to Florida this summer but the dates are still a little up in the air so I'm holding off scheduling anything just yet.

If you are attending any of the conferences mentioned above I hope you will be sure to stop by and introduce yourself if we haven't met already.  For me, one of the best parts of speaking is getting to me lots of genealogists from many different places.

See you on the road!