1) Awareness and Visibility
Genealogy and Family History have become much more popular thanks to television shows such as Who Do You Think You Are?, History Detectives, Faces of America and African American Lives. These particular programs have focused specifically on genealogy or history. Family History has also made cameo appearances on popular television programs such as Top Chef. All combined these shows have increased America's desire to seek out their family history and begin the quest to discover their roots.
2) Education and Outreach
The past few years have seen great, positive strides in educational opportunities and outreach accessibility. One of the major new educational opportunities has been the establishment of the Certificate in Genealogical Research at Boston University. Veteran genealogist Melinde Lutz Byrne, CG, FASG, is the director of the program.
Another great educational opportunity that has come up in the past few years is the ProGen Study Group. Headed by Angela Packer McGhie, the study group is a peer group of genealogists who want a more formal process to help them with their transition to becoming professionals. It is quickly becoming one of the standards on the road to becoming a professional genealogist.
Another form of outreach includes greater accessibility to educational seminars through webinars. Webinars bring genealogical seminars straight to your laptop. That means that researchers who live at a distance from major educational centers can now receive training right from their home. The major providers of webinars at the moment are Legacy Family Tree, the Southern California Jamboree Extension Series and FGS. There is even a GeneaWebinars calendar that allows you to track all upcoming webinars in one location.
The community has also discovered new methods of outreach in the form of internet radio programs. Every Friday night genealogists can tune in to live discussion and chats on Geneabloggers Radio hosted by Thomas MacEntee.
The ability to share genealogical interests and information has never been easier with a journal-like format available on the internet called blogging. Blogging has taken the genealogical community by storm. The genealogical blogging community is headed up by Thomas MacEntee at the Geneabloggers website. There are currently over 1500 bloggers registered at the site which aids the bloggers by providing daily prompts and how-tos. Bloggers write about everything from their personal family history, geographic-specific genealogy, gravestones, ethnic genealogy and much much more. Blogging has become so popular that bloggers are now featured as special guests at many conferences such as the Southern California Jamboree.
While this is not scientific, I would venture to say that Facebook has been adopted more quickly and completely by genealogists than any other group. Genealogists by nature are a spread out group of people. Tools like Facebook help genealogists to get connected and stay connected. A number of distant cousins have found each other serendipitously on Facebook. Many genealogical organizations such as the New England Historic Genealogical Society (NEHGS) also have pages on Facebook which can be followed by Facebook members.
Rapid digitization has revolutionized genealogy in recent years. Major groups like FamilySearch and Ancestry.com have harnessed the power of volunteers to index millions of records. Some newly digitized records are freely available at FamilySearch and others are accessible on subscription sites like Footnote.com, Ancestry.com and GenealogyBank.com. The upshot is that researching your family history is easier than ever using the internet. But make no mistake, it will take decades before we reach saturation point on the internet so keep using libraries and archives to access non-digitized records.
What do you think of my Top 3 list? Do you agree with my list or would you suggest something else?