Friday, January 6, 2012

Everyone Needs a Niche, Right?

Whether an amateur genealogist, a professional or a blogger, at some point we all seem to find a niche or area of specialty. Often our niches are a geographic location or an ethnic group.

We tend to fall into them based on our family research or where we live. My niche is southern New England, which is where I live, not where most of my ancestors come from.

This morning I was directed via Twitter to the blog of The Two Nerdy History Girls by my friend, Deb Ruth. The blog post, "Modern Women of the 1890s", featured a youtube video of two elderly British women speaking about their days as young women in London in the 1890s. According to the youtube profile it originally came from the BBC.

The video was fun and interesting and informative to the point of discussing what the girls did for fun, work and even the slang they used. I couldn't help thinking this could be tremendously helpful for genealogists.

As I thought about it more I couldn't think of one genealogist who specializes in videos or documentaries for the genealogical community.  I know of people like Dick Eastman and Megan Smolenyak who have created videos. I was at a loss to think of anyone who had expertise in finding documentary videos with historical content who advised or shared them with the genealogical community.

Reputations are often made on filling voids. People end up writing books because a book didn't exist on the topic that they were researching. I would love it if a video or documentary buff would pick up the mantle and become an expert on locating videos for the genealogical community. I can see a blog, a website and a book in their future! Maybe you're the one we've been waiting for?!!

Along the same lines, I would like to see a music buff pick up the niche of historical music.  So much music is available online now. Where is it? How do we find it? And how do we tie it to the various generations of our ancestors?

If these topics get you going I hope you'll consider sharing your knowledge with our community.

Photo Credit: the image above is a screen shot of the Library of Congress webpage, America at Work, America at Leisure: Motion Pictures from 1894-1915.


  1. Videos ~in all forms~ from vlogging to tutorials to video documentaries are THE next big thing in online genealogy.


  2. Not only does everyone need a niche I'm certain they already have one!
    We all have a favorite technique, method or topic we tend towards in our genealogy research. Mine are cemeteries and the Civil War.
    If we blogged, posted videos, shared our gained knowledge, one day a week with that valuable information regarding our niche, the rest of the genealogy community would explode with insight!
    I also agree with Caroline, videos in all forms are our future!
    Thanks to both of you for giving me something to think about today! :)

  3. "Modern Women of the 1890s" was fun to watch!

    It captured the spirit of what I want to do with respect to African American or African Ancestored genealogy and family history - my niche!

    Peace & Blessings,
    "Guided by the Ancestors"

  4. As a former career video producer (and you will note the word "former"), let me offer another perspective. One major obstacle USED to be that video production was expensive.

    Not so, anymore. Between phones, flip cameras, and no cost/low cost editing software, anyone and their neighbor can produce a pretty decent looking video.

    It's great that video production has become less expensive, and more accessible to the masses.

    Yet what has not changed is the fact that documentary video production is time-consuming. Very. Researching, writing a script, interviewing, editing, and conducting post production all take a LOT of time.

    Now, if you're passionate about your topic and want to work these hours for free - GREAT! That's a wonderful calling to have.

    But if you're looking at this as a money-making proposition - I wouldn't advise it. It would be pretty difficult to find a topic of interest to many genealogists - there are simply too many niches within the profession.

    Plus, folks expect most online video will be offered for free. That means the only way you could make money is online ad dollars. And again, difficult to do, unless you hit upon a theme that will be of interest to the masses.

    I welcome anyone to prove me wrong. I don't mean to discourage anyone. Just sharing my .02 gained from many years of working as a producer.

  5. Marian -- the issue with historical videos and sound recordings is one of copyright. That's what makes it so difficult - in order to use the clips you have to re-obtain permission from everyone. If they've died, you need to get it from the heirs or owners of the materials. I just finished a copyright law class that discussed this in detail. It's a real morass.

  6. Christine,

    Thanks for your comment. I was thinking more along the lines of watching the videos and then citing them (they way we do with records) in our research, articles and books. The information in the documentaries could really fill out the story of our ancestors if only we knew where to look to find it.


  7. I totally agree with your comment about niches and geographical locations. I have gone one step further, as I specialise in research at one specific record office (Queensland State Archives). Apart from doing research there, I also *index* many of their records and put the names on my Web site. This is a great way to introduce people to sources that are not well known but which contain genealogical gems.