Monday, December 30, 2013

The Year of Social Media and Genealogy

It's time once again for end of the year observations and reflection.

2013 brought us man-made as well as natural disasters on a horrific scale. We watched with sadness and disbelief as we learned of bombings and mass shootings that killed innocent people. We watched with horror as we witnessed the power of Mother Nature as entire towns were obliterated by unbelievably powerful tornadoes and firefighters were overtaken by blazing wildfires. It seemed that no area of our country was spared from disaster and we were left wondering if we could have or should have done something differently to lessen the severity of these events.


Social media and online news outlets provided instantaneous news as well as photos and videos of happenings around the world. These images hit us hard and brought the troubles of others directly into our homes. With the powerful technology available to us today, we were able to send not just thoughts and prayers to the victims but money. By sending a text to a five digit number we could donate to the Red Cross and feel an immediate sense of participation, that’s powerful stuff. To me, our world feels a little smaller each year because of our worldwide social connections.


This past year also brought us more techno-goodness than we could possibly ever need to entertain ourselves with...but many of us gave it the ole college try. Genealogists everywhere were doing the happy dance as they found yet another gadget that would help make their research efforts more streamlined and effective and their goals attainable. The amount of records added to online repositories and accessible 24/7 in 2013 is simply staggering! Last night I was looking at a book of Wills and Administration papers from 1892 in Boyle, Roscommon, Ireland. Amazing!


Even more than the techno gadgets and online research options that exploded, I feel 2013 was the year of the "Social Genealogist". Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and Pinterest proved to be valuable tools for collaborative genealogy research. As researchers we can participate in Facebook groups ranging from specific regional research topics to organization and fraternal groups. Genealogists far and wide were able to watch Who Do You Think You Are and Genealogy Roadshow “together” via Twitter chats.


The social aspect of online genealogy education received a huge boost from Google+ Hangouts. Hangouts became popular for study groups formed to learn genealogy software programs, discuss research methodology and simply talk with like-minded individuals about family history research. I believe we have only seen the tip of the iceberg with Hangouts and, lucky for us, there are a few early adopters that are blazing the trail in that genre.

The online social aspect of genealogy is really hitting its stride. If you're not participating in any of the activities I've mentioned, be sure to check them out and make 2014 your social genealogy year!