Top 10 Social Media Sites for Family Historians – Revised 2014

I think that social media was made for family historians. We are different from other people – we actually enjoy finding distant relatives and keeping in touch with them! Social media helps us to find relatives and old friends in ways that were not possible in the days of mailing lists and message boards.

CarolesCanvasThe first time I said that was more than four years ago, in this post. Four years is a long time on the internet, and things have changed. Some of these sites have fallen off my radar so it’s time for a revision. The image shows the cover of the first edition of my book Social Media for Family Historians with screenshots of my blog Carole’s Canvas, Youtube and GenealogyWise, a network I never really found a use for. The second image is a more recent screenshot of Carole’s Canvas. The main difference is the emphasis on pictures, as well as the general simpler and cleaner look. Pictures are what make a blog, or any social media post, more engaging.

Here are 10 social media sites that are not directly related to family history (except one) but are nevertheless important for communicating, sharing and collaborating with other family historians, and family in general.

In alphabetic order:

Blogger is the best-known of the free blog hosting sites. Writing a blog about your family history and the discoveries you make is one of the best ways of getting young people interested, and attracting other asyet-unknown relatives. It is owned by Google so you can use your Google ID to log in and create as many blogs as you like.  The address of your blog will be You can choose from a large number of designs and options, and posting is quick and easy.

Delicious is a social bookmarking site. You can save bookmarks to sites as you find them and categorise them however you wish. You can also find sites that others have similarly categorised, which can save you a lot of time when researching a topic or place. I no longer Delicious, and imported all my bookmarks into Evernote.

Facebook is a social networking site used by 500 million people around the world to connect with friends and family. It is easy to find people and for them to find you, if you want them to. As long as you change the privacy settings as soon as you join, and don’t click on anything you don’t understand, you will be safe from harm.

FamilySearch Wiki is a collection of over 80,000 articles (up from 40,000 four years ago) on many aspects of genealogy research around the world. Articles can be added and changed by anyone, making it progressively more comprehensive. It’s the best place to start if you find you have to research a country you aren’t familiar with.

Flickr is a photo and video sharing website. You can share as many photos as you like (within reason) with as many or as few people as you like. Photos of ancestors and places of historic value can be made public to attract others interested in the same people and places, and uploaded to the National Library of Australia’s Picture Australia (now part of Trove).

Google Docs is a free office suite of applications that allows you to share documents and collaborate with others. Word processing, spreadsheets, presentations, drawings and forms are all available. They are accessible to you anywhere as long as you can connect to the internet. You can keep them private or make them available to others to view or edit.

Pinterest is a popular place to collect and share photos and ideas. It is wonderful for gathering ideas for projects such as crafts or home decorating. It is fabulous for drawing together images on topics of historical interest, on your own family or local history in general. Pinterest has come a long way in four years, and is a new addition to this list.

Skype is a free program that allows you to make secure voice and video calls to other Skype users anywhere in the world over the internet. You just need an internet connection and a computer with a microphone and speaker such as a laptop, or an inexpensive headset. You can also buy a Skype phone to use like a regular phone, and make calls to regular phones, although they charge for this service.

Twitter is a ‘microblog’, where you can make short posts of 140 characters or less to give links to photos, websites, blog posts, or just ask questions and hold conversations. Twitter posts, or tweets, are searchable so you can find people interested in the same things as you. So many people and organisations use Twitter to let us know what they are doing that you can always learn something useful. Twitter has proved itself as the first place to get breaking news about local or world events. It also now displays photos directly in your feed, making it more engaging and immediate.

YouTube is a video sharing site that allows you to upload videos and share them with a few people or with everyone. You can search for videos on family history and other topics from archives, libraries, genealogy record companies and many other organisations.

I use most of these sites on a day-to-day basis. Many of them are now part of my daily life. I talk to my immediate family; share documents and photos; save bookmarks; read blogs and check Twitter on a regular basis. Although my own blogs are not hosted by Blogger, prefering to use my own hosting, I recommend it highly for first-time bloggers.

Try some of these out; do some searching, and see what you can find. You might be surprised. And hooked!

Google Reader was removed from the original list, as it was discontinued by Google. I have much less time to read blogs than I did four years ago, and I find that the only time I read them is when I see a link that interests me from another network such as Facebook or Google+.

Social Media for Family Historians, 2nd edition

Social Media for Family Historians 2nd editionThe second edition of my book, Social Media for Family Historians, is now out. It explains what social media is; what use it is; and introduces you to more than 25 social media sites that can help family historians to communicate, share and collaborate with other family historians and with their own families.

It has been expanded and updated, with some sites removed that I no longer consider useful, and new ones added, such as Google+. The section on getting started with Facebook in particular has been greatly expanded, demonstrating the new privacy settings and layout.

You may discover new ways to communicate using Sykpe and SecondLife; social networking sites such as Facebook and Google+; blogs and microblogs such as Twitter; sites for sharing family trees such as Ancestry and MyHeritage; sites for sharing photos and videos such as Flickr and YouTube; and community information sites such as wikis and social bookmarking.


1. Introduction
– About this book
– My experience
– A warning
2. What is social media?
– The internet
– Self-publishing
– Social media
– Mobile computing
3. Why use social media?
– Advantages
– Disadvantages
4. Communication
– Chat
– Social networking
– Blogs
– Microblogs
– Virtual worlds
5. Sharing
– Family trees
– Photographs
– Videos
– Social cataloguing
6. Collaboration
– Wikis
– Documents
– Questions and answers
7. Dangers
– Risks
– Some simple rules
8. What are you waiting for?
Appendix 1. How to get started with Facebook
– Sign up for Facebook
– Using Facebook
Appendix 2. How to get started with Blogging
– Find a host
– Create an account
– Name your blog
– Set security
– Create your profile
– Select a design
– Start writing!
– More advanced blogging

You can buy it from Gould Genealogy, and I hope you do!

A Google+ Webinar with Paul, Dan and Mark

GooglePlusI am watching a webinar called Google+ the Next Big Thing that was recorded this morning at 4am (too early for me) with Paul Allen, Dan Lynch and Mark Olsen. To find out more about these speakers, and to watch the webinar yourself, go to It will be available online for another week or so, and then you can buy it on a CD.

So far Paul Allen is showing slides of the amazing rate of takeup of Google+ compared with Facebook and Twitter, and talking about why everyone isn’t on here yet…
Funny, I saw these slides when he first published them (on G+) and it’s a much quicker process to read them than listening to an explanation. Perhaps I’m more visual than aural.

I take it back, I hadn’t realised how much work went into +Paul Allen‘s surname analysis! On a survey taken by Paul, 93% of Facebook users are happy with it. A large majority are unaware of Google+.

Paul has found much richer engagement with other people on Google+ than on any other site, and distributed to more people. I have to agree with him there. Twitter’s 140 character limit cannot accommodate a serious discussion about anything.

What we see on Google+ now is just the tip of the iceberg. Google is releasing just a bit at a time, and it will connect people around the world as never before. I can’t wait!

Now Dan Lynch is giving us a tour of Google+. It’s an excellent introduction to the features and functionality and would make a great how-to video on its own.

You need a Google account. A lot of people have one of these already without realising it. If you use Gmail or Google Alerts, you already have one.

You can share posts, looooong posts if you like, with pictures and video and web link, to specific people in your circles. Circles are what make Google+ so powerful. You can put similar people together in their own circle, like family or friends or people who are descended from the same Craig ancestor as you. Then you can share posts or photos only to a specific circle.

I tend not to do this; most of what I share is public. I made the decision early on that Google+ is more like Twitter than Facebook and so rarely do I share anything with a specific circle. That will probably change as more of my friends and family use Google+.

I hadn’t looked at the Photos tab since the beginning when there was very little in there. It’s really rather cool! You can see the photos of other people in your circles, as you can in Facebook, but you can also see how many comments have been left for the photo.

I’ve also had another look at my profile to see if I needed to add anything. I didn’t, but I may in the future.

Now Mark is giving us a live demonstration of the Longest Hangout, still running after a month or so… Holding documents up in front of the camera so the rest of us can see them is not an ideal way of sharing documents. There are other ways, though. They require the installation of additional software. has a free download to screencast in hangouts, and so does I’ll give that a go!

Use to stream a hangout live over the internet. Free account includes ads, a paid account has no ads but costs… a lot. There was a mention of something called Virtual Cable that I missed.

Skype, Facebook and so on also allow meetings online. Google hangouts are just easier. Hold down CNTRL key and then + or – to make parts of the hangout window (video or chat) bigger or smaller. Hangouts can be shown to large groups of people, in a seminar room or whatever.

Incoming! Incoming is where you can see things that people are sharing with you that are not in your circles and so don’t appear in your main stream.

Google+ is only in beta testing. It’s not cooked yet. By the time Google has finished adding things to it, it will be amazing!

If you want an invitation to Google+ go to Dan’s website at and click on the G+ Invite friends link. It looks like this:

gplus invite friends

Can Google+ replace Facebook and Twitter?

GooglePlusI’ve been playing with Google+ for a few days now, and I’ve had some time to experiment and to see how others in my circles are reacting to it.

Most seem to be using it as a substitute for Facebook – posting to a limited audience in their own circles. Many of them like that you can more easily post about specific subjects to specific people, a capability that Facebook has but hides very well.

The more public figures – developers and power-bloggers, for example, are making everything public; it is part of their professional persona. A few of the power users are replacing their blogs altogether, because they are getting more engagement on Google+ than they ever did in their blogs.

Can it be used both ways at once? Does it have to be one or the other?

I use Facebook for sharing with friends and family, and with my broader genealogical circle of friends, many of whom I have never met personally. I use Twitter for the broader genealogical sharing and for the occasional rant during QandA and so on. Twitter is where I go to find out what is going on in the world.

I have been trying to decide how Google+ could replace both Facebook and Twitter, and I can’t make it work. I’ve been thinking a lot (probably too much, given everything I’m supposed to be doing), and here are some reasons I’ve come up with, in a random and possibly confusing order. I’m sure many, if not all, will change as Google+ matures and grows.

  • When I want to make public pronouncements, I go to Twitter, and when I want to make more personal ones, I go to Facebook. If I want to do both in Google+ I have to make a few decisions before each postGoogle+ defaults the circle you will post your message to depending on what you had last time. Most of us don’t think or check before we post; we just type the message and hit ‘send’. Maybe that will change over time, and maybe we will get more used to it, but as an IT developer I can see that if it’s not immediately obvious people won’t ‘get it’. And they’re not getting it yet.
  • There are not many people on Google+ yet, and most of the ones I know are genealogists or techos. (Or both). Mostly they post about genealogical subjects or about Google+, although some are starting to share their photos. There are not many posts, and so not much reason to visit multiple times in a day. Yet. Whereas I have Facebook open all day, and am more likely to comment on my day there. Google+ doesn’t seem like the place where anyone would be interested.
  • On that last topic – Google+ posts when someone comments on a photo in an existing Picasa Web album, so we are now seeing a lot of photos posted as though they are new. This is mildly annoying but the people at Google are tweaking this.
  • There is not enough integration with other sites. I have already seen many complaints about Google+ not integrating with Blogger, which is Google‘s own blog site. I would also like to be able to post in multiple sites at once, since I am an active member in multiple sites.  Again, I’m sure this will change with time, unless some of the sites lock the others out.
  • Facebook just feels more casual. I am more likely to use the Like button than the +1 button, because +1 feels like I am recommending something, whereas Like just feels like I like it. There’s a big difference in social terms.
  • I use Twitter in a more professional capacity, and that’s where I go when I want to be updated on what’s happening in the world in general and genealogy in particular. Google+ feels more like an expanded Twitter than a friendly sharing space for family and friends.
  • I do a lot of my public speaking explaining to people that Facebook is safe, and that it’s worth trying because that’s where their friends and family are likely to be. And they are. They are not in Google+.
  • Although it’s easy to put people into circles and post to particular circles, I don’t think the posting is intuitive, and I’m not sure what could be done to avoid problems when you don’t notice that your new message has defaulted to the last circle you posted to. Especially if it was Public.
  • I can get around this problem in Twitter by using third-party tools such as Tweetdeck, where I can categorise my contacts into columns and I can easily see which of my multiple Twitter accounts (and Facebook accounts and pages) is posting or replying to a particular message. Maybe something similar will come for Google+. There is already an option for multiple users in Google+ that comes with more warnings than I care to deal with at the moment.
  • Google wants us to bring everything we do on the web together in one place. Why leave Google when everything is there? I have not taken these concerns seriously before, but now even I am faintly uneasy. I don’t like that Google+ shows me the people in my Gmail address book to recommend I add them to a circle without me asking for it.

As a Facebook substitute where people share personal stuff Google+ is not working for me, so I’m going to experiment with it as a Twitter substitute, and go Public. You won’t see YouTube videos I find cute, or pictures of my previous holidays (unless someone comments on one of them perhaps, since it’s linked to my personal Google account), but just what I think about things that matter to me as a genealogist and social media fan.

I don’t know if people who are not in Google+ can see public posts, but I guess I’ll find out soon enough. You can see my Google+ profile at At least I hope you can!

First look at Google+

GooglePlusGoogle+ is Google‘s new experiment in the world of social networks. I say ‘experiment’ because it is only in limited release; you have to wait for someone to be able to invite you, and then you have to accept the invitation during one of the brief, unpredictable periods when new members are being accepted. I also call it an ‘experiment’ because Google have tried something similar before. It was called Google Wave and it didn’t catch on. Google Wave was removed from circulation.

It is inevitable that Google+ will be compared to Facebook and Twitter, and I will be doing the same. I’ve been using both for some years now, and have watched them evolve and become more useful. Google+ is only a beginner, and will become more useful as it grows, adds more features and tweaks, and more people get into it.

I’ve been on Google+ for an hour or so now; long enough for some first impressions:


So far I like it. It looks clean and easy to understand. Perhaps that will change as new features are added and it gets more complicated, but for the time being I prefer being there than in Facebook.


In Google+ you add people to circles. The ability to do this, and to differentiate circles, is built into the product and is very friendly and intuitive. Circles are like lists in Facebook and Twitter. You can categorise people according to whether they are friends, family, acquaintances or people you follow; or you can add your own categories. I have already added ‘genealogists’ and ‘Australia’, as many of the people in my circles are genealogists and/or Australians and some of the things I post are only relevant to them. No point asking a Canadian genealogist about what was on ABCTV in Australian last night.

Google+ Circles


Google+ looks much like Facebook when you get into it. You get a feed of all the news from the people in your circles, in descending chronological order from the most recent down. Where Google+ is different is that it is very easy to filter the stream by circle, so that you see only the messages in your Family circle, or your Genealogists circle:

GooglePlus homepage

If I am displaying all circles and I want to post something, I am asked who I want to share it with:

GooglePlus postAnd it won’t let me post it without selecting someone. So if I’m going to make it public I can’t make a mistake. But if I then post again it assumes what I said last time – Public. So watch out for that.

I think the difference here is that people now use Facebook for their friends and Twitter for everyone. You know that if you use Twitter all the world can see it. So you make the decision before you go in. With Google+ you have to make the decision each time you post something. I think that could be confusing, and perhaps dangerous.

It’s new, though, and so am I, so I’ll withhold my final judgement for the time being.


Uploading photos is appallingly slow compared to Facebook. I upload photos to Facebook on a regular basis, often from my phone. It’s relatively quick and I can share them without worrying that they are too big for my blogging software. So I’ve tried to upload photos to Google+ of the HMB Endeavour from a recent trip to Cairns. I started it off and went to do some things. I wish I’d recorded when I started it, because it’s still only half way through. Maybe the quality is better, but who’s going to care?

Again, perhaps this is a startup thing, and it will improve as it gets bigger and more experienced. I haven’t uploaded photos to Picasa Web for a long time so I can’t really make that comparison.

When it eventually finished uploading I saw there was a photo I had selected by mistake, and I can’t work out how to remove it. Perhaps I have to go to Picasa Web to do that.

I’ve gone to Picasa Web and it’s changed now that I’m on Google+:

Picasa messageYou can see my Endeavour album here. It seems I can edit the album in Picasa Web but not in Google+. Perhaps that will change. I will leave the odd photo there so you can see it. Leave a comment if you pick the odd one!


As social beings we don’t just deal with people as individuals; we deal with organisations as well. Facebook and Twitter both allow organisations to connect with us, sharing their news and new features.

Google+ isn’t yet at this stage, so it unfair to judge. When it is ready for organisations there will be a whole new layer of complexity. Or maybe not!

The default circles include one called ‘Following’. Following is what you do to organisations in Facebook and Twitter, so perhaps Google+ has already distinguished them for us. If the people/organisations we ‘follow’ are in separate circles from family, friends, and genealogists then perhaps the distinction will be enough to keep the separate functions of Google+ in our minds. When we want to ‘read the news’ we open the ‘Following’ circle, and when we want to chat to friends we open the Friends circle. If we want to interact with the organisation we can.

Well, those are my first impressions of Google+. What have yours been?

Family history societies using social media

Trees and cloudy skyI have written previously about how family history societies can use social media and why I think they should. Social media is a great way to connect with people and let them know what you offer, especially people you may not otherwise reach.

I would love to start a list of societies that use social media – Facebook, Twitter, a blog, Flickr, YouTube, and so on – and put it on this site somewhere. Currently the list is so small that it seems almost counter-productive, but I am willing to try it.

If your society uses social media in any way, or you know of a society that uses it, please let me know.

Twitter for family historians

What is Twitter?

Twitter is what is known as a microblog.

You can send and receive messages, called tweets. A tweet can be a maximum of 140 characters. Tweets can be seen, and searched, by everyone unless you restrict them only to your friends. You can search for messages by a single person, by a word or phrase, or by a topic or hashtag, which is word, often abbreviated, with a # in the front of it. A tweet you particularly like can be retweeted to your followers.

Tweets can include links to websites, including blogs and photo-sharing sites. You are usually able to use a web address shortener to save some of those precious 140 characters, so that:

might become

Why use Twitter?

You can also search for people. People in Twitter are shown with a @ in front of their name. In Twitter I am known as @CaroleRiley, and this blog is known as @SocialMediaGen. Once you have found a person you are interested in you can follow them. This means that all of their tweets will appear in your feed.

SocialMediaGen on Twitter

You can unfollow them at any time. You can also retweet the tweets that you like for your followers to read.

You can follow people you know to see what they have to say – journalists, commentators, politicians, comedians, conservationists, actors, religious leaders, social media experts – they all have something interesting to say to those who are interested. Here are a very few examples:





@mashable – social media and technology

You can also follow organisations that interest you – archives, libraries, societies, genealogy organisations, and so on.








Many organisations release news first on Twitter, and if they don’t then others probably will. Here is an example from recent posts by State Records NSW:

SRNSW on Twitter

You can also follow people that are interested in the same things that you are. The best ones to follow are the ones that are good at collecting and retweeting information from other people and organisations, so that you don’t have to wade through a lot of stuff you are not so interested in. Some people are more addicted to Twitter than others, and they do the sifting so that you don’t have to!

Get involved

Hashtags are used to keep conversations together. If you do a search in Twitter for the hashtag you can see everything that has been posted on that topic. If you watch QandA on ABCTV on Monday nights you can follow the hashtag #QandA to see what people are saying about the program as it is running. It’s more fun than it probably sounds, and as long as you ignore the comments about hairdos and so on it can be very interesting.

Hastags are also used when something big is happening. You have probably read in the news about how national revolutions such as the recent one in Egypt have been organised and spread through the use of social media such as Facebook and Twitter.

I was watching Twitter during the Queensland floods earlier this year and sitting in front of the TV. The news on Twitter was by far the most up-to-date. There was some mis-information, as there is on any TV news channel when news is only trickling in, but most of it was real, from people who were in the thick of it watching the water coming up, and from authorities telling us locals what was going on and what they should do. Even the photos and videos being shared through Twitter were hours ahead of the news programs, and many of the best ones were later shown over and over on the news, including the ABC.

It is also becoming more common for Twitter to be used for events such as the recent NSW Expo at Coffs Harbour. Presenters and visitors can all tweet about their experiences and what they are learning, and those who can’t attend can learn too, and almost feel like they are there.

NSWExpo on Twitter

Get answers

Once you have a reasonable following of like-minded twitterers you can ask questions and get answers. I’ve seen people asking for advice on gadgets to buy, software issues, research problems, and recommendations for places to go, and they get good results. Yes, you can do this by email as well, but Twitter is quicker and behaves more like a normal conversation. You may get answers from people you don’t even know!

I don’t log in every day, but when I do I always learn something I didn’t know before.

Do you use Twitter?

What time zone is that?

I have finally solved my inability to calculate international time zones.

We are increasingly becoming more global. Social media allows us to communicate and collaborate with people from all over the world, in real time. This means that we can chat with people and take part in live video-conferences and video-streams from around the world when they actually happen.

An essential requirement is knowing what time something is going to happen. It is no good deciding to watch a video telecast at 6:00 PM US Pacific Time when I have no idea what time that is in Sydney.

I’ve needed to be aware of time zones most of my life. When my Dad moved back to Fiji and I was old enough to call him I needed to know that Fiji is two hours ahead of Sydney, or one hour when we have Daylight Savings Time. If I called too late in the morning he would have left the house, and too late at night he would be in bed. Unfortunately the knowledge wasn’t reciprocated, and he has quite often woken me on Sunday mornings because he’s been up for hours!

Later my good friend moved to the US, and I needed to know when she was likely to be home. She used to tell me that all I had to remember was that Florida was 14 hours behind Sydney. Subtract 24 hours and then add 10. Unless one or other of us had changed to or from Daylight Savings Time this worked, but unless you do it often, as she did because her family is here, it becomes a bit of a nightmare and the easy option is to just not make the call.

More recently I took part in the first ProGen Study Group. A choice of times for group chats was much restricted by most of them being either in the middle of the night or the middle of the day for me, so I began by running the blog-only group. The personal interaction was important, though, and one by one my members left to join other groups, and in the end so did I. I joined a group that met on Wednesday nights, which was the middle of Thursday here in Sydney. No sooner would I have finally worked out that I was was supposed to be there at 1pm than one of us would change to or from Daylight Savings, and I would have to rethink the time. I don’t know why time zone calculations are so much more difficult than the simple addition or subtraction would suggest, but they are.

My Google homepageI use iGoogle as my homepage, which allows me to install gadgets to give me the functionality I need. One of my gadgets was something called ‘World Clocks’, which gave me two analogue clocks showing the time zones of my choice. This worked when I just needed to know Florida time, but now that I need other zones the two zones are not enough, and they are a hassle to change every time I need another time zone. My friend has since moved back to Australia, and I had stopped using the gadget.

My new phone, an HTC Legend, gives me a choice of time zones to display as many as I want and is ideal. I do not need a calculator so much as a display of the current time. Problem solved! But no, my phone is not always at my side, especially at home.

Surely, I thought, a similar gadget must be available on iGoogle?

I tried two and selected one – PolyClock.

PolyClockIt gives a list of cities from around the world that you can choose from. Unfortunately Salt Lake City wasn’t on the list so I had to find a map of US time zones to find a city in the same time zone, and I found Phoenix, which is close enough. I also like that it shows the cities where it is still yesterday in red – this is important in Australia as we are ahead of everyone except New Zealand and Pacific Islands such as Fiji.

Now it’s easy. I hope to attend many more chats and watch more conference streams than I have in the past.

Another, similar problem I have is that a lot of people in the US give the name of the time zone, for example 1pm Mountain Standard Time. When I am trying to find out the current time I am usually presented with a list of cities, and I don’t know which cities are in which time zone.

I don’t think there is a quick solution for this other than to learn the US time zones and some basic US geography. There are only four mainland time zones and once you know that they are, from left to right, Pacific, Mountain, Central and Eastern, you are on your way. I know there are the Rocky Mountains over towards the Pacific coast so I can usually not confuse Mountain and Central.

So on the list I’ve chosen for PolyClock I just have to remember that Los Angeles is on Pacific Time, New York is on Eastern Time, and Phoenix is on Mountain Time, which is easy enough.

See you in cyberspace!

Social Media for Family Historians – my first book!

Social Media for Family Historians front coverSocial Media for Family Historians, my first book, was published on Friday 22nd October 2010. It was launched at the Unlock The Past History and Genealogy Expo in Sydney.

It contains 76 pages in full colour to explain what social media is and why it is of use to family historians. It introduces more than 25 websites that can help family historians, and anyone with families, to communicate, share and collaborate with each other.

I think social media could have been designed specifically with family historians in mind. The networking that we do as researchers is made much easier by social media sites, and the interest that we have in distantly related family members is way beyond that of a normal person!

We can share our family trees, documents, photos and videos; use Skype to communicate across the world; and write a blog to share our discoveries with family members, and to allow others to find us.

Here is the Table of Contents:

  • 1. Introduction
  • 2. What is Social Media?
    • The Internet
    • Self-publishing
    • Social media
  • 3. Why use it?
    • Advantages
    • Disadvantages
  • 4. Communication
    • Chat
    • Mailing lists and Forums
    • Social Networking
    • Blogs
    • Microblogging
    • Virtual Worlds
  • 5. Sharing
    • Family Trees
    • Photographs
    • Videos
    • Social Cataloguing
  • 6. Collaboration
    • Wikis
    • Social Bookmarking
    • Documents
    • Questions and Answers
  • 7. Dangers
    • Risks
    • Some simple rules
  • 8. What are you waiting for?
  • Appendix 1. How to get started with Facebook
    • Sign up for Facebook
    • Using Facebook
  • Appendix 2. How to get started with blogging
    • Find a host
    • Create an account
    • Name your blog
    • Set Security
    • Create your profile
    • Select a design
    • Start writing!
    • More advanced blogging

The book is $19.50 plus postage. It will be available from Gould Genealogy any minute now, or directly from me. Email me if you are interested in purchasing a copy at carole (at)

Exploring Second Life

This post was originally written as part of the 52 Weeks to Better Genealogy Challenge, Week 38.

I gave Second Life a go a few months ago. It’s a very rich environment, with lots to do. Some members of the Association of Professional Genealogists (APG) were holding meetings and other activities there, which is why I decided to check it out. Most of their activities take place in the United States, which is far away from where I am.

It’s a steep learning curve, though, which I decided I could’t afford the time for, so I stopped playing with it. Now it’s time for another look.

So in I went. Luckily the program remembers my id and password.

Second Life arrival

That’s me in the centre foreground, in the jeans and singlet. As far as I had worked out previously if you want alternative clothes you have to buy them. You make up your name when you sign up, and mine is rather unimaginative, as you can see. I thought that if I didn’t use my first name I wouldn’t know when people were talking to me, and I might forget my own name! Oh well.

As you can see, I belong to a group called Just Genealogists. And that’s what we are. There are meetings and parties, and I don’t imagine I have been conspicuous by my absence. I think I used to get emails when notices were posted, but I must have worked out how to turn them off after I gave up on Second Life.

I appear to be in a hotel foyer, and I can see other people, and I can also see the conversations they are having. They are fairly uninspiring conversations. One of these people seems to be doing rather complicated dance moves.

So far all I have managed to do is to walk forwards and backwards a bit, and I’ve found a list of gestures I can perform. When I shrug or look embarrassed I look like a silent film star, with those exaggerated gestures.

Let’s go outside:

Second Life outside

Hmm. Obviously I’m not supposed to walk from place to place.

Let’s change my appearance:

Second Life appearance

Actually I have quite a lot of choice here. I didn’t figure this part out before. I can make my singlet longer or shorter, and looser or tighter. I can change the fabric, colour, and fit of my jeans, and create new ones. Skirts, jackets, shoes… I could become a real little dressmaker!

Here’s what I came up with after more than a few minutes:

Second Life outfit editting

I can’t figure out the shoes so I’m staying with chunky.

I could spend hours on this, creating outfits, but I’m not going to. You get the idea. At least I don’t have to traipse around in a singlet.

I’d show you a map of the place, but it’s taking too long to load. Bring on the National Broadband Network! There’s a teleport button so perhaps I don’t have to walk, which is a great relief as my aim is a bit dodgy.

The map also showed events, so I presume I can teleport there and join one. If I knew when a genealogy-related one was happening I could go there at the right time and join in, provided it wasn’t the middle of the night in my timezone. Events are rated PG, Mature and Adult.

I don’t know how popular Second Life is in the States and Europe, but in Australia I am the only person I know that has ever even dabbled in it. Perhaps the speed is the problem. It takes so long for a map to load that it seems I am stuck in whatever location I start off in. The only place I can go to quickly is ‘Home’, which looks like the edge of a castle and has a lot of strange people dressed for a fancy-dress ball:

Second Life Home

It’s all a bit weird and takes some getting used to. I can see how you could spend hours here, wandering around and finding things to do.

Recently the APG Board approved a new Chapter in Second Life. Perhaps I will join.


Second Life (

What is Second Life? (

Genealogy Wise list of Second Life genealogists (