Social Media for Family Historians

Social Media for Family HistoriansMy first book, Social Media for Family Historians, was published in late 2010 by Unlock The Past. 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 covers new ways to communicate such as Sykpe and SecondLife; social networking sites such as Facebook and GenealogyWise; 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.It explains in some detail how to get started with Facebook and blogging.

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 Faebook
– 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!

Follow an archive day on Twitter

Today is Follow An Archive day on Twitter. Twitter users around the world are tweeting about their favourite archives, and archives around the world are tweeting about themselves, using the hashtag #followanarchive.

I’ve learned about a lot of archives I didn’t know about, and a lot that I did know about but didn’t know they used Twitter. Here are a couple of examples:

@BaselineLPMA  NSW Land and Property Management Authority Heritage Information

website at, which pulls together the information of most interest to historians and genealogists.

@naagovau National Archives of Australia

website at The National Archives started only their Twitter account today and had 100 followers by the end of the day!

@followanarchive Follow An Archive

website at which lists all the archives taking part.

I’ve been following this on and off all day, and it has been so much fun learning about new archives (new to me, anyway) and seeing what they are all up to. It’s after 11pm here in Sydney now, so no more Twittering for me. The Americans are just waking up so it will keep getting better!

Have a look:!/search?q=%23followanarchive

Another genealogy community website – Sirius Genealogy 2.0

Yesterday I received an email about a new website called Sirius Genealogy 2.0. The email said, in part:

Sirius Genealogy 2.0 (SG2) is pleased to announce that we have completed our transformation from a simple blog, into a complete online community for Amateur & Professional Genealogists. The old blog has been shut down and a new membership site has been launched and is publicly available. Membership is FREE! In addition to the general community atmosphere, SG2 has developed numerous Google Gadgets, Web Tools and other services to assist genealogists in their mission. Many more eliciting tools are on their way!

New or Improved Features:

  • Live Support via Chat (just look for the icon in the upper right corner of the site)
  • Articles, Article and more Articles (Member contributions encouraged).
  • Headline News: Links to related news stories from around the world.
  • Message Forums: Read what members are saying.
  • Speaker Bureau: A place to find speakers for your next genealogy or history related event.
  • Events Calendar: A place to find conferences and educational opportunities.
  • File Library: Forms, genealogies and more.
  • Word Of The Day: A new genealogy related word to challenge you each day!
  • Abbreviation Of The Day: A new abbreviation to challenge you each day!
  • Web Tools: Cousin calculators, age calculators, Soundex calculators and more.
  • Google Gadgets for iGoogle and your web pages.
  • Social Activity Monitors: See what genealogists are posting on twitter.
  • Marketplace: Look for a growing number of products for this area.

Member Only Features

  • Contributions: Get your articles, stories, events and speaker profiles posted.
  • Comment and Rate: Comment and Rate just about any page in the site.
  • Shoutouts: Post your quick genealogical thoughts to the entire community!
  • My Account: A place to manage your membership.
  • Message Forums: Meet, greet, share ideas and success stories in the forums!

So, we hope to see you in our new community. Please sure to stop in at the forums to tell us what you would like to see in the future.

I went in to have a look, and there’s a lot to see. Some of the options I clicked on needed me to sign in, so I signed in using my Facebook account and created a profile.

My “Home State or Provence” [sic] is ‘Non-US’, which tells me what I most need to know about the site. It is USA-centric. At least Non-US is at the top of the drop-down list, rather than at the bottom as it usually is.

I can see that this kind of thing might be useful. It seems to me that I have too many sites to keep track of as it is without adding another one that is unlikely to contain anything of immediate interest to an Australian.

I wish them all the best, whoever ‘they’ are.

Genealogy on Wikipedia

Elizabeth Shown Mills, author of Evidence! : citation & analysis for the family historian and Evidence explained : citing history sources from artifacts to cyberspace has rewritten the definition of “Genealogy” on Wikipedia, or at least the first two paragraphs. Her text, as she informed* the mailing list of the Association of Professional Genealogists, was as follows:

“Genealogy (from Greek: ?e?ea, genea, “family”; and ?????, logos, “knowledge”; often misspelled “geneology.”[1]) is the study and tracing of families. Because many unrelated individuals can share a common name, modern genealogical research is more than a collection of names affixed to pedigree charts. Rather, genealogy involves identifying living and deceased individuals, differentiating between individuals who bear the same name in the same place and time, establishing biological or genetic kinships, and reassembling families. By modern standards, reliable conclusions are based on the quality of sources (ideally original records, rather than derivatives), the information within those sources (ideally primary or firsthand information, rather than secondary or secondhand information), and the evidence that can be drawn (directly or indirectly) from that information. In many instances, genealogists must skillfully assemble circumstantial evidence to build a case for identity and kinship. All evidence and conclusions, together with the documentation that supports them, is then assembled to create a cohesive “genealogy” or “family history”.[2] Traditionalists may differentiate between these last two terms, using the former to describe skeletal accounts of kinship (aka family trees) and the latter as a “fleshing out” of lives and personal histories. However, historical, social, and family context is still essential to achieving correct identification of individuals and relationships.

“Genealogists begin their research by collecting family documents and stories, creating a foundation for documentary research by which they may discover ancestors and living relatives. Genealogists also attempt to understand not just where and when people lived but also their lifestyle, biography, and motivations. This often requires – or leads to – knowledge of antiquated laws, old political boundaries, immigration trends, and historical social conditions.”

  1. ^ The BCG Genealogical Standards Manual (Provo, Utah: Ancestry, in conjunction with the Board for Certification of Genealogists, 2000), Standards 1-72; National Genealogical Society, American Genealogy (Arlington, Virginia: NGS, rev. 2005), lesson 15, “Interpreting and Evaluating Evidence”; Val D. Greenwood, The Researcher’s Guide to American Genealogy, 3d ed. (Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., 2000), Chap. 1, “Understanding Genealogical Research.”
  2. ^ The mythological origin of English kings is related in a number of derivative sources, such as The Scyldings, an article at Ancient Worlds. In this article one primary source cited is the “Anglo-Saxon Chronicle”. The following passage appears in the entry for A.D. 449: “Their leaders were two brothers, Hengest and Horsa; who were the sons of Wihtgils; Wihtgils was the son of Witta, Witta of Wecta, Wecta of Woden. From this Woden arose all our royal kindred, and that of the Southumbrians also.” In this context “royal kindred” refers to English kings. Reference: The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, Part 1: A.D. 1 – 748, part of The Online Medieval & Classical Library. Accessed 2005 March 11.

Of course, Wikipedia can be changed at any time by anyone, and what she has written has already been changed as I write this. You can read the full Wikipedia article here.

Does it sound like what you do? I’d like to think it’s what I do, collecting original sources with primary information and drawing conclusions  from the evidence. That’s what it boils down to, in the end – can we back up what we say with reliable evidence? Do we record the source of each piece of data we collect so that we know where we got it? Could we find it again, or let others know where to find it?

And are we building family trees or family histories? Do we collect names and dates, or do we try to “flesh out” what we know about our ancestors with the interesting details that make up real lives?

That’s the question that most interests me!

* Mills, Elizabeth Shown, Re: [APG] WIKIPEDIA; email message to on Tue 11 December 2007 at 11:25am (Eastern Daylight Time in Sydney, Australia).

My apologies if I haven’t cited this correctly.

Are genealogy forums worthwhile?

There are advantages and disadvantages to leaving your name, surnames-of-interest, and email address on the many genealogy forums and load-your-family-tree websites.


The main advantage is, of course, that you might connect with someone who can give you vital information. That is the reason we sign up to these things in the first place. And don’t be discouraged if you don’t get a response straight away. The crucial person who has the family bible, or knows who has it, may not read your post for years.

My g-g-g-grandfather, Richard Eason, immigrated to New South Wales from what is now Northern Ireland in 1850, and a few years later his older sister Anne, arrived with her family and their mother, Sarah. We don’t know much about them and we don’t have any photos of that generation or the one after. I posted my interest in the surname Eason on an Irish forum – it was so long ago now that I can’t remember which one it was (if I ever change my primary email address I will lose these forums). Anyway, only last year a lovely lady in South Australia contacted me about my Eason post. Her husband was descended from Anne, the older sister and she was able to send me photos of the family, including the mother Sarah, and a scan of the inside page of the prayer book where Sarah had written the date of her wedding and the births of her children. Priceless!

Another advantage, more to do with loading your family tree on a website such as Ancestry or GenesReunited, is the insight you can get by formatting your family tree in this way. You can easily see inconsistencies, missing information such as certificates you haven’t yet ordered, and problems you thought had been sorted out already, that you may not have seen looking at the data within your genealogy program all the time. You can see that you have different spellings for the Ewins and missing sources for marriages. You can see how much of your data really came from that report you were sent five years ago and haven’t got around to verifying for yourself. Of course, these issues also emerge if we just run a report to give to someone else.


Many other people may contact you as well, people who are very unlikely to be connected to you in any way. I still get the occasional email from people who have seen my post on one of these forums and have asked me if I know their g-g-g-grandfather who came from Ireland, or Scotland. They don’t seem to notice that my email address is Australian, and they rarely seem to have much information themselves. A g-g-g-g-grandfather of mine is William Stewart, who raised his family in Paisley, Scotland until the boys emigrated to Australia in the 1850s. William Stewart is a very common name in Scotland and so the other information I provide is important – Paisley and Australia and all the rest, and yet I get emails from Americans about Stewarts from all parts of Scotland who emigrated to the USA. Bewildering, it is.

This annoyance pales into insignificance beside the main disadvantage of posting your email address on forums, and that is its susceptibility to spammers. These people gather email addresses from wherever they can, and they indiscriminately send out their pleas for assistance in getting fictitious money out of some troubled country and advertisements for pirated software and enhancements to bodily parts. They also sell email addresses on to others who use them for the same evil ends. The more places you have your email address accessible on the web, the more your inbox is likely to be bothered by these people.

Personally, I find the benefits of potential contacts far outweight the risk of more spam. Spam will find you even if you don’t put your email address on a forum, and there are many good anti-spam tools available. Most internet service providors have their own anti-spam software that stops these messages getting to your inbox in the first place. I must admit, though, that I think my spam is decreasing. The percentage that my ISP reports is spam is much lower than it used to be, and not so many slip through their net.

 I’m sure there are other advantages and disadvantages that you can think of, and I’d love to hear what they are. Leave a comment!