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

Games in Social Networks

Ferris wheelI don’t really understand all the hostility towards games in social networking sites. Aside from the annoyance of being told about all the gaming achievements of each person who plays games, which can be turned off even in Facebook, what is the problem with other people playing games?

Games have always been a part of social interaction, and not just for children. Games are fun, and we all need some fun. We play cards, bridge, mah jong, chess, checkers and so on; not to mention sports like tennis, squash and golf. Sports are played not only for the fitness aspects (don’t forget the golf buggies) but because people are competitive. We like to pitch ourselves against others in a competitive environment and strive to win, and we like the feeling when we do win.

Social networks like Facebook and now Google+ can accommodate all types of social interaction. I like Google+ for the discussions it makes possible and the new people I am meeting and engaging with. I don’t have a problem with the introduction of games. It was inevitable. I’m pleased, though, to hear that there will be a separate area for them so I don’t have to hear whenever someone has reached a new level in Farmville or needs help with a job in Mafia Wars.

I don’t have a problem, or even a feeling of superiority, about people who play Farmville or Mafia Wars. I play games in Facebook myself, although these days I restrict myself to just one game. Games can be distracting and a good excuse for procrastination. I have met some lovely people within Australia and around the world by playing games; people who I would not otherwise have met; people who have been there for me when I need encouragement or sympathy in more serious areas of life.

Social media is about life, and games are a part of life.


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?

Voyages to the South Seas, Indian and Pacific Oceans – Edmund Fanning (1838)

Fanning 1838 title page

Title page and frontispiece of ‘Voyages to the South Seas’, Edmund Fanning, 1838

Edmund Fanning (1769-1841) was an American explorer and sea-captain who made a number of voyages to the Pacific Ocean.

This book describes a number of voyages to the South Seas, the Pacific Ocean and China, including two to the Feejee Islands in 1806-1809 in search of sandalwood on the Sandalwood Coast. He describes the method of collecting and processing the sandalwood and his relations with the Fijian people at this early period in the history of European contact.

The book also contains letters to and from Fanning about the ‘National Discovery and Exploring Expedition’ to the Pacific and Southern Oceans that he believed was essential to the continuing properity of the United States. The expedition was eventually led by Commodore Wilkes, whose narrative was published on his return.

As with all Google Books the text can be searched when you view the book online but not if you download the PDF. The names of people and places are spelled very imaginatively.


Fanning’s Voyages on Google Books

Wikipedia entry for Edmund Fanning