Thursday, July 30, 2009

A Review of

Disclaimer: I was asked by to do a review of their website. However, they are not paying me to do this review. The only "perk" that I have received is a premium subscription to their site for one month, therefore enabling me to do a more in-depth review of the website. All of my opinions about this website have not been swayed by or any other website. I have tried to write an honest review, and hopefully, it will give you some insights into

First of all, what is From my experiences, I would say that this is a website for a group of genealogists researching the same family, ancestor, or line to post their findings in a collaborative form. This website also helps family members keep in touch through things like messages, calendars, and photos. Here is how defines their website.

My first impression from looking at this website was how cartoon-y it is. Personally, it is nice to see a website that has a fun and upbeat feeling to it. While your family tree is loading, a cute little cartoon guy pops up with the words "loading data" above him. The entire website has this colorful feel to it which is really nice.

As I started exploring the features of the website, what instantly caught my eye was the many different views I could use to see my family tree. These views included a descendant view, ancestor view (which is default), ancestor circle, hourglass, and a family tree view. The family tree view is the view to use to edit a person. You can also zoom in or out, and choose how many generations to show (0-10 generations for ancestors and descendants). I am a huge fan of how customizable the website is when viewing your family tree.

I was intrigued by what is called "Family Page" (This is a feature of the premium membership). The Family Pages are like a personal web page to display your family tree. I love it! You have the ability to share your family tree, write a family blog, and choose your web address (the web address is in the form of You can write a welcome greeting and a description of your family tree, with nearly the same capability as a word processor.

With a basic membership you get a few basic statistics such as the number of people in your tree and the number of those people that are direct ancestors. Premium members get extra statistics such as the gender distribution, average lifespan, and frequent places of birth. While these statistics are very interesting, it isn't something that would probably help you with your research.

I love the photo section because of the many features that come with it. For example, you have the tagging feature (similar to what Facebook has - it is very useful!), cropping and rotating abilities, and you can even add a note to the picture. These features are so useful to have! And it is even better that everyone in your family can upload pictures and identify the people in them!

There are other smaller features that I feel need to be mentioned (but don't necessarily deserve another paragraph). The website also has a messaging feature that allows you to send a message to anyone on the site. The family maps features is pretty cool and useful in giving you the relative proximity of the locations that different events took place at.

While I love this site, I can't deny the bottom line. The bottom line is that unless you have family members that are tech savvy enough to get online and are willing to participate, this website will not be a great resource. Personally, this would not be a resource that my family would use only because they are not comfortable using computers.

But for the genealogist with an active family (lucky you!) this is definitely a resource to look into.

Monday, July 20, 2009

How To Get Kids Interested In Genealogy

Perhaps it is because of my age, but people always assume that I am an expert in the feild of getting kids interested in genealogy. But truthfully, I am just as clueless as everyone else.

Since my 7 year old little cousin moved in to my apartment building, I've been trying to get her interested in genealogy. I want her to someday have the same passion for genealogy as I do. Many of the things that I originally tried only confused her or made her incredibly bored.

I started brainstorming strategies on getting her interested in genealogy and here is what I came up with:

  • Tell interesting stories: Dates and places are not interesting, but stories are. Filter the story to the age/interests of the listener. For example, if you've got a little girl who loves to hear romantic stories, then talking about how Grandma and Grandpa met will get her interested. However, if you've got a little boy who loves to play with army men, then telling the story about how Great-Grandpa Joe saved the life of another soldier during the war. When I volunteered at Kids Camp at the Jamboree, we asked the kids to tell their family stories - and they LOVED it. The kids were so excited to share their stories, and it even got some of the parents joining in to tell stories.
  • Take them places: There is nothing like going to the actual house that Grandpa grew up in or to the bakery that Grandma used to walk to buy dinner rolls. You could go to the church that Great-Grandma and Great-Grandpa got married in. You could go to a military museum to show the kids the weapons that Grandpa carried while in the military. Going to these places is fun because the kids can run around, touch things, and explore.
  • Show them pictures: (Obviously, only show COPIES and not the originals). Pictures bring the names to life. It is a lot of fun to connect the stories to a face. Show them pictures from when you were a kid or compare their features to the features of Grandma ("You have the same eyes as Grandma!").
If you think about it, one of these things is probably how all of us got interested in genealogy. None of us got interested in genealogy because we loved dates. We all have to show the kids in our family why we are so passionate about our family trees.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Happy Blogiversary to ME!

Today - my blog is 1 year old! I can't believe that a year ago today, I started this blog. Wow - so much has happened in a year.

I have grown not only as a researcher, but as a person. I cannot believe how much more confident I am and how many friends I have made.

The geneablogging community is truly a great one to be a part of. Everyone is so supportive, so kind, so helpful, so giving, and they are all so much fun to be around!

So I just wanted to say - THANK YOU! You have made my blogging experience wonderful!

Friday, July 10, 2009

Genealogy Societies Need To Look Toward The Future (Follow-up Post)

When I wrote my last post, I was not expecting the outpouring of comments that I received. I never thought it possible that so many people would not only read my blog, but comment. Oh - and these were not the typical "great post" comments that I generally get - these were honest outpourings of people who have shared my experience. At most, I get about 5 comments on a post. As I am writing this, the post has gotten 23 comments. W-O-W!!! I was never expecting anything like this and all of your comments have really warmed my heart.

So what I wanted to do was write a follow-up post and expand on the possibilities that using technology offers. I also want to address many of the people who left me comments to answer their more specific questions and/or suggestions.

Getting A Blog
This is a great way to keep members informed with just about anything - from news that occurs in between meetings, members' accomplishments, general genealogical news, marketing upcoming events, for discussing new websites, or keeping members that don't live in the area current with the happens of the society. Want to know the best part? Blogs are free and super easy to set up. Geneabloggers has a great set of articles that perfect for a newbie getting ready to start a blog.
Blogs are easier to create and update than a website - but you can still put news, photos, videos, calendars and a lot more! The possibilities on this one are too great to pass up.

Creating An Email Newsletter
This is not only a great idea to help save trees, but it also saves on printing and postage costs. Savings in printing and postage costs (hopefully) means a drop in the needed money for membership fees or an opportunity to use that money elsewhere. These days, it is not that difficult to create a newsletter. All you need is a word processor (I use because it is free and it can export to .pdf format), some volunteer writers, and an email address. You can create free email addresses at a ton of places, but I highly recommend using Gmail because it is easy to use but also stock full of great features.

Creating A Student Membership Fee
Ok...this one really isn't technology related, but it is still hugely important. Many young genealogists are either in school or moving out for the first time. When it comes to money, things are very tight (the stereotype of students eating rice-a-roni and mac n cheese all the time is there for a reason!). If it comes down to joining a genealogical society or buying a membership to - what do you think they are going to choose? So, appeal to the younger generation and give them yet another incentive for joining.

This is not only a great idea for young genealogists, but for everyone on a tight income. Have the society raise money to offer one potential member with financial difficulties the opportunity to join through a scholarship program. Consider having potential recipients write an essay or commit to a certain number of volunteer hours in exchange for a free membership.

Twitter and/or Facebook
Twitter is a social networking site that allows a person to write in 140 characters or less what they want. While some people think it is pointless, it can be very useful. For example, someone from the meeting could use Twitter to tweet live updates of a lecture or meeting (especially useful for those societies that are regional or serve a vast majority of people). Just ask Randy Seaver about when he tweeted live from the Bloggers Summit at the Jamboree. He got such positive feedback and it made many of the people who were not able to attend feel right at home.

Facebook is a HUGE genealogical resource these days. I am friends with mostly genealogists, and there isn't a single day that I don't learn something from a friend of mine on that site. People use Facebook to connect via Fan pages or Groups. People promote their blogs and genealogy societies through Networked Blogs and their status. Everyone is so friendly and so willing to help in anyway that they can! I've gotten help on brick walls and given research suggestions. Not only has my electronic social life improved, but so has my research! Through Facebook, I have gotten to feel like I really know all of these genealogists that I talk to online or read their blogs. By the time I finally meet these people face-to-face, I feel as if I've known them forever!

Facebook is what gave me the courage to go to the Jamboree this year. Since I had been interacting with many of these people on facebook or other websites, I felt totally at ease when I finally met them in person. There was no awkward getting to know each other phase and the only natural thing to do when seeing this people for the first time was to give them a huge hug! Honestly, using Facebook (or similar tools) will help ease any nervousness or uneasiness that could prevent a potential new member from joining. Many of the people who left comments on my last post only echoed what I had been feeling.

Here is a comment that Jessica made:
Your post couldn't echo my thoughts more. I've been thinking about joining a local genealogy society for awhile now, but I'm 25, and I look younger, and I know I'd look like somebody's granddaughter who just tagged along for the ride.I'm a pretty new genealogist too, and I don't like the idea that I'd stick out and have little to contribute. If the local society had some sort of blog or Facebook group where I could test the waters, I might have jumped in awhile ago.

Here is a comment that Tina made:
I totally agree with you about looking out of place at genealogy society meetings and events. I am 27 and started my family history last year. Whenever I attend an event, I feel so out of place until I get to know everyone there.

Here is a comment that Jennifer made that I think needs to be read by everyone who is on a board (or has any high position) in a genealogical society:
I'm glad I'm not the only one who has been "afraid" to go to a traditional genealogical society meeting for fear of being mistaken for someone's grandchild. I am 28, and the only time I've ever met others my age, or younger, interested in genealogy is in the geneablogging community. I also think the geneablogging community has given me more confidence in my research skills, so I now feel like I might actually be able to attend a meeting without feeling as inadequate as before. It's just a matter of finding the time. One of the societies I tried to join did not even have a website, nor any info online about how to join. Just a quick blurb on the local library site about when the meetings were, which was not helpful since I live 1300 miles away.

See - young genealogists really do exist!! I think so many of us are terrified about getting out there. I for one have always felt a lack of confidence in my research skills and have always been terrified that others would look down on me for it. But it isn't just the genealogical societies that need to get out there: the younger generation also needs to make an effort. all you young genealogists:

  • Take a deep breath and just take the plunge!
  • Remember: You have a lot to offer even if you aren't a professional genealogist. Whether it be a specialty in a certain aspect of research, knowledge of the Internet, or even just a great cookie recipe - everyone has something to bring to the table.
  • For the most part, genealogists are some of nicest people you'll ever meet.
  • Even if many members confuse you as a grandchild of another member, you still have something in common with all of these genealogists: A passion for climbing your family tree.

So is time to get together and start implementing these suggestions! It is going to take the work of all genealogists, young and old alike, to make our genealogical societies better. Genealogical societies need to be cherished as a valued resource and the classic way to connect with other researchers. The Internet is a great resource, but it is only one piece of the puzzle.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Genealogy Societies Need To Look Toward The Future

Disclaimer: This post is full of my very own opinions. These opinions are not meant to offend anyone. You may agree or disagree with my opinions - and you are free to share your reasons for agreeing or disagreeing with me. However, please do not leave me hate mail full of insults. Now then, onto my post:

There is a lot of talk in the geneablogger community (the genealogy world in general) about the slowing down of memberships in traditional genealogy societies. While many of the bigger societies will survive, many of the smaller local societies will probably not.

Think about what your average genealogist looks like: retired. People do not live forever (or stay in good health forever) and therefore, if societies truly want to survive, they must find ways to reach the next generation. Without reaching for the next generation, then all of their research, all of their hard work, and many of these societies are going to disappear.

However, many of these societies do not embrace the future. By the "future", I mean technology and forward thinking. Many of these societies do not have websites (or at least ones that are updates often). Many of these societies are not on Facebook, Twitter, Second Life, or any of the other various social networking websites. These societies are not embracing the resources that are at their fingertips - many of these resources are free!

I guess this all easy for me to say: I'm 19. I'm unique in the genealogy world. And I'm not part of a traditional genealogy society.

I am a part of the Youth Genealogists Association. It is an entirely online association for genealogists age 5-21. Having everything online for this age group is perfect because afterall, it is the computer generation.

The main reason I have never joined a traditional genealogy society is because I was terrified I wouldn't fit in. I am a shy person when it comes to meeting new people. I am so much younger than everyone else and I figured that I was too inexperienced of a researcher to have anything in common with anyone.

But in the last year, my confidence has changed so much. I've joined Facebook, began talking to other genealogists, started this blog, and even went to my first genealogy conference. I finally feel like I know other genealogists and I've realized how muvh in common I have with other researchers. I love sharing research techniques and stories of success. In the last year I realized that I am ready to face my fear and join a regular genealogy society (now, if I could only get some spare money to pay for the membership fees).

The bottom line is that it is time for genealogists to accept that technology is here. Instead of fighting it, we should embrace it. While it will not provide you with every record, it is a valuable tool that cannot be ignored. It is time for genealogy societies to get on the bandwagon:
  • Create a website that is updates OFTEN. Include useful information such as articles, member bios, etc.
  • Get the word out about your meetings and announcements using Twitter and Facebook.
  • Create a blog!
The above are merely suggestions and starting points. The possibilities are unlimited!

Edit (July 8, 2009): I currently want to join several genealogy societies, including the Southern California Genealogy Society and a couple of others. It took me a while to learn to deal with my own insecurity issues. However, now that those issues are gone, I am trying to save money to be able to join these societies. My family is just really struggling with money right now, so it could be a while. Good news though: My birthday is next month and I have a long genealogy wish list of gifts.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Pardon The Chaos...

Lately, I've been bored with the look of my blog. After my recent inspiration from the Jamboree, I've been wanting to rejuvenate my research as well as my blog. So I set out on the internet in hopes of finding a new layout.

I've been experimenting with different layouts, so this blog might be in a bit of chaos over the next week or so. The content will always remain here but the layout might change and might look weird as I try to change the look.

There are a TON of free blogger layouts out there. Some of them are nice, some are just plain ugly, and some are just plain strange. I've been going through site after site in an attempt to find a layout that was just right.

Then I realized I didn't know what kind of layout I even wanted. So I stopped searching and starting listing the qualities that I wanted in my new layout:
  • 2 column
  • colorful - preferably green
  • scrapbook-like
  • historic-looking
Besides those four ideas, I really have nothing. Let me tell you - there aren't genealogy related blogger templates out there (at least ones that are free and easy to find!).

I'm open to suggestions if anyone has any....

Thank you for dealing with the chaos over the next couple of days.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

SCGS Jamboree 2009 - A Weekend of Fun! (Part 3 and Thank You)

Oh for Sunday....

I arrived to the conference at 9 A.M (I slept in a bit so I could get some much needed rest). I spent the morning hanging out with some great geneabloggers, checking email, wandering the exhibit hall, and exploring RootsMagic 4.

Kathryn Doyle was sweet enough to introduce me to so many wonderful people on the exhibit hall floor. One of whom (and I am so happy to say this) was Dick Eastman. Yes....I met yet ANOTHER one of my blogging idols.

Kathryn Doyle and I - without her, I never would have been able to meet Dick Eastman!

Dick Eastman and I - it is such an honor to take a picture with him! I was so honored when he said that he read my blog! Words can't even describe how happy I was!

At 11 A.M. I decided to head on over to Lisa Louise Cooke's class "Google: A Goldmine of Genealogy Gems (Part 1)". It was a great class! Not only is Lisa fun to watch because of her bubbly personality, but she offers some great tips! While I knew many of the tips from her Genealogy Gems Podcast, it was still inspirational to hear her speak live. She gave a few great tips that are not on the podcast and some great suggestions.

After the lunch break, I returned to Lisa's class, except this time it was part 2. Once again, I was feverishly taking down notes. While I knew a lot of the basics that Lisa covered, she offered more great tips that gave me even more inspiration!

I spent my last couple of hours sitting in the geneabloggers lounge, saying goodbyes to all of the wonderful people I've met. It was definitely difficult to watch all of my friends leave.

At around 4:30, my sweet boyfriend, Billy, and his dad drove me home. And I knew my weekend of fun was over.

I have to tell everyone a huge Thank You!

Thomas: You started geneabloggers and you are what keeps it going! The mardi gras beads were so creative and so much fun! Your hardwork made the geneabloggers dinner run so smoothly. It was such a pleasure to meet you and I had such a blast talking with you.

Paula Hinkel: You co-organized this huge event and you thought of everything. You are so sweet, so kind, and so on top of everything! While I didn't get to sit down and really talk with you, I wanted to thank you for all of your hard work. I know I am so lucky that this was my very first genealogy conference because it is so forward thinking, so progressive, and so much fun! Thank you so much for all of the hard work that you put in.

footnoteMaven: I know I went a little crazy when I met you, but I meant it when I said that it was such an honor to meet you. You are one of my blogging idols and you work so hard on your blogs and the GYR. Thank you so much for just sitting and talking to me - it was such a pleasure to meet you.

DearMyrtle: You are even more sweet, kind, and knowledgeable than I could've imagined. You are so down-to-earth and your passion for genealogy really shines through. It was such an honor to meet you. Your blogs continue to be an inspiration for me.

Lisa Louise Cooke: You are so much fun! You are so full of energy and excitement. Talking to you feels like I'm talking to my best friend! I learned so much from your classes and just from talking to you. Thank you for talking to me at dinner - I had so much fun!

Dick Eastman: I was so honored to meet you and to hear you say that you read my blog was like a dream! Thank you so much for making my day.

Gini: You and your husband are such sweet, wonderful people. I can't thank you enough for driving me back and forth and for the great company. Your husband is a saint and it was so much fun to just sit and talk with you. I had a blast!

Amy: You truly are a rockstar! You are so much fun to be around and talk with. Thank you for everything!

Illya: You went above and beyond to help me out. Thank you so much!

All of the Geneabloggers: Thank you for being exactly who you are! You guys are so full of energy, fun, and you always know how to make me smile. Every single one of you is talented, kind, and I had a smile plastered on my face all weekend. You all made me feel so at home, so at ease, and it was such an honor to meet all of you and be able to pick your brains. It was hard to leave because I had the time of my life at this conference. Thank you for making this conference so much fun.