The shift to social
Maybe you can remember the days when genealogy work was done by searching through old, legal documents on the old fashion microfiche machines. Those seeking to discover more about their family history would have to request records from courthouses and then search through those documents, hopeful to find a sliver of information about one of their ancestors. Fast forward to present day, and the genealogical world has changed immensely. No longer are the days of searching through old documents for the desired information. New technology and the internet have done amazing things for family history work. Online genealogical communities fight to create a network of genealogists who can share tips and suggestions with each other.
Social networking sites have provided an opportunity for genealogical societies to connect with their members and reach out to new members. Though this is a huge improvement from the way we used to share genealogy, is it enough? Are we tapping into the full potential that the internet and new technology have provided us?
How the social shift is disrupting entire industries
Crowdsourcing has changed the way many things are done in the world. Look at raising funds for a new startup company. Instead of raising money through venture capitalists, founders can now go to crowdfunding sites such as Kickstarter to ask individuals to financially support their dream. Crowdsourcing, where a group of individuals come together over the web to solve problems and share information, has built huge websites like Wikipedia.
Other websites are fueled by a community that continually posts and shares their thoughts. Reddit is a site with millions of active users who share their ideas on literally any subject. Dribbble is a community for designers to share their ideas and other projects that they are working on. It allows any designer to showcase his or her work.
The online social world has changed and disrupted the way we live our lives. LinkedIn, for example, has given employers and potential employees an incredible way to connect with one another. Without an up-to-date LinkedIn profile, connecting with the right people to land you your dream job may prove to be a struggle.
All of these online sites have changed the way we live our lives. Have we seen social sites impact the way we share our genealogy? I suggest that we have only scratched the surface. Let me explain.
Find A Grave is a great example of an online genealogical community. It allows us to post information about deceased individuals along with pictures and locations of their grave sites. Billiongraves, a crowdsourcing site, allows us to go to our local cemetery and record all of the headstones and their locations. You can log on to Billiongraves and search through the photos and locations that other individuals have added. Online communities and crowdsourcing sites have allowed us to connect with databases of information and have done an amazing job connecting us to our ancestors.
While these sites have made an effort to create a social aspect to their sites, a huge gap still remains in connecting with other active genealogists. What must we do to tap into the potential of social networking and help everyone work together around research, files and new discoveries?
Everything is better together
Societies, online communities and meetups allow participants to gather with a common goal and enjoy their hobbies and passions together. Ancestry.com has a small, incomplete list of genealogical societies which lists over 170 sites.
Why do we join societies and groups? They offer a place for us to share what we are discovering and learn from each other. In these group and society meetings we can share stories, tips and advice. One of the greatest truths that genealogy work offers is the fact that we are all connected. Why not share our work and research with one another if so many of us are working on the same family history lines?
Perhaps we should be focusing more on connecting with those working on similar projects and less on finding information that someone else has already found.
A story of social genealogy
Eowyn, a frequent user on our site, AncestorCloud, had a very interesting and inspiring experience while using our new genealogy map feature. Ancestor Cloud’s new map allows users to search for information based on location, then see all of the files being shared from other users around the world. Eowyn was browsing the New York area and found some family reunion pictures from the late nineties posted by a man whom she later found to be her distant cousin. This new connection made by Eowyn and her newly discovered cousin provided her with new inspiration and information regarding their shared families.
Connecting with others
Many companies are connecting family trees in a global family tree such as Geni, WikiTree, FamilySearch and OneGreatFamily. Why? Simple. Big data is their business. They make their money compiling information into one big database and then charging individuals to access the database. Big data plays like this are great and have allowed so many to connect with the deceased. I’m suggesting that we now work to connect the living in their family history efforts. We have only just begun to scratch the surface of peer to peer genealogy.
AncestorCloud can change the family history industry. It is allowing users to connect with one another in a new efficient way, and we are only getting started. Great things are on the horizon for genealogical work, and we at AncestorCloud are excited to be a driving force in these exciting changes.
Genealogists, stop accepting mediocrity in the software and online services you are using. Take a look around… We are behind the times. Technology and the internet are offering us so much more than we have made use of.
The future of social genealogy
What does the future hold for genealogy tech? There is so much potential and the possibilities are endless. Let’s work together to change the way we share our work.