Social media sites are great resources for your research. While other methods for research have been around longer, and are thus “tried and true,” social media is a good resource to try when your research becomes stale. Here is a brief overview of several social networking sites and how you can use them for family history research.
The most common social network is, of course, Facebook. People from all generations are connected on the site. Not only can you share personal information or questions with the people you have “friended” on Facebook, you can also share interesting articles, blogs, or other web pages on your profile. If you discover an important article about an ancestor’s hometown, you can share it on Facebook so other people can learn about it, too.
In just over two weeks, the 1940 census will be released. This is a really big deal in the genealogical community, if you didn’t know! The census will contain a wealth of information to help you with your family history research. You will be able to access the census free on the website starting April 2. Not only will you be able to view the records for free (unlike previous census images), but you can download your research right from the site.
An index for the 1940 census does not yet exist since the images won’t be released until April 2, but FamilySearch and Ancestry.com are providing a way for volunteers to index the census so that it can be searchable and available to the public. The indexing project will greatly improve your ability to research the wealth of information included in the census, so to expedite the indexing process, you can join the volunteer effort! Visit the FamilySearch website to learn more and to sign up as a volunteer. You can also sign up on the 1940 Census website.
Besides the obvious excitement of gaining access to new family history research, the hubbub surrounding the release of the 1940 census is the fact that people today actually know people who are on it. Babies born in 1940 are only in their early 70s now, and their parents could still be alive as well. When you study the census, you’ll be able to make important family connections as well as find occupations, immigration data, and locations for your own relatives.
Use FamilyHistorynotebook to save and store the information you glean from the census. Keep the information organized into your various family notebooks, and cross-reference overlapping information using category tags.
For more information on the 1940 Census:
- Archives.gov: The official website of the National Archives, where you can learn more about the census itself, the questions asked on it, etc.
- 1940 Census Community Project: sign up to volunteer, learn about the 1940s, and read blog posts by census ambassadors.
- DearMYRTLE: just one of the many sources for webinars, advice, and tips and tricks for researching the census.
Image via the1940census.com.
Have you seen the NBC show, Who Do You Think You Are? It’s a great reality show by NBC that delves into celebrities’ ancestry and teaches them about their heritage. This is the show’s third season, and they have continued to do a great job helping celebrities learn more about their ancestors. This season has already had four episodes, but you can catch up on episodes on the show’s homepage. Diane of Genealogy Insider gives helpful recaps and commentary on the show if you want to learn more.
Each episode takes one celebrity around the world as they research and learn about several of their relatives. Going back to their roots always proves to be a significant life event for the stars. The show spends time researching all sorts of documentation: birth certificates, obituaries, censuses, tax records, etc. While the show can’t always explain exactly how to take advantage of all the resources highlighted in the hour-long show, they expose the viewers to many possibilities for furthering family history research.
Who Do You Think You Are? strives to open people’s eyes to the excitement of learning about their own past. Previous participants have been Reba McEntire, Blair Underwood, Spike Lee, and Ashley Judd, plus tons of others. While helping these celebs find their roots, the show is also getting America pumped about family history work.
If you feel stuck in your family history research, try watching the show for motivation and inspiration. The show may tell you of avenues you haven’t ventured down before, and you may be able to try them out and find what you need to continue your research. Partnering with Ancestry.com, Who Do You Think You Are? airs on Fridays on NBC. You can also watch episodes on the NBC website or on Hulu.
Image via NBC.com
One of the greatest ways to generate family history information is to interview relatives and record their stories. In theory, this is an easy process, but there are several things to consider when planning on interviewing a family member. How should you go about these interviews? What questions are the most important? Should you keep your great-grandmother focused instead of letting her ramble on about who knows what? I can’t answer these questions for you; each situation is different. But I can give you some advice as you gather valuable and exciting information from your own relatives.
There is plenty to do to prepare for a family history interview. Of course you need equipment: paper and pen, tape recorder, smartphone or tablet—we recommend FHmedia!—etc. Then, you need a plan. Even if you don’t stick to your plan at all during the interview, it’s still smart to have a few topics you want information on and specific questions you want to ask. In many situations, it helps your interviewee to have a specific topic to discuss for this specific interview. You don’t want this discussion to go longer than an hour or two for both of your sakes, so narrowing down the scope of the interview will be helpful.
We talked before about how to incorporate emails with unique family history information into your FHnotebook. The value of consistently and constantly gathering new information about your family history cannot be undersold. This week, we’ll talk about ways to add personal papers—such as letters, notes, lists, cards, etc.—to your FHnotebook.
Personal papers could refer to any piece of paper that has factual information, personal thoughts, or sentimental value in it—so basically any piece of paper that interests you or could interest your family! There are a few ways to digitize your personal papers and add them to your FHnotebook.
A great way to keep the fire of your family history enthusiasm burning is to create a family history blog. Blogs are a great way to collaborate research not only between friends and family, as you can do with email, but with genealogists and family history enthusiasts around the world. It’s easy to set up a blog for free, and you can post entries as often or infrequently as you like.
What is a Family History Blog?
This year’s RootsTech conference is coming up at the end of next week. If you are lucky enough to be traveling to Salt Lake City for it, you are sure to be inundated with cutting edge information about genealogy and technology.
Technology and genealogy come together to teach and learn from each other at this conference. From February 2 to the 4, attendees will have a chance to learn about the newest family history resources from genealogists and technologists alike. Valuable research tools are being made and developed and will be further developed at this conference. We'll have a booth there; look for the BillionGraves table to learn more about our cemetery database project.
Prominent family history bloggers have been invited to participate and blog about the experience. You can find a list of the bloggers on the RootsTech site. Family History Blogs are great resources for connecting and sharing with other enthusiasts.
Last year, over 4,000 people participated in the conference online via webinars. Even if you can’t physically attend the conference, make an effort to participate in these video sessions. Diane Haddad at Genealogy Insider has compiled a list from the RootsTech site of the sessions you can watch live streaming from the site. RootsTech has not released instructions for participating in these sessions just yet, but watch the site for more information.
It’s likely that a majority of your family history research is in paper form. There are certainly benefits to having hard copies of pedigrees, birth certificates, photos, etc. However, as time goes by, you will have to make the choice to go digital—to convert your hard copies to digital ones. Besides the ease of organization you’ll have in FHnotebook—remember, even images can have titles and categories added to them to make them searchable—there are many other perks to adding a digital copy of each record to your FHnotebook.
We’ve all heard the horror stories of fires and floods decimating people’s homes, including family albums and important paperwork. And previously, even digital copies were contained on computers, CDs, USB drives, and other tangible, losable storage systems. Now, you have the opportunity to create digital copies of photos or documents, save them to your own computer, and then save them to our servers using FHnotebook for added security. You can keep your hard copies and your own digital copies on your devices if you prefer those, but if anything happens to those copies, your family history research is backed up on our servers, allowing you to access them anywhere, anytime.
Do any of your New Year’s Resolutions include family history? This is a great time to set new goals to further your family history research. Here are a few common family history resolutions and a few tips for helping you stick to them this year:
2012 is a great year to start getting involved in researching and recording your family history. There are now so many opportunities to help you research. Attend a conference or webinar. Check out a few online databases. Find an online community to share tips and tricks with. Contact relatives you know are involved in family history research—remember, you can share research easily through FHnotebook.
Tip: If you don’t know quite how to jump in, record your own memories using FHmedia. Don’t be afraid or embarrassed to type or record your personal history—it’s important, too!
Remember our recommendation to collect memories this holiday season? I hope you were able to do that. If you did, you already have items ready to be organized in your FHnotebook. Now, go through your files and organize any family history information you have into your FHnotebook, where it will be safely backed up on our servers. You want to start the year out without any nagging feelings. If you can’t organize certain items right away, create a task to remind you to do it later.
Tip: Be systematic about your organization. You probably won’t be able to get everything moved over in one sitting, so make a plan that will allow you to be thorough and efficient as you gather and upload items to your FHnotebook.
You may be overwhelmed by the mountain of work ahead of you—your family history is never really complete—so try to find something that excites you. If you feel nagged or obligated to start your research, there is only a small chance that family history will turn into your favorite hobby. However, if you find motivation to keep you going when you hit a dead end or get confused, then you’ll find a way to continue working on your family history.
My motivation comes from listening to actual recordings of my ancestors. For Christmas, my uncle compiled a CD of stories told by my great great grandmother and mailed them to members of the family. Wow! It is amazing to hear her voice and have those stories recorded and passed around the family. Now that we each have a copy of her stories, (now digitized thanks to my uncle’s hard work), the chances of losing those stories are slim.
Tip: Using your FHnotebook, break down your family history into smaller, manageable chunks. As we’ve suggested, you can create a notebook for each side of the family. Within those notebooks, you can create notebooks for specific people or time periods; find a topic you are interested in, and create a notebook for it. This notebook will give you direction as you continue your research.