Sunday, July 20, 2014

Photos and Born Digital Research

As I was going through some photos from a research trip I took recently, it occurred to me the fragility of our digital media. I should note, this isn't the first time I've thought about that, just the first time I've written about it!  One click and Poof! You've accidentally deleted all your photos. I was thinking about this in terms of my family. In the late 1990s, maybe even 2000, we got our first digital camera. It belonged to my dad. I may have gotten one as well, I really don't remember. What I DO know is that my dad passed away in 2001, and there are no photos extant of him from the late 1990s-2000-2001. During that time, he and my mom went on at least a few trips together. So where are all those photos? He always played on the computer, so I am sure he knew how to download the photos. My mom is now gone, and that computer is long gone. And except for the few photos that I have print copies of, I don't have much to remember of him in the later years.

We are the most photographed age ever -- but who will see us in 40 years? 20 years? It's great to have all these photos on your phone and tablet to share at family reunions and the like, but nothing replaces the hard copy print out. We've even made the print copies more ephemeral, I know that copies of family photos I made after my mom passed away in 2007 are now fading. The paper doesn't last anymore.

I guess I just don't understand why we don't make things to last anymore. Even this snapchat craze - you take a picture, and then it disappears in 10 minutes. I guess I just want my photos to last -- the people in those pictures are here on this earth for only so long, in the grand scheme of things. Photos should last longer. Take some time today to look at your photo collection - maybe even print them out. You never know who might want to see your smiling face in 20 years when Facebook is a thing of the past.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Blogging while in class

So here is an exciting blog post about nothing in particular while I am learning about Digital Humanities.

Am I here? Maybe.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

The present and the past

In studying several historiographies on the South, particularly Virginia, it occurred to me that we as genealogists have a huge responsibility to the future. All of these scholars, writing these monumental works analyzing the past, are making conclusions based on massive amounts of records. These records include court documents, diaries, letters, newspaper articles, ads, etc. These are the same things genealogists analyze. But what occurred to me is that the records all these scholars are analyzing are the same. They are all being accessed from the same repositories. They are the same diaries from the same elite, white planter families that they are each analyzing. For example, William Byrd II of Westover kept a multitude of diaries about daily life, his family, his plantation, his business and the like. He is referenced in all of the 8 books I just read about Virginia. Now, I understand completely that historians are bound by the records that are extant. But this is where genealogy (and I suppose, digital humanities) becomes important. How many people out there have diaries and Bible records and maybe even books that their ancestors wrote and handed down in the family? How would these stories and records reshape the ideas scholars have about life in, say, Virginia in the 18th century? There's probably something to be said about the literacy rate, and that then reduces the probability of there being "tons" more diaries having been kept at all, and then you have to factor in the passage of time and the likelihood that family members destroyed some of these artifacts. But still, with the advent of the digital age, more genealogists need to get their family mementos "out there" - by blog, or digitize them and get them to a family history center, or museum, or library, whatever - just get them out there in cyberspace so they can be discovered! The more records there are, the better we can understand the past from a wider perspective than just the William Byrds of the day.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Where has the time gone?

So I haven't posted in awhile. Life got a little crazy, and it's only about to get crazier. I think that is a lot of the reason why genealogy is considered an "older" person's hobby - most people my age are too busy with careers, kids, and life to spend much time researching their ancestors. And if you add a blog or two in there, you have zero time to sleep!

I am about to embark on a journey into graduate school. One of my first classes inspired me to post on this blog again. We are being encouraged to establish our digital presence. Blogging is a fantastic forum for this, but there are SO MANY blogs out there. How do you determine what blogs you will read? Even if you only decide to read genealogy blogs, there are thousands of them! Using something like Flipboard is helpful, but having the time to read blogs is the biggest challenge.

One of the biggest problems people have today is time. There is never enough time for anything. We get up, go to work or school for 9 hours or more, come home, eat dinner, go to bed, and repeat. Somewhere in there you have to find the time to fix that dinner, clean the house, play with the kids, feed and walk the dog, do homework or help kids with homework, and get 8 hours of sleep. If you are to have the time in there to do genealogy research or read a book or a blog, what do you sacrifice? If you continually sacrifice your sleep, then your health fails. It's a never-ending cycle.

Technology can make this easier but I think it also makes it harder. We have all these different ways to consume information now that it makes it hard to ever shut off. If, at any moment, you can have the answer to anything right at your fingertips, then why ever shut off? It's so easy to get distracted - when you have your email with you always, you get an email and you're off on another tangent. That's definitely something genealogists are always faced with: going off on tangents. How do you stay on track?

And there's my point...I just got off topic! How do you stay on track and research efficiently? Comment here!

Monday, February 11, 2013

Finding lost relatives

It's pretty exciting to find someone researching your same families. It's even more exciting when that person is related to you! After "meeting" a cousin on and discovering that our grandmothers were sisters, we decided to create a Facebook page for all the other relatives we found. My new cousin has a cousin with 13 siblings. As you can imagine, that means a LOT of family added to our group!! I think we're up to about 70 now. Many of the group are also researching our family. There's a lot of good photo sharing and fun newspaper articles discovered. It's a good group and it was great to meet a cousin MY age interested in genealogy!

Since the creation of that family group, I have joined NUMEROUS other genealogy pages on Facebook. Amid my travels to various genealogy seminars and classes, I've also discovered that many genealogists scoff at Facebook. "Social media" has a bad reputation for many of the older crowd. I can't understand how it could NOT be a great tool for any genealogist. It's free, it's a chance to network with other like-minded individuals, and if you join groups for the area you are researching, you are more likely to meet a relative or even find someone who lives near your research area and is willing to go look up something at the library for you or take that photo of a gravestone for you! I'm researching in areas I am not even remotely close to, and without the help of some of these people I would never have gotten as far as I have! I even had a brick wall blown wide open by a chance posting on a Facebook genealogy page. (That will be another post)

If the goal of genealogy is to network and share, what better way than social networking?

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Musings from a tired genealogist

One of the things I have learned is that there is NEVER enough time for genealogy research. Maybe that is one of the reasons it is such a hobby for the older generation - they are retired and have more time! If you work 40 hours or more per week, when do you have time to research? Especially if you add kids to the mix.   

Another problem I have that eats up time is that every time I sit down and try to research something, I get sidetracked and end up researching something else entirely. Everyone I talk to has the same problem, so I don't feel so alone. Organization seems to be something else that everyone is missing. Feel free to leave your favorite organization tips in the comments section, I would love to hear them! 

I am considering creating two separate blogs, this one for the discussion of things that pertain to the age dichotomy seen in genealogy; and one to share my research work. What do you all suggest? Mix the two together or keep them separate? 

What do you want to see discussed? How can we make genealogy more relevant to a younger generation? 

I hope you are having a fantastic week!

Sunday, February 3, 2013

In the beginning...

Hello! I am new to blogging, so bear with me as I figure out how to add all the fancy bells and whistles. Thanks for reading and I hope you continue on this journey with me.

I was inspired to start a blog by listening to the Genealogy Gems podcast, by Lisa Louise Cooke. ( I'm sure many of you out there were similarly inspired. This woman is an amazing speaker and a wealth of information and I've decided I want to be just like her. I had the opportunity to hear one of her lectures at a recent expo, and I wish I'd gotten the chance to speak with her, but it was the last class of the day and when I purchased her book and remarked about how much energy she had, her husband (whom I was buying the book from) mentioned that they'd been up since 3 AM to get to the expo, so I decided I would not go back and bother her with gushing about her class like I'd planned. :)  I wasn't able to attend the second day of the expo, but I know I will catch her again at another seminar and maybe then I can meet her. If you have the chance to attend one of her classes, please do. You won't be disappointed!

I have been doing genealogy research intensively for the past 2 years, and one of the things that I have noticed is that this is typically NOT a young person's hobby. And to those who are passionate, it is more than just a "hobby". The age gap doesn't bother me, I've always identified with people older than me anyway, and I am loving all of the new friends I am making. What I don't love is the comments I always get at expos and seminars - "Oh aren't you lucky that you have started so early!" Well let me just tell you, while I may LOOK like I am in my 20s, I am not, and while someone in their 30s SHOULD be lucky to be starting so "early," I am the exception to that rule. I lost both my parents when I was in my 20s. At that time, they were both in their 60s - mom was almost 70 when she passed away. My dad was the 2nd youngest of 12, and as of right now only 1 of his siblings remains, the youngest of the family. Recently I lost several of my oldest cousins, as well. There aren't many people left that remember my grandparents, let alone anyone who knew or remembers anyone farther back. On Mom's side, I am lucky that all but one of her siblings are still alive, and that a group of family members collaborated on an amazing family tree back in the 1960s. I keep finding more and more family on that tree that are interested in the family tree and have been working on expanding it for several years. With that in mind, I have not worked on it personally in many months, preferring to stick to my dad's tree, which has never been done, with the exception of work done by an aunt (by marriage) that seems to have gone missing. She helped me 17 years ago with a school project and I know she has done years of research, but the only work anyone could find was on her family and her 2nd husband's family.

With that being said, my goal for this blog is to offer my view of the genealogy world and how it can improve to embrace the younger generation, and to impart my passion for all things historical in the hopes that more young people will realize the importance of learning about the past - before it all goes away.