Thursday, September 20, 2012

Revisiting a Longstanding Resource

As much as we in the genealogy community prefer to see ourselves as lone researchers on a trailblazing quest to locate heretofore undiscovered ancestors, with the advent of the Internet—and again, as the world of social media collides with our ivory tower self-images—we have really morphed into participants in one giant ongoing genealogy conversation.

There are so many tools to help us accomplish this feat. We’ve connected with genealogy bloggers—two thousand eight hundred of them and counting, according to Thomas MacEntee of GeneaBloggers—through RSS feeds, Blogspot’s Google Friend Connect, and email subscription services. We’ve Tweeted each other about #genealogy and #familyhistory on Twitter. We’ve found each other’s Facebook pages—especially for online interest groups like Chicago Genealogy or actual brick-and-mortar organizations like the Marion County Arkansas Heritage Society.

We used to congregate in places like Rootsweb and GenForum. But as we journey far past our humble online origins, we tend to forget—or discard—those original forums where we made our first digital genealogy connections (as Deb Ruth mentioned just yesterday in her own blog). As services like GeoCities exploded and people learned how to develop those first rudimentary websites to share their research results, genealogy resources multiplied.

In fact, back in those early days, the burgeoning online growth of genealogy sites was creating a problem of its own: how to find things in that maze of research information.

One woman, planning to speak at her local Genealogy Society meeting about some helpful links she had found, brought a one-page handout to share with her group’s members. Everyone raved about the list, and others asked her to share it. Eventually, the easiest way for her to answer the many requests for “more!” was to put the list online.

That was in 1996.

The list has mushroomed since then, and it's still online. We know it as Cyndi’s List.

I’ve benefited from the links I’ve found on Cyndi’s List over and over again. It’s a resource I’ve known about for years.

I've even blogged about it.

And yet, as more and more resources for genealogy research come online each passing year, the new and shiny seems to push these tried-and-true resources away from the forefront of our attention.

I was reminded of that just this week. I was stymied by a research problem and, putting my mind in neutral rather than continuing to spin my wheels, I switched over to Google and just entered the term, “genealogy blogs.”

I’m not quite sure what I expected. Of course, I knew I’d see the standard entries such as GeneaBloggers. I was hoping I’d see some titles I’d not yet stumbled upon, too.

I totally didn’t expect to see the entry for Cyndi’s List.

Surprise, surprise, the old faithful Big Box of Lists now has a category called Blogs for Genealogy. And like any enormous all-inclusive list, this website invites visitors to submit any links that aren’t already on their list.

Operating on that age-old advice—“You have a mouth; now use it”—that’s exactly what I did.

Not that I’m anyone special. Any genealogy blogger can avail himself or herself of that same opportunity. Which I hope many will. The more ways we can utilize to find each other, the better for all of us.

The happily-ever-after part of the story is that, within twenty four hours, Cyndi’s List accepted my entry, and I am now a proud part of the listing for genealogy blogs on her website. My shining fifteen minutes of fame there came yesterday with a mention on the top of her daily “What’s New” listing. And like the faithful returns from any good investment, from this time forward, I know it will be one more way to help connect those proverbial haystack-searchers with the missing needle they are seeking.


  1. I've found myself doing exactly the same thing, forgetting the older, but still useful sites. Then a light bulb goes on...

    1. Of course, those older sites will only remain useful as long as lots of people keep going back there. Almost a Catch-22...

  2. Thanks for this. I had no idea I could submit a link to Cyndi's list. I don't use it (I find it a bit overwhelming), but I know plenty of others who do.

    1. Jessica, when I use it, I stick to the old basics, mostly looking at geographical designations, or specific services like vital statistics. You're right--it seems like there is too much stuff there! But you can search Cyndi's List using the site-based Google search box if the category lists get overwhelming.

  3. Always nice to have "another tool" in the toolbox when the ones you're working with...just don't seem to be working.

    1. Even if they are working, Iggy, it never hurts to have another tool. Different crowds seem to aggregate at different gathering places, but if we learn to connect with all these other places, we open up more horizons. I like that.


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