If you’ve been at this researching task for a number of years, you may have come to value the utility of genealogy forums. Ever since the advent of sites like Rootsweb, back in the early years of comparing notes online with fellow family history researchers, I’ve peppered a good number of forums with my queries, comments and (hopefully) useful resources.
Since every post on an online forum can potentially garner responses, this digital version of the old query system was a hit with the instant-gratification crowd. I know I certainly was hooked. Need a copy of an obit? Ask and ye shall receive. Looking for distant cousins? Hang out your “shingle” on the forum of the surname you’re researching. Focusing on a specific geographic area? There’s a forum for that.
I made it a habit to post to as many forums as possible—the more connections, the merrier, I figured.
Over the years a strange, consolidating thing happened in the genealogical forum world. While I once was able to post at Rootsweb and GenForum and the Ancestry.com Message Boards, they gradually morphed into one gigantic entity.
And one day, the inevitable happened: Ancestry—which, for all intents and purposes, was the one left holding the entire genealogy forum bag—faced the need to make some cuts. That was back when they made major revisions to their DNA program, and divested themselves of some other services they had once provided as part of their overall business plan. Somewhere, buried in all the hubbub over the shuffle, was a key change at what was once GenForum: the already existent content would be archived and accessible—but not open for further comment.
If you hadn’t been using GenForum, that was likely a change that was meaningless to you. It wasn’t, however, for me. You have to understand: I have a large number of posts at GenForum, not only requesting help or seeking researchers of like surname interests, but also asking people to come visit my blog. If I found a photo with a surname but no other identifying marks, I’d post a query with a tag line, “Come to my blog and see if this is your relative.” That hope-eternal that this post would someday garner the right readers never died.
But now, I had no recourse. If an orphan photo now had an update, I couldn’t go back to my old posts at GenForum and make that announcement. Though a chatterbox before, I—like all the other active forum participants—was now silenced.
That, of course, has been months ago. I suppose most everyone has gotten over their disappointment regarding shed product lines on account of corporate decisions at Ancestry. Even though I still get a significant amount of readership traffic generated from posts I made at GenForum, I’ve let that one go, myself.
But the other day, seeing in my stats that someone had stopped by A Family Tapestry in pursuit of a photo I had mentioned on GenForum, I decided to click back through and see what was up at the erstwhile genealogy forum I used to frequent.
I was surprised. There was a new look. Although the Ancestry.com ads were prominent, it now featured the old Genealogy.com logo. While different than before, GenForum had its own look—like a newly spruced-up digital property that someone was obviously again attending to.
One other detail caught my eye: at the bottom of the post I had clicked through to was added a section which looked as if comments could now be added. Really? What was going on here? This couldn’t have been a remnant of the previously dismantled online forum. The look here was all new.
I took the opportunity to send a note—basically to express my delight that GenForum appears to be back up and running (sort of), and also to ask about its current status. Something is definitely changing.
That, as it turns out, is what is happening. People can, indeed, respond to the old posts brought up, say, from a Google search—as long as they are willing to do so through a third-party platform, such as the Disqus service. The only restraint is that no new posts will be accepted—only responses to already-existing posts, as Jack from Genealogy.com’s Customer Solutions department pointed out in his note to me last week:
Thank you for contacting Genealogy.com Technical Support in regard to commenting via GenForum.
It is indeed possible to comment on GenForum posts using the Disqus platform. While it is possible to comment on any existing posts, it is not possible to create a completely new post/topic. In order to post a comment, users will need to either login with their Facebook, Twitter, or Google accounts, or sign-up via Disqus (which is a free service). The comment box can be found by scrolling to the bottom of the page whcih contains a given post. Users can login, as explained above, by clicking on the login icon, from the upper right portion of the comment box. Users who need to sign-up via Disqus will be given the option to either login, or sign-up for a new account. The sign-up process only asks for the user's name and email address.
If you need additional assistance please let us know.
Customer Solutions Associate
Though this isn’t a complete restoration of the old forum format, at least it gives back a recourse for those who still want to respond to old posts. Think of all the times you’ve done a search for an ancestor’s surname and have been led to a post at GenForum where a potential distant cousin has gabbed on and on about your own family member. Now, at least, you can talk back.