Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Adding Another Voice to the Community

This past weekend, I did quite a bit of thinking. Perhaps sparked by revisiting the old genealogical research standby—Cyndi’s List—on Thursday, and following that by stepping out of cyberspace into reality on Saturday to help with my local genealogy society’s training event, I’m seeking ways to get all of us family history researchers talking to each other more.

I don’t know if it was coincidental or not, but during that same span of time, announcements about an upcoming conference have been popping up online like daffodils in springtime. RootsTech 2013 won’t exactly be here until, well, 2013, but the buzz started the other day when I noticed the first bloom via a Facebook entry by DearMyrtle.
Am honored by 2013 RootsTech invitation to serve as an Official Blogger. No blogger button, banner or logos yet, I assume they will follow shortly.
Soon after, a little bird (@nancyshively) tweeted
any of my #genealogy friends going to #RootsTech 2013?
And soon followed up with a blog post of her own at Gathering Stories.

By then, my blog reader was literally carpeted with a blooming display of RootsTech 2013 titles. Randy Seaver at Genea-Musings posted his announcement about the opening of registration—and that he has been designated an official blogger—and Julie Tarr at GenBlog followed suit (plus added a post about how you can save $90 on registration costs).

So, naturally, I headed over to the RootsTech site to see what all the buzz was about. There, nestled in among the class descriptions for nearly two hundred fifty sessions in next spring's three day conference, I spied a workshop on how to set up a genealogy blog.

Precisely my cup of tea.

I think each of us who is researching our family origins and heritage should be serious about communicating our findings so others may benefit—and collaborate. Why not? If family is a social construct, then being sociable about it seems one of its inherent properties. It’s all about people. So why not share?

The only flaw I see in that proposition, though, is what I’ve been mulling over in the posts I mentioned above. If each of us is standing alone with our bullhorn to our mouth, shouting out our discoveries—and yet, no one is listening—what good does it do us? We need to refine whatever mechanisms are already at our disposal to come together, to discuss, to collaborate on what we’ve found. The Internet, after all, is the great facilitator for the Continuing Conversation.

We already have the means to do this. I’ve mentioned quite a while back about the social aspects of Ancestry.com. Thomas MacEntee has provided a mechanism to lead us to the water of fresh genealogy blogs—through his GeneaBloggers search capabilities—but we need to be the ones to take that drink, take the initiative and connect with the blogs we find through his site.

And I don’t mean “connect” as in “read that blog.” We need to make our presence known. Leave a comment. Say hello. Say, “I’m researching those same surnames.” Or, “thanks for sharing that resource; nice post.” Or something.

There’s nothing more lonely than pouring one’s heart out on paper, post after post, and never hearing anything back from the blogiverse—not even an echo. “Is there anyone out there?” we wonder.

I’ll never forget the moment the community-building light bulb went off in my own mind. We all have “Ah ha!” moments, and this one was mine. I had been plying the photography/history blogger known online as “Far Side of Fifty” with questions about certain unidentified cabinet cards I’d recently received—I hadn’t a clue what I was doing, but I had to do something with them—and she offered to send over one of her own blog’s readers who had some valuable insight into such identity issues. It turns out that reader was another blogger, known as Intense Guy. (She prefers to call him “Iggy,” so I’ve followed her lead there.)

Iggy showed up on my blog one day and left a comment. For what it was worth, it was helpful. I thought that would be the end of it. But, surprise, there was a comment on my next post, too. Different subject, but he had a comment for that one, too. And the next day? Same thing.

I wasn’t shouting vainly at an empty blogiverse anymore. I had a listener.

That taught me something. It showed me that I can do this, too. I can go out and be someone’s listener, too. I can encourage someone else in their burden of sharing their research online where it can become useful to others. By doing this, I can become a voice that encourages others when they shine—perhaps even shape their progress or encourage them in their focus.

This new mission is a type of community-building. When I find someone whose posts, style, or goals match my own—a blogger after my own heart—I can be there to serve as their cheerleader while they get their game up and running in their own spring training camp.

I know I wouldn’t have been able to keep at it—this communicating online about my search through blogging—if it weren’t for the encouragement of others who are in the same arena.

It’s just a little thought about passing things along.

After all, if RootsTech 2013 sees the launch of several more newly-minted family history bloggers, they’re all going to need some encouragement, too.

And beyond encouragement, wouldn’t it be energizing to enable each other to achieve even more in our mutual endeavors?

Above right: Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Luncheon of the Boating Party (Le Déjeuner des canotiers) 1881; courtesy Wikipedia; in the public domain.


  1. I.G. - IntenseGuy - Iggy to friends - one of which is you. :)

    You have 106 members on your Friends Connect thingy... lots of people are listening. :)

    Someday, I hope to go to your blog post #1 and start at the beginning. I'm 100% sure it will be worth the time.

    I want to thank Farside for sending me here. She is a gem too.

    1. Wow, Iggy, that would be quite a challenge to go back and read it all. That's a lot! But I'm glad you were here to get to know Frank during all the letters I posted from his Navy and Air Force years. It's like bringing someone back to life again so others can enjoy getting to know him, too.

      I guess that's what I hope for everyone who shares their family's stories.

  2. P.s. I love the Renoir painting. It is one of my favorites... boating... wonder why? :)

  3. Great post and great thoughts. It is hard to share your soul and hear nothing but the crickets! We do need to do that for each and frankly, you've done that for me and I appreciate it so much.

    1. Shellt: thank you so much! You are one of the bloggers I was thinking of when I wrote that. I appreciate what you are doing on your own blog and look forward to reading more!

  4. The opportunity to share a bit of knowledge or help in a search..that is what makes the blogging world so wonderful! I am not sure where Forgotten Old Photos would be without Iggy..he is a one of a kind friend.
    You are a wonderful friend to add to our blogging circle:)

    1. You have truly been a mentor to me in this blogging journey. Of course, it would be even better if you posted some photos of my own ancestors ;)

  5. Great thoughts, Jacqui! I appreciate your insights and your community-building. I'm so happy to be "getting to know you" through our mutual interest in family history. You are an encouragement to many, including myself!

    1. Thank you, Lisa. I love the story-building you are doing in your own blog, too. There are some wonderful stories yet to be uncovered in our pursuits of family history.


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