Monday, August 19, 2019

Researcher to Researcher Connections?

Since discussing, yesterday, about the sea change in genealogy gatherings, I got to thinking about what else has evolved over the decades in family history research. While change is often good, we can still benefit from certain aspects of the traditional ways of doing things. It's wise to consider what's good about the way we used to do things to see if those details can be adapted into the new.

Take interpersonal connections, for instance. Gone are the days when researchers used to send their queries to society journals, and even though our local library still houses some of those old relics, I'm not sure I'd be up for searching with my own eyeballs through those endless lists submitted by desperate fellow researchers. But I do miss the upgraded cousin of those old queries: the online genealogy bulletin boards and forums—now, those were searchable, and sometimes led to great connections with people who were researching the same lines.

The plus side to those electronic versions of the published queries, besides the ability to search through years of compiled requests, was the custom shared by so many researchers of connecting with others. The opportunity wasn't so much about finding that one specific fact about a family as it was the introduction to a partnership between researchers with mutual goals.

Over the years, I have made connections with some wonderful people through those avenues of online bulletin boards and forums. Some of those connections grew into multi-year research partnerships which I benefited from by learning how others approached problem solving, or reaching people who had closer geographic connections or simply shared a passion for discovering everything that can be found on a specific surname, no matter how distant the relationship.

I can't say that I've had as steady a stream of connections since those forums fell out of favor in the genealogical community. It seems there are many more researchers flying solo missions nowadays. Or perhaps it is just the lack of focus on technology that connects, despite such options as messaging on, or their "Member Connect" tool. Even trying to connect with DNA matches often brings back nothing more than a hollow echo. Doesn't anybody still want to reach out and connect with the others researching the same family line?

Fortunately, I was able to answer my own question recently—and was cheered to see there are still some people out there who are willing to reach out. On Twitter, of all places, someone directed a tweet to me, asking about the Gordon line in my husband's family tree. Our Gordon line has been one of those lines where I've met some wonderful researchers in the past—people I've never met face-to-face but have mourned their eventual passing, nonetheless—so I was delighted to learn of the connection with this new-to-me branch of that family.

More than the research connection, though, I was so encouraged, recently, to see the researcher connection, initiated by someone out there who shares this particular interest with me. As the genealogy world seems to move farther and farther away from the interdependence of collaborative effort through the convenience of individually-accessed online resources, we need an antidote with a personal touch.

As cheesy as those apps like the recently discontinued "We're Related" program at were—I particularly enjoyed the running commentary it provoked on Randy Seaver's Genea-Musings—they did serve one now-missing focus: they gave people a way to see how they were connected. They gave us an excuse to go up to each other as total strangers—say, at those rapidly disappearing genealogical conference venues—and introduce ourselves as family. In this increasingly computerized world, we need that throwback to an old-fashioned personal touch.


  1. I miss the days of the Forums too, always interesting to read:)

    1. I guess Facebook groups have become the next best replacement, but I find it hard to sort through all the information to zero in on exactly the conversations I'm interested in. Forums were much better for that.


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