Are you a dot collector or dot connector?

One of the trends in popular genealogy that is impossible to deny is the rapid accumulation of information, even if it’s errant information. Professional genealogists complain about it. I read the message boards! This genealogical hoarding is an interesting phenomena. But like all hoarding, there tends to be a reckoning. Eventually something will gob-smack you in the face and wake you up to the reality of what you are doing. Everyone will have errors in their trees, but with sourcing and a little bit of research, we can greatly minimize those errors, particularly those passed on to others.

collector or connectorSome people on Ancestry are obviously just collecting names, collecting data, and collecting photos without even the slightest amount of logic or research applied. Case-in-point, I found a hint to my own name this week. I was so excited, but when I clicked on the link, it was to another online tree that had listed me as deceased and having died in a place where I have never lived and never visited. I was married to the correct man from the correct family, however, the information about me was wrong. I contacted the tree owner to see if he or she could update and correct the information… no answer yet. But then a strange thing happened. All sorts of people started attaching all of that wrong information to their own trees. The misinformation propagated like rabbits in springtime.

If you approach your research as a connector rather than a collector, you might be surprised what you find. Family history is about more than names and dates. It’s about lives and struggles, wars and ideals, faith and hope. You can learn about some of the heroes and some of the scoundrels. How many of us know the migration and hardships? The stories and the “overcoming” are what make a great testimonial of life. The connections woven between military men or farmers in a community, or the women at church are so valuable for us to understand how they survived and thrived. It’s important for us to have that perspective on how we came to be and all of the events that had to occur in order for us to be here right now. That kind of perspective is life-changing. To think that all eight of my great great grandfathers had to survive their Civil War service for me to be here right now is a thought that makes me choke up.

One of the great things about an online tree is the ability to seek and find. The difficulty lies in assessing the quality of information. I would encourage you to look at each tree with a careful eye. Is it sourced? Are there documents and photos and stories? If not, move on. If each of us approach the process as connectors rather than collectors, we will build a much more valuable network of information.

Getting Ready for Ft. Wayne and FGS

My favorite genealogical conference of the year is fast approaching. The Federation of Genealogical Societies Conference, or FGS, is in Ft. Wayne, Indiana, on August 21-24. I attend a number of conferences each year, some focus on genealogy and some are for my day job. But by far FGS is the most enjoyable to me because the focus is on the librarians, the archivists, and the societies that are the foundation of genealogy. These hard-working and underfunded workers and volunteers are the protectors of data and records that we crave. And societies do the work at the local level to keep information available for all of us.

Individual researchers and those curious about genealogy will find a variety of topics of interest. There are lectures and workshops for all areas and all levels of experience. In addition, the Allen County Public Library is one of the best collection of books, periodicals, city directories, and family history books in the country.

Spend as much time as you can in the stacks of the library. Prepare ahead of time to make the most of your visit. Explore the website and familiarize yourself with their resources. Typically, the library offers a tour for those who have never been to ACPL. The tour is well worth the time.

You may use computers and scanners in the Genealogy Center of the Library. Bring a lock to attach your laptop to the desk in order to roam through the stacks. No need to bring coins for the copier. The machines use a swipe card system where you preload money to pay for your copies. There is plenty of room (and multiple outlets) to bring your electronic gear with you.

Even if you have never attended a genealogical conference, take the opportunity to learn, to spend time with like-minded people, and get invigorated and more productive in your research. Whether you have one day or four, come to the FGS conference in Ft Wayne, Indiana. The program of speakers and luncheons is a great mix of society interests, individual learning, and technology courses.


Goodbye Google Reader. Hello Feedly.

I have to admit that I had a moment of panic when I heard that Google Reader was shutting down. I love Google Reader. I use it every day. I keep track of my favorite web sites, blogs, and surname feeds. Right away I went to work to find a replacement. I was looking for a way to save my subscriptions rather than reenter all of the web sites. I stumbled upon Feedly. 

I was so glad to see that Google Reader would allow a download of the data so that all of the subscriptions were preserved. Feedly imported everything without a hitch. And I was good to go.

The computer version is fairly easy to use. You can choose default settings for displays. It was easy to customize the categories. But the iPad version is outstanding.

The iPad version is user friendly and everything can be opened with the touch of a finger or article after article can be read and dismissed with a drag across the screen. A small number shows up with each category that tells you how many unread articles are available. If you tap on a category such as “family history”. Each subscription is then available if you want to look at one specific location. It functions just like Google Reader in that you can read as little or as much as you want.

If you decide to choose a particular subscription, such as the Reed message board, a list of new items appears. You can browse through the headlines and open what you want. Once the page is swiped, all of the items are changed from unread to read.

After you complete one category, a new category appears. I looked at the Reed message board, and then had a choice whether to move on to the Robbins message board. 

From my last few days of using Feedly, I am a convert. And I still think the web aggregator is one of the best and most useful technologies available, particularly for keeping track of geneological sites, blogs, and message boards.