Thursday, October 20, 2011

Open Thread Thursday: The Genealogy Experience

Thomas MacEntee at Geneabloggers poses this question today:

When you “do genealogy” – be it research, heritage travel, publishing a family history book – what do you want to come away with? Is the concept of an experience even important? Should we be concerned with what genealogists and family historians experience when they interact with the genealogy industry? What do you see as the components of a meaningful genealogy experience? Education? Product creation? Research? Travel?


One part of the experience, for me, is the goal of preparing a family tree so future generations know where they came from (location and people) and get a sense of what our ancestors were like. I'm delighted I have such a wide range of products available for this purpose (software for generating trees, Web sites for publishing books, etc).

Research is vital, and I really value sources that are clear and accessible. It's great to be able to use both HeritageQuest and Ancestry, for instance, to look at old Census records, because images on one are sometimes more readable than the images on another. Of course  something scanned 10 years ago might look much better if scanned with today's technology, but there are so many sources to digitize. However do sites in the genealogy industry prioritize?

Another, more urgent part of the experience is my hope of connecting with cousins. Just this month I uncovered a previously unknown cousin of my husband, only to immediately learn that she had died 10 months ago. We've written her daughter (no answer yet, but it's only 2 weeks since the letter was sent). If only we had found the cousin earlier, maybe we could have shared family stories and even photos. That's why I think, on balance, that it's good for sites to push ahead with digitizing materials never before available or searchable online.


So many ancestors and relatives, so little time. My blog successfully served as cousin bait when my 2d cousin Lois found me one year ago. We've really enjoyed getting to know each other's families and sharing long-forgotten family stories.

Maybe other relatives will go looking for my family or my husband's family and, in doing an online search, will land on this blog and make the connection. Fingers crossed!

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