“For the times they are a changing”, Bob Dylan’s immortal words can be applied to many things, not least genealogical research in the digital world. The greater availability of records online and the surge in global interest in family history over the past decade has meant that never has there been as much genealogical information available to as many people.
While the “digital revolution” dramatically altered access to records, in many ways it didn’t alter the practice of genealogy to the same degree, records were still studied and mined for information in the same way. However, one aspect of the “digital revolution” which is truly changing the practice of genealogical research, is social networking.
Where in the past the genealogical researcher may have ploughed a lonely furrow, with the advent of social networking, new opportunities to engage with others ploughing similar furrows have been created. Blogs, family trees, message boards, etc. all offer new possibilities in terms of sharing information and advice.
Below are some tips on how to take your first steps in genealogical social networking.
Age is but a number – Many think of social networking as the preserve of the youth, but ‘silver surfers’ are one of the major growth groups in the sector. You’ll be amazed by how many of your contemporaries are already networking.
Do your research – As with anything to do with genealogy, it’s worth putting research in. Don’t simply join the largest networks or those marketed most actively at you. Seek out the groups and sites most relevant to your line of research. This can be done by focusing on a geographic location or family name.
Connect, like, follow – When you’ve identified the groups, organisations and sites that are relevant to your research, connect with them through your preferred medium (e.g. Facebook, Twitter, Google+, newsletter, etc). You’d be amazed how many are running events that could be of use to your research. One such example is Eneclann and FindMyPast’s “Ask the experts” Facebook Q&A events which are held during the year (Next event: Friday 20th February on Irish central’s Facebook page).
Be active not passive – When you find information of use in discussion groups or forums don’t just read it and move on, be brave, post a comment or if you don’t find what you’re looking for, start a discussion topic, you never know who might reply!
The genealogical landscape is no longer shaped by long straight furrows, but rather a criss-cross patchwork of intersecting research. Get out there and make some connections, you never know where it might lead, or who it might lead to.
By Stephen Peirce
Expert Researcher at Eneclann.