How to Incorporate NextGen Technologies Into Your Genealogy Research
Below is a modified version of my speech I delivered tonight at my local Toastmasters club (Toastmasters is an organization that helps people develop and improve their public speaking skills).
According to dictionary.com, next-generation (or next gen for short) pertains to the next generation in a family. It also refers to the next stage of development or version of a product, service, or technology. I am a member and volunteer of The NextGen Genealogy Network, which is a non-profit group whose mission is to foster the next generation’s interest in in family history by building connections between generations. I will provide a few examples of how we use NextGen technologies to enhance genealogy research.
One of the primary tools we use to communicate with young genealogists is social media. I help manage the Twitter page and will activities like retweet and follow other NextGen genealogists who will share blog posts, video streams, photographs, etc. We frequently have social media events. One example is a tweet-up. This is when members will gather on Twitter at a designated time and use a designated hashtag and respond to questions on a particular topic. Another example of a social media tool is joining groups on Facebook. I can join hundreds of genealogy topics that range from general groups to region specific groups. I can ask questions as well as help answer questions. I have located several cousins that I had yet proven were related to me and was able to break a few “brick walls”.
Another tool that NextGen users use is blogging. A blog is a frequently updated web site that consists of diary style entries. Many of my friends will blog about their interests (ex. Canning, couponing, collecting). Blogging is a very useful NextGen tool. I can create a blog entry and write up about my most recent ancestor find. By using key words and surnames in my family, I am putting out “cousin bait. Others can use a major search engine like Google to research their family and end up on my blog. They may find that I’m researching I’m the same line and leave a comment or a message. Maybe they have the family bible or photographs of an ancestor that I couldn’t locate.
The final tool that I will discuss is mobile applications. When using your smartphone on the go, a mobile application (or app for short) can be a great way to conduct research and keep in touch when you’re not at home. For example, one of my favorite activities is driving to the local cemetery. I will open my Find a Grave mobile app and review the open requests for headstone photos. I will then walk the cemetery and try to locate the headstone and take a picture. I can then upload the picture, including GPS coordinates on my cell phone, before I leave the cemetery. The Find a Grave tool allows families to “visit” their families by seeing a picture of their headstone and leave “virtual flowers”. Also, the information on the headstone may provide valuable clues to your research. Another mobile application I use is FaceBook. When I am at the cemetery completing headstone transcriptions, I will typically go “live” on Facebook and post video of myself doing the work and providing tips. This allows others to see what research I’m working on and how to complete headstone transcription by viewing the video.
NextGen technologies allow you to think outside the box of traditional means of communication of genealogical research. It does not replace writing letters or conducting research at the library but rather provides another approach to reaching your goal of finding more information and connect with other peers along the way. The next time that you are running into a challenge, I encourage all of you to try one of the NextGen methods I outlined (social media, blogging or mobile applications and see if you can advance your goal.