Collaborative Family History

February 19, 2009

What’s In A Story?

Filed under: Genealogy, New Features — Tags: — becky @ 9:30 am

I have a GG Grandmother, Arminta Williams, on my maternal line that has always been an inspiration to me.  She labored with her husband, Thomas, and children to eek out an existence on a farm on the Western Frontier.  While the endurance and perseverance is awe-inspiring, she went above and beyond her circumstances.  The family story that has been passed on says that she never turned an orphan away, either for a meal or a home.

The family story also reported her to have lived to be 102yrs old.  However, I didn’t know where they lived or when she died.  Looking for a family that consistently had extra children in the house helped me identify them in censuses and unlock their genealogy.  She and Thomas took in the first foster child just 3 yrs in to their marriage.  At one point, they had 3 foster children living with them.  I have yet to locate any legal adoption papers, just children listed in their household as “servant” “laborer” or just “visitor”.  I learned that Thomas went blind at a rather young age and that Arminta died the same year my father was born – just a few months short of being 102 yrs old.

Family Pursuit now offers the ability to share this story as well as documentation with my entire family.  I have one photo of Arminta, sitting in a wheelchair with a corncob pipe between her lips, surrounded by numerous descendants and foster children.  I can attach this photo to Arminta’s story and her Individual profile in my Private Tree and provide a means for all her descendants to know of her generosity and love for others and her tenacity throughout life.

February 2, 2009

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words

Filed under: Genealogy, New Features, Research — becky @ 3:43 pm

When I first started researching my family’s genealogy, I took many classes to learn what resources were available, how to use them, and how reliable they were. In one of the classes, my husband and I were shown a photo of a gravestone and asked to interpret the information. The information seemed fairly straightforward and clear. I was taken aback when my husband thought it was equally clear, but had a completely different interpretation. Discussion of this photo lasted quite a while, and my husband and I continued discussing it afterwards. This really taught me how open to interpretation all documents and sources are.

While extractions are definitely needed and useful, nothing compares to the original source with all the info intact. It is invaluable to have a duplication to study for yourself and place in context of its time and history.

Coming soon, you will be able to upload any image to your Family Pursuit Private Family Tree and attach it as a source for others in your family to view and interpret. The advantage of sharing copies of original documents is invaluable to collaboration. Once the image is uploaded, anyone in your tree can view it and, through discussions, the ambiguity can be clarified. This is also another great way to help mentor the new genealogist. The image can be used for teaching, or a beginner can be assigned a task to get the image for the family to then analyze.

Images are not the only file that can be uploaded. Video and audio files are also accepted and are a great way to help younger generations connect to their older relatives by hearing their voice or seeing them in action.

Technology has greatly enhanced the amateur’s ability to get quality files. For digital photos Dick Eastman’s Forum has a great discussion about techniques and devices to use to ensure high-quality images: http://www.eogn.com/forum/index.php/topic,61.0.html. This discussion thread is contributed by other genealogists and is very interesting and helpful. It is relatively inexpensive to purchase an audio recorder that can be used to record interviews then plugged in to the computer to upload the files – no conversion necessary. Camcorders and webcams have facilitated recording home movies and interviews.

Sharing images, audio, and video will not only enhance the collaboration and mentoring ability available through Family Pursuit, but, more importantly, it will personalize your ancestors to help your entire family feel more connected to them.

January 21, 2009

The Beginning Genealogist

Filed under: Collaboration, Genealogy, Research — becky @ 1:40 pm

I am new to be writing on this blog, so I will introduce myself.  My name is Becky and I am Michael Martineau’s wife.  It was a few years ago that Mike became interested in genealogy and his family’s history.  So we went to some classes and dutifully filled out our pedigree charts and family group sheets.  We each contacted our respective families to gather information about ancestors.

Mike has very active family organizations for both sides of his family.  He contacted his father’s side and was given a family name to research then sent on his way (or something like that).  I have the exact opposite situation.  My mom sent me copies of what she had from her genealogy attempts some 30 years earlier.  There wasn’t much to go on.

So, we both ended up in the same boat – we each had a name to research and no clue what to do next.  And this brings me to the point of this blog – once a brand new genealogist has a name to research how do they know what to do next?  There is a whole new vocabulary to learn and resources to learn about – what is a GEDCOM?, why can’t I find the 1890 US federal census?, who cares about land records?  There are things in the genealogy culture that everyone seems to know, but must be learned by each person at some point.

This learning curve is a huge detriment to those who want to get involved but don’t have a lot of time to learn how to conduct research before they can even start researching.  I know many people who only have a few hours a week to spare for genealogy, but since they don’t know how to get started and don’t have anyone to really walk them through it, those precious few hours are given to an easier project with less learning curve.

I believe this is one of the most important problems that Family Pursuit addresses.  Research Projects was designed specifically to address and overcome the learning curve and lack of time.  Through a research project, someone who is more experienced can slowly teach a new genealogist by assigning them a single task instead of a single individual.  An example of that task could be: “Find John Doe in each federal census between 1860 and 1910”.  Specific instructions can then be written to explain how to do this.  For example, “Log on to HeritageQuest (free at most libraries) and search one census at a time.  The 1890 census was destroyed by fire, so don’t waste your time searching for it.  Create a separate extraction for each census.  I think John was living in New Jersey in 1860 and was about 25, so start there.”  In this way, a new researcher can make a meaningful contribution with his/her 2 hrs/wk that is available and also be learning how to do research.  The experienced researcher can get the help needed while not having to spend a great deal of time teaching.  Discussion posts are available for questions or additional instruction and every change can be rolled back and undone if it was a mistake.

This is actually my favorite part of the whole website.  I have used many Research Projects to get my mom and brother involved.  We are spread across the country and all very busy, but the research is slowly getting done and it is all recorded for those times when we have to leave it for a few months.  It is a great tool to help those in our family.  I would encourage anyone who is experienced to try to remember the learning curve and to utilize this tool to help out the beginners in their family.

April 29, 2008

Early Success with GEDCOM Import

Filed under: Collaboration, Family Pursuit, Genealogy, New Features — Les Eldredge @ 9:59 am

In the process of building our GEDCOM Import, we have invited a few of our current users to a small, private testing website to help test our new features. These users have been extremely helpful in volunteering their time to test features and provide suggestions for improving the process. During the last round of tests, we encountered an exciting surprise. With a very small sample of users, we instantly began discovering numerous distant relationships with our users as we imported our GEDCOM files. Even more exciting, with the help of our watch lists we found new information from their research that we had not yet uncovered and offered new details for them as well.

Creating a collaborative genealogy community for family historians to connect to distant relatives and find new information through the process of sharing in our world tree has been one of our primary goals. GEDCOM import is an important part of achieving this goal and observing such an early success of its role has been very rewarding.

We have now released our current version of GEDCOM import to our public version of Family Pursuit. More collaborative features are soon to follow increasing your ability to connect and communicate with other genealogists, and share your research with close family.

August 10, 2007

Family Pursuit Has Launched Beta 1.0

Filed under: Collaboration, Family Pursuit, Genealogy, Software — Les Eldredge @ 12:21 pm

Family Pursuit Beta 1.0On Wednesday afternoon, we officially released Beta 1.0 to all our Beta Testers spread throughout the world. Within seconds we had our first registered user, and our user count has been climbing nonstop ever since. Our Beta Testers have been fantastic at providing feedback, helping us identify trouble areas in our interface, providing suggestions, and conveying excitement. After so many months of development, it is so rewarding to see our users utilizing in our program to organize their genealogy research.

If you are signed up as a Beta Tester and have not received instructions for logging on to the site, click here to see the email we sent out on Wednesday. Some testers have reported problems with yahoo and hotmail placing our emails in spam and junk folders. Be sure to put email from newsletter@familypursuit.com and info@familypursuit.com on your safe list.

April 17, 2007

Involving your Family

Filed under: Collaboration, Family Pursuit, Genealogy, Research — Les Eldredge @ 9:23 am

In our mission statement, we refer to specific tools within Family Pursuit which will “enable genealogy enthusiasts to involve family members who have never engaged in family history work.“ Largely this objective has stemmed from our personal experiences in our own families, however since we began sharing our software with numerous genealogists, there has been further encouragement from nearly everyone we demonstrate to. Each time we demonstrate Family Pursuit’s capabilities of welcoming new individuals into the research process, an expression of excitement and relief forms on the faces of our viewers.

The pursuit of family history is an amazing and rewarding adventure, yet there is so much to accomplish. How can we share the load if all of our family believes everything is already done, or that we are going to somehow accomplish it by ourselves?

A declaration in American Demographics revealed a statistic of 19 million active genealogists. But a more important statistic is the article’s reference to 113 million people having expressed an interest in genealogy. (Fulkerson, Jennifer. “Climbing the Family Tree.” American Demographics, Dec 95 vol. 17 issue 12 p42). The numbers of interest are there, even within our own families. But, even if we reach out to family members, how do we truly involve them when they don’t know where to start? The learning curve for becoming comfortable in genealogy research is a steep one, and often loses the attention of new comers.

Family Pursuit is bringing new ways to recruit your family members and plant the “Genealogy Bug” that has captured us all. These tools provide a doorway for individuals with no experience to work directly with you, under your guidance, to quickly get engaged. You will be able to share the work, lighten your load, and build relationships along the way.

P.S. – I came across the statistic I quoted in this article some time ago and was hoping to find a more current statistic, but my research was unsuccessful. If anyone has any up-to-date stats we would love to have you share them in our comments section below.

April 4, 2007

Source Analysis in a Collaborative Environment

Filed under: Collaboration, Family Pursuit, Genealogy, Research, Source Citation — Michael Martineau @ 12:28 pm

One of the focal points of Family Pursuit involves source analysis in a collaborative environment. We want to give people the ability to collaborate not only on researching their ancestors, but also on the sources that document their ancestors’ lives.

One of the problems we have faced as we have designed the Family Pursuit system, is how to manage sources in an environment where users are working together, each with their own notions on how a source and evidence provided by a source should be analyzed, classified and weighted. Many genealogists classify a source as original, primary or secondary evidence supporting a particular fact or relationship. Experienced genealogists know how important it is to carefully analyze their sources to determine the validity of the information contained in the source. They have taken the time to understand how to analyze sources and how to classify them. Thus, when they determine that a source provides direct primary evidence for a conclusion, they know what that means. Depending on their skill, they are consistent (hopefully) in their definitions of what primary, secondary, original, direct etc. means. What happens now when multiple people are working together, each with their own pre-conceived definitions for those terms? Often the differences in definitions are subtle, causing collaborating researchers to think they are talking about the same thing, only to find later they had defined the terms differently. Miscommunication of this type can lessen the effectiveness of a collaborative environment.

In the Family Pursuit system, not all of our users are going to be experienced genealogists. Not everyone will have read books or taken classes on the proper way to cite sources. Even experienced genealogists sometimes forget to consider pertinent details in their analyses of a source. How do we deal with this?

After consulting with experienced genealogists and published works on the subject, and after considerable thought into the subject, we have decided to largely remove those “words” from the vocabulary of Family Pursuit and approach the problem from a different angle. We believe we have developed a solution that will enable both experienced and novice genealogists to work together and understand one another. Time will tell, as we get feedback from our beta testers starting in June.

By the way, one of the books we consulted was Evidence!: Citation & Analysis for the Family Historian by Elizabeth Shown Mills. I recommend this book, especially the section on “Fundamentals of Analysis”, to anyone wanting to become a better researcher.

March 22, 2007

BYU Computerized Genealogy Conference

Filed under: Family Pursuit, Genealogy, Software — Les Eldredge @ 1:21 pm

2007 BYU Computerized Genealogy Conference BoothThe 2007 BYU Computerized Genealogy Conference was a tremendous success as we officially unveiled Family Pursuit to an awaiting audience. We want to thank all those who visited with us at our vendor booth and the wonderful audience we had at our demonstration class. The excitement of everyone we came in contact with as we demonstrated our software has really validated our cause. All of the feedback and suggestions we received have all been noted and we are assessing everything as we continue on in development.

I also want to mention that we received a remarkable number of signups for beta testers. It is so exciting to have such a high level of genealogists at the forefront of our beta test stage. We will have more opportunities to sign up beta testers as we approach the final stages of development.

March 2, 2007

True Collaboration

Filed under: Collaboration, Family Pursuit, Genealogy, Software — Les Eldredge @ 10:00 am

In preparation for our upcoming booth and presentation at the computerized genealogy conference, Mike and I have been spending a lot of time on marketing content. Because the foundation of Family Pursuit is built upon working together to accomplish genealogy, we have focused our content around the potential of creating our truly collaborative system.

It amazes me how we have been able to work so long with out a better way of coordinating our efforts as genealogist. But what is more fascinating to me is the potential we now have with Family Pursuit to truly communicate and organize our research.

I joined Family Pursuit because I wanted to help in providing a way for new comers to get started in genealogy. That has become one of our greatest objectives in building a collaborative genealogy software. Not only will current genealogists be able to finally tear down the walls that block them from working together, but also other family members will now have an open pathway to be mentored by and be able to see the extensive accomplishments of their experienced family members.

This all so exciting to me to see the possibilities of this incredible system.

Powered by WordPress