Monday, November 26, 2007

What’s In A Name?

November 26, 2007

Wanna turn your friend, neighbor, or fellow society member into a deer in the headlights in 10 seconds or less? If so, simply tell them that you enjoy listening to the Genealogy Gems Podcast and suggest they give it a try. Yep, that’s all it takes to create the glazed over eyes, and cause the mouth to drop open ever so slightly. Then when you gently shake their shoulder and call out their name, they will come to and quietly murmur, “Uh, what’s a podcast?”

Ah yes, it’s a scenario I’ve seen many times before. So many times, in fact, that I’m beginning to wonder if I’m the silly one for using the term “podcast.”

Which leads me to some very important questions that I want to ask you:

1) Do you think I should continue calling the podcast “The Genealogy Gems Podcast”, or change the name to “The Genealogy Gems Show”?

2) Do you think the term “Podcast” puts people off from trying it out?

I’m afraid that for most folks the term “podcast” is very foreign, and may cause them to shy away (as well as launch many long conversations about whether or not you have to have an iPod to listen to the show. Answer: No)

The podcasting community at large seems to be steering a little away from the term, and using other terms such as “New Media” to describe what they do. I can understand this as I have published genealogy related video podcasts myself, and certainly see that increasing in the future. But frankly, I don’t think “New Media” is any clearer than “podcast”. Which leads us right back to the deer in the headlights!

As I sat and pondered this question after eating WAY too much Thanksgiving pumpkin pie this last week, I suddenly realized that I have an entire group of experts to ask…YOU, the Genealogy Gems Podcast listening audience. You would know better than anyone. Have you mentioned the podcast to your friends? Do you find that they resist the idea of trying it out? Or have you spent a lot of time trying to explain what a podcast is to a non-techie?

As I look toward next year and think about attending conferences and getting out there and meeting folks, I want to describe what I do in a way that is easy to understand as well as appealing. I’d love your input on this question. Please click the little envelope icon at the end of this column to post your comments and suggestions. And be sure and take the poll in the upper right corner of this page.

Friday, November 16, 2007

What's there to lose?

In Episode 34 of the Genealogy Gems podcast I mention a letter that I wrote regarding an article about podcasting that appears in the January 2008 issue of Family Tree Magazine. In the article it was suggested to readers to post their recorded oral family histories as a podcast on iTunes. In my letter I pointed out that you loose control over your audio files once they are unleashed on the Internet. In addition, it's critical to obtain permission from every person who appears in the recording.

The same thing can be said of posting family photos and histories online. There are so many cool new genealogy social networking websites coming online. Seems that everyone is getting in on the act. In all the excitement it can be easy to forget that these large subscription websites are "for profit" entities. Content is gold in the world of the world wide web, and your photos and recordings are free content for these websites. And content makes websites more valuable.

I have always found genealogists to be big-hearted generous people. It is a tradition to share and give. Free lookups and "random acts of kindness" are thankfully commonplace. And there certainly are benefits to posting our treasures online. It may connect us to an unknown distant cousin or reseacher. But since we're talking about our precious families, safety and security is key.

Is it safe to post files of our family members telling their stories for all to hear? Do we mind that genealogy social networking websites are profiting from our postings? Is there anything to lose in this arrangement? The industry is still very young, so there will be lots to watch and see.

I'd like to hear what you think on this topic. Have you had an online success or horror story? Do you mind that you don't share in the profits? Please post your comments to this blog. And be sure and take a moment to take the Genealogy Gems Blog poll question in the upper right corner of the page: Do you think there's any harm in posting (giving) your family photos, interviews, and histories to a "for profit" genealogy social networking website?

Monday, November 5, 2007

Ancestors on Line 1

Welcome to the new Genealogy Gems News Blog...

I’ve been in a reminiscing mood as Fall has taken hold. So when the cordless telephone in my office started developing a nasty hum, I went out to buy myself a new phone, and ended up with an OLD phone. Well a new phone in a very old style.

It’s a heavy, black “Kettle” phone. Something like you’d expect to see on Philip Marlow’s desk or on the coffee table next to the chair in my Grandparent’s living room. I love that the receiver has a nice heavy feel in my hands when I answer it, and I’m pleasantly surprised every time I hear the real telephone bell ring.

Wouldn’t it be great if, like a Twilight Zone episode, you could answer an old fashioned phone like this and an ancestor would be on the other end? Who would I want it to be? What would I ask them if I had that second chance?

I posed these questions in the latest issue of the Genealogy Gems Podcast monthly newsletter and have already received some great responses. Here's one from a listener in Texas:

"Who would I want it to be? For me, I would ask my great-great-great grandfather Bradbury just where he and his wife were in 1860 and 1870 and also what his full name is. If I had a second question to another ancestor, I would ask my great-great-great grandfather Elijah Alexander who his parents were and if he was a grandson of the Elijah Alexander who fought in the Rev. War under his father, William Alexander. If I had a third question to another ancestor, I would ask John A. Fisher who his parents were and where they were born For my husband, I would ask his great-great mother Rachel what her maiden name was and if she was married to Joel Hobbs. If I had a second question to another of his ancestors, I would ask his great-grandmother about her father, Seamon Butler and confirm what her mother's name was. What would I ask them if I had that second chance? I would have asked my grandmother Bonnie more about any family stories and, barring that, I would ask her oldest sister, Callie, about any family stories. I love Genealogy Gems and the tips and links and I love these questions!"
Gwen Goff Hobbs TX

and from Margaret:
"If I could have one more chat with my father-in-law, Otto Miesterfeld, I would ask him one more question. He gave me stories and all the information on his ancestors in Letschin and Kienwerder, Brandenburg, Prussia in the late 1700's thru the early 1900's. He told me about Duke von Hardenburg draining the valley along the west side of the Oder River and keeping the river in its bed creating rich farmland. Duke von Hardenburg then invited settlers to migrate and farm the land. However, I failed to ask one important question. I would now ask my father-in-law where the family lived before settling in this Oder River valley."
Margaret Miesterfeld

And Pat loved thinking about who might be on line one (and gave me the title for this blog!): "What a great way to start my day--thinking about who could be on the line for such a call! I also feel somewhat reminiscent and perhaps it is due to the changing season. I would love to have a chance to speak with "Grampie Brown", my ggg-grandfather (so this wouldn't technically be a second chance to speak with him) and I would ask him first to tell me about his daughter Caroline's childhood. I have no records of them ever together. Her mother died when she was young and I've been unable to find them together as a family and I think always about them and how they lived and what happened to this young girl and her father. After that, I would ask him how he can to enlist in a Wisconsin regiment for his first Civil War enlistment. Of all the mysteries about Grampie Brown, these are the two that most plague me. If it were to be someone who's passed in my lifetime, I'd want the caller to be my maternal grandfather "Weenie" Flynn. I talked to my grandmother about family, but for some reason I don't ever recall talking much to him about it. Now that I've learned more, I would love to ask him some specific questions especially about his dad, Patrick and their time in Cameron County PA. Again, thanks for allowing my brain a little unique exercise this morning. I love the podcast (and your book!). Pat Dalpiaz"

Answering questions like these really help us focus in on our research goals. Give it some thought and let us know what you think!

I'll talk to you soon,