Genealogical Society Webmasters - Rootstech 2012 Unconference

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This page has been created to support the discussion about a RootsTech 2012 Un-Conference session held on Thursday Feb 2.

  • The notes from that session have been appended at the bottom of this article.
  • A Genealogical Society Webmasters group has been established on Facebook... a page supporting this groups activity has been created: see Genealogical Society Webmasters

The focus of this session will be on facilitating an on-going environment that can be utilized by those responsible for creating and maintaining the on-line presence (web sites, Blogs, Wiki's, Twitter accounts, Facebook accounts, etc) for local genealogical societies. The desired outcome is to define a path forward and to begin a virtual discussion.


Societies that want to establish an online presence are faced with a dilemma: where to find someone with the necessary skill set to create their web site. If such a person can be found, societies are completely dependant on architecture and design decisions made for them by their webmaster with little or no ability to judge the soundness of the choices. Only later does it become obvious that maintaining a web site is more of a challenge than creating one.

There should be a way that societies can work together to share information and resources:

  • While there are many ways to go about creating web sites, there is a good chance that many of us have made the same choice and could benefit from sharing and comparing.
  • Those who are considering creating (or upgrading) a web site would surely appreciate hearing the strengths and weaknesses of the various options from others who are actually doing it using the software they are considering.
  • We all could benefit from sharing information about integraing other tools such as blogs, wikis, Facebook, and Twitter. What works? What doesn't?
  • Many societies have digitized local records that are not available from other sources. We can and should work together to make these records globally discoverable and accessable.
  • Many societies have developed their own unique applications and some might be willing to make the code available to other societies. Some mechanism to facilitate such an exchange shold be identified.
  • Cooperative development and support of applications of common interest could increase the quality and quantity of such applications.
  • This idea (sharing information) was the topic of a session at last years conference. See Social Networking Technology for Genealogical Societies

An additional goal should be to encourage RootsTech, FGS, and NGS to consider this topic when scheduling future conferences.

  • To RootsTech's credit, their solicitation for presentations is relatively close to the actual conference (which makes it easier to propose topics on current subjects), and they allow ad-hoc gatherings through their unconferences.
  • NGS and FGS make it much harder to propose and conduct timely sessions by requiring proposals so far in advance. While this approach may make sense for traditional Genealogical topics it does not work well for the fast pace of technological change. Perhaps they would/should consider creating a track of sessions that would be scheduled closer to the actual conference to facilitate this need.
  • IAJGS also solicits for presentations closer to the conference than NGS and FGS, but because of the specialized overall topic (Jewish genealogy), there tend to be fewer attendees, thus fewer technology users. However, the 2014 conference in Salt Lake City will have a track focused on technology.

So what is the desired outcome of this? Any or all of these would seem beneficial:

  • Establsh some means for society webmasters to communicate with each other (Google+ circles, Facebook groups?) [21 JGS webmasters are currently in a FB group, of 70 IAJGS member societies.]
  • Create a forum that would facilitate the exchange of knowledge organized around specific topics
  • Agree on a Twitter hashtag ( #GenSocWM ?) that could be used?

Session Notes

Tony Hanson started the session with a brief introductions and problem statement using this PowerPoint presentation . This was followed by a discussion, the highlights of which are summarized below.


  • We agreed that using a Facebook closed group would be the best way to carry this conversation forward on-line
  • The group will be called “Genealogical Society Webmasters”
  • Brooke Schreier Ganz agreed to set it up
  • Tony Hanson agreed to be the initial administrator

Action Item

  • If you would like to be part or the Facebook closed group please send the email address associated with your Facebook account to:


  • We spent some time discussing possibilities for establishing an on-line communications forum. After (briefly) discussing Twitter, Yahoo Groups, Percolate and Google Hangout, the agreement was that Facebook would be the best tool for now.
  • The issue of an Open vs. Closed group was discussed…. Given the sensitive nature of what we will potentially be discussing (the guts of our web sites and how they are created) it was agreed that the group should be closed.
  • The group agreed that the focus of discussion was not ‘just’ a traditional web site… we all need to consider incorporating social networking applications like Twitter, Facebook, Wiki’s and Blogs.
  • It is important to use tools that are publicly available
  • Supportability is key…. Develop with the next webmaster in mind
  • As not-for-profit’s we should be able to download and utilize Goto Meeting and Goto Webinar from Tech Soup for $99…

There was quite a bit of discussion on charging for access to information. There were two camps: Those in favor of providing everything for free, and those who feel that some form of payment is required to fund the on-going operation of the web site.

  • Pay Pal is a useful tool for accepting on-line payments and donations
  • Another revenue idea: allow free access to the title and beginning of an article, but require membership/payment to see the rest
  • It is very useful to thank donors/new members quickly and publicly
  • Use newsletters and on-line publications as a member benefit – they can provide insight and shortcuts not known to those who just visit the web site
  • One society is looking for a better way to implement shopping carts

Candace Turpin from Family Search attended and said that Family Search is very interested in helping local societies identify resources that they want to digitize and wants to find a way to help societies digitize and publish local information.