Who Wants to be a Family History Millionaire?

From FamilySearch Wiki
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Syllabus for class taught by Ben Bennett, Chief of Staff, FamilySearch Patron Services presented at the BYU 2010 Conference on Computerized Family History & Genealogy.

Course Title: Who Wants to be a Family History Millionaire?[edit | edit source]

Abstract: Ever wanted to be a millionaire but just didn’t have the cash? Now you can be a Family History millionaire by sharing what you know and helping millions of others (like you) who care about their ancestors. Learn how to share what you know with the global FamilySearch community (including Research Wiki, Research Forums, Indexing, Discussions, and other communities). As you learn how to help others with these resources, you’ll also learn how to benefit from the community thus making you a Family History millionaire twice over!

Introduction[edit | edit source]

During our time together today, we'll discuss:
1. What "community" is and why it's critical to Family History
2. Why community simply won't work without you (and others like you)
3. How you can get engaged and help millions (in addition to helping yourself)

What is "Community" and Why is it So Important To Family History?[edit | edit source]

Let’s take a short trip down memory lane back to 1985. Remember what it was like to do Family History then? For the most part, Family History was an individual affair. Sure, you might spend time in a library with others or you might have been part of a genealogical society where members shared a common interest. That said, no one was helping you do your research (unless you paid them) – right? Your pedigree was compiled on a series of hard copy sheets that may or may not have been put in a three ring binder, and doing research in a new location or with a set of records required that you spend significant time learning how to access those records and find your ancestors. Records had to be accessed via microfilm, microfiche or hard copy in a library, archive or other location. Granted, others may have been doing similar work on your ancestors, however, the likelihood of you a) knowing who they were and b) collaborating with them to eliminate duplication benefit from each other’s share knowledge was low.

Fast forward to 2010 where technology has changed how Family History is done. From an individual PC, you can now access more records than any library or archive has ever been able to provide in the past. Work on ancestors can be done in a collaborative vs. siloed fashion eliminating duplication and allowing others to benefit from your knowledge.

So, When We Say "Community" in the Context of Family History, What Do We Really Mean?[edit | edit source]

Put simply, it’s a group of people who come together and share a common purpose. The reality is that community has been important for years and that the skills to be effective in community basic relationship skills that we’ve all had to develop to some degree (remember the last time you had to borrow a cup of sugar from the neighbor)?

What Makes "Community" Work?[edit | edit source]

These days, Twitter, Wikipedia, Google, Facebook and others are all household names. Why are these properties so popular and what makes them tick? In short, these organizations are successful because of the large number of people who congregate there with a similar purpose. Whether it’s sharing pictures, news about their family, or searching for a place to buy an iPad (see I like Macs), these communities are successful because of people unified around a purpose (not because of some super-secret technology as many people think).

Simply put, YOU make the community work. With community the whole truly is greater than the sum of the parts.

For those of you who are thinking, this sounds good, but, why should I contribute, let me share three suggestions borrowed from one of my colleagues (Jim Greene);

  1. To give back. You have been the beneficiary of help from others throughout the years. Even the most expert genealogist did not get there immediately or without learning from others. This is how you can contribute in a very meaningful way to the growth and experience of others who are following the path behind you.
  2. To pay it forward. This in-vogue term simply means to help others without them asking and hope that they will do the same.
  3. To leave your legacy. This is the best way to make sure that when you are gone, your lifetime of learning and effort is preserved electronically for countless others who will appreciate it for all time, and not left in an attic or a land-fill by those who do not understand the treasure.

Family History Communities[edit | edit source]

While virtually every aspect of family history research is evolving to include some form of community participation, there are three properties that I want to focus on today with the goal of sharing with you a) how you can benefit from the community and b) how, once you’ve benefited from it, can give back to the community.

FamilySearch is sponsoring three community properties to help you in your family history research; the FamilySearch Forums, the FamilySearch Wiki and the FamilySearch course catalog. I want to spend the next few minutes providing a brief overview to show you what these tools are, how they can help you and how you can help others using those tools.

FamilySearch Forums[edit | edit source]

The FamilySearch Forums are organized by categories; primary categories are those focused on product related questions like new FamilySearch and then those focused on research related questions. From there, you can drill down and select the category most appropriate to find your question. When using the FamilySearch forums, always start by searching for your question to see if someone has already asked and/or answered your question. If you can’t find anything related to your topic, you can post a new question to the forums.

Case Study #1: Emma Freeman

For example, in doing my own research, I came across an error in the records compiled by others, but, couldn’t find any information to disprove the conclusion. The confusion was surrounding John Albert Freeman who was my great grandfather born in 1860 in Washington County, Utah. According to the records in new FamilySearch, John fathered a child in 1871 at age 11!  I had a hunch that this wasn’t correct, but, couldn’t find any records to support my assumption.

FamilySearch Forums to the rescue! When I searched and couldn’t find anything about the Freemans, so, I posted a new question. Since John was born in Utah, I posted the question in the Utah forum. Also, since John’s alleged daughter was born in Pennsylvania, I posted the same question in that forum. Different communities and individuals monitor different forums (based on their knowledge and interest) and so casting a broad net isn’t a bad idea.

What happened? I got three responses from individuals with helpful knowledge about my question. First, from the Pennsylvania forum, a community member suggested some strategies and records that I should consult to see if I could find any substantiation of my ancestor there – see forum thread Freeman (b. 1871). Second, from the Utah forum, a community actually did some research for me and provided a conclusion with sources cited – see forum thread Utah: John Albert Freeman. (Note that this isn’t a standard response that you should expect to get every time… be thankful for the community member who goes above and beyond.) In addition to those two responses, I also got a message via the forums from someone who has done extensive research on this particular family line who shared the names of living ancestors who could also help and provide additional information to help solve my problem. Now my great grandfather’s name is cleared and I can move on to the next brick wall in my research!

To be clear, none of this would have happened without community members who were willing to share their time, talents and knowledge with me.

FamilySearch Wiki[edit | edit source]

The FamilySearch Wiki represents the combined knowledge of thousands of researchers who provide their insight and learning about how to do effective and efficient research all over the world. From Johannesburg to Jackson County, from Ireland to Indiana, from Denmark to Delaware the FamilySearch Wiki is the largest of its kind dedicated to genealogical research.

Case Study #2: FamilySearch Patron to Wiki Contributor

I recently met a FamilySearch patron who was an expert on Ashton, Keynes parish which is in Wiltshire county on the Thames river south west of London. This patron had traveled to this parish numerous times doing research one of her family lines who was prevalent there. This patron was well versed in the history of the area, the records that were available and other tips and tricks for those interested in doing research in that area. After learning about this patron’s interests in this area, I encouraged her to contribute what she knew to the FamilySearch wiki so that others could benefit from her work and knowledge. Since our conversation earlier this year, this patron has taken another research trip to Ashton-Keynes parish and has uploaded numerous photos and other information about the parish to the FamilySearch Wiki (see Ashton, Keynes). Many others have already benefited from this Patron’s good work and countless others will in the future.

Case Study #3: Adding Links to Existing Text

You might be saying to yourself – “I haven’t traveled to some far away place” or “I don’t know enough to write an entire article about a place” or “Surely, someone else knows more than me about this topic.” In short, you’re wrong! As I mentioned before, the beauty of community is that you show up with what you have and contribute it to the overall effort; the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. For example, I don’t know anything about Illinois research, however, when looking at the Illinois page in the FamilySearch Wiki (see [[[Illinois Genealogy|Illinois]] ), I noticed that there was no information related to “ethnic groups” in Illinois – the page was blank. I also knew that there was information in the wiki about ethnic groups that lived in Illnois (based on some other searches that I had done). Based on that, I created a link on the Illinois Ethnic groups page to these other pages so that another patron wouldn’t have to search and find them (see Illinois Ethnic Groups ). A small act to be sure, but, hopefully one that saves time.

How can you contribute to the FamilySearch Wiki?

  • Start by looking at the pages that pertain to research that you’ve done and/or are engaged in currently. Use the Wiki to help further your research and update articles as you go with information that you know that might help others. Don’t get caught up on your ability to write well or whether someone knows more about the particular topic. On average, there are 6 other community members who review every page in the Wiki which results in the content being more accurate and refined over time (see wiki.familysearch.org).
  • Tell others about the FamilySearch Wiki and encourage them to use it in their research.
  • Join a Community meeting to find out about new Wiki projects that are being launched that you might want to participate in and/or to learn from other Wiki users how to share what you know.
  • Visit the Projects Seeking Contributors page and/or Wanted Pages to see specific areas where we’re looking for help.

FamilySearch Training Library[edit | edit source]

Ever wanted to attend a class on a particular area of genealogical research, but, can’t make it fit into your schedule? Check out the FamilySearch Research Courses online! Here you will find courses taught by FamilySearch staff as well as well know genealogists from the National Genealogical Society, iCAPGen, the Association of Professional Genealogists and others.

How can you contribute to the FamilySearch Training Library?

Community Tools Made Simple[edit | edit source]

In summary, we recommend using these tools as follows (adapted from a table originally created by Jim Greene):

Tool Best Uses Audience Best Used By Not Good for
FamilySearch Wiki Encyclopedia.
Repository for facts and conclusions.
Index for research sources (time and place).
Place to discuss and compare.
Pointer to online resources by topic.
Broad Researchers:
Beginners -- First place to look for strategic guidance.
Intermediate -- Look for strategic guidance, but also share knowledge.
Advanced -- Research log. Store accumulated research strategies. Share knowledge and experience.
Beginners to know where to start searching.
Intermediate to validate path and share new knowledge (usually specialized).
Advanced to store accumulated knowledge and leave your legacy in a protected way.
Really large disorganized data, such as biographies about non-well-known people (you and me)
General discussions and collaboration.
FamilySearch Forums Ask and answer specific questions.
Broad range of topics.
Q: Anyone who is stumped.
A: Everyone with a specialty.
Everyone with specific issues or expertise.
Lengthy "How-to"'s or long detailed answers.
Online Training
Repository of online training covering a variety of genealogical research topics. Anyone who wants to learn more about genealogical research. Courses range from beginner to advanced. Anyone with access to a computer and the internet. People who don't like working with computers and/or prefer to learn in a face to face/classroom type setting.

What About the Millionaire Part?[edit | edit source]

The true power of community is YOU! When you participate in the FamilySearch community, you not only can find help and assistance for your research challenges, but, your one answer can help thousands (maybe millions) of people.  In short, the recipe to become a Family History millionaire is simple;

  1. Use the FamilySearch community resources to do your family history.
  2. Encourage others to use the tools
  3. Share what you know in the FamilySearch Forums, Wiki and Online Training Library