December 21, 2014

How Genealogists Can Spread The Love Of WDYTYA Goodness

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For all the seasons that Who Do You Think You Are have been on there’s almost always a love/hate discussion the next day in the Facebook genealogy community. At first, everyone was happy the show was on and promoting the interest in family history. Then, little by little the critques began. The complaints ranged from there being too much detail that made the stories drag on, to not enough content that showed how many hours it took to find the juicy details.

Of course, what some people failed to take into account was that the show is just an hour long commercial for Ancestry.com. There is certainly nothing wrong with that, but it should be understood by those of us who do all forms of research that by criticizing and nit picking the show each week we are doing more harm than good when it comes to promoting the fun of finding family history documentation. We’re darn lucky someone like Lisa Kudrow chose to promote genealogy by producing the programs.

The program has changed from a national station host to The Learning Channel that may or may not be as accessible. As time went by the format for the stories of each celebrity evolved to keep it interesting while staying within a set budget. I’m assuming all this, but I suspect it’s all true.  As has been said recently, many aspects of the episodes can be teaching opportunities for those of us who write about genealogical research. Not just teaching opportunities, but talking points as well.

Now, About Your Own Research

If each celebrity’s life leaves us with questions, that’s a good thing. We might find ourselves with new ideas for our own research. Avenues we haven’t thought of persuing like voter lists, criminal records, church histories, newspaper accounts, or even special censuses for states. Have you considered searching for a topic in Google books? Not just in Google itself, but in their books.

Even more ‘daring’…search for your ancestor by name in a general Google search of images. I’m not advocating just doing research online of course. Find out if your local library has a genealogy section. Maybe your local historical society has a few suggestions for you too. One more suggestion, ask your friends what kind of books they might have that you could use for research. Personally, I have a few genealogy books of my own and can do lookups in them if you ask nicely. ;)

Google Book Search – A Genealogist’s Dream Come True

Imagine that you have always wanted to find more information about one of your ancestors, but you had neither the resources, time, or any idea on earth where to find it. Imagine too, that you knew of a book or author who had written about your family member, but you had no idea where to start to look for said book.

Have you considered looking in Google Book Search? As a little exercise in discovery, today I did a cursory search in the database for books about Rose Farm, my cousin William Livingston Holmes’ home that was built by him circa 1847 in Oregon City, OR. What came back is astounding: Books 110 of 1,041 on rose farm Oregon. (0.05 seconds). That doesn’t mean that every one of those books has the exact information I am looking for, but my chances are pretty darn good that there will be at least a few that contain additional information that I might not have already.

One of the things I like about the Google Book Search too, is that if you do find a book you would like to refer to later, you can add it to your ‘library’ and come back to it later. In addition, you can also click on handy links to find the book in a library, or buy it outright from a site like Amazon or Alibris.

The goal for Google, from before its implimentation, has always been to make information available to the world.  What had kept them from doing that with books had been the threat of lawsuits and copyright complications. Just this week though, on October 28th, they have reached an agreement with a large group of authors and publishers to grant digital access to millions of in-copyright books. Not only does it make access to these books available, but it also opens a new market for those authors and publishers to sell their work. Rather than me telling you all about it here, please read New Chapter for Google Book Search on their blog.

I wonder if they will eventually take self-published genealogy and family tree books? ;) Not so much for the monetization, but just for the sheer ability to share our research with other potential family members!  Yes, I know we can do that alread in limited ways, but to be able to share it with the whole world…priceless!


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