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Family history researchers can become rather single-minded about their quest for ancestral data.
It is always good to kick back and read something funny, such as Chris Dunham's The Genealogue, or try something else that might add a different perspective to our searches.
I've mentioned Chris' site as his unusual and humorous approach to genealogy is always welcome, and he also offers lists of categorized genealogy blogs for your enjoyment. However, here's a new site to try for a different reason. Personas is an interesting "installation."
Created by Aaron Zinman (who holds an MIT| PhD in Media Arts and Sciences) as an art installation - a component of Metropath(ologies), an interactive exhibit by the Sociable Media Group, MIT Media Lab - it was on display at the MIT Museum. In its first month, it was accessed by more than 1.5 million users.
According to the site, it creates "a data portrait of one's aggregated online identity. In short, Personas shows you how the Internet sees you." It purports to provide a visual graph of an individual's persona based on an Internet search, and you can see what it is finding as it searches the Web.
Enter the name of a person and watch the graph visualization take place as you read the text under the graph.
In addition to names of people, you can plug in the name of a genealogy blog, for example, and receive a "characterization" of it after an Internet search. Here are some of the blogs searched on Personas:
Today's family history researchers see varying attitudes among their own children.
Some are disappointed and say their children have no interest at all in this journey of discovery; while others can point to an early curiosity in their children.
How can we encourage our children, regardless of their age, toddlers through young adults? Are there classes for kids? What techniques are available?
Instill in each child, grandchild, and great-grandchild a sense of their own family heritage. Share those family stories, the good and the bad of your own childhood. No matter how young, teach them, show them; remember that they are the future, for you, for me, for genealogy.(Page 2, Winter 2009 Newsletter, Young Genealogists Association)
One program that has drawn much attention is the annual Kid's Family History Camp, associated with the Southern California Genealogical Society's annual Jamboree conference and in conjunction with the Youth Genealogists Association. More than 150 people attended the 2009 kids' camp, which featured such topics as creating and preserving your family history, genealogy games, family history storytelling, genealogy merit badge, genealogy art and more.
The program is free and open to the public, for boys and girls ages 8-16. Pre-registration is required and space is limited. This year, the program runs from 9am-noon, on Friday, June 11, Jamboree's opening day, at the Los Angeles Marriott Burbank Hotel and Convention Center (Burbank, California).
The SCGS program is also designed for Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts who are working on obtaining their genealogy badges. See badge requirements here. The camp is also a resource for students working on class "roots" assignments.
Students planning to attend should download a pedigree chart and a family group sheet and complete it as best they can.
For more information on this special program, and to download the various forms, click here.
Television brings genealogy into our homes.
The BBC hit show "Who Do You Think You are?" created an entire industry, websites, books, a family history fair in London attracting 15,000 attendees. Over the years, each series has resulted in a major increase in masses of people whose interest in family history came about as a result of watching those episodes.
The new US version has also been a demonstrable hit as it has received excellent viewer numbers and has resulted in many queries received by genealogy societies, libraries and archives. In fact, the NBC network announced just a few days ago that the series has been renewed for a second season.
While most of us in the field believed without doubt that the new show would result in major traffic from beginners who had never thought much about family history, why it was important, or how to start, it appears that even experienced genealogists are finding useful tips from the new show.
In northern California, a longtime consummate genealogist - Rosanne Leeson - was able to solve her own Civil War history mystery after watching the recent Matthew Broderick episode, and shared this with me.
Wow! I am sitting here with tears in my eyes!
I have just had my first benefit from watching the "Who Do You Think You Are?" show!
During the Broderick episode, where the actor found his great-great-grandfather's grave in the Marietta (Georgia) National Cemetery, Rosanne learned about that cemetery and that dead soldiers had been moved there from Atlanta.
Rosanne had been trying for decades to find out what had happened to her great-grandmother's youngest brother who came to the US from Bavaria in the early 1860s. She had already discovered an archival record and knew when, where and how he had died. But she couldn't find out what happened to his body. At one point, she was told that his remains had probably been buried in a common or pauper's grave.
Once she heard about the Marietta cemetery, however, she went online, read its history and saw the list of the buried, which included her great-grand-uncle.
She picked up the phone and called the cemetery. The staff were going to send someone out to look and see if there was a stone and photograph it for her. They indicated that it was their duty and pleasure to provide closure to the family after some 150 years.
Although the genealogy community knew the show would be a hit, television networks rely on numbers. As we had all expected, the numbers indicated that there was great interest in the show.