technology

The Next Generation genealogy software

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I saw a brief presentation at RootsTech yesterday by John Sumsion regarding The Next Generation (TNG) genealogy software. It is very similar to the open source PHP software which we are already using at http://halefam.org/FamilyHistory/. He mentioned that he had recently installed it and uploaded a GEDCOM file and within seconds he had a nice looking, dynamic web site with all of his genealogy data. $30 seems like a very reasonable price for what it seemed to give him. (He didn’t have time to go into very many of the features)

I’m not ready to rush out and replace our own software, but I find it interesting to see new and improved offerings in the market, whether open source or for a fee… much more than what was available when I searched through the options and chose PhpGedview for our own Hale Family Organization. I don’t know how many of you might remember that our first web site had static HTML pages that were generated from PAF.  It was such a pain to work with and had to be recreated each time that the data changed. Things have certainly improved, but still have room for improvement.

RootsTech Conference: Genealogy Blogging

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RootsTech 2011 ConferenceI am attending RootsTech, a new family history and technology conference this week in Salt Lake City, Utah. After attending a few sessions about genealogy blogging, I feel a bit more inspired to do a little more at creating new blog posts. Rather than waiting for the ideal subject, sometimes it is better to just get started with what you already know. For now, I give my review of a few sessions that I feel would be most interesting to family members.

Thomas MacEntee of Geneabloggers.com lead a forum discussion titled, Genealogy Blogs: Impact and Influence in the Genealogy Community. On the panel were Myrt (is that her real name?) of DearMyrtle.com, Lisa Alzo of The Accidental Genealogist.com, Schelly Dardashti of Tracing the Tribe, and A. C. Ivory of FindMyAncestor.com. Over all, I think that the audience got the feeling that creating a blog is really quite easy to start and becomes more compelling the more that you do with it. There seemed to be a consensus from the panel that Blogger.com from Google is the easiest blog application to get started and doesn’t cost anything to get started. Thomas mentioned that he authors about a dozen blogs, each with a very specific focus. It appears to me as well that the best blogs are not personal blogs of the day to day mundane activities or so diverse that someone following would only catch an interesting post every now and then, but rather those that are focused on a specific theme. This way others on the internet that are interested in the same topic can identify your blog as a resource, follow your posts, and made comments and suggestions to ideas which you present. For me, genealogy has been a topic that I have been interested in since being very young and visiting my great-grandmother in her home with a whole room dedicated to genealogy research. I remember looking at her wall of bookcases with many research books and genealogy books filled with family group sheets and pedigree charts. So for blogging, genealogy would be the topic that would keep me going. (That said, I have never been much of a writer, so I’m hoping that some other family members would be willing to create posts for the this family blog as well!)

The other RootsTech class that I attended was taught by Myrt of DearMyrtle.com, Self-Publishing for Genealogists and Genealogical Societies. She talked about newsletters in particular and the pros and cons of how societies and family organizations can communicate to their members. She recognized that so many of these groups have printed newsletters and that a significant portion of the membership fees that they are charged go towards printing and mailing costs of those newsletters. She suggested that converting those newsletters to a PDF document and emailing it to members is significantly better with no cost associated with it, but it is associated with many of the same problems as print newsletters because people change email addresses so often. She recommended encouraging members to use an RSS reader such as Google Reader and posting that same information to a blog. The cost and time savings would be significant, meaning that all of the work associated with printing and mailing the newsletter could be put to better use, much of that for the very purpose for which the organization was originally set up… for genealogy work! If Google Reader were the home page of your web browser, you would know instantly if there was any additional news from the family organization. Certainly there is a learning curve associated with this and a reluctance to change, but if a bunch of gray haired old ladies can get excited about this and understand it, I’m sure that the rest of us can learn how to do it too, even if it takes a little help. (Certainly, we don’t have specific plans to stop sending out our printed newsletter in the near future, but it is good to talk about it as a potential option.)

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