It seems like every day there’s a new website where one can share memories and history online with other relatives. There’s no doubt that interacting online can be a fun experience and a way to potentially involve additional relatives in your family history discovery. I am aware of trying to involve others in family history.But it can be difficult. Many people don’t really get interested in their family’s history until some “life event” motivates them. I can’t generate those “life events” for others.
I can encourage those who express an interest. I can try and organize what I find in way that is engaging and relatable instead of being just a list of couplings and reproductions.
Sharing in the present is fine. But at a certain point in time the researcher may give cause to think about preserving the information past their own lifetime. The free sites where you can “share” eventually need to earn money in order to keep hosting your information. They can’t maintain their web presence without generating some revenue. Will their business model sustain them for more than five years? For more than ten years? Will their dotcom even be a dotcom in twenty years? What happened to the family group sheets I submitted to Everton Publishers decades ago?
For a genealogist twenty years a mere drop in the bucket. Drip. Drop.
I’ve been around the genealogical block a time or two since I began my family history research. I’ve seen more than my share of genealogical database programs and have re-entered information on some relatives more times than I care to admit. In fact, that’s the real reason why I have some of my ancestral information memorized.
When upgrading to a new program or installing a software upgrade, data conversions do not always go as planned and data may need to be manually reviewed for accuracy. Since I began my genealogical research in the early 1980s, there’s always been some “new” program, gadget, or website, that one simply cannot function without. And often there is someone selling it. Software manufacturers have to make money to survive. Websites need to generate revenue to continue remaining an online presence. I understand and am well aware of how the economy works.
But I am also aware that my investment in these software packages and websites is not just financial. There’s also an even more precious resource involved: my time.
And my time is finite.
I have to invest time in that software package or data sharing website to get use from it. And it’s frustrating when a website goes belly up and the “corporate assets” (of which my information is a part) end up in some dustbin somewhere. It is frustrating when a software program is no longer maintained or sold by the publisher.
I’ve started to take a lower-tech approach. I believe in blogging and sharing some of my research in that fashion. I can easily create blog posts in a word processor and easily copy them into a blog post. The blog posts often contain my research conclusions (sometimes in process) and photographs. As we’ve discussed earlier, personal preservation efforts should concentrate on items that are unique-and conclusions and personal family ephemera such as photographs are high on that list.
I need to decide what to do with the material I have compiled in my word processor. I don’t believe that blogging is permanent storage format. It’s a great way to share information and reach out to potential relatives. But I need to do something else those word processing documents. I need to find a way to maintain those in a relatively permanent format.
The “sharing sites” (other than the Family History Library’s) eventually have a bottom line financially that they have to meet. There’s always the chance that the publisher or website won’t be around in ten years. I’m not saying not to use these sites (although I long ago got off the bandwagon of joining them), but do realize that they are not as permanent as you think
I realize that my information is “hostage” to the word processor. And where to go from there we will take up in future posts.