The Old Dogs of Genealogy

The Old Dogs of Genealogy

by Kerry Scott on 19 July 2011

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Internet, I owe you an apology.

Last week I was a little whiny about this whole Google+ thing.  I’m having an extraordinarily busy summer, and the thought of taking time out to learn something new was daunting.  Sometimes I feel like it’s so hard to keep up with new stuff that I just want to say, “Screw it” and go watch Law and Order instead.  I also have kind of a love/hate relationship with Facebook, and the idea of having a second place to have to go and read about people’s religious and political views and watch them fight over stuff was just…ugh.  No.  No thank you.

So I whined.  I whined on Facebook, and I whined on Twitter, and I whined at the dinner table.

But I tried it anyway, because it’s 2011 and giving up is just not a good option.  Once you stop keeping up, it’s hard to catch up later.  So I felt like I had to sign up for Google+ and at least try it out.

Bottom line:  It’s okay.  I like some things, and I don’t like other things.  I don’t have any politics, religion, or Farmville in my stream yet, so that’s good.  But I’m sorry I whined about it, because like all social media, you get from it what you put into it.  It’s a tool.  You use it the way you want to, and if you need to whine about it, you’re doing it wrong.  I had forgotten that.

For me, though, the real story about Google+ is this:

In five days, I’ve connected with 177 genealogists.  IN FIVE DAYS.  That’s crazy…and that’s just the ones who connected to me.  I haven’t had time to go and seek out the hundreds more who have already joined, in those same five days.  None of my mom friends or HR friends or real-life friends have shown up there yet.  It’s all genealogists.

There was a question about Google+ on the members-only email list for the Association of Professional Genealogists.  I answered it, and as an afterthought, I offered Google+ invitations to anyone who wanted one.  I expected maybe four or five replies.  Instead, I have been busy for the past two days sending out invitations.  I’ve lost count.

People think of genealogists as old, and in terms of the calendar, that’s true.  Most of us are not spring chickens.  But I think there’s a perception that those old genealogists aren’t into new stuff, and increasingly that’s just not true at all.  I hear companies, individuals and associations (especially associations) saying they can’t do newfangled stuff because their members won’t like it, or they don’t want it, or it’s not worth the effort, or they don’t have time.  I see advice for genealogists that talks about phone book listings.  I think there’s a bit of deafness to the fact that many, many genealogists are actually early adopters who want new stuff, new ideas, new ways of communicating and connecting and marketing themselves.  Even in the few months since RootsTech, their number seems to have grown.  Companies and associations that don’t change (and fast!) are going to quickly find themselves irrelevant to a large chunk of the genealogical community.

This isn’t to say that every individual genealogist has to jump on the bandwagon.  If you don’t want to try out every newfangled thing in the first week, that’s absolutely fine.  If you still want your association newsletters to come on paper, that’s fine too (although you ought to be paying a surcharge for the postage).  If your marketing plan centers around a Yellow Pages listing, rock on.  I believe there’s room for everyone in this tent, and I don’t think techies and non-techies need to be in conflict at all.

But I think many on the business and association side of genealogy are used to having a fairly narrow focus in terms of what their constituents and customers want.  Get ready, because that’s changing.  If your website has a phone number and a fax (!) number but no Facebook page or Twitter account, some people will move on.  If you can’t accommodate the paper readers AND the Kindle readers…well, good luck with that, because there’s increasingly an unwillingness to settle for only the old ways as an option.  These old dogs CAN learn new tricks, and they want help from their associations and educational programs to do so.  If you can’t fill that need, they’ll find someone who will (and probably not by looking in the Yellow Pages).

And if you ARE someone who has been feeling lonely in your desire to move genealogy into the same modern sphere as the rest of your life, speak up.  You have lots of friends.  It’s pretty exciting.

NOTE:  You can find me on Google+ here.  If you join, make sure you fill out your profile with something to indicate you’re into genealogy, so that people know what circle to put you into.  Google+ works a little differently than Facebook; when people get notice that you’re following them, they put you into a “Circle” right away.  If they don’t know who you are, they won’t know where to put you…so you’ll go nowhere.  So fill out your profile before you start connecting with people.

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{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

Lisa Wallen Logsdon July 19, 2011 at 12:18 pm

Totally agree with EVERYTHING in this post!! It’s all my genealogy friends with a techie or two thrown in for good measure. Don’t want politics, religion, games or the like. And, at 59, I’m far advanced in technology over my children and grandchildren and loving it! I felt just like you about yet another social network, something to learn…ack! But, it’s been easy and I find that I am seeing a lot more important goodies than I was catching on Facebook and even a few things I miss in my reader. I like Google plus. So far.


Jasia July 19, 2011 at 1:17 pm

Woof! Woof! Yep, I’m an old dog and proud of it. I am constantly amazed at how curious about and adaptable to technology the genealogy crowd is. I’ve been blogging online with the genealogy blogging veterans going on 6 years now. I’ve seen the number of genealogists embracing current technology explode over that period of time while not one single one of my real life friends (my husband being the exception ;-) has gotten beyond email. Not a one on Facebook, none on Twitter, and Google+? That would be a hell no! I have been sorely tempted to send an email to Robert Scoble or the folks at Mashable and let them know who’s really on Google+. I’ll bet they don’t have a clue about who the REAL tech crowd is these days. ;-)


Kerry Scott July 19, 2011 at 1:29 pm

Very few of my real-life friends are on Twitter. Only a few are on Facebook, and of those, only one uses it regularly. None are on Google+. And I’m only 40, so my friends are not exactly ancient.

I think there’s less and less of a connection between age and level of tech-savvy. Keeping up with technology changes is a choice, and increasingly, it seems that many genealogists are willing to make the effort. That creates a demand for people and societies to help them navigate through that. It’s a huge market opportunity for groups who see it and respond.


Susan Tiner July 19, 2011 at 4:11 pm

I took the plunge!


Dr. Bill (William L.) Smith July 19, 2011 at 7:08 pm

Well stated, Kerry. And, my experience has been about like yours. I’ve had grandkids in the house for a week, started drafting novel three, and I still have over a hundred genealogists in my Google+ circle… and I’ve sought out almost no one after the first couple of days. Neat. Great group of people, also, by the way! ;-)


Joan Miller (Luxegen) July 19, 2011 at 10:52 pm

Well stated Kerry. The online genealogy crowd, especially the FB and Twitter group are flocking to G+. Very few of my connections in other areas of my life are there. We are hip and we are happenin’….


Debi July 20, 2011 at 8:46 am

I will admit that I’m a bit of an “old dog”. I’m working on it and learning more and more things. Next step might be a smart phone and after that the possibilities are endless :-)


Kerry Scott July 20, 2011 at 9:14 am

Okay, but look…you are a perfect example. You’ve tried TONS of new things since you got into genealogy. Joining new groups, making new friends, starting a blog, changing the way you use existing tools like Facebook…all kinds of stuff. Getting into genealogy caused you to embrace all kinds of new things, in part because you started hanging out with a bunch of other genealogists who try new things and use new tools.

People think genealogists are stuffy and old and stuck in the past and want to keep things the old way. There are some like that (and that’s their prerogative). But their are people like you, too, and people like the ones you’ve been hanging out with online. The field is not as homogenous as it used to be, and people who serve or market to the field will be more successful if they recognize that growing diversity.


Eileen Souza July 20, 2011 at 12:58 pm

I totally agree with you Kerry. I found Google + much easier to navigate and more intuitive to use. I am overwhelmed by the invtations from fellow genealogists. It is amazing. So I took the plunge and have connections and am not sure what to do next; but I am enjoying the new experiences.


Heather Wilkinson Rojo July 25, 2011 at 8:49 pm

I just hung out with some 20 somethings and had to explain to them all about the marathon Google+ Hangout Mark Olsen has been pulling. They were flabbergasted that I joined in at hour 5, and on and off ever since. They were totally impressed, and I’m not a 20 something, or a 30 something or a 40…well. never mind!


JohnH August 22, 2011 at 4:52 pm

Kerry, great article and great site by the way. I have an interest in both internet marketing and genealogy, both of which push me on the technology front and I am in what many would call the twilight of my life. I am on a “waiting list” for Google + and quite frankly the waiting is just killing me. My early years was a life without electricity, telephone and the radio (yes radio) was run off a truck battery so was rationed to an hour or so a day. The city newspaper arrived a week late and the wind up gramophone with its needles that needed constant sharpening was in constant use. Now I have files stored in the cloud, several devices that keep me in touch with the world 24/7 and genealogy friends and family spread all around the planet as well as a genetic fingerprint that can be traced back a thousand years. One day I will be a name with two dates, oh well.


Kerry Scott August 22, 2011 at 5:56 pm

Do you mean you’re on a waiting list for an invitation to G+? Because if so, I have invitations remaining, and I’m happy to send you one. Hit me on the “Contact Me” tab above and send me your Gmail address (or the email address associated with your Google account) and I’ll send you one.

Sometimes I think having only an hour a day of incoming info to deal with would be a real treat.


Dr. Bill (William L.) Smith August 22, 2011 at 5:13 pm

John H – if Kerry doesn’t send you and invite to Google+ I’ll be happy to… send a note to: and mention Kerry or Clue Wagon. Best wishes! ;-)


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