Friday, July 16, 2010

Maintaining contact with other researchers

In the course of genealogy research, we (hopefully!) get in touch with other people interested in our families.

Once the initial exchange of information has occurred, maintaining that contact can be hard. Like any relationship, you have to work at it. If neither of you are actively researching that family at the time, there's not much to write about. Weeks become months, months become years, and email addresses change. Fortunately I have not yet written to someone after a break only to discover that they have passed away.

The other complexity when several people are interested in the same family is that some are in touch with each other, others aren't, and what with half-siblings their interests don't overlap by much. Writing to every one of them separately when you find some new information, or there is something you want to ask, is time consuming and could bother people whose interest isn't quite as strong as yours.

Then, there are the people that you can't give your full attention to at the time when they contact you. Guess what - if you put information on the Internet, it doesn't automatically drop to the bottom of search results when you are busy. People just keep on finding it!

A few years ago I had a steady trickle of contacts from other researchers interested in my Stannus family. At the same time, I was starting my own family. I didn't have the time to communicate with them as I would have liked. I felt bad that my shifting priorities meant that someone could be missing out on information I had, and just as worried that I might miss out on getting a copy of something fabulous!


My solution was to create a Yahoo! Group. If you are not familiar with such creatures, they function like a mailing list with an archive, but also have space for file uploads (a pitiful 100MB) and photos (a plentiful 100GB) and a few other features, and they're free. I set the group up so that it's listed in the Yahoo! Groups directory, but the contents can be viewed only by group members. Any new members must have my approval to join. Messages and file uploads are not moderated, but they could be if there was any problem.


I invited my Stannus family contacts (they refer to themselves collectively as Stannii) to join the group and was pleased when most of them accepted. The group currently has eight members located in four(?) different countries.

It may be an old-fashioned solution compared to some of the possibilities on the web today - there are no genealogy specific features - but I'm very pleased with how it has worked.

It's not a busy group. New messages and posted material are infrequent. But, every so often, someone has a spurt of activity... and then someone else will think to contribute one or two more items... and over time the resources we have shared are building up. There are now 55 images of family photos, headstones, paintings, and locations that most of us may otherwise have never seen. One member of the group has been particularly fortunate in the material passed down to her through the generations, and generous in sharing, so special thanks to her if she happens to read this!

How do you maintain contact with other researchers?

Are you a Stannus family researcher? Please contact me at the email address on the about page so we can work out if we're connected!

5 comments:

  1. Shelley, I have been a fan and user of Yahoo groups for quite a few years but hadn't thought of using it for genealogy like you have. Duh! Might be a good solution for my Australian Pusells.

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  2. It's an important problem you've highlighted. I tend to find it hard to keep in contact with the large number of people I've shared details with. So quite often it becomes a once only exchange, save for the details I leave on-line, which only scratch the surface of my research.

    On the other subject, perhaps one of the nicest and most open people to have shared research with me, is one who I do regret not having had a chance to converse with more, or even meet. He was an elderly gentleman from NZ whom I dearly would have loved to have met and talked shop/family.

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  3. I am a member of two Yahoo groups for genealogy, both of which have gone very quiet in the last couple of years. It's a great way to talk to all members at once and get discussions going about family problems (research problems, not current ones!)

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  4. I no longer use yahoo groups but one method i use is to revisit my old emails. I often search through them in anycase because i'm always looking for bits and bobs (probably every genealogy photo/doc i have is on my emails) and so i do come across corresspondance from folks for which a refresher email is needed. Sometimes they promised to send me something or it just may of been a long time since we chatted, or perhaps i can see that i have new docs/photos that would interest them. This has brought up new info because of a revisit.. so i never ever delete family genealogy emails.

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  5. I no longer use yahoo groups but one method i use is to revisit my old emails. I often search through them in anycase because i'm always looking for bits and bobs (probably every genealogy photo/doc i have is on my emails) and so i do come across corresspondance from folks for which a refresher email is needed. Sometimes they promised to send me something or it just may of been a long time since we chatted, or perhaps i can see that i have new docs/photos that would interest them. This has brought up new info because of a revisit.. so i never ever delete family genealogy emails.

    ReplyDelete