Friday, May 25, 2007


That is the question.

Guess it is time for Ol’ Myrt to get out of her genealogy rut. Not to worry, I’m still here, but I am looking at new possibilities every day.

While browsing the blogs my RSS aggregator pulled in this morning, ZDnet talked more about Facebook. When I ran across
Paul Allen’s discussion about I decided it was an omen, and that I had to look into this Facebook phenomenon. Paul spent an entire blog discussing from a technical point of view how this upscale version of MySpace is growing by leaps and bounds and is expected in his book of predictions to eclipse Google as the internet tool for the average Joe.

Now Ol’ Myrt here doesn’t normally get excited about discussions on topics like LAMP stack, CRM systems or even the slightly more understandable PHP. But I DO get excited when I hear about large numbers of participants which Paul explains as: “Facebook is adding 100,000 new users per day. That’s 3% growth per month. And the fastest growing segment is over age 25. At this rate, they’ll have 50 million users by the end of this year, and 75% of them will be out of college. I read just on that
Facebook is the fastest growing social network in the UK, and today Mark said that 10% of Canada’s population is using it.”

100,000 new users per day? That is a lot of growth.

No one is saying those are genealogists. But statistically speaking, there are going to be genealogists in the bunch.

Remember I started out ‘onlining’ in the old BBS (Bulletin Board Service) days, where terms like FIDOnet were part of the equation. When I logged on to Q-Link (the grandparent of AOL) in the winter of 1984/85, I was using a 300 baud modem, communication was terrrible:
  • Limited to the other people on Q-Link
  • Couldn’t send files to share ancestor photos or databases of compiled genealogy
  • Chat rooms were limited to 21 attendees, and it was all typing, no voice.
  • No global search of ALL AOL message boards, meaning that a typical genealogist could ONLY review the message boards AFTER one arrived at the Your Family Tree (genealogy) section of Q-Link. Getting there was too difficult, as we noted even two generations later when AOL Leadership Team members would meeting folks at NGS and FGS annual conferences.

In the mid-1980s, you had Myra Vanderpool Gormley on Prodigy, Dick Eastman on CompuServe, and although I was very active on Q-Link in the genealogy forum, DearMYRTLE hadn’t been invented yet. Russ Kyger (RIP) and Terry Morgan were the driving forces on Q’s Your Family Tree. But the only way I could attend an online chat scheduled on Prodigy or CompuServe was to pay up for membership. Being a young mother, my funds were limited and so I couldn’t do that very often. “I Q, do you?” was the bumper sticker for Q-linkers.

Gradually things improved, and it seemed marvelous to have the ability to post items on internet-based genealogy message boards. Then anyone with access to the World Wide Web could participate. The ability to join Newsgroups and ListServs with like-minded researchers definitately improved communication. Until lately we had problems emailing very large GEDCOM files, but with FTP access and many with their own websites, that was not a big hurdle. Now both internet-based file storage and larger free email service storage areas make sharing our genealogy databases and scanned images of source documents much easier for the average Joe.

DearMYRTLE wants to reach outside the bounds of “normally accepted” genealogy tools to reach millions of potential genealogists.

Also, one of the hallmarks of the DearMYRTLE column has been the concept of “discussion” between Myrt and her readers.

Why not merely continue with RootsWeb’s DearMYRTLE message board, now owned but still offered for free from (NOTE: Paul Allen was a founder of, who pulled out a few years ago.) Well, that message board is part of the “normally accepted” genealogy tools. On a side note, I am frankly bummed out that the coder I spoke with at Ancestry didn’t care that my Internet Explorer 7 (only IE option with new Windows Vista computers) ALWAYS opens up 3 windows (2 are error messages) when I press enter after typing . That short-sighted attitude really urks me, particularly since I took the time to describe the repeatable phenominon to 2 layers of tech support in the Ancestry call center before I got to the “programmer”. But I digress as usual.

Why not use other services such as:
· GenCircles

Genealogy Wikia
· WikiTree

Again, these are tools designed specifically for genealogists.

Remember, DearMYRTLE's goal is to break out of the normal genealogy channels.

I believe eventually we will all keep our genealogy data (names, dates, photos, scanned document images, video clips, etc. somewhere on the internet, as the use of personal hard drives will probably become a thing of the past. When it comes to creating a website with interactive tools for documenting I think the new version of FamilySearch will do that for most of us. We'll likely choose FamilySearch from a variety of commercial sites quite simply because of FamilySearch’s reputation as a provider of genealogy services for free.

However, I do have an identity that doesn’t include genealogy.

Why didn’t Myrt jump on the Yahoo bandwagon? Certainly there are noteworthy genealogy groups to be found at When Yahoo started, I didn’t see the benefit, because we didn’t have global search engines like Google, and Ol’ Myrt felt the boards at RootsWeb/Ancestry were doing the job in the genealogy community.

Realistically, I think it is a good idea for DearMYRTLE to get out into the NON-GENEALOGY section of the world to pull people into our mainstream genealogy resources both on and off the Internet. ‘Course Ol’ Myrt is not so puffed up as to think she should consider herself the world’s ambassador for genealogy.

At this point in time Ol’ Myrt sees Facebook as a great choice because:

  • It is a growing main-stream ‘center’ for people from all walks of life, who might not otherwise venture over to the RootsWeb/ realm.
  • Email notices sent through the network link to your Facebook “in box” where scanned images of a document can be attached to an email query from a DearMYRTLE reader, without overloading my email box, or placing my computer in jeopardy for catching a virus.
  • Scanned images of a document can be uploaded and then referenced in a message board posting if one of my readers wishes to show me the document in question when asking for advice. Yes, you can do this in a Yahoo Group, and theoretically one could do this at Ancestry if you use their new photo & sound clip options and reference the URL for the document in your message board posting.
  • Networking among like-minded individuals works beyond the confines the current group. There HAVE to be genealogists who love to garden, cook or climb mountains (and I don’t mean just mountains of paperwork.)
  • Facebook is open to new ideas, in that the owners are encouraging software developers to implement programs that will become embedded in the site. This means new free tools available to users like Ol’ Myrt and her readers. The Generations Network is a closed book, paying only a finite number of programmers to maintain the site, and dream up new tools.
  • Growth in the UK expands my readership. The UK has some interesting attitudes about family history, particularly with the large turnout at the most recent
National History Show reported by Dick Eastman. 15,000+ attendees is nothing to sneeze at considering NGS and FGS are happy with 1/10th the numbers.


  • Realizing there is life beyond genealogy (really?)
  • The average Joe can easily create their own page, where interests (including genealogy) can be listed.
  • Link yourself with family members, society members, college chums, etc.
  • Unlimited space for uploading photos.

Active participants can derive 100% from the advertising they post. When visitors read a DearMYRTLE message board posting at RootsWeb, all the advertising is from/for/about Generations Network products.

No, you do not have to change a thing, to continue receiving DearMYRTLE’s blog. But you might consider posting your questions to Myrt on her Facebook message board.

I am populating the DearMYRTLE’s photo album area at:

What other ideas do you see for this service?

PS - Within an hour of joining a Norwegian group at Facebook, I’ve began exchanging Facebook mail with the administrator of the group.

Frankly, right now, I like the LOOK and FEEL of FamilyLink, but it is a genealogy site, and quite frankly, FamilyLink is not adding 100,000 members each day. Remember Ol' Myrt's GOAL is to reach thousands of the non-genealogists out there and pull them in. I also like WeRelate, but the copyright issues are clearly labeled “Others can add to, edit, and redistribute your contributions.” Perhaps’s look at “Life Browser” will be the ticket for online genealogy databases and collaboration. Who knows how these things will filter down.

So what has Ol' Myrt accomplished in rambling through this blog today?

RESOLVED: To keep writing DearMYRTLE articles, now syndicating in blog format.

RESOLVED: To establish a presence on FACEBOOK, as a method for reaching new readers.

RESOLVED: To provide a better message board interface using FACE BOOK, where readers can also upload scanned images of documents they want to discuss with Ol’ Myrt. I won't be spending my hard earned $ to pay for bandwidth and file storage, and the conversaton can be shared by others in the DearMYRTLE group.

RESOLVED: To keep an open mind about other social networking and/or wiki type sites whether or not genealogy-specific to see what develops.

Happy family tree climbing!
Myrt :)
Your friend in genealogy.

(c) 2007 Pat Richley All Rights Reserved.

1 comment:

  1. I know this is an ol' post of yours, "Ol' Myrt", but since you mention keeping an open mind about wiki sites and such, you might be interested in This is a shameless plug, by the way, since I'm the webmaster. I love to hear feedback if you have any questions, comments, or suggestions.