Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Get a SECOND LIFE, genealogists

NOTE from DearMYRTLE: A podcast version of this column is available here, or through

As if there isn't enough research time in a day, Ol' Myrt here recommends that genealogists get a Second Life by joining the service to attend genealogy discussions in real time and mingle with family historians from all over the real world. Last night's JUST GENEALOGY meeting serves as an example, but first a few explanations are in order.

JUST GENEALOGY is a castle including a fire pit with stadium seating for events. Outlying areas include Heritage Books marketplace stalls, a gazebo and dance floor, a small 3-room cottage, the tent & accoutrements of a visiting knight, and there is even a working swing in a blossoming apple tree in the northside garden. But more than a building or a cutsie environment, JUST GENEALOGY in Second Life is a place to learn how to do family history research effectively.

Pictured above are Second Life's Just Genealogy Hosts Krag Mariner (l) and Clarise Beaumont (r).


Avatar - The virtual reality personage you create for yourself after signing up for a free account with Second Life.

RL - Real life
SL - Second Life

In-world - when signed on to SL, you are said to be "in-world".

Voice Chat - Turn on your computer speakers to listen to the genealogy discussion in-world. If you have a microphone (best with a headset) you may contribute to the conversation verbally. Those without mics may pose questions by typing to the SL screen.

JUST GENEALOGY is located in Wollah, but there is no need to follow a map to get your avatar
as one can teleport (sort of like "beam me up Scotty") by searching first for "Just Genealogy" within Second Life, and then clicking the "teleport" button located in Just Genealogy's info screen.

JUST GENEALOGY's owner is known in-world as Krag Mariner, who is the RL owner of Heritage Books, Craig Scott, CG, the well-known genealogical educator and publisher who is most interested in "making people who love genealogy into genealogists". When visiting JUST GENEALOGY you'll also meet Clarise Beaumont who develops the schedule of events and coordinates with other genealogy groups in Second Life. Krag and Clarise host a weekly genealogy chat each Tuesday at 7pm SL time (which is the same as US Pacific Time, daylight savings when applicable.)

But the JUST GENEALOGY castle isn't empty the rest of the week, for there are all sorts of Tartans brightening up the walls and providing clickable links to worthwhile genealogy places on the web -- blogs, podcasts, database sites, maps, how-to info, mailing lists, message boards, etc. A recent chat about deciphering old handwriting brought forth discussion of four useful websites, and those links have been posted in the cottage as part of the growing collection of resources to help visitors progress in their research. A modern-day clickable Power Point screen describes upcoming topics for JUST GENEALOGY Tuesday night discussions.

Visitors explore JUST GENEALOGY's resources and meet with other family historians who've also dropped by between scheduled events. The nearby headquarters of UGG - Union of Genealogy
Groups in Second Life
pictured at the right provides note cards with teleport links to other genealogy entities in-world. The photo at the right shows Clarise at the UGG Billboard featuring groups at Caladon, the LDS Family History Center, West of Ireland, Heritage Books Store, Wonderful Denmark (with interest also in Norway and Sweden), Genealogie Francais and The Genealogy Resource Center on Info Island.

Go to Second Life and download the appropriate software. There are both free and premium accounts. A free account is all you'll probably ever need, unless you decide to become a shopkeeper or build your own home.

You'll be guided through some training sessions to improve the SL learning curve. Your avatar can walk, talk, pick things up, change clothing (we do have costume parties from time to time) in addition to sitting, flying and teleporting. You'll go through the steps for modifying hair styles and adding clothing to your preference. It is all great fun, but leads to the opportunity to TALK and interact with others who share your love for climbing family trees.

As usual, last night JUST GENEALOGY hosted visitors from all over the world, who spoke a variety of languages, though we all chose to speak in English in our voice chat. Though the group is small, usually no more than 20 or so visitors, they make up for their numbers with active participation in the topic at hand. We've seen about 80 different visitors, who come and go each week depending on the topic to be discussed. This week's topic was the use of "Eyewitness Reports" to document the life and times of an ancestor.

  • One participant read a letter from his WWI ancestor.

  • A French-Canadian participant described the "eyewitness" report he uncovered in a 1587 document he digitized while on his annual research trip to France.

  • Others discussed the availability of manuscript collections at the PRO Public Record Office (England); indexed in NUCMC by the Library of Congress,, university publications and manuscripts (also known as vertical files) at libraries and archives

  • David Coon's letter home to his wife Mary describing camp conditions on 11 March 1864, for the New York 36th Regiment of the Union Army from Rosemary Youngs'
    The Civil War Love Letter Quilt
    . Iola, Wisconsin: Krause Publications, (c) 2007 by the author. P 157. "I received your very welcome letter last night, and was very glad to hear from home. I am not very well, have had a very severe cold for a week or more and have had to get some medicine at the hospital. I am getting better, but my cough is very bad in the night. There has been three taken out of our company to the hospital and another had the measles that didn't go. Our captain has the mumps. We have not yet got our clothing and are beginning to need them pretty bad, especially shirts. The campground is very muddy. I supposed you must be having snow about these days. We had a little here last night which as nearly gone off today. As to our fare, I have drawn a blanket, and if we had plenty of straw I might sleep quite comfortably, but as it is, it is not quite as comfortable as camping in the sugar bush."

  • A description of the Battle of Harlem Heights from Bruce E. Burgoyne's Enemy Views: The American Revolutionary War as Recorded by Hessian Participants. Westminster, Maryland: Heritage Books, 2006, p 78. "Monday 16 September [1776] - Our situation during the past night was not pleasant. It was so terribly cold all night that despite our many large fires there was no protection from the cold. We lay in bushes and the area seemed to have more rocks than dirt. The rural homes in this region suffered some, even much, damage. All their livestock was seized; also all other useful items were not left lying about. And never before have so many geese, chickens, ducks, sheep, cattle and pigs been slaughtered, as were killed during the night from yesterday evening to this morning. Very early this morning strong enemy troops moved into position ahead of the English outposts and immediately attacked the Light Infantry."

  • A non-tithe paying John ap Thomas who was visited on the 20th day of the 4th month 1674 by Harry Parry the parson of Llanthervol and his men from Charles H. Browning's Welsh Settlement of Pennsylvania originally published Philadelphia 1912, facsimile reprint 2007 by Heritage Books, p 113.

  • British Parliament's appropriation of 1,600 tents to house the indigent Palatines who had taken refuge in downtown London 1708 reported in Walter Knittle's The Early Eighteenth Century Palatine Emigration: A British Redemptioner Project to Manufacture Naval Stores originally published Philadelphia in 1937, facsimile reprint by 2006 by Heritage Books, pp 66-67. Knittle uses footnotes to cite his sources of information about this funding project and the description of life for the typical German immigrant's stay of about 2 years before being shipped off to either Ireland or upstate New York.

The BEST part about last night's JUST GENEALOGY chat are the PEOPLE who chose to attend. One gentleman was from Argentina, whose ancestors moved from Ireland 1830-1860. Though he spoke Spanish fluently, he chose to brush up on his English. He reports there is an Irish-Argentinean genealogy group in his area, and that they use Family Tree Maker to compile their genealogy info.

A gal from SL's West of Ireland group had just returned from a trip to attend her grandfather's funeral. During our open chat discussion toward the end of the meeting, she described a brick wall with her Ohio Quakers. Krag/Craig explained two possible migration routes to Ohio and recommend she review Hinshaw's Index to Encyclopedia of American Quaker Genealogy from Genealogical Publishing Company & the individual volumes as follows:

Can you imagine visiting with such an active group? And JUST GENEALOGY is just one of several established and developing genealogy groups in Second Life. Come on, join in the fun and the learning -- get a SECOND LIFE.

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

© 2008 Pat Richley All Rights Reserved.

No comments:

Post a Comment