Sunday, February 24, 2008

Technology

As a long time fan of SF/Fantasy novels and movies, I have learned from experience that genre movies don't win Best Picture, Best Actor, or Best Director awards. Fans must settle for Best Special F/X, Best Makeup, or possibly Best Soundtrack. There are the exceptions (2001: A Space Odyssey; Lord of the Rings) but the exceptions are rare.

Tonight is The Academy's night, and so it somehow seems appropriate that the theme for the 43rd Carnival of Genealogy is on technology, since the last Carnival focused on our Best of Awards. (It also seems just like yesterday that the 42nd Carnival concluded, but February is a short month.)

What technology do you most rely on for your genealogy and family history research?

Select one piece of hardware (besides your computer)

This isn’t difficult. Besides my computer, the piece of hardware I currently use the most is a microfilm reader. There are a lot of records that haven’t been scanned in, haven’t been indexed. They know me by now when I enter the Special Collections department.

One web site/blog (besides your own) that is indispensable to you.

Ancestry.

If I had to recommend one database subscription site to someone, this would be it. Others have been useful, but it’s hard for me to imagine where I would be without Ancestry – from what I have learned through their databases and forums.

One piece of software (besides your internet browser)

This is where I am most likely to deviate from a lot of answers.

MediaWiki.

I have set up two family wikis – both password protected – one for my mother’s family, and another for my father’s.

Here’s a view of the the homepage of my mother’s, as well as one entry on the site.



The images should look familiar to anyone who has experience with Wikipedia or any of its cousins. It uses the exact same software. The original theory behind installing the software was to facilitate other family members helping me in recording the information.

Theory and practice aren’t always the same. I think only one edit has been made so far by anyone except me. However, even when a cousin sends me an email with text for me to put onto a page, that’s helpful. And it’s easier for me to update a wiki than it is to update other types of family websites.

I've uploaded images of almost every document I have found. Most of the more recent entries have several photographs on them.

One might argue this hasn’t helped my ‘research’. However, I think one genealogy-obsessed cousin was impressed enough by it, and pleased with the password-protection, to send me her entire register. (And I have respected her wishes and not blogged any information for which I am indebted to her.)

I’ve been meaning to do a series of posts on my knowledge of and ideas for websites, including a few more snapshots of our wikis. Hopefully I will get a round tuit soon.

6 comments:

Jasia said...

I just knew, when I picked this topic for the COG, that I would learn about some great technology from my fellow genea-bloggers. You never fail to disappoint, John. I'm fascinated to learn of MediaWiki. I'm not unfamiliar with wikis, in fact I have one set up at wetpaint. But this one you're using looks more interesting. I'm looking forward to learning more! Thanks!

Ken Spangler said...

I too am fascinated by the MediaWiki. I will definitely have to check this one out. I have a few nieces and nephews are tech savvy and would probably love something like this. If it would help to get them and their families interested more in my research, I'm all for it!

footnoteMaven said...

O.K., so the Techno-Babe in me is mesmerized by your MediaWiki.

Tell me more, tell me more!

fM

Janice said...

John,

I love the concept of MediaWiki. I notice this is a program you have to install (or get your server provider to do for you) on your own server space. Is there a public version of this anywhere?

Janice
Blog: Cow Hampshire

Janice said...

John,

Wow I really did not take over the "Genea-holic" blog site lol. A little blog elf took over my HTML in the post above. I'm still at Cow Hampshire.

Janice
Blog: Cow Hampshire

John said...

You can start a public wiki at wikia.com, and there's already a genealogy wiki started. So anyone can just start entering information about their own surnames.

But if you want a private wiki where you feel more free to put up more information, you will need server space. And some hosts make installation very easy.