Monday, July 28, 2014

Genealogy, Grandchildren and Google

Sometimes all of the stars align just right and one of your passions in life extends toComputer2 your descendants.  In this case, my love of genealogy and ancestral knowledge has extended to some of our grandchildren.

History courses in school provide the perfect enticement for them to explore their ancestry in greater detail. 

The process starts with a call to grandpa asking for help on the assignment.  We discuss the goals of the assignment then determine the ancestors that will satisfy its requirements and then the work begins.

We use Google Documents and Google Drive to jointly work on the research, share files, photos and Google Hangouts to talk both visually and in chat.  It doesn't matter where either of us is located in the world, our conversations and joint work happening in our own real time.

Like any researcher, we start with what we know and with the documents and photos already in our (my) possession.  Grandpa gets to play a little dumb at this point.  I act more of a online research guide.

After cataloging what we know, the next step is to record our data complete with the sources required to confirm the accuracy of the data.  Names, dates and places create the framework for the assignment but tell little of the story, so the next steps are to discover photos, graphics, histories and stories about the folks in the quest.

I drop the photos and stories I've collected into a Google Drive folder that I share with the grandchild.  They drop notes, stories, photos and anything else they find in the folder too.  

Using Hangouts, I share my screen with them and show them how I record the data and sources in my Legacy database.  I also show them how to add stories and photos to their ancestors records in Family Tree.  We continue with recording the information on my genealogy site which they can subsequently use for their presentations.

After they've written their project report and submitted it to their teacher as a Google Document, they use all of their online postings and documents to make their presentations to their teacher and class.

The process works well.  Our grandchild learns more about genealogy research, they put faces and stories on the facts they find and the genealogy 'hook' is deeply set in their minds.  Their assignments receive high grades.  They make their presentations with the confidence that comes from intimately knowing their subjects.  Additionally, even closer bonds are forged with grandpa.   They've caught a glimpse into my world and have learned a little about why I enjoy genealogy research so much.  They've gained a greater appreciation for who their ancestors were which gives them a reference point of who they are in relation to the timeline of this world, its history and its people.

Ten years ago we could have worked together on a project like this but the timeliness and effectiveness of our conversations would be greatly reduced.  Their reports and presentations back then would have been good but now, using the technology at our fingertips, are great.

In the past, I took my children to the Family History Library for long days of scanning through microfilms and "Q" series books.  Today, I spend time with our grandchildren searching digital collections online as we race to discover and prove an ancestral family.  Often, I lose the race and I love it.   We still need to visit libraries and other locations for the records, photos and documents that haven't been digitized but the race is well underway thanks to our connections to the digital world.