Thursday, April 7, 2011

Social Media, Social Networking, Family History Research and You!

Photo credit: Stephen VanHorn
As a webmaster, and social media manager for a local non-profit organization, I thought I knew quite a bit about social media and social networking.  That is, until I began preparing for an upcoming class that I am presenting at Bridges to the Past on "how to use social media to assist you with family history research."  Turns out, there is way more out there than I had ever imagined!  So much so, that I realized how daunting it can be, especially for those of us who are getting on in years.  A lot of people my age (I won't tell you exactly how old I am, but lets just say I've reached the top of the hill and am on my way down the other side) seem to be either scared of social media, or are not interested in it at all.  They tell me that they don't need it, and in fact, view it as something that is either an invasion of their privacy or a huge time waster.  I can understand why they might think of it that way, having had some issues with both of those myself.  However, there are so many benefits for the family historian, that I think it merits a good hard look to see if the benefits might outweigh the costs of ignoring it.

First though, let's define exactly what Social Networking and Social Media are.

Social Networking is a way of communicating via the Internet with individuals and groups of people who share a common interest.  Social Media refers to the Internet tools that allow us to participate in Social Networking.  These are part of something we call Web 2.0, which refers to the way people behave on the Internet, focusing mainly on collaboration and interactive web technologies rather than static web pages.  If you are still thinking of the Internet as an online encyclopedia or dictionary, think again!  Social media has forever changed the Internet landscape!

For those of you who are not yet converted, let me try and convince you of the value of social media by answering the question "Why would someone use social media and social networking in their genealogical research?"  Here are a few important reasons:
  1. It increases the speed and efficiency of communicating with others.  Remember the days of handwriting letters, trying to track down mailing addresses, then waiting weeks for a reply?  Contacting almost anyone, anywhere in the world today is as easy as sending an e-mail or visiting a website and posting a query, and can often bring about almost immediate results.  
  2. It's about creating "communities" made up of individuals from around the world who share a common interest and is the easiest and most efficient way of finding and collaborating with other researchers who are working on the same area,  the same surname, or the same ancestral lines as you are.  
  3. It is a great way to find out about and locate new resources for research as they become available, many of which are now digitized and online. 
  4. It is a great place to connect with other genealogists and experts who are willing to share their recommendations and opinions.  Some of them may even live in the areas that you are researching, and know hard-to-find facts about local places that you might never discover otherwise.
  5. It's a inexpensive and time-saving way to grow in your research skills and knowledge, without having to leave your house to attend expensive conferences and seminars.  
  6. Social Media is a great way to share the results of your research with others.  One of the very things that makes social media work is that it is based on user-generated content and user-participation.  Sharing your research this way has the potential to reach the greatest number of people, and often brings back loads of information to you in return.
  7. Many libraries and genealogy-related organizations and societies use social media to update users on what they are doing, conferences they are sponsoring, or other newsworthy items.  It's one of the best ways to keep abreast of new developments in the field.  
  8. Social Media sites provide a great place to organize and store large multimedia files and documents, as well as the ability to share them with family members in an simple, cost effective way.  
  9. If you are involved in a local genealogical society or organization, social media provides a wonderful method for getting the word out about upcoming events.
  10. And last, it's just plain fun!
Because there is so much out there, I would suggest that you start out slowly, and remember that you only need to use the media that is useful to you.  There is an excellent resource to help you get started, that was developed by the Family History Library in Salt Lake City.  It can be accessed by clicking on the following link  There you will find twenty three small "steps", each focusing on a different method of social networking.  My suggestion would be to pick just one step at a time to work on, and when you've mastered it, try another one.  Happy networking!

Sunday, April 3, 2011

The Remarkable War Brides of WWII

My mother was a true hero.  She was part of a contingent of 48,00 women who chose to come to Canada fifty five years ago, braving the hardships and the radical adjustment to cold prairie winters in small towns and farms across the country.  Many were faced with discrimination and anger, and the romance and adventure quickly gave way to the reality of their new lives, far away from their families.

When WWII broke out,  Margaret "Peggy" Nelson was nineteen years old.  She lived through days of rations and air raid sirens, and witnessed the horror of  fighter planes having 'dogfights' overhead while bystanders placed bets on who would win. With the war came an influx of many foreign troops into England.  It was during this time that Peggy had a relationship with a Canadian soldier which ended when she became pregnant.  She had believed him to be an honourable gentleman, but it turned out that he had a wife back home in Canada.  During this difficult time, she decided to move to Tunbridge Wells in Kent to live with her sister Tina, where her beautiful daughter Jacqueline was born in October 1943.

Wedding Day - June 1945
While living in Tunbridge Wells,  Peggy worked, first at the local Woolworth store, and then later as a conductress on the buses in London.   She recalled witnessing many scenes of horror and destruction in London as a result of the bombing blitz.  She often commented on the knot she would get in her stomach whenever an air raid siren would go off and the horror of the "buzz bombs".  They were particularly frightening because one never knew where they were going to land.

Shortly after the birth of Jacqueline, Peggy decided to go back to Durham in northern England to live with her parents.  It was here that she met her future husband, Howard, an RCAF aero-engine mechanic, from Gull Lake, Saskatchewan. They met at the local Durham ice rink, where Howard played hockey with the RCAF "Rossmen".  Howard soon taught Peggy how to skate, their relationship blossomed, and they were married in June of 1944 in Durham.

Queen Mary
When the war ended, Howard returned to Canada to establish a home for Peggy and Jacqueline.  It was a year later when they were finally allowed passage to Canada.  They sailed on the Queen Mary which departed from Southampton and landed in Halifax in 1946.  This was followed by a long train ride to Saskatchewan.  Not knowing what to expect, Peggy was surprised to find that "the farm over there" was really the prairie town of Vanguard, Saskatchewan, her new home.
Ships' Register - Queen Mary - courtesy

The hardships faced by  "war brides" has been well documented, and many of these hardships became part of Peggy's life. The fairy tale dream of coming to a new country with her handsome soldier, quickly became the reality of cold, harsh prairie winters, living in a small town on a small income, adjusting to new Canadian customs and culture, and trying to become accepted by her new in-laws who were not particularly overjoyed at her arrival.

Arrival in Vanguard, Saskatchewan, 1946
Howard, Peggy, Jacqueline, Ethel (Howard's sister)

Peggy missed her family in England immensely, and found some consolation in the many friendships she made while living in Vanguard.  Sadly, in 1949, Jacqueline died during a routine tonsillectomy, either from an allergic reaction or overdose of ether.  Peggy had already given birth to a second daughter, and shortly after Jacqueline's death, a son.  In 1955, Peggy's homesickness became so intense that she traveled by boat back to England with her two small children in tow and stayed for three month, almost deciding not to come back.  After some coaxing, she eventually she did return to her anxious husband back in Canada.  In speaking of the heroism of war brides,  journalist Catherine Ford wrote,  "In the great scheme of grand deeds, the individual acts of courage of a wave of women and children don't seem much until one factors in the personal courage each had to show in the face of the unknown."  For this, her posterity can ever be thankful.

For more information on war brides, visit the Canadian War Brides website.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Bridges to the Past - Family History Mini Fair

As I write this, I am busily preparing for two presentations that I will giving at an upcoming mini Family History Fair. The fair is sponsored by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and will take place on the 29th of April, 2011 at the Calgary Stake Center (2021 – 17 Ave. SW). There are a lot of great classes being offered. If you would like to register, you can go the Bridges to the Past online registration form. The two classes I will be presenting are:
  • Social Media: Learn how to use social media to assist you with your family history research. Sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Blogger, and SmugMug will be included
  • Google: Learn how to do effective genealogy searches using Google
Hope to see you all there!

Welcome to Judiology!

Genealogy is a great hobby, and a wonderful way to preserve the history and heritage of those who have come before us. Starting a genealogy blog is something that I've been wanting to do for a while. I think this will be a great way for me to share my research with others, and to journal about the things I learn along the way. Hopefully you will find something of interest here, and it will help you in your own research. Happy hunting!