There are lots of blogs out there to help you learn how to do family history research. This blog lets you watch our progress as we roll the Canadian Genealogy Survey out across the country. We'll also track developments in research on family history. It's a bit of a twist, but we hope you'll find something of interest. We welcome your comments.

If you haven't taken the survey yet, you can find it at:

Saturday, 10 November 2012


That ultimate new technology guy Finch on the TV serise "Person of Interest" (CBS Thursday evenings) raised another important question for genealogy practice.  The "Machine", a super computer central to the plot line of the series is a genealogist's dream machine, virtually connecting people across time and space with access to all the virtual vital records one could imagine.

 In last week's episode they had to find someone who seemed out of reach of the machine in a deliberate case of identity theft.  To find out something about the culpert Fitch  had to revert to old fashioned techniques, phoning local libraries and posing as a genealogist to acquire material about his subject that was outside the reach of the machine.

The apparent ease of his access to information while posing as a genealogist comments on the faith people in information institutions have in genealogists; but the obverse seems to be an indication of the fragility of on-line resources. What other depictions of genealogists have we seen in popular culture?  A CSI episode was focussed on one last year and the subject of an earlier post by me; and I am anxious to read those novels by Steve Robinson that John Reid noticed in an earlier blog this past week.

Turned out that the Person of Interest in the show was a bad-guy gone good; so the arc of the story was as always to resolve everything in favour of good guys.....

Thursday, 1 November 2012

Do you post your family history information online?

...more results from the Canadian Genealogy Survey.

When we asked family historians if they had posted their family tree on the Internet, 57% responded 'No', but 40% answered 'Yes'. Then we asked, 'Why/Why not?' and the answers we received were both expected and unexpected. First, the 'expected.' People said they posted their family tree information online to 'give back.' And that made good sense to us since, in general, volunteering and giving back seems to be something that is very much a part of the culture.

Second, the 'unexpected.' Most people who said they had not posted their family tree info online said it was because they 'weren't ready yet' or 'didn't know how.' We found that a bit surprising since we expected to see a lot more people citing privacy concerns.

So, when I had the opportunity to speak with the Ottawa Branch of the Ontario Genealogical Society recently, I asked them to help me understand this response. Two things stood our for me in their comments: 1) Ancestry's software facilitates keeping some information private, most notably, information about people still living, and 2) some family historians imposed their own limits on what was acceptable to share, uploading information only for certain generations. (In other words, they didn't rely on the software to 'hide' the information, they just didn't provide it in the first place.)

So, what is your approach to sharing your family tree info? Do you post any and all information online? Or, do you selectively post information only for family members who have passed away? Are you concerned about privacy issues? Or, as my students (almost all of whom are under 25 years of age), tell me, do you believe that privacy is 'dead'?