Wednesday, March 21, 2007

CVGS Computer Group today

We had our monthly Chula Vista Genealogical Society Computer Group meeting today at the library, with 13 in attendance. We use the computer lab two out of every three months, and the conference room in the third month. This was a conference room day.

We try to use this meeting to address computer problems, genealogy software problems and demonstrate genealogy web site access. We went around the table and the attendees described their research problems - there were no real computer problems (that's good!). One attendee asked about making a GEDCOM for part of his FamilyTreeMaker11 database.

Three of us brought laptops and tried to access the Internet through the library's wireless connection. Mine was the only one that had a weak signal, but access was fairly quick - better than three weeks ago! I was able to pull up the census data for several attendees when we discussed their problem, and also the USGenWeb county sites for some attendees. We had a discussion of mailing lists also.

Even though all of the attendees have a computer, and access their email, only about half of them venture out on the Internet to sites like Rootsweb and USGenWeb. That is the challenge that we, as a society, face - providing education and confidence in using the Internet to find online genealogy data to our members. Not just to the ones that attended this meeting - also to the other 50% of our members that have a computer and email and need help accessing the Internet. Many of them would do it with some demonstration and practice.

We have a four session class scheduled in April for basic computer skills and web access using the library Computer Lab. We are going to plan some FamilyTreeMaker sessions using the laptop and projector in the next few months. We are also going to look for another venue with better wireless connectivity to do the Internet tutorial work using the online genealogy tutorials.

My guess is that only about 20% of our members are "ept" doing Internet genealogy research. If we can raise that percentage to 40 or 50%, we will have really helped our members.

How does your society address this problem? What has worked for you?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I continue to enjoy your blog more so than others for the relevance to those actually doing research and who enjoy genealogy. The situation you describe is not unlike what we see here on the east coast. In Connecticut, the CT Society of Genealogists has over 4,000 members, but the most we ever see at our regular meetings is about 200 (for our large annual event in October). We do have a library and a paid staff and often, questions are about computers. As someone who lectures with some regularity, I note that while they may be genealogy meetings, most questions are actually rooted in technology. On occasion, people ask how or why the 1930 Census can help - - but most times it's detailed questions about why the index is hiding their ancestor and we end up discussing techniques for flushing out hidden records due to mis-transcribed records. These are challenges somewhat unique to computer genealogy, but certainly a far cry better than a decade ago when electronic index didn't exist for many of these sources and the pursuit we all enjoy would take that much more time.

My strongest recommendation to any member of the CVGS or other group is to sit with Google or other sites (sometimes as a group) and simply 'play' with the tool to see what and how it works. Don't be afraid, you won't break it (most times). It's only after many similar searches that you'll develop a feel for the slight variations in results that may yield the clue you're looking for.

Keep up the great postings!
Dan Lynch
Trumbull CT