Open Thread Thursday – Collaborative Genealogy

open thread

This week’s topic for Open Thread Thursday is:

A hallmark of genealogy research for many is the ability to collaborate with others, whether they are family members or fellow researchers. While online tools, applications and websites have made the process easier, collaboration is not new to genealogy.

Do you collaborate with others in terms of your own family history research, and if so, what methods do you use? Are you hesitant to share your data or photos with others? How do you use data shared by others – do you verify information?

Post your responses in the comments or at a post on your own genealogy blog and place the link here in the comments.


Today’s podcast at which I recorded via telephone yesterday got me to thinking about collaboration and genealogy (click here to view the podcast notes, the transcription and to listen to the podcast). If you listen, you’ll hear me admit to being a “name collector” early in my genealogy ventures and not understanding the important of being selective in terms of the person with whom I choose to collaborate as well as the data I choose to incorporate into my own database.

In addition, while reading The Genealogy of David Putman and His Descendants, 1645 – 1916 which my 6th cousin 5 times removed, G.W. Putman wrote in 1916, I realized that he too collaborated with many Putman relatives, even those thousand miles away. In the preface, my cousin writes about how he would write a letter to the postmaster of small towns in upstate New York requesting the addresses of all Putmans in that town. Then he would write letters contacting them and asking for details on their own families to incorporate into his book.

I am a big fan of collaboration and I believe that if approached sensibly and with some caution, not only can you expand your own research efforts, but you can also give back to the genealogical community.


This is a great topic for this week’s Open Thread Thursday! And please, if you have a topic you’d like to see discussed among your genealogy blogging colleagues, please contact us and we’ll take it under consideration.

Disclosure statement: I have received a complimentary Pro membership and conference swag (t-shirts, etc.) from In addition, I contribute to a weekly podcast on various genealogy topics at the blog for which I receive no compensation.  To review the other material connections I have with genealogy vendors, please see Disclosure Statements.

©2011, copyright Thomas MacEntee

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About Thomas MacEntee

What happens when a “tech guy” with a love for history gets laid off during The Great Recession of 2008? You get Thomas MacEntee, a genealogy professional who’s also a blogger, educator, author, social media connector, online community builder and more. Thomas was laid off after a 25-year career in the information technology field, so he started his own genealogy-related business called High Definition Genealogy. He also created an online community of over 3,000 family history bloggers known as GeneaBloggers. His most recent endeavor, Hack Genealogy, is an attempt to “re-purpose today’s technology for tomorrow’s genealogy.” Thomas describes himself as a lifelong learner with a background in a multitude of topics who has finally figured out what he does best: teach, inspire, instigate, and serve as a curator and go-to-guy for concept nurturing and inspiration. Thomas is a big believer in success, and that we all succeed when we help each other find success.

8 thoughts on “Open Thread Thursday – Collaborative Genealogy

  1. I am currently collaborating with about 6 cousins re my maternal grandmother. We use dropbox to share our info when it’s too large to e-mail easily. My brother has a facebook page to share photos with far-flung cousins. Anyone can sent him photos to post or comment on the photos. It is amazing to see a cousin’s family photos from 50 years ago.

  2. I have had mixed success in collaborating with others. Generally responses from message boards and other electronic sharing have yielded the most fascinating surprises. I always remember to offer profuse thanks for the help, and to seek permission before including any of their information in a blog post–publicly thanking them in the post. Family has been tricky and I have been juggling a bit of competitive zeal (which I don’t understand at all) with the lackadaisical. Most recently my mother has begun to report conversations with her mother, 105 years old. This development is breaking open new collaborative efforts for which I am grateful, and it leads me to believe the maxim of “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try to collaborate again.”

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