Join GeneaBloggers as an FGS Ambassador

FGS 2015

We just received the notice below about the FGS Ambassador program in conjunction with the upcoming Federation of Genealogical Societies 2015 Conference in Salt Lake City, 11-14 February 2015. This year, FGS 2015 will run in conjunction with RootsTech over the same dates.

If you are a member of GeneaBloggers, we urge you to join in the fun by being an FGS Ambassador! You don’t need to attend the conference – you can actually participate from home and help spread the word about the FGS 2015 events and about genealogy. This is also a good way for you to get your genealogy blog known to others who will be following FGS 2015.  Stay tuned for more information about FGS 2015 and the FGS Ambassador program.

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FGS Invites You to Participate

September 18, 2014 – Austin, TX. The Federation of Genealogical Societies (FGS) is pleased to announce an invitation for FGS Ambassadors. If you are a blogger, social media enthusiast, writer, editor, or in any way interested in spreading the word about the FGS 2015 Conference, FGS is looking for you.

The 2015 FGS Conference scheduled for February 11–14 in Salt Lake City, Utah, will be a one-time special event with RootsTech. FGS Ambassadors will blog, share, like, +1, and tweet to spread the news about this unique FGS conference to their friends, colleagues, and everyone interested in genealogy.

Benefits to FGS Ambassadors include:

  • Link to your blog, website, Twitter, or other social media accounts on the FGS 2015 Conference Ambassadors Page.
  • Potential to be guest blogger on the FGS Voice Blog.
  • Direct contact with the FGS 2015 Marketing Committee.
  • Advance notice of press releases and other important updates from the Conference Committee.
  • Participation in the FGS Ambassadors Facebook Group.
  • Meet-up with other Ambassadors at FGS 2015—group photo for FGS publicity.
  • Ambassador badge ribbon at the conference.

Having a genealogy blog or planning to attend the FGS 2015 conference are not requirements for participating.

Visit FGS Ambassadors at to review the full guidelines for participating and to register as an FGS Ambassador. Please register by October 8, 2014.

About the Federation of Genealogical Societies (FGS)

The Federation of Genealogical Societies (FGS) was founded in 1976 and represents the members of hundreds of genealogical societies. FGS links the genealogical community by helping genealogical societies strengthen and grow through resources available online, FGS FORUM magazine (filled with articles for the family history community), and Society Strategy Series papers, covering topics about effectively operating a genealogical society. FGS also links the genealogical community through its annual conference — four days of excellent lectures, including one full day devoted to society management topics. To learn more visit

Follow us on Facebook (, Twitter ( and on our blog at (

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Disclosure statement: I have material connections with various vendors and organizations. To review the material connections I have in the genealogy industry, please see the Disclosure Statement here at GeneaBloggers.

©2014, copyright Thomas MacEntee. All rights reserved.

Wanted: Focus Group Participants for New Genealogy Education Product

focus group for genealogy

We want to invite you to a sneak peek of our latest project in genealogy education. We’re only able to invite 12 people.  We’re looking for those who are not only committed to learning and improving their genealogy skills, but you can also give honest feedback on the product and the process involved. Basically, if selected, you would be a member of a focus group for this new product.

In exchange for your participation in a “compressed” three-week version of a six-week program, you’ll be the first to be part of an exciting, collaborative group coaching environment focused on using genealogy research logs and citing sources.

What’s the Commitment?

The commitment is not burdensome, but there is some work involved.  Basically you’ll need to do the following:

  • Agree to a non-disclosure agreement and terms of services that protects the information shared during the three-week period. Once the program is completed, you can tell others about the program and your experience.
  • Participate in three GoToMeeting sessions (similar to webinars) on Monday evenings (Central time) September 22, September 29 and October 6, 2014. These session will be recorded and you’ll have access to the recordings during the three-week period and in the future.
  • Complete two “homework” assignments involving genealogy research, recording your research and citing sources. You can work on your own or with other members participating in this process.
  • Join a Closed Group on Facebook where you’ll access files, share resources and collaborate with the other members of the group.
  • Provide feedback at the end of the process including recommendations on a product price point and future topics.

Minimum Participant Requirements

If you’re truly interested in being part of this group, you’ll need to meet these minimum requirements:

  • Understand how to attend a webinar. You should feel comfortable connecting to the GoToWebinar/GoToMeeting platform used by most genealogy education providers. While a headset/microphone and webcam are not required, they will make it easier to participate in the Online Sessions.
  • Have a Facebook account. You’ll need a Facebook account to access the Facebook Closed Group – this is where assignment documents are uploaded and shared, questions are asked, and most coaching takes place.
  • Be committed to collaboration. You’ll need to check in periodically on Facebook to review the latest conversations and be willing to provide your insights as well as ask questions.

What Do You Get?

Besides the sneak preview of this product, here is what you’ll accomplish:

  1. Learn how to use a research log that suits your research habits.
  2. Understand the basics of source citations and become efficient at creating citations on the fly.
  3. Maintain good research habits and adapt them when encountering new records sets.
  4. Receive constructive and helpful feedback.
  5. Have fun!

If you are interested and can make the commitment, please email us at and provide your name and briefly state why you are interested. We’ll make our selection by Wednesday 17 September 2014.

©2014, copyright Thomas MacEntee. All rights reserved.

Review: BigMarker

bigmarker 01

UPDATE Wednesday 10 September 2014: See Update below at the end of this post for feedback on a recent BigMarker webinar.

BigMarker is a new content platform that combines the ability to host webinars – for free – along with building an online community . . . think Facebook Groups. Given many of the current issues involving the cost of reliable webinar platforms and the hesitancy of older users to join Facebook, BigMarker could be a viable solution for many genealogy societies and organizations.

The Basics

Like many websites, creating an account at BigMarker is free and once created you can update your personal profile with information including your photo.

bigmarker settings

Once you’ve completed your profile, you’ll likely want to create a community or host a conference (which is what BigMarker calls a webinar).

Community Feature

bigmarker community 01

Basically BigMarker’s Community feature competes with Facebook Groups, but offers quite a few more options. Also, for those genealogy societies and organizations that can’t convince some members to get on Facebook, BigMarker might be a better option.

From the main page, you can add a wallpaper graphic, a logo, invite others to join and share your community via social share buttons.

bigmarker community 02

Here are some of the functions you get once you create a community – all for free!

  • Bulletin – similar to a Wall or NewsFeed for a Facebook Group – this is where you post information for your community to see. Within the Bulletin area there are sub-functions including Share, Kudos and Poll.
  • Calendar – schedule events including upcoming conferences and more. A nice touch is that when you create a Conference (see below), it gets added to the calendar.
  • Conferences – lists upcoming conferences as well as recordings of past conferences.
  • About – contact information for the Community organizer, links to external websites and social media, etc.
  • Settings – set privacy features and notification features related to the Community.

Here are some other nice features that take BigMarker’s Community feature beyond what you can do on Facebook or other platforms:

  • You can have a private community or even an “invisible community.”
  • You can charge dues for members.
  • You can require future members to complete an application form with questions to answer.
  • You can allow others to invite new people to the community.
  • You can allow community members to see each other.

Limitations – Community

Right now I’m not seeing many limitations with the Community feature. My main concern is being able to export data if BigMarker should shut down or get bought out (not that I’m anticipating this, but I know the nature of startups . . .). As I’ve stated quite often, any time you are building something on someone’s platform and supplying your own data as well as your own time and effort, make sure you have portability of data and an exit strategy.

Community as Website Substitute?

What I’d love to see happen in the genealogy community is this: smaller genealogy societies who can’t afford a web presence could and should consider using BigMarker’s Community feature. Especially for those groups where members are adamant about not using Facebook or other social media. BigMarker is easy to use, the layout is simple, has a nice large font, etc.  It is very user-friendly to our demographic in genealogy!

Webinars aka Conferences

bigmarker webinar 03

The conference or webinar function is what first caught my attention since I currently am paying for a webinar platform (GoToWebinar) at a cost of $99 per month for a maximum of 100 attendees. In my initial testing, I found that BigMarker’s webinar feature comes with all the functionality of the other platforms including GoToWebinar: screen sharing, uploading of slide presentations, webcam, microphone, chat (group and individual), etc. Also, there is no download needed on the part of the attendee!

bigmarker webinar 02

FREE Webinar – Creating a Blog Header Using PowerPoint

20140909 blog header

In order to really test BigMarker’s conference function with a live audience, I’ll be hosting a FREE webinar this evening – Tuesday, September 9, 2014 at 8:30 pm Central and you’re invited! Well, the first 100 actually . .. The topic is Creating a Blog Header Using PowerPoint and I’ll be doing a live demo of how you can use PowerPoint to create graphics for your blog. Click here to register and I hope to see you online! Also, it would be great if, after the webinar, you could either send me your feedback on BigMarker or post the info out on social media for others to see.

Limitations – Webinars

Some points to keep in mind:

  • Different conference rooms – right now BigMarker is transitioning to a new non-flash technology (using WebRTC). If you set up a conference with the new room format, you have restrictions as to web browser, attendee numbers etc.
  • Webinar vs. Meeting – keep in mind that a meeting is a different animal all together and more of a “free for all” where everyone can talk, use a web cam etc.
  • Limited to 100 attendees – you would need to purchase a monthly subscription (currently $40 a month) to increase attendance to 250. I’ve talked to the creators of BigMarker and they are working on larger seating plans for 500 and 1,000 attendees.
  • Recordings – right now there is no way to download your recording of a webinar or meeting. There are options to upload them to BigMarker’s YouTube channel as well as your own YouTube channel. But an export is needed if a society wanted to place the recording behind its member’s only section.

Webinar Update

There was a major issue with the recording from the Creating a Blog Header Using PowerPoint webinar last evening. The portion of the recording where I shared my screen to show PowerPoint (the majority of the recording) is not visible. This is a limitation of the “room type” which I selected for the webinar.

Currently, BigMarker is transitioning between two different types of webinar rooms and migrating towards one which is non-Flash based. I opted not to use that room type because a) it limits attendees to 25 people right now and b) it has limitations for attendees in terms of browser type etc. I chose Door #1, as it were, not realizing that what I shared on screen would not appear on the recording.

So lesson learned. I think that BigMarker is still a concept “in development” at least when it comes to webinars. BigMarker is likely a good choice for the conventional webinar were you share slides, but it may not work for those speakers like me who do quite a bit of screen sharing and demonstrating apps and sites on the Internet.

We’ll keep an eye on BigMarker and see how things go over the next few weeks and months.


We’re almost five years into the “webinar revolution” in the genealogy industry and it looks like BigMarker is a platform that could serve many of our societies and organizations. My only concern right now is for those larger societies who run a year-long program of webinars and count on placing the recorded content behind their members only section. I’m not sure I would leave the reliability of GoToWebinar – even with its expense – to migrate to BigMarker.

As with all new programs and platforms, only time will tell. I think BigMarker is a keeper and I may continue using it for free webinars to generate interest in my own books and lectures. I’d love it if a year from now, BigMarker becomes a leader in the webinar delivery business and can continue to provide its user-friendly platform especially to larger audiences of 500 or 1000 attendees.

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Disclosure statement: I have material connections with various vendors and organizations. To review the material connections I have in the genealogy industry, please see Disclosure Statements.

©2014, copyright Thomas MacEntee. All rights reserved.