Witch Hunts, Mob Mentality and the Online Genealogy Community

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Witch Hunts, Mob Mentality and the Online Genealogy Community

Must social media and using it to highlight issues in the genealogy community always turn from civil discussion into a witch hunt? How do you balance the airing of diverse views and the input of many voices? In addition, shouldn’t pointing out the actions of a community member rise above personal attacks and a mob mentality?

These are questions that I am always struggling with as I use social media on a daily basis as part of my business model and in building an online following within the genealogy industry. However, at certain times, such as with the recent Barry J. Ewell plagiarism discussion from late last week, the need for answers becomes much more pressing.

Separating Actions from the Personal

It has been disheartening to see a variety of comments and reactions that are not only counter-productive to discussion and change, but also make the online genealogy community appear as if it thrives in an environment of drama and turmoil. We do not need comments that demonize a person and make him or her less human. We do not need comments hinting at physical attacks. Would you say these things face to face to someone? Consider that when you are part of a discussion online. It is not easy and even I sometimes forget to ask myself when typing my words: “Is it kind? Is it true? Is it helpful?”

Try to separate the act from the person perpetuating it. Try to put yourself in his or her shoes and ask yourself, “Why do they do this? Could I ever be in a situation where I would do the same thing? I wonder what they are going through right now?”

Avoiding Generalities and Stereotypes

I am convinced that when a discussion is filled with the perpetuation of generalities and stereotypes, it is due to intellectual laziness and a lack of information. Many people just want the easy way out yet still feel they are contributing to a discussion. Having personally been on the receiving end of stereotyping much of my life, I know not just how harmful this can be, but also how it can quash meaningful discussion and cloud the issues.

I have seen the recent plagiarism plague attributed to members of the LDS church and their role in the genealogy community. Nonsense. Utter nonsense.

No one should ever need to defend his or her faith. In addition, I am more than happy to step up and defend my Mormon brothers and sisters. Although from a faith perspective I may not agree with everything in terms of their beliefs and practices, I do need to say that not all Mormons are plagiarists as someone recently suggested. Why anyone would say such a thing is beyond me. Whenever I hear new genealogists go on an anti-LDS riff, I will always be there to defend what the Church does for genealogy. Our community would be nothing without their contributions.

Online Communities Are Much Like Our Ancestors’ Communities

In my family history research, I often focus on the towns and cities where my ancestors lived. How did the community react to problems, how did they discuss issues, how did they handle dissent? Unfortunately, I have found a history of witch hunts, mob mentality and running someone out of town because they did not subscribe to that community’s norms. At times and even now, it is called community survival. You do not want scam artists or thieves to thrive, so you call them out and warn others. As a community, you develop a system of consequences tied to actions.

However, I have also seen the concept of redemption in these very same communities. Someone who has broken the rules or has committed certain types of actions may have been shunned, but then is welcomed back into the fold. This usually happens when a person has taken responsibility for their actions, worked to make amends, and going forward worked towards positive community contributions.

I am a big believer in redemption, being someone who has done some stupid things, especially in the genealogy community. I am human and some of my past actions have had consequences. So what do you do? If you want to stay in the community you “name it and claim it” and then make amends and move on. You try to be a better person than you were the day before and add more to the pot than what you take from it. I think that is all we can expect from anyone in a community.

Conclusion

Let me make it clear that I still subscribe to the “there’s room at the table for everyone” mantra that has been a hallmark of my participation in the genealogy industry. This includes dissenting voices, even those that might run counter to established practices and even laws and regulations.

With the current discussion on plagiarism, if anyone would like to make a strong, competent argument for using the content of others without proper citation or attribution, I am still willing to listen. However, offering excuses and non-responses is not a way to make a case. I am willing to accept that in the growing digital world, how we look at content usage will change over time, and perhaps not adhere to practices developed in a world dominated by printed works. However, in order to evaluate another perspective, again, we need solid, well-researched information for a discussion to move forward and not devolve into finger-pointing, insults and personal attacks.

What I am asking for now is a focus on the issues and that we work towards positive solutions. Remember that words have meaning and consequences and that despite the impersonal aspect of social media, that there are real people with real lives and livelihoods behind those avatars and account names. You can still be critical yet be kind. You can still discuss issues and listen to other views. If I did not believe in the power of social media to create change, I would have stopped using it a long time ago.

©2016, copyright Thomas MacEntee. All rights reserved.

Are You Ready to “Super Charge” Your Cemetery Research?

Take advantage of this amazing deal on BillionGraves Plus and get ready to "super charge" your genealogy research!

Are you struggling with cemetery research when it comes to genealogy and family history? What about locating graves for those who are family members but the headstone simply says “Mother” or “Infant”? And can’t there be an easier way to locate nearby graves?

Recently I made the move from a “well known” grave location website to BillionGraves (click here to set up a free account and get instant access!) and I’m amazed at what I’ve found for my own research. In addition, the sense of “community” at BillionGraves is more in tune with the way I share genealogy information with others: we’re all working towards a common goal of documenting all the graves worldwide!

Announcing BillionGraves Plus – “Power Up” Your Research

Normally, I will use the “free” version of a genealogy website when I can. But recently, I took the BillionGraves Plus premium feature for a test drive and all I can say is: YES! And if you ask me is it worth the yearly subscription price? Again, a definite YES!

Read my recent review here of how BillionGraves Plus works and why it can help you work smarter when it comes to cemetery record research.  Wouldn’t it be great to take advantage of features like these?

  • Family Plots: 70% of all people are buried in Family Plots. This feature shows you where they are!
  • Nearby Graves: Family members that do not share the same family name are most likely found near other family graves. This feature allows you to see those headstones, sorted by distance from the one you selected. An example might be a headstone that is labeled only as “Infant”, “Mother” or “Father”.
  • Global Family: See everyone that shares the same family name on a map sorted by city, county, state, country or even the whole world. You can then zoom in and see the specifics.
  • Family Notifications: You will be notified immediately ANYTIME a NEW RECORD comes in that matches the name and location you have selected. You don’t have to search. We search for you.

billion graves notifications

A Special Offer from BillionGraves

The normal price for a one year subscription of BillionGraves Plus is $59.95. I have worked with the folks at BillionGraves to put together this amazing deal – one of the lowest prices EVER! You can get one year of all the premium features for just $39.97. You MUST use this link and already have a BillionGraves free account (if not, visit http://billiongraves.com to set one up).

And this offer expires on Monday, March 14th at 5:00 pm Mountain time! Don’t let this opportunity to research “smarter” pass you by!

©2016, copyright Thomas MacEntee. All rights reserved.

Review: BillionGraves Plus

Genealogy educator and author Thomas MacEntee takes BillionGraves Plus for a test drive and shares why the upgrade is well worth the price!

Recently, as part of my own Genealogy Do-Over, I have spent more time researching death record information, specifically gravestone images and related data. Normally, I would use the Find-A-Grave site since I have been using it, well since forever. I also decided to start using BillionGraves and after setting up a free login and using its basic functions, I wanted to know more about the premium version, BillionGraves Plus.

The folks at BillionGraves have given me a behind-the-scenes look at BillionGraves Plus and after putting it through several tests with my own search criteria, I can say that going premium is definitely worth the price! (Note: see my special offer at the end of this review to get a HUGE discount on BillionGraves Plus!)

BillionGraves Plus Features

So what do you get when you sign up for BillionGraves Plus? Here is an overview:

  • Family Plots: 70% of all people are buried in Family Plots. This feature shows you where they are!
  • Nearby Graves: Family members that do not share the same family name are most likely found near other family graves. This feature allows you to see those headstones, sorted by distance from the one you selected. An example might be a headstone that is labeled only as “Infant”, “Mother” or “Father”.
  • Global Family: See everyone that shares the same family name on a map sorted by city, county, state, country or even the whole world. You can then zoom in and see the specifics.
  • Family Notifications: You will be notified immediately ANYTIME a NEW RECORD comes in that matches the name and location you have selected. You don’t have to search. We search for you.
  • Ad Free: No Ads. No distractions. Faster search results, bigger photos, and larger maps.
  • Priority Support: Click on the support link in the footer of any page and submit your question. Your question will be moved to the top of the support queue.

Overall Impression of BillionGraves – It’s the Community!

Being an accomplished user of Find-A-Grave, I figured I had all the features I needed for locating gravestone images with their site. Boy was I wrong. Not only does BillionGraves provide you with accurate GPS location information, but also the sense of community is much different from other sites.

I have had many issues with several contributors at Find-A-Grave in terms of “ownership” of memorials and images. The frustration level has been so much that many times I don’t think it is worth it to use the site. Genealogy should be enjoyable and not stress you out, right?

Well at BillionGraves, there is a better sense of community and “stewardship” for the content contributed. Every member is working towards the same goal: to document every gravesite in the world with accurate information that is easy to access and share.

Family Plots

I have several family members buried at the Grahamsville Rural Cemetery in Grahamsville, New York. So using BillionGraves Plus I was able to see plots grouped by families:

I have several family members buried at the Grahamsville Rural Cemetery in Grahamsville, New York. So using BillionGraves Plus I was able to see plots grouped by families

Nearby Graves

The Nearby Graves feature is different from Family Plots in that it includes those family members who have married or do not share the same family name. This is excellent for locating those headstones that say “Mother” or “Father” or “infant.”

The Nearby Graves feature is different from Family Plots in that it includes those family members who have married or do not share the same family name. This is excellent for locating those headstones that say “Mother” or “Father” or “infant.”

Family Notifications

As genealogists, we continue to have increasing access to large amounts of data, to the point where we can feel overwhelmed. So the Notifications feature in BillionGraves is a valuable way to manage genealogy data – just enter your search criteria and when other users add new data, you receive an email notification.

billion graves notifications

Here is how the Family Notifications feature works:

  • No more searching day after day looking for a particular ancestor! Let us do the work for you!
  • Set up an on-going search that notifies you the second your results are available! No need to keep searching again and again.
  • We’ll email you a photo and a link to the headstone details as soon as it is available.

Conclusion

After using BillionGraves Plus, I don’t think I could possibly use the BillionGraves site without these features. I can’t tell you the number of hours that features like Nearby Graves has saved me in terms of research. In addition, Family Notifications is worth the price alone since I can receive updates for my family names via email. The BillionGraves Plus feature enhances the experience of using the BillionGraves site and makes it easier to find the information I need for my family history research.

Special Offer from BillionGraves

Right now, BillionGraves is offering one of the lowest prices EVER for their BillionGraves Plus upgrade! This is an exclusive offer for readers of GeneaBloggers and instead of the normal $59.95 a year price, you pay just $39.97! You must use this link to take advantage of this offer, which expires on Monday, March 14th at 5pm MDT!

Power up your genealogy research using BillionGraves Plus and see how much progress you can make with headstone and death record research!

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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.

©2016, copyright Thomas MacEntee. All rights reserved.