Tuesday, January 8, 2008

WorldVitalRecords.com and FamilyLink.com: Social Networking in the Genealogy and Family History Space

12 May 2007

Introduction to Speakers by Brian Cooper
Main Presentation: Yvette Arts, Whitney Ransom, and Jason McGowan – WorldVitalRecords.com and FamilyLink.com: Social Networking in the Genealogy and Family History Space
Yvette Arts is currently the Vice President of WorldVitalRecords.com. She has tremendous credentials. She has worked in corporation communications and research. Interests include development of human potential and the creation and the retention of working knowledge. Her interest in genealogy began when her great-grandmother encouraged her to keep a book of remembrance.
Whitney Ransom is the director of communications at WorldVitalRecords.com. She is currently getting her master’s degree at BYU in Instructional Psychology and Technology. She loves her family and doing genealogy. She is thrilled about the advances in technology that enable individuals to build connections and find the resources they need.
Jason McGowan is from Alberta, Canada though his roots are in England. He is the product manager of FamilyLink.com. He has been with this project from it’s inception to its launch. He is their tech specialist. At the age of sixteen he managed a restaurant which consequently provided him with opportunity to be on a cooking show for six episodes were he was the assistant to the chef. He is also the former owner of ElderMissionary.com and SisterMissionary.com. He is excited to discuss the technical aspects as well as the benefits of FamilyLink.com.

Yvette Arts, Whitney Ransom, and Jason McGowan – WorldVitalRecords.com and FamilyLink.com: Social Networking in the Genealogy and Family History Space

Yvette Arts
It is great for us to be here to share some of the things we are doing with two different websites that were started by Paul Allen. He was one of the former founders of Ancestry.com and MyFamily.com. These are two new additions to the Genealogy and Family History space. WorldVitalRecords came on in October of last year and FamilyLink we are just still in beta testing of that website. That website is a social networking site.

Brian mentioned that my great-grandmother got me interested in genealogy and family history. What she did for each of her grandchildren (I call her my grandmother) was make a book of remembrance. This was not only the pedigree charts and the family group sheets, this was family histories and photos. This was before scrap booking was big; it was clear back in the 60’s & 70’s. We people just cut out their own things and did not buy dye cut things. It was little pieces of material or little buttons, something that really meant a lot to her, that were hooked to these pages. I came to realize through all of this, the generations of time, it’s the little mementos that meant something to her and her family that we live in and through each other. As was mentioned in the prayer, help us find our kindred dead, I love that word kindred, people that we love, we are out to find them. Hopefully we are in the mean time keeping our own histories and keeping track of all the records associated with ourselves and our immediate family.

When we talk about today the technical aspects of these two websites, keep in mind the idea of the social networking. Social networking is talking to each other; some teenagers do get in trouble with that, such as with website as Facebook or MySpace. Social networking when you gather together as a group, we have reunions, we get together and talk to each other and share some of the things that are important to you. With technology it is becoming easier to do that because most of us have access to the internet and computers. There is something called Web 2.0 it has features that allow this social networking to take place. Just like when Brian was talking about the new features of FamilySearch where you can do your work on the internet and print out your own information that you take to the temple. Those are some of the features that are allowed through this new technology, that allow us to hasten the work. We want to talk about some of those tools that hasten the work.

We are a very small company right now. We have a lot of phases that we still intend to go through on developing this technology; that will allow you to integrate with what the Church is doing with our technology and have a nice social networking space were you can interact with genealogists all over the world and find out what they are doing.

Like with my grandmother, her books were on paper. They were not done on the computer, they were handwritten. So there is only one copy of that book. Now with technology of course those pages can be scanned and images can be viewed. We all know of the Church’s program that is all over the world, photographing those records and the extraction program that helps bring those records to light.

-Presenters (Yvette, Whitney and Jason)
-Mode of Discussion (raise your hands with questions)
-Handouts (follow the printed presentation)
-Ways to provide feedback to WVR/FL (feedback@worldvitalrecords.com)
-Paul Allen (founder)

Say you only had the names Hyrum Bogart and Henrietta and you didn’t have any pictures of them. You do a search for them and you found a photograph associated with those two names. Then you find their vital records, maybe some land records, etc. A lot of that searching now is done on the internet, indexes that can point you to where you can go in the county or somewhere in the world where you can go to get that record. With some of the features we are going to show you today you can make that easier.

The internet of course is kind of a family thing. Everyone has their own things they are doing on the internet. We are trying to show you that with the internet and some of the tools that we have that it can help you find some of the things you are looking for. The WorldVitalRecords website we have over 300 free databases online right now. We add at least a database a day.

Whitney Ransom
This is a good group. When we designed this site this is the kind of audience that we pictured. You have a good spirit about you and we are happy that you have come today. Hopefully what we have to say will be of use to you. That you will be able to go home and get on WorldVitalRecords.com and find some information that you really need.

The background of WorldVitalRecords.com - why it exists, and what we are trying to do. I need to tell you a little bit about Paul Allen. I think of Paul like 1 Nephi 2:11 – a visionary man. Paul is one of the founders of Ancestry.com and MyFamily.com. He has a lot of great ideas. He was at Ancestry and MyFamily for a while and decided to try some other business adventures. Paul has an entrepreneurial spirit, so he did that for a while. In the past year he will tell you that he had a compelling need to get back into the genealogy industry. That is how we got started; he felt the need to do more in genealogy. He is very compelling, he told others his ideas and we started to follow because we felt this would help other people.

Paul’s Vision:
-Love of genealogy
-Fill some needs in genealogy that aren’t being met
-Alternative to other companies
-Really helps genealogists

Paul loves genealogy. He has been involved in a lot of different business ventures but genealogy is something close to his heart. He feels there are needs in genealogy that are not being met. We hope to be able to fill some of those needs. We are not claiming to fill all of those needs but are trying to help where we can.

Paul also feels there needs to be an alternative to some of the other companies. If you ask him he will tell you that competition in and industry is very healthy. It helps keep prices lower, it helps people get out and do new and innovative things.

Paul really wants to help genealogists. One thing that we are working on in the process is building a search probability engine. What that will do is you will get on the site and type in the name of the person you are searching for and it will give you a whole list of names. It will tell you names and places it won’t just be at WorldVitalRecords.com but also other websites. It will tell you the percentage or likely hood that that person you are looking for will be found in that database. That will really help genealogists. If we don’t have the information that you are looking for we are not afraid to say go find it here, or it’s with this company. I think that is kind of the idea that Paul wants, maybe we won’t have the records you are looking for but if we know where to find it we are going to tell you. The probability search engine is in the works and I wish I could kind of tell you the technicalities of it the algorithms is pretty complex and we are not going to go there today.

Paul is really big in understanding who our audience is and what our audience wants. We frequently send out polls. Trying to found out what are our needs of our genealogists. How experienced are they, what do they look like, what are they looking for, and what software do they currently use? A couple of weeks ago we sent out in a poll:

Which Country Should WorldVitalRecords.com Prioritize Next? (After U.S., Canada, England, and Germany)
-Ireland (19%)
-Poland (19%)
-Scotland (10%)
-Slovakia (10%)
-Belarus (5%)
-France (4%)
-Czech Republic (4%)
-Sweden (3%)
-Denmark (2%)
-Italy (2%)

We had a couple thousand people respond to this poll. We are focusing more heavily on the results that came in first – Ireland and Poland. These results were not just from the polls it was from other comments to our sites also.

What Distinguishes WorldVitalRecords.com?
-International Focus (Content, Communities)
-Web 2.0 Features (Cemeteries, GoogleBooks, Newspapers)

Paul really feels that a lot of people are right now priced out of being able to do their genealogy. It costs too much money. People are sometimes on limited funds and can’t afford to spend tons of money to do something that they love. That’s one thing that Paul really wants to have is low prices. Right now we have a two membership for $48.00, which is $24.00 a year. I think that is pretty low priced. You also get a download of Everton’s Handybook and Ancestral Quest 12, software that you can use. That is just one aspect the price – something that is affordable. One of the other reasons it is lower is because we don’t have every database that you want. We just started; we launched our subscription site in October 2006. We have only been out for seven months so you kind of have to give us a little break. We are going as fast as we can. We are downloading the information from indexing and scanning as quickly as we can. We have only been out for seven months and with this two year offer we are basically saying “Maybe we don’t have every record you want right now but we are adding content every single day. If we don’t have it right now maybe in a couple of months we will. Or maybe in a year or two we will. We might have as many databases as other companies but we are growing.

The other aspect is an International Focus. We want to go out and find records and databases that are unique, records that other companies might not have yet. Yvette will speak more about content. I wanted to speak on the International Genealogy Communities. This is something that we have put up in just the last couple of months. We have 48 different countries here. You will go to the country and type in the search engine the information you are looking for.

We have programmed it to find the most relevant websites dealing with that word. If you go on Google you are going to find thousands of results. This will give you results that are most relevant to your word. Some will be in English or another language depending on what community you are searching. If you want to look for specific sites this is a good place to look. It’s free you can just go on and take a look. It might give you some URLs or websites that you haven’t come upon. These ones are specifically dealing with genealogy and family history, that’s in the International Search Communities.

The next aspect is the web 2.0 features. Yvette talked a little about what web 2.0 is, I am going to show you some sites.
Cemeteries – search a name and place, they showed the Social Security Death Index. Once you click on a record it is going to show you a map of the area. It will show you little tombstones where cemeteries are located in that area. It will show the name of the cemetery and where it is located.
See Neighbors – near the nearby cemeteries in the search results. These are people that died in the same time period and place as the person you are looking at. This is just another resource. A pending item coming is a percentage to tell you the chance of this person being related to you searched individual.
Googlebooks – search an individual and in the results you will see Book Results. GoogleBooks is implementing this feature right now. They are scanning millions of books and they are putting them on the web. It depends on the publisher and the book. Some you can view every page for free. Some you can see a couple of pages, it gives you a teaser and then you have to buy the book. We have taken all the books they have scanned and we have put them on our site. If you really like the book you can download a PDF of the book for free. This is just something that has been recently implemented. There are a lot of rare and unique books that have never been scanned and they are doing that right now. You can go home and try this out and maybe you will find ancestors you are related to in books.
Newspapers – All the newspapers that come from SmallTownPapers Company on WorldVitalRecords are free. We have a partnership with them. There are several hundred newspapers from them on the site. You will find the newspapers available in the results of your search. When you click on a newspaper it will come up in the basic viewer. It’s very simple and you can go from page to page. There is an enhanced viewer that will give you a few more options. The name you searched for will be highlighted on the newspaper page. In the enhanced viewer you can highlight a section and then share it with others or even send it to yourself. You can also find all the newspapers by viewing all databases on the main page. You can pick a category and view all newspapers in Texas. If you are from a certain area and you don’t see newspapers from that area, you can contact the local newspaper and tell them about SmallTownPapers and ask if they will do it too. SmallTownPapers will work out an agreement with these newspapers to scan their archives. The newspaper will ship their archives to them to be scanned quickly, two pages at a time. The images are then read by OCR and it will do the best job it can reading the newspaper. It will remember the coordinates for those words. When we get the material we take the output XML, an OCR scanning of the words, put it into a database and then match it with the image. We get a hundred thousand pages a month from SmallTownPapers that we process. It’s millions of dollars that SmallTownPapers has invested and they have not seen a return on their investment yet. WorldVitalRecords pays them a royalty every time a page is viewed. You can also view all the years and dates a newspaper is available for by clicking on the link for the newspaper name while viewing a page for a newspaper.

We are still developing our Probability Search Engine so you will not be directed to other paid sites from our website. When we have the Probability Search Engine we will have the index of main of those sites and it will say you can find this at…and it will give you the probability of it being a correct match. The hope is that we will get enough partners to get indexes to their records and direct people to their records.

Yvette Arts
-WorldVitalRecords.com Databases
-Each new database free for 10 days
-Newsletter/Blog/Press Releases
-How to find records (Title, Category, Browse, Search features)
-Partnerships – Everton, SmallTownPapers, Quintin, Susan Easton Black, Shauna Anderson
-Content Acquisition
-GED COM and Photo Uploads
-FAQ, Accounts/Login/Logout, Sitemap, Chat

We have over 500 databases on the site. We just signed an agreement where we will acquire 10,000 more. Quickly you will see a surge on the content we have on here. It will take at least six weeks to find those databases, if not two months. Each new database that we offer under subscription is free for the first 10 days. You can search that database and see if it has what you want in it.

We have a partnership with Everton Publishing to put on their online database over to our site. We are currently scanning their library. They have about 80,000 holdings there in their library. It will take us quit a while and not all of them can we scan and put up, because some can be found on GoogleBooks. We look for particular records that are exclusive to Godfrey that we are putting up. We just put up quit a few of those this last week some compilations from John and Enid Ostertag of the Kansas Chief Newspaper from the 1800s.

We have the Everton Pedigree and Family Group Sheets about 150,000 records. We have over 60 years of the Everton Genealogical Helper so any query that was submitted to the Helper you can search and find that. We have a few census records these are not complete. We are working to get complete census records. We have a lot of parish registers records and some proprietary databases. We also Susan Easton-Black’s collection; all of her work, that was done on LDS and RLDS family history. Her latest work, which is only found on WorldVitalRecords, is the Nauvoo Land Records. We are working to geo-code those records as well. Shauna Anderson provided a database from Scottish records. She is a genealogist that works with Susan Easton-Black, she searched parish records to find out how people died. She is a microbiologist so there is a lot of rich data in the death records from the Scottish parishes.

Quintin Publication has a lot of books on CD-ROM. They have about 3,000 family histories and several other collections and vital records. We have partnered with them in putting their collection online, currently it is just on CDs. We are working with several other content partners and in the next several weeks, next month we will be announcing some partnerships. We are working with a library back east to scan their collection as well. We are small but we are growing continually to add those databases.

In FamilyLink we have about 11 million records of people that have been upload their GEDCOM. We just don’t have them searchable right now, they will be searchable. You can upload you GEDCOM files or photos if you want to make them searchable for everyone and have a place or repository for those records. Other options on the website are to send us Feedback, Upload Family Tree, or Manage Your Account. There is also a free newsletter that goes out that Whitney will talk about.

Whitney Ransom
We have a newsletter that goes out every week. The newsletter is free just click on the link Free Newsletter to sign up. It has all of the new databases that we have launched throughout the week. It has a genealogical tip on there. A new feature we have just started is Genealogy in 15 minutes or less. We know you are busy and if you just have something that you can move towards for 15 minutes. It has different conferences that are coming up. It’s a useful resource if you want to know what is happening at WorldVitalRecords and some of the others things happening in genealogy, and it’s free.

FamilyLink.com is a new social genealogy network. We are thrilled about this new site and think it will help genealogists a lot. Paul is really, really excited about this site. He said he is just as excited about this site as he was when he was building MyFamily.com and Ancestry.com. What the purpose of this is to connect with other genealogists throughout the world.

We have currently 1600 cities where you can connect with genealogists. For example we are here in Provo and I need to get a record over in France. I can go onto the site and I can see who the genealogists in France are. I can see if they are willing to do a local record lookup and I can contact them directly. We can talk and see if they can go to that cemetery and get this, or go to that records office and check out this name. So basically for the first time you are going to be able to connect with people from all over the world who are doing genealogy and you can work on your genealogy together. Jason who is the builder of FamilyLink will give us some more detail on that.

Jason McGowan
I am excited to be here today. I am new to the genealogy field. I have expertise in connecting people. I have worked on several other big websites before I help connect people together. I came into WorldVitalRecords, I had known Paul from other ventures, and he said I want you to work on genealogy. You know that face you see on new individuals that come into the Family History Centers and he’s excited then he comes in and you try to show him genealogy, you know the face I am talking about, he is so confused and they have no idea what is going on. Well that was me when I came in and saw it. I was really excited to see this group of people and see everyone working together, it’s such an interested and exciting industry for me to be and I get to help all the genealogists connect with one another.

FamilyLink is absolutely free. You can choose to look for genealogists in your local area or the area you are researching in. You are also able to see who is online right now and using the site. Right now you can only see the first name of an individual; that is for security. After you become friends you will be able to see their first and last names and be able to communicate.

The first thing that you do after signing up is create a genealogy profile. This is who I am; this is kind of how long I have done genealogy for, etc. You can see what software program they are using and what databases they have access to. You can indict if you are willing to do lookups for others. There is a link – Find Genealogists, it gives you the ability to search for other genealogists on the site. You can search for other people with access to databases you are interested in by clicking on the link in someone’s profile with access to a database – it will show you all others with access. Clicking on any link under an individuals profile will help match up all others with that same profile or access in their descriptions. It is a way to connect with people and view what they are doing.

The next step is to add all the research cities you have researched in the past or have an interest in them. You can join a city and it will be added to your profile and people can see the cities you are researching or interested in. You can also view all those researching in a given area. Some of our sites are limited so you can’t do a Google search to find members. Our email addresses also show up as images.

On the city pages you can also upload historical photos. With the social networking aspect the more people that come onto the site the more useful it is. Your uploading images and you can add links to other websites that have good resources for the particular county or place. You can also upload ancestors and you will be able to upload a GEDCOM file. No one can view your family tree unless you are friends with that person.

The main purpose of this site is to help people to connect with each other. And to help people connect with genealogists around the world. We will allow you with a lot of experience to help someone else.

This presentation is available on DVDs #114 for UVPAFUG members to borrow or purchase.


Hugh W said...

Thank you for the update and good luck with your enterprises

Quintin Publications said...

This certainly is great time to be a genealogist with more and more publications being digitally preserved.

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