Some people eat, sleep and chew gum, I do genealogy and write...

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

On being online - thoughts at 4:00 am

I suppose things could have been worse, rather than become a 24 hour-a-day genealogist, I could have gone into computer games. I really don't have an antidote for waking up in the middle of the night with blog posts running around in my brain, other than to write them down to get rid of them. This is probably at least one of the reasons why I am very commonly asked whether I ever sleep. Yes, I sleep but unfortunately my brain doesn't.

This week I taught a class at one of the huge mobile home parks here in Mesa. I may have already mentioned this in a previous post, but there were some additional interesting observations. First of all, this was a genealogy club meeting. You have to understand that mobile home parks and retirement communities in Mesa are really big and I mean huge. Some of them have thousands and thousands of residents. Anyway, it was interesting to see that the shuffleboard generation has taken up computers and some of them have taken up genealogy. This park had a large computer lab with 30 or so computers for the resident's use where the class was held. The class was a sign-up in advance affair and the participants paid $2 each for the class. Now the observations.

There were 28 people in the class. The class was on using Google for genealogy. At each stage of the class, I asked for a show of hands if anyone had used any of the resources I was going to introduce. Most of the time there were no hands or maybe one or at most two. Some of the resources, like Google Maps, got some response. Was I surprised? No. Because I get the same response from volunteers at the Mesa Family History Center. Even though people are parked in front of a computer does not mean they know how to use it or what is available online. So why do I know anything at all (assuming I do, of course) about what's online? In other words, why was I teaching the class?

When it comes to research, I assume the answer is online and all I have to do is find the combination of search terms that will take me to the source. It is a matter of attitude more than any innate knowledge of what is online. It is also a matter of practice. I have been using computers a good part of almost every work day for the past thirty years. It is also a matter of interest. I am interested in research and computers, as such. I have been doing research since I was very young and so the process of formulating a question and finding a source for answering the question comes instinctively.

This is not the case with most of the adult population of the U.S. Most people have not spent their lives in libraries or searching on the Internet. Those that do have found that the Internet really does have almost all the answers. For example, when I get sick now, I can go to the Internet and search on my symptoms and come awfully close to an accurate diagnosis before I get the confirmation from the doctor. This is pretty scary sometimes, because what if I am wrong or worse, what if I am really sick with something serious.

Genealogy lends itself naturally to the researcher type. It can be amazingly difficult for anyone who doesn't like to read, work on computers or look at old records. Being online is an extension of what I would be doing anyway. If I wasn't on the computer, I would be reading books. If I wasn't reading a book, I would be fidgeting about wasting time.

Do you have to be this type of person to do genealogy? No, not at all. It just helps if you are. OK, now it is time to go back to sleep.

1 comment:

  1. Most things get better in two weeks without intervention, if it does not it is most likely serious. Not counting severe pain and massive bleeding.