25 August 2011

Interactive Genealogy: I am doing it!

When I heard Josh Taylor’s presentation on interactive genealogy at the BYU Family History Conference in July, I knew it was what I had been looking for. (See the PowerPoint for this presentation here.) I love the books our committee has published, but they are long enough and far enough removed from the daily lives of most of my family members that they tend to be used only as a reference. I pondered the problem. How could this wealth of material be better utilized to inspire our lives today?

Howard and Bert Whitney--1942
I suspected that many of the young people in our family didn’t really read much anymore, certainly not a thick book of history. Young people are attracted to multi-media displays that engage them for the short time they have to give before they are swept off to something new. I have known for a long time that we all relate to short meaningful stories more than complete historical timelines or biographies.  My answer was clearly to use modern technology to present the stories of our ancestors. Joshua Taylor taught me to call this “interactive genealogy.” Interactive genealogy involves the cloud, he said, and it gives the receiver something to do. Family history wikis are an example of interactive genealogy. Social interactive sites can present family history information. I was already familiar with the idea of facebook and footnote (now fold3) pages for ancestors. Obviously, I’m using a blog to interact.

Suddenly the vision of a family podcast popped into my mind, using a YouTube channel to distribute family stories and family memories. Our family reunion was coming up and I enlisted my talented sister Annalee to help me implement this idea. As we exercised together every morning, we brainstormed ideas and came up with a video podcast featuring our dad, Bert N Whitney, and his adventures in the talc mines of Death Valley. Here is our very first effort, completed in just 3 days! We used our own resources and also some on-line sources, carefully documenting and giving credit where credit was due. I believe that our family history books and the photos, videos and documents our family history committee has been collecting over the last few years will serve as a library of resources for these short 5-10 minute podcasts.

I offered a $25 grant for each script and storyboard we use in hopes of inspiring some of our young folks into coming up with their own creation. I’m into the interactive stuff—hopefully others in our family will soon be too.


  1. I'd love to see some of the results you get from the younger members of your family. I hope you share links.
    Kathy Reed

  2. Kathy, I would like to see some too, but no takers yet. For this month we did another one, but totally different. I hope to blog about that soon.