11 December 2013

Group Collaboration -- are you taking advantage of this important genealogical research tool? guest post by Shannon Combs-Bennett, NGGN

Source: Library of Congress, http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/2001695468/resource/
No man is an island and no genealogist should be either.  I don’t know about you but I love to explain in agonizing detail my discoveries to anyone who will stand still long enough.  However, I do have enough sense to do it to other genealogists, or my poor husband since he can’t escape from me.  The best thing I have in my life is a local support group of sorts; a group of friends who, like me, are passionate about their finds and want to share their knowledge with others of a like mind. 

We meet quarterly at rotating venues and the attendance is anywhere from 5-10 people.  We are all researching different families, countries, and have various skill levels.  What is great is that I can talk around a table (or sitting on a couch) to people who don’t look at me cross eyed when I start to drone on and on about a record set.  We share ideas, thoughts, finds, and all sorts of genealogical goodies.  From these sessions I have come home with leads and ideas that I might never have thought of.

Group collaboration can only help you.  Setting up study groups, informal meet-ups over coffee, or simply calling a friend who is a fellow genealogist can lead to many positive things.  Being able to share your ideas, thoughts, and finds to a group can also help to cement them in your mind.  It also lets you gather ideas from people who think differently from you.  You never know who will be able to help you break down that brick wall.

Interested in starting an informal (or formal) group?  It would be a great way to kick of 2014! Here are 5 things to think about to get you started:

1)      Determine the location
Is this going to be a couple of friends meeting regularly over coffee at a local café or a larger group?  Remember you don’t have to meet in person anymore.  Google hangouts are easy and free. So don’t limit your group to just those within driving distance.  My group is scattered of a 3 hour driving diameter, granted it is just out of DC so that is only about 60 miles.  We meet at centrally located houses (there are about 5 of us who live within 10 miles of each other) and rotate through them.  Comfy, cozy, and no one is going to tell us to go home because they are closing.

2)      What are you going to talk about
This is where the sky can be the limit.  You could do planned agendas, simple sharing sessions, book clubs, or even take turns leading discussions on topics you are interested in.  It is your group, what do you want to get out of it?  My little group likes to set the next topic before the end of the current meeting.  Then we have 3 months to find goodies on it for the show and tell we do. 

3)      Choose an organizer
This could be a rotating person, but make sure there is at least one person who knows the schedule and what is going on.  Nothing worse than letting your little group die because no one could remember when the next meeting was going to be.  My group created an email distribution list.  On it we plan our meetings, talk about topics we want to learn about, and share all sorts of information. 

4)      Don’t make it personal
Working with a group means this isn’t your show.  If you want to get the group to help you, you need to be willing to give back.  Share your ideas.  Give advice and help your friends.  The more give and take the better within the group, the better the collaboration will work.  I am a talker, and thankfully my friends know it.  They also know when to kick me under the table so someone else can get a word in edge wise.  It is hard for me to reign it in, but I do, for the good of the group.

5)      Have fun
This, this right here, is the most important thing.  Hanging out with friends, talking about a subject that you enjoy, and learning should be lots and lots of fun.  If it isn’t, why are you doing this?  When I get together with my little group we have lots of laughs (sometimes at each other’s expense) and have a ton of fun.  Plus learning through sharing stories, experiences, and discoveries is much more enjoyable then not being able to share them at all.

Good luck with your genea-group and I hope you have fun learning in 2014!

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