Thursday, March 10, 2011

Local Genealogy Society using Technology to reach out to Non-Local Members

The first quarter of 2011 is almost upon us and I wanted to highlight what my local genealogy group has been doing in order to keep up with all of the available advancing technology tools out there today in order to reach our ever growing non-local membership base.

One of our first goals is to reach out to our non-local members more.  In order to do this, we are trying to make our monthly meeting presentations available online for people to view from their homes or local libraries.  We are all pretty new to this, so we thought we would start small.

One of our members used her Kodak PlaySport to video our first presentation of the year done in January – that of Ernie Dollar – on the Old Chapel Hill Cemetery. (Feel free to check out the program description here)  I learned some cool stuff about the cemetery that borders my alma mater. Check out my tweets @Smitty327 from Jan 5, 2011.  

The camera itself is quite compact, but it mounted easily to the tripod we had, so it was completely hands off.  The only problem we had was when we accidentally turned the camera off for a few seconds, at which point we were able to realize the mistake and resume recording.

The speaker talked from a podium, and showed slides from a projector onto a big screen beside him. Our video focused on the speaker, versus the slides because we knew we could always make the slides available separately. Alternatively I have visions of being able to edit the speaker’s video by incorporating his slides into the presentation at some point. I would like to learn how to edit video and clip stills out of it as well.  Do you have any experience in video editing you could share with us?

The file created is a 720 p .MOV file that ended up being humongous and way too big to upload to the web.  I did a couple of searches on the web and found that 1) you can change the recording settings from 720p to WVGA if you intend to upload the file to the web and 2) a file conversion program you can download here along with an easy to follow tutorial here explaining how to convert a .MOV file to other formats including a .FLV for YouTube!

I have not tried either of these two alternatives out yet because I do not own the camera, but I have forwarded the information on to the camera owner.  We hope to give it a try at least for #1 for our next meeting.

What to do when the speaker does not want to be taped?  By the way, we did video tape our second meeting of the year – Josh Howard’s program on the “Civil War Death Study” (D-OGS program details here)– which is an ongoing research program through the North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources. He did request that we not release the video to the public at this time as his research is ongoing and going to be published. The video can still be used to take notes from and publish on our website. I don’t know about your genealogy society, but ours always takes “meeting minutes” of our monthly meetings – a volunteer or “Secretary” will take notes about the program and then additional notes on the society “business” that is discussed at the end of the meeting after the program. This is a chance for the board to bring up issues that need to be voted on by the membership or make announcements.  Does your local genealogy society take and publish notes on your speaker presentations?

Our next step will be hopefully to get our presentations online and presented live for our out-of-staters and home-bound members. I am in the process of collecting information from other genealogy societies that are doing this such as the Utah Genealogical Society. You can visit their blog and see their “Virtual Chapter.” 

What does the future hold for my local genealogy society? More blogging, Facebook representation, surname and query exchange via online tools, records management and “cloud computing,” and online membership registration and renewal process.

What technological tools is your local society using?

Photo of PlaySport video camera downloaded from 
Photo of USA Map downloaded from Smabs Sputzer’s Flikr page 


  1. This is great news for the society. Thanks so much for your efforts!

    See these links for free video transcoders:


  2. Dominique, thank you so much for these suggestions. I will give them a try!

  3. Thank you for the time and effort you put into your blog. I have chosen you to receive the "One Lovely Blog" award. You may stop by my blog to see the rules that go along with accepting this award.


  4. Love this post! Great job Ginger.