24 February 2012

Follow Friday - Who do you NOT know?

Well, made it to another Friday and my gosh, it's nearly March! Holy mackerel!! 

For those of you that follow me here, first and foremost, thank you. It's only been about six months since I've started this blog, and it's been a mix of information, searching, more information and kvetching. What I've realized is the incredible power that Social Media has, both over Society as a whole and us as individuals. I'll leave the larger Social aspect of it to the professionals; today I'd like to address the personal, individual aspect. 

In August, I attended my first tweet-up, a social event taking place during the Society of American Archivist's meeting in Chicago. At the end of March, I'll be attending the Midwest Geneabloggers first meeting in Ft. Wayne, IN where I'll be meeting a group of ardent genealogy bloggers to research and socialize. Hmmm...there's that word...socialize. Because, I believe, many of us are here to fill a social void in our lives. That's not to say that we don't HAVE social lives...LOL...just that there may be an aspect missing, or more to the point, there's something additive about being on social media.

My first foray into Social Media was in about 2007 when my husband's nephew was preparing for a May 2008 wedding. There were plans galore, and with people being strewn across the globe, everyone was getting on Facebook to stay in touch. So I thought, 'why not.' And, like many before me, I lost my mind. Heh. I allowed Facebook to take up far too much of my time. But, I was able to connect with people I would not have otherwise had the opportunity to connect with: people I'd gone to grammar and high school with, relatives in other States, people I did (and didn't) know in foreign countries. At that time, Facebook was fairly easy to use, and it was private. I could send private messages to people without concern that everyone on the Internet would be reading them. 

But then, as Facebook grew exponentially, they started to make changes. Mark Zuckerberg has notoriously said that he thinks everything on Facebook should be open and transparent (as Twitter is), and that flew in the face of many user's expectations. People started leaving Facebook looking for other social media outlets. One of my friends (@thinkstory) told me about a newer social media platform called Twitter. It wasn't anything like Facebook, yet allowed you to connect with other people. So, I tried it. And, once again, I lost my mind. Heh. 

The huge difference between Facebook and Twitter is that on Facebook you "friend" people, but on Twitter you "follow" people. People you DON'T know. And, right about now if you ask, 'why would you want to do that?', then you're missing out on a huge part of social media. I like to think of Twitter as a giant 1950's era dance party. You walk in and see all the little groups together in one big room. There's a huge variety of people, and generally speaking your instinct will be to head over to the group you already know. They welcome you warmly, and it feels good. Then someone from one of the other groups comes over and says to one of your friends, 'hey, did we meet at the soda fountain the other day?' Your friend acknowledges them, interacts with them and you feel comfortable because there's a mutual connection. But, and this is where it gets really great, the new person then says, 'Hey! I have a whole bunch of other people for you to meet!!' You have the opportunity and option to either meet them or not. It's social. All the way.

Why the heck am I bringing this up? Well, there are more and more social media platforms, with more and more ways to connect with people. I left Facebook for a while, mainly because of privacy concerns. I didn't like the fact that what had been a seemingly closed, private network became so open and transparent. But, having spent a couple of years on Twitter, I realized I could utilize Facebook in the same manner now, and so I decided to do that. A few days ago, I started sending Friend requests to people I'd connected with on Twitter and Google+. The more of those I'd sent requests to, the more suggestions I received. So, I went on a Friend spree. Except yesterday I received a nasty message from Facebook saying I had Friended too many people and/or sent Friend requests to too many people I didn't know. Well, duh. YOU suggested I Friend these people, so I did. Anyway, in the end, I received lots of messages of support when I vented my frustration about it, and I'm not going to let a silly policy stop me from 'meeting' people on Facebook.

If you're not out on Twitter, I strongly recommend you try it. There are many, many wonderful genealogy Tweeps out there, willing to follow you, if you follow them. And, if you just want to lurk, i.e. watch without participating, I have a list of genealogy tweeps you can follow: Its All In The Family. You can find me @ArchivalBiz. If you have questions or aren't sure about it, send me an email and I'll be happy to explain it. In the meantime, get out there. Socialize! You just never know who you're going to meet. :-)

15 February 2012

Wisdom Wednesday - I Won the Lottery!!

Sometimes the direction our lives take doesn't correspond with how our minds expect it to go. That's neither a good thing or a bad thing, it's just reality. I think what defines a person as strong is the ability to adapt to these direction changes. What if you won the Lottery? That'd be an incredible direction change, right?

For several years, I left my genealogical research because, I claimed, I was too busy. The truth is it was just too difficult. Not the research mind you; that I have down cold. It was the emotional part of it. The delving into the lives of those who came before me and the somewhat harsh realization that I would never have a direct descendant looking for me. It made me sad and frustrated that THIS is how life turned out for me. 

I can smile about that now. Because I realize that the genealogical community is vast and that you simply never know who's going to be looking for who (or whom, you know what I mean). What's more astounding is the way in which technology plays a role in bringing people together to make the genealogical community even stronger. Or help you make a sharp a turn, just like winning the Lottery.

In going back to review what I posted about my family in Cincinnati, I realized I didn't actually write about it in its entirety. I won't do that now, but need to give a bit of the 'back-story' as it were to make my point (yes, I know, it always takes me a while to get there; indulge me). When I picked up my research after the hiatus, the first thing I did was go out and look at the family trees I'd posted oh-so-long ago. I stumbled over a post someone had done regarding a Wersel family member, and I responded. That set the wheels in motion to me going to Cincinnati, Ohio for the first time in my adult life, to spend the weekend at the home of Bill and Kim Strubbe. Bill is my second cousin; they generously invited me to stay in their home, without having met me, so that we could exchange genealogical information. It was an incredible journey for me, truly, and I owe the Strubbes a debt of gratitude. 

While I was there, Bill invited our 3rd cousin, Nancy Rybolt, to join us. Nancy brought her husband Bill, who is a family historian himself. The 'cool' factor there is they brought with them a shopping bag full of family documents, some dating to the 1820s. Unbelievable. Nancy told us that she had 'trunks full' of this material; she'd just not known what to do with it because it was old, fragile, and most are in languages she couldn't understand. I'm blessed with having spent the last 7 years or so learning foreign languages and how to read handwriting, so what was impossible for them to decipher wasn't nearly the challenge for me. 

When I got home, I poured over the scanned images I'd made of the documents to glean what I could. I wrote about it here, posted pictures, etc. And through the posting of a name here, I received an email from someone looking for help to break down a brick wall they had in their genealogical research. A new client! At exactly the time I needed it. My own work, as an Archivist, has been decidedly bumpy the last few months. Some of my own doing, but mostly due to things over which I have no control. Many, many direction changes; some that I honestly believe would give most people whiplash. 

Throughout this process, with all its direction changes, I've received the equivalent of a Lottery win. Through social media, Twitter specifically, I've been connected with a group of genealogists who have supported me in ways, small and big.  I started this blog, thinking it would be something to use as a way to get my surnames out there, and it's turned into an amazing vehicle for me to chronicle this journey for posterity. It is because of my new connections that I felt I was ready to really kick my dream of a business into high gear. I've met people in real life who I would have, most likely, not met otherwise and who I consider great friends. I've created and presented programs on integrating Archives and genealogy; a passion of mine from the start. I've started the ProGen Study group to increase my theoretical knowledge as well as my experiential knowledge of genealogy. I wrote a chapter for a book my friend is publishing on genealogy for kids (I'll have more on that later). I'm working on research for clients. And I have several books in mind to write myself. 

Did I mention a group of us are getting together in late March to go to the Allen County Public Library in Ft. Wayne, Indiana? Yup. The Midwest Geneabloggers are going to storm the library's Genealogy Center, and then the home of Tina Lyons, who god bless her heart, is opening her home to this exuberant group of genealogists. And, many of those same people will be attending the NGS Annual Conference being held in, that's right, Cincinnati, Ohio this year. Think I'm going? Oh, heck yes. 

Thank you, technology and genealogy, for giving me the equivalent of a winning Lottery ticket. I promise, I'll spend it wisely.

08 February 2012

Wisdom Wednesday - Lessons Found Outside the Classroom

My great grandfather, Henry Wersel (1863-1936) was 'uneducated'. According to family oral history, he went to school until he was 12 or so, and then started to learn the family trade making fine furniture. But somewhere along the line, Henry got an opportunity. Not to get a traditional education, sitting in a classroom, but a job. A job that he would start sometime after his 17th birthday, and that he literally died on the way to 56 years later. That's right, he worked at the Cincinnati Enquirer, in Cincinnati, Ohio, for 56 years.

I remember when I got a faxed (remember them?) copy of Henry's obituary back in 1996; how I felt when I read the remarkable words of his life (you can read it on my post here). His life was his work and the books that he so lovingly collected. I remember thinking, 'Why would a man who didn't go to school collect so many books?' and 'How the heck did he become a writer?'

I found the answer in myself. I love learning. Today, I'm termed a 'non-traditional' learner. It took me 22 years after leaving high school to be prepared enough to go to college, sit in a classroom, listen to a lecture, absorb the material and regurgitate it back on a test. Did I retain any of it? Some. But I'd be inclined to say that there's at least half that left my brain the minute I put down my pencil after the final exam. Am I glad that I took the opportunity to go to college? Absolutely! I loved being an adult student surrounded by incredibly intelligent young people, and to this day I visit the campus simply for the experience of being back in that atmosphere. 

Prior to going to school full-time, from 2003-2006 (yes, got my BA in only 3 years...DON'T try this at home!), I obtained my NASD/FINRA Series 6, 63 and 7 licenses to sell securities. Considering that I barely passed basic math in high school, this was quite a feat. But I'd wanted to move forward in my career in the Financial Services industry and so, on a dare, I signed up to take the tests.  I studied the material provided and passed the exam on my first try (only 65% pass.) I was so excited that I was a Stockbroker! I spent the next seven years learning everything I could in the Financial Industry, trying to make a career out of being a Securities Professional.

I wonder if Henry ever felt the need to use the word "Professional"? At 17, he started out working the presses at the newspaper. I can't even begin to imagine what that must have been like. It was incredibly physical, dirty work. And yet, how rewarded must he have felt when he was able to read about the world he lived in and know that, without him operating the presses, that knowledge wouldn't get to people? 

I don't know how it is that Henry was able to move from the presses to being a writer. I hope someday to have the opportunity to get back to Cincinnati to do some hands-on research regarding the Enquirer and its growth. What I do know is that at some point Henry became a contributor to the paper, and at the end of his life he was editing a column called 'Why and Wherefore'. Of course, he didn't have a piece of paper that said that he'd passed some group of courses that made him 'qualified' to do this job. He did the job, and did it really well, and so the paper let him continue to do the work. Was he a Professional, or did that matter? I wonder if people who read the column thought, 'Well. That Henry Wersel writes pretty well for an uneducated person.' 

Yes, there's a point in here. I'm currently struggling with issues in my own work. After having been in the business world and/or working for nearly 30 years (yes, I started working as an infant) I find that I'm once again not able to find full time employment. Sadly, the industry that I'm in, Archives (yes, it's an industry) requires a certain level of education to be considered a 'Professional'. A level of education I am not willing to invest in because my ROI (return on investment - see, I DO remember some of what I learned) would not be sufficient. Yet, I spent 7 years getting my hands dirty doing the work of an Archivist, reading everything I can get my hands on and educating myself so that I can move forward in my career. No, in doing the work I love.

Wait. Henry went from Pressman to Writer, right? I'm fairly certain that at some point, a turning point for Henry, someone gave him the opportunity to write a column. And I bet he hit it out of the park. He was eloquent and yet concise. He articulated his thoughts in a manner that everyone could understand. He spoke not only to the educated, but to the uneducated as well. These are the genes I have been given. I want to honor them by showing that I have the ability, even the talent, to be great at my work. So who's going to be willing to give me the opportunity to hit one out of the park? Do people even do that anymore?