Starting Saturday, Aug 23, 2014, our weekly genealogy chat, which just entered its 2nd Year (born Aug 10, 2013), becomes a WEEK LONG event!.

Feel free to drop in and share your thoughts anytime. If you wish, you can register yourself for the event beforehand so you get a reminder before it starts.

Important note: The Weekly Genealogy Chat occurs in its own room, not the main room (Roots).

If you have any topic ideas for sequential weeks, feel free to share them in an answer here - or while you are in the chat with us!

We're reviving the Weekly Chat -- and starting off 2015 by following along with Thomas MacEntee's Genealogy Do-Over: see 2015: Year (okay, thirteen weeks) of the Do-Over?

The Do-Over will finish up in March, so let's hear your ideas for new weekly chat topics!

The topics for older chats are below.

  • If you don't have a favourite timezone checker, timeanddate.com/worldclock/meeting.html will do the job. 1100 UTC is 12 noon in London, 6AM in Chicago and 9PM in Sydney, for example. Luke, presumably people can turn up without registering? Registration just gets a reminder (and lets you know how many people are thinking of attending...)
    – user104
    Commented Aug 6, 2013 at 15:05
  • @ColeValleyGirl Precisely. It also gives us a head count on who's coming.
    – Luke_0
    Commented Aug 6, 2013 at 15:30
  • Ahhhhhhhhhh! I missed the chat! :( Registered for the reminder. Will not miss again :( nuts. Commented Oct 6, 2013 at 16:34
  • 1
    Almost 1000 users, currently at 999
    – Sam
    Commented Feb 1, 2014 at 1:10
  • I see that some of the chat room events for other sites display a start time: "[time] in your timezone". Would it help if we translated what "all day" means for different timezones?
    – Jan Murphy Mod
    Commented Jul 13, 2014 at 1:06

18 Answers 18


[Topic for 2/15/2014]

Topic for future weekly chat: How do we track down sources for an area/timeframe that we're interested in? I'm hoping a chat will help us structure a series of 'canonical posts' about locating sources for different countries.

Stealing shamelessly from https://ell.meta.stackexchange.com/q/754:

The idea behind Canonical Posts is to take a subject which is often encountered ... and create a post which thoroughly explains that topic. The goal is for these posts to be as useful and easy-to-understand as possible.

  • I like the idea, but I don't think it's a good fit for chat. I can't imagine there would be much to talk about other than "What areas are you an expert in? Okay, well you go to that one."
    – user47
    Commented Aug 7, 2013 at 15:17
  • @justinY, I was thinking the chat would be about how we each track down sources, and that the work to help structure the canonical posts would be done after the event from the transcript (deriving the structure rather than talking about it explicitly.)
    – user104
    Commented Aug 7, 2013 at 15:19
  • That's one way to do it, but it seems like a waste of chat event because we would just be dumping URLs and stuff. I think a Google Doc or Spreadsheet would be better because it can be organized and be done according to our own time frame.
    – user47
    Commented Aug 7, 2013 at 15:22
  • I've used similar techniques in brainstorms where URLs aren't even a possibility and they work well -- focus is on process not outputs. But if the consensus is that it won't work for the weekly chat I'll set up a separate chat room for canonical questions the way ELL has done it.
    – user104
    Commented Aug 7, 2013 at 15:26
  • I could go for a separate chat room; it's much better than trying to fit this into a chat event.
    – user47
    Commented Aug 7, 2013 at 15:32
  • @JustinY, the focus would still be on 'how we find sources' not 'how we structure the relevant canonical questions'.
    – user104
    Commented Aug 7, 2013 at 16:00
  • Would the chat be focused on a given area and time period?
    – user47
    Commented Aug 7, 2013 at 16:01
  • @JustinY In the dedicated chat room? No -- that would be too restricting (especially time period). We might choose to focus on a particular geography for a while (e.g. the States, Australia, or England & Wales) especially if a relevant Canonical Question was active. If we were doing it in the weekly chat, we might make a different judgement.
    – user104
    Commented Aug 7, 2013 at 16:07
  • The difficulty with the weekly chat, especially at this time of year, is that many people may have holiday and family things on the weekend. A dedicated chat room might be better. I would suggest focusing on either time or place, or discussing local resources vs. national archives, or some topic which is focused enough but not too much.
    – Jan Murphy Mod
    Commented Dec 12, 2013 at 2:13

Here are some things that come to mind.

  1. I've seen several questions where the mods have responded that they aren't really a good SE question -- might some of these questions be good topics for chats? E.g. How can we gain confidence in different types of records?

  2. Good research practice, where we confess mistakes we have made when starting out. Sort of like What Not To Wear, only for Genealogy. [Topic for 12/14/2013]

  3. I'm in the midst of reviewing my prior research, and would enjoy discussing workflow and effective ways to do a review with others. Would this be a good chat topic? What are the advantages of reviewing all the source material for one person as a group? Of transcribing all the census records for the same town in a particular census year, and examining them as a group? Of looking at a set of siblings all at once? And so on. [Topic for 1/4/2014]

  4. Is that odd bit of information a discrepancy, or an important clue? (used as a launching point for sharing case histories) When do you decide to let it go? [Topic for 1/25/2014]

  5. Netiquette. Another user on Ancestry has a person who matches someone on my tree, and the sources attached to that person are from Mars (their sources disagree with one another ). It looks like push-button-itis. Do I contact them, and if so, what do I say? How do you talk with tact about the fact that two trees wildly disagree and avoid barging in and saying, "look here, you're all wrong". Or is it better to just ignore them, and let them come to you? [Topic for 17 May 2014]

P.S. Copied from chat:

Martin Sojka Jul 15, 1:16 I wish we had a proper genealogy-specific search engine. Something which on a name would find just the relevant records, both original and on sites like MyHeritage, FamilySearch and WikiTree.

What a proper genealogy-specific search engine might look like -- or what a proper search engine for a service like Ancestry, FindMyPast, WorldVitalRecords, etc. might look like -- that could fill many chats. Many. Well, I could fill them, anyway. [Topic for 12 April 2014]

Edited to add: I'm new to SE, so feel free to point me to any guidelines.

  • I like "Mistakes we made" idea, and also comparing workflows. Well, actually, I like them all.
    – user104
    Commented Dec 1, 2013 at 12:39
  • Note ColeValleyGirl's comment was made before I added #5.
    – Jan Murphy Mod
    Commented Dec 1, 2013 at 18:13
  • 2
    I like #5 as well. A lot... Let me tell you about the time when... Nope. I'll save it for the chat!
    – user104
    Commented Dec 1, 2013 at 18:15
  • Is it 'best practice' to keep editing one's own answer? Because I keep thinking of things, like "do you research relatives who have left the family because of divorce?" Why can't I come up with good answerable questions instead? <FX: bangs head on desk>
    – Jan Murphy Mod
    Commented Dec 1, 2013 at 18:18
  • 1
    editing your own answer is preferred to creating new ones. The only risk is that it will become 'Community Wiki' (i.e. belonging to everyone and not to you) if you edit it too much. Let me do a quick training course :) and I'll see if I can change this back to your ownership!
    – user104
    Commented Dec 1, 2013 at 18:22
  • 1
    For this particular case (coming up with new chat topics) it might be more practical to break the established convention and ask people to post each topic as a separate answer. Unless the SE setup would punish the user.
    – Jan Murphy Mod
    Commented Dec 1, 2013 at 18:24
  • True; on Meta it's not so important -- on the main site however, where there is (we hope) a 'best' answer, we'd encourage editing.
    – user104
    Commented Dec 1, 2013 at 18:28
  • I don't like making extra work for the mods and just want to do what's best for everyone.
    – Jan Murphy Mod
    Commented Dec 1, 2013 at 18:32
  • It's not really extra work, whichever you do on Meta.
    – user104
    Commented Dec 1, 2013 at 18:39

Desktop vs Web [Topic for 21st June 2014]

If you still use desktop tree software, why? What do popular web products lack that your desktop product offers?

  • That'll be a quick conversation, Justin :)) More like; what's wrong with web-based trees....
    – user104
    Commented Aug 6, 2013 at 18:13
  • It could be rolled into the first topic, Genealogy Software.
    – Luke_0
    Commented Aug 6, 2013 at 18:15
  • 2
    Desktop: Most people want their data in under their own control. Web: You don't know if its really yours or not.
    – lkessler
    Commented Aug 6, 2013 at 19:16
  • Web: the best way I know of losing control of your data (if it's editable).
    – user104
    Commented Aug 7, 2013 at 16:12
  • Web: if my ISP screws up, I don't have access to my work.
    – Jan Murphy Mod
    Commented Dec 12, 2013 at 6:31

[Topic for 10/5/2013]

I have an idea for a chat topic... Genealogy Travel.
People learn from people. It'd be interesting to hear how people set themselves up to succeed on a research trip. Do they start planning 6 months in advance? Do they tack on research to a trip that is mainly for other purposes such as business? How would that affect planning, how do you know what to search for first and where to search for it? ...What is more important, getting a hotel with a great TripAdvisor rating, or one that is across the street from the archives? I'd like some recommendations that come through hard-won experience.
I also think that it would be fun to hear some horror stories or celebration stories. "The best genealogy trip I ever had was..., because..." or "the one thing I will always bring with me is..., because once this happened to me..." This is the kind of thing that you can't do in a SE question. Maybe there are things that people always do now, because they learned the hard way on a trip once.
I think that travelling can be intimidating. I also think that phoning an archives or making contact with an historical society can be intimidating... Do successful genealogists get over this fear and make a bunch of calls before they go?
The topic could be looked at from many angles.

  • 1
    Also related to this, a sort of follow-up to the 'save money' chat: how do you prioritize the money that you spend on genealogy? It occurs to me that the type of preparation one would do for a research trip would also be useful for deciding what films to order from the FHL, etc. How do you maximize the amount of value you get from the money you spend?
    – Jan Murphy Mod
    Commented Dec 12, 2013 at 2:21
  • "How do you maximize the amount of value..." Seriously, I think that this comes down to planning, planning, planning. From everything like where your hotel is located in relation to the records, knowing what the process for ordering/requesting materials or gaining access to a historic site is, etc. etc. Can you believe that I was in Edinburgh and headed off bright and early Sunday morning for a day of research in the Records Office... only to discover that it is only open weekdays :( Bad planning on my part. I should have figured that out in Canada. It would have saved me an entire day. Commented Dec 12, 2013 at 4:07

What's on your Genealogy Bookshelf? [Topic for 1/18/2014]

What books do you find invaluable in your research -- perhaps 'how to' books about methodology, or reference works specific to a country or topic.

We don't do book recommendations in the Q&A section, but we can do them in chat!


Would anyone else be interested in a once-a-month brainstorming session?

  • The site just went through self-evaluation. For the questions which were marked "needs improvement" could chat be a vehicle by which we all focus on the same question at once and write up a better answer as a Community Wiki?
  • One of my local sewing shops offers a class where people can bring in their unfinished projects and work on them, and get advice from a teacher (and presumably other classmates). I'm having a problem figuring out exactly which microfilm I need to order for a couple of records I want to look at. This seems too persnickety for a regular G&FH.SE question, but I would appreciate having someone to look over the FHL Catalog record with me. Is this something for which chat would be better?
  • Great ideas, Jan.
    – user104
    Commented Mar 11, 2014 at 8:47
  • 1
    Would it be worthwhile to have MetaChats (about topics that belong in Meta)?
    – Jan Murphy Mod
    Commented Mar 12, 2014 at 1:59
  • Another good idea, as long as the topics are significant enough (or a bunch can be gathered together, perhaps)
    – user104
    Commented Mar 12, 2014 at 9:11
  • The chat topic I need today: How to Stay Focused While Using Ancestry.com.
    – Jan Murphy Mod
    Commented Mar 18, 2014 at 0:22

Stay-at-home Genealogy [Topic for 19th July 2014]

Not all of us have the budget for genealogy travel. Making the most of the internet and local research avenues is important. Share and receive tips on how to conduct thorough research locally and efficiently.


How can we graduate Beta sooner rather than later? [Topic for 26 July 2014]

We are fast approaching our 600th day as a Beta site of Stack Exchange.

Our Beta Site Stats Summary is available to review so let's brainstorm any ideas you may have to help put us further along the road to graduation.

Our visits per day (492) is not far off the 500 per day that would see us lift from red to amber but our questions per day (1.3) is well below the 5 per day that would be needed to do likewise for that measure.

Do we just need to post/encourage more questions in order for everything else to flow? Are we getting the right kind of questions to encourage more posting of others? Are we getting the right kind of answers to encourage more posting of questions?

Is a focus on more questions the right approach or would you like to suggest alternatives?


Working towards the Genealogical Proof Standard

[Topic for 12 July 2014]

The Board for Certification of Genealogists says:

Proof is a fundamental concept in genealogy. In order to merit confidence, each conclusion about an ancestor must have sufficient credibility to be accepted as "proved." Acceptable conclusions, therefore, meet the Genealogical Proof Standard (GPS). The GPS consists of five elements:

  • a reasonably exhaustive search;
  • complete and accurate source citations;
  • analysis and correlation of the collected information;
  • resolution of any conflicting evidence; and
  • a soundly reasoned, coherently written conclusion.

In your day-to-day research into genealogy and family history do you apply this strictly, work towards it when possible, or perhaps do it already without realising that way of working had a name?


What tools (that aren't specialist family history tools) are useful in conducting or publishing your research? [Topic for week of 20 Sep 2014]

I've seen mention of Scrivener and Outwit -- have you found these useful? And — thinking outside the genealogy box — what else have you used that might be useful to others?

  • I've edited the answer to add the timestamp -- this is the topic for the upcoming Weekly Genealogy Chat. Hope you can drop in!
    – Jan Murphy Mod
    Commented Sep 19, 2014 at 3:03

More ideas:

  • What's on your To Do List?
  • What kind of records on your Research Map are marked "Here Be Dragons"?
  • What are some of your "wow" records (that you were really excited to find)? [Topic for 1/11/2014]
  • If I Were Dictator: things I would change about online genealogy sites
  • What's in your library? (essential Genealogy Books) <== Community Wiki Bait [Topic for 1/18/2014]
  • Essential Websites <== Community Wiki Bait [Topic for 2/1/2014]

I'd also like to see a series of hosted discussions (not necessarily part of the weekly chat) on technical topics. For instance -- last weekend while I was hanging out in chat and working in another window, I did a Google search on persona records and ended up reading a lot of blog posts and forum discussions written by participants here on G&FH.se. Could we do something like a Reddit Ask Me Anything where a volunteer makes him/herself available for questions? The software developers could sound off about their software, I could talk about how my linguistics experience has informed my family history research, and so on. Obviously a person couldn't hang out the entire 24 hour chat window but they could be there for a few hours, and people could leave questions which could be answered later as time permitted. I think the Reddit AMAs are a couple of hours.

  • Does SE ever have chats with invited guests? Might that be a way to draw experts to SE? Establish a separate chat room where users can leave questions in advance, maybe.
    – Jan Murphy Mod
    Commented Jan 4, 2014 at 18:27
  • Yes. I know other sites, such as Blender.SE have done it in the past. Do you have someone in mind?
    – Luke_0
    Commented Jan 28, 2014 at 21:05
  • We might start with the software developers already here. I'd love to talk more with Tom Wetmore about persona records. We have ColeValleyGirl who is beta testing GenQuiry. Perhaps some of the other Family Historian UG people would be willing to come over and talk about writing FH plugins. Once we have been doing it for a while and have a track record of people actually showing up with good questions, it might be easier to invite bigger names. But we need to work out the bugs closer to home first. You don't want the scenario where a guest shows up and no one else comes.
    – Jan Murphy Mod
    Commented Jan 28, 2014 at 21:19

Making Time for Genealogy [Topic for 2/8/2014]

For most of us, genealogy is a hobby not a profession. How do you we fit it in among all the other demands on our time -- our families, our jobs, our communities, our other interests. We can share tips and tricks for making time, and for using that time effectively.


Tracing the Female Lines [Topic for 14th June 2014]

There are unique challenges to tracing the female line, at least in Western cultures. Name changes (sometimes many of them) every generation. Relative lack of property records. Not named in many birth and marriage registers.

What are the tips and tricks you've used when tracing the women in your ancestry? And what are the stand-out stories you've leanred about those women?


Starting Over? Why and When? [Topic for 28 June 2014]

If you spend any time in the genealogy/family history corners of the Internet, sooner or later you'll encounter somebody 'Starting over' -- re-tracing and re-recording their research.

When is this a good idea, and why? Or are there better ways to deal with the perceived problems of (among others) poor citations, lack of consistency in using the features of your software, realising that for the last 10 years you've been researching completely the wrong line....

  • "realising that for the last 10 years you've been researching completely the wrong line...." Ouch. That has got to hurt.
    – Luke_0
    Commented Mar 10, 2014 at 20:58
  • @AmericanLuke It didn't actually happen to me -- or rather, only for 1 year not 10 -- but I've heard of people to whom it did happen
    – user104
    Commented Mar 11, 2014 at 8:16
  • I recently re-read one of my 'how to' books where the author confessed she had traced an incorrect line for decades.
    – Jan Murphy Mod
    Commented Sep 13, 2014 at 17:03

Using Geography Tools to research and display our Family History

Displaying where our ancestors lived, and how they moved about, can be surprisingly revealing. We can talk about using tools such as ArcGIS (or others) to display our ancestor's stories. And about the pitfalls of encoding geographical info within our genealogy databases.


Re: the question: Personal family history website with rich media support?

Discussing the pros/cons of using the various existing services for social connections and genealogy collaboration (e.g. Facebook, Google Groups) might be a good topic for a weekly chat that could be mined for a Community Wiki Q/A.


Improving the Weekly Chat [Topic for week beginning 13 September 2014]

Posting a new answer here to call attention to the Meta Q Improving The Weekly Chat. If you haven't seen that Q and the various As, please take a look and post your thoughts.

My current idea for next week's chat (tongue-in-cheek, to be sure) is to find a better name for the Weekly Chat room.

  • After Gae­no­vium 2014 (which is coming up in October 2014) please can we have a post-conference chat with speakers @ACProctor and @lkessler and any other developers who attended the conference?
  • For a more general topic, we could have a chat on conferences in general -- which ones have we attended, were they helpful, which conferences put sessions online for viewing afterwards or make their syllabuses available for download, and so on.
  • Another related topic: what we do for 'ongoing education' either formal or informal. What blogs / Hangouts / newsletters / etc. are useful to keep up with for current events and so on.
  • Beyond the Person: Using geographically-based websites e.g Curious Fox.
  • Beyond the Person: Using record-based websites e.g. Lost Cousins.

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