Monday, June 29, 2009

GenSeekers Wanted

June 26, 2009 by paulballen
Filed under: GenSeek, Genealogy, History

A few months ago I twittered about wanting to hire someone to travel for the next 365 days throughout North America for a special project (which is still in the works.) I even suggested the person may have to legally change their name, in the publicity-stunt spirit of Half.com, Oregon or DotCom Guy from Texas.

Within an hour or so I had 9 candidates who direct messaged me on Twitter or replied on Facebook wanting to learn more! This amazed me, and a few of them have reminded me over the past few months of their strong interest in such an adventure — an all-expense paid year of travel to every state, learning, blogging, meeting people, getting local publicity, doing deals.

As I said, this project is still in the planning stages, but we are now considering another project for a different division of our company that may also attract the interest of some adventurous retired couples or young couples who want to travel for a year and help us form partnerships all across the country.

I call this the GenSeeker Project.

GenSeek.com is a forthcoming website being built in partnership between FamilyLink.com and FamilySearch.org. It features a new version of the FamilySearch Catalog, and a myriad of social and Web 2.0 features that will enhance the usefulness of what is already the largest catalog of genealogy sources in the world.

There are millions of sources of genealogical and local history contest that have not yet been catalogued by the team in Salt Lake City. The new web site will enable libraries, archives and societies to add their unique content to the catalog, which will bring it to life in a new way and make more people aware of it for the first time.

But how shall we make libraries, archives, and societies all over the world aware of how GenSeek can help them bring awareness to their unique holdings?

While driving through Idaho and Montana last week, I stopped at a couple of small towns, checked out some historical sites and even tried to visit a pioneer museum. (It was closed.)

I love travelling to places I’ve never been before. And I realized, as I travelled, that in every town, city, and county across this country (and the world) there are interesting local historians and genealogists, librarians and archives in every location. Someone in every community feels a need to preserve and organize historical records.

In Sweden, there are nearly 2,000 local historical societies that preserve records. And from a population of 9MM people, there are 450,000 paying members of these local historical societies. That is 5% of the population. Astonishing really. But many families in these towns and villages have lived on the same land for centuries. Same is true of much of Europe.

With the western migration and the mobility of modernity, we don’t seem to develop such deep roots here in the U.S. But in the smaller communities we still do have roots. And individuals that are knowledgeabout about local history and genealogical records and are devoted to preserving them and providing access. Mostly these local history savants are probably old-timers with family ties to the area.

A lot of people live not too far from where they were born. (Source: FamilyLink survey, March 26, 2009)

How far do you live now from where you were born? (5071 responses)

* Less than 50 miles

18%
* Less than a mile

9%
* Less than 10 miles

15%
* Less than 100 miles

8%
* Between 100 and 1,000 miles

26%
* More than 1,000 miles

24%

I love driving to new places and meeting new people and discovering local history. I look up Wikipedia articles for virtually every place I visit (on my blackberry or iPhone) and am always excited to discover famous people or events, or in particular, entrepreneurs or inventors from these places. I love the stories that make local communities interesting.

If I had fewer responsibilities holding me back, I’d get a big kick out of getting in a car and driving for the next 365 days to visit interesting places. Someday, I think my wife and I will probably do something just like that. And if there’s a business model to support it, this kind of a road trip could last even longer.

So back to the GenSeeker Project.

What if we found some retired couples or other small teams who were willing to get in a car and travel for the next 365 days to thousands of communities across North America to meet with the genealogists, historians, archivists, and librarians in each community? What if they were armed with smart phones and smart applications that helped them find the right people to meet with in every community, and set up meetings as they went? And what if they had a group of people at company headquarters who helped them plan, communicate, document and publish things they learned along the way?

What if all the expenses were paid for by FamilyLink, including food, fuel and accomodations, and the autos were furnished as well?

Would we want one team, or two, or more?

Should we start by experimenting with a single couple/team for a month or two and see how it works out? Or should we jump in whole hog and recruit 3-4 teams and set them loose on this year-long historical and genealogical information-gathering expedition?

This project is also in the idea stage, but it is likely that if I start finding some interested participants, that we could start an experiment like this, for a month or two, as early as August or September.

So send me an email (PAUL AT FAMILYLINK.COM) if this sounds interesting. Please put GENSEEKER in the subject line, and make sure you explain the skills that you and your companion or team would have that would convince us to choose you to represent us (FamilyLink/GenSeek/WorldHistory.com) in hundreds of meetings with local groups across the U.S. as you immerse yourself in an historical travel adventure.

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