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Thursday, July 19, 2012

Technology Coordinator, Thomas MacEntee on how to keep up


Why would you recommend a student attend SLIG in general?

I would recommend SLIG because there are many options in terms of subject matter and then once you select a track and get to SLIG, the learning environment is a supportive one. The coordinators and SLIG staff make sure that your learning is priority #1 and work hard to provide a week where you will not only be able to pick up new skills and knowledge, but expand your genealogy network and meet new friends as well.
Will you tell us a little bit about what makes your SLIG course unique among genealogical education offerings?

My track – The Genealogist’s Guide to the Internet Galaxy – is basically a boot camp for genealogists who feel overwhelmed by technology and also have a fear of falling behind in terms of their “tech quotient.” The classes in my track will not only cover some of the latest technologies, but also help you develop an approach to managing technology and keeping tabs on the technology news you need as a genealogist.

When did you first start researching your family history? Was there a moment when you knew you were “hooked?”

I started around 1991 when I was handed a copy of a printed genealogy for my Putman line. Genealogy of David Putman and His Descendants was printed in 1916 and the stories about Johannes Putman are what “hooked” me.
Do you have a pet ancestor? Can you tell us a little bit about what makes this person so special to you as a researcher?

My pet ancestor is actually someone I knew and who had a big impact on my life: my great-grandmother Therese McGinnes Austin. Not only was she imposing physically (over 6 feet tall), so too was her character. I am still uncovering her entire story, even after she passed in 1989 at age 94.

What record set to you believe is the most under-utilized? What advice would you give students in using this record set?

My favorite record set right now is the collection of upstate New York newspapers at Old Fulton Postcards (http://www.fultonhistory.com/fulton.html).  Most researchers of American genealogy should have this in their research toolbox, even those with research in the Midwest and beyond. With over 19 million searchable pages, it is filled with valuable data and it is free!

What books and periodicals would you recommend for intermediate to advanced researchers? Are there any lesser-known texts you advise?

Related to the Technology track I am coordinating, I’m going to take a different approach and recommend a few blogs related to technology that can help any genealogist improve their tech skills:

Lifehacker: http://www.lifehacker.com
Makeuseof.com: http://www.makeuseof.com
Free Technology for Teachers: http://www.freetech4teachers.com

What is the most rewarding thing about being a genealogical educator? What advice would you give for those who would follow in your footsteps?

Like most educators, I feel rewarded when someone “gets it” or when they are in that state of revelation where they can connect the dots.  I believe that being better aware of technology and the tools available can help genealogists get to that point.

In my mind, to be a good educator, you yourself must be open to learning new things. You should be constantly curious and place yourself in that state of “I don’t know.” A thirst for knowledge can be contagious and your students will pick up on this.
Do you have a website where students can learn more about you?

Yes – several in fact:
High-Definition Genealogy: http://www.hidefgen.com
Destination: Austin Family: http://www.destinationaustinfamily.com
GeneaBloggers: http://www.geneabloggers.com
Will you share something with us that students may not know about you? Perhaps a non-genealogical hobby?

I was a ballroom dancer during the late 1980s and most of the 1990s. I specialized in West Coast Swing, Lindy Hop and Jitterbug.
Any parting thoughts or advice?

Don’t be afraid to forge your own path, even in an established field like genealogy. Our ancestors didn’t always get ahead by accepting the status quo.  Many of them questioned the generally accepted standards of their day and set out to build a vision of what they felt their world could be.

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