Geni Podcast: Getting to Know Thomas MacEntee
How did you get started with Genealogy?
I got started back in the early 1990s when my mother handed me a copy of a printed genealogy one of my ancestors had created in 1916. George W. Putman was my 6th cousin 5 times removed and he published The Genealogy of David Putman and His Descendants, 1645-1916 (view digital version online here). Only 100 copies were printed.
I was fascinated not just by the stories in the book, including how my 9th great-grandfather Johannes Putman was killed in the Schenectady Massacre of 1680, but also by how my cousin did his research: he contacted every postmaster in every small town in upstate New York and asked if anyone with the name Putman lived there, and if so, could he please have their address.
How did you hear about blogging, and when did you start doing it yourself?
I was familiar with blogging since it began in the mid to late 1990s but my opinion at that time was this: it’s a bunch of extremely opinionated, self-important people in need of a soapbox. It wasn’t until blogging matured over the years and when I saw that more people were using it to document their own lives, I made the connection with blogging and genealogy.
For me, my first blog started in December 2006 as a means of documenting the family stories my mother would tell. She was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s Disease in 2000 at age 58 and I knew I had to somehow capture those stories and the story of how she grew up.
For people who want to contribute to the genealogy community, where should they start?
There are so many ways to “give back” and now with social media there are so many more venues. Here is what I recommend:
- Get involved with a genealogy society. Societies need members who bring talents especially leadership experience and technology skills. You can join a local society or join one of the state or national societies online and help them developed programs. Visit the Federation of Genealogical Societies (http://www.fgs.org) to find a genealogy society near you.
- Transcribe records. Get involved in an indexing project whether it be with FamilySearch (http://www.familysearch.org/eng/indexing/frameset_indexing.asp), Ancestry World Archives (http://landing.ancestry.com/keyingtool/notify.aspx), or Footnote (the Restore the Ancestors project at http://www.restoretheancestors.com). Also, do you have a fascinating set of records that could benefit other genealogists? Transcribe it and put it up on a blog or a website.
- Volunteer opportunities. Sign up with Random Acts of Genealogical Kindness (http://www.raogk.org/) to help out other genealogists. Add burial records and photos to Find A Grave (http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=abr). Or volunteer with Unclaimed Persons (http://www.unclaimedpersons.org) and help county coroners and medical examiners locate the next of kin.
- Teach the children. Getting youth involved with genealogy is my latest cause. We need more focus in schools, churches, libraries and activities clubs about family history. I would love one day to see a professional genealogist be invited for career day at a school!
When did you start doing genealogy podcasts and online radio shows? How did that get started?
I’ve never thought of myself as a media person, a reporter or a broadcaster. However podcasting and internet radio is a natural extension of social media as well as wanting to market myself and my genealogy business. By delivering audio content – paired with a blog post filled with episode notes and links to websites – I realized I could expand the possible audience for genealogy.
GeneaBloggers Radio (http://www.blogtalkradio.com/geneabloggers) started in February 2011 when the second season of Who Do You Think You Are? aired on NBC here in the United States. For the first season, many of the bloggers were meeting online in a Facebook chat or some other chat to discuss the episode but it wasn’t the best vehicle for discussing the show.
I had looked at Blog Talk Radio over a year ago and thought it would work well since not only is there an audio portion but there is also a chat room where listeners could share their idea and give instant feedback to the host of the show. The original format of GeneaBloggers Radio was a listener call in show where people would call in and give their opinion on the WDYTYA episode. By April 2011 it morphed to a standard talk show format with anywhere from two to four guests discussing a common topic such as education, family reunions and other aspects of the genealogy community.
How have webinars changed the way you work with the genealogy community?
Webinars have been a game changer for me and I believe for the genealogy community as well. Here’s why: webinars allow me to deliver more educational content to bigger audiences at a lower cost to both me and the host (whether it is a genealogy society or a genealogy vendor). Webinars also capture that presentation in a recording that can be downloaded and played later. It is all about convenience and making genealogy education “self-serve” for the consumer. This is also why Internet radio works so well: if someone misses the live broadcast, they can download the episode to their mobile device or Apples iTunes and listen while they commute or exercise. People like to have valuable content delivered when and where they want and need it most.
The biggest challenge with webinars right now is convincing genealogy societies and genealogy speakers that the technology required to run these virtual presentations is approachable. Luckily I think we are seeing that – I just signed three speaking contracts for genealogy webinars with societies, some as far away as California. But this is why earlier I said that we need more “techies” involved with societies to help guide them along this path.
Where can people find more about you?
A colleague recently said it was difficult to avoid me, especially on the Internet. I took that as a compliment and it told me that I must be doing something right!
- To see what I’m up to as far as speaking engagements, presentations, webinars – check out High Definition Genealogy (http://www.hidefgen.com).
- For a glimpse into my own genealogy research (and to take a peek at my research toolbox), visit Destination: Austin Family (http://destinationaustinfamily.blogspot.com).
- And don’t forget the radio show! GeneaBloggers Radio (http://www.blogtalkradio.com/geneabloggers) every Friday evening at 9pm Central.