28 May 2010 ~ 2 Comments

Using Webex For Collaborative Genealogy Research

webex

This week I was successful in using Webex – a web conferencing application from Cisco – to assist a genealogy colleague with some tricky research issues.  You can read more about Gini’s story here at her blog Ginisology.

The Process

  • The challenge: find information using German records on Ancestry.com to find Gini’s great-grandfather, Hans Bacher.
  • The issues: Gini was ready to upgrade to a World level subscription with Ancestry but she wasn’t certain that it would yield the results she needed.  In a way she wanted a “test run” but as a current Ancestry customer, this wasn’t possible on her own.
  • The solution: participate in a collaborative effort using my Ancestry World subscription here in Chicago and allowing Gini (and her mother) who were located 1760 miles away to interpret the results in German.

Webex To The Rescue

I’ve been using Webex over the past few months including teaching to the California Genealogical Society and Library in Oakland, California from my home here in Chicago.  For Gini’s situation, I decided to make the distance education process more personal and do a one-on-one session.

So I sent Gini an invitation to join my Webex session set for a pre-determined date and time.  We also contacted each other on Skype which meant no telecommunications charges.  For the next two hours, I was able to display my computer desktop and perform searches, enlarge images, discuss records on the phone, and also maintain a research log of the items located for later reference.

While we were not able to conclusively determine what happened to Hans Bacher once he found out Gini’s great-grandmother was pregnant, we found strong evidence that he may have ended up – of all places – in Chicago, Illinois!

A Proper Use of Ancestry?

I wanted to answer this question – whether it was proper for me to allow Gini access to my Ancestry World subscription – and give my thoughts on the issue.

  • First, I’d never give out my user name and login to anyone, even a good friend like Gini.  I don’t think that is wise and I do think that would violate the Ancestry terms and conditions.
  • Second, in this situation, Gini was already an Ancestry subscriber and thus couldn’t get a free 14-day trial for the World subscription.
  • Third, it is my belief that when all is said and done, that Gini might very well upgrade her subscription because she was able to really see the value of the product and the depth of the German record holdings.  The World War I military records especially for Bavaria – which is where Hans Bacher was located – are phenomenal.  I think this type of “sneak peak” which allows a potential customer to interact with the records can convert that person to a paying customer.

Conclusion

Webex has its own “taste it, try it” option with a free 14-day trial and any genealogist can use this to perform the same collaboration as I did with Gini.  In fact, this past February, another genealogy colleage – Craig Manson of Geneablogie – was able to use the trial version of Webex to teach two sessions from his home in Sacramento to the same CGSL crowd in Oakland.

If you are interested in working with Webex or even have me lead a session for your genealogy society or even one-on-one sessions, please contact me.   Currently, I am working with several genealogy societies and plan to appear at their upcoming meetings as a speaker at one-half my normal speaking rate if I appear “over the ether” using Webex.

© 2010, copyright Thomas MacEntee

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