Hi yall, as a special treat to those of you that love GenealogyToday.com and was wandering how it got its start and about the man who runs it, this weeks column is an interview with the The Big man at GenealogyToday.com. Since moving over to this site I have found him to be an engaging person with a very active sense of humor. I have also found that he knows his genealogy and apparently spends the bulk of his time on the Site.
- How long have you been doing Genealogy?
Well, I did a project for school in sixth grade, and then didn't it up again
twenty years later. Interestingly, just a few weeks ago my mother gave me my
(deceased) grandfather's notes he had saved from my school project.
- When did you start Hosting and Why?
It started with my own family research at Daddezio.com, and then branched
out into Italian Genealogy. One thing lead to another and within 18 months I
had built six sites. Why? Like most genealogists, I like to help other
people with their research.
- What got you started on Genealogy?
I grew up as an only child in a small nuclear family, and my paternal
grandparents died when I was a young boy. My motivation has been to expand
my living family, the ancestors are merely a means to locating cousins.
- Do you ever feel like there is no end to this?
No, I think there is a definite end to one's research. Since I started my
own research, I find I am much more interested in the stories and
characterizations about my ancestors, than just their names and vitals. Most
people, like myself, are descended from poor family folk and once our elders
pass on, there will be little we can do to further that kind of research. I
don't find birth certificates very interesting unless I can attach it to a
face or a story about the person.
- Where do you get most of your motivation to do this?
I have a grand-aunt who is 89 years old and she's was the one in the family
who was always curious about our family tree. She "lights-up" when I enter
the room 'cause she knows I share her passion.
- What is the strangest Question you have been asked?
Most of the "off-the-wall" questions I get are a little depressing. So many
people neglect their heritage until the family patriarch/matriarch is on
their death bed. That's when I get questioned about how to accelerate
research. I place the "fault" on both parties. On the one side we (the
youngin's) should be more interested in our heritage, and on the other they
(the elders) should make an effort to record their life story. Of course, it
takes "two to tango"...
- Does your Family support the amount of time you put into this?
Well my grand-aunt sure does (GRIN)... I think my family has finally
realized (after several years) that this is my "thing". This is how I can
give back to society... some people volunteer at their church... others at
the fire department... I give my free time to helping preserve family
histories. I did, however, have to have them all hypnotized in order to get
them to wear the Genealogy Today t-shirts! (GRIN)
- How would you define your job?
Job is such a negative word... I don't get paid for what I do. My job is
what I do during the day. The time I spend developing my sites is volunteer
work... and much more rewarding. If you want me to define my "role" I'd have
to say I'm the ringmaster... I get to work with many talented people, and
using my programming and marketing skills I help put their work in the
spotlight for others to learn from.
- How has the computer changed your research?
Aside from my sixth grade project, I have done my research with the computer
by my side. I've been programming for about twenty years, but for the real
research (like everyone else) I still have to spend time in the library, the
courthouse and my local Family History Center. The computer, and more
recently the Internet, are great for keeping things organized, contacting
other researchers and finding clues. But no matter what, you still need to
get at original documents to verify your research.
- Do you regret getting involved to the degree you have?
Not at all. I cherish all of the cyber-friendships I've developed, and the
reward of knowing that everyday my sites are helping thousands of people. My combined sites are visited by over 8,000 people a day. It's really incredible.
- How many (If Any) conventions do you attend a year?
This year will be the first... I'm heading to Portland, Oregon to attend the NGS show. If any of your readers attend, I'd love to meet them and hear what they think of Genealogy Today.
- How do you feel the purchase of Rootsweb by Ancestry.Com will affect it
and "Free Genealogy"?
I really don't have any feelings about the acquisition, because I do not know the real facts that motivated it. For all I know, Rootsweb may have been running out of funds and would have closed down if Ancestry didn't step
in. Yes, Ancestry.com is a commercial venture, but do you realize they still add two (or more) databases every weekday? It's an incredible operation.
- Which Genealogy Program do you use most often for your personal
I spend most of my research time digging up stories and pictures of my ancestors and interviewing relatives, so I have never really "shopped" around for a genealogy program. I use Family Origins to keep track of all the names and dates, but most of my research is captured using Microsoft
Word since it is in a journal format.
- Do you think There should be a twelve step program for genealogy like AA
----- Would you be interested in one.
Not possible. Those other programs (for alchoholics or gamblers) only work
because you can take away the vice when you put the addicts in a room together. You cannot do that with genealogists. The only way to cure this addiction is through isolation. Group therapy is just not possible.
- What do you see as the future availability of records online ---- Paid
Paid. People don't realize how much it costs to run web sites and digitize records. And what we really need is to see the original documents. I'm excited about some of the Census projects underway, since you can see the actual documents online. I think to fund more projects like those, we're going to have to pay for access. When you look at services like
Ancestry.com, it really is cheap when you consider all of the databases you gain access to.
- Do you wish there was or do you know of a Genealogical Herb, besides
No, I don't imagine there is a single herb that would inspire us all. Rather I believe there are numerous "genea-disiacs" that are unique to our own families. My Italian roots come from a small region in Italy where a special grape grows. After rooting through dozens of wine stores, I found one that imported the local wine from that region. Every year, at Christmas, I go and pick up a bottle. Our big family gathering wouldn't be the same with out it.
- What do you think is the single most helpful thing you have done for the
I am most proud of the three directories (Cemetery Junction, Society Hill and The Records Room) I built. They are all at Daddezio.com and took enormous amounts of time and energy to accomplish.
- Do you ever feel like just walking away?
Sadly, sometimes I actually do. Every few weeks I get a rude (and sometimes vulgar) e-mail message from someone who visit my site and feels dissatisfied. After putting in so many hours and thousands of my own dollars, it's very discouraging.
People need to take my work for what it is, and remember that it is all online and FREE.
- Is it difficult to keep up such a large web site?
Very much so. I've got over 3,000 web pages to worry about, and we add a dozen more every week. Plus there are over 50 databases that need to be monitored closely. At least once a week a porn site gets submitted into one
of them. Sometimes instead of feeling like a "ringmaster", I feel more like a "babysitter".
- How big is your staff?
It varies and is made up mostly of volunteers. The only permanent staff member is Max, my six year old dog who faithfully lays by my side every night when I work. He has the final say on every piece of content we publish. I encourage my writers to send him a treat if they want to get their work published on time. (GRIN) Seriously though, I am very grateful to
all of the wonderful people who help make Genealogy Today one of the best Web sites around. I couldn't do it without them.
As you can see from his answers, Illya is a man dedicated to the enrichment of our hobby and also in touch enough with the very important business side of it see the very plausable future of the hobby. I may not completely agree with all of his opionons but I do understand and appreciate them. Also I wanna suggest all of y'all that attend the NGS conference in Portland make a special point of saying hello to him and telling him that Uncle Hiram sent You.
"I am not rich or famous so I don't have a pre-prepared Bio written by some high paid ghost rider. So I will just give Yall the relevant facts."