Or "Rednecks, Big Dogs, and Yankees I call Boss"
by Uncle Hiram
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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"...
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)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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".
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.
- Adios and Keep Smiling!
- Bill Hocutt (Uncle Hiram)