GenSeekers Wanted

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A few months ago I twittered about wanting to hire someone to travel for the next 365 days throughout North America for a special project (which is still in the works.) I even suggested the person may have to legally change their name, in the publicity-stunt spirit of Half.com, Oregon or DotCom Guy from Texas.

Within an hour or so I had 9 candidates who direct messaged me on Twitter or replied on Facebook wanting to learn more! This amazed me, and a few of them have reminded me over the past few months of their strong interest in such an adventure — an all-expense paid year of travel to every state, learning, blogging, meeting people, getting local publicity, doing deals.

As I said, this project is still in the planning stages, but we are now considering another project for a different division of our company that may also attract the interest of some adventurous retired couples or young couples who want to travel for a year and help us form partnerships all across the country.

I call this the GenSeeker Project.

GenSeek.com is a forthcoming website being built in partnership between FamilyLink.com and FamilySearch.org. It features a new version of the FamilySearch Catalog, and a myriad of social and Web 2.0 features that will enhance the usefulness of what is already the largest catalog of genealogy sources in the world.

There are millions of sources of genealogical and local history contest that have not yet been catalogued by the team in Salt Lake City. The new web site will enable libraries, archives and societies to add their unique content to the catalog, which will bring it to life in a new way and make more people aware of it for the first time.

But how shall we make libraries, archives, and societies all over the world aware of how GenSeek can help them bring awareness to their unique holdings?

While driving through Idaho and Montana last week, I stopped at a couple of small towns, checked out some historical sites and even tried to visit a pioneer museum. (It was closed.)

I love travelling to places I’ve never been before. And I realized, as I travelled, that in every town, city, and county across this country (and the world) there are interesting local historians and genealogists, librarians and archives in every location. Someone in every community feels a need to preserve and organize historical records.

In Sweden, there are nearly 2,000 local historical societies that preserve records. And from a population of 9MM people, there are 450,000 paying members of these local historical societies. That is 5% of the population. Astonishing really. But many families in these towns and villages have lived on the same land for centuries. Same is true of much of Europe.

With the western migration and the mobility of modernity, we don’t seem to develop such deep roots here in the U.S.  But in the smaller communities we still do have roots. And individuals that are knowledgeabout about local history and genealogical records and are devoted to preserving them and providing access. Mostly these local history savants are probably old-timers with family ties to the area.

A lot of people live not too far from where they were born. (Source: FamilyLink survey, March 26, 2009)

How far do you live now from where you were born? (5071 responses)

  • Less than 50 miles
  • 18%
  • Less than a mile
  • 9%
  • Less than 10 miles
  • 15%
  • Less than 100 miles
  • 8%
  • Between 100 and 1,000 miles
  • 26%
  • More than 1,000 miles
  • 24%

I love driving to new places and meeting new people and discovering local history. I look up Wikipedia articles for virtually every place I visit (on my blackberry or iPhone) and am always excited to discover famous people or events, or in particular, entrepreneurs or inventors from these places. I love the stories that make local communities interesting.

If I had fewer responsibilities holding me back, I’d get a big kick out of getting in a car and driving for the next 365 days to visit interesting places. Someday, I think my wife and I will probably do something just like that. And if there’s a business model to support it, this kind of a road trip could last even longer.

So back to the GenSeeker Project.

What if we found some retired couples or other small teams who were willing to get in a car and travel for the next 365 days to thousands of communities across North America to meet with the genealogists, historians, archivists, and librarians in each community? What if they were armed with smart phones and smart applications that helped them find the right people to meet with in every community, and set up meetings as they went? And what if they had a group of people at company headquarters who helped them plan, communicate, document and publish things they learned along the way?

What if all the expenses were paid for by FamilyLink, including food, fuel and accomodations, and the autos were furnished as well?

Would we want one team, or two, or more?

Should we start by experimenting with a single couple/team for a month or two and see how it works out? Or should we jump in whole hog and recruit 3-4 teams and set them loose on this year-long historical and genealogical information-gathering expedition?

This project is also in the idea stage, but it is likely that if I start finding some interested participants, that we could start an experiment like this, for a month or two, as early as August or September.

So send me an email (PAUL AT FAMILYLINK.COM) if this sounds interesting. Please put GENSEEKER in the subject line, and make sure you explain the skills that you and your companion or team would have that would convince us to choose you to represent us (FamilyLink/GenSeek/WorldHistory.com) in hundreds of meetings with local groups across the U.S. as you immerse yourself in an historical travel adventure.

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16 Responses

  1. Beth

    We are a retired couple living in an RV – we travel 8 – 10 months a year all over the U.S., often visiting historical/genealogical locales. Do you realize how many of us are out there??? Mobile, hooked up, experienced, off-the-beaten-path kinds of people. There is even a formal organization under the Escapees RV club banner:

    This sounds like a really cool idea!!!

  2. Beth

    We are a retired couple living in an RV, traveling 8 – 10 months a year throughout North America, following the sun and visiting many historical/genealogical places along the way. Do you realize how many of us there are out on the roads??? Unencumbered older genealogy addicts with mobile phones, internet satellite receivers, multiple computers, and a great knowledge of the small towns of America.

    There is even a formal organization under the Escapees RV club: the SKP Genies

    Looks like you have a ready task force. The only major problem is they are an independent lot.

  3. Erick T.

    We are a newly retired couple wanting to travel and getting paid for it. Both us us are professionals, my wife formerly had 3 retail business’s that we have now sold and I have been in the computer space for the last 35 years.; and was just named to the Presidential Roll of Who’s Who among Busines and Professional Achievers in America. We are very interested in your idea and would like to learn more

  4. Renae Burgess Linn

    This is an exciting idea! I have been doing geneology as long as I can remember and I’m over 50 now. My family politely listen to me go on about this i found or that I just got which provides more history of our family. A picture of a grave, a story of a father dying trying to take his family west to a better life, a mother who buried 1/2 her children and lives in a sod hut to survive till they can make their dream of a better life happen, A mother who leaves India and travels to England then America, losing her daughter in Iowa pushing on West to meet up with her husband and son. Becoming a mother of 12 and many more decendants because they wanted a better life. YES!! There are stories in every town, in every home, in every family. This is what We are about. Who we are because of what our ancestors did,

  5. Andrea Osinchak

    When I read this originally I immediately wrote a letter to Paul Allen and sent my resume. It’s been about 6 weeks and I’ve not seen anything that has been decided. sounds like there is lots of interest, and I’m hoping that I’ll hear something one way or the other real soon. my latest project of a family history conference in Newark, DE was a week ago – we had over 400 people attend and I’m anxious to plan the next phase of my life hopefully on the road doing genealogy for WVR. who should I be contacting?

  6. Barbara Kyriss

    This is a great idea – I have been wanting to do this for years! I love hearing the stories of our pioneers and how we are connected in one way or another. I have also been researching the various parts of the family for years.

  7. J'Anette

    What if you had local people, specialists in the local area who know their own county, and maybe three or four surrounding counties? What if those localists were able to do this on a part-time basis, but perhaps be much more thorough, touching base with ALL local small town holdings. These localists would be able to hit the small museums when they are open.

    What if I was to volunteer as a localist?

    What if….?

  8. Michelle Braakman

    My husband is very close to retiring and I am a good 10 years away. He would love for me to quit work and travel with him, however, I need to work (compulsive). I have been doing genealogy for about a year and am totally addicted! This would be my dream job!!!!

    I’m sure whomever you choose would have the time of their life!

    Go for it!

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