Writing a research question

An important part of genealogical research is deciding what questions you want answered and where might you find those answers. This was a great choice of topic for #ANZAncestryTime 

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What is the purpose of a research question? Are research questions an important part of your research methodology?

Sorry I can’t make today’s #ANZAncestryTime! Research questions are my favorite topic

Here’s a link to @marksology‘s site The Ancestor Hunt. The March 15, 2021 Bi-Weekly Newsletter includes my guest post, “Crafting an Irresistible Research Question”. /2 theancestorhunt.com/blog/bi-monthl…

You can find out more about Genealogy and Family History Stack Exchange, a question-and-answer site where I’m one of the mods pro tempore, by taking the tour and reading our help center. /3 genealogy.stackexchange.com/tour

Sometimes when we’re reviewing prior research as we’re writing up our questions for the site, we discover we know how to answer the question ourselves. Stack Exchange encourages people to write self-answered questions as a way to share our work. /4

These journals from @GenSocIreland will be of interest to those with #IrishGenealogy. Issues include practical information about working with documents such as Irish Wills, as well as family histories of the diaspora issuu.com/gensocireland/…

When doing the diploma, I found Dianne Snowden gave great help when setting up specific research question rather than just a general one. This has improved my researching skills tremendously

I really should have done that intro subject 😬 #ResearchQuestions are immensely useful & I should endeavour to use them more.

I do rely on research questions when writing my family stories. They create an intention & help me to stay focused. I tend to easily go off track otherwise

The point of a research question is for it to be specific so it can help you to find the answer to a problem. A research question helps you stay focused on a task

Ever since I started Family History at the University of Tasmania I have tried to write a focused and concise research questions as part of my research plan – to focus my research. Have I been successful? NO.

I find using the website research Ties helps me to write research questions as it is set up for this purpose app.researchties.com/users?verifica…

Going back over previous research and reexamining evidence very helpful in formulating the next steps – and deciding what question needs to be answered.

I am not good with excel Alex so I need a well structured log ready made for me. Research ties helps me to keep track of my research and since I began using it I tend to use research questions more

A well crafted research question can guide our research to the right record set

Writing out a research question forces you to focus on what you want to know. You can see if it is more than one question. Or maybe you are a little confused and have to relook at your evidence. To me it is focusing on just one question at a time.

Shauna to me question at a time is key, along with focus., Without a research question I would want to tell a person’s entire story in one writing session.

It depends on what you mean by a question. I have questions I want answering all the time. Today’s – what is John Cummings’ date and place of birth? Why is he not in any records until he marries my cousin in 1916?

Relooking at your evidence is a helpful process when researching.

I think research questions help structure your thoughts and identify what you already know and keep you on course as it were. I need to use them more regularly in my research.

I find that if I formulate research questions I am more likely to achieve a successful outcome as I stay focused

I’m currently writing family stories for the April A-Z blogging challenge. A research question for each post stops me rambling on and losing focus of the intention of the post.

I found Thomas MacEntee’s Genealogy Do Overs very useful in this regard. Encouraging us all to go over previous research, slow down and testing theories. I blogged about it here familytreefrog.blogspot.com/2015/01/do-ove…

Currently going over all my research entering sources first rather than just dates and places so if no source it does not get entered

A much as I promise myself that I will put some source even if it is not perfect I found 2 people yesterday that I have added to try to get to DNA matches & have no idea where I got them from. They are living to so it’s probably not a tree

It is easy to forget where we found things when we forget to record it Fran but we all do it from time to time

Research Qs help narrow scope/time (important for me with any client work). For personal work, I tend to use research Qs when I’m investigating a theory e.g. pattern of 1Cs rather than siblings as wits. Otherwise, generic research Q “what can I learn about X”

It really is helpful. Don’t get me wrong, there are times when I just poke, shake, rattle and pull (my own research) randomly to see what shakes out. Sometimes best discoveries are from that or it allows me to frame a more concrete question.

Yes, RQs are an important part of my research methodology. Asking the right question, and making sure the question is answerable, can open up new avenues for #genealogy research.

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How would you structure an effective research question? Do you record your research questions, evidence and outcomes in a research log?

I really dislike research logs & don’t use them. I record my research question plus evidence & outcomes in my family history program.

I used to use notebooks but I found that I wasn’t able to quickly find where I had found information so an online log is working well so far

Yes Sharn – same. I think what is great about online logs (read blog in my case) is that you can tag stuff and search for it easily.

My rule of thumb is “use what works for you”. The best system is the one you’ll actually use.

well I am always firmly in favour of never reinventing the wheel when someone has already done a marvellous job. I recently discovered Prudence Dwyer’s SMART research goals template on Fuzzy Ink Stationery creativefamilyhistorian.com/productivitypo…

To create a good question you must gather what you already know and how you know it. I will only record a question if I am going somewhere to find the answer

An excellent point Hilary. As the Cheshire cat said to Alice when she asked which road to take “It depends on where you are going”

Unfortunately I don’t record my research question, evidence and outcomes in a research log very often. My blog is the closest I come to that. Here is an example of some recent research but I need to do better – check blog listed below

Hard to describe in a few words. I include points to create borders around or exclude information that you might find. Eg born 1888 means you can pass by years say 1888+-2 years. Or immigrated to Aust in 1895 means suggests the 1901 census is not relevant.

I usually use pen and paper. I don’t keep them once I have answered the question. I record the outcome in my genealogy software. I don’t use a research log & never have. With new resources coming online I think we need to review and go over existing research.

This is how I do it too Shauna. I’m so pleased to hear you don’t use research log either. I did think I was a ‘bad genie’ for not using them

I have only been using a research log since we did that topic Jennifer but I have found it helpful so far for remembering what I have done – sometimes I forget and grab a notebook out of habit

I find it works for me to record it in Legacy in the notes for the person

I use notes in Legacy for DNA information seeing my tree is a DNA matches tree. I have my own sources too like BDM Online and Cemetery Search

I create a structure for blog pages of my ancestral lines – so that helps keep it focused rather than necessarily writing research questions – however for my Colonial American ancestry research I created a summary project page of directions I was taking

A summary project page is a great idea. I always create a structure when beginning a blog post about a family member. Along with the research question it helps to keep it clear and concise

Perhaps I subconsciously do this as I write my profiles. I have certain data I try to find for all of them, then look for extra info if I have time. That list is in my head. Then I add the categories and stickers

I usually have a research aim with two or three questions relating to it, then list of records to use to find the answers

I’ve been wondering WHERE people write their #ResearchQuestions. I think i’d have to have it, in very large letters, on a whiteboard above my desk, for it to keep me honest.

My whiteboard is where I put my research question Brooke. Along with any brain storming I think of that might help to answer the question

I also write the research question in the person’s notes in Legacy and at the top of a blog post and delete it when it’s completed. I find that works really well for me

I like that approach Jennifer. I’ll have to find the equivalent notes place in Family History Maker software.

If I am going to the archives, I will write question on my notes app in ipad, then as I find answers will add to the app

Several apps been released over the last few months for use on @WikiTreers. For Electoral Rolls I use the Ancestry Citer app. The source is same for all except district & year. I keep it loaded on a tab, add link, create source, copy & paste it in the profile.

I agree! I like to break down a research question into small distinct steps. That way you feel like you’re making progress, even if you can’t answer the question fully, or straight away.

SMART works for me: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Time-sensitive. e.g. What testamentary evidence is available from online sources (incl. library/archive catalogues and newspapers) for person X in country/ies Y between 1852 and 1890.

Approach depends on context. For theory testing usually excel. For personal research, the log is the person profile and allows me to identify specific knowledge gaps. Otherwise, word doc with headings tailored to research q, incl search parameters/criteria

I use @ScrivenerApp as my research planning journal. It is writing software with an integrated outliner, document editor, and index cards.

For research planning and discovering questions to explore, I like to create a timeline and a checklist of sources already gathered. For tough cases, I use a spreadsheet based on this design by Crista Cowan.

Crista’s checklist is cleverly designed to go along with Ancestry’s categories of records (no surprise there). I’ve added other categories to mine, like academic papers and genealogy journals.

There’s a space on the Source Checklist spreadsheet to put the research question at the top. If you have several RQs about the same person or family line, or in the same locality, it’s easy to copy a sheet and keep everything together in the same workbook.

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Tell us how you have used / could use a research question to solve a problem in your family history research?

Well I may submit a brickwall question to the SAG English research group this week but want to be sure that I present the information clearly to them. Their guidelines ask what I know and where I’ve looked so that is a start.

A key part of a research question for me is a timeline. That allows me to see any gaps or inconsistencies. James Henry Trevaskis disappeared in Copperfield, QLD. I have narrowed down to less than 5 year gap. Still haven’t solved that but review every so often.

I have several places where a research question may help usually when father is unknown

Before I formulate my research question. I always create a timeline to help show where I have gaps. I love timelines!

I find that I tend to use research questions more when I have a tough problem to solve like differentiating between two people of the same name. Staying focused and writing everything down helps

For me I need focus. Writing a question down, reviewing what I have, listing possible sources, not repeating work. Am I successful? Not all the time however if I do a weekend full of research I do progress and get more done.

I love the timeline approach. @ScientistSoph ‘s GenShow presentation about negative space emphasised how useful it is.

I’ve used MindMaps for framing some complex challenges like finding ancestry of my 3 x gt gdmother from the Isle of Skye – wrt Viking ancestral lines etc

Currently examining 1898 and 1902 reports of sibling funerals to identify those individuals/families who attended both and using 1901 census to begin building family trees for those men to query relationship to family. Early days but promising

I’ll link to some of my RQs that I posted on Genealogy Stack Exchange. (As my husband’s former boss used to say, “If you don’t cite yourself, who will?”)

I found a card index for probate files on FamilySearch and realized I didn’t know how to use the index properly to find the file. So I worked it out and posted a self-answered question to show others how I solved the problem. genealogy.stackexchange.com/q/5372/1006

This brilliant QA was written in response to one of my questions on the site about GRO subdistricts. If you need to narrow the geographical area when ordering a certificate for a birth or death in England and Wales, try this clever hack. genealogy.stackexchange.com/q/10355/1006

 

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Share where  we can find information about using research questions. What has been your best source of information?

Another post that helps with writing a Family History research question from @familylocket. familylocket.com/research-like-…

my research questions are not as detailed as some of I have seen. Depends on what the issue is. I prefer to keep things simple, You can use your genealogy software to record them eg by using tags for brick walls and then in the text list what you know

Some blogs and websites with information thefhguide.com/blog/inside-th… bcgcertification.org/ten-minute-met…

If I have a particularly sticky research question I will use @EvidentiaSoft to analyse the information

We do have to think of those who come after us Margaret. When I think back to some of the old info, totally unsourced that has been handed to me over the years. It’s very frustrating. You want to be helpful to your descendants

That is why I put all my research on WikiTree and FamilySearch – it will be available for everyone after me. I am transferring my mother’s 50 years of work from her unsourced trees to these place adding the sources as I go. I HAVE NO DESCENDANTS.

perhaps the best piece of research I did was with the aid of a mindmap which did show up areas of research I hadn’t investigated in connection with my maternal grandfather. I blogged about it here familytreefrog.blogspot.com/2015/03/resolu…

How to Develop a Quality Genealogy Research Question from @FHFanatics. I love the Youtube with Devon & Andrew. To the point, quick and easy to understand. familyhistoryfanatics.com/quality-resear…

I think we all have our own approaches that suit our brains/work styles. Mine is based on college & experience. There’s no “right” way IMHO. Maybe one mentioned today will resonate more than others. Do what works for you. Best advice is “suck it and see”! 🙂

 

Blog posts

Sue: Conducting your research.

Alex: Canadian research,

We picked this topic to help us think about Research Questions as next week we are doing “Helping Solving Your Brick Walls”. It is one of the popular suggestions for a topic. During the week feel free to write a question & tweet questions.

Not quite sure how it will work. Other chats do this so lets give the topic “Helping Solving Your Brick Walls” a go next week. Regards Fran & the team

Readers: Do you use research questions and how do they help you in your research?

Crowdsourcing and NFHM2021

Fantastic topic for #ANZAncestryTime chat especially with National Family History Month in August.

Free-Photos / Pixabay

What do you think is crowd sourcing in relation to Family History?

Genealogists or family history type groups helping each other and working together for a common cause

Excellent definition Sue – succinct and yet comprehensive 🙂

For me it’s about asking for support for a collaborative project

I put a callout on the blog for guest bloggers to write about our shared family members. Maybe that’s crowdsourching? Btw I didn’t get anyone take up the offer

Some societies use guest bloggers to write posts weekly eg @gsq Yet another type of crowd sourcing. gsq-blog.gsq.org.au

Curious fox website curiousfox.com

I’m a member of a number of FB groups, occasionally I will ask for help when I’m stuck but I usually ask for help on How I can find the info I’m looking for so I can find it rather than ask someone else to find the info for me

There’s nothing like making the discovery yourself, that to me is what #genealogy is about plus you learn on how or where to find what your looking for

help from Ireland Reaching Out is a type of crowdsourcing where locals who know the place help researchers from afar.

Morning! Not sure that I can contribute a lot to the topic today but you’ve just quoted the one example I could think of. #ANZAncestryTime Although @duchas_ie also uses crowdsourcing and this can also be a great assistance to 20thC #FamilyHistory research – just ask

Also digitisation has overtaken some earlier indexing. Of course correcting Trove texts and adding to lists fits this category as well.

In NZ there’s the 1893 suffrage petition database nzhistory.govt.nz/politics/women… you are able to contribute a short bio

this event (Twitterchat) is an example of crowd-sourcing n’est-ce-pas?

I would argue that the 2 ancestryhours we participate in are a type of crowdsourcing as well.

There is CSI: Crowd Sourced Indexing available to genealogy societies and special interest groups for indexing their records. It is a free, web-based program I saw at #RootsTech a number of years ago. csindexing.com

The new versions of Rootschat email groups that I m a member of are definitely crowdsourcing with lots helping find info for someone with a question – mainly Tasmanian groups

not used crowd sourcing that much. I have a few FB groups for each of my family groups, in asking questions but hit and miss. Used wikitree but find mistakes.

Perhaps something like hawkesbury.net.au/claimaconvict/… where you can not only claim a convict but also contribute information about them

A great result of crowdsourcing is FreeUK Genealogy @FreeUKGen with lots of volunteers

asking and receiving help on social media, platforms that provide input e.g text correction on Trove, transcription sites so many examples. i’ve had folks improve photos just by asking

I suppose that putting cousin bait out there on my blog could be crowdsourcing

I guess @BillionGraves would be another example of crowdsourcing yes?

using social media & message boards to assist both on and offline. Years ago a helpful person on Rootschat looked at some Welsh records for me, long before they were online.

Left a message on Rootschat 4 years after original post. Got a response and person was able to give me information about my Turnbulls Borders area of #Scotland going back to 1700s 😲 ❤️message boards / #Facebook groups / #Twitter threads opportunity to ask questions & #giveback

Another great example of crowdsourcing is @WikiTreers. From the growing well sourced trees to special challenges, the make use of the crowd to advance trees and familyhistory knowledge.

I had to google the definition “enlisting the services of a large number of people, either paid or unpaid, typically via the internet”…. So basically getting a group of genealogists together and seeing what unfolds! Hehehe.

Crowdsourcing is when a community helps to research such as on @WikiTreers

Indexing for @FamilySearch is one of the big uses for crowdsourcing in #familyhistory. At the other end of the spectrum is individuals asking for help on social media such as Facebook Groups.

I think it can be a number of things like when I go “Hive mind – what’s a good TV show to watch?” – it can be asking your peeps for help or advice or it can be transcribing a graveyard together.

Devanath / Pixabay

Discuss your crowd sourcing experiences from helping an individual’s research through to large indexing projects. (Or do you avoid crowdsourcing?)

Asking the crowd for help with getting material from paid for genealogical sites or free I think is wrong. There are copyright restrictions and these should be followed.

Yeah that irks me. Like, I’m paying this large sum money because I’m using their website for the research I am doing. And copyright copyright copyright. So many of them have free trials or a month payment if you don’t want to fork out more $$$

Or join a society, go to a library or @FamilySearch centre, etc. There are so many places you can source stuff than elect to break copyright.

I’m a contributor to both @IrelandXO and @duchas_ie The former involves helping individuals with their research and the latter involves transcribing the Irish schools’ folklore project from 1930s. I’ve also assisted individuals on other sites

I was very excited to be able to help with this using my knowledge of the excellent resources of bda-online.org.au

I’m about to start a crowdsourcing project during the Christchurch Heritage Festival in October, which I can’t tell you the details of yet… But stay tuned…

so far, only recently starting using social media for crowd sourcing, which have pointed me in the direction of new resources, especially with overseas research. Only started blogging which might help others in the future

there are lots of ANZAC sites that crowd source data on specific soldiers and war memorials.

The Online Cenotaph – Auckland War Memorial Museum is an example of that

Years ago I went to the research room. Probably my first exploration into checking out archives. A bit more specialist than the local library. With so much online I am wondering if the research room still exists. Could not see about it with a quick online check.

Kia ora, Pou Maumahara Memorial Discovery Centre replaced the old Armoury on Level 2 in 2016. The public are welcome to use the published resources and contribute to #OnlineCenotaph aucklandmuseum.com/war-memorial/o… We are happy to answer any questions

Another crowdsourcing opportunity is Scottish Indexes which is getting support from indexers .

I have just this week begun to transcribe records for @scottishindexes This is my first time transcribing

I was transcribing Naval records for the TNA there for a second too last year.

Just started my first page @scottishindexes They’ve given me so much in past 18 months – 11 free 8 hour conferences. I felt the need to payback a little

Another site I’ve been able to contribute to collection.nelsonmuseum.co.nz/explore collection of digitised glass plate negatives. Identified photos of gg-gparents

a bazillion years ago when I started I helped @GSQPresident with indexing deaths during JAn-June 1916. You can imagine given WWI. I suspect no one has ever looked at them

never underestimate how much you’ve helped dear Pauleen. I think that’s the tragedy is that much of the work is unseen/unrecognized and yet used all the time.

Like some software recognises the developers it would be nice to recognise the workers by adding to digital documents people that helped.

I suspect many people using #ancestry or #findmypast don’t realise the indexes have been created by societies as they don’t read the source info

I have made connections and found people who emigrated using @WikiTreers

I get family info requests on my Irish and Dorfprozelten blogs which helps others

I use FreeUKGen sites @FreeUKGen and have donated to them did start transcribing years ago but did not carry on

and I imagine to a degree that’s what @LostCousins might be all about too, yes?

I suppose a recent/continuing experience is being part of a Facebook group for my Gill ancestors and helping write up a document of all the descendants on my line from my 4x G Gparents down & assisting others with writing their line.

good result from crowdsourcing here 3 different versions of one photo enhanced by Rootschat folks after I asked for advice on FBook – see post below

Not a big crowdsourcing person. Really a lack of time as I work full time. I think it is a great idea although some of the questions I see on social media asking for help could be solve with a google search. Not sure they are lazy or what.

yes someone complained about that on my facebook knitting group today but I think it is just people want to hear from a human not a machine where they can find stuff or what they should be using.

I love transcribing Tassie convict records but usually get the person to type out what they can first, then I help with the unknown bits.

I reckon some of the best crowd sourcing that has happened has been during the UTAS course – by sharing assignments for everyone to read, I got some excellent advice/feedback from other students. (Only shared after assignment had been marked – Ed)

I am very busy on @WikiTreers but have previously transcribed for Family Search

Just today I have a comment on my latest post suggesting I have the age and time period out by a decade – love that input!

I agree I get all sorts of unexpected info and requests from my blog

I love it when people make contact through the blog when if they recognise their ancestor in my post

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Have you any plans or suggestions for celebrating National Family History Month in Australia & NZ?

I attended the opening talk by Zoom with @HicksShauna and plan to attend the closing one with @fiona_memories. Our group is running a talk with Shauna via zoom also.

Where do you find out about all these talks, etc?

good point Brooke. I think we should have some kind of national calendar like the NFHM calendar AFFHO did but for all the time. There is conferencekeeper.org/event-submissi… but I suspect a US focus.

Great idea – another thing we need a volunteer to upkeep? NZSG has an events calendar. Perhaps AFFHO could have n annual calendar. genealogy.org.nz/Events-Calenda…

Sharn’s talk was so amazing. I really do wonder at the value of having bricks and mortar if we are safer using zoom. It was always so hard to get people to use the library anyway – I think our efforts now need to go into digitizing as much as we can.

Hoping to get to a family history day next Saturday. Wellington Region #FamilyHistory event (combined Wgtn branches of NZSG)

Might see you there, Jane. I’m selling raffle tickets in afternoon.

ah raffle tickets. The funding lynchpin of many a society 😉

Auckland and Christchurch Family History Expos. Launching a new Plan to Publish online course plus some new guides to help with publishing and sharing your research.

When I can get back on the computer, re start my blog!!! Dormant since 2018.


I have joined in with @luvviealex #NFHM2021 Blogging Challenge to blog every week or more often in August


Am doing two talks at Rosny Library – will probably be half hour talk then hour and a half to do practical stuff from the talk

I’m going to a talk at my local Family History Society. This will be my first visit

The opening talk to Family History month in AUS & NZ discussed the future of #familyhistory societies. What role do you see societies playing in the future?

you can now have a speaker in London give a talk to a society in Cheshire watched by someone in America that’s the one good thing to come out of the last two years, but like archives, if we don’t use family history societies they will disappear

I really like locality chats eg run by #DevonFHS for a gp of Parishes, sharing real local knowledge, alongside FB for questions between chats. #RyedaleFHG have informal Zoom chat (how to peel a banana to detailed FH questions/sharing finds informally – is great too.

I have used #familyhistory societies in the past, and can be useful as they have inside knowledge of counties and towns, particular maps. They do need be more involved with social media.

#future very much depends on members/committees keeping up to date w/ #technology, making their resources available #Online / in #Digital format, changing mindset from pull to push ie as much if not more online teaching content & resources as #f2f engagement

Check out Part 1 of podcast from last week between Andy of @AFHpodcast & Margaret from @FHSofCheshire – who discuss the benefits of #FamilyHistory societies. Well worth a listen Link – amateurfamilyhistory.com/2021/07/28/epi…

Personally I think local Societies need to be more interactive with all members do combined meetings about local topics

Even still, a lot of online sessions are held during work hours. I usually sign up If it has a watch later option, but I always forget to watch it later.

And more flexible timing. I know I could only go at weekends or evenings when I worked and had a family at home.

very true. And if we got younger presenters that might suit them better anyway.

I (Alex) think more user-generated content is essential and I think that has been part of SAG’s success with Friday afternoon chats. I have been so impressed with members’ contributions.

The issue though is how many societies we can afford to be members of. How do you weigh up which to keep, which to join, which to leave?

I expect value for money especially when your already a subscriber to several other websites, plus other costs involved in buying Certs etc, #genealogy is not a cheap hobby and some people should not expect it to be freely given either

I’ve never been able to get myself into the society thing. Maybe because I’m younger? I’m not sure. Joining a society just hasn’t spoken to me. I love the online fam history groups – Maybe they could have a fb group if they don’t already.

My English ancestors come from 20 English counties but I’ve never really considered joining a Society mostly due to cost of joining so many, I would follow them on Twitter/Facebook so I could keep up to date with news from the Society’s

excellent point which I hadn’t considered before. You just can’t afford to join every society can you ? But Facebook is free 🙂

And don’t forget ancestorian.com That is free too

At least with following Society’s on FB/Twitter if I see a post made by the relevant society I can comment or send a message and make enquiries

I would join societies for areas my ancestors are from if I knew joining would be useful. If it’s not going to be helpful, why bother?

Which means that #FamilyHistory societies need to MARKET themselves. What is the value proposition for joining a society? (My idea of becoming a marketing guru for FH societies keeps growing 🙂

Agree, I think the majority of members are retired or have a lot of time. Often only open few hours during the day while others working. They can be useful but again hit and miss

The successful societies will weigh up the costs of going online with the number of members they may attract subs will reflect this

Local Societies know the peculiarities of their area and history useful for researchers from afar they need to promote this

completely agree Hilary. The most successful posts for QFHS Facebook page are about the local projects we have indexed or digitized.

Societies need to adapt to changing social & economic conditions. Change takes time to implement and requires planning. Might be too hard for many organisations when they might not have the skills to succeed at adapting.

In order to survive Societies need to encourage younger people and involve themselves more with social media

Societies need to upgrade websites and start getting younger people into their ranks

Blog posts

Carmel – Using photo enhancement as crowd sourcing,

Alex –  Genealife in lockdown challenge intro, Sum up after the challenge,