Blog Category: Genealogy

Searching genealogical data: an opportunity for research

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On Jon Elsas’s suggestion, I dug into Ancestry.com’s genealogy web site & did some searching for my wife’s and my ancestors. In additional to the personal and historical interest, I was curious to learn about the data and the data sets from an information seeking perspective.

Ancestry.com federates thousands of databases and archives of varying size, purpose and quality. They provide an interface for searching the data, for saving results, for building up family trees, and for connecting with other people.

Searching this collection presents a range of challenges both for the system designers and for its users.

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How to keep searching

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I’ve had occasion to perform genealogical searches for my family as well as for others. Genealogical searches can be rewarding, but more often than not you wind up with nothing. So when starting on such searches one expects that little can be found; only one’s optimism determines whether to continue searching.

This weekend, my optimism paid off. Probably.

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DarwinTunes: a social experiment

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DarwinTunes bills itself as a “test tube for cultural evolution.” It’s an online experiment being run by researchers at Imperial College London. We often talk about the evolution of social media or cultural memes – but is that just a metaphor, or is it really evolution?

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