How to create an online community that will survive

My genealogical community, Heycuz, has been around since 1998. That’s way back when you had to use a telephone to get online. Today, there are between 900 and 1500 people on it right now. I mean this very second. You can check by the “Who’s Online” widget on the front page. I’ve received lots of comments from administrators of other genealogical communities saying they “wish” they had the group participation that we have on Heycuz. In other words, Heycuz has not only survived but is has thrived!

A virtual community is expensive to launch, difficult to attract visitors (participants), and poorly planned execution will make even a promising start fizzle into thin air. I’m saddened that many worthwhile groups’ and organizations’ websites die out so quickly. I want to help you by telling you how we did it. Being deliberate in your planning and construction of your new community website will minimize the chances of your visitors becoming frustrated with a poorly working or confusing roll-out and leaving your site forever.

KISS your members, don’t knock them over.

Bells and whistles are so tempting. There are so many great toys for web communities available: forums, blogs, galleries, private messaging, video chat rooms, and surveys to name a few. But, I’m telling you now KISS (keep it simple stupid) your members don’t knock them over. The “throw everything up at once and hope something sticks” is a recipe for disaster.
At Heycuz, we started out with a very simple newsgroup format. We used Yahoo groups where members could post and reply to group emails. Since most people know how to use email (in the early days we still had to teach people how to attach files), the resulting conversation was lively. Within a few months, even though we didn’t seek new members, we grew from less than a dozen core members to a couple hundred. As we grew, we began to add features to our group including a website which included the family histories and descendant trees.

Drop What Doesn’t Work, Build on What Does.

One of the first new features we tried was a weekly chat room. The sound of crickets was deafening. We tried different times; we tried different topics; we tried different chat systems; but never more than three or four people showed up. I’m not saying don’t try chat rooms, there are lots of successful ones. But, since my members didn’t enjoy it, we dropped it and no one brought it up again. On the other hand, if you find that a large group of your members are doing something you didn’t expect then build upon it. For instance, say your members enjoy posting their links to videos that they created. Take advantage of that by dedicating a whole area of the site to showcasing your members’ videos. There are lots of open-source solutions to host videos or you can even allow them to embed youtube videos.  If you find many of your members posting links to their blog posts, then give them a reason to stick around by offering them a blog feature right on your group’s website. Not only will they enjoy it, but they’ll help add to your site’s content.

Give Yourself Room To Grow.

Being a genealogy group, documents are important, very important. Unfortunately, the servers that I chose didn’t see eye to eye with us. Can you believe they actually told us we had too many files? When we started I thought that we could NEVER use more than 10 gigs of space. The first time I had to pack up and move the entire site it took me three days AND nights. Talk about zombies. I slept by my computer, jumping up when my computer beeped the warning that I’d been knocked offline again. Now, there are much easier backup systems (which I will talk about later).
Also make sure that the software that you use for your site has the ability to grow. As I stated before, we started with Yahoo groups, so we were (and in some ways still are) at the mercy of Yahoo. About five years ago, Yahoo decided it would no longer save “attachments” sent along with the newsgroups posts. Another set of sleepless nights ensued as I frantically went post by post to download our precious files before they deleted them all. Remember, as I said, in genealogy documents are very important. I already had a backup system, but I didn’t want to take the chance that I had missed anything, so I saved everything again. So, learn from my mistakes, don’t use a system where you have little or no control. These days there are several newsserver systems that can be installed directly on your own server. Since my members are comfortable with Yahoo, having spent more than 13 years on it, I’ve left the newsgroup there, writing a script to send the posts to the website’s forum. It is an awkward work-around, but I stay with it because its working for now. I’m not saying don’t go with Yahoo Groups, some people are very happy with it, but if I was starting out today I wouldn’t go that route. It’s like having a landlord controlling your company.

Ask for donations or finance your site by selling advertising space.

Heycuz is a labor of love, so I never expected to make money with it. In fact, I find it laughable when going through my spam box deleting all the emails I get telling me how I can make money on my website. I know it’s just bots sending out spam, because one look at the site and you know we’re not a profit organization. For years, I was footing the bill for the hosting and cost of the extra software, and never thought to ask for donations. I just chalked it up to be an expense to feed my genealogy addiction. From time to time I would get a prospective member asking how much it cost to join the site because they couldn’t believe that they got all that they got for free. From day one we had always said that our research would be free to all who joined and I couldn’t go back on my word. Plus, I get so much more out of the website. Just think, every day I go to my website and someone has uploaded a never-before-seen family photograph, or someone else just added a complete branch that we’d never knew existed, or another member remembered it was my anniversary and sent me a dancing cow! I have even received beautiful, leather-bound family histories and credit on the dedication page to boot! For those who don’t know, family history books can be very expensive. How can you set a price on that? However, one day one of our members questioned why no one had thought of donating to the website and without even one guilt trip, I received enough money to pay for the entire year within a couple of days (by snail mail, too!) People were happy to give. So, we’ve put a donation thermometer on our site and when the goal is achieved we post it. However, don’t be annoying with your donation buttons. Don’t make your members mad. Don’t put popups that detract your visitors from enjoying and contributing to the site. My response to those sites is to just close the tab. They don’t work folks.
Since the Heycuz site is non-profit, we never had to sell advertising. But, if you’re interested in making money for your group, there are a number of ways to do it. The most obvious is to sell advertising space. There are tons of how-to sites and books that can give much better advice than I so I won’t post it here. But, you should also consider selling membership subscriptions to your site. There are some sites that give some information for free and charge you to get more information or to be able to post information. You can also have eCommerce on your site and offer group memorabilia. If people would proudly wear a T-shirt with your organization’s logo on it, for instance, you can use a site like CafePress that handles the orders, manufactures the items, and ships the product so you don’t have any overhead. When we had a reunion the ability to purchase coffee cups and other Heycuz paraphernalia was very popular amongst our members.

Protect Your Members, Protect Your Data, Protect Yourself.

When someone joins your community and adds personal information its because they trust you. Work very hard to keep that trust. Be honest with your members. Let them know your policy right off the bat and don’t change the policy without having a full discussion with your members. Also, protect your members’ privacy. Don’t sell your members’ list. Let me qualify that. It depends on what your user expects. If you’ve asked for permission or sent out a notification of your intent to allow companies to send out information, that’s between you and your members.
You should also have an email cloaking system on your forums to make sure that bots don’t comb the site and start spamming your members. We protect our members by requiring registration to access many of the features.
Building a community website takes a lot of time and it would be a disaster if all the data was lost because the site got hacked. So, have some kind of security system in place and, just in case the worst happens, have a full-site backup. Ask your web server for the services they have available before you put down your cash. If you’re already on a server that doesn’t offer a backup, which these days I find unbelievable, you can find automated backup systems easily by just searching on the web. Two of the most popular ones are Site-Vault and Handy Backup. You should be able to set up the backup to run automatically on a timely basis.
Finally, protect yourself. Running a website, especially a large community site can be exhausting. Don’t run yourself ragged. Ask for help. Give your members the opportunity to volunteer. Tell them what you need, divide it into specific tasks, and let them know how long each task should take. Not only will it relieve you of a lot of work, but it will also strengthen your community. We all want to contribute in a some way. That’s why we join a community and if we feel vital to the group, we’ll stick around. We all need to be needed.
Protect yourself legally. Heycuz is a family website, meaning we are all related in some fashion, but being related doesn’t mean you should let your guard down. No matter how much you trust your members, you need to have a few legal statements on your site. If you can’t get a lawyer to write a Terms and Conditions statement, you can find some available online. All you do is replace the generic name in the document with your own. Make sure that you include a copyright statement. Plagiarism is rampant on the web because many people are unaware of copyright laws. If you have a copyright on there, you have recourse if your valuable content that you and your members have built up, is taken.
One final word about protecting yourself–it makes me very uncomfortable to even bring it up–but some times things get out of hand. According to death threats and hate crimes on women bloggers is escalating.
Unfortunately, I’ve been the recipient of threats, so I feel for you. The advice of one workshop held recently at the Blogher ’11 conference is to document the threats and make an official report to your local police department. I advise you to read the transcript before you find yourself in this unfortunate situation.

Do you love it? Do You Really, Really, Really, REALLY love it?

Love ? I love love love you.Image by doug88888 via FlickrFinally, take a long, hard look at yourself. Go on. Pick up a mirror and do a thorough examination. Remember how you look cause you’ll never be the same. Now, look at the premise of your community just as thoroughly. Is this community one you want to hang-out in yourself? Do you want to hang out there for hours? Days? Weeks? Years? Do you see yourself hanging out there 10 years from now? Still feel as giddy as a school boy? Then go for it! But before you go, please drop me a line and tell me about your community. After all, if you’re still excited about it I might want to join too!

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Genealogists You Should Have in Your Circle

Google+ is a great asset if you’re interested in technology with a steady stream of posts day or night, but what if you’re interested in genealogy? Not so much.
What is Google + (or Google Plus)? – Well, its everything! Its like a blog, its like Twitter, it’s like Facebook, its like Google Buzz, its like a photo gallery, its like Instant Messaging, its like video messaging; Its all of those things rolled into one fantastic gathering place. It’s a tool to use to connect to your “circle of friends” and share posts to those in specific “circles” about specific topics. You add your friends into circles and then choose what to share with that circle. Sound intriguing? If you need an invite, just let me know and I’ll send you one.
Without much work at all, I’ve added some great people to my circles. I’ve named my circles: Business Contacts, Family, Following (bloggers who I follow), Humor (people who always make me laugh), Mensans, Friends and Genealogists. You can name your circles anything that you find most helpful.
Every morning, when I startup my browser & Let me rephrase that because In truth I never turn off my browser. So, every morning with I click on my open-all-at-once button that I’ve labeled “DAILY” in my browser bar, the first site to pop up is my Google+ Stream. That way, while I’m waiting for the coffee to brew, I can see what people are up to, read some news, and maybe get a laugh or two.
But yesterday morning, my stream was a little too long to read through it quickly, so I clicked on my circles one at a time until I clicked on my genealogy circle and hit a wall. There was just one post. It was by Marian Pierre-Louis, who writes two of my favorite blogs: Marian’s Roots and The New England House Historian.

I said to my self, “Self? Where are all the posts from all the genealogy blogs you follow?” Popping up to my genealogy circle, I realized that I hadn’t added those bloggers to my circles yet. Thus began my quest. I went to each of the genealogy blogs that I follow so that I could add the authors to my genealogy circle.
I was very disappointed when i found very few of them, exactly two, had any link to their Google profiles. See, they have to have a profile or you can’t add them to your circle. If you’re a fan of genealogy, you know there are thousands of genealogy bloggers on the internet. Genealogists do take their time incorporating newer technologies into their toolbox for some reason or another, but once they find out how the tool will benefit them, watch out. I’ve learned so many research tricks thanks to a genealogist. Take, for example, Twitter, a year or so ago it was difficult to find genealogists actively using the site, but like all bloggers they’ve come to appreciate Twitter for its ability to attract more followers and broadcast their content to a much larger audience.
Here are some of the ways I have found using Google+ beneficial as a genealogist:

Get news of a new blog post immediately (No more missing your favorite genealogist’s words of wisdom)
Let blog followers know about new posts
Get more readers and along with that get more interraction
Ask a research question and get a lot of viewpoints. Most of the time responses are very quick
Share family research news
Coordinate reunions (or research trips)
Private video chatrooms to work on a specific project

Perhaps these bloggers don’t know yet how easy it is to add a Google+ button to their blogs. Whether you’re using blogger, WordPress or any of the other blogging software, it’s very, very easy.

Head on over to your Google+ profile. In the URL bar there’s a number, that’s your profile ID.
Copy that number.
Then, go to WidgetPlus and paste that number in the Google Profile ID box.
Fiddle with any appearance settings you’d like to change and then click “Get Code.”
Copy the code in the text box that appears.
Go to your blog’s design area to add a new widget, paste the widget code and save.

That’s it.

Don’t get me wrong. There are genealogists on Google+, it just takes a little elbow grease to find them. I’ve created a list of the ones who I consider worth adding to your circles. The criteria I used was very simplistic:
Are they actively using Google+?
That knocked off a few immediately including the author of the very popular genealogy blog Dear Myrtle. Although she has a Google profile, none of her posts on Google+ are public so I assumed she was not using it to communicate with her readers.
I made no judgements about the quality of their posts. If your favorite Genealogical blogger isn’t there, you’ll have to find them. Two ways to find people on Google + are to search for their names in the search bar at the top of your Google+ page or go to the Google + directory where you can search for people by tags (keywords).
If you find any genealogists who are actively using Google+, please let me know so I can add them to this list:

Put These Genealogists In Your Circle

Jeffrey BockmanJeffrey Bockman

Genealogical Lecturer and Writer, was a contributing editor for the Everton’s Genealogical Helper.

Tamara JonesTamura Jones

Author of Modern Software Experience

Leslie LawsonLeslie Lawson

Forensic genealogist and guest speaker

Lisa Wallen LogsdonLisa Wallen Logsdon

Author of the Genealojournal and Old Stones Undeciphered

Joan MillerJoan Miller

Author of Luxegen Genealogy and Family History

Chris PatonChris Paton

Author of Scottish Genes Blog and Scotland’s Greatest Story

Susi PenticoSusi Pentico

Genealogy Instructor, Historian and Educational Assistant, Genealogical Research and Educational Chairperson CVGS Conejo Valley Genealogy Society.

Marian Pierre-LouisMarian Pierre-Louis

Author of Marian’s Roots and The New England House Historian

Caroline PointerCaroline Pointer
Professional Genealogist & In2Genealogy Columnist for Shades of the Departed, & Texas Aggie. She also writes

Lorine McGinnis SchulzeLorine McGinnis Schulze

Author of Olive Tree Genealogy Blog

Randy SeaverRandy Seaver
Author of GenamusinsSouth San Diego County Graveyard Rabbit and Geneaholic

Drew SmithDrew Smith

Author of the book Social Networking for Genealogists

Megan SmolenyakMegan Smolenyak

Author of Who Do You Think You Are?: The Essential Guide to Tracing Your Family History, companion guide to the NBC series. She also
writes Smolenyak’s Roots World

Kirsty F. WilkinsonKirsty F. Wilkinson

Author of The Professional Descendant

April Heath Pastis April Heath Pastis
You are also very welcome to add me to your genealogy circles. I am the founder of the Heycuz genealogical newsgroup.

NOTE: This is day No. 11 toward keeping my commitment to NaBloPoMo to post once a day. Have you joined yet?

Hit the Road Capt. Jack

AroundMeImage via WikipediaAre you going to go out of town for the Labor Day weekend? This year, we’re getting four days off. We are going to be visiting with some family at least one of the days. So, its a great time to put my new mobile apps to use. I got an iPhone last Christmas (thank you dear hubby!) and its really made life easier. The “Around Me” app alone really saved us when we were in Texas this summer for my nephews wedding and couldn’t locate the hotel. After the third time around the block, I pulled out my phone, put in the name of the hotel and it showed us exactly what turns to make to get there. Really cool.  Playing with “Around Me” some more, we found local museums and other hot spots. As an addicted genealogist, of course I had to pull up directions for the local libraries and cemeteries.

When we visited the Alamo, I pulled out my trusty “Reunion” app and looked up all the relatives that I needed to do research on and was able to put a personal history twist on the whole tour. Sorry PC users: Reunion is Macintosh software. The staff over at LeisterPro told me they has no intention of making Reunion available for Windows users. I can understand that. There are more lots of genealogy apps for PCs anyway, but Reunion is the king of genealogy software for Mac users.

The Reunion iPhone app works in conjunction with the Macintosh version. It allows you to keep your entire family at your fingertips. Or, if you prefer, you can save only the individuals you know you’ll be working on while out of town.

Since we are planning to visit my husband’s relatives, I decided to install the free “Ancestry” app. It came out in January but Ancestry and I have a love-hate relationship so I put it off until now. Sure enough, I had a bear of a time getting it to work. But, I have a hard time getting to work on any device.

Ancestry likes my money, but whenever I try to sign on it doesn’t like my account information. Genealogists are very familiar with the question: “What do you mean I don’t exist?” Well, Ancestry, it seems, tries to re-enforce this age-old question every time I try to log in. I have to reset my password every time. I get a lot of password reset requests from the members of the website, and I can totally identify with them due to the problems I have had with Ancestry. With all the money I’ve spent on Ancestry over the years, I expect them to say “Oh, here she comes again, cha-ching $$$$” and bend over backwards to open all the doors for me, but they still make me jump through hoops just to sign on.
Well, its working now and I’m excited to show Steve’s uncle some records that are easily viewable on the app. In fact, I can see them better on the app than I can on my Mac’s Firefox browser. Specifically, I am going to show him the Passenger ship records of his grandfather arriving in America and the census records that shows where he worked before he opened his restaurant.
Cell phone mobility has made a huge impact on our daily lives,  but genealogists tend to take a while to integrate the new tools into their research arsenal.The whole reason I even got into genealogy was due to this fact. I was trying to convince my mother–who’d been doing genealogy her entire life–to get an email account. I figured I’d show her all the information that was available online and pulled up the old GenWeb site.
She gave me a name and I put it in and found a list of people doing research on that name. I posted a query and amazingly within minutes I had a response. It turned out to be my father’s uncle’s daughter-in-law, but that’s another story. My mother’s eyes lit up with all the information available on that one website alone. So, I figured I was successful and soon she’d be emailing me daily. It didn’t turn out that way immediately. Instead, she sent me boxes of her research and a small note:

Happy Hunting, 



Eventually, my mother did go online and ended up subscribing to Ancestry and buying me a subscription too. The cost of Ancestry depends on a number of factors including what databases you want access to. I had a worldwide access, but it turned out to be a waste because of the limited records available in the areas I was interested in. But the prices averages about $30 a month, which seems to me to be a lot of money to spend on a hobby.But there are some free areas on so you really don’t have to subscribe at all. Since my mother bought it for me, I feel compelled to continue the subscription. 
Image representing iPhone as depicted in Crunc...Image via CrunchBaseYou don’t have to have Ancestry, or an iPhone, to take advantage of mobile technology. There’s an entire website dedicated to mobile genealogy where you can find apps for your specific device: iPad, Palm, Kindle, Android, Windows Mobile, Laptops, Blackberry, Symbian, Newton, and on and on… So, hit the road Jack, but head on over to and get some research apps before you do.

NOTE: This is my second post toward my commitment to NaBloPoMo to write one post a day in September. Although I have not followed their prompts for writing topics, I still think its a great program. Have you signed up yet?

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Busy, Busy Summer

Hi Cousins,

I hope everyone had a great summer and is ready to share all their genealogical research they found! My family had a very busy summer starting with the graduation of our son from middle school in June. Since then we’ve been running around like banshees up through Thursday when he started high school. We had a practice run on Wednesday, but not on purpose. My son and I were getting everything ready and when he hit the showers, my husband asked, “Why’s Lucas in the shower?” I looked at him like he was off his rocker for not remembering it was the first day of school. He pointed to the calendar on the fridge which clearly displayed my error. We were a day early. I asked him why he didn’t say something — between getting school clothes, packing a lunch, getting all the checks for various activities, getting his hair cut, etc — didn’t he notice we were getting ready? He said it didn’t even occur to him. It would be like celebrating Christmas on the wrong day. Well, my son finally started high school. Can you believe it? It seems like it was just last week when our Heycuz group was giving me advice on how to deal with his kindergarten teacher who thought he was ADD. Big Al Turman, gave me a lot of helpful information so my son didn’t start his school career on the wrong track. Young mothers, like our cousin Stacey Givens, will shrug like I did when told it goes by fast. But it really does. 

Anyway, I welcome the start of school like a major holiday and am eager to get back to “normal.” I wasn’t able to do much research this summer, but I did get a lot of corrections and updates done. It wasn’t an easy task, as anyone who read my last “What’s New?” column knows I had some computer problems. There were over 18,000 changes and additions to the Heycuz database. Our cousin Sherry Ceallaigh, submitted a 3,500-person gedcom which included the Kelleys, Tidwells, Sullivans, Whites, Reddells, and their allied lines, along with a CD-full of photographs. Both the photographs and the ancestors have been added to We also received other additions in the form of family group sheets and reports from Charlton Queen, Carole Phillips, Dale Johnson, Ruth Dickens, Debra Buerman, Jan White, Richard Archie, Carole Dee Sullivan Emmons, Vicki Rice, Cheryl Mangrum, Mattie Bishop, Nancy Stevens, Charles and Louisa Vest, Diane Johnson, James Breece, Ida Deal, Kathy McNeil, and probably some others that I’ve forgotten over the long summer months. I also want to add special thanks to Tom Sullivan, who has been going through the heycuz database and doing major fact checking. Every month he’s been sending me CDs with thousands of updates and corrections. I really appreciate the help. 

I also want to point out that Wanda Losee submitted a report on Moses Beard that James Bradford had created as a supplement to the Friends of Oak Grove newletter. We discussed it on the list in April and I forgot to mention that it was now availble. Even though the copy she had was incomplete, it has the first generations of that family. Anyone who has the rest of the pages is encouraged to contact us. To view the report go to:

Also, anyone who’s a member of, I wanted to note that I stumbled on a great Tennessee database. It’s called, incorrectly I think, “Tennessee Divorce and Other Records, 1800-1965.” I think its mislabeled because while it has divorces, more importantly it includes probate records, guardianships, and other court records. I was able to find images of the estate settlements for G. W. Givens, Zachariah Green, Newton McCord, Joseph Hendricks, Peter Hendricks, Jacob Lampley, Moses Lankford and others. There is also the Insanity Case for Andrew Jackson Sullivan, the law suit of Nancy and Elisha Sullivan against Jesse Benton and more. If you have access to Ancestry, check it out. If you don’t and want a look up, just post it here and one of us can look it up for you. The database is, however limited to Anderson, Carroll, Cheatham, Dickson, Franklin, Haywood, Henderson, Obion, Tipton, and Williamson counties. I hope Bedford and Sumner county get added soon!

AND, saving the biggest news for last, I want to thank Opal Hays who submitted what is left of the Family Bible of William and Artemese Green Sullivan. Most of us thought that it either didn’t exist or was destroyed. Opal said that she thought that the Bible was burned when Grandpa Gray and Minnie Belle Sullivan’s house burned down many years ago, but apparently their daughter Bonnie May Belle Sullivan Duran, (my great-great Aunt), copied down the family record about the year of 1944. The pages have been scanned and are available in Acrobat pdf format at:

Well, whether you’re still soaking up the last remaining rays of summer, or ready for the genealogical hunt, remember you can always contact me with any corrections or additions and — my email server permitting — I’ll get back to you as soon as I can. Love,

Your Cousin,


1940 Census, Doomsday, and April Fool’s (It’s no Joke!)

Genealogists have long sought the early release of the next census and, with the additions to the questions asked on the 1940 census, this one promises to be a doozy. That is, if your grandparents didn’t boycott it. The new questions, income and fertility for example, raised the ire of many, causing Senator Tobey of New Hampshire to lead the call for a boycott of the census. Still, I’ve been sitting on pins and needles to get my hands on it.  I believe that solving the riddle of my father’s biological father’s line lies on that census. My father’s father, Harry Brooks’s death certificate says his parents are Henry and Florence Brooks. In the 1930 census, no Henry Brooks who matches the description can be found. However there is a Harry Brooks at the correct age, the correct place, who’s living with a Florence. Problem is she has a different last name and the census taker wrote that the young Harry Brooks was her nephew, not her son. As genealogists go, we’re a pretty patient folk, calmly scouring page after page of microfilm in a blackened musty back room, ’til we finally uncover that one sentence, that one line in a ancient document that “proves” a relationship between one person and another.
Although the 1940 Census is scheduled to be released on April 1st, 2012, (no, it’s not an April Fool’s day joke), according to many the world will end on December 21st, 2012. According to a program on the History Channel: “There are prophecies and oracles from around the world that all seem to point to December 21, 2012 as doomsday.” (Luckily, some Mayan historians, say the day is actually December 23rd, but by that time I don’t know if two days will matter.) The History Channel program goes on to say, “The ancient Mayan Calendar, the medieval predictions of Merlin, the Book of Revelation and the Chinese oracle of the I Ching all point to this specific date as the end of civilization. A new technology called ‘The Web-Bot Project’ makes massive scans of the internet as a means of forecasting the future… and has turned up the same dreaded date: 2012. Skeptics point to a long history of “Failed Doomsdays”, but many oracles of doom throughout history have a disturbingly accurate track record. As the year 2012 ticks ever closer we’ll speculate if there are any reasons to believe these doomsayers.”
Even Wikipedia has set aside the date and lists all the references to that day as the end of the world. It’s list of those who indicate the end of the world — ranging from the Prophecies of Nostradamas to Richard C. Duncan’s book, “The Peak of World Oil Production…” — is too long to give here, but if you’re curious go to:
So, if the world ends on December 21st, that gives us genealogists only a short eight months to index, scan, and discover our deepest genealogical questions! I’ve downloaded the forms, which you can already get online at I’ve made a list of who I want to look up and where they are, because since there won’t be any index then I’ll need to look in a specific area, but all that is probably besides the point.
Now that I’ve moved to the boondocks, its not easy  to just run down to the National Archives to wait in line for the 1940 census on April 1st, 2012, which is a Saturday so even if I could get to the Archives would they have them on a Saturday? Do government workers work on Saturdays? Since I probably can’t get close to the archives any way, I’ll be one of those people who have to wait til Ancestry or whoever battles it out to get rights to index it first so that they can bring it to the general public (who’s able or willing to pay for membership on Ancestry). So,  I’m crossing my fingers that the doomsdayers are, once again as always, blowing smoke or that the Bureau will take into account that the world is ending and give us genealogists a break and release the 1940 census early. What do you say, Uncle Sam?


P.S. To let me know what you think, please click on the comments link below.


Recently, my mother included the Heycuz newsgroup in the address list in an email. An easy mistake given my email address is similar, The problem was that the email contained a political message, favoring Democrats. The fallout from our right-leaning members was intense and she subsequently left the group, which is especially sad considering that the foundation of the heycuz database was built around the genealogy that my mother had done. My mother was wrong to have posted it, she knew the rules. But, hey, she’s my mom and knowing her personally, I knew that her heart was in the right place. However, this brought up some past issues for me. I have received a number of comments over the years from people who’ve left the group over issues that have nothing to do with genealogy but with the way they were treated. Whether imagined or not, they felt un-welcomed. I would never want someone who came to visit my home, leave feeling like that and, similarly, as the founder and moderator for what I thought was a family group, that hurts. 

Because of the way this group started, heycuz consisted mostly of non-computer people. Those who only wanted to share information and talk with distant family. Some hadn’t yet developed a tough skin for handling the occasional not-so-courteous answers or feedback. For some it was their first time using the computer so there were many times I had to explain some things that are second nature to us geeks, like how to attach a photograph to an email. Yet because we were all family, it was only natural that our guidelines were sparse. All that we asked were that we act like we were at a family dinner, keep your elbows off the table and never discuss sex, religion or most importantly, politics. In my family there are both Republicans and Democrats so this rule was almost always abided by. On Heycuz, for the most part, this has worked and I’m not going to change it now. 

But, I do want to give some netiquette tips that many have forgotten or were simply never told. You can start by taking all of the “manners” that your mama taught you and apply it to your online communication. That said, here are the most important “rules” to ensure a happier and more successful time online:

1. BE CONSIDERATE. The first, and most important thing to remember is the golden rule. Remember that there’s another person(s) on the receiving end of your post or email. It sounds obvious, but sometimes when you’re looking at an electronic monitor, its easy to forget. Also remember that your “humor” may not be recognized because we cannot write voice in-fluctuations, etc, as well as we can hear them. Being considerate is especially more valid on Heycuz than elsewhere on a seemingly anonymous web because here we are family. Some of us are eccentric, some stoic, some just forgetful, but regardless of that we are all cousins, aunts, uncles, nieces and nephews.

2. “IF YOU CAN’T SAY SOMETHING NICE…” One of the shortcomings of schools is that they don’t spend more time teaching people how to argue. How many times have you had to figure out the ratio of a circle in contrast to the number of times you had an argument? I’m just saying, they should re-prioritize the educational requirements proportionately to life’s requirements. If you disagree with someone don’t, ever, make it personal. Not only is it hurtful, but it doesn’t work in swaying others to your side of the argument. I remember once when I was a child, my sis and I were having an argument and she realized she was losing. At the end of her rope, she appealed to my mother with “MOM! APRIL’S STUPID!” The result was that everyone, my mother included, erupted in uproarious laughter. 

A side note: A lot of boards and newsgroups tell you to continue the argument off the list. I’m not going to tell you that because people come away with a false sense of anonymity. There is none. Some think that there’s only two people reading a so-called “private” email and so they can say the darndest things. But remember you have no control over what the receiver does with your email and now with the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or rather the current abuse of the act, a server can be ordered to hand over all of your correspondence as well. In addition, I have my email backed up from 1987/8 til now. At any time, I can pull up the correspondence from others and blast it across the internet for all to see. I’m telling you right now, give up the idea that there’s any privacy involved in the internet. Any lawyer will tell you, “Never put it and writing.” And, speaking of privacy, I want to politely decline any further correspondence that include the words “for your eyes only” or “not for publication.” What do I do with that? Are you implying I like gossip?

3. DON’T WASTE OTHER’S TIME: Realize also that others might not want to hear you drone on about the same thing (especially if it has nothing to do with our topic of family history). This coincides with one of my biggest pet peeves, the forward button. Don’t use it. OK, you might use it once or twice, but only use it if you add some information or some comment or any text at all. Otherwise, consider taking the forward button off your menu bar. You can still find it, if you need to, in the “message” part of the menu. If it says “Pass it On,” don’t. My filters already put those emails right where they belong, directly in the trash. I belong to a lot of genealogy boards, so I get thousands of emails a day and it makes me feel like a heel when I get messages titled, “I better get this back.” If I spent my time responding to those I wouldn’t have the time to answer all the legitimate queries I get. In that same vein, never post “dittos.” If you have nothing more to add and you’re not answering a survey, a “me too” is useless.

4. ANSWER YOUR PERSONAL EMAIL: If someone has taken the time to write to you personally, answer them. Even if all you can write is, “I’m busy right now, I’ll try to write more later.” And with that I add be patient for a reply and if you don’t get an answer within a reasonable time period, like say 14 days, then send a gentle reminder. Perhaps, a “did you get this?” and repost your message. Many times, it can take me weeks to write an answer, though I try to keep the time down to a couple of days. 

5. ALWAYS SIGN YOUR POST: especially if you’re giving information. In genealogy this is SO important. Facts are irrelevant if they have no source. How many times have you passed up unsourced trees on rootsweb or other sites. Why? Because, if there are no sources given, typically, they are so full of error’s they are useless. If you’re not willing to leave your name, then you’re just a lurker who has nothing to add. Sorry to be so crass, I’m pointing out how others view your posts.

6. QUOTE: Give me some idea of what you’re responding to or talking about. Familiarize yourself with the copy and paste keys on your keyboard. It’s really exciting when I get an email responding to a post that I put up on a board 10 years ago. But, realize my memory’s not that great! I need to know what my question was that you so kindly are responding to. This applies to emails also. Figure out how your email software or email website handles quoting. Sometimes you have to highlight the person’s message, sometimes you have to set your program to do that. If the message was long, remember you can just “quote” the part you’re responding to and delete the rest, but at least quote something. If you are talking about a web page, give the url. I really, really, and I mean, really!, appreciate people letting me know about a broken link or a error on the However, please understand, that at last count there were 282,000 pages on our website. Help! (To give the url, highlight the text in the url box at the top of your browser go to edit, go to copy. Now, when you go to your email, go back up to edit then to paste.)

7. CHANGE THE SUBJECT LINE. This is especially true on web boards because many times the search engine crawlers only search by subject line. You took the time to respond, now take the time to make sure the right people see your message. On yahoo, which is the server Heycuz is on, it seems to only search by subject or email addresses. So, if a person is looking for a particular subject, and the subject hasn’t been changed, those emails are missed. Changing the subject line is an easy thing to do. When you click reply, pop back up one line and write a short description of what you’re writing. 

8. BREATHE! Before you hit the send button, look over your reply. Seriously consider whether you’d want to receive the message you’re sending. Are you clear? Would you talk like that to someone if they were standing in front of you? We get all caught up in the speed of this new internet thingy, or the thrill and excitement that we found a new cousin, that we don’t realize the web doesn’t have to dictate the speed of our reply. Recently, some college did a study they called The Good Samaritan. In it, they discovered that the one thing that dictated how “good” people acted toward each other was related to how much time pressure the person was feeling. Those who were rude or unhelpful felt rushed. So, remember to breathe. You’re not rushed. We can wait for your words of wisdom. 

This blog is probably way too long, and gives too much emphasis on the negatives. The last thing I want to do is scare away newcomers to our family tree. Honestly, negative posts on Heycuz are rare. We truly are one big family, and now, doing genealogy, I’ve realized that applies to more people than I could have possibly dreamed. We are all related. To me, family means, embracing the differences in each other and I welcome them. I love them, in fact. I’m astonished by and proud of the level of talent in our little group. My final comment is a request: If I don’t treat you like you’re my family, please do what my father would do, kick me in the rear and tell me to get with the program.

Your cuz,


Thanks for Your Patience

Thank you all for bearing with me while the site undergoes a major overhaul. I’ve received a lot of letters from members about links not working and I apologize for that. I hope to have it all fixed soon. While it has been inconvenient, I believe the changes will benefit visitors to the site. The first thing I hope to do is make the site more organized so finding the information you need will be easier. I also hope to make the pages more interactive by adding a number of improvements. One of the improvements includes a photo gallery that will allow members to add their own photographs and have them viewable instantly. Members will be able to also download high-resolution copies of your favorite photos or entire albums with a single click. Your photos download as full-size JPEGs (highest resolution) or images optimized for 16-by-20-inch prints (smaller file size).
Another improvement will be our Wanted Board. I get a lot of queries and I try to answer them as quickly as possible. But, I am only one person, if you put your Most Wanted queries on the board you’ll have more people see your query and can help you out.
There are also a lot of changes being made to the Heycuz database. Right now, I’m uploading corrections, but there are many more still to be completed. Thank you all for your assistance in sending me updates and corrections. I especially want to thank Rev. Thomas Henry Sullivan who has been working now for several months on going through the Heycuz database and fixing, updating, and correcting broken family lines and catching errors, and very importantly adding sources to each fact on individual ancestors. For instance, he’ll write that a birth came from a delayed birth certificate, Bible, or a Family History. His attention to detail has really cleared up a lot of questions on some of our most puzzling ancestors. Unfortunately, he’s not online right now, so if you want to thank him, you’ll have to do it when you run in to him at a library in Dickson, Hickman or Williamson County, TN.
The changes will be complete soon so thanks again for your patience.


This Christmas, I thought I’d get you something you’d really love! I tried to get all of your corrections and additions done and uploaded before Christmas. Alas, another lot of corrections came in and I was not able to finish it up. In the past couple of months, I’ve made over five thousand corrections to the familiy tree. Thanks for your contributions. Your help is really appreciated. I realized I had to just post all of the corrections done so far. I should be all caught up on the corrections made up through Thanskgiving. So, if you have sent in your family files–either by email or CD–and the changes are not made yet please send me a reminder by email, just to make sure I did receive it. As I write this, the pages are being updated.
As you know, I lost both of my grandmother’s this year and I’m finding it very difficult to feel very Christmasy. Still, I have them to thank for all the traditions and happiness that they brought me. Family is one of the most important parts of Christmas and I’m so thankful that I was able to share the family traditions that I inherited with my son and I’m sure he’ll pass them on to his children. Just today, while we made our family’s Magic Cookie Bars I was taken back to when I was a child and couldn’t wait to bite into those gooey, chocolately concoctions.
Santa List

It’s a little late to make changes to your letters to Santa Claus, but if any cash is left under the Christmas tree for you you might want to consider a couple of purchases for yourself:
One of our cousins, Dennis Lampley, has written a book: CAPTAIN ED BAXTER & HIS TENNESSEE ARTILLERYMEN, CSA. My ggg grandfather William Sullivan, fought under Capt. Baxter in the Civil War, and if your ancestor was in Dickson or Williamson County during that time maybe yours did too. If you’re related to William Sullivan, check out the Share the Wealth Section here and download his muster rolls, pension application, and letter to Capt. Baxter, if you haven’t already done that already.
Another book that came out this year, The Heritage of Dickson County, Tennessee. The book requires a good chunk of change, $77.50, but is definitely worth it. I’m learning a lot from it, not the least of which is learning how much I didn’t know!
Another really neat thing to get for yourself as well as your descendants is a family album. So many sites these days offer ways to help you create one, but it does take a little time. You can go to Snapfish, Kodak Gallery (,, or many others, ranging in price from $6.99 to $69.99.
I even converted my photos into a nice Calendar for my parents using a very convenient service at, and even if you’re not a Mac user a lot of the photo website above offer the same types of calendars. They turn out really nice. I even put on it all the special days to remember of all the kids and grandkids.
Anyway, I want to thank you for all of your help in keeping our group active and keeping me up to date on your genealogical research.

Merry Christmas!


Yep, We’ve Moved!

“You say Yes. I say No.

You say Why? I say I don’t know.


I don’t know why you say goodbye.

I say hello.”       — Lennon-McCartney

              • What kind of world would this be if I didn’t zig while the rest of the world zagged? After all, I have a history of choosing the other lane, don’t I? Examples: When everyone else disco’d through the 70s, I rocked out with Ozzy. When my childhood girlfriends oohed and ahhed over the likes of David Cassidy and Michael Jackson, I proudly displayed my Al Unser and Mario Andretti posters. My entire family left the state of California, and here I sit, happy as a lark.

So, what do you expect me to do? Join the thousands of genealogists who have bought into the craze? No, not me. I’ve been completely happy with the outcome of my past decisions, and so with confidence, I have decided to leave the likes of and their sister site “Freepages” at Rootsweb. The truth is that freepages wasn’t exactly free. Visitors were bombarded with ads, both pop-ups and banners, some of them so largethat the visitor couldn’t even tell that our website was underneath it. In addition, visitors were placed on a spam e-mail list that added insult to injury. In the good old days, freepages were actually free and I am grateful that they gave us the opportunity to grow there. However, they were bought out by, which is dedicated to the idea that you can make a buck or two on genealogy. They soon began charging us to access our own family trees, which they placed onto without even asking. When we started in 1996, we were just a group of cousins who wanted to share our research and I am delighted to say that, even though we’ve grown by leaps and bounds, we still have the same philosophy. It is my hope that the only brick walls we run into are in our family trees and not our wallets.
So I’m breaking out and I’m taking you with me. I hope you don’t mind. I hope you don’t miss the non-stop pop-up windows. I hope you don’t miss the banner advertisements. I hope you don’t miss the spam from promising to solve all your problems if you just send them your credit card number.
I had planned to do this much later when I could afford to get my own server. Right now, I simply bought a domain and paid a service provider to host our site. It is a little lower cost than it will be when we have our own server. It is limited in size to 4 gigabites. Believe it or not, we’ve grown that big. As a result, I haven’t completely brought everything over. I am still trying to make everything fit. I haven’t managed to get our Family Album on our new site yet, but hope to soon.
You might also wonder where our search engine has gone to. Honestly? I can’t get it to work on this server. Having to write my own code is one thing, but getting the server to recognize it is another. In short, I am still working on it.
In the meantime, please take a look around. Let me know what you think. If you see any broken links or errors, please let me know. This is your site as much as it is mine and I need all the help I can get.

                      • April