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Hi I’m Mike Nelson, I’m the first contributor to this project known as “Dead Easy Family History”.

Why does Dead Easy exist?

Because it “scratches my own itch”: I wanted to learn about my family’s history, but I’m not a professional genealogist. I’m a husband, father to two little girls, I work remotely for a WordPress plugin company called Event Espresso, and member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. This means my days are full of kids, work, and some community involvement. Not much time for family history.

What’s more, my Mom is from France and my Dad is from Ireland, while I live in Canada. From the little I’ve learned, Ireland had plenty of troubles and burned the place their public record house, which means it’s hard to find family records from before then. And France has had their share of troubles. The point is: it seems I need to become a professional genealogist to get anything done, and I realistically won’t have the time until I’m retired and about to join my relatives on the other side. I’d really like a way to get productive doing family history now.

So far, I’ve had a few sporadic moments where I’ve done a bit of research, maybe found a clue or not, and then haven’t picked my research for a few months. By that time I’ve forgotten what I’ve already done, and end up researching a few of the same things. I need a system to keep track of what I want to find next, what I’ve done, how it worked, and what clues I’ve found.

Also, while there are great tools for learning about how to do family history research, I need to keep re-learning how to use them every time. For example, Ireland has some sort of complicated system involving church records stored at individual parishes or something and I can never keep it straight. It would be nice to avoid searching for information on how to research, re-reading it all, and just skip right to a checklist of what to steps to take to do the research.

20 Minute Genealogist’s Influence

I had a professor at university, Professor Knutson, who had his software engineering class work on a class-wide project he titled “20 Minute Genealogist.” The idea was that it should help users to become effective at family history research even if they only have 20 minutes a week to work on it. My contribution to the class was primarily researching what we should build, whereas other students focused on building mobile apps, web infrastructure, testing frameworks, etc. My professor, Professor Knutson, thought the main problem people had was figuring out who to research next and where figuring out where they are in the family tree. And I agree that can be difficult for people who’s family tree already goes back many generations. But the primary problem I faced, and what seemed like the main problem faced by the people we studied during the class, was figuring out HOW to do the research, and then keeping track of what tips they had already tried but were unsuccessful, and what tips they still hadn’t gotten around to trying.

Relative Finder’s Influence

I also had the opportunity to participate in Brigham Young University’s Relative Finder. Specifically, we built integration between Relative Finder and Facebook which enjoyed some temporary success after it was featured in a BYU news article (unfortunately, the sudden increase in traffic crashed the website, and it only came out after I had actually just finished my studies, and Relative Finder has since taken new a new path). With Relative Finder I learned that family history can be appealing to non-retirees, and that sometimes tools that do that don’t necessarily need to be huge endeavors.

WordPress’s Influence

Since completing my studies, I’ve had the privilege of working for Event Espresso, which primarily makes a WordPress plugin for selling tickets to events. WordPress is free software, meaning not only that you can acquire it for free, but you’re also free to use it, modify it, and even make money with what you do with it. What’s especially impressed me is the collaborative community surrounding it: individuals and small companies, many of whom are actually in direct competition, but who are all contributing to the common good.

Also, some in this community have fostered openness, with some companies voluntarily embracing transparency in their financials (here’s an example of financial transparency). Meaning rather than hiding their profits and expenses, they openly share them in hopes that the information might be of use to others: to clients so they know they’re not being taken advantage of, and others with similar businesses so they can have an idea of what profits and expenses are reasonable. Overall, it just seems like an honest way to run a business.

Summing Up

So this idea isn’t all that original: it’s got its base in a lot of work done by others before me. And this site can’t possibly do well without a community of users. So thanks for chipping in! Let’s make family history dead-easy!

Follow Mike Nelson:

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