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Chat and Instant Messaging as a Research Tool

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Computer chat programs can be a good way to further genealogical research. Once a patron has connected with a cousin or potential cousin online, they can correspond in real time using chat programs. The only requirement is that they both have downloaded the same chat program, and log on at the same time. Using standard English in communicating allows people to exchange important and accurate family information.

Chat and Video Chat Software

Several good chat programs exist on the internet. Some of the most popular include Facebook Messenger instant messaging, Twitter, and SMS texting. With these programs, the researcher can directly ask others information about their families, and then save the discussion as a text file for their genealogy records. Chat participants can even exchange files such as gedcoms and family pictures using Facebook Messenger. You may want to make a computer available for patrons who would like to chat for genealogical purposes with distant family members in distant libraries or overseas.

Video Chat

Chat programs now allow patrons to use a webcam to exchange live video as well. "Mini family reunions" can be arranged this way. Many folks use this option to "see" their grandchildren, or their kids away at college or at war. It is a good way to be able to interview distant kin as well. You might be able to find a way to save the videos too with the right software. Here are some of the software now available to hold online video chats and video conferences with your family or with genealogy groups:

  1. Zoom - free for 45 minutes or unlimted with a paid subscription. Allows large group partiication. Controlled by one person, so excellent for teaching classes. Muliple views allowed, including speaker view and participants grid view. Leader and participants can share their screen allowing for the sharing of documents and photos. Available at https://zoom.us/
  2. Facebook - Messenger Rooms for facebook groups. Facebook also has a "live" feature where you can "broadcast" events or interviews to selected or general audiences. You might want to go live at grandmother's house and let the family watch you interview her from where ever they live. These facebook live videos can be recorded, saved, posted on facebook and elsewhere, like youtube. Facebook Messenger is available at facebook.com. You can learn more about Facebook Messenger Rooms from their help page at https://www.facebook.com/help/messenger-app/819584731857901
  3. Go To Meeting - similar to Zoom. Available at https://www.gotomeeting.com/lp/sem?cid=g2m_noam_ggs_cpc_71700000060694846_58700005493369263_p50143970149&gclid=Cj0KCQjwhIP6BRCMARIsALu9LfkW05-76p12HcrtWED3nW4PCS3aer-nSLRgOAaE-W2Gmimtrj4twkcaAoUhEALw_wcB&gclsrc=aw.ds
  4. Facetime - available for Mac and Apple computer users . More information can be found on the apple support site - https://support.apple.com/en-us/HT209022
  5. Several other video conferencing softwares are being introduced all the time as more and more people are working from home and visiting their families online.

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This page written and designed by: Sharon Centanne, Genealogy Research Instructor and Internet Trainer

This page updated by Troy-204 August 25, 2020

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