Take Your SIGs Virtual With MeWe

The MeWe social network is focused on protecting the privacy of its members yet it still offers an impressive range of features that today’s genealogical societies can put to good use. One of those features is groups.


At first look, a MeWe group may look like Facebook, but as you start looking around you will find a number of useful things like a files library, group discussions and events. MeWe uses tags to make it easy to find specific content in the group. A tag is a keyword that begins with a hash mark (#). Assign #tags to your group posts and MeWe collects them for you in the sidebar. Click/tap any #tag and MeWe will redraw your screen showing you every post assigned that #tag. In the example above, the #journaling tag has been selected in the tag box. On the left you see a collection of posts about journaling. It doesn’t take long for a group’s timeline to contain dozens of posts so having a quick way to find all the posts related to a specific topic is a very useful feature.

MeWe offers three types of groups – private, selective and open. A private group only has members who have been invited to join by the group administrator. Private groups do not appear in MeWe’s group directory. This is a perfect choice for society SIGS.

To join a selective group you must first request access then answer several questions on why you want to join. Once the group administrator reviews your answers and approves you, you will have access to that group. Open groups are open to all MeWe members.

MeWe groups also support discussions – chats for a larger group of participants. These can be text, voice or video discussions. The comment box attached to each post supports text and voice comments including the ability to add photos from your photo library, photos taken with your mobile device and even GIFs.

Each member has 8GB of storage for photos, videos and files. More can be purchased for a small monthly fee. To save money, your society can share videos from online sources like YouTube and Vimeo instead of saving them to your group.

It may take a bit of practice to fully take advantage of the Events component but it won’t take long to appreciate its capabilities. Share a video in a post and create an event to show the video then follow it with a Q&A session using Group Chat.

Small societies often find it difficult to schedule a place and time to hold special interest group meetings. By going virtual, you don’t need a physical meeting room and even if a member can’t attend the group meeting, they can visit the group site at any time to catch up. The files library and posts in the timeline also give your members a research resouce they have access to from anywhere at any time.

My Storytellers Studio group is a selective group serving as a resource for family historians and genealogists looking for creative ideas to share the stories our genealogy research discovers. You are welcome to join us.

Society Trello

Trello is an easy and affordable way for societies to manage operations, members, publications, speakers and more. Best of all, it will cost you nothing to use. Trello is an impressive project management platform, but unlike most other project management systems, Trello is quite easy to use.

Project showing lists and cards
A Trello board showing lists and cards

The main components in Trello are boards, lists and cards. A board is created for each project. Within the board you will find lists and cards. Cards contain information on each task involved in this project. Lists are used to manage the workflow as cards move through each project stage. A quick look at a board gives you an overview of the project’s status.

The example above shows a board for managing our society’s publications. There are three lists in this workflow – Researching, Writing and Published Issues. The cards will move from one list to the next as the task completes one level and moves on to the next. For example, once The Trello for Genealogy research effort is completed, the card will be dragged to the Writing list. Want a list for the actual publication so you can see which articles are finished? No problem! You can add lists at any time.

Speaker Bureau Project
Speaker Bureau Project

Trello can also be used to organize information. Our society is using Trello to build our own Speakers Bureau. We have four lists in this board. The first list describes potential speakers. Each card includes contact information for that person along with a bio when we can get them. Trello cards have a checklist feature which we use to list the presentations that speaker can give.

Sample card
Sample Trello card

When we contract with a speaker to present at an upcoming meeting, that person’s card is moved to the Contracted Speakers list long with dates, fee, bio and description of the presentation. If the speaker provides a handout document, that is added to the card as an attachment.

After the speaker has given his presentation, the speaker’s card is forwarded to the Speaker Review list. Board members can use the Comments element in the speaker’s card to give their opinions of the speaker and presentation. Once that is done, the speaker’s card is moved back to the Potential Speakers list for future engagements.

The last list in this board is the Resources list. This is where we keep track of the projectors, connecting cables, etc. needed to support the presenter’s needs.

The Trello Member Directory

Trello is an easy way to manage your membership. Create a New Members list and create a card for each new member. This card includes contact information, level of research experience, software and services used, areas of interest, etc. Society staff can then review each card to perform the necessary tasks – send welcome letter and member guide, add to mailing list, etc. Trello’s label feature adds a colored bar to the card. You can use labels to see at a glance which tasks are complete.

One of the very nice things about Trello is how easy it is to add others to your Trello boards. Using the example of our Programs board, when we get a new Programs chair all we have to do is invite him/her to this board. The new chair then has full access to the speakers, presentations, comments, etc. right away. No more wading though old emails to collect details on speakers and presentations. The chair can also invite others to help collect and organize new information.

Trello offers free apps for desktops (Mac and Windows) and mobile devices (iOS and Android). You can also access your Trello account via the Web. The Internet Explorer, Safari, Firefox and Chrome browsers all support Trello.

This is just a couple of examples of how your society can put Trello to work. As you have seen here, Trello can also serve as a resource center. Stay tuned . . . there’s a lot more Trello goodness to come.

Kindex for Societies

Kindex Archive
A sample Kindex archive

Kindex, the online personal archive for family historians, can also give a genealogical society an affordable platform to support their membership.

Why Kindex? A Kindex archive gives your society an affordable (as in $5.00/month) platform to post family records, scanned photos and memorabilia. The image of the original record is visible and the transcribed information makes each record searchable. By posting records to Kindex, members are also creating duplicates located in off-site storage. Should anything happen to the originals, the digital duplicates will survive.

How can a society use Kindex to support their membership? One way is to provide support to members who want to create their own Kindex archive. The society can help them get set up and show them how to manage their records. While the archive is owned and controlled by the member, they can also allow collaborative access to other society members.

Another option has the society owning a Kindex archive and making it available to their members. The society builds and maintains the archive, giving each member a “family collection” section for their records. This could also be included as one of the benefits of society membership. The society also benefits as these collections increase access beyond the member’s individual collection.

The society could choose to create an archive for record donors. The society maintains the archive while giving members access to those records. Society control helps to maintain consistent transcription and indexing within the archive. It also provides all society members with access to those donated collections.

Kindex offers three levels of access. The free Kindexer account makes it possible for the user to search, browse or transcribe records in the society’s public archives. They can also collaborate on a private archive if they have received access from the archive owner. The Kindex Cloud level costs $5.00/month and gives the user a public archive along with collaboration and indexing tools. Even better, if the user indexes 20 or more records during the billing month, he/she will receive a $5.00 credit for the next billing month. The last level is the Kindex Closet. It allows the user to create a private archive. The user controls who can access the archive by inviting other users to browse, search, submit and index records. The Closet level costs $10.00/month and also offers the $5.00 credit when 20 records are indexed during the billing month.

Kindex is both affordable and easy to use. It gives societies – big and small – a way to capture, protect and preserve family history records and ephemera for future generations. To learn more, stop by the Kindex site and see for yourself.

Collaboration Made Easy With Simplenote

How does a small genealogical society with limited resources make it possible for board members and staff to easily access needed information like meeting agendas, speakers lists, scheduled presentations and news releases? They use Simplenote.

Simplenote (https://simplenote.com) is exactly what its name says it is  . . . a simple way to create and share notes. Even better, it is free. Automattic, the company that created the WordPress blog platform, also created Simplenote. It can be used just about anywhere on just about any device. There are apps for Windows, Mac and Linux computers along with iOS and Android devices. Each note you create or edit is instantly updated on all your devices.

Using Simplenote to work with others is just as easy. To share a note with another Simplenote user, all you need to do is “tag” your note with that user’s email address and Simplenote will take care of the rest. Each of you can make changes and see them almost instantly.

Your notes are written in “plain text”. There are no formatting options like bold, italics, fonts, etc. If you want to format your text, you can take advantage of the Markdown feature to add a broad range of formatting. Not familiar with Markdown? Check out the Writing for the Future article to learn more.

Simplenote on an iPad

This example shows Simplenote on an iPad. Simplenote supports Markdown. Tap the Information icon in the toolbar to display the tools panel. Notice that the Markdown item is highlighted. That means it is being used to format the note’s content. Using the tools panel, you can publish the note, pin it to the top of your notes list, send it to someone, review this note’s editing history, collaborate with others or trash it.

Note formatted with Markdown

When using Markdown to format your notes, all you have to do is swipe the note to the right and you will see what the formatted note looks like. Swipe to the left and you are back into Markdown editing mode.

Organizing your notes is also quite easy. Look for Tag . . . in gray at the bottom of the screen. Tags are keywords used to describe each note. In the first example above you see two tags – todo and storytellers-studio.

Tags panel

Tap the tags icon shown at the top left corner of the screen to display a panel showing your tags. Tap a tag and all the notes with that tag will appear in the workspace. It’s a delightfully simple way to keep your notes organized.

Tags have another purpose – collaboration. When you want to share a note with another Simplenote user, enter that person’s email address as a tag. (Note: it must be the address they used to create their account at Simplenote.) Your shared note will pop up in that person’s note list. He will need to add your email address as a tag on that note so you both can work together. If you are working on iOS or Android, tap on the Info panel icon while viewing the note you are collaborating on, then tap Collaborate.

How can Simplenote be put to use in your society? Here are a few ideas:

  • While the programs chair manages the speakers and presentations scheduled for society meetings, both the webmaster and the publicity chair need access to the information in order to promote it. When all three members have access to the note containing that information, it’s a lot easier to get what they need when they need it.
  • How does your society define what is on the board meeting agenda? Create a note for the agenda and add the board members as collaborators. They can add their agenda topics and, once the president finalizes it, it’s accessible to them all.
  • Simplenote is a great place to build and maintain your society’s policy and procedures manual. It’s a lot easier to update when necessary and it’s available any time from anywhere.
  • Simplenote is so simple that even “digitally-challenged” staff will find it easy to use.

Take a look at Simplenote. You’ll soon find all kinds of uses for this delightful app.

Dropbox Paper

Not only is Dropbox Paper an easy-to-use editor for posting documents to Dropbox, it is also an impressive collaboration tool allowing your team to work together across time and space. Team members can edit and add comments right in the document and staff are notified when a document needs review or action. Paper keeps track of who does what so that everyone on the team can quickly see what is going on.

The Dropbox and Paper apps are free and available for iOS, Android and Windows. Dropbox for Teams begins with 2TB of online file storage and includes society-managed users and groups, admin console, secure storage and much more. This level costs $150 a year. The time and paper your society’s staff will save makes this service worth every penny.