At the end of 2010, when I accepted an offer to join the curator community on Geni.com, I was in the middle of a personal project to collect history from everywhere I had traveled, and to put it all into a single timeline. I had hoped that I could use this timeline to start writing historical fiction, creating publishable works that someone would want to buy.
I had, at the time, envisioned that someone to be a publishing house, but even when I had started collecting regional histories from various online and offline sources, this centralized world of writers submitting to publishers was already vanishing. The Internet had created a new world where writers could submit works directly to the readers. And frankly, that new reality left me confused for a few years.
All the while that I was sorting out what was happening, I learned more and more about history from a micro-perspective in my role as a curator on Geni. I learned to identify useful research on historical individuals, and to make sense of their positions in more than one family tree. Among my responsibilities as a curator, as I saw them, was to use such research to correct and otherwise render accurate the shared tree on Geni, and to help everyone involved understand what the best available research was saying. Sometimes that meant that I would be the one learning from others (I’m always grateful for the help in picking up on something new, or correcting my own misunderstanding about the past), but at other times it meant sharing something new that others hadn’t seen when first compiling their individual tree. Sometimes that would be something as simple as checking the date when a town was settled, or understanding when a region or colony changed hands. Continue reading