As I was preparing for my presentation "Finding Volunteer (and Low-Cost) Researchers Online," I remembered that Random Acts of Genealogical Kindness, my number one resource on my syllabus, has recently announced a partnership with WorldVitalRecords.com, using its social networking site, Family Link (still in beta). Taking another look at this site, I realized that to fully round off my presentation, I had better offer a tutorial for using this site in addition to my syllabus, and promised my fellow EWGS members that I would write one up here on my blog.
When you go to WorldVitalRecords' home page, http://www.worldvitalrecords.com, choose the link in the top menu bar for Family Link. If you are already a Family Link member, you can choose to Login in the upper right corner of your screen. Otherwise, you will need to register for this site (don't worry, it's free!) by entering your first and last name and e-mail address and clicking "Get Started for Free." You will then be prompted to through a Profile set-up process: gender, birthdate and location. You are asked to give correct location information (which can be hidden from other members), so that you can "perform distance calculation between you and other members and search for location based events." At this point, you can also choose to upload a photo of yourself.
The next screen is really the heart of the volunteer lookup portion of this social networking site. You can choose to show your genealogy background to everyone, or just your contacts, as well as list the number of years you've been doing genealogy and whether you will do local records (from your home location) or Internet lookups for others for free, for a nominal fee, for an hourly professional rate, or not at this time. Other information you may wish to choose to list are databases you have access to, family history software you use, your heritage, genealogical societies you belong to, languages you speak or read, and surnames you're researching. Keep in mind you can list as much information as you would like, or none of it.
The next step asks you to invite your friends to Family Link; you can choose to skip this step. You can then check over your settings and save your information. Another choice you have is to write a biography about yourself and decide who may view it. You also decide how much (if any) contact information about yourself is available to others, such as phone numbers, instant messaging user names and your personal website. What I like about all this is that you are completely in control of what information you wish to list, as well as with whom you wish to share it.
Once you're finished, click on Profile > Edit Profile from the top menu bar. My Research Places is listed in the lower right side of the Edit Profile page. You can add as many or as few research places as you'd like. Under the More > Research Cities menu in the top menu bar, you can then browse locations to find others researching the same areas, as well as to find others who are willing to help you with your research in those locations.
Going back to the Profile > Edit Profile page, on the bottom right side of the page it also lists Events. This is a place where you and others can list family reunions, workshops, and other genealogy-related events. There are many other features on this website, including adding a family tree, creating ancestor pages, finding friends and meeting other people. I encourage you to check out the various features and utilize the ones that fit your needs.
I really like this social networking site, and that's saying a lot, as up until now I haven't found one I really have cared for. The clinchers for me are the ability to connect with others researching the same locations, finding others who can assist me with my own research, and having an opportunity to give back to the genealogical community by doing lookups for others.