Saturday, September 3, 2016

Earthquake -- Panning for Gold in the World of Information

Did you feel it?

That is the question of the morning across Kansas as a 5.6 magnitude earthquake struck in Northern Oklahoma. The event happened shortly after 7 am and social media became the quick source for the answer to the question -- did I actually feel an earthquake. The hashtag #earthquake is still in the top trending spot on Twitter over two hours later.

Even though I love Twitter for quick information, I know that I have to sift thru the tweets to find the facts. This is like 'panning for gold'. One has to evaluate the source behind the tweet to pull out those golden nuggets of truth.

For me, I tend to pay attention to the news reports from the area of the event versus national news. I prefer reports that are based on interviews or eye witness accounts. Thus, I gravitate to the local news outlets to see their reports. Since these reports incorporate personal experiences -- i.e. primary information -- they are the GOLD.

Another example of GOLD (primary information) is all of those 'I felt the house shake' tweets and Facebook posts. The person behind the tweet or post experienced the earthquake and is sharing their experience. Besides sharing on social media, we can each report our experience on the DID YOU FEEL IT site.

By reporting our personal experiences on this site, we participate in 'crowdsourcing'. The data collected by the Did You Feel It site will help scientists in the study of earthquakes. The map from this morning shows how widely this earthquake was felt.

All of these personal accounts are small nuggets that help define the larger story. However, I also want some large nuggets of Gold. Thus, I tend to go to the 'experts' in the field. In terms of an earthquake, that is the USGS (United States Geological Survey).

By going to the experts, I can locate the official reports. In terms of an earthquake these reports tell us when, where and how strong the earthquake was.

As a genealogist, I apply these same skills when looking for data to build my family tree.
  • Personal experiences in letters, diaries 
  • Reports of personal or family experiences in newspapers
  • 'Experts' that attain and hold official records -- i.e. -- courthouses for deeds, wills, and vital records
Panning for genealogical gold takes time but even small nuggets of gold can help add another leaf to the family tree.