Melvyn D. Magree, of (M)agreeable Software, Im., in Plymouth, Minnesota, organized the genealogy programs for GEnie in November of 1986. GEnie is the trademark of General Electric’s Network for Information Exchange.
You need a computer, a modem, and telecommunications software to participate, and you need to join GEnie. GEnie is available via a local phone call in more than 550 cities and the non-prime time rate for 300- or 1200-baud modems is $5 per hour.
The popular program had modest beginnings but now has more than 5,000 members, according to Magree.
Monday evenings, from 9:00 to 11:00 Eastern Time, are informal - devoted mostly to questions from new genealogical computer users and beginning researchers. Fridays (same time) are more structured. Often a guest speaker is on board to answer specific questions about software programs, publishing, new and old books, or general research tips.
Magree is the SYSop, or system operator. He moves files and messages around and acts as master of ceremonies and sergeant at arms at these Friday conferences.
Is a sergeant at arms necessary? Magree assured me it is. When genealogists drop in for computer conversations about their favorite subject, they can get a bit out of hand, he said.
Not everyone can “talk” at once. Some rules and procedures are necessary to run meetings. During  the round table conferences you can “get the floor” or ask questions of the guest speaker by “raising your hand.” This is done electronically by typing on your computer/RAI. The basic rules are simple and quite easy to learn.
“The sharing of knowledge in genealogical sources is the greatest benefit right now,” Magree said. “I have learned more in the past year about genealogy by running the Genealogy Round Table than in the previous 10 years of researching by myself.”
Eventually the “Tiny Tafel” (condensed pedigrees) supplied by members will provide an outstanding database for genealogists trying to locate others with the same ancestors.
In addition to the weekly Genealogy Round Table conferences on Friday and the informal get-togethers on Monday, there are electronic mailboxes and bulletin boards where you can place queries and exchange information. You can browse through the electronic library now. Subjects range from “Downloading Problems,” to “Ohio Newspaper Project.” These are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
At a recent session of the Genealogy Round Table on which I was a guest speaker, about 50 avid genealogists were in attendance.
Family tree researchers are often isolated from each other. Most of our time is spent researching, compiling, or writing about our favorite subject. These telecommunication conferences enable you to meet others who share your passion and can provide you with new sources to consult. Genealogists with computers frequently encounter problems that computer experts without a genealogical background cannot answer. This new program opens the door for real help for this group.
Complete information about GEnie’s genealogy program can be obtained by writing to Melvyn D. Magree, 5925 Magnolia Lane, Plymouth, MN 55442. Please include a self-addressed stamped envelope. If you already have a computer, modem, and telecommunications software, contact GEnie on its toll-free number at 800-638-9636 for details about joining this exciting new program.
You will enjoy meeting “live” with other genealogists across the country as we explore the wonders of electronic telecommunications and genealogy.
Myra Vanderpool Gormley is a Certified Genealogist and writer of “Shaking Your Family Tree,” a weekly genealogy column syndicated nationally by the Los Angeles Times Syndicate and appearing in newspapers throughout the country.