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Some people eat, sleep and chew gum, I do genealogy and write...

Monday, May 18, 2009

Old line genealogy confronts the new wave

Last Friday while working at the Reference Desk at the Mesa Regional Family History Center, a younger woman approached the Desk and said that she needed some help. (I have to be careful how I characterize people now that I getting older, almost everyone who comes to the Reference Desk is either my age or younger).

She explained that she had some work she had done a few years ago on a floppy disk and wanted to get onto New FamilySearch so she could work on her file and then print it all out for her Book of Remembrance. I am afraid I just sat there staring at her. I immediately began to think about how many pages of Family Group Records even one of my smaller files would generate and how useless it would be to print out the work at whatever point I was working on. I thought about how much more I had to do to put in all my sources and attach all of the downloaded and scanned images.

All of this occurred in about four or five seconds, I realized that I was not the person to help this lady with her "print out" and turned her over to someone a little more sympathetic with her goal. As it turned out, she did not have either a log in or a pass word for New FamilySearch, nor did she have the information to apply for one, so none of us were able to help.

Today, I got a comment from a reader who said, "Among some of my genealogy society acquaintances there seems to be a line of demarcation: the old way, and the wrong way. All things internet are suspect, and all things written are not suspect.

I wonder how research can be conducted by any method with a closed mind?"

I do not have a complete answer for the people who resist learning and fail to take advantage of the newer opportunities offered by the technology. I realize that there are many who do not trust technology, merely because it is new or different than the way they have done things in the past. But equally as difficult to understand is how someone could accept a portion of the technology and, for example, copy things off of the computer by hand.

For my part, I am grateful for the access that we have to source records online. I had a research project concerning Court records for one of my great-great-grandfathers. The records were kept in the National Archives Branch in Denver, Colorado and I was trying to figure out a time I could take a trip to Denver. Fortunately, I found out that the records I needed had been scanned and put online by Footnote.com. I thereby avoided the time and expense of going to a place that I really had no genealogical interest in visiting (except maybe on a vacation). I could have also hired someone local in Denver to do the research, but we all know about budgets and priorities.

One of my wishes is that I had enough time to sit down with people like the lady in the Family History Center and show them how technology can save time, energy and paper. But that will probably never happen.

1 comment:

  1. a very refreshing, and balanced article - well done!! I've seen this point debated many times and as yet the writer as yet put their thoughts down without offending anyone. I have been a genealogist for many years now and shall we say "at the younger end of the scale". As such, I am very much pro-internet sources. However, I also like to visit places when I can and see sources first hand if possible. The two ways combine so effortlessly I can't see why you would exclude one or the other.
    If I did that in my research business, I would miss vital steps back. Keep up the good work.

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