RootsTech 2014


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

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Dead End

In my choice of a title, I am not referring to the proverbial "brick wall" I am referring to the attitude of some of the people I talk to each day. I happened to be teaching a "basic" research class. The sole participant in the class began talking about her family and how she was trying to find the origin of a mid-19th Century immigrant from Ireland. Hmmm. Why was she in a basic class? So I decided she likely needed a little more advanced help and thought I could lay some ground work by asking which genealogy program she was using. I got a blank stare. "Oh," she said, "I don't want to use a computer program, I am perfectly happy with my paper forms thank you."

I suppose the class could have ended right there, but I said, "Perhaps you would like to have your genealogy in a program so you can share it with others?"

"Not really," was the reply. I don't want to get into all that computer stuff, I just want to find the origin of my great-grandfather." I wondered out loud what records she might use to achieve this goal without using a computer, but the comment went right past her. So I took a different tack.

Without seeming patronizing, I tried to explain the need for recording your information in a computer. (I do not wish to offend any of the researchers out there who are using paper records) but of course, that discussion went no where. I ended up demonstrating finding a census record online, whereupon the computer system crashed and I lost the copy of census record. Maybe I need to go back to paper? I forged ahead trying mightily to find a way to get her to agree that working on a computer was a good idea, if not absolutely necessary. I thought I was making ground, until she mentioned that she was using In reaction I mentioned that was being replaced by FamilySearch Family Tree. That was the end of the conversation. A dead end, I might say.

I think I am running out of arguments to convince the paper users that computers have become necessary. Have I mentioned that the last time I calculated the number, it would take 80,000 pages just to do one printout of one of genealogy files? Sharing does not seem to be a motivator either. Some people are perfectly happy without touching a computer, but the erstwhile student did mention having a copy of the 1900 U.S. Census record and I was wondering where she got that without a computer. I couldn't imagine her sitting in front of a microfilm reader. She was however impressed when I zoomed in on the online version of the census record, just before the system crashed. She acted like that was the first time she had seen a document online. Maybe it was.

This post has no moral. No tight little suggestive admonition. It is just a baffled wandering into the surreal world of trying to help people with their genealogy.


  1. Perhaps if the seeker were asked why she thought the ancestor was born in Ireland, she would directly have pointed to some submission in n.FS.

    Thus she was using a computer, just not her own computer. Her question might have been how to find the origin in n.FS, which would raise the question about where the stuff in n.FS came from.

  2. Luddite. Some people have no idea what to do and are afraid to learn.