RootsTech 2014

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

Saturday, June 22, 2013

A Conversation About Genealogy Programs

While eavesdropping recently, I overheard the following conversation. I decided it would judicious to change the names of the participants and also take out any localized references. I thought this conversation interesting because of the opposing viewpoints of the two participants. I have also taken out casual conversational interludes in the interest of cutting down on keystrokes. In the time honored tradition I inherited from the legal profession of referring to my conversationalists as "Doe" and "Roe." [Note: The gist of this entirely fictitious conversation is a composite of actual comments and conversations I have had in the past few months, as incredible as it may seem].

Doe:
As I was saying, I have been working on my ***sen line for about ten years and I have finally color coded all of the collateral relatives and have each family reasonably, exhaustively documented in a separate binder.

Roe:
I just can't imagine how you can function with that archaic paper filing system. I have Version ** of ** and I can tell you, everything you have done with your color coding is a complete waste of time and paper. My program automatically color codes all of the lines and I can create groups of families and tag them all separately. If I discover new information, I can easily move someone from one family to another.

Doe:
i'm sorry, but the computer is not the solution to the world's problems. It is the cause of the world's problems. I can't stand to squint at that screen all day. I need to see my information on paper and feel it in my hands. I've seen all the problems you have had with your computer and there is no reason why I would want to assume all those problems.

Roe:
Have you ever heard about the Luddites from 19th Century England? That's what I think of the paper genealogists.

Doe:
Now, now, let's not get into an argument. I am fully aware of your technocrat tendencies. There is no law that says I have to even acknowledge the existence of computers. I can do everything I need to do perfectly well on paper. In fact, I just sent for copies of several documents and was told that they were only available on paper copies.

Roe:
So where do you draw the line? You say you won't do computers, but you still use photocopies. Where do you think the copies come from? I'll tell you. Someone's computer database. So you are really using computers but just not acknowledging it.

Doe:
I have no problem with your use of computers or anyone else using one. If I want to keep all my records on paper, why do you care? I can get along just fine, thank you.

Roe:
But, in effect, all you are doing is pushing the computerization of your work to someone else. Computerization is inevitable. There is no way to stop technological change. Which brings up the issue of what will happen to your pile of paper when you die?

Doe:
Although it is none of your business, I have a will that specifically provides that all my genealogy goes to the *** Society and they are looking forward to getting the information. I might point out that you have the same problem. The issue of what happens to your genealogy after you die has little or nothing to do with the format of the information.

Roe:
I acknowledge the problem. But changing the subject doesn't solve the controversy. You have to admit that being able to make global changes to all your ancestor's information at the same time is far more efficient than having to go through each record and manually make the changes.

Doe:
If you were careful and had a consistent format for your records, you wouldn't have to worry about editing the place names to be consistent.

At this point, I had to walk away from the conversation. I was impressed that both had stated valid positions. There seems to be no way to convincingly demonstrate that keep records on a computer is inherently superior to using a paper based system. Both can be inaccurate and both can be accurate. Both can be sourced properly or both can ignore sources. It is only when you look to modern values of time savings and are convinced that computerized records are more convenient, can you make a good case for computerization. I say let well enough alone. I you want to work with paper records, you should be allowed to do so without feeling inferior in any way. On the other hand, just because you use a computer does not validate your genealogy any more than the genealogy of those who do all their work by hand.

1 comment:

  1. I totally agree. Each person should be comfortable with doing things their own way. I love using a computer, but I know some people have fantastic paper files.

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