RootsTech 2014

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Sunday, September 29, 2013

Where Are We Today? -- An Overview of Genealogy -- Part One

I thought it would be a good time to step back and take a look at the overall genealogical community and give a "state of the union" type assessment what is happening, both good and not-so-good. I fully realize that those who give state of the union type messages are usually "very important people" such as presidents, governors and CEOs, but none of those really exist for genealogy and since we have a fairly egalitarian community, I figured that even a lowly blogger could probably give such an assessment as well as anyone else.

The main question that arises in the context of looking at an overview is who or what am I overviewing? Who or what makes up the genealogical community? I think I will skip that question for now, since I am still embroiled in that controversy from past posts.

In the past, I have focused on the large, commercial genealogical online companies and talked about ownership and acquisitions. What they do, both individually and collectively, has a significant impact on the entire genealogical community, but I think that focusing only on their activities is very nearsighted. In thinking about the subject, I decided to start locally and move out to the international scene. So here it goes.

My local perspective comes from day-to-day working in the Mesa FamilySearch Library located in Mesa, Arizona. Over the past year, we have seen some significant changes. I continue to see people come to the Library daily beginning their activities in researching their families. We have seen a steady growth in the numbers of those coming to the Library and in some areas, that growth has been significant. Classes that used to have four or five people, now attract fifty or more. In the past year or so, we have added the ability to broadcast Webinars and have accumulated a significant library of past Webcasts on our website. The effect of having Webinars and Webcasts is that hundreds and into the thousands of people have heard our instructors first hand that probably have never even been to the Library.  We have also upgraded a lot of our electronic equipment and have steadily increased our online activities. Through classes and tours, we weekly have large and small groups coming to the Library to learn about researching their families. All in all the Library is well and growing in its reach. We are planning a significant Genealogy Conference planned for October 26th. I will have more to say about conferences later in this post.

The real question is whether or not the experience of the Mesa FamilySearch Library in experiencing an increase in interest is typical of the overall activity in the other 4500+ FamilySearch Centers around the world, or is the growth due to local promotion of the Library? My guess is that there has been an increase in any of the Centers around the world who have taken the time and made the effort to involve the community and increase their involvement in technology. Those who have ignored both the increase in technology and have been stagnant in their involvement in the greater genealogical community have probably seen no significant increase in activity and may have seen a decrease.

From a blogging and social networking standpoint, I see a constantly growing interest in using the Web to promote genealogy and connect with other genealogists around the world. My impression is that the online community continues to grow and is very active. The difficulty in looking at any activity on the Internet is separating out an increase in any specific area of interest such as genealogy from the general increase in all kinds of online activities. Do we see more people involved in genealogy online simply because there are more people online? Or do we actually see an increase of interest in genealogy that is translated into an increase in online activity?

The question of whether or not the online part of the genealogical community is growing faster than the overall interest in online activities generally, probably cannot accurately be determined.

I will continue this later, since I just ran out of time. Here is a list of the areas I will address in the next installments:

  • Conferences
  • Societies and clubs
  • Commercial activities both large and small
  • Records acquisition and scanning
  • Resources
  • Availability of Records and Government Involvement

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