As is usual for a genealogy conference, the classes offered in the general sessions are broken down by skill level; all, beginner, intermediate and advanced. In addition, there is a whole block of classes entitled "Getting Started Classes." RootsTech is also offering Computer Labs
RootsTech, in the past, has done an admirable job of combining all of these seeming disparate interests into one conference and there is no doubt that this "shopping mall" approach to genealogy is not only successful, it is exactly what we need in our highly fragmented genealogical community. But looking at this proposed schedule and from experiences in classed taught at the Mesa FamilySearch Library this past week, I find that there is really a much more serious division which I am calling the "Great Genealogical Divide."
The basis for the divide is complex. It is based on technological sophistication. Simply put, some people who are otherwise interested in genealogy are totally lacking in any computer skills whatsoever. This past week we have been working with would be genealogists who do not own computers and do not have Internet access. In addition, some of these same people have no keyboarding skills. How are they to be integrated into the fast-moving genealogical community. Don't they stand on the opposite side of the Great Divide? What is there to help them cross over?
For example, look at the "Getting Started" classes at RootsTech. Here are some examples of class titles:
- Getting the most Out of Ancestry.com
- Basic Online Resources for the Beginning Genealogist
- Big Sites, Little Sites - All Online
- My Genealogy is Done! – Step-by-step
- Solutions for Adding Names to Your Family Tree.
See what I mean? This is beginning genealogy for technologically integrated people. These "getting started" classes are still way beyond the capabilities of those on the opposite side of the Great Divide. Of course, you say, this is RootsTech, remember the "Tech" part of the name. But what I am pointing out is that mainstream genealogy today is all Tech.
Do we just say "Too Bad, So Sad" and ignore this problem? Fortunately, I can't ignore the problem because I am committed to helping these people with no computer skills who are still motivated to become involved in genealogy. Of course, even though I speak of a Great Divide, it is more like a valley where people are scattered all over the place from one side to the other. In one week, I have talked to computer professionals in the form of retired computer programmers and to others who cannot use either a mouse or keyboard. Where is the common ground? How do we bridge the gap between these two extremes.
Here is my suggestion. If we have any interest in helping those with no technical skills, lets start doing things to include them in the community. How about basic classes in computers and Internet? How about a mentoring system with instruction for those who are technologically challenged. Pairing a technologically savvy teenager with an older non-technological genealogist might be a start and both may benefit. How about providing basic, I mean very basic, classes in computer usage at conferences, in FamilySearch Centers and through other genealogically related organizations? How about building a bridge for these folks over the Great Divide.