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

Monday, November 24, 2014

Comments on the Status of Genealogy

As I looked out my window at the first real snowfall of the season, I began to reflect on where we are in genealogy today. Yesterday I taught two classes, one on searching on and another on the partnership programs. Despite the misgivings of more experienced genealogists, I find that those just beginning to have an interest in discovering their family's history are truly overwhelmed by the technology. This does not just include older genealogists who did not grow up with computers, but also younger, very educated and technologically adept people who have yet to take advantage of the flood of available information. One comment was indicative. A lady, who was much younger than I am, commented that she had started to use and was baffled, in a sense, by all the suggested tree matches and source hints. After my brief explanation of how and why the program operates, she was determined to go home and get busy looking at the sources she had been ignoring.

I think one thing the technology is doing is putting us in position where we are metaphorically standing in the stream of a firehose of information and changes. This situation has many would-be genealogists stumped about where and how to begin. Once they begin to use the online programs, especially, they are confronted with a huge number of options. If you are swimming the stream of technology, you can't imagine how intimidating it is to people standing on the shore watching you speed by with the current.

For example, I just opened my list of watched websites. Since I cleared the list late last night, I only have a very short list of 22 feeds to review. Here is just a random sample of the posts' headlines today in no particular order:

Now, how do I tell a budding genealogist that they must spend virtually their full time just reviewing each day's offerings from the genealogy community? On a regularly busy news day, I can have well over 100 and sometimes over 200 posts to review. To keep sane, I have to invoke my personal filter that filters out almost everything and gets very picky about what I will spend my time on reviewing more in depth.

One interesting phenomena is the trend away from large conferences and the movement towards smaller, very local events. is reporting having sponsored over 1000 of the local conferences around the world. At the same time, the very large genealogy conferences are still promoting attendance in an attempt to become even larger. This next year, #RootsTech 2015 is promoting the following:
RootsTech 2015 will be held on February 12–14, 2015, in partnership with the Federation of Genealogical Societies (FGS), offering two great conferences in one location at the Salt Palace Convention Center in Salt Lake City, Utah. Upgrade your RootsTech three-day pass to include the full four-day FGS program (Wed. through Sat.) for a small additional fee.
Both of the simultaneous conferences will have an extensive list of presenters and classes. Some of the presentations at RootsTech will then be recorded and used as the seed presentations at hundreds of more local conferences. Even living here in Provo, Utah, only a matter of about an hour's drive from downtown Salt Lake City, I find that very, very few people are even aware of the existence of the #RootsTech conference, even those who are members of the sponsoring organization, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. This is the case despite announcements of big-name entertainment stars' participation in the conference.

Another interesting new trend is the genealogical cruise ship experience. My wife and I took our first cruise this past summer. We went to Alaska on the Inside Passage. It was an interesting and very impressive trip which we throughly enjoyed. Would we do it again? Would we go on another cruise to a different location? Would we consider going with a bunch of genealogists for the ostensible purpose of sitting in classes while on the cruise ship? Nevertheless, there is an almost constant stream of announcements of future cruises. One thing I can say about our cruise is that we didn't get much sleep and we ate way too much food. Given the time it took to just live on the ship, I have a hard time imagining getting a lot of genealogy done. For example, most of the dinners took from an hour or so to well over two hours. We are definitely not used to spending two hours just to eat dinner. I am sure we are in the minority judging by the number and popularity of these cruises.

Fortunately, in all this rush hour traffic of genealogical events and news, we still try to focus on very local and very personal genealogical projects. I am currently in the middle of a very local oral history project and a record transcription project for a local university (not BYU). I am certainly still and always will be very busy. Fortunately, I can still sit and write and look out the window at the new coating of snow on the now leafless forest hillside next to our house. It reminds me that my world does not always have to run at high speed.

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