It seems traditional among news outlets to compile a "year in review" article at the end of each calendar year. This type of article assumes that there have been notable newsworthy incidents during the year and that people are conditioned to expect that type of news article. When I look at a few of those articles, I realize how far removed I am from the world of politics, entertainment and sports. I figure any list of genealogy news articles would have a similar reaction from most people. They would probably be saying something like, "Genealogy has news? What could that possibly be?" So I surely would not blame you if the things I mention as "big news stories in genealogy" are things you have never heard about.
First on the list of big news stories would have to be the constant updates from different online genealogy database programs of the millions upon millions of newly digitized and indexed records added to their collections. These sorts of announcements have become an almost constant background but there is possibly nothing else an important or with greater impact on the average genealogical researcher than these huge additions of previously relatively unavailable or difficult to obtain records. As I have predicted in the past, there is a point at which those living in the countries most affected will have enough records to, in many cases, adequately research a pedigree back four to six generations.
The next big news story in genealogy turns out to be old news with incremental changes. During the past two or three years, the largest online genealogy companies have concentrated on improving their automatic and semi-automatic research hints capabilities. Over the past year, I have seen all four of the big companies, Ancestry.com, MyHeritage.com, FamilySearch.org and findmypast.com, improve their own search capabilities and enable those who have family trees on their websites to find records that they otherwise would have overlooked or not found at all.
Acquisitions and partnerships were big news in 2014. FamilySearch.org has an ongoing agreement with the other three large genealogy companies and part of that agreement involves sharing content. During 2014, content from FamilySearch's Historical Record Collections began showing up more and more on the other large database programs. This increased the availability of the FamilySearch records dramatically. Meanwhile, acquisitions and additional partnerships kept apace. findmypast.com acquired Mocavo.com. BillionGraves.com and MyHeritage.com teamed up to preserve the world's cemeteries in photos.
#RootsTech 2014 came and went. There were other notable conferences around the United States and the world. Genealogists took quite a few cruises and bloggers reported on them. More and more webinars were held across the world. The genealogical community seemed to go on pretty much as normal. Except there was a noticeable shift in conferences. FamilySearch sponsored over 1000 local Family History Fairs. These free very local conferences were supplemented with content recorded at #RootsTech 2014. There began to be a definite trend that ate away at the attendance of all but the very largest conferences. Webinars and locally sponsored "free" conferences began to have their affect.
During the year, several companies announced apps for tablets and smartphones. But it seemed that these new programs were somewhat lost in the generally saturated online environment of the tablets and smartphones. Perhaps there is a limit to how many apps people can adsorb?
Now here we are at the end of another year. What will 2015 bring to the genealogical table? I don't want to appear stodgy but my guess is more of the same. There will be more acquisitions, more partnerships, more documents digitized, more conferences and maybe tucked in here and there a few surprises.