For some time now, I have been writing about the impact that the combined digitization of millions of records and hundreds of thousands of books combined with expanded DNA testing is having and will have on the greater genealogical community. I am really starting to feel like the boy who called wolf, but I was not joking all the other times that I wrote about the subject.
Not too long ago, I wrote about the records on MyHeritatge.com. I noted that they had just over 6 billion records. As of the date of this post, they now have 7,165,694,466. Essentially, over the past few months, MyHeritage.com has added a billion new records. If you add to that the millions upon millions of records added by FamilySearch.org from the digitization of their microfilm collection and the continued digitization of records around the world and the records added by Ancestry.com, Findmypast.com and all of the companies they are associated with, you just might start to grasp the reality of the impact of all these records.
Not too long ago, I was writing about the end of microfilm. Of course, all the microfilmed records in the world are not going to disappear anytime soon. But the number of new records being microfilmed is quickly coming to an end. At the same time, I see books being digitized at an accelerating rate also. I mentioned the number of genealogically related books on FamilySearch.org. That number is, as of the date of this post, 326,815. Add that number to those on Google.com, the 10,766,354 books on Archive.org (The Internet Archive) and millions more on other websites, and again, you just might start to grasp the impact.
One random example. I just recently checked out the following paper book from the BYU Harold B. Lee Library.
Parkin, Robert, and Linda Stone. 2004. Kinship and family: an anthropological reader. Malden, Mass: Blackwell Publishing. http://www.tandfonline.com/toc/rwhi20/.
Note that this book is available in ebook format. The advantage to a researcher of the ebook format is that the entire book can be searched, word by word, for any relevant content. Let's suppose I am researching kinship. Here is one website with over 77,000 articles, journals, and databases on the subject: Taylor and Francis Online,
My guess is that unless you happen to be a university professor or a librarian, you have probably never heard of this website that has over 3.6 million articles and books.
I could go on listing websites indefinitely. The point is not simple. In fact, the whole concept of the impact of all of this information is overwhelmingly complex.
I am going to quote from the website of the Board for Certification of Genealogists and their Genealogical Proof Standard.
Proof is a fundamental concept in genealogy. In order to merit confidence, each conclusion about an ancestor must have sufficient credibility to be accepted as "proved." Acceptable conclusions, therefore, meet the Genealogical Proof Standard (GPS). The GPS consists of five elements:"Reasonably exhaustive research" is further defined as follows:
- reasonably exhaustive research;
- complete, accurate citations to the source or sources of each information item;
- tests—through processes of analysis and correlation—of all sources, information items, and evidence;
- resolution of conflicts among evidence items; anda soundly reasoned, coherently written conclusion.
- Assumes examination of a wide range of high quality sources
- Minimizes the probability that undiscovered evidence will overturn a too-hasty conclusion
Do you have your family tree on every one of the available websites with automated record search capabilities? Have you closely evaluated and added in every valid record hint generated by every one of these programs? Oh, did you look recently at the Library of Congress, Chronicling America, Historic American Newspapers Project? The Library of Congress now has over 11.5 million fully searchable, digitized pages of newspaper and what about the other huge online newspaper collections? Have you searched all of those also?
Not too long ago, you could spend some time in the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah and come away satisfied that you had looked at a reasonably large number of sources. Have you spent time in each of the other large libraries containing vast genealogical collections? Have you even looked at what all of these libraries have in their digitized collections?
As genealogists, we need to realize that we must become online, information specialists. We cannot stick our head in the local courthouse and even begin to believe that we have made reasonably exhaustive searches. Today's genealogist needs to be aware of what is and what is not online and that distinction is getting harder and harder to determine every single day that passes.