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

Monday, May 26, 2014

Another post that answers the question, what has this got to do with genealogy?

OK, I admit it. I can go on vacation, but I can't stop my mind from thinking all the time and words just keep bubbling out and getting written into blog posts.

I am really fascinated by I have been involved in music most of my life one way or another. My musical tastes run from the Beatles, to Inti-Illimani, from Bach to Jerry Garcia, and from Glen Gould to Pete Seeger. YouTube is like a magic carpet that can carry you off to concerts by any and all of these and thousands of other musicians. The amount of information on YouTube is staggering. Here are a few statistics from the Google Statistics page for YouTube:
  • More than 1 billion unique users visit YouTube each month
  • Over 6 billion hours of video are watched each month on YouTube—that's almost an hour for every person on Earth
  • 100 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute
  • 80% of YouTube traffic comes from outside the US
  • YouTube is localized in 61 countries and across 61 languages
  • According to Nielsen, YouTube reaches more US adults ages 18-34 than any cable network
  • Millions of subscriptions happen each day. The number of people subscribing daily is up more than 3x since last year, and the number of daily subscriptions is up more than 4x since last year
 I wrote a post not too long ago about using YouTube for genealogical research entitled, "Why not start your research with YouTube?" OK, so now what has all this to do with genealogy? Well, YouTube is really big. Not just big, but gigantic. But guess what? This huge resource may as well be totally unknown and invisible to the vast majority of genealogists. Day after day, week after week, I teach classes and give presentations on genealogy. In almost every single class there are one or more people who express their inability to understand or use computers in any form. Do they understand how far from the mainstream they are?

I spoke with a very nice lady recently who is the Director of a FamilySearch Center (Family History Center) and apparently has been for some considerable time. I asked her if any of her volunteers had gotten invitations to sign up with the three large database programs now being offered by FamilySearch. She had never heard of the program and it took her a few minutes to even understand what I was talking about. Her response was that might be nice for some people.

Any reasonably exhaustive search today would, of necessity, require extensive computer use and ability. Why do I constantly find genealogists who have almost no concept of the information available online? For example, only a very small percentage of genealogists I have polled over the past few months had any knowledge of, one of the largest genealogy companies in the world with millions of unique records from all over the world. I get the same lack of response from questions about RootsTech,, most of the current genealogy programs and many other online issues. Even very experienced genealogists with adequate computer skills have no idea that YouTube might have genealogical content worth viewing.

Once again, at this last conference in Parksville, British Columbia, I was asked what program might be a good place to move data from Personal Ancestral File. This particular person did not know the program had been discontinued and was no longer supported and did not know that the last changes to the program were made in 2002. He was also unaware of the existence of any of the programs I suggested.

This has everything to do with YouTube. This online program is a pervasive part of our culture. It is an indicator on online interest. It reaches nearly every aspect of our lives in some way or another. Genealogists who put themselves outside of this online reality have really moved themselves, not just out of the mainstream of genealogy, but out of the mainstream of our world society as a whole. Back to a another statistic, over 92% of all of the people in the United States use a cell phone. In fact, there are now more cellphones in use in the United States than there are people. I would like to know who else is using them besides people? In fact, looking at the statistics, there are many countries of the world where cellphone usage exceeds the number of people living in the country and yet, there are still a considerable number of genealogists who do not have or use cellphones.

I am not saying that we must all be glued to YouTube. What I am saying is that we need to realize that computers are not just another difficult thing to learn about. They are the main conduit for information, including genealogical information, today. This is not the future. This is the present and too many genealogists are living in the past along with their ancestors. What is amazing to me is that so many of these genealogists who profess to know nothing about computers and what is online keep coming to my classes and presentations.

Lets look at a few numbers. In the past week or so, has added millions upon millions of images of original source records. The exact same thing could be said of each of the large online genealogical databases. continues to add 1,000 databases every single day.,, and many others add millions of records a day. The Digital Public Library of America has over 7 million online records and I could go on and on. What I find is that very few genealogists are familiar with most of these resources. At the conference this past weekend in Canada, I asked the question, yet once again, about knowledge and use of the major genealogical database programs. I was surprised that out of the almost 100 people in my class, that about 12 or 15 had heard of Considerably more than is usually the case. This is an indicator to me that the genealogical community has not yet gotten the message.


  1. Do you first ask who has home internet access? Who has broadband access? Without broadband, YouTube is inaccessible. Remember the Nauvoo people.

    As for, for the U.S. it has little for before the 20th century, and pre-20th-century material is largely (or completely?) available elsewhere. Much depends on where a researcher is in her/his research.

    1. You raise some interesting questions. I believe they merit follow up blog posts.

  2. There's a lot of genealogical information online, it's true, and being familiar with online tools can make a genealogist's life easier, but not everyone is going to be able to make the jump into the online world. Although I'm middle-aged, I've been working with computers in one form or another since I was a teenager; I swim these seas, but those of us who were introduced later in life, or who don't have regular access (a computer in their home, connected to the internet), may struggle to stay afloat. For someone who's my age, or older, the mental gymnastics required to learn to use a computer well are sometimes (not always, but sometimes) more limiting than we realize.

    So, please, go easy on people who aren't in the know about things. We all must face obstacles in our genealogy paths, but we certainly don't deserve to be criticized for having trouble when we find the path steeper than we can manage.

    1. I will address the issues you raise in an upcoming blog post. Thanks for the comments.