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

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Thoughts on Predicting the Future of Genealogy (or anything else)

Popular Science Jun 1952

I have likely made this observation before, but it is good example of the issues involved in predicting the future. When I was a lot younger, I spent a great deal of time reading science fiction books. I started when I was about nine years old and by the time I was a teenager, had read nearly every book I could find in any of the libraries I had access to. It is interesting to me now to watch reviews of all the things that science fiction writers "got right." Well, there is one thing that they never did "get right" and that is the way computers have changed our way of communicating with each other. The entire concept of a hand-held computer is missing from the science fiction literature. Oh, before you start throwing Star Trek at me, I have also watched every single episode of the original Star Trek and Star Trek: The Next Generation, after that I lost interest. The Star Trek computer is not so much as an electronic device as a way to avoid certain plot issues.

What is the point? Well, in our combined wisdom, we are mostly left in the dark as to what will happen in the future. Lightning does strike without warning and can cause serious consequences. (For example, see my daughter Amy's post today on "The Death of Willie Jarvis, 1881"). Notwithstanding the unpredictability of the future, it is always enticing to try and figure out what will happen. Predicting the future of genealogy is a special case. First, it is a very conservative pursuit and second, there isn't a whole lot about genealogy in particular to predict. Sure, the technology will continue to change, but the basic process of gathering information, analyzing it, recording it and moving forward will abide.

Technology can only do so much. One example of the limitations of technology is the fact that as I go back in my ancestral lines, I find almost nothing online that is pertinent to the issues that arise. For example, in one line I reach my Great-great-grandfather, Samuel Linton. For years now, I have been searching for his birthplace. So far, none of the records I have found, online, offline or whatever, have recorded an accurate birthplace. All of the major online websites simply run out of records that apply to Northern Ireland during the time period in in the area where he was supposedly born. All of my computer skills, all of the technology available cannot help me answer what should be a rather simple problem. As I move to Provo, Utah, I hope to have greater access to the Family History Library. One of my goals is to resolve this particular issue.

It seems that the more things change, the more they stay the same. I have been looking for this one piece of information for a long time. Perhaps I should just give up and move on. But that is one of the main attractions of genealogy, even though technology will change and even though records might become more available, these changes will not change the core activities of the genealogical research process.

1 comment:

  1. I had been looking for the maiden name of my 2x great grandmother, Mary ???? O'Rourke. Since the release of the Pennsylvania Death Certificates; quite by surprise I found the death of my great grandfathers brother John and it was listed as Mary Griffith, it only took me 10 years to find it. The information was given by my great grandfather himself. Don't give up...