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

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Reflections on Genealogy

I spent much of the last week or so helping people directly with their research. This means sitting in the Brigham Young University Family History Library looking at microfilm or searching online. It was good to get immersed in the challenge of reading old handwriting and, in some cases, deciphering old  Spanish language parish records. I still managed to teach a couple of hours of classes at the Springville Family History Center and at a local Family History Discovery Day. I also got involved in my own family's research as we plowed through English Parish Registers. One of my daughters and her family arrived for a visit after having digitized an entire cemetery in Kamas, Utah and uploaded the resulting images to I also kept busy tagging and uploading photos to the Memories section of I am also progressing on my own local oral history project and have placed the first set of these interviews with the BYU Specials Collections Library and I am closing in on finished another two series of interviews and should have another set of oral interviews ready for the Library.

The activities of this past week dramatically point out the changes that have occurred in my own genealogical activities over the past few years and I took some time to reflect on the changes that have occurred. At the same time, it is interesting to note that the more things change, the more they seem to stay the same. I commented recently about how my view of my own involvement in genealogical research has become more individual centered. I have probably taught well over a thousand classes during the past few years. Many of these classes were to hundreds and even thousands of individuals. I now question the utility of spending so much of time involved in that general sort of genealogical experience.

By whatever process, I have ended up here in Provo, Utah spending nearly all my time either doing genealogically related activities or helping others with their research on a very local and direct level. My activity in large, nationally oriented conferences has come to a very definite end. I am presently not scheduled to present at any national level events. All of my future commitments are focused on very local groups.

At the same time, my teaching at the BYU Family History Library and other teaching is being recorded on video and given general circulation. One of the posted BYU Family History Library videos has over 2,400 views. At the same time, Holly Hansen and I have been working on creating a series of Research Guides with accompanying CDs containing the live class presentations. These are available for sale on in the Shop section. In addition, we have started an bookstore with our first Research Guide as follows:

Scandinavian Research Guide: Sources and Strategies

These publications have been produced in conjunction with a monthly Family History Retreat held in Salt Lake City, Utah with visits to the Family History Library. These events provide a week-long one-on-one research activity at the world's premier genealogical research facility.

In a real sense, I see that my genealogically related activities have become more individually oriented. I have had no real way to judge the effectiveness of teaching large classes at national events around the country. But I can certainly tell when those I am helping directly and individually see progress in finding their own ancestral heritage. I can also see that putting up a video or writing a book can have a more direct and lasting effect on those who take advantage of these more persistent activities. So, I am not entirely adverse to teaching anywhere at anytime. But I am not inclined presently to spend my time seeking such activities. I have plenty to do right here in Utah Valley. I will be traveling back to Mesa to help present at the annual Genealogy Fair for the Mesa FamilySearch Library. I hope by October, when the event is planned, we have some better idea about when the Library may reopen.

What about the blog? As I have noted before, I am watching another dramatic change in the blogging community. Blogs have become ubiquitous. During the past few months, I have seen a marked downturn in the number and variety of genealogy blog postings. While at the same time, I have seen a large increase in the number of genealogically related posts on I subscribe to over 300 blogs. I am still seeing a rather dramatic decline in the number of posts and the variety of the subject matter. Almost all of the recent posts have come from "professional" bloggers, either company blogs or company sponsored bloggers. Blogging is far from dead, but the online blogging community is rapidly changing.

Change is the essence of life. Meanwhile, I will keep teaching classes, helping individuals, recording oral histories, writing, writing and writing some more and probably make many more videos.

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