If you have been doing genealogical research for many years or have just started, it may not be obvious that genealogy as a persuasion is in a state of rapid transition and transformation. From my perspective working on digitizing records in a major state archive, over the short time we have been here, I have seen some dramatic changes. Those changes involve some of the following issues and many others:
- Our ability to access records around the world is increasing dramatically
- Time restraints on finding and accessing those records are decreasing
- The time from acquiring the record to when that record is digitized and available online is decreasing
- The time it takes for individual researchers to publish genealogical findings and make them available around the world is collapsing into being almost instantaneous
- The ability of individuals to collaborate and share research tasks is becoming ubiquitous
- DNA is adding a scientific twist to the old process of identifying and locating relatives
For example, I recorded the number of Historical Records available on the MyHeritage.eom website about ten days ago. That number was exactly 9,067,418,625. Now, ten days later that number has grown to exactly 9,078,987,922. MyHeritage.com has added 11,569,297 records in ten days. At that rate, they could add over 400 million records in one year (about 422,279,340.5). This is just one of the companies digitizing and adding records online.
The number of genealogists who have to spend hours and hours in obscure repositories is diminishing rapidly. My experience recently helping people from Latin America find their ancestors online is an excellent example. Let's suppose that you come from Colombia in South America. The FamilySearch.org website has digitized, online, free Catholic Church records for the country from 1600 to 2012. These records contain 12,555,984 images.
What do these numbers actually mean? They are simply part of a trend that will continue to provide more and more records which will ultimately feed the record hints of the large online database programs and coupled with DNA will make finding relatives and ancestors in ever larger areas of the world more tied to online family tree programs. So, if you were to start your family tree today and you were from someplace in America or Europe, as time passes, you will be more and more likely to have the process fully or partially automated.
Where does that leave the library/archive bound researcher? Here is one example. The New England Historic Genealogical Society has just added the Mayflower passengers and five generations of their ancestors to their online database. This means millions of people around the world will now have a verified and extensively documented source for some of their ancestors. How many more such databases will there be in the future? As we get millions of sources added to the FamilySearch.org Family Tree, to Ancestry.com family trees, to MyHeritage.com family trees and Findmypast.com's family trees, and Geneanet.org's family trees, and Geni.com's family tree, and so forth. Then we add in millions of DNA tests and what do we get? Now I am back to the beginning of this post.