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Saturday, July 30, 2005

UPDATE 2005: The Internet, Genealogists & the Future - Part 7 (final)


SMARTER EXPORT CAPABILITIES OF GENEALOGY SOFTWARE, particularly where it comes to embedding the linked photos and scanned documents. Right now it’s cumbersome to place copies of scanned images with an imported database into the exact directory structure on your computer as indicated by links to those images from your cousin’s computer. In fact the current GEDCOM (export) capabilities can preserve the links, but do not copy the digital images, so its more than likely y our cousin won’t think to send all the photos he’s collected, scanned and linked to ancestors in his database. The genealogy software producers have just about perfected the other parts of their genealogy programs, so hopefully they will be able to spend R&D time working out the links in this area, while still maintaining the lost cost of $29 for the average program.

MORE ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE – Artificial intelligence is the up and coming tool for savvy genealogists. Out dining room tables aren’t large enough and our brains aren’t fast enough to correlate the dates/localities where our ancestors once lived with online genealogy databases and library catalogs. That’s where programs like GenSmarts step in and evaluate our compiled genealogies. Computers are quicker at noticing a timeline or migration pattern, and point to a list of databases and books to continue research for evidence of our ancestors. Even my own column could be "read" to you by a "virtual Myrt." We have the technology and we know how to use it.

CREATIVE TOMBSTONING: Have you noticed that some tombstones how include a small ceramic photo like those described at : ? How about an interactive tombstone, where you can download the photo and pages of family, history of the deceased to your Thumb or laptop? Memory Medallions

COMPUTER-BASED TRAINING: Combining online tutorials, interactive chat rooms and detailed genealogy research assignments, we’ll see more genealogy classes like those offered at:
• Brigham Young University http://familyhistory/
• National Genealogical Society
• National Institute for Genealogical Studies in partnership with the University of Toronto

ORDERING MICROFILM ONLINE TO BE PRESENTED IN DIGITAL FORMAT at If digital scanners can work through a microfilm at 3 frames per second, and if there are 1200 frames per 35mm roll, it will take a little over 6 minutes to digitize the entire reel. This will greatly streamline the current microfilm ordering process, since it takes more than six minutes to pull a microfilm, print a mailing label, box and ship a reel to your local LDS Family History Center. Once the film is digitized and placed on a website, it can be available to anyone else online as well. Why is this important?

As it stands now, the Family History Library’s "collection includes over 2.4 million rolls of microfilmed genealogical records, 742,000 microfiche, 310,000 books serials and other formats, 4,500 periodicals, 700 electronic resources." IBID. Note: "Approximately 200 cameras are currently microfilming records in over 45 countries. Records have been microfilmed in over 110 countries, territories and possessions." IBID. In an interview this week, Mike Provard, of Family History Support, talked more about this worldwide microfilming project. He explained that at this point "a small percentage of the microfilming is now done with digital cameras" and that "the microfilming projects are still going strong."

MORE SOURCE DOCUMENTS As I wrote back in 1998, "online index references to ancestors are not considered first-hand or primary sources of information. It is most certainly at least one step removed from the original document. Even if someone painstakingly typed in all the information from an old will propped on the desk beside his keyboard, you must admit there will understandably be transcription errors. It is humanly impossible to decipher every single word of an ancient document without error. Even our understanding of the meanings of words has changed over time. Also we must consider the reliability of the source of the information." Now, despite improvements in OCR (Optical Character Recognition) technology, which work only on typed documents, we’re still at the mercy of indexers.

WAYBACK MACHINE BECOMES INCREASINGLY POPULAR The webmaster explains "Browse through 30 billion web pages archived from 1996 to a few months ago." I first learned about this tremendous archive from Robert Ragan of "Pajama Genealogy" fame. All too often a smaller family history website closes down, making links to that source of genealogy data obsolete. Simply copy/paste the original URL from your source citation to the Wayback Machine to view the page in its original form.

WHAT WAS TRUE IN 1998 WE STILL CAN’T IGNORE: There is simply no substitute for obtaining a copy of an original document proving our lineage.

Fortunately more digitized images of original old documents are showing up on the web every day. Genealogists compile reliable family histories when basing lineage assumptions on a variety of primary record sources. These are documents created at the time an ancestor lived.
If genealogists can find online scanned images of the documents in great-grampa’s probate packet, does this mean an end of research in dusty old courthouse books or ancient parish registers? Probably not in my lifetime.

NOTE: Originally published in The Godfrey Update, Winter 2005 pp 16-19.

Happy family tree climbing!
Myrt :)
6023 26th Street West PMB 352
Bradenton, FL 34207

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