Sunday, July 12, 2009

FHLCatalog: GenSeek this fall?

This new project will revolutionize the way researchers locate source documents that prove family relationships.

Remember a few weeks back when Ol Myrt here lamented about the lack of progress with the new Family History Library Catalog - a joint project of FamilySearch, WorldVitalRecords and WVR parent company FamilyLink in my posting NGS Day One, item 5? (How's that for a source citation?)

At the time, I was attending the 2009 NGS National Genealogical Society Conference in Raleigh, North Carolina.

At th eSouthern California Genealogical Society Conference in June 2009, Jim Ericson of FamilyLink pulled Ol' Myrt aside, referenced my post, and demonstrated what he termed a stripped down version of, the proposed location of the new Family History Catalog.

DEBUT THIS FALL? is now reputed to be released in the fall of 2009. Looks like WVR/FamilyLink CEO Paul Allen changed priorities by moving this catalog project to the front burner.

After searching diligently, Ol' Myrt here could not find a reference to the upcoming debut on either the World Vital Records or the FamilyLink website, and unfortunately there has been nothing since 26 May 2009 on the company blog. There is only a "register your email to receive announcements" main page at THANKFULLY, Dick Eastman managed to receive a press release and has cross-posted it this morning in his entry The GenSeeker Project. I wouldn't have had a clue about the anticipated release date without Dick's blog posting.

Last week, feelers went out Ol' Myrt, and I have been invited to sign a NDA (non-disclosure agreement) and learn more about the GenSeek project sometime this week. However the NDA means I can look at the new project, but I cannot tell you anything more definitive until we all have access to the new catalog.

Genseek is the name of the website to house the new Family History Catalog. The idea behind the catalog announced during the initial press conference at the 2008 NGS Conference in Kansas City attended by Dick Eastman and myself were:

  • Combine the existing FamilySearch Family History Library Catalog with other online catalogs and database collection links.
  • Include links to online indexes that lead to original source material not found on the Internet.
  • Recognize that links to material not found on the Internet, but referenced in online library catalogs are also important to genealogists. This would include microfilm, fiche, books, magazines, society publications, scholarly journals, etc.
  • Make catalog entries annotatable. (This means you could leave info about the best of three places to view a census record for a specific locality if you discovered this during your research.)
  • Allow users to submit links to sites they discover.
The "whole earth genealogy catalog" concept is long overdue, as most genealogists are bewildered by myriad choices for research at family history websites & essential offline resources. The free centralized catalog would make for one-stop-shopping so to speak, with links to the resources here and there, both the online and offline.

Respected friend and fellow geneablogger Randy Seaver objects to the term "whole earth genealogy catalog", but it is the closest Ol' Myrt here can come to describing the project. Yes, the web grows faster than we can imagine each day, so it will be impossible to keep the catalog up to date. Add to this the fact that libraries, archives and churches regularly catalog new published materials or recently unearthed record groups. None-the-less, even aless than perfect "whole earth genealogy catalog", with frequent updates will be gratefully appreciated.

The central catalog of genealogy resources might also lead to standardization of source citations, hopefully following Elizabeth Shown Mills' Evidence Explained: Citing History Sources from Artifacts to Cyberspace models. Jim Ericson mentioned in his demonstration to Ol' Myrt that one big hold up in the debut of the catalog is the lack of uniformity when it comes to how each genealogy website lists its holdings.

DearMYRTLE. FHLCatalog - enhancements & partnership. May 2008. Here I wrote: "This new project will revolutionize the way researchers locate source documents that prove family relationships."

DearMYRTLE., Inc. press conference at NGS Conference. May 2008. This is the original invitation to the meeting announcing the joint catalog project.

Happy family tree climbing!
Myrt :)
Your friend in genealogy.

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