Friday, September 26, 2014

Reader Comments on "How Do I Plan to Save My Genealogical Research for Posterity?"

I have had several excellent comments on my blog post How Do I Plan to Save My Genealogical Research for Posterity? (posted 24 September 2014).

They include:

1)  Heather Wilkinson Rojo said:  "This is a project that can't wait, Randy. I've already made register style reports of ten generations and passed it out to relatives for Christmas presents. Don't wait "until its finished" or "when I get more information" because REALLY who is ever done with their genealogy. Get out copies ASAP. This Christmas! While you are at it, donate an extra copy to your local library, genealogy society or to the library or historical society where the majority of your people lived. - - Also, Blurb will slurp your blog, so there is minimal work in getting a hard copy of your posts in book form. This is a project you can do ASAP, too."

My comment:  Excellent advice, thank you. My local libraries don't have shelf space for my tomes, I fear.   I may do the MyCanvas-type books for Christmas some year soon.  I haven't tried the Blurb slurp yet.

2)  Cary Bright commented:  "I really think as we get older where our research is going [literally and figuratively] should be a focus. I am making decisions differently now and it looks like you are too. Thanks for the great look at your research retention steps."

3)  Tony Proctor noted:  "Definitely a deep question, Randy, and I haven't found an answer myself either.

"Just focusing on the digital data for a second, as hardware and computer operating-systems change, there will always be a route to migrate your data to a newer platform -- if someone is sufficiently interested in maintaining it -- but what about the actual data format? If the data format is proprietary, including database schemas, then will there be any runnable programs in the world that will still be able to make sense of it in times to come? If the structure of online sites is insufficient to accurately represent your data -- for instance, because they're 'tree focused' -- then you have probably invested in some desktop program which may have a limited longevity.

"Even standardised data formats for images (e.g. jpg) and video (e.g. mp4) may be superseded over time but at least they have a public specification and so such data could still be read, if necessary. Maybe this is a question for FHISO: do we need a standardised format for our genealogical data that is neutral with respect to hardware and software, or is some format that only offers limited exchange capabilities sufficient?"

My comment:  You've hit on one of the major issues - if we keep the information solely in a digital form, it may become obsolete or ignored (I know my son-in-law put the CDs I used to give them in a desk drawer).  

At this time, we have a data transfer standard - GEDCOM.  And probably the FamilySearch Family Tree API.  This may be an issue for FHISO as you suggest.  

4)  Emily Moore suggested:  "You could donate your research to a major library during your lifetime. I know the Allen County Public Library accepts donations of organized materials, either paper or digital."

My comment:  Excellent suggestion, Emily.  Thank you.  Maybe they'll have shelf space for my one-name study reports and ancestor reports.  The key is the word "organized" - mine isn't well organized, except for my family tree database.

5)  Marian offered:  "My friends and I discuss this more often these days -- I guess it's a boomer thing. We're also a population who have used computers long enough to know that companies come and go, data formats change, new computers can't accept connectors from older peripherals, and companies have no interest in supporting last year's model of data, software, or hardware.

"Randy, I've found it very time-consuming to get just one nuclear family with about 10 children onto FamilySearch's Family Tree with their sources, even though I already have them researched and documented on my desktop. Importing a Gedcom with fewer than 100 people was a disaster, requiring more clean-up time than retyping it all by hand would have taken. 

"How have you progressed in putting your tree onto Family Tree? Is there a secret technique that I'm missing?

"I've been toying with the hard-cover photobooks that so many websites will let us format online, and then print and ship them to us. I think the images can act as eye-candy, and I can slip in narratives about the people and documents in the images. My feeling is that it needs to have hard covers to defend itself over time on a shelf, and people will hold onto it for the photos with labels, even if they don't care about the text. 

"By the way, many of the sites that offer this service have sales around May-June, and probably November-December. I like the fact that I can keep the master on the web site, revise it as I need to, and print on demand when I have the funds or need a gift for a wedding or new baby."

My comments:  Marian, I add content to FamilySearch Family Tree through RootsMagic 6.  That minimizes my typing, but there is a lot of clicking.  My problem is that I sometimes forget the spouses of siblings of my ancestors and don't match them or add their Events, sources, and notes.  Using the GEDCOM file into the Genealogies website works, but it loses a lot of useful information in the process.  

I've managed to add most of my ancestral families into the Family Tree back 7-9 generations, but then I bump up against the Individuals of Unusual Size that cannot be merged.  It takes time, but using RootsMagic has made it easier.  Note that Legacy Family Tree 8 and Ancestral Quest 14 essentially do the same thing as RootsMagic does.  

6)  mbm1311 said:  "I have settled on, FamilySearch, WeRelate and scanning my research binders and sending them to Mocavo. As it has already been said - none of this goes from one to the other in a clean and complete fashion. Lots of follow up typing to try and get all the information in there.

"There is too much 'secretarial' work in genealogy. I don't like having to check things and re-enter missing data. What a waste of time!"

My comment:  I hadn't thought of scanning research binders and sending them to Mocavo.  I could do the same with my Scribd reports in PDF - send them to Mocavo -  I think.  

7) commented:  "Two things could resolve this problem. First is an XML-based data standard to replace GEDCOM. Second, genealogical societies need to realize what an asset this service would be for their members. With digital storage getting cheaper every day, building member archives can be a very lucrative operation. I would much rather give my research to the society (or societies) near me or where my ancestors lived than to a commercial enterprise."

My comment:  How would societies monetize the "member archives" after digitizing them?  I'm guessing by putting the information behind a pay wall, and letting users search them?  Have other societies done this?  Has it worked for them?

For me, the big issue is the quality of the research in the "member archives."  My experience is that only 20% of all researchers do any original research - most rely on work someone else has published (book, periodical, website) or put in an online family tree.  We have a "family archive" in my local society file cabinet at the library - four boxes of correspondence and photocopies of published work.  Despite publicizing of the surnames, no one has wanted to look at it.

8)  T noted:  "I have gone back to paper. I have my tree on line but since no one is interested no one will find it when I die. At least with binders of paper they will have to open the binder to see what's in there. I have also written the story of several couples with some still to write. I've given binders with the stories to some relatives. The feed back on the stories has been positive but it hasn't sparked any interest in anyone. Why bother if I'm going to do the work and print the book for free?"

My comment:  For the family members that might be interested in the family history, a paper book or binder is probably the best way to go, in my humble opinion.

9)  Thank you to my readers who offered commentary and suggestions.  

Copyright (c) 2014, Randall J. Seaver

Updated 27 September to add #7 and #8 above.

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