Wednesday, April 11, 2007

What is in the genealogy future?

As a followup to my previous post, let me ask a few questions about the future of genealogy research.

1) Will we ever get to the point in online Internet genealogy when all genealogical or historical records are available in digital form at any time of day to a researcher sitting at home?

2) What records are most likely to appear in digital form with indexes?

3) What records are least likely to appear in digital form?

4) What will be the roles of libraries and FHCs when many records are available online?

5) What will be the roles of genealogy societies when many records are online?

6) What will be the roles of professional genealogists when many records are online?

Each of those questions probably deserves a post of their own to do them justice.

All I know is that "the hurrier I go, the behinder I get," and that there is no progress without change. I look forward to a genealogy future full of change, lots of progress, and a lifetime of research. I also believe that all genealogists need to become computer genealogists - and that this is the major challenge for genealogy societies.

I have my own opinions, and I will post them in the comments or in separate posts. I welcome your comments and look forward to a spirited discussion. It may be best for genealogy bloggers or writers to address the issues in their own blogs or web sites. I would appreciate links to any articles or blog posts that address these issues.


Erin said...

1) Not everything, unless you include transcriptions because some documents just can't be scanned without destroying the original, but if so, I don't think they'd all be located at one place and not necessarily free either.

2) With indexes? The things that are already indexed. Marriage records, well, vital records as a whole really. Court records possibly, with indexes by surname. Census, but they pretty much are already :)

3) Again, depends on what you mean by digital form. If you mean scanned imaged, anything that is deteriorating most likely won't be scanned. If you are including transcribed, probably things that are illegible, faded, holes in the paper. I've done transcriptions of things like that, and it's so frustrating.

4) Well, I'm in library school right now, and this is something similar we talk about in class. We talk about how books are being digitized now, so what's the point of libraries and the role of librarians. Couple things I can think of right off hand as it pertains to genealogy: 1. providing means of access. Although many US citizens have internet access at home, there are still a lot who don't. 2. for sites that you have to pay (like ancestry), some people either can't afford it or won't pay for it, so libraries provide digital access. 3. In the genealogy library here where I work, genealogy librarians help patrons with figuring out what the next step is. Even though someone may have access to all the documents in the world, it won't do much good if they don't know what they actually need.

5) I see societies more as social gathering type groups than disiminating information on original records. Of course they do in a sense, in their publications may be transcriptions or abstractions of records, but it's also about about how to do research, how to understand a document, etc. Even if every single document in the world was digitized in some way, I'd still be in the same socities.

6) Well, in addition to what I said about the roles of librarians, which I think pretty much apply here as well, some people just don't want to or have time to do their own research.

Great questions!

Jasia said...

Gee wiz Randy boy... slow down will ya? ;-) You're right, each of these questions (along with your opinion) would have made a great blog post. You've got enough questions here for a whole week! I'll just pick one and respond to it because I don't believe in leaving comments long enough to stand alone as a blog post... well OK, two because they're related.

(#3,#4)Fairly current books that are still copyright protected and generating commissions for the authors may not be accessible digitally online because there's more money to be made in printed books than ebooks. Also books that are copyright protected but out of print pose a problem. I see these as areas where libraries will still serve a very useful purpose. Of course you specifically mentioned "records" and I'm thinking of books as "sources" but they may well be sources that contain records too.