Thursday, November 1, 2007

The Future of Genealogy - Part 2 (2004-5)

Other noted genealogy writers and speakers have opined on this subject over the years.

Dick Eastman made predictions in a 2002 article, and reviewed them in January 2007 on his blog in a post "Deja Vu: The Past Four Years of Genealogical Achievements." The predictions he made in 2002 included:

1) Transcribed information will continue to be popular for many years.

2) The present technology of CD-ROM storage of data will probably fade away within a few years. The problem is not a technology issue. Instead, genealogy CD-ROM discs will disappear because of simple economics.

3) The major growth of genealogy software occurred in the 1980s to the mid-1990s. I went on at some length to describe this growth and then stated that the growth had slowed.

4) Aligning with the growth of online usage, the greatest improvements will be in the area of Web integration. Genealogists will look to store and publish their data on the Web and compare their own internal genealogy database against the large online databases for possible matches and additions.

5) Today these [DNA] databases can only prove that two individuals are related in some manner. They cannot give the exact point where each individual's lineage meets that of the other person. Once the accumulated information reaches a critical mass, computers will be able to precisely match individuals who have similar DNA sequences and even to reconstruct the DNA sequences of deceased ancestors.

6) …the crystal ball reveals a global community of genealogists that's open to all. As fast as they can click a mouse, genealogists will scoop up transcribed and scanned original information online, from any location. They will confirm or disprove theories with irrefutable DNA records. The ease with which they will be able to assemble and polish accurate lineage reports will encourage many to add to this wealth of information and to collaborate with distant cousins. They may even gather in online 'virtual reunions' with webcams.

7) As boundaries of time and space evaporate, the opportunity to bring ancestors and extended families into clearer focus will emerge for this lucky generation of genealogists and those to follow.

In his 2007 post, Dick graded himself on his predictions. Go read his article for more context and details. He closed his post with these words: "Whatever method of data input we will use in future decades, I believe that the future of online genealogy collaboration looks better than ever. I am still convinced that this is a great time to be a genealogist."

DearMYRTLE also wrote an article in the 1998 time frame, and updated it in 2005 in "UPDATE 2005: The Internet, Genealogists and the Future." Her points included:

1) Smarter Export Capabilities of Genealogy Software, particularly where it comes to embedding the linked photos and scanned documents.

2) More Artificial Intelligence. “Artificial intelligence" is the up and coming tool for savvy genealogists. Our 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.

3) Creative Tombstoning. How about an interactive tombstone, where you can download the photo and pages of family history of the deceased to your Thumb or laptop?

4) Computer Based Training. Combining online tutorials, interactive chat rooms and detailed genealogy research assignments, we’ll see more genealogy classes.

5) Ordering Microfilm Online to be Presented in Digital Format at Once the film is digitized and placed on a website, it can be available to anyone else online as well.

6) More Source documents. Now, despite improvements in OCR (Optical Character Recognition) technology, which work only on typed documents, we’re still at the mercy of indexers.

7) Wayback Machine Becomes Increasingly Popular. The webmaster explains “Browse through 30 billion web pages archived from 1996 to a few months ago.” 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.

Read the whole article for more details and context. DearMYRTLE ended her article by noting: "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. "

These two experts in genealogy researching and communication, who were well tuned into the genealogy industry and community (and still are), were thinking fairly "inside the box." They had a good idea of what was to come and told us about it, and their predictions are fairly accurate.

Next up are my fearless predictions...and your chance to be clairvoyant too!

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