Sunday, February 3, 2008

The Super Bowl of Genealogy

Most American residents are focussed on today's Super Bowl XLII to decide the championship of the National Football League. After 20 weeks of play, the New England Patriots (18-0) are favored by 12 points over the New York Giants (13-6) in the game to be played in Phoenix, Arizona in an indoor stadium on real grass, starting at 3:30 p.m. (PST). The pre-game hype, er, programs, started at 7 a.m. this morning on Fox TV. My prediction, based on my own biases and yearlong futility at picking winners of all the NFL games, is Patriots 27-20 in a good game.

What if there was a Super Bowl of Genealogy? Where would it be played? What teams would play? Who would be the head coaches? Who would be the stars of the game? Who would win? What would be the score? Who are the cheerleaders?

1) Where would it be played? The obvious answer is Salt Lake City at the Family History Library!

2) What teams would play? The obvious answer, in early 2008, is The Generations Network (Ancestry) on one side and the LDS FamilySearch on the other.

3) Who would be the head coaches? Perhaps Megan Smolenyak Smolenyak on the TGN side (Chief Family Historian) and David Rencher (Director of Records and Information for FamilySearch) on the FS side.

4) Who would be the stars of the game? This is more difficult because we don't know the names of many of the players on either team. We only know the names of some of the leaders, and some of the publicity people. Thousands of people toil in anonymity in order to bring new databases and web sites online for all of us to use and learn from.

5) Who would win? The game is still being played, obviously. TGN and FS have gone head-to-head several times over this last year, and have cooperated some also. Their game plans are very different - one team puts information online for a fee (but offers free access at selected places) while the other does it for free.

6) What would be the score? The game is still being played. In my mind, the two teams are tied right now. FamilySearch had the lead for several years (with free access to old databases, and indexes for certain census records), but TGN caught up and passed them (offering more databases with a superior search capability). FamilySearch is aggressively digitizing and indexing records from public sources and their vast microform collection, and they have, in my mind, tied Ancestry at half-time.

7) Who are the cheerleaders? You and me, of course! All genealogy researchers.

Are there other players? Of course - FamilyLink (nee WorldVitalRecords), Footnote, New England Historic Genealogical Society, National Genealogical Society, GenealogyBank, FindMyPast, Godfrey Library, MyHeritage and others are playing in the Genealogy All-Star league. They are all winners, in my book.

Competition between companies and societies are a good thing - they bring out the best for everybody, as long as there is cooperation and collaboration. I think that we've seen a lot of competition and collaboration over the last year in genealogy, and I hope that they continue in the coming years.

There are many individuals in the wide world of genealogy that make things happen that are not affiliated with companies - bloggers, researchers, speakers, society leaders, writers, editors, and the like - all working to make genealogy research better, and challenging all of us to learn more, perform better research and help others along the path to genealogy research excellence.

The real winners of the "genealogy playoffs" and the "super bowl of genealogy" are the users of genealogy resources and databases - the millions of researchers rooting for all of the teams to play and succeed with their game plans.

We all dream of playing in big games. My dream is to be a wide receiver in the Super Bowl of Genealogy - running down the field in a zig-zag pattern and catching a big database chock full of information about my ancestors. I'd love to score touchdowns in Dodge County WI, Oneida County NY, Windham County CT, Louisa County IA, Oxford County ME, Barnstable County MA, Norfolk County ON and in Wiltshire in England. In a stadium full of my relatives and ancestors cheering me on ... maybe they'd hold a dinner or a parade in my honor. Wait, those are earlier posts!


Jasia said...

Very well done Randy!

Colleen said...

As a die-hard NFL fan (a Bills fan, which means I can't really root for either team today and still call myself a Bills fan), I enjoyed this post! Thanks!

Megan Smolenyak Smolenyak said...

Hey Randy,

Thanks for making me part of any kind of Super Bowl (and what a game yesterday, eh?!). But I don't know that I'd make such a great coach because the fact is that I'm a big fan of both TGN and FS, as are most of the folks who work at TGN. Frankly, I don't want to see a single winner. I'd rather all genealogists continue to benefit from everything offered by TGN, FS, Footnote, FamilyLink, and all the rest. Like most genealogists, I'll take all the resources I can get!

Take care,