Friday, July 31, 2009

Are you ready to embrace these changes?

Dick Eastman posted the link to the Mormon Times article Genealogists encouraged to embrace change by Michael de Groote published yesterday.

In the article, the Chief Genealogical Officer at FamilySearch, David Rencher, noted that technology continually changes and that all researchers at the Family History Library, and at the Family History Centers, will have to adapt to the loss of:

* Microfilm (eventually... cost of raw film is soaring)
* The International Genealogical Index (on microfiche and FHL/FHC computers)
* Pedigree Resource File (on CDROMs and FHL/FHC computers)
* Family History Library Catalog (on CDROMs at FHL/FHCs)
* Census Indexes (on CDROMs at FHL/FHCs)
* Personal Ancestral File (PAF) software (no new versions)

To see the future of genealogy at the Family History Library and the Centers, see the examples at FamilySearch Labs. The article notes:

"Change is to be expected, he explained, as products and services go through a natural life cycle. Several popular family history products and services are at the end of their usefulness as technology provides better solutions."

The vision driving the FamilySearch Indexing program and the FamilySearch Record Search projects. is that the information on the 2.5 million microfilms and 1.5 million microfiche sets in the Granite Mountain Vault will be digitized and available on a really big computer system, accessible at the FHL and FHCs, and at home on each of our computer systems. LDS members will do their TempleReady work using the New FamilySearch system.

The Family History Library Catalog is already available on the Internet and will be upgraded with links to digital databases when becomes available. The paper copies of the Genealogy Research Guides are mostly online as HTML and PDF files, and are being replaced by information on the FamilySearch Wiki. The Census Indexes are all available in digital format on several websites with searchable indexes.

I read somewhere that the IGI will be split into two databases - one with the extracted records, and one for the LDS-member submitted records - and will be available on FamilySearch Record Search. I'm not sure if the Ancestral File and Pedigree Resource Files will also be available on FamilySearch RecordSearch. does anyone know?

Will the Family History Library, and Centers, of the future be one big room with big rooms full of rows of computer stations? With no microfilm readers, microfiche readers, books on the shelves, photocopy machines, how-to guides in racks, etc.? There are many challenges to make this happen.

Will there even be a "brick-and-mortar" Family History Library in Salt Lake city, or Family History Centers spread all over the world? If all of the microfilm and microfiche resources in the FHL system are available in digital format to researchers at home, why even have physical libraries and centers? I can see at least three reasons:

1) There are many books, manuscripts and periodicals on the shelves at the FHL and FHCs that are still in copyright protection and cannot be digitized without agreement of the copyright holder.

2) The FHL and FHCs provide valuable consulting services to researchers, LDS members and non-members alike.

3) The FHL and some FHCs have free access to online commercial databases (Ancestry, Footnote, WorldVitalRecords, Godfrey, etc.) that include records not available at the FHL in any format.

One of my favorite quotations is "All progress requires change, but not all change is progress." -- John Wooden.

In the present case, I think that these changes reflect progress and will help all genealogy researchers that embrace it.

I look forward to these changes, and am very impatient for them to occur, since my biological clock is ticking. Why am I looking forward to the changes? Because I know that many elusive ancestor problems will be solved when the original documents in digital format reveal the relationships and associations that are "hiding" on the microfilms and microfiches. Of course, they won't solve all of our research problems, but they will solve some of them and create many more research challenges for us to conquer.


Family Curator said...

What exciting news! Change is always difficult, but I can only imagine the new avenues of research that this opens for all of us.

Unknown said...

I am surprized the M**** Times has not made a name change..... but thank you Randy to keeping to being politically correct. I do not know the issues or contintations. (where's the spell check???) But I as always appreciate you leading us to great articles. LDS is the correct reference. And yes I am ready to embrace the changes!!!

Steve Hayes said...

On of the changes I have been sorry to see is that Ancestral File numbers are no longer being used. They were a good way to identify people in different people's databases.