Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Forward to the Family History Future - 2045

There have been some blogs today noting that this is the day on which Marty McFly and Doc Brown arrived in the future in the movie Back to the Future Part II, having left 30 years before in 1985.

1)  Most of us can recall what we were doing in 1985 - our families, our work, our activities, our vacations, our politics, etc.  We didn't have Ancestry, FamilySearch or MyHeritage to help us with our genealogy research.  We had libraries with books and periodicals, and Family History Centers with books, microfilms and microfiche.  In 1985, I hadn't even read Alex Haley's 1976 book Roots yet, and had not started my genealogy research yet.  I had visited Massachusetts several times and met my aunts and uncle and most of my cousins.

2)  So if we go forward to the future - say to the year 2045, on 21 October to be exact, what will be the state of our lives, our genealogy research, and of genealogy in general.  Some of my predictions (I am not very creative or clairvoyant so maybe I'm not bold or savant enough to do this):

*  I would be almost 102 years old in 2045, so the odds are that my remains (and Linda's) will be in a columbarium in Bonita, California with a push button to see and hear me describing my life in 1,000 words or less (that would be challenging, I fear).  Hopefully, my children and grandchildren will visit Linda and I occasionally and remember the good times they shared with us.  More mortality thoughts, eh?

*  What about my genealogical research?  Will this genealogy blog still be available and searchable in 30 years?  Will my Scribd PDF "books" still be available and searchable?  Will I be able to publish and place family history books in local and national libraries for my ancestral and one-name study research?

*  Will,,,, GenealogyBank, etc.  still exist as companies?  Or will there be one big genealogical repository of online family history records charging an exorbitant fee to provide users all of the known information about an ancestor?  That wouldn't be much fun.  My hope is that there will be at least two, and hopefully more, competitive major providers of historical records.  Ideally, historical records would be free; realistically they won't be free.

*  Will the online family trees, whether "my tree" sites like Ancestry Member Trees and MyHeritage trees, still be available?  Will the "our tree" sites like FamilySearch Family Tree, Geni World Tree, and WikiTree still be available?  Will the information quality in those "my trees" or "our trees" be any better than today?  In short, will collaboration work out well?

*  Back in 2012 at RootsTech, Jay Verkler of FamilySearch provided his vision of the genealogy future - all the way out to 2060.  See Do you Believe the FamilySearch Vision of the Future? (posted 9 February 2012) for my review of Jay's vision. I don't know if the video of that presentation is still available.  I do think that Jay's vision is idealistic, but possible.  The FamilySearch Family Tree is slowly becoming a useful online tree.  Will they solve all of the problems?  I hope so.  That said, I'm not excited that an inquirer could tap a screen and see their ancestry and family history back in time without having to work at it.  

*  What will our technology look like in the year 2045 or 2060.  Will we be able to see photographs and documents, and hear or read stories, of any historical person with a thought, word, tap or click on an information unit of some sort?  Will they be handheld, desktop, wall-mounted, wearable, implanted or some other type of device?  Will we have virtual reality device with holograms of our ancestors talking about their lives?  Will a researcher still have to search for records online or in repositories?

*  What about repositories like libraries, historical societies, state archives, national archives, etc?   Will any of them exist as physical sites in 2045?   Will their records all be digitized and freely available online?  I sincerely doubt that for 2025 and probably in 2045 too.  

3)  Like I said, I'm not very creative or clairvoyant.  What do you think the future of genealogy and family history is in, say, 2045?  Please share your thoughts or predictions in comments.

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Louis Kessler said...

Well, DNA research went from zero to hero in the past 10 years. The next 30 should be revolutionary.

Jana Iverson Last said...


I want to let you know that two of your blog posts are listed in today's Fab Finds post at

Have a wonderful weekend!

Cathy P said...

Having worked on family history since 1970, and having posted almost all the old photos, docs and stories on the Memories section on FamilySearch Family Tree already, I am wondering what my 7 children and 33 grandchildren are going to be adding as Memories in the future. Today my daughters are not creating paper scrap books for their children; they are creating digital online scrapbooks.They are not writing in paper journals; they are creating super online personal blogs. Kodak is out of business; all photos are digitized by phone. They are not recording on tape recorders their favorite lullabyes; they are singing them into their smartphones. Their family videos are posted on facebook or youtube, etc, etc, most of this can only be preserved by urls. Someone needs to figure out a way to make urls permanent, or schmooze the technology someway to preserve these kinds of memories. Because "it's the end of the world as we know it.'