The future of genealogy and family history lies in three general areas. First education, secondly, records access and thirdly private preservation & collaboration. Each of these areas is influenced greatly by the available technology.
Education & Resources: In order to do genealogy research and find records for ones ancestors one must learn the basics of how to research and even beyond. Education needs to be a priority in the area of Family History & Genealogy. Currently there are many ways to learn in the genealogical field. Traditionally classes and workshops are taken to gain a foundation to begin one’s research. A self learner may study books addressing the varied topics of family history. More recently with advances of the internet, students have a variety of choices. They may find educational websites with literature to read, or online tutorials to complete. Podcasts and YouTube videos may replace the need for in-class and in-person instruction. Additional resources include mail lists and forums with a question answer format. Other resources include instructional blogs, and wikis. The future of genealogy in the area of education will continue to center around the current technology and that technology will be adapted to serve as a resource for those wanting to know more about how to do genealogy.
Records Access: Records are now available onsite such as at a county court houses, archives & libraries, or other repositories like museums and societies. Some of these records are original, others have been microfilmed or digitized. Sometimes the original records are extracted, transcribed or indexed in order to make the data accessible to more researchers. Many of these records are available through libraries and archives by ordering films, or requesting copies. Accessibility to the records is an issue for those that live a distance from their ancestors’ state. There are many private and commercial companies motivated to digitize these record collections and provide the images to the public. Footnote, The Generations Network and WorldVitalRecords are all examples of companies willing to produce image collections for a subscription fee. Digitizing original records for free and profit will continue as long as there are people interested in searching out their ancestors. Many more digitized collections will come online and be available in the coming years.
Collaboration & Preservation: Social & family networking or the ability to connect with close and distant family relations will continue to be a popular activity. Examples of current social networking sites and applications include Facebook, We’re Related and FamilyLink.com. At these places you can identify and locate living family members and maybe share some family information while you are connected. At websites like Ancestry.com, FamilyPursuit.com and Geni.com a GEDCOM or family tree can be uploaded and connections can be made with distant family relations researching the same lines. On-line collaboration or working together with others interested in the same family will benefit all involved. In combination with collaboration and networking, preservation on a family level is important. With the widespread availability of personal technology such as personal computers and the accompanying large memory, software, personal gadgets, pdas, scanners, digital cameras, digital voice recorders sharing memories and preserving the past has become much easier. As responsible genealogists we each need to be scanning our own old photos, and personal documents and recording our own family stories. As we connect up with others interested in our families we can easily make these personal family items available to interested family members.
I believe that Kathleen Hinckley is correct in her statement, “Your contribution TODAY as a genealogist is important to the future of genealogy.” The future of genealogy will be in our hands as we participate in educating the public, contributing to records access programs such as indexing and collaborating, preserving and sharing with our families.