Find My Ancestor Blog
5May/100

Opening Session of NGS – Jay Verkler

The following are my tweets from the opening session of the National Genealogical Society conference held last week in Salt Lake City. I am re-posting my tweets from the conference just in case you missed them and would like to know about some of the classes I attended.

  • Opening Session - Jay Verkler, CEO of FamilySearch, is talking about technology and how it is advancing so fast.
  • Genealogy community is using more and more technology like social networks, digitization, organization and sharing
  • FamilySearch's goal since the beginning in late 1800's - collect and copy, preserve, and distribute.
  • Verkler is showing a video of the Granite Mountain Vault outside of Salt Lake City
  • The microfilm in the vault holds about 3.5 billion images!! And there is more room to grow!
  • Some records in the vault are the only copies that exist! Now they are working on digitizing these records.
  • Digitization was going to take over a century, but with new technology it will take about 10 years!!
  • Over 300,000 registered indexers that help with the digitization process!! Learn more at familysearch.org
  • 300 million new records on FamilySearch!!
  • In 1984 the GEDCOM standard was set
  • FS(FamilySearch) has been working on a collaboration effort called Family Tree
  • He is talking about using the iPhone to "pinpoint" his location in a cemetery for reference. <3 the iPhone!
  • Even "deep experts" need to collaborate with other "deep experts"
  • Now talking about the FS Wiki. "Fundamentally designed for sharing"
  • Encourages to contribute to the wiki. Learn more at wiki.familysearch.org
  • Register at beta.familysearch.org
After Verkler's presentation the exhibit hall opened with a LOT of different vendors, products, technology, and more. In my next post I will be talking about a few of the exhibitors and following that I will be posting more of my tweets from the first class of the conference. If you would like to keep up-to-date with future tweets from conferences, be sure to follow me on Twitter.

23Apr/102

New FamilySearch and Their Cloud Computing

Recently Randy Seaver of the Genea-Musings blog had an interview with David Rencher, the Chief Genealogical Officer for www.FamilySearch.org. In the interview Randy and David discussed the New FamilySearch(NFS) website and database. They talked about some of the process that has taken place for the NFS to become available to members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and how NFS is going to become available to non-members.

For quite a while we have been told that they are working on making NFS available to non-members but we have never been given an exact date. In January when I was in Mesa for the Mesa Family History Expo, Bryce Roper, Product Manager for FamilySearch, said that they were working on it. Then again in February at the St.George Family History Expo I asked him if there was any new information regarding when it would be available. This time he said that they were hoping for sometime this year. I wonder if any new developments will be announced next week at NGS? I will definitely keep you posted if I hear anything new next week.

Later on in the interview they are talking about some differences in their new "rollout" of NFS and David mentioned something that I think many genealogists don't agree with, including me. He states:
The other major difference is that it removes the need to have your own personal desktop data management software. You can manage all of your data now on New FamilySearch. Where I've used Personal Ancestral File for years on my laptop, I don't have to have my own Personal Ancestral File database any more. I can simply go to New FamilySearch and manage all of my content there. So that's a pretty radical departure from the way most genealogists have learned over the years to manage their data.
I noticed there were a couple of comments on this post, one by James Tanner and another by DearMyrtle. They pretty much both said that they don't think genealogists will give up their desktop databases anytime soon. I agree with them. Even though cloud computing is becoming the new way of storing data, I believe that there are a lot of people out there like me who want their own database that they can add media files to that they may not necessarily want shared with everyone on websites like Ancestry.com or MyHeritage.com. I know in my personal desktop database I have birth certificates, marriage certificates, and other documents that are "sensitive" information that the individuals would not want shared online and accessible to anyone and everyone. Granted, there are options in these online databases to decide on the privacy levels, but in the end I think it is safe to say that most people would still feel better knowing that the sensitive information isn't out there on the web but rather on their personal computer.

I am very interested in knowing how others out there feel about what David Rencher said in his interview. Do you think cloud computing will take over our desktop genealogy applications? How safe do you feel about putting sensitive information online even though you have set your "privacy filters" on these online databases? In your opinion, what are some of the advantages/disadvantages of storing your genealogy database online versus your personal computer?

18Mar/101

Can Your Camera Scan An Entire Book In Seconds?

The past few years we have seen a tremendous increase in the amount of books, photos, and other documents scanned and put online. I am continually amazed at the amount of technology there is and how rapidly it is increasing.

I am always taking old documents and records and transcribing them and digitizing them to put them into my genealogy files. Sometimes I scan old typed documents that can be OCR'd while other times I just scan it to have the original and then transcribe the information into a word processor.

Either way, they are both time consuming to do, but in the end I know that I am creating digitized records that can be saved for generations. I only wish I could do it faster! I guess all I need to do is create my own high-speed camera like a group of university students did in Tokyo. "By using a high-speed camera that shoots at 500 frames per second, lab workers Takashi Nakashima and Yoshihiro Watanabe can scan a 200-page book in under a minute. You just hold the book under the camera and flip through the pages as if shuffling a deck of cards. The camera records the images and uses processing power to turn the odd-shaped pictures into flat, rectangular pages on which regular OCR (optical character recognition) can be performed."

27Feb/101

Are you a "Family Search Member"?

In Bryce Roper's presentation this morning at the St. George Family History Expo he talked about Family Search's Record Search.

Record Search is a site with digitized and indexed records from the Granite Mountain Vault just outside of Salt Lake City. The Granite Mountain Vault has one of the largest collections of microfilm and microfiche in the world. Collections include information from all over the world. Record Search gives access to these digitized and indexed records.

If you have used Record Search, you probably have found that there are some records that only have the index, some have index and images, and others only have the images.

You may have noticed that sometimes there is a link taking you to a different website such as Footnote or FindMyPast to view the image instead of viewing it on the Record Search site. The reason some things are not available on Record Search, but rather an affiliate site it because Footnote may have digitized the image, while FamilySearch did the indexing. Instead of both of them doing the exact same work twice, they have joined together in things like this to create indexes and digitizations for quicker access.

When I first saw links to other websites like this I was pretty surprised. As most of us know, FamilySearch is an organization part of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and so they don't charge for their records for profit like companies like Footnote and Ancestry.com do.

Last month at the Mesa Family History Expo Bryce mentioned the fact that "one day" these images and documents that are linked from Record Search to Footnote and other affiliate sites would be free for "FamilySearch Members". This information got me pretty excited, and I'm sure the same thought was going through everyone else's head at the same time - What exactly is considered a "FamilySearch Member"?

According to Bryce, they are still working on the "exact" definition of a "FamilySearch Member", but he did tell us the general definition. To be a "FamilySearch Member" you must fall under at least one of the categories below:
  1. A member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
  2. Anyone who uses Record Search at a Family History Center
  3. Anyone who uses Record Search at the Family History Library
  4. Anyone who has registered to be a FamilySearch Indexer and meet certain requirements(I think this is where Bryce was talking about the fine tuning as to the definition of a "FamilySearch Member". Indexers have to index a certain amount or be an indexer for a certain period of time. The amount and time has not been specifically defined yet)

Back in Mesa, Bryce said that this will happen within the next few months, but didn't give a date. When I attended his class this morning I wanted to ask him if there was an update to when this is going to be available. According to Bryce as of this morning, they are hoping they will have this access available by the end of April in their "new release". He didn't mention really what all was included in that release, but after he mentioned that I thought that NGS is at the end of April as well, so I am thinking that this "new release" including the access to these records will be announced there at NGS.
Bryce did say that this is not a definite date, but it makes sense that they would be announcing it at NGS. Hopefully we will hear a little more about his before that time.