Find My Ancestor Blog
28Apr/103

Day One of NGS

Well it is the end of day one here at NGS being held in Salt Lake City. It sure has been quite the day.

I must admit, I was quite shocked at how many people there were especially in the tight space it is being held. Don't get me wrong, the Salt Palace is a pretty big building, but it seems like NGS was put into a little portion of the building. After the opening session it was like salt in a little egg timer slowly pouring out into the exhibit hall.

The exhibit hall was packed!! It was so hard to walk down the aisles because of the stampede of people. I also think those little suite cases that a lot of the people drag around should be banned. I don't think I have seen so many people trying to push their way through the crowd and at the same time taking people out as they go!! Haha.

All of the exhibitors I was able to stop and talk with today were great! Here are some of the booths I stopped at today:

Generation Maps
The last genealogy conference I went to in St. George, Utah I met Janet Hovorka. Today I figured I would go say hi and see how things were going with their new online service Family ChArtist. Janet was giving a demonstration of the Family ChArtist, so I joined in and watched the presentation. Family ChArtist is a great new service where you can go online and create wonderful looking wall charts you can print out or have Generation Maps print and send to you. From the website you can print an 8.5"x11" from your home printer.

APG (Association of Professional Genealogists)
Since I am interested in becoming a professional genealogist I figured it would be good to learn more about APG and what I needed to do or should do to join. I talked with two very nice ladies, one from California who I sat next to at the Ancestry.com reception tonight, and the other from Oregon.

They said there aren't any prerequisites to becoming a member of APG, but they do recommend a number of different things. They recommend becoming certified by the BCG(Board for Certification of Genealogists) or accredited by ICAPGEN(International Commission for the Accreditation of Professional Genealogists). They also recommend having a copy of "Professional Genealogy" edited by Elizabeth Shown Mills and "Evidence Explained" also by Elizabeth Shown Mills.
  

Tonight after the conference and exhibit hall ended for the day Ancestry.com had a special reception talking about some of the process of how their website works and explained that it isn't as easy and simple and many people think. Ancestry has about 200 employees that work specifically on the design, functionality, and programming aspect of the website. So it takes about 200 employees to make the website so many of us use on a daily or weekly basis to help find our ancestors.

Ancestry also announced a few new product announcements. The first announcement isn't that secret because they have been talking about it for a little while and some of it is already released, where as the other two we were told were exclusive to tonight's reception.

The first is that Ancestry is redoing their search feature. They told us that about 78% of the people on their website use the search feature they have had for the past few years, where as about 22% have still used the old search feature. They wanted to know why there were still so many people using the old search feature, and incorporate those things into a new search. One of the main thing from the old search that isn't in the current search that is used so much is to be able to browse for records by location. In the old search you could click on a map and specify a state or other location to browse for records. In the search they have had for the past couple years that feature was taken away. Well, it is coming back into the new search that is becoming available shortly. They are making it so you can narrow it down all the way to the county level! I think that received the most applause of all the announcements this evening. For more information on the new search, visit http://landing.ancestry.com/search/tour.

The second announcement Ancestry made is that they are coming out with a Wiki! Ancestry's Wiki will be available to all for FREE whether they have a paid membership or not! It will be just like any other wiki where you will be able to contribute information to make a big resource aid. The wiki will also include the famous books "The Source" and "The Red Book" online for free! This is definitely going to be a great resource in learning and compiling information. To learn more about the wiki, visit http://ancestry.com/wiki.

The last announcement Ancestry made was that they are coming out with a Family Tree Maker software for the Mac OS! I know this is something that I have been interested in since I use a Mac. But, during the Q&A part at the end, my hopes sort of sank and I don't think I will be purchasing the software. Why? Well, I asked Tim Sullivan, CEO, and Eric Shoup, Senior Vice President of Product if this new software would be able to sync back and forth between the web and my desktop database. I told them there are many times I am not on my personal computer when doing my genealogy but I am on Ancestry.com. I would want what information I add/change online to automatically sync with my desktop and vice-versa. They said that is not available in either the PC or Mac version, but they are working on it. Well, for me I don't think I will be switching my genealogy program over until they have a feature like that.

It was quite the busy day and I am so tired!! It was so great to see so many friends again as well as meeting new people. One of the funnest things I think is to finally meet someone in person I have known over the internet for so long. There were a couple of people like that today. I know tomorrow will be another great day at the conference. Be sure to follow me on twitter for more up-to-date posts.

27Apr/102

Keep Updated About NGS

Were you not able to make it to NGS? Fear not. I will be attending NGS and you can follow what is going on during the conference through my blog posts I will be making as well as following me on Twitter. I will be using the hash tag #ngs10. I believe a few others I know will also be using that hash tag. 

I will be posting highlights of the classes, exhibit hall, and other activities as they happen over the next few days. And while you're at it, be sure to become a fan of the Find My Ancestor page on Facebook.

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?

22Apr/100

FamilySearch Encourages More Technology

The following is an article in the Deseret News about FamilySearch and the upcoming NGS conference here in Salt Lake City taking place next week.

SALT LAKE CITY -- Back in the early 1990s, a group of genealogy and technology enthusiasts began talking about how e-mail, digital cameras and scanners would change the way they work. 

David Rencher feels the conversation is worth updating -- and reviving.

These days, such discussions involve DNA, GPS and social networks. Thanks to FamilySearch, these and other technologies will get plenty of stage time when the National Genealogical Society's annual conference takes up residence here for four days next week.

FamilySearch, a division of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, will sponsor a free exhibit hall at the conference that provides a platform for new and developing technologies being used in family history work. The exhibit is called "GenTech," the same name used by the organization that first put the spotlight on genealogy technologies. 

"My hope is that it will carve out a space illustrating the need for genealogists to keep current with technology," Rencher said.

He compares GenTech to a car show for genealogy technologies.


"Those technologies really begin to drive where family history is going," he said.
Rencher, FamilySearch's chief genealogical officer, estimates there are 2,300 genealogical societies in the United States. Almost all are dedicated to a particular ethnicity or geographic area. GenTech, however, was created to bring genealogists and technology together.

It began as a small organization in Texas two decades ago. GenTech flourished by holding national conferences where participants could introduce technologies and forecast trends that would change family history work.

It was, essentially, a trade show for genealogy technologies. But the conferences ceased when, according to Rencher, there was discord among GenTech board members and "no one wanted to become president."

"It had kind of a tragic and abrupt end," Rencher said.

In 2002, GenTech was incorporated as a division of NGS. But without GenTech conferences, the emphasis on technology diminished, Rencher said.

With the NGS conference coming to Salt Lake City this year for the first time since 1985, Rencher saw an opportunity to revive the GenTech discussion. He "pushed really hard" to give technology ample room at the 2010 event.

"I feel the need for that space," he said. "I feel the need for genealogists to pay more attention to the technologies, because I believe that technology is going to continue to outpace genealogists.

"There needs to be a genealogy-technology show, and right now there just isn't one. This is as close to a genealogy-technology show that we've ever had at this level."

The GenTech exhibit will feature about 100 vendor booths and two stages for demonstrations of products and technologies. The public can attend for free without having to register for the NGS conference.

It's meant to be a "discovery area," says Gordon Clarke, software developer services manager for FamilySearch.

"They'll get to see all the players working together and all the technology that's going to create a brighter future," Clarke said.

Attendees can learn more about iPhone applications for family history, or using GPS and computer software to locate gravesites. The beta version of the latest FamilySearch website will be available, and several developers will debut their products at GenTech.

FamilySearch will also provide a behind-the-scenes look at how it advances family history work, demonstrating how microfilm is digitized or how documents are photographed in the field.

"All of these ... technology solutions that have been applied to family history, we'll pull back the covers and we'll show you how they work," Rencher said.

GenTech will also forecast how technologies will be used in the future. For example, Rencher sees the day when DNA strains will be used to validate pedigree lines, or when social network site users tag distant relatives like they currently do friends. Both these areas have a presence in the exhibit.

"You'll see not only a glimpse of the future of what is happening," he said, "but you'll see a glimpse of the future of what may happen."
 I am really excited for the NGS conference next week to be able to learn more about genealogy, learn new ways and technology I can use to find my ancestors, and be able to network and meet with so many great genealogists.