Friday, February 11, 2011

RootsTech and the Changing Face of Genealogy

Curt Witcher delivered the Thursday keynote at the RootsTech conference “I really think these are really the best of times for genealogy,” said Curt Witcher. “All of us really know the passion of finding family. And with technology we can tell that story better.” Introduced by “Timothy” Sullivan of Ancestry.com, Curt Witcher is the department manager for the Historical Genealogy Department of the Allen County Public Library in Fort Wayne, Indiana.

“Where are the most open, lit screens in the Allen County Public Library?” he asked. “You all will know. The genealogy section.” Technology is really affecting genealogy. Technology has resulted in many websites that enhance our experience as genealogists.

“I could spend all day listening to Story Corps,” he said of the compelling life histories to be found there.

Curt said more people with more varied backgrounds are using more powerful technology to do genealogy. It should come as no surprise New genealogists expect to use all the technologies they use elsewhere when they do genealogy. Young genealogists are likely to have a cell phone and expect the data to be available digitally. They approach genealogy in a totally new way.

“Genealogy is about the experience,” Witcher said. “At the end of the day it’s about fun and success.” He raised an eyebrow or two when he said you don’t even need an ancestry chart. You don’t need a chart to have a positive experience in genealogy.

In RootsTech keynote Curt Witcher spoke about Margery Graham's photograph of 8th grade Safety Patrol Some of those experiences take place because of “data mashups.” People contribute data and other people tag it and link it to other data which leads on and on. For example, when an image of St. Patricks 8th Grade Safety Patrol, 1952-53 was posted online, it wasn’t very long before every person in the photograph had been identified.

The face of genealogy is changing, said Witcher. If we’re content with the way things used to be, we have a lot of unhappiness coming. He assured us, however, that if we can see changes as the improvement that they are, we can look forward to a future where we find records faster, find ancestors more often, and share life stories more frequently.

1 comment:

  1. I had a startled reaction at first to Mr. Witcher's comment that You don’t need a chart to have a positive experience in genealogy. I have long accepted that technology has simplified data research, but I hadn't thought genealogy without charts (or genealogy programs)was possible.

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