Thursday, July 30, 2015

Lisa Louise Cooke: Technology Empowers – #BYUFHGC

Lisa Louise Cooke spoke at the 2015 BYU Conference on Family History and Genealogy.“Technology can be a little frustrating at times,” said Lisa Louise Cooke. “The good news is that you’re empowered.” Lisa presented the Thursday keynote at the 2015 BYU Conference on Family History and Genealogy. She titled her presentation “The Future of Technology and Genealogy: Five Strategies You Need.”

Lisa is the founder of Genealogy Gems, a genealogy and family history multimedia company. She is the producer of the Genealogy Gems Podcast, the popular online genealogy audio show, downloaded over 1.5 million times, available at and iTunes. She produces The Family Tree Magazine Podcast, writes for the magazine, and is the author of four popular books.

Lisa had a podcast listener write in and tell her about having a PICNIC. She was having problems on her computer. Her son looked at what she was doing and told her she was having a PICNIC. She didn’t feel like she was having a picnic. At least she didn’t until she learned that PICNIC stands for Problem in Chair, Not In Computer. (Genealogy Gems, podcast 117.) However, you don’t have to stay at the PICNIC. Put yourself into situations where you can learn about technologies.

Put into a situation where she could learn, Lisa fell into her career of genealogy and technology education. In 2007 her daughters got together and decided that Mom needed an iPod. She didn’t have a music collection and movies were not available at the time, so there wasn’t much Lisa could do with it. Then she discovered podcasts. They were free! And she soon discovered that podcasts were being created by ordinary people. She could do it too. This was a way she could share what she was learning about genealogy. That desire has grown into a full-time career for herself, and, more recently, her husband.

A technique you can use to better utilize technology is to think in terms of the individual tasks you do when doing genealogy, rather than looking strictly for genealogy-specific technology.

“I think that Google Earth is one of the most powerful genealogy apps around and it isn’t even a genealogy app,” she said. Lisa showed a Google Earth example along with several other websites and technologies.

Lisa said that genealogists have been slow to utilize video. “We need to catch up.” We can upload our stories and our home movies to YouTube. Just keep clips to ten minutes or less. People have short attention spans. We can also search YouTube. Don’t just search for your ancestors by name. Search for places, events, and other topics associated with your ancestors.

Searching YouTube helped a genealogist discover a movie clip of her grandmother.One of Lisa’s podcast listeners, Laurie Burgess, heard Lisa’s recommendations to utilize YouTube and thought, “Lisa, you’ve lost it. I will never find my ancestors on YouTube.” One day Laurie decided to give it a try. Her grandmother had been royalty in the 1946 Rose Parade. Laurie knew the description of the float upon which her grandmother rode. So, she searched YouTube for “Rose Parade 1946.” She found someone had uploaded an amateur video of part of the parade. As she watched, a float matching the description rolled by. There, riding on the back of the float, was her grandmother! Laurie contacted the video’s contributor and found he had another movie clip he had not uploading. The clip showed her grandmother accepting the royalty trophy.

Lisa closed her presentation with counsel that we not let technology stop us from listening to our ancestors. She shared a personal story of serendipity that I feel is too private for me to share here. There came a moment in her life where a strong impression led to a long-sought reconciliation, healing past and present family.

We were already in tears when Lisa shared a slide show with musical accompaniment, “The Family Tree," by Venice.” Recommended listening.


  1. Now what we need to do is get FamilySearch to figure out a way to let us upload our URL YOUTube videos, not only for our deceased, but for our living. Yup. Our children and grandchildren don't write letters, they email, text, instagram. They don't write journals, they blog. They make videos of current history. And after we oldsters upload all our family paper artifacts - photos, docs, stories - then we have to learn how to rip videos from dvds and upload to youtube or other sites. But we need to have a way to upload them to Family Tree. The next generations won't need to upload the old technology because we will have done it. But we all need to look to the future and how to save the new technologies.

  2. I fully agree Cathy. I've interviewed some in decision making positions at FamilySearch on this very topic. I was told that they feel they must review every video first for content and as you can imagine that would bring uploading to nearly a crawl. They have had to deal with similar issues in regards to photos. I hope it can be worked out, because video is a critical piece of the puzzle.


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