Wednesday, February 3, 2016

#BYU Family History Technology Workshop

Amy Harris gave her wish list to developers and researchers at the BYU Family History Technology Workshop.Before #RootsTech, before #InnovatorSummit, there was the Brigham Young University Family History Technology Workshop. Now in its 16th year, the one day workshop brings together developers and researchers tackling some of genealogy’s most thorny challenges.

Amy Harris, an associate professor of history at BYU and an accredited genealogist, provided the workshop’s keynote yesterday. Amy currently serves as the director of the Family History Program at BYU. She spoke to the topic “A Genealogist's Technological Wish List: Teaching, Filtering, and Mapping.”

“We are engaged in similar work,” Amy said of genealogists and technologists. “We are solving puzzles or mysteries.” Amy went through her wish list of things she wished technology would do to improve the work of historians and genealogists.

Amy wishes applications could be more instructional, teaching users to be better. It doesn’t have to be FamilySearch that makes the FamilySearch website more usable. It could be a popup app that explained in which situations a record collection might be useful. Developers wouldn’t need to develop the instructional resources. It could point users to existing resources. Apps could help with situation-specific research problems, walking users through the process of figuring out which records should be used at each step of the process.

She wished there were instructional OCR technology. She wished there was help for citation standards. She wished there was technology helping users evaluate record hints in Ancestry or FamilySearch trees. She wished tree software better assisted users work through the challenges of naming schemes that didn’t carry the same surname from one generation to the next.

Amy wishes programs helped users understand and use changing jurisdictions. It would be great to have an app that showed all the different jurisdictions for a place, overlaying the boundaries on a map and allowing for boundaries that changed over time. Just a few examples of different jurisdictions in England are civil registration districts, poor law unions, Church of England parishes and dioceses, and Quaker monthly meeting boundaries.

In short, Amy wishes there were apps that were informed by advanced research methodology and helped users utilize them.

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