Salt Lake City, UT – I was genuinely amazed at what I saw during the 2nd Annual RootsTech Conference in Salt Lake City that just concluded.
The Salt Palace was packed with wall to wall displays by the many companies providing software, computers, printers, scanners, mobile apps, research services, and all the many tools that make doing genealogy more fun than ever before. It was also packed with a combination of professional genealogists, amateur genealogists, and the many technical experts what want to help them all do it better than ever before.
There were far more classroom presentations than any one person could attend, but fortunately they were all presented live online, and archived for anyone to listen to at any time. The recordings and the syllabus of every presentation are available free at http://www.RootsTech.org.
It took me an entire day to make my way through the exhibit hall. The large hands-on areas for http://www.new.FamilySearch.org and http://www.Ancestry.com were the focus of a constant crowd of attendees. There were some very knowledgible people who gave me invaluable help and guidance at both locations, completely free of course.
FamilySearch is run as a free public service to the public by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which is the online portion of the largest genealogy library and service in the world with thousands of local library branches where anyone of any faith can come to do research.
Most of the commercial booths provided information about software products and online research web sites that are currently in use. Some were there to promote new services that are still in development. A common theme for many of the products being promoted was collaboration between researchers working on the same lines of ancestors.
Perhaps one of the most promising new research tools is http://www.SharingTime.com, which is provided in conjunction with http://www.new.FamilySearch.org. The new service enables researchers who are working on ancestors listed on http://www.new.FamilySearch.org to know about their common connections and share their information quickly and easily.
Another collaboration tool is http://www.GenMerge.com which enables researchers to take the records in two different database GEDCOM files and quickly combine them. This makes it far easier for two or more people to work on the same lines of ancestors and then combine their results into one GEDCOM file. Without a program like this the task of merging the research of two people becomes painstakingly time consuming.
It was announced at the conference that http://www.AncestorSync.com will soon provide a real-time collaboration service. The service will synchronize the data of any family tree across all computers as well as online. The promise of the service is that all users will be constantly updated with a current database. The service promises compatibility with all the major genealogy software programs currently in use.
An online collaboration tool is growing and developing at http://www.WikiTree.com which is operating as a free service. It provides the ability to post a genealogy GEDCOM database online which can be used by other genealogists who are researching the same line or individual ancestors. It provides privacy controls while allowing collaboration between users.
There were additional research tools on display at the conference. One of those is offered by http://www.GenealogyBank.com which offers access to the largest database of newspapers from 1690 to the present. The parent company is NewsBank, which has provided access to the newspapers through local public libraries for many years. Now the same database is available to individuals online by subscription.
Beginning in April 2012 http://www.The1940Census.com will become available to the public for research. There is a need for volunteers to help with indexing. A form is available at the web site to sign up as a volunteer. When the database becomes available the public will be able to retrieve full digital images of the census data. The 1940 Census contains records of 132 million, many of whom are still alive today.
My personal research will be enhanced by several resources I found at the RootsTech conference. My father’s line comes from Ireland, Massachusetts and New Hampshire. I made contact with representatives of the New England Historic Genealogical Society which provides research tools through http://www.AmericanAncestors.org.
Irish family history research is always challenging, and it was good to meet John Hamrock from http://www.Ancestor.ie. Professional genealogists are available to take on any research project at affordable costs.
There were representatives from many other companies present at the conference. Even non-genealogy companies were there to offer products and services. Such companies as Dell and Lexmark offered computers, printers, and scanners. There were also companies that provide help to digitize old audio recordings and home movies.
My personal genealogy research began in 1981, and I have now made some giant leaps forward. I created a new personal family genealogy web site for private use by my family members so we can work together on both my line and my wife’s line. It was a fairly easy install using software I purchased from http://www.tngsitebuilding.com/, with personal help from the developer Darrin Lythgoe by E-mail, and loading my GEDCOM was quick and easy. My family members are excited because now we can easily share research and add new individuals and families to our line.
I also purchased FamilyInsight from http://www.OhanaSoftware.com. I have been using Ancestral Quest from http://www.ancquest.com to maintain our family database. I expect to continue to use both for a while to compare, but my wife and daughter are already quire pleased with FamilyInsight. It works on my Windows 7 and their Macs, which makes us all happy.
Our family plans to make combined use of these tools, along with all the others mentioned in this report. The day has come when no one tool is sufficient, and serious genealogists need to make use of every tool available.
I cannot help but reflect on the remarkable changes to genealogy research that have taken place since I began my personal research in 1981. I remember thinking how wonderful it was when The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints first created PAF, Personal Ancestral File, a software program I have been using since then until only last year.
The growth of technology and the rapid growth of the number of people who are actively involved in researching their ancestors is exciting.