Genealogy Today and Tomorrow

by Ruby Coleman

December is a time of reflection and also a time of wishing and contemplation for the future, in this case the year 2005. In the last decade many changes have occurred in genealogical research and record keeping. The key factor in change has been communication and we all know that means Internet.

Back in the 1970s I never dreamed that I would have a computer, let alone two of them. In about 1980 an astute, young man told me his visions of library books easily circulating on loan. They would be located through a central database that would catalog them for the entire United States. Quite a a vision and quite a project, but it came true.

He also had another vision and that was a form of communication, not just in locating books, but in learning and studying through large databases. That took a little bit longer. Today we have Internet and e-mail and high speed connections and images that pop on our monitors as if we were holding them in our hands.

My 1970s dreams never included the remote possibil ity that I would view my ancestor's Revolutionary War pension file, unless I went to the National Archives in Washington, DC to see it. Now I have found the file, viewed it and saved it on my computer, compliments of Heritage Quest's images that are provided by a subscribing library. How sweet it is!

In the last year many large databases have appeared on Internet. Some are available through subscriptions and others are free. Many are monumental projects that have taken hours, months and years of dedication to produce. While I do not have Jewish ancestry, the Central Database of Shoah Victims, Names, is exciting to read about and to view. It details information about more than three million Jews who were murdered in the Holocaust. The Pages of Testimony as a manuscript collection were created over the past fifty years. This marvelous databases provides links for millions of people whose relatives perished during that tragic time in history. It is now available at the click of the mouse at . Even if you do not have Jewish ancestry, check it out.

The new Scholarly Search Engine at Google is exciting to use. It focuses on academic materials and the results are limited to "scholarly literature such as peer-reviewed papers, theses, books, preprints, abstracts, and technical reports." Most of the documents that are indexed are searched from the full text. In some instances you will be asked to pay a fee or subscription in order to view the text. Have some fun with this at Tip: if the results show the title of a book followed by "Library Search," click on it to be directed to where you'll be able to locate the specific book.

This is a very brief sampling of the new things happening in 2004 in the field of genealogical research on Internet. The other day a friend sent me a Christmas card and note that she had finally joined a local genealogical society. She has a computer on her wish list for Christmas. This comment allowed me to reflect on the direc tion we are heading in 2005 and also to think about my own genealogy wish list.

It is apparent that many societies are suffering in membership, funding and attendance at meetings and conferences. The finger is pointed directly at the Internet. Unfortunately many people find it more convenient to stay home with the computer and surf for their ancestors. With so much available, I cannot blame them, and yet there is so much more than can be done beyond the computer. My wish list for the year 2005 includes ...

- write letters to institutions in search of documents

- get together with genealogy friends and exchange ideas

- read more of my genealogy books (my husband wishes I would stop collecting them!)

- take research trips; walk through courthouse doors, into libraries and dig around in ancestral cemeteries

- add ancestors, relatives and documentation in my computer family files

- unclutter my genealogy room (maybe I will find a file I need)

It seems I always find time for the In ternet, so in 2005 I will try to make time for other functions of my genealogical research. Now is the time to make your genealogy wish list for 2005. I hope it all comes true.

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