E. Douglas Pratt, DSW, LCSW
Policy-Practice Resources, Inc.
Training, Development, Evaluation
and Licensed Psychotherapist
3162 Johnson Ferry Road, Suite 260-426
Marietta, Georgia 30062
On Behalf Of vaqysrhuobyy
Sent: Thursday, April 29, 2010 6:12 PM
Subject: [BuffaloPolonia] Challenges To The Genealogist In The Digital Age
For many years family historians have been associated with large notebooks
of loose leaf paper. Notes scribbled down from library books, musty old
photos, aged looking papers and sometimes photocopies from original records.
Our world has certainly changed in the last 20 years. Computerized databases
to keep track of the family history have been a boost to the hobby of
genealogy. After all, I don't know that I would be able to keep track of
every name if I had to do it on paper alone.
These new advances present a number of challenges. Technology, as we all
know, has a tendency to eventually fail. Usually, it fails with no warning.
Maybe a hard drive "dies" and claims 15 years of research in the process.
With paper records it's certainly possible to lose all of it, but rarely
does the paper simply disintegrate abruptly on it's own.
Modern genealogists have the additional consideration of succession. What
happens to my research when I pass on? Does it go to my children? Do they
want it? Will it be chucked in an attic and forgotten, then burned like some
useless rubbish? Is it organized enough to be of any use to anyone? I know
some people leave their research to a library. I've seen some of the
collections of research that libraries receive and at times it's little more
than a stack of unorganized papers.
Complicating the idea of data "succession" are file format problems. Life
would be so much simpler if there were a single standard that we KNEW would
always be readable as an image or as a genealogy database. I know the gedcom
format is widely supported for genealogy data, but has it limitations and
will new methods still allow reading the old files?
I've thought many times that I will leave the request with my heirs that
they convert and copy the data that I leave them into whatever the most
compatible and survivable media of the time. However, as I said earlier much
has changed in the last 20 years. Who knows what the next 20 will hold. In
1987 floppy disks of various sizes were common and cds were a rarity, but
becoming more common for sharing data. What will 2027 have in store? Will
our CDs even be readable? Been able to get data from a 5 1/2" floppy lately?
There are certainly other pitfalls that face the genealogist of today, but I
think these issues need as much attention as any. So how do you address it?
First, I think the family historian needs to spend as much or more time
organizing and preparing for someone else to receive their research as they
spent doing the research in the first place. I know, organizing is NOT the
fun part. The fun part is making those discoveries of "who was the father of
brick wall ancestor number 7!!" But the fun part is worthless if you don't
take the time to prepare the presentation of it for others. So, by all means
get organized, use a computer to do so and make frequent backups.
Preferably, send out copies of the work in progress on CD or DVD. Don't let
that be the finished product though. Make it clear to them that this is your
"in case of fire, break glass" backup policy and that you are in process of
organizing things for easier consumption.
Next methodically, go through each part of your family tree and decide on a
routine for organizing the information and presenting it. Many genealogy
programs present excellent reports these days which include images. The
bottom line is try to make it look like a well researched book even if it's
a book with a video clip or two, or with audio recordings. Consider making
the video and audio recordings supplemental items and refer to them in the
text, but prepare them separately. The bottom line is to go back through
your research with a fine tooth comb organizing everything and attempt to
clarify your doubts and suspicions from the facts that you know.
Finally, prepare this document in a few different file formats. PDF is a
very common file format these days and is accepted by many sites online for
on demand publishing. Many of these sites require no money from you to just
"publish" a book and have it available to buy a copy for yourself. Go about
the same process to publish your supplementary materials like audios, videos
and pictures. Also, make copies of the main document in plain text. (That's
the format that Project Gutenberg has decided on as a least common
denominator.) Find web pages that you can archive the information to and
find family members that you can give a copy of the archive well before your
passing so that you know your research will continue to be useful to your
descendants and other distant relatives as of yet unborn for many years to
Search Millions of Public Records: http://www.pubrecs.
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