Interview with Curt B. Witcher
Genealogy Center Manager Allen County Public Library
Lamar Tyler and I sat down with Curt B. Witcher a few minutes after his
keynote speech at RootsTech. Curt was on fire during his keynote speech. He
was animated and passionate and a joy to listen to. One of the points Mr.
Witcher made was that genealogists should not be afraid to take the next
step beyond gathering information. After gathering the information it is
important to analyse it, study it, organize it and SHARE with others.
Mr. Witcher was still on a dynamic roll when he sat down with us and it was
obvious that he is passionately dedicated to the idea of technology making
genealogists lives easier and making it easier for us to share what we have,
or what we discover, with others.
Lamar started the interview off by asking how we can show our readers that
it isn�t necessarily a huge task to start one�s genealogy. Curt responded
that there isn�t a better marriage for technology than genealogy because
emerging technologies make it possible for researchers to search millions of
records quickly. Researchers can text, post on Facebook, fill in blanks in
their family trees and quickly and easily share that information with
others. Others can then add their own information.
He added that technology has taken genealogy from researchers seeking,
seeking and seeking for long periods of time without finding anything, to
seeking and finding quickly. With more success more quickly we can start to
put our stories together to share.
Curt feels that the boomers are the key � they expect things to happen
quickly and fairly easily and they have vitality and excitement.
I mentioned that there are two groups of genealogists who might want to
share their stories or photos or documents. The first group are those who
have personal items (photos, documents, letters etc). They have never
thought about sharing these items with others. The second group are people
like me who have larger collections that they have put online. But these
collections are still quite small and scattered. I asked Mr. Wichter how we
can encourage the first group to share their memories and how we can help
the second group to expand so that more genealogists can access the
Curt�s responded with the answer that he would like to see that dialogue
initiated and continued between technologists and genealogists. He called
small collections �walled gardens�, closed off for sharing easily with
others. He has not yet found one good way to share more easily and that is
why RootsTech was a great way to start the dialogue to try to find
He noted that sometimes family members who inherit research or personal
documents do not know what to do with it. Often they don�t want it and the
privacy issues frighten some. But he believes passionately that it is
powerful to know who you are and where you came from, and in fact it can be
life-changing. He asked a rhetorical question which resonated for me
*�What is it in the human pysche that connecting to family and ancestors
makes you realize you are part of something bigger?�*
Curt mentioned that Wikipedia is a good example of sharing and sourcing
where people post articles and others quickly add to them or correct them.
Lamar wanted to know how we can encourage young people to become interested
in genealogy. Mr. Wichter pointed out that young people already know the
technology part. They are tweeting, texting, and setting up Facebook pages
already. So we have to show them they can do the same fun stuff with family
history! We need to encourage them so they end up wanting to know more.
I wanted to know about Seniors and how we can encourage that group when many
are very frightened of technology. Curt suggested that a trusted
organization or a trusted invidual needs to show them the way. Seniors can
get confused on complex sites and they often worry about identity theft or
privacy issues. So someone like a grandchild can help them overcome those
Curt ended our interview by explaining that technology can add an extra
layer to our relationships. Family history and sharing keeps memories alive.
It takes a family � children, parents and grandparents, to share and
communicate and that sharing is a powerful tool.
For more background information on Mr. Witcher and his many involvements in
the genealogy community, please see RootsTech Keynote
Posted By Genealogy Blogger to Olive Tree Genealogy
2/19/2011 08:21:00 AM
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