After spending the first day at RootsTech attending talks and doing general networking, I decided that I should spend time at the exhibition to see in detail which companies and technology suppliers were here and what they had to offer for new and existing genealogists. As I said yesterday the exhibition is similar to the Who Do You Think You Are? Live show but without the presence of the family history societies, archives and other physical data providers. Almost all of the exhibitors are technology and on-line data providers. The big companies such as Ancestry, Find My Past, MyHeritage, Mocavo and of course FamilySearch are all here. They are showing many of the probably lesser-known aspects of their offerings, as well as the general data such as census records, birth, marriage and deaths and so on. The lesser-known resources include applications that help match records and family trees and also applications for sharing research and trees in different ways.
Many of the other companies represented offer much more specialist or niche technologies and datasets. One of the big things at the show is the capturing of images, data, records and artifacts and bringing them together in on-line stories. These companies are looking to bring family history to life through putting individual stories about people and the events in their lives alongside the plain facts of their lives. The applications are also aimed it seems mostly at people using mobile technology, principally iPhones and iPads.
Judging by the exhibitors and what they have to offer the future of genealogy is going to be quite different from what the older generation of genealogists has experienced. This raises serious questions for organisations such as our own. How are we going to fit into this new landscape? Do we have to change our approach to attract new members? Are we going to change our approach to education so that people can see more on-line and less in a lecture room? Are we going to embrace the technologies for sharing family histories and the associated stories? How will we survive financially in this new, virtual environment?
These are serious questions that not only JGSGB needs to consider but also all family history societies and groups. I do think that there is still a place for us as suppliers of knowledge and educators. Knowledge is not just data, it is the wisdom of our collective experience of family history and also of our culture both local, national and internationally. The technology may allow people to acquire data easily; it may allow them to organise it in ways that we can only dream about; it may allow them to publish the data and stories quickly and impressively; and it may allow them to then share the data and stories with enormous ease. However, there also needs to be a knowledgable community out there to guide them and to give them the very necessary nudges and tips to ensure that they are going down the right track.
The thoughts that I have had and shared here are very similar to those from a recent posting made during the Who Do You Think You Are? Live show. RootsTech is just reinforcing things.