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Twigs & Trees with Rhonda: New Year, New Technology?
by Rhonda R. McClure

January 04, 2001
See Rhonda's Previous Columns

Whether you have just finished your first year of the millennium or you are just beginning the new millennium, it is likely you have spent a little bit of time reflecting on the last year or the last decade. A lot has changed in our world over the last ten years.

Genealogists have been on the receiving end of many of those changes. While not directly related to genealogy, many of the advances in the technology have made doing genealogy research easier. We have seen advances in online communications and in the computers we use.

Genealogists benefit from technology.

The Past

Since I first ventured into computer genealogy, I have had five desktop computers and four notebooks. In each case I have upgraded for space, power or speed. In each case, except for the last one, I swore up and down that it would do me for years. This last time I knew better than to insist it would last me for years. I am sure that soon I will be chomping for a faster something or a bigger hard drive or something.

When I first went online thirteen years ago, conversations were had in plain text. We developed all sorts of emoticons so we could impart some sort of emotion in our messages. There were no pretty pictures, just text. While this may sound dreary, in reality it was not. The communities and camaraderie that were formed have continued throughout the years. The information exchanged helped researchers in the pursuit of many lines.

The Present

The Internet has taken the world of online genealogy to a new level. People who have never researched their ancestry are now eagerly looking for clues and asking questions. Others are creating family history Web pages and reaching cousins they never knew before.

This past year saw advances with scanning. Books were added at an astounding rate to online subscription services. And announcements were made that new technologies were being applied to the scanning of census records. We are now seeing the fruits of that endeavor.

The Future

Seeing the changes that have taken place in just the last few years, it is natural to ponder just what technology will have in store for genealogy and genealogists in the future. When the census records are complete, no longer will we need to make plans to crank microfilm.

Perhaps that is the biggest benefit of all - the flexibility the latest technologies offer. While it is still necessary to visit libraries and other repositories, some of the records used most often are becoming more easily available than ever before.

I don't think I would ever want everything available at the press of a button. After all, the fun is the chase, and part of the chase is in locating the records. It is nice to know though that some records that I used to have to drive to view are now available through my computer.

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In Conclusion

Of course, with these new abilities come additional responsibilities. As more people get involved in genealogy, it is up to all of us to make sure that they are brought up to be the best genealogists and family historians that they can be. It is up to all of us to make sure that we share our information responsibly and accurately.

See Rhonda's Previous Columns

Rhonda R. McClure is a professional genealogist specializing in celebrity trees and computerized genealogy. She has been involved in online genealogy for fifteen years. She is the author of the award-winning The Complete Idiot's Guide to Online Genealogy, now in its second edition. She is the author of four how-to guides on Family Tree Maker. In late 2001, she wrote The Genealogist's Computer Companion. She is a contributing editor to Biography Magazine with her "Celebrity Roots" column and a contributing writer to The History Channel Magazine. Her latest book is Finding Your Famous and Infamous Ancestors. She may be contacted at rhondagen@thegenealogist.com.

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