RootsTech 2014: Reaching New Heights at the Innovator Summit

Chris Dancy WP RootsTech 2014 opened Wednesday with the Innovator Summit held at the Salt Palace in Salt Lake City, Utah. This year RootsTech set aside an entire day to focus on innovative ways to address the issues that affect genealogists and look to the future. The conference is being held in a bigger venue this year allowing more people the opportunity to attend the largest genealogy conference in North America. Projected numbers indicate that RootsTech 2014 will qualify as the largest genealogy conference in the world!

Ben Bennett, representing FamilySearch International, made the introductions. FamilySearch International invited those present to be forward-thinking and enhance the pursuit of genealogy through the development of new ideas. As it was advertised, “Join the Conversation. Change Your Future.”

Andrew Fox introduced findmypast and related that the company is looking to partner with tech organizations and provide a developer platform to expand the use of the information held in their databases. He said that findmypast can benefit the world of academia in science and social science. He mentioned a few projects that are currently being researched using specific record sets. Findmypast is continually evaluating how to use its data, recognizing that the applications are endless. The big announcement is that findmypast (fmp) is releasing the fmp capture app that will allow individuals to record audio, upload photos, and store notes. If you are in Salt Lake, stop by the findmypast booth for a demonstration.

Chris Dancy of BMC Software and a data exhaust cartographer gave the keynote presentation. I had the opportunity to talk with Chris before the session. It is obvious upon meeting him that he is futuristic in his thinking. Besides wearing Google glass, he was wearing 11 sensors that provide data on his current state of being. Since we were at a genealogy conference, I asked him about his heritage. He told me that he comes from Irish and Nordic heritage. With his forward-thinking, he has had his entire genome sequenced. Although he tested his DNA with 23andMe, he uses a company called Exogen Biotechnology. Inc. that monitors changes in his DNA on a regular basis. He uses this data to make adjustments in his lifestyle and environment.

In his presentation, “Facebook for the Dead”, he discussed the fact that, organically, it’s easy to die. Death used be “dualistic,” meaning that not only did people die but their data files died too. The statistic that 3.9 billion people will die during a individual’s lifetime and the fact that 7,000 people died during Chris Dancy’s presentation is daunting. Despite these sobering facts, Chris talked about the ways that people live on. Historically, Egyptians had the Book of the Dead as well as the Scroll of Ani. Now we are remembered through the remaining bits of data in our digital world.

It’s hard to die digitally. People can be followed on Twitter even after they take their last breath. Chris Dancy shared an experience he had in Las Vegas. He told the story of how he witnessed Michael Jackson being resurrected during a show wearing clothes Michael never wore and singing songs he never sang. It was as if Michael had never died. This type of digital reconstruction is possible not only possible for Michael Jackson but us too. Dancy cited cost as the prohibitive factor.

“We are putting are lives online, and we are also putting our deaths online,” and Chris Dancy gave himself as an example. With the previously mentioned 11 sensors and 7 system monitoring him, he is able to record his vital information on a Google calendar. He is making a digital history that will live on after his mortal death.

The dead population is beginning to grow larger than life in the cyber world. Chris Dancy urges people to evaluate the systems in their lives. He asked us to consider how our data will remember us. He mentioned that social networking companies have varied terms of service that affect our information upon death. The record of our lives becomes complicated by these terms. He mentioned that Google was one of the better companies with their terms of service. Nevertheless, Chris Dancy suggested that making it possible to link accounts and becoming aware of what is posted online will help construct an accurate legacy.

There are many resources that can be used to help preserve the past. One example is Eterni.me, a website that allows you to create a lasting digital history. Chris Dancy encouraged developers to create middle-ware to connect different sites together. The platform that is used is important but the most important factor is you.

Chris Dancy ended his address by talking about an episode of the British show Black Mirror entitled “Wish You Were Here” where the boyfriend of a character is virtually reconstructed and she questions his reality. Ultimately, we may be able to reconstruct a 3D virtual reality of the deceased using the data they left behind, especially photos aggregated online. In many ways, we are being enabled to virtually resurrect the past.

Copyright ©2014 Lynn Broderick and the Single Leaf. All Rights Reserved.

Congratulations to the FamilySearch Indexing Volunteers – Your Efforts Counted…to a Billion!

One Million Digitized WPAs I have been reporting since RootsTech 2013, FamilySearch Indexing has been approaching the billionth indexed record. It really takes team effort to reach such a goal. Previously it took decades; this time it took less than 7 years :-) When it came to the 1940 US Census Community Project, organizations joined forces to complete the project. A few weeks into April 2012, 4.9 million records were indexed in one day and on July 2, 2012 indexers produced over 10 million records indexed and arbitrated in a 24-hour period. Now that was a WOW moment!

Today, someone will be named the indexer of the billionth record. Another could be named as the one who indexed the most records. And another could be named for the most accurate indexing. The list could go on, but it took every single record to count to a billion and therefore every single record and the indexer who contributed it counts! It’s part of being a team, whether on a project, with friends, in a family, with a business, or in the community, greater outcomes materialize with team effort and support :-) So today, THANK YOU to each and every volunteer who made it happen! You have provided indexes that will assist genealogists and family historians in finding the records that will piece history together! And, THANK YOU to FamilySearch International and the Indexing team for supplying and supporting these efforts. Volunteers could not do it without you! You provide so much :-)

This past week familysearch.org received a makeover. As individuals evaluated the new features and layout, I personally noticed that the links to the pages for indexing remained the same. For those who may have hesitated and would like to join in indexing the next billion, here is how you can become a part of this great team.

Go to www.familysearch.org. First ScreenClick on the Indexing box, the fifth one from the left, and then Learn More. (If the screen has rotated to highlight indexing, just click on Learn More.) This is the FamilySearch Indexing Home Screen.2 If you do not already have a FamiySearch account you will need to register. Click on “Sign In.” The form requires that you create a user name and password that will be used when accessing the FamilySearch Indexing software and other FamilySearch features. 4Be sure to read the Rights and Use Information as well as the Privacy Policy, then click on “Create an Account.” :-)5 When you return to the indexing home page click on “Download the software” and you will received the specialized software necessary for indexing. 2aOnce you have downloaded the software you are ready to begin. If you scroll down the Indexing home page you will see some interesting and pertinent information with links to even more information. Don’t be overwhelmed! You decide which project to work on and a way to find out more information about the projects is to click on “see all  projects” highlighted in blue under “Indexing is a worldwide effort.”6 The projects listed are from localities around the world! These pages will give you the details and sample pages to determine the right project for you!78910 (By the way, if you are logged into the software you may access the project information from the list of choices.)

As I mentioned, indexing is a team effort and if a collection is a priority to an organization it will be completed at a much faster rate. If your society has interest in records that will specifically benefit your members, why not adopt that project. You can even hold indexing meetings or parties. There are many ways to come together to index the records that benefit ourselves and the community.

As I mentioned previously, the projects being highlighted by FamilySearch Indexing are the US Immigration and Naturalization Project and the Italian Ancestors Project. Once indexed these records become accessible to all genealogists and family historians without subscription.

Today is the day to celebrate another billion records indexed! CONGRATULATIONS to FamilySearch Indexing and its volunteers. And, once again, THANK YOU :-)

Copyright ©2013 Lynn Broderick and the Single Leaf. All Rights Reserved.

FamilySearch Indexing Fast Approaching a Billion Indexed Records

FS Thanks A BillionOne of the great announcements made at RootsTech 2013 was that FamilySearch Indexing is fast approaching a billion indexed records thanks to people like us. What once took decades has now taken a little over six years so that those interested can find an actual image of a record of an ancestor with a click of a mouse or a tap on a screen :-) Indexing makes research easy and convenient.

While at RootsTech 2013 I noticed at the indexing booth that the counter never stopped. About a dozen computers were made available so that those attending the conference could stop by and index a batch. Others around the world continued to index as well :-) As of this past Thursday, FamilySearch Indexing had reached 990,000,000 and counting. I hope this pace remains constant as indexers continue the quest. Ten million records doesn’t seem like that much since indexers already broke records last July 2nd and topped the goal of indexing 5 million by completing over 7 million in a 24 hour period with over 3 million records arbitrated for the 1940 US Census Community Project.

Now two additional projects are center stage: the US Immigration and Naturalization Project and the Italian Ancestors Project, but as an indexer, neither project is required. The indexer chooses which record set he or she would like to work with, such as a project listed as a high priority and/or one in the indexer’s area of interest. Projects are also labeled as beginner, intermediate, or advanced to assist the indexer in choosing an appropriate level of difficulty. On the screen that allows you to choose your project, in the left-hand corner, an indexer may choose how many batches he or she would like to download. The advantage to more than one batch is that when a record is handwritten the indexer can become accustomed to the recorders style and it is easier to read. This is true for all handwritten records, but especially for those written in a language foreign to the indexer. Currently many of the passenger lists are typed on the original records so data entry is easy.

If you would like to give indexing a try, you will need a familysearch.org account. There are two types of accounts: one for the general public and one for members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. (Don’t be concerned about the LDS church account if you are not a member. The account log in for LDS members allows them to access church related directories, calendars, and other church information.)

Indexing Home Page

FamilSearch Sign In

FS Registration Page

Registration Information

Once you have an account, you may download the indexing software. This software can be used with Windows, Mac, or Linux :-)FS Indexing Get Started

Installing FS Indexing Pop-Up Window

Sign In to FamilySearch Indexing

Download BatchOnce installed, choose a project, download a batch, read the instructions for the project, and then begin. Please Read the InstructionsInstructions for each field are always to the right of the data input. Help is available by phone or chat. Give indexing a try, and if you find a specific batch that is incompatible with you, just send it back and try another one. Soon you will be indexing like a pro!

FS Indexing Image

What if indexing is not for you? There are other ways you can contribute to the genealogical community at familysearch.org. You can contribute by writing research articles for the wiki and/or tech tips in your area of expertise, make a tax-deductible donation, and/or evaluate upcoming features. It’s up to you! I’ve heard FamilySearch express gratitude many times for those who volunteer. All of us benefit from the record sets indexed and made available at no cost to us. If you use familysearch.org, thank an indexer! At RootsTech, FamilySearch Indexing found a fun way to give back to the volunteers as well. Anyone who indexed a batch at the conference received a photo on the mock dock of Ellis Island in honor of the US Immigration and Naturalization Project. Remember immigration and naturalization records can be the key to unlocking the mystery of an ancestor’s homeland. Why not give indexing a try? You may be the one to index the billionth record!

Copyright ©2013 Lynn Broderick and the Single Leaf. All Rights Reserved.

Blues Skies Cap the End of RootsTech 2013

RootsTech2013-Find My Past 3

Boy Scout Merit Badge WPThe third day of RootsTech 2013 began with snowy roads and about 2000 young people descending on the Salt Palace Convention Center. Upon arriving I met a group of young men that were going to earn their genealogy badge from the Boy Scouts of America, and later found 2000 youth contained in Hall 2 with presentations geared to an introduction to genealogy and family history. Smaller groups toured the facilities with guides. The young people were all smiles as they entered the exhibit hall. Pictures were taken by the RootsTech waterfall. But, as an adult attending the conference, the youth were hardly noticeable. Well-mannered and polite, they blended with genealogists of all ages.

There appeared to be fewer adult attendees this Saturday. The developers were gone. There were only three sessions, and a reduced fourth, offered. The Saturday keynote presentations were sponsored by MyHeritage. The recap is posted at RootsTech.org. David Pogue opened the general session. You don’t want to miss it!

After the opening session, my focus was DNA. The first presentation was a panel from the three leading companies providing DNA testing for genealogy: Family TreeDNA, 23andMe, and Ancestry. Bennett Greenspan, Tim Janzen, MD, and Catherine Ball represented the respective companies. CeCe Moore moderated for the panel. DNA at RootsTech 2013 WPThe attendance in each DNA presentation provided standing room only. Later in the day, a wall was removed to accommodate the crowd. By a raise of hands, the crowd was heavily interested in DNA for genealogy. Most individuals had the results from more than one test from more than one company. The main issue raised during the Q&A was the ability of individuals to compare data with results from all three companies. Bennett Greenspan, with concurrence of the panel, cited business profit as the main reason for the “brick wall.” Many discussed GEDmatch as a possible solution to the problem, but the way in which Ancestry released the raw data to customers is incompatible with the current version of GEDmatch. (Judy Russell, The Legal Genealogist, has written a blog post about Ancestry’s recent move to fulfill the promise to release raw data needed for comparisons that may be of interest to you.)

FamilySearch Indexing expressed gratitude to all of the volunteers who assist them by providing an opportunity for those in attendance to have a picture taken on the mock-up of the Ellis Island immigration dock. The present goal of FamilySearch Indexing is to reach the one billionth record indexed! It is estimated that the goal will be reached in the next few weeks. FS Indexing WPAt the close of RootsTech 2013 the number of records indexed was at 988,216,302 and climbing. If you are a registered indexer with FamilySearch, why not get online and help in this worthy project that benefits everyone in the genealogical community. I personally found a new record subset of interest, US airplane immigration lists from after World War 2 to 1954. These records may be of interest to you as well. If you’ve never indexed before and would like to try it, give it a test run at familysearch.org. A batch of records can be competed in small increments of time and an index is a great tool to genealogists everywhere :-)

Usually, as the conference comes to a close, fatigue sets in as one says good-bye to old friends and new. Blue skies capped a very successful conference. Mike Bronner, Warren Bittner and Nathan Machula FHL March 23, 2013 WPAlthough there were other dinners and parties being held around the venue, I was at the Family History Library. According to Warren Bittner, CG, that is where “real” genealogists go to party :-) Warren was the coordinator of the Advanced German Research Course held this past January for the Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy, and at least five of us from that course were in attendance at the library last night, including our own Judy Russell, JD, CG. Although the library has changed its hours to close early on Saturdays, it remained open until 9pm to the delight of all who attended.

Thank you to all who volunteered to make RootsTech 2013 a success!

(By the way, Randy Seaver of Genea-Musings, an offical blogger, has compiled a list of blog posts written during the course of the conference. Thank you, Randy! A list of official bloggers and links to their sites can be found at RootsTech.org.)

Copyright ©2013 Lynn Broderick and the Single Leaf. All Rights Reserved.

It Started with a Snowstorm: RootsTech 2013 on Day 2

Genealogy Workflow Model WPThe weather matched the influx of developers yesterday at RootsTech 2013. Developer Day is a day when, well, RootsTech invites those behind-the-seen individuals to the conference for sessions on development :-) It began with the announcement of the winners of the Developer’s Challenge in the opening session. Tim Sullivan and Jyl Patee provided the keynotes. More to come in my wrap-up, but if you want to see the opening session for yourself, check out the Friday recap at RootsTech.org.

Since the beginning, I’ve always enjoyed Developer Day at RootsTech. Great sessions with great questions and discussions, I’ve never been disappointed in the sessions I’ve attended. This year I went to the Genealogy Workflow Model presented by Joe Martel of FamilySearch. For the user, Google Search…and Beyond drew a large crowd for David Barney in Hall 1, the largest hall at the conference. Unconferencing sessions, presentations not listed in the program but suggested by participants, were going on throughout the day as well.

Maureen Taylor RootsTech 2013 WPMaureen Taylor, The Photo Detective, was there to find clues in pictures past, as well as there being a number of live demos in the exhibit hall.

The evening brought a Late Night at the Library with a pizza dinner provided for those who pre-registered. Story@Home provided an storytelling concert at the Conference Center. No pre-registration was required.RootsTech 2013 WP

And, it was the day the T-shirts went on sale at the registration desk. I tried to tweet about it multiple times yesterday, but the conference sponsored Internet continued to fail me. I was not alone in this challenge. :-( Different than had been revealed to me on Wednesday, these are the T-shirts available for purchase.T shirts RT 2013 WP

In future posts, I will expand on the events of Friday. Time is short as I rush off to the final sessions on Day 3. Today RootsTech is looking forward to almost 2000 young people to descend upon the Salt Palace Convention Center! (Don’t forget to check out the posts of the official bloggers!)

Copyright ©2013 Lynn Broderick and the Single Leaf. All Rights Reserved.

Spring Into Genealogy with Technology at RootsTech

RootsTech starts tomorrow and organizers are excited to welcome genealogists, family historians, technologists, and interested parties to this event, which begins on the first day of Spring :-) I love Spring! It represents the opportunity to turn over a new leaf. Technology is always advancing and Spring is a great timeRT Logo WP to update practices that will expedite research. I also like that this year RootsTech does not conflict with Groundhog Day, but I have it on good word that for 2014 and 2015 it will revert back to the February schedule :-(

RootsTech promises to have something for everyone! For those in the Salt Lake City area, registration is available at the door. For those not able to make it this week, a number of sessions will be streamed live. For scheduled times and sessions visit RootsTech.org. Barring any technological difficulties, this will be a great alternative to being here.  Archived sessions will be made available for those with scheduling conflicts. If you can make it, I look forward to having you join us! :-)

Copyright ©2013 Lynn Broderick and the Single Leaf. All Rights Reserved.

A Case for Preserving an Independent Medium

Imaging Equipment WP

As genealogists and family historians, we passionately seek to preserve the past. Questions are answered, understanding is gained, and the wisdom and folly of the ages are passed on to the next generation as we publish our research. In order to recapture the past, records and other artifacts are necessary to reconstruct it. Technology has provided incredible opportunities to amass what remains and to record the activities of the present day. There is no question that digital preservation has expedited research and placed records in the hands of the world. No one in the future will have to question what we ate, where we went, or even how we felt day to day as social media documents these experiences. But does the advances of digital preservation negate the necessity of preserving the original form? Can we justify the destruction of an old picture or document?

A printed photograph is preserved on an independent medium. Documents on quality paper have lasted hundreds, even thousands, of years. Nothing else is required to view, enjoy, and recapture the memory.  Although we know that conditions have rarely favored the preservation of these items, think about the limitations of the many dependent forms of media. Electricity goes out, batteries die, and networks get disrupted. Can you remember a time when your connection to the Internet was unavailable? Did it come at a critical time? How long did it last? How long could it last?

Although an independent medium has the limitation of number, therefore, found in one location, it is still nice to have a record or artifact in this form. I know of no material that is completely indestructible, but the independent nature of paper, stone, or metal is appealing. This is not to suggest that other ways of preservation should be ignored. It’s just that it seems ironic that if we want to preserve something we would destroy an original.

As we consider preservation, we must remember that provenance is an important principle in the field of genealogy and family history. Provenance is defined as “the chronology of the ownership, custody or location of a historical object.”1 When we destroy an original we disrupt this path. As we seek a source, we never reach the end of that particular journey even though we are encouraged to trace our sources back to the original. This becomes impossible to do if we are destroying them.

In addition to preservation in an independent medium, using technology and having multiple copies in different formats backed up to your devices and migrating your data as we progress on our technological journey will assure the best chances of survival. Coupled with all of these advancements, preservation in an independent medium has its place among us as the keepers of  records. As we find our ancestors, let us consider provenance and the preservation of the records and artifacts they left behind.

1. Wikipedia (www.wikipedia.org), “Provenance,” rev. 6 Mar 2013

Copyright ©2013 Lynn Broderick and the Single Leaf. All Rights Reserved.