29    Jan 20090 comments

Genealogy trends: Bright ideas

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When was the last time you used a typewriter?

Technology crept into my life when I switched from my beloved black portable manual Remington typewriter to an IBM electric.

Just a few years ago - relatively speaking - personal computers were just appearing on the scene. We researched the old-fashioned way - handwriting letters, loading rolls of film in our cameras, visiting dusty archives and rolled microfilm in resource centers. It took hours of effort to search for family information.

Today we connect in ways we couldn't imagine only a short time ago. We communicate almost instantaneously with email and messaging, and we can access ever-expanding Internet resources for family history. Everyone is connected by computer, by cellphone, by technology.

Once upon a time, my technology arsenal consisted of an electric typewriter. Today, it includes an all-in-one scanner-copier-fax, a desktop PC with large flatscreen monitor, a regular laptop (now semi-retired), a new mini-notebook (for travel), digital camera, cellphone and other personal devices. I am not a techie, so each new device means some frustration and excitement until I learn how to use it.

Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites keep us connected, and there are genealogy pages and groups on those sites, as well as active forums and family websites here at MyHeritage. These advances help us find farflung relatives.

What can we expect tomorrow? What new equipment or software to help us connect with family members around the world?

While not all research can be done at home - glued to a computer monitor - in our pajamas and bunny slippers, every day more resources are online, making it easier.

More organizations with important archives understand that records and resources are more useful if more people can access them. Scanning and digitizing projects and website data collections are increasing, for free or for paid access.

Topping the list are expanding digitizing projects, better retrieval and search techniques, more mobile services, social media and next-generation web technologies, along with improved data collection and cataloging.

Innovation is the lifeblood of genealogy. Most genealogical conferences address the future, offering demonstrations of new equipment, software, techniques and tools, new projects and trends. Do you wonder what's coming next?

How about a single device, incorporating a handheld mobile device, touch screen, built-in camera, scanner, wifi, Google Map, Google Search, Image Search, all-in-one, on a small transparent screen.

Point it at a building and retrieve its history; see what businesses are on each floor. Point it at a house, retrieve its history, architect and builder, owners through the years. Visit a cemetery and learn all about it, see a burial plot plan with GPS locations and locate an ancestor's grave.

Would you believe a flat, flexible phone with similar functions that can be worn like a bracelet? It could do everything a PDA or phone can do, but right on your wrist?

For a larger version, visualize a flat digital wallet tablet with a pen and a touch screen? This would also combine a flexible portable display, personal reader, an ebook reader. Roll it up and put it in your pocket until needed again.

This is an exciting time to be a genealogist! What are your predictions for the future?

I'm looking forward to reading your comments.

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