Although family history is becoming increasingly high-tech, there are those days when we wish we had a genie in a lamp.
After hours of fruitless searching for what seems to be a non-existent direct ancestor - although we know they MUST have existed or we wouldn't be here looking for them - it would be great to just grab that lamp, rub it a few times (depending on the version of the folktale you follow) and ask the emerging genie for help.
Genealogy conferences might feature workshops titled "The care and feeding of your genie," "Getting your genie online," or "Polishing the lamp: Keep your genie happy."
According to folklore, of course, the problem is asking the correct three wishes, and we look forward to experts presenting workshops on techniques for constructing them.
Something else to consider: Would there be a difference between asking a polite question or giving a command to "dig up" the information we need? Does the word "wish" need to be included?
"Could you please find Uncle Melvin's birthdate" might bring a very different result from commanding the genie to "I wish you would bring me Uncle Melvin."
What are the three most urgent questions that your genie could help answer?
Now that I'm back to my normal routine, I'm trying to review the great experiences from this summer.
Great times included four conferences in California, Washington State and Texas; visiting dear friends and family members; and meeting several relatives for the first time as we shared family history.
At all the conferences, I helped explain what we do at MyHeritage.com and how our tools and features make it easy for families to connect and communicate no matter where they live.
My suitcase now includes several new T-shirts from this year's events and some for 2011 events.
Here are some highlights:
Some 50 geneabloggers attended the Southern California Genealogical Society's Jamboree this year.
In a move that could be a real moneymaker - and thus an incentive to provide genealogical services - for many additional countries, Ireland will begin providing Irish Heritage certificates by the end of 2010.
There are some 70 million individuals worldwide with Irish heritage, and this seems like a great way to show it. The certificate may also provide travel and tourist discounts when the certificate-holders visit Ireland.
Family history researchers can become rather single-minded about their quest for ancestral data.
It is always good to kick back and read something funny, such as Chris Dunham's The Genealogue, or try something else that might add a different perspective to our searches.
I've mentioned Chris' site as his unusual and humorous approach to genealogy is always welcome, and he also offers lists of categorized genealogy blogs for your enjoyment. However, here's a new site to try for a different reason. Personas is an interesting "installation."
Created by Aaron Zinman (who holds an MIT| PhD in Media Arts and Sciences) as an art installation - a component of Metropath(ologies), an interactive exhibit by the Sociable Media Group, MIT Media Lab - it was on display at the MIT Museum. In its first month, it was accessed by more than 1.5 million users.
According to the site, it creates "a data portrait of one's aggregated online identity. In short, Personas shows you how the Internet sees you." It purports to provide a visual graph of an individual's persona based on an Internet search, and you can see what it is finding as it searches the Web.
Enter the name of a person and watch the graph visualization take place as you read the text under the graph.
In addition to names of people, you can plug in the name of a genealogy blog, for example, and receive a "characterization" of it after an Internet search. Here are some of the blogs searched on Personas: