The buzz this week has been about the “coming genealogical Dark Ages,” with the original inspiration coming from a presentation given by Curt B. Witcher, manager of the genealogical center at the Allen County Public Library. There have been quite a few blog posts on this; John Newmark at TransylvanianDutch has the most complete list at the time I am writing this. Although I believe almost all of us are worried about certain types of records in certain locations that are vulnerable to loss/disposal/neglect/restricted access, there is not a consensus on the severity of the problem.
One article that was posted after John’s summary was Kerry Scott’s “How Can It Be the Dark Ages When My Screen Is All Lit Up?” at Clue Wagon. Kerry does a very perceptive “Then and Now” comparison and also coins a great expression: “abundance of dumb.” Yeah, that’s what actually scares me. For more on this subject, see the comments on Slovak Yankee below.
When I read the following post, the thought balloon immediately went up: “What she said! What she said!”: “These are my favorite things about research repositories,” by Paula Stuart-Warren at Paula’s Genealogical Eclectica.
Dear Myrtle addresses the question “Life in a cloud: You CAN do it, but SHOULD you?” She covers a number of different was to participate in cloud computing as well as different resources.
Linda at Passage to the Past’s Blog outlines “My Education Plan,” which includes a list of online and “brick and mortar” institution genealogy courses.
In “Wiki Thoughts,” Taneya of Taneya’s Genealogy Blog discusses the merits of various genealogy wikis, particularly the FamilySearch Research Wiki, Ancestry Wiki, Encyclopedia of Genealogy, and National Archives Research Wiki.
More on wikis: Randy Seaver writes about “Searching the WeRelate.org Wiki – Post 1” at Genea-Musings. And more from Randy: he notes a curious discrepancy I have also seen: “Searching Collections on FamilySearch Beta and Record Search – they’re different!” I was as confused as Randy and the commenters were, but the final comment on the post brings some clarity (and hope for a single, simple, makes-everybody-happy search solution).
At Reflections from the Fence, Carol gives a very personal account as a “Reality Check – Why Death Certificates Tend to Have Errors.”
Over at The Slovak Yankee, Martin Hollick discusses some of the articles he read last week and shares his thoughts on these articles in “Odds and Ends and Reading Other People’s Genealogy Blogs.” A good bit of the discussion focuses on the centrality of the Internet to research for some people. I suppose you could say Martin takes a contrarian view (why does Word insist that contrarian is misspelled?), but it could be a counterbalance to an excess of enthusiasm. My thoughts on these things:
Internet for research. Right now I am very dependent on the Internet for research. I have one child in college and one at home; neither money nor free time is in abundant supply. I do send off for copies of documents when I can (but, of course, I do this through websites or through e-mail) and have also paid researchers to copy documents for me when I could afford it (but I knew which ones to ask for and where to find them because the library had an online look-up). I have finally scheduled a research trip for this fall. Even when I do have more time and money, however, I like being able to use the Internet to do as much as I can at home so that all my research trip time can be spent on finding and copying documents that I cannot get otherwise. Or, in some cases, complete copies of poorly scanned documents that are on the Internet. A couple of pages of the probate documents of one my ancestors are only about 7/8 visible online, and some of the “goodies” are in that other 1/8. But the courthouse’s website does give the location of the documents, and that will save time.
Dark Ages of Genealogy. Not quite, though maybe a brown-out in spots. I am neither optimistic nor pessimistic, but am a bit nervous. I agree with Kerry: “Some people are dumb, and some politicians are even dumber.” Preservation always seems to be a low priority, and the thought that some of the people in charge of making the decisions on what to preserve and how to preserve it just might be, well, dumb, doesn’t make me jump for joy. Kerry talks about the “abundance of dumb.” I always think about “cumulative stupidity,” which, I take it from accounts of the destruction of the 1890 census, was actually what happened to that census: a series of stupid decisions rather than a single catastrophic event destroyed the census, though the catastrophic event set the process in motion. And if the documents that might hold the answers to your greatest genealogy mysteries are among those that some numbskull thinks should be sacrificed (and “we don’t have the money to pay the staff to scan them”) to make room for his fancy new conference room, well, kajillions of other scanned documents on the Internet are no consolation.
Happy First Blogoversary to Daniel Hubbard at Personal Past Meditations – A Genealogical Blog. Which he celebrates, of course, with a thoughtful article: “1st Blogiversary and The Power of Negative Thinking.” Also, if you have not already read some of the past posts he recommends, do so! One of my favorites was “Grave Portents” – you might want to read this before heading out for cemetery research.
Happy First Blogoversary to Kim at Ancestors of mine from Indiana, Illinois, Kentucky & Beyond!
For more suggested genealogy blog reading, check out Randy Seaver’s “Best of the Genea-Blogs” at Genea-Musings and John Newmark’s “Weekly Genealogy Picks” at TransylvanianDutch.
This week I started following these blogs:
Every Man a Question
Jackie’s Genealogical Journey (and added it to the Texas Team)
Our Twigs and Branches