Let’s Talk About: Genealogy’s Future with Josh Taylor

Josh Taylor was the ZOOM presenter for the Bainbridge Genealogical Society in January, 2023. I virtually attended his talk and these are my notes:

CONTENT – ACCESS – TECHNOLOGY  — 3 points he covered

What’s out there at present? So much! One could spend hours and hours every day and  never run out of places to search.  MAYBE in the future we can ask something like SIRI, “who is my great grandfather?” and expect an answer. Not quite yet today. 

UGC – User Generated Content—– This is all and everything that WE post anywhere on the internet. It’s there “forever.” And not always safe on our own computer. In the future, we’ll have all these good things PLUS MORE.

One new exciting thing—ICR  technology —  Intelligent  Character Reading

Think how this new tech was used to index the 1950 census; no it wasn’t perfect but WOW. Think of the challenges… reading differing handwriting over the years in a record group. But this will only get better! The computer will learn how to read how to do this better and better. They do it by comparing examples with examples. And some languages-records are easier for ICR than are others. And a formulaic record group will be easier to learn.  BUT will they be 100% accurate? No. That’s where WE come in….. we will do the checking. ALSO, the “big players” will be able to utilize this (expensive) technology easier than will be small local societies.

CONSTANT INNOVATION:  Increase accessibility; mobile first; software flexibility-multiple platforms; Data storage; data access; security.  Mobile is where the future is so we must learn how to deliver content to these platforms in a way people can read/use it.

All this technology will be costly, to develop it, tech support it, user friendly software and maintenance and upgrades. These must be considered when thinking about what the future holds.

DATA TRENDS:  Central storage (Amazon, Google, etc),  Universal access, digital images,  cost effective,  permanent storage, retrieval costs.  We will have to learn HOW to deal with this overwhelming amount of data!  Today, smaller libraries/archives are being able to digitize their own records…..cost coming down. Also, the quality of the image is getting better, ie, B&W vs. color. (Color enables more damaged parts of a document to be read, vs. B&W.)

CONVERSOIN & UPGRADES:  What about websites that are not updated? How to “keep” in all aspects, these old websites full of data.  Or, how many groups have data stored in un-accessible media formats (floppies)?  Especially family-saved files on these drives!  WHAT IF Ancestry or FS go belly up? This must be considered in any discussion on data storage. WHAT if your favorite personal program doesn’t upgrade?

LEGISLATION & REGULATION:   At every level (industry, federal, state) there are different rules for privacy. A young person today is going to have a hard time getting records that we old-timers got records.  What about copyright? Digital rights? Orphan works? (Items with no known copyright data?) Who owns the right to YOUR great-grandmother’s diary? Depends on who owns it today………

 COVID:  These (any virus emergency) will create new problems……. Some libraries used that down time to scan records……… some just shut down. And now the request for info overwhelm helpers! (Some archives are going toward the museum aspect which frightens us.)

GEOGRAPHY:  If you geo-code a place it doesn’t matter what it was called then; think how this tech might tell you if an ancestor lives or lived nearby.  Pair a 1920 listing with a geo-coded place. Cool. (Today every time we take a photo on our phone, it’s geo-coded!)

ACCESS VS SEARCH:  It’s easier to scan than to index and make the material usefully available. Think of all the zillions of items that are already digitized…..photos, post cards, etc.

NEW DIGITAL ARCHIVES:  Facebook – Twitter-Linkedin – Intragram – Google+ – Instagram – Flickr – DNA How much of our genealogy have we posted to these sites? What and which should be saved?? (New baby:  good;  breakfast; worthless.) What would happen if Find-A-Grave or Flickr (or any!) decided to quit…what happens to all their images and data???

The Human Face of Big Data, PBS, 2016—— during the first day of a baby’s life, the amount of data generated by humanity is equivalent to 70 times the information held in the Lib of Congress.  So where will this info live?

CONSIDER:  How is big data applied to family history? If we could add all the data from anything and everything pertaining (example) Irish emigration or Irish families? We do this on a tiny level when we do personal research; we look at these records. But imagine if new tech could analyze all these points???!!!   Example:  All city directories, all state censuses, add 1890 vet’s schedule, vital records for time period, census for 1880 and 1900….and you could in theory recreate an 1890 census. Be 100% accurate? No, but good help for clues.  

Some of these are happening (local societies recreating 1890 census for their area) and some are in the future. (Example:  somebody analyzed 100 years of menus for NY City to see what was served where and how often.)

Tools that make family history accessible……………… these tools are getting better and better!

Education becomes critical………. To assist us to interpret and understand the materials.  (Do beginners really understand some of the facts and factoids they find????)

We need opportunities (online and in-person) to learn are vital…… societies are vital!

 Must think of what data we’re keeping today, where we’re keeping it, how we’re keeping it. And will it be available 50 years from now?

Organization and technology helps us to learn and connect.  How do we access and use it?  And who will help us understand what we found???

 “I’m excited and terrified all at once because I know there is so much opportunity out there!”

“For the types of materials we’ll be able to use and the ways we’ll access those materials.”

 “BUT NO MATTER WHAT, we will never be able (nor should we) just click  green leaf and think we’ll find/have everything there is to know right there in one place.”

One comment on “Let’s Talk About: Genealogy’s Future with Josh Taylor

  1. Sometimes reality seems more and more like the film “Everything Everywhere All At Once.” It’s hard to figure out how what we’re seeing fits into a larger pattern. Josh Taylor’s talk was really helpful to give us listeners a way to make sense of some of it. The new Facebook group about ChatGPT etc. for genealogy is helpful in the same way. Yes there are dangers and there are also tremendous opportunities. Wise societies are figuring out how to help people in these rapidly-changing times. Thanks for the notes!

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