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From the Green Valley News, Wednesday 26 November 2008, page C5

Genealogy Today, by Betty Lou Malesky, CG

Years of Change

At the Genealogy Fair sponsored by the Green Valley Genealogical Society, I happened upon a copy of Ancestry magazine published in the fall of 1997. By chance, it opened to the "Technology" column. What a difference a few years have made!

The column opens on a note of alarm, "Computers can be frightening . . . no area of human effort will be untouched by computers by the year 2000." As genealogists, we’ve definitely conquered whatever fright we may have had, grabbed the mouse by the tail, and jumped into the computer age without looking back.

I’m sure the article was on the cutting edge of technology when it was written, but today it’s nearly archaic in the information and tips offered to readers. Several recently published books are suggested, all of which probably found their way to the trash dump in the ensuing years as technology passed them by almost before their ink had dried. Nothing is obsolete as fast as a book about computing.

A number of periodicals are also suggested, none of which are still in publication today. The one with the longest life, Genealogical Computing, was finally abandoned by its publisher, Ancestry, Inc., about two years ago. Since its demise, Internet Genealogy debuted as the only offering in print followed by Digital Genealogist, subscribed to and read via Internet only.

The article goes on to discuss the World Wide Web, better known as the Internet, and suggests Alta Vista and Yahoo! search engines for finding genealogical software. Today Google is synonymous with search engine. Google’s domain name registration coincided with the magazine’s appearance on the newsstand, one year prior to Google’s incorporation by two Stanford University students as a privately held company in September 1998.

About that genealogical software—only two programs in use in 1997 are still in today’s market, having survived the computer’s evolution and several rewrites. Family Tree Maker now owned by Ancestry’s parent company, and The Master Genealogist made the cut. Personal Ancestral File is still available as a free download but no longer supported or updated. Family Origins, Ultimate Family Tree, Roots, Family Roots, and Generations all were swallowed up by technological advances and users were forced to convert to other software.

Finally, the article discussed conferences and workshops, a subject as important today as it was in 1997. Professional instruction and one-on-one guidance is still the best method to learn how to research your family and master the needed skills. Local societies are still the best place to meet other researchers and brainstorm your stickiest problems. Another pair of eyes is often the fastest way to an answer, and a Website can’t replace a class by an experienced instructor.

Windows 95 and CD-ROMs were state of the art when genealogist Jake Gehring penned the article published in 1997. DVDs and flash drives, were still waiting in the wings, along with Windows 98 quickly succeeded by 2000, ME, XP, and the current Vista. So were the millions of digitized records now available online via a proliferation of subscription databases. But one thing hasn’t changed—"No, Virginia, it is not all on the Internet." Will it ever be? I’m not going out on that limb. Who would dare to predict what the next ten years or so will bring?

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