06:57 AM

The Future of Technology and Genealogy

Anyone who has spent any time familiarizing themselves with family history services available today knows that half the battle is “…connecting the dots between technology and your genealogy,” said Lisa Louise Cooke, founder of multimedia company Genealogy Gems and founder of the popular GenealogyGemsPodcast.com. Cooke was the keynote speaker the second day of the BYU Family History Conference.

Author of several technology related books herself, Cooke said she can relate to consumers who find it difficult to keep up with the rate of change of technology, “It’s hard to write technology books because they have to be updated yearly, but the good news about technology is you can’t break it!” Cooke shared a humorous story from one of her podcast listeners who was frustrated with something she was doing on her computer. Her son told her the problem was she was having a P-I-C-N-I-C ((Problem In Chair Not In Computer). Cooke offered hope that you can’t change the quickly changing technologies, but you can be empowered by knowing how to take advantage of them.

Cooke offered some strategies to take advantage of today’s technology. When shopping for answers to your problems online, focus on the task you’re trying to accomplish. It’ll result in the tools available for you to effectively do it—and the applications offering your solutions are typically not genealogy products. For example, she highly recommends using the free app, Evernote, to help organize and quickly access your research notes. Not only will your notes be accessible across your web-enabled devices, but if you use Evernote’s clever Clipper feature to save website screenshots, you can also search them in the future through simple keyword searches of your hard drive.

Technology is enabling consumers to view data in very powerful ways according to Cooke. A site by Stanford University intuitively shows the Growth of Newspapers across the US 1690-2011. Easily scroll through the timeline at the top of the map to find newspapers that existed at the time of your ancestor. Search them online. “Newspapers can tell rich stories,” Cooke said, “and foreign language newspapers are also available.”

By the audible gasps of the audience, most were not aware that the Google Translate app enables you to literally hold up your phone to the computer screen or typeset document, and it will translate foreign text on the fly for you—a must have free tool when dabbling in nonnative language content.

Lisa attributes the iPod she received as a gift in 2007 from her daughters as the source of inspiration behind her now successful multimedia company. She wasn’t interested in music, but was fascinated at the notion of using podcasts as a platform to educate people about family history. It led to the birth of Genealogy Gems podcasts which has received over a million downloads. She now does it full-time, has hired her husband full-time and other part-time resources using mobile tech platforms.

“Technology has now democratized genealogy,” Cooke explained. “There are tech platforms that enable you share your gift,” which she explained as that something that you are a specialist in. You can easily publish your own videos, books, and photos, using tech—and you can now do it your way and on your schedule. “It’s no longer a retirement sport,” quipped Cooke.

Want to publish your personal or family history? See lulu.com.

Want to blog about your family history as great “cousin bait” (making your efforts visible by search engine trolling and enabling cousins—known and unknown—to connect with you)? Check out free platforms Blogger.com and Tumblr.com (for the under 30 group).

Haven’t started publishing all of your vintage family videos on YouTube.com? Cooke says it would take all the major TV networks combined 60 years to publish the amount of data being published on YouTube every 3 days! Wow!

Cooke suggests you when publishing to YouTube, use really good descriptions and keywords for your video posts so people can find them in their online searchers (note people, dates, places, and events depicted). And if you have a Google account, you already have a YouTube account. So what are you waiting for?