11 January 2012

The Modern Genealogist

compiled by Teresa Martin Klaiber
January 2012
Genealogy home offices are evolving with  modern technology.  It's 2012 and microfiche and film readers are being relegated to attics and junk piles.  With the National Archives  skipping microfilm and releasing the 1940 Federal Census as digital scans and replacing older model copiers with new high tech copier/scanners the end of these clunky machines is near at hand.  My own microfiche machine has become a convenient place for post-a-notes.

The most astonishing modern technology notion has given me more than pause.  A recent news release announced that schools are slowly removing cursive from grade school curriculum's .  Why? Because of the use of keyboards.  Students identify with print on those tiny little keys.  During a family discussion this past month my 12 year old granddaughter proudly reported she is proficient in cursive.  Thank goodness!  When I asked how my family thought future generations would decipher documents, if not taught cursive, it was suggested that students would choose it as either an elective or a specialty course.  After all we genealogists already have lectures and even Kip Sperry's wonderful book Reading Early American Handwriting when deciphering hand written documents.  And if the truth be told my handwriting is not what it used to be.  I refuse to blame it on age but will contribute it to the fact that 99% of my communication is with a keyboard. 

Reflecting back, I remember feeling very modern when using my first microfilm reader.  It was certainly exciting and very modern when the Commodore 64 was installed in the office.  Then I danced a jig  as the large clunky monitor was replaced with a sleek flat screen.  I loved getting that little extra bit of space on my desk.

My office library is still intact with rows of beautiful bound books. I confess I have turned to the ereader for novels and general reading and freed up much needed space on the shelves for more genealogy hardbound copies that I would not part with. I am thrilled with all the wonderful genealogies that have now been digitized so that I don't have to find that one special copy at a library hundred's of miles away.  We can have it both ways.

The microfiche machine is leaving the premises.  Ah, much needed space on the desk for new gadgets!   But, but, but, I am having trouble letting go of my microfilm reader because filmed court recorded in my office have not been scanned to date.    

All this makes me wonder if my grandchildren know what carbon paper and memeograph machines are/were?  Does it matter when modern translates to improved and knowledge at our fingertips?  As fast as technology is evolving, what tools will the modern genealogist include five or ten years from now?  You are never to old to be modern.  You just have to be quick enough to keep up with what is new.  Blink these days and you will miss it.  

I will close my January 2012 modern rambling thoughts because of the need to send another document to the "cloud."  Maybe I will red flag this to reread in 2024 and get a giggle from what I thought was so modern today.