Saturday, June 20, 2009

The Misapplication of Technology in Genealogy and Family History Research

Okay, I am aware of the irony here. I am using the newer technologies to attack that same technology. But, I am becoming increasingly frustrated by the over-reliance on technology. It is time we stepped back and gave some serious thought to what we are doing.

So, here is my rant on technology...

Several weeks ago, while reading postings on a list serv the question was presented: how do you reference, or write a footnote for information from Facebook? The author of the post was updating her family history and a recent wedding was announced on a Facebook page. My initial response to the post was to think about simply writing a letter requesting a copy of the marriage certificate or at least a wedding announcement. After some further thought a number of questions slowly formed in my brain: Have we gone too far? Are we so reliant upon technology and the promise of instant gratification that we can’t be bothered to write a letter or pursue more in-depth documentation? What is happening to our research skills that we rely upon instant messaging, e-mail, and blogs, text messaging and scanned image databases to provide us with the information we are seeking? With the growing capacity of information storage on computers, we seem to be moving closer to a paper-less society. Is that a good thing?

Another example of the shortcomings of researchers is the expectation that all information is stored on the internet. How many of us have encountered beginning genealogists who have searched one of the several on-line databases of the United States census and failed to find their ancestors? The most common response from these novice researchers seems to be, “I guess they just can’t be found.” This reflects the failure of all genealogists who don’t explain the serious limitations to on-line information. We need to do a better job of understanding and teaching the short comings of the on-line resources. We need to de-emphasize the value of computers and get back to the books and original documents as research tools.

We need to realize and emphasize the short comings of technology.

1 comment:

Oma said...

Well said! Huzzah!!