Thursday, August 16, 2007

FGS Conference - Day Two

The start of the second day of the conference was definitely interesting! As usual during the opening session, key people were introduced and thanked and as Curt Witcher was mentioning the fact that this year is the 30th anniversary of the miniseries made from Alex Haley's Roots, the sounds of "Day-O, Day-O, Daylight come and we wanna go home" was heard throughout the auditorium. At first, it was hard to tell where it was coming from, it sounded like it was all around, and then we saw him, still not know what was going on. Well, turned out it was Chris Haley, the nephew of Alex Haley. He spoke for a few minutes, primarily about Roots Television, where he would be interviewing people throughout the day. Then the proceedings continued.

[my personal opinion: Regardless whether Roots was fact or fiction and whether or not the charges of plagiarism were warranted, you have to admit the impact of Roots on the American psyche and genealogy in particular was tremendous. I'm not going to say that the miniseries was the reason that I got into genealogy, because it wasn't, but it definitely had an impact on my life in other ways.]

The keynote speaker was Dr. Andy Anderson the senior VP and Chief Historian of Wells Fargo who spoke on "The Healing Power of Family History and Genealogy" and I must say, it was very inspirational. A great way to start the day! There was a two-hour break so that everyone could peruse the exhibit and vendor area. Personally, I could have done without that break. So the first lecture session of the day began at 11 a.m., was over an hour later, and then there was another two-hour break for lunch!

The lecture I attended at 11 a.m. was on The New FamilySearch presented by Jim Greene. The initial rollout has already started with the St. Louis and Reno temple districts. It is going to be released to LDS Church members first and, likely within the next two years, will be released for use by the general public. It is going to take a lot of work to 'clean up' the existing information, which came from contributed data and the IGI. The problem is with the fact that there are, in many cases, multiple records for the same person and it can be troublesome to determine if it really is the same person. Their goal is for collaboration to create a "pedigree of mankind" as well as to preserve the records and information. Privacy features are in place to protect the information of living people and they are going to be improving the method for sourcing data. Eventually you will be able to include images of the source documents, if you have them, or links to the documents if they are posted on a website. The interface seemed intuitive and easy to use, although it wasn't a live demo.

It was a tough choice as there were two other lectures I wanted to go to at the same time, but after the lunch break I went to the lecture by John Philip Colletta on "Using Original and Derivative Sources: How to Evaluate Evidence" and was not disappointed. He didn't just explain the concepts of original/derivative sources and primary/secondary information but showed examples and engaged the audience. It was informative and entertaining at the same time. There are relatively few speakers that could talk about anything and you'd learn from them and enjoy it in the process, Mr. Colletta is one of those speakers.

The next session for me was "Working on Tomorrow's Virtual Community Today" by Curt Witcher. Curt is also one of those few speakers who is engaging, informative and enjoyable. I was especially interested in this lecture because it was about the relationship that the Allen County Public Library has established with the Foundation for On-Line Genealogy and the WeRelate wiki. Curt didn't really say much about the role that the ACPL is playing in the partnership but we learned about the philosophy behind the relationship and the goals they want to achieve. I'll post more on this in the near future (probably next week) but it is all about collaboration, getting more people involved in genealogy, and free access to information and records.

Going along with the theme of collaboration, cooperation and free access, the next session I attended was very interesting indeed! A panel consisting of Randy Olsen of Brigham Young University, Michael Hall of the Family History Library, and Curt Witcher of the Allen County Public Library announced and discussed "A Collaborative Digitization Project" which is a continuation of the current BYU project which has just finished digitizing 5,000 family history books from their collections. These have been made available online (see link below) as they were completed. Each of the libraries involved will be able to select what they feel is unique to their collections. There will be checks and balances in place to ensure there is no duplication of effort so they aren't scanning the same item. The project will only include books and periodicals that are in the public domain. If the author of a book under copyright gives written permission then that work could also scanned. Curt stated that the ACPL will concentrate on its collection of Local History books first. BYU will be scanning much of its map collection for inclusion in the project.

You'll be able to search for a book, when you open the book you will then be able to do a full-text search within that book. But what I think is really cool is that the online catalogs of all the libraries involved in the project will be linked together so that when you do a search for a book or periodical you can tell which of them has the physical book and whether or not it has been digitized. If it has been digitized there will be a clickable url to display the digitized version. You can do this now with the Family History Library catalog because the books that have been digitized by BYU already have a clickable link in the catalog entry. But this will be across all the libraries involved. In addition, a fourth library has been brought into the project - the Clayton Library Center for Genealogical Research in Houston, Texas. Other libraries may be added in the future.

I'm sure there will be a press release, if there hasn't already been one, with more details on the BYU/FHL/ACPL and Clayton Library project. Exciting times indeed for genealogists and family historians! Three cheers to everyone involved in the project! And three more cheers for collaboration and free access to records and information!



footnoteMaven said...

Green with envy. Wish I was there!


Craig Manson said...


Thanks for the great reporting!

Becky Wiseman said...

Thanks for stopping by fM and Craig. To some extent it was a bit overwhelming trying to decide which lectures to attend but I was happy with the choices that I made. I'm glad you've enjoyed reading about it all.