The continual march of technology assists and strengthens modern genealogical research. Though not always free to the user, many new innovations work with existing foundational technologies such as FamilySearch and Ancestry.com.
Karen Clifford, an accredited genealogist and a Fellow of the Utah Genealogical Association, outlined many of these new technologies at the 2015 BYU Conference on Family History and Genealogy, held July 28-31 in Provo, Utah. Clifford provided the following resources to assist the modern genealogist.
The wonderfully innovative ArgusSearch searches scanned documents and returns results. This proprietary software searches historical machine printed and even handwritten documents to find matching areas within written text. Queries are returned with a calculated confidence value.
What is genealogy without the stories behind the data? Yet, many personal and family histories go unwritten because of expense, time constraints, or not knowing how to begin or continue. Authoring biographies and autobiographies is a daunting task. Enter PoppyProse. PoppyProse allows writers to break down life events into single subjects like passions, achievements, hobbies or quirks through a questionnaire style template. The program allows would-be writers to connect with specialists in creative nonfiction writing, story coaches and editors.
Do you have Dutch ancestry? During the colonial period, when many Dutch settlers were coming to America, Dutch names were patronymic-derived from the name of the father or male ancestor (example: Johnson). Open archives allows researchers to harvest data of Dutch archivists who know the naming customs of the country. A visual diagram of family relations is generated, though it can be complex and difficult to follow.
The first prize winner of the Innovator Challenge at RootsTech, 2015, was StoryWorth.com. A subscription service, StoryWorth helps family historians gather information in a easy, non-onerous way. Large tasks are often best tackled in small steps. People are not asked to write their autobiographies. Rather, participants receive a weekly email asking about a time of their life. Respondents either respond through email or telephone. One can invite up to six participants to tell their stories. An unlimited number of people can receive the stories. Stories can be saved, edited, downloaded and printed at any time; printed books of stories may be ordered.
Soal (Sounds of a Lifetime) allows users to use pictures and voice to create an “audio-biography” or “audio-ancestry.” A free Apple app, Soal allows selfies to speak and old photos to tell their story. Anyone carrying a smartphone has nearly immediate access to Soal and the information from it may be shared through email or social media.
LucidPress allows family historians to record interactive stories. Not a standard scrapbook, LucidPress allows readers to simply browse the life or parts of the life of the subject individual or to more thoroughly drill-down through particular layers that interest the reader, the individual’s immigration, for example.
Finally, HistoryLines) allows users to input photos or stories of ancestors. It also helps flesh out life and culture of the area and/or time of the ancestor. Often artifacts, stories, photos, or life sketches are elusive or do not exist at all. HistoryLines gives life to the life and times of ancestors by suggesting the culture, historical or political climate, and customs of the time - was it a time of war, depression, shortages of food or resources like rubber or steel?
Researchers will have to judge the use and affordability of emerging technologies for themselves. Yet, there is little doubt that the expansion of technology can and will continue to ease the tasks of recording and retrieving genealogy and family history.