Friday, May 19, 2006

Computers and Genealogy – The right tool for the job

Genealogy and computers go together like a hand and glove. Managing, storing and retrieving large amounts of data are what a computer does best. What is genealogy but a large collection of facts, pictures, videos, and possibly sounds?
Read More About Computers and Genealogy

Computers and the internet have revolutionized the research process. It is now possible to contact a researcher or relative across the country and exchange digital photos of headstones or scanned documents in moments rather than days or weeks. Indexes have been developed and posted online that never existed before. Source documents have been digitized and made available to researchers, some free and others for a fee.

A computer cannot think (yet), but it can follow directions. If we learn how to give it better instructions it can be our perfect genealogy partner. The key word is “learn”. Nobody was born with an instinctive knowledge of computers. Don’t be ashamed of that and don’t be intimidated by a collection of circuits and wires. The computer is a tool and like any tool, you need to practice a bit before you can claim proficiency.

Once held as a separate conference, GenTech is now incorporated into the NGS curricula. Let’s take a quick spin through the brochure.

Two tracks are identified as GenTech. Wednesday’s topics cover how to choose and use a digital camera, devising effective electronic queries, finding your immigrant in cyberspace, the NGS book loan collection, the Illinois Digital Archives, and combining traditional and internet research techniques.

Thursday you can learn about computer housekeeping. Clooz™, online surname search strategies, advanced census techniques, New England resources online, documents and books online, Geographic Information Systems (GIS), searchable newspapers online, Family Maps, and Document & Data Protection and Recovery for when disasters happen.

Friday features talks about advanced Ellis Island search techniques, Irish Historic Maps, analyzing and selecting the various genealogy software programs, search engines, effective use of the Family History Library Catalog, spreadsheet tricks, Sanborn Maps, Polish Heritage online research, use of scanners beyond photos, and another take on traditional vs. computer based research techniques and how to incorporate the best of both.

Saturday features a look at what’s new at, real research on the internet,, search and share, cutting edge technologies, Chicago and Cook County research on the internet, using PDAs, and international expansion, and two presentations by Stephen Morse. Stephen Morse has gained fame by creating better ways to search the Ellis Island database. He went on to create tools to enhance searhes on other websites. He’s going to show us how to get more out of existing search applications and how to create one-step search tools of our own.

In addition to the GenTech tracks there is a computer workshop track. These are two hour hands-on computer labs with limited participation and added lab fees.

The first lab is Pamela Boyer Porter teaching genealogical applications for the word processor. This lab filled before the end of April. Bob Velke of The Master Genealogist (TMG) is teaching three labs: Beginning, Intermediate, and Advanced TMG techniques. Rhonda McClure is teaching a lab on Using Scanners. Steve Broyles will be teaching the basic skills needed for a mapping project using Deedmapper software. Bruce Buzbee will give a one hour an overview of RootsMagic software.

There are thirty programs designated as GenTech and seven computer workshops, but don’t be fooled. Nearly every program will have at least some reference to an internet source or technology.


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