“Extreme” Family History and Genealogy

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With the advent of digital technology, new ways of “doing” family history and genealogy are appearing, allowing individuals to more fully “experience” history, or to collaborate with others in finding their ancestors through innovative tools being developed or adapted for genealogical research. Some of these new ways are out-of-the ordinary-even extreme-in comparison with traditional methods. This article briefly shares two ways in which family history and genealogy may be called “extreme.”


The first “extreme” we found is where individuals actually live in a recreated time period. We discovered that Lisa Cooke, Genealogy Gems, and her family participated in PBS television series called Texas Ranch House. A Web site has preserved the experience and comes complete with journal excerpts as a reality check with plenty of links to historical resources. Life on a Texas ranch in 1867 was recreated for television and Lisa’s family by outfitting the family and ranch workers in period clothing and providing them with the tools of the time to experience “what the saddle-sore, rope-burned, and sun-blistered ranch life was really like.” The site features details of the episodes where “real” life depicted the recreation, leisure time, music, cattle drives, and food of the Texas cowboys and their families. An interactive history page features games where individuals can test their skills of wrangling, roping, selecting food, cattle prodding, and cowboy slang. This area helps young people learn many aspects of history and have fun while learning.

Genealogical record collection on an “extreme” scale is what FamilySearch.org is doing all over the world. The current FamilySearch effort to convert their microfilm collection to digital is to create better access to the films and new records. FamilySearch operates 4500 Family History centers in 80 countries throughout the world. Dick Eastman, a popular blogger in the genealogy and family history field, interviewed Paul Nauta, Manager of Public Affairs, at FamilySearch. a non-profit organization that has accumulated the largest repository of genealogical records in the world. Dick interviewed Paul at the recent FGS conference in Philadelphia. You can view the entire interview at Roots Television by clicking here.

Facts on the “extreme” nature of the FamilySearch project:

* The bulk of the collection is still on microfilm and FamilySearch has almost 2.5 million rolls of microfilm left to digitize.

* Less than 3% of this material is digitized and indexed online.

* This microfilm collection will take 8-10 years to convert it to digital.

* 15 high speed scanners are in the Granite Mountain Records vault in Salt Lake City Utah and are being used five days a week.

* FamilySearch has replaced most of their microfilm cameras in the world with digital cameras.

* Over 200 camera teams in 45 countries are digitizing original documents five days a week.

* These teams produce 40 million images a year that FamilySearch wants to put online.

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