Last summer Ancestry.com issued a press release indicating that according to a recent poll, 73% of Americans are interested in discovering their family history. Most of us have seen similar studies before. In the context of taking genealogy to common people, the question could be asked, “How do we get 73% of Americans to participate meaningfully in family history?” It is probably not feasible to get them all through a genealogy class or paired with a great mentor. It also seems that a relatively small percentage of those interested in their ancestors are able to do genealogical research. This is not a derogatory comment about average intellect but a recognition that there are many factors beyond cognitive skills which prevent people from doing genealogical research.
So if the intention is to take genealogy to common people, how can it be done? The philosophy behind this blog is not to attempt to turn 73% of Americans into researchers. Rather, it is to encourage innovation that makes the experience of genealogy substantially easier and more engaging than it is today. Make it so that individuals don’t have to become researchers in order to have success finding their family history. Simplify genealogy for researchers or those that want to become researchers as much as possible.
This will require technology to do much of the heavy lifting for the uninitiated. There are many examples that could be drawn upon to illustrate this type of shift. Some that we are all familiar with include:
- the shift from paying a telegraph operator to send a message for you to picking up the phone and calling someone
- the shift from professional typists to ubiquitous e-mail
- the shift from professional photography to point and shoot to digital cameras
One of the most interesting things about these shifts from a domain of experts toward pervasive use is the increasing rate at which they happen. Some recent shifts that are happening quickly but not yet complete:
- video editing
We are not attempting to teach 73% of Americans to be genealogists. We are attempting to make genealogy accessible to 73% of Americans.