Last month was March Madness – not just for basketball fans, but also for genealogists and the world of genealogy technology – as a plethora of new products was showcased at South by Southwest’s (SXSW) Interactive Accelerator in Austin, Texas, and at the RootsTech conference in Salt Lake City, Utah.
“What is genealogy technology!?” I think it is a turbo-charged version of good old-fashioned genealogical research. You know, the back-in-the-day gum-shoe sleuthing that required you to traverse the archive stacks and not the Internet; to spend months snail-mailing requests to county clerks and vital records offices; and to use valuable vacation time to visit far-off libraries, reviewing information on microfilm or microfiche.
Things have changed a bit since then – and for the better. Genealogy technology has given birth to a generation of “pajama genealogists” which I’ve termed Pajamealogists. Cup of coffee in one hand, pencil behind the ear, dog or cat at one’s feet . . . today’s genealogists are double and triple timing their research, amassing greater amounts of information that would quickly overwhelm a four-drawer file cabinet in no time at all.
Genealogists aren’t complaining as much as they are asking, “How can we get more information at our fingertips; and once we do, how can we save it for future use?” Along with the considerable uptick in available information comes the need for more computer memory – whether it is on a hard drive or floating on the Cloud – to house the docs, the jpgs, the PDFs, the pngs, the GEDCOMS, not to mention the xls spreadsheets. While electronic data storage is important to genealogical researchers, the sentimental and emotional component of why they are researching is still paramount: to pass the information to future generations. Again, “back in the day,” family historians created elaborate scrapbooks, shadow boxes with memorabilia, Super-8 films, and VHS video cassettes, and even published and bound their family genealogy. The desire to hand down family history is the same; it’s just the process that has changed, and that’s where genealogy technology is taking over.
I mentioned SXSW and RootsTech earlier. These conferences showcase the latest and greatest technology for any number of industries, genealogy included. David Adelman, CEO and Founder of ReelGenie, attended and presented at both events, showcasing his company’s extraordinary all-in-one video storytelling package that allows anyone to create a timeless tribute online, including video, audio (voice and music), as well as graphic design elements – with all of the online digital tools available in one place. There is no need to download additional software or complicated programs; the entire process, including the voice-over recording and the scanning and uploading of photos, is available on the ReelGenie site. This one-stop-shop technology allows beginners and experts alike to turn family stories into family history documentaries.
RecordClick.com, a full-service online genealogy research company, was honored to be a part of ReelGenie’s trial phase. Rather than asking a digitally savvy customer to test the product, we reached out to a RecordClick client in his 80s, who is presently working on his memoirs, and who embraced the idea of video storytelling as though it were second nature to him. In a day and age when it seems people have more meaningful relationships with their electronic communication gadgets, RecordClick’s professional genealogists witnessed an entirely different outcome during the product trial. We discovered that creating a storytelling movie brings a family together even before the video is completed.
In the case of our customer, not only was he excited at the prospect of documenting his life for his descendants, but his family (wife and children) was equally thrilled to be a part of the process by helping to collect photos, write the script, select the music, and record the voice-over narration. It was truly a collaborative and loving effort. I think that the collaborative response was the biggest surprise to us at RecordClick. Though technology is often blamed for disconnecting people physically, the ReelGenie movie-making process actually brought family members together. Nothing can take the place of gathering around the dinner table to discuss the day’s events, or sitting together on the couch to watch Ed Sullivan and Gunsmoke, but perhaps gathering around the family computer to create a family history film will create a modern familial connection that will be enjoyed for generations to come.