Genealogy from the perspective of a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon, LDS)

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Analysis of an Interesting Response

Part of a rather lengthy comment on a blog post I recent received reads as follows:
I am unconvinced, after reading Mr Tanner's post, that Mr. Tanner has any supporting data to back up his claims of exclusive online family tree storage. Per Mr Tanners post, he appears to be convinced that almost everyone is storing their genealogy data exclusively online.

If anyone wishes to post on the future trends of stand-alone versus online database usage/storage, please back up your assumptions with some data.

I found Mr Tanner's post to be heavy on user predictions but absolutely lacking in supporting user survey data. Id be interested in hearing from other professional or long-time researchers in regard to whether they maintain a stand-alone database. In my humble opinion, a user poll would be a better way to ascertain stand-alone versus online family tree data storage.
The blog post I wrote was entitled, "A Perspective in the Major Shift in Genealogy: Practical and Theoretical." I guessed that I needed to go back and see what I said. Well, yes I did say:
Additionally, I would suggest that the online family trees are the only genealogical record being maintained by the vast majority of the users of the online programs. In other words, the concept that a genealogist compiles records and kept these records organized in their own personal collection is now confined to a distinct and almost microscopic minority. The present reality is what actual genealogical research content there is in the mainstream of the genealogical community is totally contained in the information maintained online.
I guess I am confused as to why these statements need to be "backed up with data." They are my opinion derived from my extensive online experience. As I note in my post, there are over 72 million users of just one online database/family tree program;  I could also have pointed out that, also owned by, has another 78 million users. I do not need a survey or study to compare those numbers to the total number of professional genealogists in the various professionally oriented organizations as I set forth in my post on 2 May 2014 entitled, "Looking at genealogy professionals -- where do they fit in?" The numbers show that there really is a rather microscopic minority of certified or accredited genealogists. It is my opinion, mind you, that no poll is necessary. These numbers show that if there is any future for genealogy, it will be online.

Now what was I really saying in my previous post: I was merely pointing out that the trend to online family trees and records is inevitable. It appears to me (and many others) that isolated desktop computer based technology will almost completely disappear. For example, I use Adobe Photoshop, a very complex and expensive program. I can no longer purchase a "desktop" version of the program. The only version available is sold as Adobe Photoshop CC (2014) and is only available with a subscription to the the Adobe Creative Cloud. This is the same trend being followed by any number of other programs including the Microsoft Office 365 and even many of the genealogy programs such as Family Tree Maker from and Family Tree Builder from These programs, although they could be maintained as stand alone software, are essentially integrated into online databases. In the future, I doubt that a stand-alone version will continue to be available.

If you seriously think that continuing to sell desktop single-user programs that do not connect to the Internet in some way is economically viable, then I suggest you do not get into the software development business. As I scan across all the programs on my computer, I find that less than one in fifty of those programs could be considered to be a single-user, isolated desktop only program. When I say single user, I mean a program that cannot be somehow shared with someone else on another computer. Almost every one of my current programs depends either entirely or substantially on an Internet connection to operate.

Do you really want data? How about this from the Pew Research Internet Project:
As of January 2014:
  • 90% of American adults have a cell phone
  • 58% of American adults have a smartphone
  • 32% of American adults own an e-reader
  • 42% of American adults own a tablet computer
For the data behind device ownership trends, please visit our device ownership key indicator page.
If you think that paper-based, locally stored genealogy has a future, I suggest you get online and find out what is happening. Now, I am grateful that I have comments. They keep me honest and help me correct errors. This is only a controversial subject among an ever dwindling group of genealogists. The new, younger generation of genealogists will never even be aware that storing data online was ever an issue.

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