Monday, August 14, 2017
FamilySearch Facebook Post: Family History Centers are Now in the Home
The above graphic appeared on Facebook on August 13, 2017. It refers to a talk entitled, "Roots and Branches" given by Elder Quentin L. Cook of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in General Conference in April of 2014. Recent technological developments have underscored the fact that the "traditional" model of a FamilySearch Family History Center is undergoing a revolutionary change.
The most recent development, the discontinuance by FamilySearch of microfilm rentals to Family History Centers, removes one of the staple reasons for visiting and using the resources of the Family History Centers around the world. In reality, here in the United States, many of the smaller Family History Centers had very limited microfilm involvement in any event. Removing microfilm rentals from the Family History Centers will have an impact on the use of some centers by "serious" researchers. This result will be even more marked as the existing FamilySearch microfilm collection is finally completely (as possible) digitized and available for free online.
For the average person, living in a well-developed country, with access to the internet and who has previously done little or no family history research, online and home-based sources are perfectly adequate to find the first four generations or so. But, any attempt to extend a pedigree beyond the first few generations requires resources that are not readily available or even reliable without additional effort.
For example, a child born into my Tanner family lines and who is a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints will automatically have six or seven generations of extensively documented ancestry on the FamilySearch.org Family Tree. For that child to do any reliable extensions of any of the Tanner family lines would require intense and involved research. However, that may not be the case for the non-Tanner family lines. To support this changing situation, the U.S. Family History Centers will need to move to a support and training mode.
When we had a large yard and many fruit trees, the "low hanging" fruit was the first picked and the first depleted. It usually did not take very long before we had to spend considerably more effort to find ripe fruit using chairs and ladders. The same thing will inevitably happen with those working on the Family Tree. The "low hanging" fruit, i.e. those people who are easily found with readily available resources will soon be found. The only real way that progress will ultimately be made after this first gathering, will be to have people who are prepared and trained in finding and resolving the more difficult research issues.
Let me give an example. Let's suppose I was just starting out doing my own genealogical research today as opposed to 35 or so years ago. I could go onto FamilySearch.org and I would see thousands of the names of my ancestors on all my family lines. How long would it take me to figure out which of these thousands of entries were correct and which were wrong? Would I even suspect that what was showing in the Family Tree was both incomplete and in many cases inaccurate? True, I would have a huge reservoir of resources, but how would I know where to start and how to find additional opportunities to add to what was already there?
The answer, in part, is the new paradigm of the "Consultant Planner." However, this model also assumes that the "trainers" have been and are trained. For many years after I began doing my own genealogical research, I had to puzzle out the way to proceed on my own. I had no trainers or mentors. I am also guessing that most, perhaps nearly all, of the current involved genealogical researchers went through a similar process. Today, I would have access to The Family History Guide. But how would I know it existed? Last night, I taught a class to approximately 30 Temple and Family History Consultants and from the reaction of those present, very few were aware of any of the resources I talked about during the class.
I agree that much of the genealogical research that has been traditionally done in Family History Centers can now be done in the home. But how will those sitting in their homes know about the resources that are available? How will the Ward and Stake Temple and Family History Consultants know enough to teach them?