Sunday, February 18, 2018
The Impact of Billions of Records
Family history is all about records. Many of the members of The Chruch of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the United States are descendants of those early members of the Church who crossed the plains back in the 1800s. Even those who are not new members or who have joined the Church since 1900 are surprised to learn that they have "Mormon Pioneer" ancestors. I talked to one such individual this past week at the Maryland State Archives.
There is an inaccurate and very nearsighted common belief among those who ancestors were early members of the Church that all of their "genealogy" was and is done. This was usually accomplished by some very active "genealogist" in the past. There is also another related myth that "someone in my family is doing all the work." This person is usually a sibling, a parent, or some other relative. This near relative may be "providing names to the family members" sometimes hundreds of names.
I am one of those who has an extensive LDS heritage. Of those in my direct ancestral lines, all of my great-grandparents and some of my great-great-grandparents joined the Church during the 1800s and nearly all of them crossed the plains as pioneers. My personal experience with genealogy parallels the experience of many of those who claim that their work has all been done. But, fortunately, I realized very quickly many years ago that the claim to completeness was illusory and false.
What has changed? Why couldn't our relatives "do all the work" years ago?
We are presently helping as full-time Record Preservation missionaries/volunteers at the Maryland State Archives. There are presently four cameras digitizing records and a significant number of volunteers processing the records for digitization. After being here for a while and seeing the number of images produced by the camera operation, I estimate that we will produce between 1.5 and 2.0 million digital record copies during this year. Most of these records have not been touched by anyone since they were created and initially stored away in the county record repositories. None of our ancestors had access to these records. They were not on microfilm. They were not even available unless the researcher went to the individual counties and accessed the records. Now, they are being put online for anyone to access with a computer and an internet connection.
Multiply the number of digital images we are producing by the 303 cameras in operation and you can see that there are millions of records being uploaded every month. There is absolutely no comparison between what we are doing today and can do to find our ancestors and what could be done even five or ten years ago. If we add in the billions of records on the FamilySearch Partner Websites, we have billions of records that were not available to our expert genealogist ancestors.
There is no excuse for not becoming involved in family history and there never was.