12 November, 2010 - 06:00
It is becoming a mobile world. Everywhere you go people are on phones, texting, and posting pictures of their life to Facebook and other social media sites. This is happening from wherever the person is at that moment. Last year when my son had his wisdom teeth out he asked the oral surgeon if he could record it so he could post it online.
News is being reported like never before and nearly everyone has a camera and even often a video camera in their pockets. The more of these mobile devices I have used, the more I see applications for family history.
I love my iPhone. It has become my second brain (often this is better than my first brain). I keep track of grocery lists, contact info, passwords, and other information. My calendar and email are on it and I use it to check them all the time. The combination of portability and capability mean that it is nearly always where I need it. My only challenge has been the small screen and small keyboard.
It was my birthday this last week. Several months ago my son bought an iPad. My wife liked it so much that I bought one for her for her birthday. She returned the favor last week. After using it for a few days, it is like carrying a computer that is as thin as my phone. It instantly powers up and it can do a huge variety of tasks.
In these devices I see the future of family history. I was skeptical when some of the software engineers I know suggested that in the next ten years nearly all of the family history tasks being done on computers would be done on mobile phones. I am still slightly skeptical of this prediction because of the small screen, but with the release of the iPad I can see a world in which there will be no need for PCs and where my family history can go with me wherever I am.
The future to me looks something like this. When I am in a cemetery I will be able to take a photo of the headstone with my phone and will be able to instantly add this to my pedigree with all the information contained on it. It will also have GPS coordinates so that if another member of my family wants to visit the grave they will be able to do so without looking all over the cemetery.
I will be able to carry with me my entire family history pedigree and evidence. Some of this I am already doing. At home, I have two large cabinets and several large storage containers filled with family history information. In the next few years I expect that I will be able to carry all this information on my iPad. I will have all the documents attached to my pedigree along with all the evidence of what I have searched and where I have yet to search.
My devices are mobile enabled, so whether I am in a courthouse, a cemetery, an archive, or at home I will be able to access information both on the device as well as online. This will make me much more effective in looking for the right information, the first time. There are an increasing number of pedigree applications available on my phone and my iPad and these applications will only get richer with time.
My back is really looking forward to the decreased load. I am also looking forward to the time saved in sorting through my files to find the correct ones to take with me on a trip. The researcher in me is looking forward to more organization that will reduce the times I have to search a source twice, or three times, or four times, because I haven’t recorded what I have searched and when I searched it.
Perhaps the best part of the newer technology is that it is so much more intuitive to use. I saw an article the other day lamenting the dumbing down of technology. I am all for it. The easier to use the better. My iPad is simple and intuitive to use. The touch screen interface makes navigation natural. It only has three buttons. I like that. I haven’t found anyone yet that can’t use it. It gives me hope for the future for all those who struggle to succeed in family history because of the technology barriers.
Family history has, for some time, been burdened with the need to learn about genealogical research and technology. Some of these new devices may make at least the technology easier. The future of family history with these devices looks brighter than ever.