Overview of Computers and Genealogy

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Computers and Genealogy

This article is part of a series.

Overview of Computers and Genealogy
The Internet and Family History
NGS Guidelines for Publishing Web Pages on the Internet
Family History Software
Collaboration and Sharing
NGS Guidelines for Sharing
Online Options for Family History Education
Security Concerns with Technology and Family History
Other Gadgets and Helpful Technology

This article originally appeared in "Computers and Technology" by Juliana Smith in The Source: A Guidebook to American Genealogy

Computers have changed the face of family history forever. Once stereotyped as the hobby of old spinster aunts, family history is now a favorite pastime for much of mainstream America. According to the October 2005 comScore report, 'More than 11 million American consumers went online during October 2005 to conduct genealogy research.'

Today's technology makes it easier to gather and organize information, communicate with other genealogists, publish and share our findings, and preserve our family's history. Information gathered over time, once entered into genealogy software, can be reorganized and reformatted with the click of a mouse. Family databases in electronic format can easily be shared with relatives by e-mail, on websites, or on removable media like CD-ROMs, DVDs, or diskettes.

While visits to places like libraries, archives, courthouses, and cemeteries will still remain a necessary and integral part of genealogical research, much more can now be achieved from the comfort of home. Images of original records, increasingly available online, may eliminate the need to travel to repositories with inconvenient hours of operation to view the records. Growing collections of databases enable genealogists to search huge quantities of data, almost instantaneously, from home computers or at local libraries.

In the past, queries for information on individuals in family trees had to be mailed in to genealogical periodicals, which were in turn mailed to subscribers. Sometimes it would be months between the time they were sent in and when they reached their audience. They were typically browsed quickly and later filed in the trash or stashed in closets. Now these requests can be sent electronically in an instant to targeted audiences of researchers sharing similar research needs. These electronic queries, sent to mailing lists, posted on message boards, or placed on electronic registries are often archived for quick and easy retrieval days, months, and even years later.

The ability to create heirloom charts, restore old photographs, and turn fragile documents into electronic files is now at our fingertips. Saved in electronic formats or printed from desktop publishing tools, our family treasures can now be shared with many family members quickly and inexpensively.