The Beginning of the End for Genealogy?

Will genealogy become redundant in a few years?

Artificial intelligence and cloud computing can mark the beginning of the end for genealogy. Previously you had to research for hours or days to get information about your family history. Now it can be served to you on a silver platter.

Dick Eastman previously speculated about how genealogy will be in a few years. James Tanner in Genealogy Star has done the same. Their predictions go the same way. Genealogy as we know it will be superfluous in a few years.

The future is already here

It’s already been a while since MyHeritage introduced “Instant Discoveries”. As genealogists affirm and confirm the hits the system makes, the technology becomes more and more accurate in its suggestions.

Both MyHeritage and FamilySearch have introduced systems for fixing errors. These systems will notify users in those cases where they discover family tree discrepancies.

Once the systems also automatically correct such discrepancies, we have come closer to the end for genealogists. However, one important thing must first be put in place. The computer systems must be able to both automatically read the sources and to connect them.

Denmark connects genealogical sources

The latest news when it comes to making family history information more accessible is the earlier mentioned Link-Lives project from Denmark.

Almost all people in Denmark who are in the files between 1787-1968 are getting their archive entries linked together. This will benefit genealogists in time to come.

One of the goals of the project is that artificial intelligence, through the interconnection of archive data, will make it possible to research the various aspects of human social and biological life that have unfolded over several generations. For example, both hereditary and environmentally affected diseases can be uncovered.

So far, the connections that the computers are coming up with must be confirmed manually by genealogists.

Read also: Danes will connect their ancestors historical sources

The writings are often a challenge

Our ancestral handwriting can be a challenge even for the experienced genealogist, whether it is written in Gothic or in the handwriting of today.

However, work is underway both nationally and internationally to transcribe genealogical sources written in a “neat” handwriting into machine-readable writing.

We can today see the results of this voluntary work, among other places in searchable population censuses and church archives. The same work is however already being used to connect family history sources together.

In Norway Digitalarkivet (The Digital Archive) is transcribing the 1920 census. This is done thanks to volunteers. The census will then be completely searchable when released on December 1, 2020.

Changes in genealogy

The fact that genealogy becomes easier is not a new phenomenon. Before the internet and computers were here, genealogy research was completely different from what it is today. With the help of cloud computing, transcription and machine learning it is again changing.

However, this does not mean that genealogy as a hobby will be gone in a few years. The focus may possibly change from searching names and dates to finding stories and events. Thanks to computers and years of voluntary work, we genealogists can then start to focus more on recreating real stories about the lives of our ancestors for our descendants.

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