As I reflect this week, I keep thinking about what I am most thankful with my genealogy. The biggest for me is Technology. In the past 30 years that I have been during my family research, I marvel at how much technology has changed.
Even though I became extremely interested in genealogy while I was a young teenager, I didn’t really start looking into the hobby until I graduated High School back in 1981. This happens to be the first year home computers started on the market. However, I did not know how to operate a computer and I definitely could not afford one. But growing up watching Star Trek made me marvel about them.
Anyway, I started my research with paper, pencil and binders. I read a lot of books about doing genealogy and I was more confused than ever. I started with what I thought I knew. I try my best for the next 10 years but marriage and children did derail my journal a little. I even decided to go back to college in 1985 and I decided to get a degree in computers because it was the one thing that made me feel stupid.
I learned programming and I always had my genealogy love in the back of my mind. I wanted a computer program that would help me with my record keeping because having to write the same information down multiple times was hard for me. I have terrible handwriting, I transpose numbers all the time and thus my information was not always matching for the same person on two different forms.
I remember my first computer, a luggable. I didn’t have a dedicated spot for a computer but I needed something to do my homework on since I had three small children and lots of programming to do. I would write BASIC code to test my program logic and then write it in COBOL at school. My luggable could be packed up and put into the closet when I wasn’t using it. It had a thermal printer and cost about $1500.00. I never paid that much for another computer again. The computer had no hard drive and within months of buying it, hard drives come on the scene. I used that computer for several years.
I found my first genealogy package back then, not sure what it was called but it divided the screen into four parts. One part had the menu, another part had the father and mother screen, and another was used for their parents and another for inputting children. It was very cumbersome but I only had to type the information once. Or I thought it would only be once. The program had no way of exporting and being able to import it into a new software package. This was very frustrating.
In 1997, I finally discovered Family Tree Maker and decided at that time, of all the software packages out there, this one filled my wish list the best. But because my previous program could not export to a GEDCOM, I had to start all over and retype all my information in once again. Also, it was around this time, that the Internet started to become popular. Before that time, there were closed networks, like Prodigy or AOL that you would log into their servers and there was Genealogy groups within their networks. You could only communicate with others on the same network. I ended up using Prodigy because they had semi local number that I used. But because it was sort of long distance, I had to limit my time on the network to fit my budget.
I remember the day I got rid of my dial-up service for DSL. I could not believe how fast it was to be on the internet. And they when I installed my wireless WiFi it was wonderful. Now I have a desktop computer, a laptop computer and an iPAD. All of which I can use to surf the internet, read emails, access my family file and more. Plus I have a wonderful all-in-one printer that can scan, fax and print in color. I have come a long way from that luggable computer with built in thermal printer to all this technology at my fingertips.
My eldest brother once asked me several years ago, “Why I am finding so much about our family now that I didn’t find years ago.” It is because of technology. There is so much more available on the internet, and more people on the internet that I can connect with and share my research with.
So YES, I am very thankful for technology.