Friday, January 12, 2007

Genealogists Go Back to Basics

A Genealogue Exclusive [What's That?]
A small but growing number of family historians are parking their hard drives and doing genealogy the old-fashioned way.

"All this technology just makes it easier for errors to propagate," says Cindy Lewin, founder of a support group called Retro Roots. "By avoiding the Internet, we can be confident that our mistakes will be shared only with close relatives."

Cindy and her group refuse to use genealogy programs like Family Tree Maker to record their data. Instead, they store their facts in stacks of notebooks and reams of typewritten family group sheets. The Retro Roots gang also prefers microfilmed to digitized documents—a preference that large genealogy outfits like are starting to acknowledge.

"We understand that different people have different tastes," says Andrew Mueller, spokesman for's parent company The Generations Network. "That's why we're working to convert hundreds of thousands of digitized documents back to microfilm. We'll also be offering an offline version of our popular message boards. They'll be located in Provo, Utah, and thumbtacks will be provided free of charge."

Even the extreme position taken by Retro Roots is not extreme enough for some Luddites in the genealogical world. George Donnelly of Calumet, Wisconsin, doesn't trust microfilm, but relies solely on documents that he has personally inspected. He corresponds solely by registered letter. And don't get him started on Soundex.

"Soundex was the beginning of the end," he forcefully opines. "Making things easier for the general public is never a good idea. You give them Soundex, and pretty soon they're asking for the Pill and no-fault divorce. Where does it end?"
[Photo Credit: Cracked Laptop]

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