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Genealogy goes prime time, and it's not just for the retired anymore

By Laurie Snow Turner

For the Deseret News

Published: Monday, Aug. 15 2011 5:00 a.m. MDT

Genealogy has gone prime time.

That was the message at the Conference on Family History and Genealogy at Brigham Young University in July.

Television programs like NBC’s “Who Do You Think You Are,” BYU-TV’s “The Generation Project” and “Faces of America” on PBS have peaked the interest of viewers around the world and motivated more people to research their family histories and heritage.

D. Joshua Taylor, a nationally recognized genealogical author, lecturer and researcher, spoke at the conference and talked about the future of genealogy, saying, “it will no longer be viewed as an ‘old’ activity for the retired. It will be undefined by age, gender and nationality. We’re in prime time now.”

Taylor looked at his first microfilm when he was 10 years old and became instantly hooked on genealogy. He is the director of education and programs at the New England Historic Genealogical Society and has assisted with research for the NBC series “Who Do You Think You Are,” including helping Sarah Jessica Parker with her genealogy.

At the conference, he traced genealogy through the generations and discussed how it has changed and evolved over the years.

“We started out with people writing letters, going to courthouses and lineage organizations for genealogical research. Then we moved to microfilm, which brought thousands, millions of records to people," Taylor said. "After Alex Haley’s 'Roots' book and television series, people became more interested in tracing their families. It became more visible, and the word ‘genealogist’ became known. Then we moved to digital records like on FamilySearch.org and Ancestry.com.”

The attributes of the next generation of genealogy may sound “absolutely bananas,” but they will happen, he said. Here are some things that may be in the future of geneaology.

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