RootsTech speaker predicts 7 billion to participate in genealogy

Published: Thursday, Feb. 2 2012 5:06 p.m. MST

RootsTech Conference commences in Salt Lake City, Feb. 10-12 bringing software developers together with genealogy enthusiasts. Elder Richard G. Scott and other panelists speak at a devotional in connection with training for family history consultants, training that was part of the conference. Jay L. Verkler, Family History Department managing director, makes a point.

R. Scott Lloyd,

SALT LAKE CITY — By 2060 nearly 7 billion people will participate in family history, FamilySearch’s former Chief Executive Officer Jay Verkler told attendees at RootsTech.

FamilySearch has grown 3 percent per year, said Verkler, who retired last month. He is being replaced by Dennis Brimhall. The future and growth of family history work was the central topic at Thursday morning's keynote address at RootsTech, an annual conference on family history and technology that is held in Salt Lake City.

"Where could we be if we looked forward?" Verkler asked the audience at the Salt Palace Convention Center. About 3,000 people attended RootsTech last year. This year RootsTech has 4,200 people registered.

Verkler was "the architect and author" of all things accomplished so far at FamilySearch, Brimhall said. Brimhall served as president and CEO of the University of Colorado Hospital in Denver from 1988 to 2005.

In 10 years the 2.4 million microfilmed records contained at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City will be digitized, Brimhall said.

"FamilySearch considers preservation very important," said Verkler.

The nature of genealogy will not change very much between now and the next 50 years, he said. Verkler presented the new Facebook Timeline and explained how this Timeline could be used to capture someone's life.

"The important documents can be preserved for many years," Verkler said. "What does it take to make this lasting?"

Verkler discussed the importance being able to transfer files from one genealogical program to another.

Robert Gardner and Dave Barney, both Google Inc. employees, showed how search engines are changing in order to accommodate family history work.

"The explosion of information has skyrocketed," Gardner said. "Very little information is findable by search engines."

Gardner said they were working at Google to find a solution to this problem.

Barney explained how HTML tags, or schemas, were important in making historical information searchable. Webmasters who use schemas will make it easier for users to find information on the web.

Barney said that with these tags, the search engine is able to easily see the records and the information is clearly defined for the searcher.

"It's a way to share data across the web more effectively," said Barney.

It is important to keep in mind the lifetime of a link, Verkler says. Links only live two to three years. This means that filing a link, as a resource, might not always be beneficial because the link may not exist in the future.

Verkler also brought up the topic of whether records should be open or proprietary. Information should be open and shareable, he said. Open records are important in having genealogy work completed.

Email: bcarreon@desnews.com

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