I hope those of you who were not able to be “The Traveling Genealogist” and attend RootsTech 2012 these last few days had a chance to watch and listen to the presenters via Live Streaming. It was great.
I had the opportunity to view a panel of the Ancestry folks discussing their updates and new features for Ancestry.com. I know when I first started my genealogy journey when reading census records; I had a tendency to skip over the right side of the record. Who knew what those tick marks meant? They couldn’t have much information to glean. Right? Well, they did have information, but were very difficult to decipher. Additionally, keeping your view on the correct line was tedious. The panel addressed this with a new feature that now highlights the row. Well, how about that! They also have provided other help to make record images on their site much easier to read.
One of the topics of interest to me was the discussion of transcribing vintage handwritten documents. Most of the digital methods we currently have available are not particularly suitable. It was mentioned that within the next 10 years capturing the handwritten document via technical means and transcribing it to text will be accomplished. It will be interesting to see if that happens. I have no doubt that it will. reCaptcha seems to be working on that now (their website addresses these issues), but it still needs the “human touch” to be as accurate as possible.
I’m certainly not an expert on these techniques, but my concern is how will they be able to do all this without losing the physical historical integrity of the family heirloom? Will they have to disassemble the book? Cut the spine? Keeping the heirloom intact seems to me to be a priority to those owners of these items. Yes, we’ll have a copy of the book and it will be transcribed into text that is readable, but what happens to the original. Again, shelf space in repositories can fill up fast and if your Diarist isn’t Thomas Jefferson (THE Thomas Jefferson, of course), but an equally important person to you and your family, what do you do?
Julia Forbes Diary 1873-1875
You want to share your ancestor’s daily life and place in time with others. Who knows what few words in the work will answer a “brick wall” problem for another genealogist or provide a historian more insight as to how people lived in that time period. The information in these personal writings do need to be shared, but at what cost? We all, most likely, watch "Antiques Roadshow". We know what can happen there. That show along with “Who Do You Think You Are?” are the genealogist’s “Groupie Shows”.
Again, being able to technically capture script and turn it into readable text is something to look forward to. In the meantime, think about transcribing that document either yourself or having someone provide the service for you.