23 April 2009

"All Things Genealogical" catalog?

About 30 people replied, via comments or email, to Tuesday’s post mentioning the Family History Catalog of “all things genealogical” being developed by FamilySearch and World Vital Records. Replies strongly supported such a project, because it is difficult to find things both on and off the web.

In simplest terms, a catalog points a researcher to a book on a shelf, but in the 21st century, the Internet must be part of the equation as well.

Today Kevin Purdy posted Food.com Searches Pretty Much Every Recipe Site at Once. His example demonstrates that at least one website has begun using current technology to locate online resources, and create pointers to those resources throughout the web. This is similar to the proposed Family History Catalog, with one BIG difference - online catalogs of brick and mortal libraries and archives will be pulled into the mix. This means that like the existing Family History Library Catalog, offline genealogy resources will be part of the “all things genealogical” catalog as well. Here’s what Kevin wrote:

“Food.com's recipe search is worth getting excited about. It comes from Food Network founder Scripps Networks, but can pull recipes from Epicurious, Food & Wine, Cooking Light, Gourmet, Chow.com—basically, any food site you've heard of. Not only does it pull basic recipe links and descriptions from all those third-party sites, but it grabs the full ingredient lists, pictures, user ratings, and preparation/serving instructions, then categorizes them for search refining. So if you're looking for a Vietnamese dish to whip up tonight, but you don't want anything deep-fried, and you'd like the main ingredient to be chicken, Food.com can help you get there. […] It's hard to believe it took so long for someone to offer a recipe search with this kind of breadth and functionality. The service is still in beta, so you'll need to sign up and log in to use it. From a first look, though, it's definitely worth it.”

It’s within the realm of possibility to see that “all things genealogical”, previously known and cataloged, can indeed be pulled into one catalog. But unlike Food.com’s project, only a CATALOG of titles, authors, descriptions and locations, NOT THE CONTENT, will be part of the FS/WVR Family History Catalog.

When Ol' Myrt here used the term "ALL THINGS GENEALOGICAL" in describing the proposed FHL/WVR catalog, I was referring to a combined catalog of:

  • Information about where to find record groups (transcriptions, indexes or digital images) available on the web.
  • Information about where to find genealogy resources offline, assuming the archive or library housing each resource has cataloged the item in their own online catalog. (This would then not include many things; i.e. very old libraries whose catalogs don't adequately reflect their pre-computerized catalog collection.)

Ol' Myrt here would like to make a distinction between CATALOGING record groups and the SCANNING of each page within a record group . While the latter will probably never be completed as Randy Seaver points out in his comment, Ol’ Myrt here welcomes a CATALOG listing genealogical titles and pointing me to find those obscure genealogical record groups on or off the web.

The soon-to-be-released FamilySearch/World Vital Records Family History Catalog that Ol’ Myrt calls the "catalog of all things genealogical” certainly cannot include those non-cataloged record groups in town historians' attics, library basements, municipal archives, dusty courthouses, moldy church basements and such.

For instance, it wasn't until the late 1990s that the court records of a certain Florida county weren't identified and cataloged, though the county came into existence fairly late, in the mid 1800s. The records for this county have spilled out of the courthouse into the local Carnegie Library and a less-readily accessible storehouse annex. Certainly, there are a few other courthouses out there that don’t have every book in order, and ever file clearly marked.

Using computers with modern web search capabilities, the proposed new Family History Library Catalog being developed in cooperation with the programmers at World Vital Records means that researchers will have an easier time finding the location of identifiable genealogy things. For Ol’ Myrt here, such a catalog will be easier to work through than the 200,000 hits of my last Google search.

Happy family tree climbing!
Myrt :)
Your friend in genealogy.

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