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Family history and technology: it's only getting better
08 February 2008 01:57

Last year around this time I blogged about the Family History Technology workshop and Computerized Genealogy Conference held each year at BYU in March. This year, there's another course on the menu for the geek genealogist. The first FamilySearch Developers Conference will be held on the Wednesday preceding the FHT workshop. This is exciting stuff!

What's so exciting about it? Well, back in September of '05 I expressed my hope that APIs would be made available for the then emerging microfilm imaging and indexing effort of the Church, as well as the new Family Tree system. Fast forward to 2008. According to the FS DevCon website, the "FamilySearch Family Tree API has been released. Learn from the engineers and community developers that have created public libraries, tools, and products. Get the facts for the source on the soon-to-be released Record Search API." Here we are a few years later and it's all becoming a reality. Woohoo!

Back then "Web 2.0" was just emerging, and my head was ablaze with all the cool ways APIs, rich web interfaces, and collective intelligence could be used to further genealogical research. We've seen a lot during that time of the ways in which AJAXiness and collective intelligence / social networking (witness Geni, FamilyLink,, WeRelate and others) can be used for this work. But I think we've only scratched the surface of what is possible. I think we're on the cusp of a veritable explosion of what will be possible with the APIs the church is making available for the massive amounts of data they have. To me, these APIs are the 3rd leg on the stool. With the APIs in place, and the data accessible via programmatic means we'll be able to move to a new level of possibilities.

While this feels like a culmination of sorts, it's really only the beginning. What amazing things will the next decade yield in this field? What amazing things will the rising generation be able to do with all this data easily available to them? One only has to look at the amazing variety and usefulness of the tools that have cropped up around the Amazon, Google, Yahoo, and other APIs to get a feel for what might be possible when clever and talented individuals with an itch to scratch are given the means to access data using their favorite language. I can't wait to see what happens when we can plug the FamilySearch data into the growing mashup ecosystem.

At $60 for the day, the conference is a real deal, and BYU provides some excellent facilities for these events. I hope to get involved with whoever is interested in working on some Perl code to interface with the new APIs. I'd love to see a one-day hackathon sometime with a group of Perl folks to hammer out WWW::FamilySearch for CPAN. Anybody interested?

Some other blog entries of interest about all this:
Pat Eyler: FamilySearch Conference Announced
Andy Lester: Genealogy, web services and Perl
Renee Zamora provides a press release about the conference


On 09 February 2008 22:03 Kathy wrote:
This conference sounds like a good thing. Please share your thoughts after attending.

On 02 January 2009 23:14 Ben Brumfield wrote:
Thanks so much for blogging and tweeting FHT this year!

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Daniel Hanks

I'm a system administrator working for Omniture

Interested in

digital archival
digital libraries
web applications
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