Wednesday, March 28, 2007

digitizing and the Granite Mountain Vault in Little Cottonwood Canyon | Another revolution in genealogy
Susan B. Whitney staff writer

When Derek Dobson speaks to LDS seminary classes, he talks revolution.

Dobson is the family-search indexing-product manager for the LDS Church's Family History Department. He tells the teens about the invention of the printing press and how that revolution made the Bible available to the world.
He tells them about the invention of microfilm and how the 1930s saw the beginning of their church's archival collection in the Granite Mountain Vault.

And finally, Dobson announces, excitedly, "We are about to go through another revolution." Using the Internet, from their homes or laptops, people around the world are about to have access to more documents than they ever dreamed possible.

Before the end of the year, the church's free genealogy Web site,, will have a new look. That's how users will know when the revolution Dobson speaks of has begun.
Rich Running, also a project manager for the church's Family History Department, is responsible for seeing that the church's genealogy records — more than 5 billion documents on 2 1/2 million rolls of microfilm and 1 1/2 million microfiche — are scanned.

Not everything in the Granite Mountain vaults in Little Cottonwood Canyon can be scanned. The LDS Church got these records from a variety of sources, some of which are archival companies that don't want their records published.

Still, the vast majority of the church's documents are reproducible, and right now the church's software experts need to scan quickly, because they have a lot to scan. Dobson explains that the U.S. Library of Congress contains 29 million books, and the LDS Church's records hold 132 times that much data. Dobson doesn't want to guess how many billions of names are on those 5 billion documents.

Of course, "searching through 5 billion images on your computer would not be an ideal experience," Dobson points out. The records must be indexed so that when a user types in a name, that name will pop up. This is where an army of volunteers comes in.
More than 25,000 volunteers are currently at work indexing the records. Running predicts there will be 100,000 volunteers by the end of this year and many hundreds of thousands in the years to come.

Dobson can demonstrate, online, just how easy it is to volunteer. Last week, in his office in the Joseph Smith Memorial Building, Dobson, on his laptop, went to and called up a registry. There were a half-dozen registries listed on the Web site — including Georgia death certificates from 1919-1927 and a federal census from New York State from 1900. (As each of these registries is transcribed, new registries will appear on the Web site.)

Dobson clicked on a registry and a handwritten census record popped onto his screen, along with a blank form on which he was to type the handwritten names and dates.
The handwritten record on his screen featured a family named Johnson, and the mother's first name seemed to be spelled "Allice," and her son's name looked to be "Clarience." Because these are not traditional spellings for "Alice" and "Clarence," when Dobson typed in those names, they came up with a note indicating he needed to double-check the handwritten records. This he did. To him, the names still looked like "Allice" and "Clarience," so that's how he left them when he finished transcribing the document.

Dobson explains that there is an invisible double-check built into the system. Each handwritten record will come up twice, at random, and be typed in twice, by two different volunteers. Any discrepancies between the two forms will alert a third person, an arbitrator, who is a more experienced genealogist. The arbitrator looks at the original record and makes a final decision on the name or date or geographical location in question.

In order to make volunteering easy and to let people feel they've accomplished something, the Family Search Indexing project assigns each volunteer only as many names as can be typed up in about 30 or 40 minutes. If your children are little, Dobson notes, you could put them down for a nap and do your volunteering by the time they wake up.

Dobson has three goals for his portion of this project.
For one thing, he hopes to get more volunteers. Already genealogy groups from other parts of the country, people outside the LDS Church, have enthusiastically taken on the project. (The Family Search Indexing site explains how to go about becoming a volunteer.)
Dobson also hopes to broaden the participation. He pictures families gathered around the computer, having fun as they research.
And he believes, as genealogy becomes accessible, more young people will be drawn into the hobby. A recent survey, taken within the Family History Library system found that 35 percent of those who do family history are in the 41- to 60-year-old age group, and about 33 percent of those who do family history have little or no experience.

Genealogy is no longer just for retired people. And you don't have to know very much at all in order to volunteer, Dobson adds.

There is, of course, a certain irony to Dobson's efforts to enlist more teenagers in this genealogy revolution, he notes. Because they were raised to Google, to find a wealth of information by typing in a name, teenagers don't see this project as being quite as revolutionary as he does.
contact Susan through their Staff directory:

copyright the owners
borrowed from | Deseret Morning News Web edition

and my thanks to Genea-Musings for the link

Randy Seaver adds:-
We also need to understand that not every record will be available online in the foreseeable future. There are literally shelf-miles of records at local courthouses, local societies and other repositories that have not been filmed, digitized or indexed. That's good - it's an opportunity for someone to do the job! And for each of us to find those golden nuggets that prove relationships before someone else finds it.

she got the link from Tim Agazio's Genealogy Reviews Online: Genealogy Revolution: "There are currently more big things going on in genealogy then I can keep track of."

and losts more to read
scanstone project - Google Search

"Derek Dobson" genealogy - Google Search

Digitizing of the Granite Mountain Records Could Take as Little as 10 Years » Genealogy Blog: "The digitizing of the millions of rolls of film held at the LDS Church’s Granite Mountain Vault Records facility is getting faster by the day. What was once estimated to take the next 120 years has now been reduced to 30 - and even as few as 10 years."

Little Cottonwood Canyon - Google Search

Little Cottonwood Canyon - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia: "At the mouth of the canyon is the site where Mormon pioneers quarried massive quartz monzonite blocks to build the Salt Lake Temple. Mountain goats inhabit the surrounding mountains. . . .

Access for rock climbers can be a problem. On the north side, the "Church Buttress" above the Mormon archives, and the Black Peeler Buttress, are on private land and not legally accessible, as are parts of the south side."


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