BYU begins Computerized Genealogy
By Peter McKellar
NewsNet Staff Writer
Georgina Humphreys was nervous when she plugged in her first computer.
"I could hardly even type at that time," she said.
But Humphreys had motivation. An avid genealogist, she was determined to
master the computer and the very first Personal Ancestral File program that came
At the time the Apple computer was just gaining popularity, Microsoft Windows
3.1 was still 8 years away, and genealogy was something done with pencil and
paper -- a slow, cumbersome process that became more difficult as genealogists
compiled hundreds, then thousands of names.
Now, more than 15 years later, computerized genealogy is simplifying the process
and rapidly becoming a necessary part of genealogical research.
In an attempt to better train local genealogists about the advancing technology,
BYU is sponsoring the fourth annual Computerized Genealogy Conference this
Thursday through Saturday.
The fact that a separate conference focusing on the computerized aspect of
genealogy is a sign of the explosion of computer assisted research.
"We've had the Genealogy and Family History Conference for many years," said
Valiant Evans, an organizer of this year's event, "In the last few years we put a
computer track in the conference which became so popular we decided to do a
conference just on computerized genealogy."
The theme of this year's conference, "Simplifying and enhancing computerized
genealogical research," is exactly what many who are attending the conference are
"If you came to find out how technology can help preserve our heritage, you came
to the right place," Michael Bowen told attendees yesterday in his keynote
address. "The blessings of technology have made it possible to find more about
our ancestors than ever before."
Bowen is responsible for all computerized genealogy programs for The Church of
Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Bowen and other conference presenters have a difficult task ahead of them during
the three-day conference. The majority of the attendees are senior citizens and
many were well past middle age before personal computers and the Internet were
"The genealogy community is usually an older set of people," said Dave Berdon,
president of Millenia, a company that makes a software program similar to
Personal Ancestral File. "Most are willing and are just finding out that they are
Humphreys, a genealogist at the Twin Falls, Idaho Family History Center, spends
much of her time training seniors how to use computers to simplify genealogical
"Senior citizens for the most part do not learn that fast, and a lot are intimidated,"
Vendors at the conference are demonstrating some of the genealogical advances
seniors are learning to assist in their research, including software programs
designed to organize pedigree charts, create family histories and even plan family
"Genealogy was real easy when you only had 300 names," Berdon said. "When
you start getting into thousands and tens of thousands of names then you need
"It's like comparing moving down a wheat field with a scythe to mowing it down
with a wheat thresher," she said.
Humphreys spends much of her time teaching people how to use the resources
made available by advancing technology.
"The e-mail lists, bulletin boards, Web pages, that's what we have to teach them
to use," she said.
Although teaching seniors is the objective of the conference, Humphreys believes
the real success lies elsewhere.
"Home consultant programs will be the key to teaching Internet genealogy," she
Humphreys and other home consultants travel to the homes of interested
genealogists to train them on computer-assisted research and help them compile
"Our biggest problem is how do we touch the people we need to and teach them
Internet genealogy." She said.
This story was posted on Thursday, March 15, 2001