In a fun blog post entitled “The Genealogy Instant Answer Line“, Arlene Eakle educates her impatient (and by implication, naive) clients on just how long it’s going to take to pole vault them over their brick walls:
Please do not expect to have your 20-year problem resolved, with documentation, with full analysis, with pertinent comments and follow-up in supporting sources, in 20 days. Not happenin’–with your ancestry nor anybody else’s. When you engage me to solve your hardest-to-find ancestor and link him to an unknown family unit, allow sufficient time for me to do it.
I love this kind of candor. Arlene’s obviously a truly professional genealogist who’s going to be completely straight with you. And she’s clearly right. You probably wouldn’t have come to her for help unless yours was the kind of problem that needed her unique divergent thinking skills and research expertise, applied over months, not days.
But what if the “Instant Answer” was available from a single offline document?
Would it be realistic to expect to have that document retrieved on the same day you decided you wanted it? What about if you wanted it in an hour? A few minutes?
“Just In Time” On-Demand Genealogy Document Digitization
Consider the following (admittedly contrived) scenario. You’re browsing the Family History Library catalog online at about 9 pm Central time on a Thursday evening. You notice there’s an FHL film (say 1671673) that has a pretty good chance of holding the marriage record for your great-great-grandparents. It hasn’t yet been digitized and indexed on the FamilySearch Record Pilot, unfortunately. You could go to your local FHC tomorrow and order it for $5.50. It’d probably arrive in 2-3 weeks.
But what if you wanted to know RIGHT NOW if film 1671673 contains that marriage record, or if you should try a different research avenue instead, all without interrupting your genealogy flow? What if you could log onto a website, enter that film number, and immediately see a list of people who were at the FHL right this minute and who could go pull the film for you? What if the researcher you selected could then browse through the film on a reader, locate the marriage record you’re after, scan it directly to a digital image, and upload that image to the website for you to view and download, all within about 15 minutes of receiving your request?
We have the technology…
As it turns out, this scenario is completely plausible. In fact, here at Genlighten we’ve already begun building the infrastructure to make it real. It will probably end up relying on web-enabled smartphones and make use of Twitter’s APIs. Clients who want this kind of near-real-time response will need to pay a premium for it. But the cost of this service will still be comparable to that of requesting the film.
So… are you interested?
Can you think of a situation where you might use this? How much would an “Instant Genealogy Answer” be worth to you?