Tag Archives: rootstech

Watching my Rootstech Session

I’d like to thank the hundreds of people who viewed my session (Using the B&F Compendium of Jewish Genealogy) during the three-day Rootstech Connect Conference. The session will be available until next year’s conference, so if you missed it you can still watch it. As the conference itself is over now, I am directly linking to the video here. If you do like the video, you can still go to the Rootstech session page and like it by clicking the thumbs up button. You can watch the video on this page, or click on the title to load it in YouTube, where it should show up larger.

Thank you to Rootstech for accepting my presentation, and for including it in the General Jewish Genealogy Overview series.

Speaking at Rootstech Connect

I am speaking at Rootstech Connect (February 25-27), the online conference sponsored by FamilySearch, that has over 500,000 registered attendees. Rootstech started out as a conference focused on the convergence of genealogy and technology, but over the past ten years has become the largest genealogy conference of any kind worldwide. This year’s conference is only online, and will be by far the biggest genealogy conference ever held.

I will be speaking about how best to utilize this site , in particular the B&F Compendium of Jewish Genealogy (the link is available now: Using the B&F Compendium of Jewish Genealogy). Like most of the lectures, mine will be available as video-on-demand, so you can watch it anytime during the 3-day conference, and should also be available for the next year online.

There is a speaker chat on the Rootstech site where I will be available to answer questions, although I don’t know when exactly I will be on the chat. If you’re signed in to the site, you can get into my session’s chat using this invite link or simply go to my session’s page and click the Join Chat Room button there.

Update: The full list of presenters in English at Rootstech Connect has been published. I’ve put together a list of those lectures in English that are of interest to Jewish researchers. Of course many of the lectures will be of interest to all genealogists, but these are the ones dealing with specifically Jewish topics. As I’ve been able to collect new information I’ve been adding to the below, including lectures in Spanish and Portuguese, as well as a slate of lectures provided by the IAJGS and Jewish at their virtual expo booths. Here are the Rootstech lectures with a Jewish connection, in English (not including the IAJGS or JewishGen ones):

LectureSpeaker
Doing Jewish Research in Poland RecordsStanley Diamond
Finding Jewish Ancestors in the Russian EmpireEllie Vance
Food as a Clue for Crypto-Jewish FamiliesGenie Milgrom
How Crypto-Jewish Genealogy is DifferentGenie Milgrom
How I found My Crypto-Jewish GrandmothersGenie Milgrom
How I Found My Jewish American Family – A Genealogy Research SuccessDaniel Horowitz
Intro to JewishGen.org and Jewish GenealogyAvraham Groll
Jewish Genealogy Alphabet SoupNolan Altman
Jews of the CaribbeanW. Todd Knowles
The Knowles Collection – What Is It and How Do I Use ItW. Todd Knowles
Mexican Genealogy: Jewish Origin of three Families in JaliscoNefi Arenas Salazar
Secrets of Jewish Genealogy Revealed, Part I: OverviewEllen Kowitt
Secrets of Jewish Genealogy Revealed, Part II: NamesEllen Kowitt
Secrets of Jewish Genealogy Revealed, Part III: Jewish GeographyEllen Kowitt
Sephardic Resources: What’s New for 2021, Part 1Schelly Talalay Dardashti
Sephardic Resources: What’s New for 2021, Part 2Schelly Talalay Dardashti
Sephardic Resources: What’s New for 2021, Part 3Schelly Talalay Dardashti
The Schoenwald Family: Victims and Survivors of the HolocaustSimon Fowler
Tracing the Sephardic RootsJordan Gendra Molina
Using FamilySearch for Jewish ResearchW. Todd Knowles
Using the B&F Compendium of Jewish GenealogyPhilip Trauring

There are many other lectures that will be of interest to Jewish researchers. Daniel Horowitz must be giving the most lectures of anyone at the conference, covering a range of MyHeritage features (beyond his more personal lecture above). Janette Silverman is speaking about researching off the beaten path, which will probably be helpful to Jewish researchers. Greg Nelson from FamilySearch will be lecturing about Eastern European and Former Soviet records. Kinga Urbańska will be speaking about Galician and Polish resources. Any number of more general topics will be helpful as well.

There are also non-English lectures during Rootstech Connect. The following are those I’m aware of with a Jewish connection:

LECTURELanguageSpeaker
Comidas Ancestrales: Indicadores de Raices JudiasSpanishGenie Milgrom
Como Encontre a mis abuelas Cripto-JudiasSpanishGenie Milgrom
Cómo Encontré Mi Familia Americana, Un Éxito de Investigación FamiliarSpanishDaniel Horowitz
Dicionário de Sobrenomes SefarditasPortugueseGuilherme Faiguenboim
Examinar las raíces sefardíesSpanishJordan Gendra Molina
Las Diferencias en Genealogias Cripto-JudiasSpanishGenie Milgrom
Los apellidos semíticosSpanishMaría del Carmen Hernández López
Siguiendo los pasos de los sefardiesSpanishJordan Gendra Molina
Sociedade Genealógica Judaica de São PauloPortugueseRoberto Mayer

In addition to the above, the IAJGS has a number of lectures they have provided. You can go to the IAJGS Booth, although the lectures are also searchable along with the other sessions at the conference. The IAJGS lectures are:

Lecturespeaker
Congregation Kol Tikvah’s Remember Us: Holocaust Bnai Mitzvah ProjectKen Cutler
Crossing the Ocean: Finding Your European Jewish HistorySusan Weinberg
Finding the Zimblers with LitvakSIG’s “All Lithuania Database”Jill Anderson
IAJGS 2020: Genealogy Death MatchJarrett Ross, Jordan Auslander,
E. Randol Schoenberg
Genealogy: A Work in ProgressIna Getzoff, Eric Sharenow
IGRA Resources Show and Tell SessionGarri Regev
Explore Jewish Genealogical SocietiesMarlis Humphrey
Discover 5 Ways to Uncover Jewish RecordsMarlis Humphrey
Explore Yad Vashem Digital Collections Photo ArchiveMarlis Humphrey
Discover FamilySearch Language LessonsMarlis Humphrey
Discover Jewish Genealogy on Social MediaMarlis Humphrey
Landsmanshaft: What Are They and How Can They Help My Research?Nolan Altman
8 Ways to Get the Most Out of JewishGen’s Communities DatabaseNolan Altman
Polish Ancestral Tourism: Wolf Hunting in WomjaLeigh Dworkin
Shining a Light on Jewish GenealogyLiba Casson-Nudell
The Soil from Which They Grew: The Alliance ColonyJarrett Ross
Basic Tools of French Genealogical ResearchAllan M. Huss
Hebrew Naming and How To Read Hebrew HeadstonesNolan Altman
8 Reasons You Should Consider Joining a Local Genealogical SocietyNolan Altman

There is also a JewishGen Booth, with the following lectures:

Finding Family on the JewishGen Family FinderPhyllis Kramer
Locating Your Ancestral TownPhyllis Kramer
Using the JewishGen Discussion Group and Jewish Genealogy PortalAvraham Groll
Searching the JewishGen Archival CollectionsAvraham Groll

Which lectures are you planning to watch? If you watched them, which were your favorites? If you watched mine, what did you think?

The Future of Sharing (Genealogical Data)

It’s no secret that the current standard for sharing genealogical data, GEDCOM, is woefully out of date. The last official revision to the GEDCOM standard, 5.5, was completed in 1996. A minor update, 5.5.1, was released in 1999 but never officially approved (even though some of its provisions have been adopted by various genealogy programs). Revision 5.5.1 added one very important feature – support for UTF-8 character encoding, which is a form of Unicode, which support multiple character sets (including, for example, Hebrew).

GEDCOM has, for all intents and purposes, been abandoned by the Church of Latter Day Saints (the Mormons) which created and owns the standard. The church has indicated that they will not be updating it, and indeed are replacing the need for it with a new API (Application Programming Interface) which will allow genealogy programs to exchange data with their website (FamilySearch.org). One problem with this approach is the need to go through their website, and the fact that they have not made this API publicly available (i.e. it’s not a public standard, just a private interface to their web site). Another major problem is that there is no data format that allows one to create a family tree that can be shared independently, like GEDCOM is used today. FamilySearch in no way needs such a format, since their mammoth size and importance in the genealogical world will force genealogy program to support its API, as many have already done.

Over the years, there have been many attempts to either upgrade or replace GEDCOM. These efforts have all failed. In general the problem has been that the companies that create genealogy program need to agree to adopt any new standard, and they really haven’t had much incentive to do so. Supporting the import of GEDCOM files allows them to support a basic file interchange, which never will support the full feature-set of their programs which have become much more sophisticated since 1996, but is enough to allow customers to exchange information with their relatives. If they supported a fully-featured GEDCOM replacement (that for example would better support photographs and evidence management), it would only make it easier for customers to try other programs. Thus the disincentive for the companies to support a modern replacement for GEDCOM.

Another problem with replacing GEDCOM has been arguments over the data model used. GEDCOM is based on a nuclear family data model (i.e. one mother, one father and their children). It assumes a nuclear family structure, and other forms of families are harder to support. This problem has caused some to support a data model based not on the family but on the individual. This is philosophical debate, and as you might imagine different people take very strong positions in this battle.

Even with this history, there are a few new initiatives to come up with a replacement for GEDCOM. One initiative that has garnered some attention recently is BetterGEDCOM. The BetterGEDCOM initiative came from the frustration of many genealogists over the lack of updates to GEDCOM and is an attempt to create an open forum for the creation of a new standard. Like many attempts at ‘openness’, however, it has run into its own in-fighting and conflicts. It remains to be seen how successful this attempt with be. Another recent initiative is the International OpenGen Alliance (OpenGen). This effort is a bit more of a top-down approach, being managed by the company that runs AppleTree.com, an online family tree web site. OpenGen is, however, a non-profit organization that is supposed to include more than just the team at AppleTree. There have been some attempts between BetterGEDCOM and OpenGen to coordinate, or at least follow each others’ efforts closely. Time will tell which effort, if either, will be successful in creating a new genealogical data sharing standard.

In case you think it isn’t complicated enough, other web sites beyond FamilySearch.org are also developing their own APIs for exchanging genealogical data. OneGreatFamily.com last year introduced an API called GenealogyCloud. It seems that no third-party applications yet support this API.

Geni.com, which boasts nearly a hundred million profiles on their site, and nearly 50 million that are interconnected in what they call their World Family Tree, just yesterday introduced their own API. Unlike FamilySearch.org, however, they are releasing documentation and sample applications on their web site. This will allow anyone to write applications that interact with Geni.com, similar to the way Facebook allows outside developers to create application that access information on Facebook. This is a very positive step. It’s not coincidence that one of the other large family tree web sites, AppleTree.com, is pushing another initiative to replace GEDCOM (OpenGen). These large sites need to create ways to exchange data and interact with other programs and web sites in order to maintain their growth rates.

MyHeritage.com, another one of the big family tree web sites, has taken a slightly different approach in that they have their own application (Family Tree Builder) that runs on a computer, which can sync data to their web site. While this approach allows them more control over what modifies data on their platform, it has its shortcomings as well, not the least of which it requires Windows to run (this coming from a Mac user). I suspect that MyHeritage.com will release their own public API in the future, if only to compete with Geni.com, their biggest competitor.

We can always hope that FamilySearch.org, Geni.com, MyHeritage.com and AppleTree.com will all come together and create a single API and data format for sharing data, but unfortunately if the past is any guide, this is unlikely to happen.

One indication of the direction the wind is blowing in this regard will be the upcoming RootsTech conference, taking place in February 2011 in Salt Lake City. This conference is the first RootsTech conference, although according to the organizers it replaces three earlier technical conferences – The Conference on Computerized Family History, the Family History Technology Workshop and the FamilySearch Developers Conference. Note that these previous conferences were all connected in some way to the Mormon church. It’s unclear how open this new conference will be to new ideas, or if it is really only looking for input for the existing Mormon church efforts such as FamilySearch.org. I imagine representatives from most of the genealogy software companies and web sites will be in attendance at the conference, as will people associated with the BetterGEDCOM and OpenGen efforts. During the week of the conference there will probably be a lot of blogging about what is going on, but the real test will be after the conference if companies announce intentions to seek a common API or data format to move forward with, or whether everyone will just continue the same disjointed approach that has been pursued for nearly 15 years.