Researching family history has its challenges. Often when genealogists are trying to understand more about their ancestors, they run into problems or “brick walls”, such as problems locating information about an ancestor, who their parents were, where did they live, etc. Now, we currently live in an “Age of Information” but this can also be a double edged sword, there is a ton of information out there and not all of it is correct. The sheer amount of information available in our digital age brings up an interesting question: what will all this research be like in the future, say, in 30 years? Will genealogy be an easier field of study due to major improvements in documentation? Or will genealogy research be increasingly more difficult as people seek privacy online?
New Challenges & Excitements
How it will be easier:
In many ways, genealogists in the future will have an easier time researching their ancestors. This is because now, everyone’s vital information is documented and recorded in various ways, unlike in the 1700s or 1800s. The inventions and innovations of the modern era have documented our lives in more detail than ever before. Some examples are new records/sources, genealogists in the future can use are…
- Birth certificates
- Hospital/Medical records
- Baby books
- Social Security records
- School records
- College forms
- Travel/Visa records
- Etc, etc, etc…
Records today have become mostly standardized and probably by 2050, many more records will be digitized and available online. Not to mention, that finding photos of your ancestors will definitely not be an issue in 2050 for many genealogists. In fact, some genealogists then may be overwhelmed by the amount of family photos they come across, as modern phones and cameras have made photography a normal part of life. Family photos that are stored digitally will also not be subject to any physically decay or deterioration overtime, so our photos could look the same forever!
Other things to note:
- Many more U.S. censuses will have been released, the United States 1980 Census will be released to the public in 2052. In 2051, the U.K. and Ireland will also release their census data from a century earlier.
- People will also be living a lot longer then we did in the past so their stories will more likely be passed on.
Genealogists in future decades will undoubtedly have a lot to look forward to, that does not mean there still are a fair amount of challenges and “brickwalls” to deal with. In many cases it could become fairly hard and complex to piece together.
For one, there will be a lot more information available than before, a lot of which will be inaccurate or false. So the family historians of the future will have to be very careful with the information they gather and put in their family tree.
Another point is that it may seem like finding and identifying relatives in photos will be a piece of cake in the future. Although, there will likely still be many challenges in this part of family history research. Sure, some genealogists in 2050 may have an overabundance of family photos, to a point where that they don’t know what to do with them all! Others might find that there is little to none. This could the case because many family photos, nowadays, are simply stored on someone’s smart phone or computer, never printed or uploaded. This makes them far easier to lose, then something in a photo album. It’s possible that many of these pictures and memories will have long gone by 2050. Another issue is that people don’t write on the back of printed photos anymore like that they used to. This issue could give the family historians of future decades tons of headaches, trying to figure out who the people in the pictures are or when they were taken.
Also, genealogists should record accurate and detailed information and stories of their family today, so in the future, genealogists won’t have such a hard time researching. Since nowadays, people move more frequently for employment or personal reasons. Many families may relocate several times. So it might be harder for a genealogist in 2050 to research their family. The information you record should be on paper instead of online for privacy reasons.
One fact that will make genealogy research harder in the future is that modern family structures can be much more complicated than they were in the past. Unfortunately, divorce rates are on the rise. In the past decades, around 40%-50% of U.S. marriages have ended in divorce. Not to mention, in some circumstances, a child’s parents don’t even get married. Another aspect of modern culture is acceptance of different types of relationships people have and many couples don’t have children. These differences will mean future genealogists will need to work especially carefully!
The Impact of Social Media on Genealogy Research
Social media will likely have a major role in genealogy research in the future. It will definitely make discovering and learning about your ancestors’ lives a lot more fun and interesting than today. Just imagine…finding your ancestors’ Twitter could tell you what they thought, discovering their old Instagram page would show who their friends were or where they went for vacation, their Facebook could have a photo of the family reunion Christmas 2019, the possibilities are endless!
How I could see this becoming reality is old/inactive social media accounts could be archived and preserved like any other genealogy record, perhaps after a couple of decades. The accounts that are archived eventually could end up onto genealogy websites. Imagine genealogy database titles like, “U.S., Facebook Accounts, 2004-2010” or “U.S., Instagram Accounts, 2011-2016.” In this scenario, if you would want to find more about your ancestors, you would not only need to keep track of their vital information but also note their contact information like their Snapchat or Instagram username.
Of course, these are just speculations and this probably isn’t exactly what genealogy research in the future will be like. But, these are just my thoughts. Family history research will definitely be a lot different in the future, for better or for worse. Hopefully the field will continue to grow overtime. Well, we at the Hidden Branch wish you happy holidays and a good end to the year!