Genealogy, Health, and the Native Hawai’ians

I want to talk to you about “Searching for Emma.” It was one of the most affecting of a group of poignant films presented at “A Celebration of Family History” on 29 April presented by FamilySearch at the LDS Conference Center in honor of the 2010 National Genealogical Society conference.

The film depicts the story of Emma Lyons Waimau, exiled at the age of 24 to Kalaupapa, what was then called the colony for lepers (persons with Hansen’s Disease) on the island of Moloka’i. There, she met and married her husband and bore six children none of whom she would be able to keep, according to the laws of the day.

Family history is simply the story of lives as they are lived, with happiness and tragedy delivered as they will be, without a schedule or agenda. What moves is how people react to the lives they live.

The devastation of the Hawai’ian people, the stigmatization of people with a disease, and the whole history of health care, inform this story of Emma Lyons Waimau and infuse it with meaning. Each aspect of the narrative adds the weight of history to a tale that might otherwise be simply a personal one of a woman curious to know about her great grandmother’s struggles.

“Searching for Emma” (Adobe Flash-based video)

Decompressing from NGS 2010, Salt Lake City

I arrived home yesterday afternoon from the National Genealogical Society’s annual conference, held this year in Salt Lake City. I’m still decompressing from a great week of presentations, speeches, singing from the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, and research. I do not this one post will encompass all that I have to say about the event, so here’s the first of a couple of posts on the Conference.

This year there were several items of note:

  • Jay L. Verkler, President of FamilySearch (which includes the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, the over 4,600 Family History Centers in more than 80 countries, and the FamilySearch.org website) gave the Wednesday morning keynote address, which included:
    • A presentation of “From the Granite Mountain to the Ends of the World,” a video virtual tour through the LDS Granite Mountain Records Vault, where the master copies of the Church’s 2.4 million microfilm reels are stored.

      I expect this video, entitled  will soon be posted to http://wiki.familysearch.org/en/FamilySearch_Presentations_at_NGS_2010 where the other LDS presentations from the Conference have been posted. The presentation is listed there, but does not have an active link yet.

      Update: The film is up on their website. See the entry “Granite Mountain Records Vault: The Video.”

    • An announcement that the FamilySearch website has posted 300 million new names in indexed genealogical records.
    • An announcement that digitizing the Church’s microfilm (once estimated to take 178 years) will instead be completed in … 10 years, due to technological improvements.Indexing will take additional time, but the fact that all the imaging will be done as soon as 2020 means that these records may be accessible in unindexed digital format (folks, the films are not indexed either!), and the indexing could be done via crowd sourcing, as the FamilySearch.org, Ancestry.com, and Footnote.com websites are already doing.
  • The NGS Conference included a GenTech section, where genealogical software and website companies demonstrated their products. There was an unmanned booth (though sometimes there were people there!) with the proposed Genealogical Data Model (GDM).Here’s one researcher who hopes that the GDM is finally dusted off and used to create a true standard for the storage, maintenance, and sharing of genealogical data that will comply with the Genealogical Proof Standard and the sourcing guidelines of Evidence Explained by Elizabeth Shown Mills. This would give us a better way to share and compare genealogical information as well as to take it cleanly from one product to another without the current vagaries of GEDCOM.