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.