If you are a genealogy techie, or you just need an excuse to visit Salt Lake City, this announcement is for you.
From Feb. 10 through 12, FamilySearch will host the first annual RootsTech Conference at the Salt Palace Convention Center. Sponsors are Ancestry.com and the New England Historic Genealogical Society.
"When users and creators of technology come together, innovation occurs," said FamilySearch president Jay Verkler.
Conference attendees will see technology prototype demonstrations, participate in interactive workshops and test new product and service concepts.
A wide range of topics are scheduled for the three-day gathering. They range from such academic-sounding titles as "Implications of GenesisGraphs on Source-Centric Collaborate Genealogy" to "Getting More from Google."
If social networking is your thing, topics such as "A Zombie Social Graph with XFN (XHTML Friends Network) and FOAF (Friends of a Friend)" might speak to you. Non-techies may be more comfortable with sessions such as "Will Your Work Survive the Digital Age."
The complete three-day schedule, and registration, is available at http://rootstech.familysearch.org. Sign up before Dec. 31 and the price is $99. After that it jumps to $150. Students with a valid ID card can register for $25.
Alas, my February calendar doesn't allow me to attend this first-of-its-kind techie huddle, but I will be eager to hear from any of you who make the trip.
Pat says it is a grass-roots effort among researchers who have "bemoaned the limitations of GEDCOM." GEDCOM is an acronym for Genealogy Data Communication, a mechanism for exchanging genealogical data between different software programs.
Theoretically, if I place my genealogy data into RootsMagic software and my cousin Joe puts his into FamilyTreeMaker, we can swap information through the GEDCOM. My Rootsweb would be able to take the GEDCOM he created with his FamilyTreeMaker, convert it, and have it appear inside the RootsMagic program on my computer.
Theoretically. The system has limitations.
"Genealogy software users are painfully aware that sharing data with other researchers is difficult since the existing GEDCOM file transfer script hasn't been updated in 14 years," said Russ Worthington, a genealogy software power user and popular lecturer. "In the meantime genealogists have incorporated tools with expanded capabilities reflecting changing technology."
Richley-Erickson, also known to millions of online readers as "Dear Myrtle" (www.dearmyrtle.com), said researchers will work together update or replace GEDCOM using input from users all over the world.
"We seek solutions that will enable regular researchers like me to share genealogy with cousins regardless of the genealogy program they've chosen to use," she said. "The current GEDCOM file exchange strips out much of my hard work, leaving only some of the data I've typed and attached to each well-documented ancestor.
"We experience similar problems when uploading and downloading our genealogy data with popular genealogy websites. If all genealogy product developers agree to a BetterGEDCOM format, such problems will be overcome."
Richley-Erickson invites all researchers to visit http://bettergedcom.wikispaces.com to see whether they might have expertise to contribute to the project.