For the convenience of hearing impaired individuals as well as for those who do not have audio capabilities in their computers, that conversation has now been transcribed and is available as text. You can read the transcription below.
I am also curious how useful this transcription is to newsletter readers. I hope to have more audio broadcasts, or "podcasts," in future newsletters. My question is: Should I pay to have them transcribed? If you have an opinion, please let me know in the comments at the end of this article.
The following is the transcript of the conversation I had with David Rencher on April 19, 2010:
Dick Eastman: Hi! This is Dick Eastman. Welcome to the EOGN podcast. Today, I have the opportunity to speak with an old friend, David Rencher, who is the Chief Genealogical Officer for Family Search. David, welcome to our podcast.
David Rencher: Thank you Dick. It’s great to be here.
Dick Eastman: If you don’t mind, just tell me what is the role of a Chief Genealogical Officer?
David Rencher: Well, Dick we’re, kind of, defining it as we go here; but, initially, the role is for me to ensure that we have genealogical soundness in our products and services here at Family Search and make sure that they make sense genealogically, and to ensure that we are producing products and services that the genealogical public would both need and would want to use.
Dick Eastman: That’s great. I know I’ve been watching what you’ve doing out there for many years and I’m just delighted about what the Family Search organization produces for the genealogy community. I can’t even begin the list them all, but, basically, you run a major library in Salt Lake City that I believe is the world’s largest genealogy library, correct?
David Rencher: Yes, we are the world’s largest genealogical library and have extensive collections world wide, which I think adds to uniqueness of the collection. We don’t just focus on one area or geography; we really try gather the genealogies and histories and genealogically-related documents from across the globe.
Dick Eastman: You also have a field organization, I’m going to use that term, I don’t know if that’s correct. But basically, these are catalog offices that are all over the world. I think several thousand of them that serve as extension set library and people order all sorts of material on microfilm or view the material online, correct?
David Rencher: That’s correct. So those offices in the field, we call Family History Centers and the Family History Centers - there are 4,500 of those scattered throughout the world. You can find the addresses for those online at www.familysearch.org and find one near you. At those centers then, you have access to not only online offerings, of course, which you would also have in your home, but you also have access to the 2.4 million roles of film that we have.
Dick Eastman: 2.4 million roles, that’s impressive. As I’ve used them, some of those roles have multiple sets of documents on them. So you’ve got well over 2.4 million collections -- I can’t think of the right term here.
David Rencher: Records.
Dick Eastman: Records, I’ll go with that. Today, you and I were talking a bit earlier and you wanted to talk a bit about a conference that’s upcoming and as I understand a rather large one?
David Rencher: It is a large conference. The National Genealogical Society is coming back to Salt Lake City for the first time since 1985 that’s a big event for us. We’re absolutely thrilled that they’re coming to town. Coupled with that, of course, their registration numbers are absolutely outstanding. There are paid in advance (ph) 2,000 paid registrants at this point, so that doesn’t count speakers, vendors, all of the ancillary personnel that are associated with the conference. So, we’re going to have a big crowd here in Salt Lake for this conference, and we think it’s going to be absolutely mind-blowing on several levels. First and foremost, of course, just the standard track of lectures that you find at any National Genealogical Society Conference - experts from across the country and some international, all of that combined is going to just provide and excellent program. We’ve added, kind of, a technology element to it this year. NGS, several years ago, absorbed an organization known as GENTECH that was Genealogy and Technology Organization that emerged in the Dallas, Texas area; ran for a number of years, ran a very successful conference, which moved around the country, and then ultimately became a division of the National Genealogical Society. When we approached them this year to, kind of, say, “So, what would you think about just expanding the exhibit hall and having a number of exhibits focused just on technology?” They were extremely receptive to that idea, and so we have nearly 75 technology exhibits; where they’ll be peeling back the covers and showing you how we scan film to digital, how to look at digital collections for symmetries (ph), desktop publishing, Wiki applications, automated indexing, hardware storage devices, AV machines, just a host of different types of digital cameras, everything that you can think of the technologies that are applied to family history these days. So, we think it’s going to provide a real learning experience to not only be tutored in the methodologies and the records of genealogy, but also the technology that really facilitates how we do this work now.
Dick Eastman: That’s great. I thought I knew some about this conference, but you just tought me a few things in those last few sentences; but let’s go back to the registration. I’ve been to a lot of genealogy conferences and I know all the conferences in North America, some of the conferences in North America typically attract a crowd or anywhere about 1,000 and 1,500 people. You’re talking, here, paid in advance, you’re not even talking the walk-ins; paid in advance of roughly 2,000 people?
David Rencher: That’s correct and that’s been through the efforts of a lot of people trying to get the word out, which we believed all along. If people knew and understood what was happening at this conference they'd want to be here. So, we think that has just come true and that people really making this a don’t-miss event. So, there are a number of features going on with this conference that we think just add a real spark to it. It has a great international flavor, there have been international workshops from a number of different areas that are set-up give a special emphasis and focus on that. Of course, we have two technology sessions through there, the GENTECH technology tracks. We’ve just added some superb instruction on how these technologies work. We even have a Kid’s Camp; a special day on Saturday where youth can come and learn about family history. The boy scouts can get their merit badge, girl scouts. Whatever the youth group, they can come and participate in a Kid’s Camp and really get a good start on their genealogy. Then the Utah Genealogical Association and Family Search are sponsoring a 32-night event that we think is absolutely spectacular, kind of, unprecedented at a national conference of this type. Thursday evening there will be an event in what’s called the conference center, here, in Salt Lake. The conference center holds a little over 20,000 people and right now, tickets are, basically, gone for that. We can find a number of different ways that we can try and get people in, but we are going to have a full house with those 20,000 people. The special speaker there David McCullough, a well known author and Pulitzer Prize winner, the Mormon Tabernacle Choir will sing, all coordinated with a number of very moving family history videos that have been specially developed. Locally, the President Henry B. Eyring will be speaking, and so, it’s going to be a program that, I think, will be very, very memorable.
Dick Eastman: I can’t believe you’ve got to fill 20,000 people at any event associated with a genealogy conference, that’s huge.
David Rencher: It’s unprecedented, but it’s going to be done; that train has left the station and those seats are going to be filled, and it’s going to happen.
Dick Eastman: Also, the opening ceremony and so on; I know you’ve got some things queued up there.
David Rencher: The opening session, people are just going to love. I think, one of things that everybody has always wanted was a tour of our Granite Mountain Record Vault. They’ve always wanted to go see our large film collection and see the storage facility and that type of thing. Because of climate controls in there, that’s one thing we’ve just never been able to offer to the public. So, the Keynote address by Jay Verkler will give you a virtual tour of the Granite Mountain Record Vault and then Jay will expand on what that collection means and how that works within the community and really, really share some insights with you that, I think, are just going to be absolutely mind-boggling.
Dick Eastman: I know you have all sorts of presentations for varying levels of genealogists - from beginners right through to some of the more advanced topics; but any ideas or any numbers you can share with us about how many of these?
David Rencher: Yes. In fact, we do have some good numbers that we can share with you. This is a conference that is really going to give you the variety. There’s really something there for everyone, that’s not by mistake at all. We’ve really tried to make it so that there’s something here that everyone can do and everyone can have. So, combined with the National Genealogical Society Conference, of course, are a number of different technology conferences. And the BYU Computerized Conference, for example, has been from Provo, up here to Salt Lake. Normally held on it’s own, down in Provo, it will actually occur on the Monday and the Tuesday of the NGS Conference week and that will be a major change this year. About 600 people will be attending that conference alone, and so that one will really give you a feel for what’s going on there. In those sessions - there will be about 110 sessions in the computerized conference that gives you a real good look at that; there are 11 tracks, seven of those are on technology, over 80% of those focus on just the technologies, again, associated with it. The NGS Conference just has a number of build-in tracks. There’s a British track sponsored, for example, by the International Society for British Genealogy and Family History. The Board for Certification has a sponsored track; there are Genealogy 101 Workshops on Saturday with a box lunch, Genealogy 201 on Saturday for the afternoon. So, there’s a librarian’s day on Tuesday for the genealogical librarians around the country. We have the Beginner’s Workshop on Tuesday, there’s an Intermediate Workshop Tuesday. Of course, I mentioned the Kid’s Camp already on Saturday, which is free, and the National Archives and Records Administration has a workshop. So, you really have, speaking to all of those different levels, just a lot going on in this conference that I think is just going to make it extremely exhilarating.
Dick Eastman: I know I’m going to be there looking forward to it and I’m going to really tell you, I’m delighted to see that GENTECH at this event. GENTECH was a great organization that did a lot of technical things some years ago, but wasn’t well-known, to be blunt, just what they did. The fact that you’re bringing this back, you said a separate technology exhibitionary, right?
David Rencher: It’s correct. There will even be a GENTECH Booth where people can actually -- like I said, when I said there’s something for everyone the most technical of the technical can zero in on the GENTECH Booth and take a look at the old data model and the documentation behind that and there’ll be GENTECH people around it that can discuss the ins and outs of it, and why it’s good thing for the genealogical community. So just a lot going on there in the technical arena.
Dick Eastman: Super. I will definitely want to check that out. I’ll spend as much time as I can in the GENTECH area.
David Rencher: Well, I think the other thing that, of course we love that you do is you have such a unique way of, kind of, capturing the essence of what each of the offerings are and summarizing that and we all get to read it online.
Dick Eastman: Well, thank you; but I guarantee, I am not going to be capturing all of these offerings, you’ve got too many.
David Rencher: Maybe you need some surrogates.
Dick Eastman: Oh! That’s the start of a conversation. I always write some, I like to provide the highlights and I truly am going to try that this year, but the highlights only it’s a -- my newsletter would expand and quadruple in size if I try cover everything and get going. It sounds like a --
David Rencher: I’m good with that.
Dick Eastman: Oh! Okay. And you’ll help me. You’re promising to write a couple of articles for me, right?
David Rencher: Oh! Why not?
Dick Eastman: Alright. I knew you had plenty of time to do that. Speaking of time, we’ve kind of taken up your time, here, today. I really appreciate it. I know you’re a busy guy all the time, but here we are with what, about a week to go and I am going to believe you’re even more busy than normal.
David Rencher: Well, we are, but that’s okay. I’m off here in a few minutes to give a speech tonight to the Huntington Genealogical Society that’s in town here from Long Island and so we’ll spend some time with them.
Dick Eastman: Alright. Great. David, I really appreciate you taking the time, today, to join us and to talk a little bit about what’s coming up at the Conference. I look forward to seeing you and I look forward to seeing all the events there.
David Rencher: Thank you Dick.
Dick Eastman: Thanks again. You’ve been listening to a podcast from EOGN.com. I’ve been talking with David Rencher, whose the Chief Genealogical Officer for Family Search. He’s been talking about our upcoming conference in Salt Lake City.