All in all, I think it was a good year. Here are some of the highlights, along with one or two lowlights, of the past twelve months:
Undoubtedly, the biggest story of 2012 was the release of the 1940 U.S. census. Genealogists waited 72 years for these records to be released. For the first time ever, the census records were released only as online images on the Internet. The web servers were overwhelmed the first few days the images became available, to the surprise of almost no one. However, the load "simmered down" within a few days and now images are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Two separate indexing efforts, one was a commercial effort by Ancestry.com and another by a consortium of volunteer indexers, produced searchable indexes within weeks after the release of the images. You can access the indexes and images at several online sites. See http://1940census.archives.gov/ for more information.
Who Do You Think You Are? Live! in London was held in February, again becoming what appears to be the largest genealogy show in the world with 12,000 or more attendees. This three-day event has to be seen to be appreciated. It is crowded, noisy, and everyone seems to have a great time.
RootsTech2012 was held in Salt Lake City with more than 4,400 attendees. This has become the largest genealogy "trade show" in North America.
The National Genealogical Society held a large annual conference in Cincinnati, Ohio. Excitement seemed to grow when the Society announced that the 2013 conference will be held in Las Vegas!
The Federation of Genealogical Societies held its annual conference in Birmingham, Alabama with a smaller than usual crowd in attendance. Part of the reason was Hurricane Isaac that was to the west of Birmingham in the days preceding the conference, blocking many would-be attendees from travel.
Nothing new here! Companies continued to acquire other companies all year. Here are some of the highlights:
1000Memories.com was acquired by Ancestry.com.Online Web Sites:
Archives.com was acquired by Ancestry.com
Late in the year, Ancestry.com was acquired by Permira for $1.6 billion
MyHeritage.com acquired Geni.com
ReadyMicro.com, a manufacturer and operator of high-speed microfilm digital cameras was acquired by Mocavo.com.
Mocavo first became a genealogy-specific search engine that searches only genealogy web sites looking for information about individuals. The site still does that but has since expanded to become much, much more, including a publishing site for anyone who wishes to use the company's services and a free scanning service as well. You can find more at http://www.mocavo.com.
This story has been reported every year for several years: more and more online genealogy databases have appeared in the past year than ever before. Luckily, the same story continued to be true in 2012. The biggest new database probably was the 1940 U.S. census. However, dozens of others were also added, including both large and small record sets. Examples included the Trumbull County, Ohio Casualties database of veterans' deaths, up through mega-databases from FamilySearch, Ancestry.com, FindMyPast, World Vital records, and others.
Ancestry.com, FamilySearch.org, FindMyPast.com, DeceasedOnline.com, and many other web sites released almost weekly announcements of new additions to their online databases.
Hardware and Software:
The past year has seen an explosion in one segment of the computer business: handheld devices. The year 2012 saw Android and Apple battling for mobile domination. It is interesting to note that Microsoft doesn't seem to be a significant player in this battle. To be sure, the company did release a handheld computer called the Surface during the year but online news sites report that very few of the devices have been sold. Microsoft may have to drop the price significantly in order to clear out excess inventory.
Along with the explosion in hardware, family tree apps for Apple, Android, Kindle Fire and NOOK have also exploded.
e-Books and e-magazines continued to grow in popularity all year, as expected. Many formerly printed publications are converting to digital publishing. Early in the year, the Encyclopedia Britannica announced a conversion to electronic publishing, stopping a print run of 244 years. Newsweek Magazine's last print publication will be the December 31, 2012 issue, starting 2013 as an electronic-only publication. I don't have any numbers available but I also now see many genealogy societies and some corporations offering their publications only as e-publications.
We continued to see the loss of valuable records during the year, mostly due to natural disasters. Superstorm Sandy destroyed countless families' photographs and personal records. The Michigan Technological University and Copper County Historical Collections were badly damaged by a fire. Thousands of court files in Greeneville, Tennessee were destroyed by water, mold and mildew. Records in Lincoln County, Idaho were destroyed by insects. Obviously, we need to speed up the digitizing of these valuable resources.
Perhaps the biggest "non-event" of 2012 was the lack of a doomsday in December as many people had predicted. December 21, 2012 was the last day listed in the Mayan Calendar and some claimed that marked the end of the world. (NOTE: The Mayans never claimed any such thing. Mayans simply said that December 21 marked the end of one age and that a new, and undefined, age would follow.) Most people did not sell all their possessions and wait on a hilltop for the apocalypse.
Facebook launched the biggest technology IPO in history just to flop miserably within days.
My highlight of the year:
On a personal note, the readership of this newsletter has continued to inch upward all year long. According to www.StatMyWeb.com, Eastman's Online Genealogy Newsletter now averages 74,634 unique visitors per day which produce a total of 119,415 pageviews. That doesn't count those who read the newsletter in email or by RSS newsfeeds. I must admit I am pleased with those numbers.
Indeed, 2012 was an event-filled year and contained mostly good news. I think it is exciting to look forward to 2013!