There’s been a lot of discussion recently about the impact of digital books. In a recent interview, Tim O’Reilly pointed out that electronic publishing is changing the definition of what a book is. His example is Google Maps. Compare it with the road atlas you probably still have tucked under the seat in your car. Why is it buried there? Because you can get Google Maps on your phone and it’s telling you where you are at any given time, providing directions to the place you want to go – including automatically adjusting with detours around traffic and road construction. Speak to it and it will tell you what food and gas stations are at the next exit. Can your atlas do this?
After catching up on the news, I went back to working on my family pages in WeRelate and learning how WeRelate deals with sources. As I’m reading the documentation and looking at the source pages, I realize that WeRelate could be another of Tim O’Reilly’s examples of the digital revolution. Why? Because WeRelate is well on its way to becoming Source Central.
The WeRelate source portal starts with the 725,000 items in the Family History Library Catalog, then adds another 200,000 websites. Each of those sources has a page of its own. At the very least, that page includes citation information. That’s before WeRelate members begin adding to the page, providing information on repositories having copies of the source document, book, record, whatever. Some may even include transcriptions of information gleaned from that source. The screenshot below shows an impressive example of what a source page can be (click the image to visit the page).
Not only does this page provide citation information about this source, there’s also a list of repositories where the source can be found and notes discussing the contents and how the records can be used.
Each WeRelate user can update any part of the platform with additional information. This includes the source pages. So, if you don’t think there’s enough information posted regarding a specific source, you are free to include it yourself.
Remind me once again why I should agonize over the proper format for citing a source when one hyperlink gets me all of this? And why should software developers reformat their sourcing areas to some yet to be determined standard when only one link will lead to a source that can support all citation formats and do so much more?
Yes, the paper-only genealogists will still need to reference standard citations. They are also the reason road atlas publishers are still in business.
WeRelate has great potential to become the WorldCat of genealogy sources. It already has great backing with the Foundation for Online Genealogy and Allen County Public Library as sponsors. With additional backing by genealogy societies and the businesses that would benefit from such a resource, the possibilities are endless.
Visit the Source Portal and take a look for yourself, then let me know what you think.