Interview with Robert Raymond (NERGC speaker)

Robert Raymond isolated and grandkids heads removed

As an official NERGC blogger, I had the opportunity to conduct an email interview with Robert Raymond. He is a frequent speaker at NERGC and we are happy to welcome him back.

Is this your first time at NERGC? What are most looking forward to at NERGC 2019?

I’ve been to NERGC several times and always enjoy the conference. Several things draw me there. I have deep New England ancestry and feel a connection to the area. I also have the assignment at FamilySearch to recommend record acquisitions in New England. I am always learning something new or being reminded of things I have forgotten, both of which help me in my personal research and professional work. I don’t get out from Utah very often, so when I can I visit archives while in the area. Plus, I enjoy teaching and hope my session will benefit attendees.

What first sparked your interest in genealogy?

Gosh, I would have to say it was an activity in Cub Scouts when I was 8 or 9 years old. We had to fill out a pedigree to get a badge or something. I’m obsessive, so filling in every empty box was very satisfying. I come from a long line of genealogists, so it was just a matter of copying the information from their charts to mine. It only grew from there.

In your bio, you state that you are a genealogical technologist. Will you please explain more about what this means, and the path you took to get to this point in your career?

By education I’m an electrical engineer. My passion was programming, which I started doing professionally while still in high school. I had a successful career, I think. Among other things I created several patented inventions and helped build and lead a company whose products earned many industry rewards. One day the company president asked me a cutting question: what would I do with my life if I didn’t have to work. I knew from that very moment that I needed to redirect myself into family history. I am a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, so I believe family history opens the way for families to be blessed in this life and in our lives after we die. So I made the switch. But not having a lifetime of genealogical training, as I have had in technology, I’m more comfortable calling myself a genealogical technologist than a technically-inclined genealogist.

Why is it important for genealogists to understand technology? How can it help them in their research?

That’s just it. It’s important for genealogists to understand technology because it can help them in their research. Take my topic, smartphone cameras. Never mind all the powerful things we can do with this miniature computer we carry around in our pocket. There’s several lectures in that, alone. Then someone came along and said, what if we added a camera? The implications have been enormous. Sometimes the applications of new technologies are obvious and sometimes it helps to learn what others have to say.

Do you have any favorite technologies to recommend to NERGC attendees?

There’s DNA, of course, but I’m prejudiced by my employment at FamilySearch. I guess we are not the only one with a huge website of digitized records, but online access to records is arguably the greatest game changer in genealogical history. FamilySearch is working on some technologies that will only accelerate that.

We are also pushing our online, shared tree. We don’t have all the kinks worked out yet, but the potential for collecting in one all the world’s best genealogical trees is worth the endeavor.

I touch on several technologies in my presentation, like cloud storage. It’s a big paradigm shift. I compare it to utilities. Few people generate their own electricity, drill for their own water, or acquire their own gas. We hook up to a wider cloud of services that we use on demand. That same thing is happening to disk storage. We don’t need a huge hard drive inside our phone. We hook to cloud storage like we hook to utilities in our homes.

You will be speaking on Saturday at 10:00. Your talk is titled “Smartly Using a Smart Phone Camera” Will you please tell us a little more about this topic, ,why you created this presentation, and what you hope the attendees will get out of it?

One time after presenting this topic, I had a trained photographer come up to me afterwards and say, “Thank you. I learned stuff I can begin using today.” Hopefully, that will be true for everyone. The most important part of the presentation is about archival research. I present some tips that anyone can use. I also spend time talking about sourcing our research. It is amazingly easy to do using the techniques I present.

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