I was browsing around the other day and stumbled upon an article where the writer, Mike Elgan, starts out by saying, "I've always found genealogy boring." I've always considered genealogy to be one of the most passionate hobbies around. Connecting with pieces of your heritage brings out so many different emotions.
Then, after the shock of his statement wore off, I began to wonder if what he really meant was that online genealogy was boring -- or more accurately, frustrating. I do find it somewhat challenging to conduct research online when all of the information you need to search is stored in a variety of different "islands." There is no meta-genealogy search engine, and that's what Mike was speculating about in his article.
He ponders, "Is combining all genealogy data too scary?" I don't think so. Just like anything in life, there will be bad people who take advantage of improved access to information. Genealogists would certainly benefit from the efficiency of being able to access information from a variety of online databases in a single search.
Recently, a friend asked for some help in tracking down any immigration information regarding her grandfather. It was a simple request, but it took me over an hour to make the rounds (Ancestry.com, WorldVitalRecords.com, GenealogyBank.com and Footnote.com) before I located a relevant document. It must be challenging for some researchers to contend with the different search techniques required to find information at each of these (and other) sites.
Will it take a company like Google to persuade our industry to provide open interfaces to their databases? The databases of my company, Genealogy Today, are small in comparison to the other players, but I'm ready to join the bandwagon and would be willing to develop an XML interface.