Digitization changes family history, but still need for non-digital

Loretto Szucs was her own search engine back in 1985.

She interviewed relatives. She wrote letters because phone calls and photocopies were too expensive. She rented a microfilm reader, scanned through reel after reel of census records and even enlisted the help of her children -- giving them a quarter for every family name they found.

"A lot of writing, a lot of patience, interviewing anyone who would even know my family," she described.

Today, computer search engines pull family names out of the air.

As Szucs and some of the country's most ardent genealogists gathered in Salt Lake City from April 28 to May 1, Internet connections in and around the Salt Palace Convention Center were buzzing with family history activity.

A lot has changed since the National Genealogical Society last convened its annual conference in Salt Lake City 25 years ago. Online resources have taken years off genealogical research. Researchers, meanwhile, are getting started years earlier.

"They can learn and find in five years what it took me 30," said Jan Alpert, president of NGS.

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