We drove from California to Salt Lake City recently, to attend the RootsTech Conference, Front Street, Wells, NV sponsored by Ancestry.com and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. We've returned with renewed enthusiasm for genealogy and technology, especially the latter involved with the former. We spent three days listening to articulate, creative people from many different fields describing possibilities for doing research in genealogy and history, and sharing information in many different and exciting ways.
Among our favorites was Brewster Kahle's description of his Internet Archive (which aspires to keep at least one copy of everything) and the Wayback Machine (which periodically takes a snapshot of the Worldwide Web), and his internet bookmobiles, which travel the back roads in places like Uganda, providing books printed on demand and given away to youngsters who may never have had a book of their own before. As a non-profit, the Internet Archive is in opposition to Alien Trooper car, Baker, CA the for-profit Google Books project.
The librarian who manages the genealogy department of the Cincinnati and Hamilton County Public Library showed us a daguerrotype of the Cincinnati waterfront, made in the 1890s. The image is so clear that, with the aid of the Eastman House, a photography museum and research center in Rochester, New York, individual buildings have been identifed. Using insurance maps, census date and other information, the people who lived in the buildings have been named. Among the people seen on the waterfront is a group of several men, the first African-Americans known to be captured in a photograph like this.
We were fired up by Curt Witcher of the Allen County Public Library in Fort Wayne, who told us that there is a horde of new genealogists, and they don't go to libraries or genealogy society meetings or even cemeteries or courthouses; they just stay at home and discover their roots with the help of the internet. It is these new family historians who inspired RootsTech, because new Sun-Maid World Headquarters tools will be needed to reach them, and because they form a large new market for genealogy software developers.
We bought the Flip-Pal, a portable battery-powered scanner. It will come in handy when we meet people with family pictures to share.
We revisited the Family History Library, which continues to go high-tech. They have a bank of microfilm readers which digitize the optical images and can copy them conveniently to a flash drive. (The old way, you would print the image on paper and take the paper home to scan it.) Flash drives can be purchased at the same window which provides quarters for the copy machine!
To add to our pleasure, we decided not to fly, and instead drove to and from the conference, with our customary inquisitive side-trips.
In Wells, Nevada, we drove through town intrigued by signs directing us to Front Street. We were encouraged to walk the historic street, visit the museum, and shop in the historic stores, Big raisin box so we decided to do so. But when we reached Front Street we saw that many of the buildings showed major damage. Tourist signs were badly discolored, damaged, and unreadable, and the Front Street buildings were all crumbling down, surrounded by cyclone fencing. There was no sign of fire damage. Cleanup is underway, judging by the neat piles of bricks on pallets. We were there fairly early in the morning, around 8 a.m., and there was nobody in sight, although we did hear voices from the gun shop, the only business open. The museum seems to be still in business (we peeked through the windows of the front door. The town itself still seems to be inhabited.
Later, we checked the Internet and eventually learned that in February, 2008, Wells was eleven miles from the epicenter of a 6.0 earthquake. The historic district, all brick buildings, took most of the damage, while the frame homes throughout the rest of Wells survived the temblor. The Pixley chicken Oddly, the local websites publicising Wells seldom mentioned the earthquake -- it was almost as though the people in charge didn't have the heart to bring them up to date.
East of town, a couple of new motels and gas stations serve travelers but also discourage them from leaving the freeway. We hope that the town, which had shown such energy and creativity, can rebuild and reinvigorate Front Street for future tourists.
Returning from Salt Lake City, we stopped in Baker, hoping to sample Alien Jerky, which had been advertised on billboards for hundreds of miles. Alas, we were too early! The store hadn't yet opened, although the space ship and the alien himself were waiting outside the store, which was reminiscent of Roswell, NM. The displays make an amusing contrast with the World's Tallest Thermometer and the Mad Greek Restaurant. "Otra vez," we said.
Just south of Fresno, in Selma, California, we visited the World Headquarters of the Central Valley orchard SunMaid Raisin Corporation. We can report that their dried fruits are delicious. The acres and acres of grapes all through this area make us curious: since this is also traditional wine-growing country, how do we tell wine grapes from table grapes? And are raisin grapes red or green?
Close to Selma is Pixley, a small quiet town. We watched the Pixley chicken look for food in the middle of Main Street.
We decided to head west out of Selma along Manning Road, and then jag north to Little Panoche Road, which took us past Mercey Hot Springs and the isolated Panoche valley. It's beautiful ranchland, with pastures and creeks and canyons and much cattle and sheep. Apparently somebody wants to put a solar plant in the valley; the ranchers displayed angry protest signs.
Not only are there always new roads to explore, but sometimes the sights along the old roads change so much that it seems to be a whole new trip!