Let’s fast-forward 48 years and look in our crystal ball. You know the one: the crystal ball on your desk that has 1024-by-768 pixels. It is a winter evening in 2070 A.D. at the Rencher Memorial Genealogy Center in Salt Lake City. An employee is working the evening shift, answering calls from people interested in their ancestry.
Sitting in his cubicle, the employee hears the VoIP phone ring. He swivels in his office chair and touches a button on the micro-headset in his ear. Through the room’s integrated sound system we can only hear one side of the conversation:
“Good evening. Thank you for calling the ‘Check Your Ancestry Hotline.’ My name is Alan. May I have your Social Security Number please?
“Thank you. Let me enter that number into our database.
“OK, for security purposes, would you please sit directly in front of your computer’s web cam? Yes. That should be good. Let me double-check… Yes, the retina scan verifies your identity. How may I help you this evening, Miss Smolenyak?
[Long pause here]
“Oh, I don’t think that is such an unusual story. We hear similar tales all the time. I am not surprised that your grandmother compiled the family tree years ago but neglected to make backup copies. After all, making computer backups was a MANUAL process back in the good old days. Many people didn’t do that. I have heard many tales of family trees that were lost during the flood of 2025, the hurricanes of 2042 and 47, and other disasters.
“Luckily, we now have all the information in the Public Ancestral File version 7 data base. We usually refer to that database as “PAF7.” We can almost always reconstruct your family tree within minutes. How many ancestors would you like to find this evening?”
“12 generations? Yes, that should be simple. That will cost $24.95. Would you please swipe your credit card through the slot in the front of your computer?
“Now let’s get started. I am obligated to tell you about the PAF7 database. It is based on the latest DNA technology. Each living person’s DNA was entered, including all 3,278 genetic markers for each person. Those are referred to as the “Greenspan Genealogy Markers.” Yes, the database contains the DNA markers of every living person in the world as of its conception date in 2022. Of course, every newborn child’s DNA has also been entered ever since that date.
“The computers then calculated the DNA of every person’s ancestors back 1,024 generations. The documents of the national archives of every nation in the world were scanned and saved as digitized images, as were many church records, vital records, tax lists, military records, and many more resources. The result was a database of reconstituted ancestral data. In spot-checking by independent auditors from leading genealogy societies, the database has proven to be 99.999% accurate when compared to various genealogy records. In fact, the database appears to be far more accurate than most written genealogy records.
“OK, that is the end of the description of PAF7. Do you have any questions before we proceed?
[a short pause here]
“Well, I will be giving a hands-on demonstration of that on this year’s Roots Magic’s Cruise to Mars. You might think about joining us.
“Yes, most of the presentations will be given during the voyage in the Roy Stockdill Lounge.”
[a short pause here]
“Great. Let’s get going. Which ancestor would you like to start with?
“Your grandmother Megan? Certainly. Let’s see what we have on her…
“Oh yes, here she is. Let me click on ‘derived pedigree.’ Yes, we have extensive records on her. It appears that she was a genealogist and actually submitted the information herself. The PAF7 database has assessed her information at a very high 99.5% degree of accuracy. Apparently she never knew about her great-great-grandmother’s indiscretion with the gardener, however.
‘What’s that? Oh yes, that’s just one of the little surprises one finds in the family tree when using PAF7. I am sure we can find others. After all, these people were not just ancestors, they were also humans. They experienced all the issues that we still deal with today. Some things never change, do they?
“Yes, her ancestry appears to be almost entirely from eastern Europe. I see several small villages listed here. Shall I send that pedigree chart to you in e-mail?
“Yes. Let me click on this icon. Is your e-mail address still email@example.com? OK, the chart is on its way now, along with 138 pages of supporting documentation.
“Were you also interested in joining a heritage society, such as the Daughters of the American Revolution, the General Society of Mayflower Descendants, the Daughters of the Confederacy, Descendants of the Korean Conflict Heroes, or something similar? I don’t see any qualifying ancestors in your grandmother’s ancestry, but we can usually find someone in some other branch of the family tree who has a descendancy from a qualifying person.
“Great! That heritage society verification costs an extra $12.95. Could I ask you to swipe that credit card again?
“I am going to conduct the Heritage Society Search. This will take a minute or two as the computers scan through several million qualifying ancestors to see if they can find your DNA sequence in the list of descendants. That’s a total of 24 billion possibilities. The search shouldn’t take too long… Ah! Here it is now.
“I see that you have qualifying ancestors for the Daughters of the American Revolution, the General Society of Mayflower Descendants, as well as the Descendants of the Illegitimate Sons and Daughters of the Kings of Britain, sometimes called the Royal Bastards.
“Yes, that last one is one of the more desirable societies these days.
“Oh, wait a minute! You also have DNA derived from Genghis Khan, so you also qualify for membership in the General Society of the Horde. Of course, most everyone else qualifies for that one!
Wait, here’s another one: the Minority Ancestors of America Society. Yes, they are a difficult society to join. You have to prove your line of descent from an ancestor that arrived in North America involuntarily. That was the organization founded by Pulitzer Prize winner Tony Burroughs. After all, Tony needed a heritage society that he could join!
“I am sending you the qualification certificates for each of those societies by e-mail. When you fill out the forms on your computer, you will see that each certificate has a unique bar code printed on it. Just forward the appropriate certificate to each society’s headquarters by email. Each society’s membership secretary will scan the bar code from the page, and you will receive your membership card a few seconds later by email. What could be simpler?
“Their addresses? I’m not sure. Our database only shows people, not societies’ addresses. However, you should be able to find all that information online on Cyndi’s Granddaughter’s List. Yes, you can start with a search on Google3. That should find it.
“Of course, most of those societies are only online these days. Yes, actual street addresses seem to have disappeared after the merger of the New England Historic Genealogical Society with the National Genealogical Society, and the Society of Genealogists. The new organization sold all their buildings when they converted all their holdings into digital libraries. Yes, the Laura Prescott Memorial Library now has hundreds of thousands of online subscribers.
“The same thing happened to the Sharbrough Center for Southern Heritage. Yes, that’s the one. Funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
“Now, I’ve sent your ancestral detail in text form, and I assume you will be printing it out. Did you want to also receive it in electronic format? The file will be in GEDCOM6 format. That way, you can add new details of your own and automatically upload them to PAF7 on the web. Yes, the data can be used in any computer running the Macintosh OS 42.3 or later operating system.
“Windows? Golly, no. We haven’t had a request for that in years. Perhaps a local computer museum can help with that. Yes, that’s right. Cyndi’s Granddaughter’s List again.
“Is there anything else that I can help you with this evening?
“Certainly. You still have a credit on your account for another 3,078 ancestors. That credit is good for two years. You can call us back at any time within the next two years to continue. Of course, we do offer a 99-year-guarantee on database accuracy.
“In the meantime, if you have any questions about genealogy and how to keep records, I’d suggest that you check with Eastman’s Online Genealogy Encyclopedia. This is a huge resource that genealogists all over the world collaborate on. Lucky for us, it really took off after Dick Eastman collapsed and died at his keyboard with the image of the Escape key imprinted on his forehead.
“Yes, that’s right. Cyndi’s Granddaughter’s List will find it.
“Good night and thank you for calling the Rencher Memorial Genealogy Center.”