Innovations in computing and data science have made it possible to delve deeper into our pasts online, with online genealogical sites offering an astonishing amount of historical information we could never have dreamed of having access to before the internet era: from genealogical sources to digitised newspapers to DNA testing. In this course, we'll examine how historical records, often stored in archives, are transformed into online datasets, accessible from anywhere in the world. We consider the reasons why they have been selected for digitisation, by whom, how they were transcribed and the challenges of creating searchable datasets.
We’ll explore how different types of data automation and algorithms are applied to genealogical data, to understand how genealogical site 'hints' are generated. We’ll consider what genealogical DNA tests can reveal and how to evaluate ancestral connections and ethnic origins. Throughout, we'll discuss how each of these computational techniques can both enhance but also obscure the chance of finding our ancestors and heritage. And we’ll discuss what impact all these advances have on our own genealogical research, particularly in relation to identity protection and ethical concerns around big data.