Genealogy is being transformed by technology and the changes hold some interesting lessons for content in general.

My great grandfather, William Francis Cyphers, started a ledger in 1900 to record the births, deaths and baptisms in the family.

The list showed one great, great grandfather immigrated from Germany in the 1850s. Another relative fought in the Civil War and left us the Bible he carried into battle.

Twenty years ago researching your family history would involve time-consuming visits to churches and cemeteries. Older memories seemed to be lost forever.

Fast forward to today.

The digitization of records, AI programs and crowd sourcing is uncovering details and connecting dots in unbelievable ways.

The “crowd” on mapped my family’s roots back to 1624 when my ancestor Joris Jansen Rapelje arrived in New York City (then New Amsterdam.)

Joris acquired 335 acres in Brooklyn and is buried in Flatbush.

Showing some shockingly poor real estate instincts, his descendants moved to New Jersey and remained there for the next 11 generations.

What’s striking is how the genealogy programs provide “data transparency,” linking directly to Census and burial records.

This took a lot of work. People digitized documents. AI programs and optical recognition identified names and places. And then people verified the connections.

The mind-blowing thing is how the accessibility changes your understanding of something as basic as your family history.

It turns out I’m not very German at all, but mostly Dutch.

These same tools are being used to score, analyze and classify all kinds of content.

As that happens we will make more and more discoveries.