Yesterday I had the fortunate opportunity to give my LGBTQ Genealogy presentation at Ancestry’s San Francisco office.
On the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, 28 June 2019, I gave the same presentation at the Sutro Library at the invitation of Dvorah Lewis. A few San Francisco based employees of Ancestry.com were in attendance. They belonged to the internal group called AQT – Ancestry Queers in Technology.
Holly, Cory and Emily were impressed with my LGBTQ presentation, especially my discussion on current genealogy software and how it often does not fit “modern” families. They felt that Ancestry.com would benefit greatly experiencing my presentation. Internally they have raised software issues, but the message might be better heard coming from an end-user.
After a few emails and phone calls a date was set. The only problem was that I had to abbreviate a two-hour presentation into 45 minutes. I got started cutting and hacking while preserving the main important points of being cognizant that we all have LGBTQ ancestors and how to find them. I also spent time looking more deeply into Ancestry.com and how it worked well for my complex family constellation and where there was room for improvement.
In my family constellation there is one adopted child, a half adopted child, a child via sperm donation, a surrogate mother who has other children, other biological and non-biological connections. It is a challenge to accurately document these connections, with respect, in most genealogical applications.
The date arrived. I was ready and rehearsed. I walked the 15 minutes from the Montgomery BART station to the Ancestry.com office in rare 82⁰ F heat for San Francisco. I arrived early and sweaty. I was excited to finally see the inside of an Ancestry.com office. I was greeted warmly, water was offered and accepted, then escorted to the meeting room. As I set up people trickled in with their lunches. It was a pleasure to see Holly, Cory and Emily again and meet many new people.
The presentation was being live streamed to the Lehi, Utah office and the ProGen office in Salt Lake City. We could see those groups on screen as they trickled in. The talk was also being recorded for internal use. At the onset I did a quick head count of about 40 people in the three locations. By the end, that number has easily doubled. Later, I was told that this was the largest attendance, by far, of any presentation at Ancestry. The average age seemed to be at least 2 decades younger than me.
Everything went fabulously. My message and ideas were received positively and gratefully. I could see some beginning to brainstorm on how to manifest a software transformation. There were a few requests for my slide deck. The concluding slide of this Ancestry.com tailored talk suggests the following to-do list.
- Create a new GEDCOM standard for the industry that will recognize all families outside of the “hetero-norm”.
- People of any sex and gender can be linked in a relationship.
- The relationship can be defined with a second data element that includes bio-father, domestic partners, mother (non-bio), surrogate child, long term intimate friend, donor, etc.
- Allow for more than 2 preferred parents.
- Remove sex biased labels and icons.
- Sex elements should include transgender, intersex, and allow for gender identification.
- Evolve standard genealogy documents, such as Ahnentafel and Family Group Sheets to be family history based, not just for DNA lines.
- Think broadly, being inclusive of current and future family constellations.
As I was leaving the office, Holly introduced me to Margo Georgiadis, CEO of Ancestry. She was friendly, thanked me for coming and said that LGBTQ issues were a high priority for Ancestry. She promised to view the recorded presentation.
A big THANK YOU to Holly and Dan of Ancestry.com for making this event happen! Should I have the opportunity to speak at Ancestry.com again, I’ll bring an update on what has changed in the interim.