RootsTech 2014

Some people eat, sleep and chew gum, I do genealogy and write...

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Does previous research leave you stranded?

In a recent blog post, I made the statement that if you are researching back into the 1600s or even earlier, you need to make absolutely sure you are not searching for a chimera. In response I got the following question from a reader:
James, I think you have hit upon my biggest issue in genealogy. When do you decide something is a chimera and end your research?

I have a family patriarch who was baptized in 1671, according to my family's records. I'm going back and verifying all of the links, and I'm really stuck here, as I can't find the baptism in question, which calls into question the rest of the research the family has done, linking back to the ascending three generations.

Do I just end the line and say "This is what the rest of the family believes, however, data does not exist to prove its veracity" or do I keep going trying to find that piece of data to make the system work?
Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for online family trees to included unsubstantiated ancestral connections.  First of all, it is important to look at the dates involved in this particular issue. No matter what country this particular question refers to, research back into the 1600s is going to start encountering a significant lack of source material, particularly if the researcher is searching for evidence of a specific event, such as a baptismal record. Normally, we would search for alternate records to support a calculated date, but in this time period the options may be extremely limited.

In this case, it appears that someone has entered a date without a source. In my opinion, any unsourced information in an online family tree is pure speculation. The burden of supporting the date in question is not on the commentator, but on the person who entered the date in the first place. Unless there is substantiating evidence in sources that support this particular connection, the line is unproved and should be discounted. The researcher here can "keep trying to find that piece of data" but I would suggest that it might be more productive to step back a generation or more and see if the rest of the line is well documented. If it happens to be documented, then the focus should be on finding more supporting data for the target individual's descendants and family rather than focusing on the narrow issue of one event.

I hope this helps clarify this type of question.

ScanPro Integration with FamilySearch

Scanning technology has been rapidly developing over the past few years. has, in a real sense, been pushing the edges of this technology in their efforts to digitize over 2.4 million rolls of microfilm. But microfilm has not disappeared. There is still a huge need for improvements in microfilm scanners. Most genealogist who have been working on their ancestry for a while are overly familiar with the old film reader machines that projected an image on a white screen at the bottom of the reader. Here is a photo of the older box-style reader:
Using similar technology to that used by FamilySearch to digitize microfilm, newer devices scan (digitize) the film and project a digital image of each image onto a monitor. One of the types of scanners that are in use at the larger Family History Libraries is the ScanPro series of scanners. Here is a ScanPro from their product brochure:

Rather than a hand crank, this microfilm reader/scanner moves the film with computer commands. The images from the microfilm can be easily adjusted, rotated and captured. If you visit a Family History Center that has one or more of these machines, you can save any images you find directly to a flash drive or other storage device.

Now e-ImageData Corp has added a new twist to the scanning process. In a recent announcement they say:
e-Image Connection Software 
Much of the information you need when working on genealogy research projects include documents, records, family photos, letters, and articles, etc., that can be found only on microfilm. e-Image Connection is a software feature that is available for all ScanPro microfilm scanners that makes it easy and efficient to upload this information directly to your Family Search account. You start by logging into to your Family Search account, use the ScanPro microfilm scanner to locate information that you are interested in, select that information,and CLICK the Family Search upload button. It is that easy. You also have powerful, easy-to-use image editing tools available including image adjustment, OCR (create word searchable documents), and renaming scans (for easy identification). And, the image adjustments are live so you can see exactly the changes that you are making before uploading.

Closer to your family’s history with just a CLICK!
Wouldn’t it be nice if when you came across that ONE photo of your great-great-grandparent, you could just click ONE button and save it to your Family Search account? At E-Image Data we think you should do just that. Our new E-Image Connection software for all models of the ScanPro works seamlessly with Family Search, allowing you to simply click the Family Search Upload button to save the record, photo, letter or article directly to your Family Search account. It’s that simple! You can then continue down your research path and find out what more you can learn about your relatives of the past. Using the ScanPro and E-Image Connection is the easiest and most efficient way to do genealogy research and gets you one click closer to your family history.
These advances make transferring these images even more convenient. Of course, there is still a need to review the reliability and appropriateness of any image used as a source and attached to Family Tree. I would assume that the larger FamilySearch Libraries will acquire this new technology in the not-too-distant future.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Web Basics for Genealogists -- Wiki Searches

Searching in a wiki program is distinctively different than either using a catalog for searching or utilizing a Google string search. It is true that there are few, if any, purely catalog systems of search online and likewise almost all "string searches" have some underlying structure. Since a wiki program has a distinctive structure, searches for items within the wiki are relatively uniform in nature from online program to program. The largest online genealogy wiki is the Research Wiki.

There seems to be a conditioned distrust of the accuracy of wikis due to their cooperative and collaborative nature. However, I have found this attitude is usually expressed in direct proportion to the extent of the individual's contact with and use of a wiki. Wikis are self correcting and that feature alone is paramount in deciding their degree of accuracy.

The content of a wiki is determined by its originating sponsor as are its rules of operation. In doing both catalog and string searches, the idea is to try and guess the content of the search objective. For example, if you are searching in a library catalog, it helps to understand the library's system. If you are doing a string search on Google, it is important to try and guess an indexed phrase or text phrase in the documents you are researching. In a wiki search, you should automatically begin your search with the most general terms about the subject you can imagine and then allow the wiki to direct your further inquiry.

Let me give an example of a wiki search for an Arizona birth record using the Research Wiki. You would think that you would begin your search by entering "Arizona Birth Record." You could do this, but the best way to search a wiki is by starting with the most general search available. In this case, you would search for Birth Records. The best practice would have you begin with United States Birth Records. If you conducted the search in this manner, you would find the following articles:
  • United States Birth Records
  • Locating United States Vital Records
  • How to Find United States Birth Records
  • United States, How to Use Birth Records
  • How to Estimate United States Birth Information
  • Online U.S. Marriage & Birth Records Indexes
And likely many more. The purpose of the wiki is to answer questions and provide links to sources. By doing a very specific search, you are, in effect, defeating the purpose of the program. Let's suppose that you are already very experienced with the wiki and so do not need all this background information. In that case, the most efficient was to approach the search is by the geographic place where an event occurred. In this case, you go directly to a search for "Arizona" and then select Vital Records from the subject link for the state. However, you should be aware that just as with the subject search for birth records, a place search is likely to show results for jurisdictional subdivisions such as counties, townships, towns and villages. In the case of a search for a birth record, you would expect the wiki to provide you with information about the availability of that type of record at the time and in the place where your ancestral event occurred. 

What I find is that when a researcher does not understand how and why a wiki works the way it does, that searching in the wiki for specific information creates a great deal of frustration on the part of the researcher. In addition, it the wiki is functioning properly, the list of topics above ought to be listed as links on the United States Birth Records page. If this is not the case, any registered user of the wiki should be able to add in that information at any time. 

As you can see from my series on searches, there are significant differences between catalog searches, string searches and the functions of a wiki search. is Planning an Upgrade to the Research Wiki

The issue seems to be links vs. tabs. A recent FamilySearch blog post by Danielle Bateson, entitled "A New Look is Coming for the FamilySearch Research Wiki," states the following:
Here is some exciting news about the FamilySearch Research Wiki. Our Research Wiki site will receive a major upgrade later this year (2014). This future upgrade will provide some welcome improvements. For example, there will be more space on the web page to view enriched text and images. There will also be increased editing capabilities for contributors and several other useful changes.
The announcement links to a survey about the "new look." There are two versions of the new page layout. Here are screenshots of the versions:

Version One:

You will definitely have to click on the image to see the page. Here is Version Two:

They look pretty much the same. In addition, the menu at the bottom of Version Two is usually caused by having the margins of your browser window too narrow and is what you see now in different browsers.

This is the kind of change that usually engenders a great deal of controversy and discussion in the Wiki circles, but almost goes unnoticed by the average user. If you look at Version One in full screen, you will see that the lines are very long and it is difficult to read, but this is easily solved by shrinking your browser window.

I am very glad to see so attention being paid to the Research Wiki, but I am not sure that changing menu items and moving things around a bit constitutes a new look. I find the Wiki extremely useful and I am very proactive in recommending it to everyone at every level of experience.

The Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy (SLIG) launches new website

The Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy or SLIG, has launched a new website. From their new website:
The Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy (SLIG) is a week-long intensive educational experience that takes students deep into their topic of choice. Instead of a breadth of topics like a conference, this institute offers a depth of knowledge. Students attending SLIG have the opportunity to advance their education with renowned genealogy experts during a week-long experience, network through special events, and tap into the wealth of resources at the nearly Family History Library.

Sponsored by the Utah Genealogical Association, SLIG is now in its 20th year. Having outgrown their previous venue, the 2015 program will be held at the Hilton Salt Lake City. This new venue offers plenty of elbow room for learning, networking, and celebrating at the closing awards banquet. Offering SLIG four-star quality at a three-star price, all students desiring to do so will be able to stay at the conference hotel in order to immerse themselves completely in the SLIG experience.
I am looking forward to attending the upcoming SLIG in January of 2015. SLIG 2015 will be held at the Hilton Salt Lake City Center Hotel in Salt Lake City, Utah on January 12-16, 2015. Registration is now open and all of the necessary information is contained on the new website. The SLIG is sponsored by the Utah Genealogical Association.

WikiChicks News

The WikiChicks, Eowyn Langholf and Tami Osmer Glatz announced their new online service in a news release dated 29 July 2014:
The WikiChicks Genealogy News Network (WikiChicks GNN), an engaging genealogical news service, has officially launched. “WikiChicks GNN is a new way for genealogists to stay informed of current industry news and relevant stories. By using social media tools we can provide information in a way that allows folks the ability to both read and share it easily with others” saidTami Osmer Glatz, co-founder of the group. “What I like about this concept is that it is a great example of how genealogists can come together, collaborate and make great things happen!” said Eowyn Langholf, co-founder. WikiChicks is different from existing community news services in that it is accessible through many platforms, and news is shared throughout the day, with evening digests of the day’s events created as a single blog posting.
The news release explains more about the WikiChicks:
The WikiChicks Genealogy News Network (WickiChicks GNN) is a free service that provides social media posts to help educate and inform genealogists and family historians about news, events and research tips. The WikiChicks’ GNN team share information of interest to genealogists daily via popular social media sources, including Facebook, Twitter, PinterestFlipboard, and Storify.

To have your society or group’s events included on the Calendar, or to share news and press releases, please email To learn more about WickiChicks see their website at

What are Crypto-Judaic Studies?

I am back at the International Association of Jewish Genealogy Societies (IAJGS) Conference in Salt Lake City, Utah for the second day. Most of my day will be spent helping out at the Utah Genealogical Association table in the Exhibitors Section of the Conference. Before the Exhibit floor opens, I have an opportunity to attend one class since the classes begin at 7:30 am. The class is entitled, "Crypto-Judaic Studies Panel, Part 1." It looks like I will miss part two. I must admit, I choose this presentation because I wanted to find out about the topic. So, what are crypto-Judaic studies? The presentation is being moderated by my fellow blogger, Schelly Talalay Dardashti. Here is the class description from the Conference:
This panel will bring together leaders in the field, as it raises awareness of specific issues. Panelists will include moderator Schelly Talalay Dardashti (Society for CryptoJudaic Studies board member), Genie Milgrom (JGS of Miami president Society for CryptoJudaic Studies vice president), Art Benveniste (JGSLA, Society for CryptoJudaic Studies treasurer), and Bennett Greenspan ( CEO/president). Other panel participants will be added as confirmed.
Essentially, as I found out, the Cryto-Jews are explained as follows from the presentation handout:
While most crypto-Jewish communities are generally related to the Iberian Inquisition and the terrible events of 1391 and 1492, there are groups in other countries with no connection to Spain, such as the Mashadi community of Iran.
Part of the explanation also comes from the Society for Crypto Judaic Studies which states:
The Society for Crypto-Judaic Studies (SCJS) fosters the research of the historical and contemporary development of crypto-Jews of Iberian origin. Additionally, it provides a venue for the descendants of crypto-Jews, scholars, and other interested parties to network and discuss pertinent issues. The society was founded 1991 by Rabbi Joshua Stampfer of Portland, Oregon; Dr. Stanley Hordes of Santa Fe, New Mexico; and playright Rena Down of New York City.
These are Jews of sephardic origin who have practiced their religion and culture in secret due to persecution. Wikipedia defines crypto-judaism as follows:
Crypto-Judaism is the secret adherence to Judaism while publicly professing to be of another faith; practitioners are referred to as "crypto-Jews" (origin from Greek kryptos - κρυπτός, 'hidden'). The term crypto-Jew is also used to describe descendants who maintain some Jewish traditions of their ancestors while publicly adhering to other faiths. The term is especially applied historically to European Jews who professed Catholicism.[1][2][3][4][5] The phenomenon is especially associated with early modern Spain, following the expulsion of the Jews in 1492.[6] 
I left in all of the links to the sources.

Genealogical research in this community is difficult due to its secretive nature. The Sephardim are defined in a blog post entitled, "What do we mean by the term, "Sephardim." Here is the explanation:
Spanish Jews are called Sephardim; the singular is "Sephardi." The Hebrew "sephardi" or "sepharadi" refers either to a single Spanish Jew, or is used as an adjective meaning pertaining to the Sephardim. For example, Moses Maimonides (1135-1204) called himself Moses… the Sephardi. "Sephardic" is used in English as an adjective, not a noun: someone may be Sephardic, but the people should be called "Sephardim" rather than "Sephardics;" 
Up to the fifteenth century, "Sephardi" was used primarily to refer to the Jewish community in the Iberian peninsula itself, or to someone who was born there. Thus Maimonides called himself "the Sephardi," but his son Abraham, born in Egypt, did not. This changed in the fifteenth and especially sixteenth centuries, primarily as a result of the expulsion of the Jews from the Iberian Peninsula.
If you are interested in pursuing this subject, you should begin by subscribing to the JewishGen website.  If you suspect that you have a Crypto-Jewish heritage, you also might want to investigate the JewishGen Sephardic SIG. See also