RootsTech 2015

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

Monday, December 22, 2014

Free Family Tree Builder From MyHeritage for the Mac

The long awaited Apple Macintosh version of the popular free software, Family Tree Builder, from is now available. I have been using a beta version of the program for sometime and it has been working virtually flawlessly on my iMac running OS X 10.10.1 Yosemite. I have been able to synchronize my local Family Tree Builder file with my online Family Tree on without any problems. It does appear to be running under some type of emulation program, but it is working fine. 

Here is a screen shot of the program as it appears on my iMac:

The intro message from states:
Many of our users have been asking us to provide our popular free Family Tree Builder software for the Mac. 

We have good news: the wait is over! Family Tree Builder is now available for Mac users, in a special version just released called Family Tree Builder 7.0 Mac Extension. 

Download Family Tree Builder Mac Extension for free 

Family Tree Builder Mac Extension looks and feels just like the Windows version, that is actively used by millions of genealogists worldwide. All main features work the same, including sync with MyHeritage, Smart Matches™, Record Matches, the Consistency Checker, charts, book report, etc. The file formats are also the same so you can easily transport Family Tree Builder projects between Windows and Mac. 

Why Family Tree Builder?
  • Excellent free software for people who have a Mac desktop computer at home.
  • Works with your online family tree, syncing back and forth any changes made to your tree either online or in the application. You can even use it when your computer is offline.
  • Compatible with MyHeritage family sites and the MyHeritage mobile app.
  • Supports 35 languages.
  • Enjoy the wealth of features and power tools available only on Family Tree Builder.
  • Read more about Family Tree Builder 7.0 features or watch a short video.
Please note that Family Tree Builder Mac Extension is ported from Windows. We are busy working on a brand new version of Family Tree Builder for Mac, designed from the ground up to look and feel like a modern Mac application. But wait no longer and install the Mac Extension today and upgrade later for free to any new version.
Download Family Tree Builder Mac Extension for free
It is true that it appears to be a ported copy of the Windows program, so don't expect any of the usual Mac-only features. I have been using Family Tree Builder on my PC for quite a long time and it has always been a lot better than you might expect from a "free" program. Of course, the tie in is to If you do not already have an account, you will soon see the advantages of having the ability to take advantage of the advanced searching and record hinting features of

It looks like the genealogy program world for Mac computers has just come of age.

MyHeritage to digitize and add more than 120 million historical records from Denmark

I just received the following press release from MyHeritage. I was extremely interested in this particular press release because outside of the British Isles my only ancestral lines are from Denmark. I note from the website, that during the past few weeks over 100 million records have been added to their online collections. The total number of historical records available for searching on the website today is 5,708,072,169 historical records.

MyHeritage to digitize and add more than 120 million historical records from Denmark

Millions of records dating back to the 1600s will go online for the first time and enable anyone with Danish ancestors to discover their roots

TEL AVIV, Israel & COPENHAGEN, Denmark – December 22, 2014: MyHeritage, the leading destination for discovering, preserving and sharing family history, today announced that millions of Danish historical records will be made available to search on its website. The announcement follows an agreement between MyHeritage and the Danish National Archives to index Census and Parish records from 1646 to 1930, providing access to significant sources of family history information in Denmark. The move will enable MyHeritage users to learn more about their ancestors and the lives they led, using records that were never digitally available before.

The records, spanning almost 300 years, provide a window to the lives of Danish ancestors during fascinating periods in history including the Napoleonic wars, liberalism and nationalism of the 1800s, the Schleswig Wars and industrialization. Users will be able to search for records about their ancestors using names, dates, locations, relatives and other keywords via SuperSearch, MyHeritage’s search engine for historical records. MyHeritage users also enjoy powerful matching technologies that research their family trees automatically and notify them whenever Danish records relevant to their family are found. This makes discoveries easier and quicker than ever before. Once indexed, this will be one of the most comprehensive and valuable data collections for millions of Danes, and millions of people with Danish roots.

The records will illuminate the lives and times of noted Danish historical figures such as Kierkegaard and Niels Bohr. Celebrity fans will be able to look into the family history of Danish Americans such as Scarlett Johansson and Viggo Mortensen for clues on their success. Many of the records will be made available on MyHeritage as early as April 2015 and the rest will be added during the year.

MyHeritage will index Danish national censuses, including approximately 9 million images and 31 million records, covering the years of 1787 through to 1930.  One of the most enlightening sources of historical content, census records provide a glimpse into a family's past listing information about each household including the names of occupants, information on residence, ages, places of birth and occupations.

In addition, MyHeritage will index 3.9 million images of Church records containing approximately 90 million names from 1646 to 1915. The Parish Register provides information regarding anyone who was born, baptized or confirmed (after 1737), married or died in a particular parish. The records include rich information about a person's family: for example, for baptisms they list the date of birth, date of baptism, name of the child, parent’s names, occupations and residence, and often names of witnesses and godparents.

MyHeritage Chief Content Officer, Russ Wilding, said: “We're very proud to partner with the Danish National Archives and add significant new content which will paint a more detailed and colorful picture of the family histories for hundreds of thousands of our users in Denmark and anyone with Danish ancestors. The move strengthens our leadership in the Nordic region – and we look forward to building on this in the coming months”.

MyHeritage is already the family history market leader in the Nordic region and is the only major company providing services in Danish, Norwegian, and Finnish. With more than 430,000 users in Denmark and an additional 600,000 registered users in Sweden, 500,000 in Norway, and 280,000 in Finland, MyHeritage has amassed the largest Nordic user base and family tree database in the market.

The records will be available on MyHeritage SuperSearch at

The Ins and Outs of Probate for Genealogists - Part Five - What are Probate Procedures?

Some of the most valuable documents to genealogists in discovering information about their ancestors consist of the documents filed in probate actions. However, understanding what has happened and sorting out the various interests of the people named in the action can be a real challenge. As I have said in previous posts on this subject, probate is complicated and can be the subject of huge books. Fortunately, genealogists do not need to understand probate in the way an attorney would need to know the subject, but on the other hand, many of the terms and particularly the procedures need to be understood so that the information obtained from the documents is correctly interpreted and recorded. This is the case in most of the areas of genealogical research, such as land and property in general, that interface with legal proceedings and requirements.

In the United States, the overall topic of the Law (with a capital L) is divided into two major divisions: the law and court procedures. Both topics are studied in law school, but the reality of the legal profession is that it takes sometimes years of experience before anyone becomes proficient in either the interaction between what happens in court, i.e. procedures, and what laws apply. These two divisions are understandably very difficult for law students to separate or even comprehend and can be utterly baffling to non-lawyer genealogists.

In the United States, the law was primarily inherited from English Common Law. It is further divided into statutes (what most people consider the law to be) and court decisions (subject to stare decisis) that interpret, apply and in some cases, modify the law as it is applied. Many people think lawyers spend their time learning what is referred to as the substantive law, that is, memorizing statutes. I learned rather quickly that trying to memorize anything having to do with the law was futile and could be dangerous. The Law tends to change frequently and lawyers are forced to refer to references frequently. For me, one of the annual events over the years was obtaining the most recent copy of The Arizona Rules of Civil Procedure. In my early days of law, this was a manageable paper-backed pamphlet. In the last few years it had been split into three huge books almost 5 or 6 inches thick.

The procedural part of the law is what creates the documents that are valuable to genealogists. So when we talk about "probate law" we are really talking mostly about probate procedure, that is the rules that govern how a probate case proceeds through the court. Probate law, as opposed to the procedures, comes into play when the Court makes a ruling concerning some-sort of controversy in the course of the legal action.

I have found that the overall procedures relating to probate actions have changed very little for hundreds of years. However, the problem is with the details. How the cases proceed through the court system and are managed by the judges, changes frequently. An example will help to illustrate what seems to be a contradiction. A probate action is usually commenced by an interested person (the petitioner) filing a petition with the court, asking the judge (the court) to open a testate action (with a will) in which case the original will is provided to the court, or petitioning the court to open an intestate action (where there is no will). This procedure has change very, very little from the time wills were first introduced. However, the format of the petition (not the wording), the time periods for filing such an action, the number of copies etc. changes from state to state and from time to time.

Side note, if you are already lost, you probably need to go back and read my previous four posts on this subject. By the way, when you go to law school, no one explains all this stuff to you, you have to pick it up on your own. As I explained earlier, most of the time early on in law school is spent glued to Black's Law Dictionary or its equivalent.

OK, so here is the Blacks Law Dictionary definition of probate:
The act or process of proving a will. The proof before an ordinary, surrogate, register, or other duly authorized person that a document produced before him for official recognition and registration, and alleged to be the last will and testament of a certain deceased person, is such in reality. The copy of the will, made out in parchment or due form, under the seal of the ordinary or court of probate, and usually delivered to the executor or administrator of the deceased, together with a certificate of the will’s having been proved, is also commonly called the “probate.” In the canon law, “probate” consisted of probatio, the proof of the will by the executor, and approbation, the approbation given by the ecclesiastical judge to the proof. 4 Reeve, Eng. Law, 77. And see In re Spiegelhalter Will, 1 Pennewill (Del.) 5, 39 Atl. 405; McCay v. Clayton, 119 Pa. 133, 12 Atl. SCO; Pettit v. Black, 13 Neb. 142, 12 N. W. 841; Reno v. McCully, 05 Iowa, 029, 22 N. W. 902; Appeal of Dawley, 10 R. I. 094, 19 Atl. 248.
Law Dictionary: What is PROBATE? definition of PROBATE (Black's Law Dictionary)
See how much help this is! (just kidding).

The entire probate procedure falls roughly into three steps or categories;

  • Filing the probate petition either with or without a will
  • The administration of the estate
  • Closing the estate 
For a genealogist, historically significant documents can be found at each stage of the probate process. In a simple, straightforward estate matter, where there is no disagreement among the heirs, the probate may generate only a few documents in the court record of the action. If the estate (amount of money, property etc.) is very large and the heirs are fighting among themselves, the procedure could be monumentally large and there could be hundreds of documents. 

The documents filed at each stage of the probate action are, for the most part, formulaic, that is, they are very repetitious. Probate procedure, for the most part, is based on standard forms. It may appear that all you have to do is fill in the blanks, but that is very deceiving. There is a huge online business today, providing probate forms to non-lawyers so they can bring the actions themselves (pro per or propria persona). Although this may be possible, I have watched numbers of people trying to work their way through the court system on their own and I can say that the results are usually very frustrating and not entirely successful, except when the estate is very simple (few assets and no conflict). 

One last note on this post. Before the advent of typewriters (you do remember typewriters), all of the documents in a court's probate file were handwritten. This is an extra challenge to discovering the content of these valuable documents. You will find that, as a genealogist, you will have to be constantly upgrading your skill set as you begin you research into new types of documents. This is particularly true of probate documents. 

You may wish to read the previous posts in this series. 

The Ins and Outs of Probate for Genealogists - Part One In the Beginning
The Ins and Outs of Probate for Genealogists - Part Two - Where there is a will there is a way
The Ins and Outs of Probate for Genealogists - Part Three- Understanding the Language of a Will
The Ins and Outs of Probate for Genealogists - Part Four - What is Probate

Sunday, December 21, 2014

More or Less, Statistically Speaking -- A Look at Statistics for Genealogists

In our present world, statistics are ubiquitous. We can't even hear a weather report without a claim as to the percentage possibility of rain or sunshine or whatever. In fact, it was the weather reports that started me thinking about this subject that I have reflected on many times over the years. First off, I have to say, I have never had a course in statistics, I am a consumer of the product. But as an attorney, I have been faced with many situations where statistics were used one way or another to persuade people. Over the years, I have read a huge number of different "studies" that intended to prove, by citing statistics, one point or another. Regularly, I have taken it upon myself to investigate the basis for the claimed "facts" as supported by statistics.

One notable and very involved study that I did had to do with the claims of the Bureau of Labor Statistics concerning consumer expenditures. The most common of these statistical findings is summarized in the "Average annual expenditures and characteristics of all consumer units and percent changes" for each year. My interest in this particular set of statistics came from the fact that the numbers seemed unreasonably high given my own personal experience and I was interested to find out why my experience varied so completely from what was being represented as the "average."

Now we are back to the common question with some of my blog posts, what has this got to do with genealogy? If you are patient, you will soon see the connection. One of the things my interest has done is to get me to read as I investigate the different issues. One interesting book is:

Huff, Darrell, and Irving Geis. How to Lie with Statistics. New York: Norton, 1954.

I read this book a number of years ago and it confirmed what I had found out through my own investigations; statistics can be manipulated for a specific purpose. In saying this, I am not accusing anyone specifically of misrepresenting facts, I merely note that those citing specific statistics usually have an agenda they wish to support, whether it be commercial, political or social.

Sometimes it is hard to separate statistical reports from those purporting to be factual. In this regard, claims of growth rates and popularity of a particular product or activity are suspect. Many times, I find that claims about the frequency of certain activities is also manipulated. This is easily done by altering the definition of the activity to include more or fewer participating individuals. I have found this to be the case when people wish to emphasize the importance of any activity from movie attendance to sales of a particular product. In many instances the people publishing these figures base their claims on "actual attendance" or "actual sales figures" when no such figures have been or can be obtained.

The main culprits here are the terms "average" and "median." Both of these terms as usually employed are misleading. For example, if I have ten people and nine of them have an income of $1 and one has an income of $1000, what is the average income? The answer is simple, $1009 divided by 10 or slightly more than $100. Now, I am fully aware that a "careful" analysis of this data would possibly apply some sort of selection process that might eliminate the highest number or weight the lower numbers, but no matter how the process is applied, the average in this type of situation is misleading. Statisticians try to avoid these types of problems through "random" sampling and other such methods, but in most studies there is always a "margin of error."

The main issue is when statistics are used to predict a certain type of results, such as elections or public opinion. There is less of a problem when statistics are used solely for the purpose of explaining what has happened, but in many cases, the interpretation of the numbers is skewed to show the results desired rather than the facts.

Now to the subject of genealogy. In the past, I have written several blog posts refuting the claim that genealogy is one of the most popular pastimes or hobbies in the world. I have never seen any numbers at all that would substantiate such a claim. Notwithstanding that fact, over the past year or so, I have continued to hear claims about genealogy's popularity purportedly based on some general claim of this sort. In many cases such claims are based on a survey asking a general question such as "are you interested in your family's history."

The other, much more serious impact of statistics on genealogy, is when statistical claims influence the activities of genealogists. One other topic I have written on in the past is the impact of claims of the number of identity theft victims and the growth of identity theft as a crime. I have researched this topic over and over in the statistics provided by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the Bureau of Justice statistics, Uniform Crime Reporting Statistics and U.S. Census Bureau and find no support for the outrageous and very commonly reported statistics. The problem is that unsupported claims, masquerading as statistics, have caused a significant number of people to be afraid of sharing their family history. If you were to believe the claims, you would soon be afraid to go to a store a buy food.

Why is this important and who cares? Why do we think or do not think that the popularity of genealogy is important? Why should we be or not be afraid of identity theft?

Considering a much less threatening claim, I recently analyzed the claims about how many of the world's records have been or have not been digitized. This is another area that receives a lot of claims as to the percentage based on general claims of the total number of records. There are two things that lead me to believe that the statistics cited are unreliable; either the numbers are rounded off and exact such as 1,000,000 of this or that, or they are so specific as to be impossible such as a number that is claimed for the total number of books published in the entire history of the world.

It is important to distinguish between numbers that are represented to be statistical claims or that have to be based on sampling of the total number of items being reported and numbers that come from actual counts. Even if a number is based on a supposed actual count, the question still remains as to how the count is characterized and what was counted? For example, the very large genealogical database companies regularly report the number of "record" digitized and sometimes claim so many people in their database files. What is a "record" and who counted how many names there were on each record? Did someone really look at each digitized page and count the number total number of people or did the reporting entity take a sample and multiply out the number as an estimate? Did the number of records really come out to an even number?

Genealogy is not all that different from any other aspect of our world-wide culture. We have some of the same challenges in evaluating the numbers that are thrown at us each day in the media. We need to learn to be very critical when we are urged to act or not act based on some claim of a study or statistics. This is especially true when the entity making the claim cannot possibly have compiled the numbers claimed.

We need to apply the same sort of skepticism when we are doing our research. Is the information we are finding making any sense? Is it consistent with reality and can any of the numbers be independently supported?

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Getting Started with Spanish Language or Hispanic Genealogy

Note: My blog can be instantly translated into any of 60 different languages by clicking on the Google translation link to the right. Mi blog puede ser traducido inmediatamente en cualquiera de los 60 idiomas diferentes haciendo clic en el enlace de la traducción de Google a la derecha.

Many of those people presently living in the United States are recent immigrants and even if they speak English, they have parents or grandparents who spoke another language. Many studies indicate that Spanish is the second most widely spoken language in the world based on the number of native speakers. It is not surprising that there are huge numbers of Spanish language genealogy and family history resources. But for those with Spanish-language ancestors, there are also a number of records available in English. Many of these resources are now available online. This post is a basic introduction to the records and resources, in both English and Spanish, that are available for doing Spanish Language family history research. Many of the English language family history websites are also available in Spanish.

You can use Google Translate to translate entire pages of the Internet from English to Spanish or from Spanish to English.

There are a number of helpful books on Spanish and Hispanic genealogy. I have found these books from Professor George Ryskamp to be most helpful:
  • Ryskamp, George R. Finding Your Hispanic Roots. Baltimore: Genealogical Pub. Co, 1997. Available only in English.
  • Ryskamp, George R. Tracing Your Hispanic Heritage. Riverside, Calif: Hispanic Family History Research, 1984.
  • Ryskamp, George R., and Peggy Ryskamp. A Student's Guide to Mexican American Genealogy. Phoenix, Ariz: Oryx Press, 1996.
Where do I start? Basic online websites
The first place to start is the Research Wiki. This website is available also in Spanish. (Esta sitio de la web está disponible en español también). These resources give both an overview of how to do family history research, but also provide links to basic resources in individual countries. is also a major source for original Spanish-language records from a variety of sources. See the Historical Record Collections. In both the Historical Record Collections and in the Research Wiki, search for records by the place of origin.

Online family tree programs are helpful in connecting with relatives around the world. Family Tree is available in Spanish as is the Family Tree program.

Here are some specific online resources. There is a Getting Started page for every country in the world on the Research Wiki.
There are dozens of additional web sites. Search for genealogy (genealogía) in the country of origin. 

If you have questions about Hispanic genealogy, you are welcome to send them to me in either English or Spanish. Si tiene preguntas acerca de la genealogía hispana, le invitamos a enviarlas a mí, ya sea en Inglés o Español.

Phishing with Phony Requests -- Beware of false email and social media requests

I have noticed a constant rise in false requests coming through email and social media. In this busy season of the year, it may be all too easy to click on a phony request amid the general online clutter. I am getting probably two or three a day lately.

Phishing is the process of sending out a false email or other type of contact through social media with the expectation that the person receiving the request will respond with either personal information such as account or credit card numbers or will validate an email address for further unsolicited advertising.

Here are two types of contact I have seen just this week:

Emails announcing that one of my bank or credit accounts has a problem. 
These are the worst type of phishing. They are attempts to compromise a bank or credit account. Either my wife and I have received these requests from website purporting to be American Express, PayPal and even our own bank. The request usually outlines some vague problem with the account that needs immediate attention. The emails appear at a glance, to be valid, with logos and official looking formatting.

I have gotten to the point that I do not respond to or open such requests at all. If the request even looks vaguely like a valid issue, I will trash the email and then contact the company directly either by phone or with an address I have used in the past. In the case of PayPal, I have simply stopped opening anything that comes to me unsolicited, even if it looks like a "monthly statement." If I need to find out anything about my account, I go to the website and log on directly. Many of these email requests come with a threat that the account will be closed immediately if I do not respond. Since that type of request comes regularly and the account has never been terminated, I do not even bother to check on this type of email at all. I just trash them permanently.

You might want to know that throwing something in the trash does not erase it from your computer. I suggest emptying your trash can periodically.

Social Networking requests that appear valid but are phishing for personal information
The bogus requests I have noticed most recently, come on Google+ and are from people around the world, usually but not always, seemingly younger women, although there are a percentage of younger men also. Some of these are from the Far East or the Middle East and appear to be sincere requests for connections. I always look at the page for these and almost anyone else I do not recognize. What I find is that these people usually have no recognizable contacts. I am the first or one of very few people they have contacted online. I suspect that many of these requests are generated by pornography businesses just from the general nature of the posts on the person's website. I simply ignore any such request.

Very occasionally, I ignore a request that comes back with additional information and it is approved, but that is very rare. I now routinely ignore a fairly large number of social networking requests and occasionally go back through my "friends" to eliminate those that post inappropriate posts.

If you want to connect with me on Facebook, Google+ etc., I suggest you edit your personal settings to clearly show that you are associated with a valid entity or interest. I try to limit my contacts to those in the genealogical community.

Some people reject all social networking links and even refuse to sign in to Facebook or other such websites simply because of fear. If I took that attitude, I would probably never get out of bed in the morning. I realize that there are dangers inherent in social networking, but I have had similar requests for years by telephone and regular mail. I would guess that nearly 80% of all the telephone calls we get are unsolicited commercial calls in the nature of a phishing scheme. But I do not stop using a telephone because of those calls. The calls just become another type of modern background noise that my wife and I ignore.

Other people reject all social networking out of fear of identity theft. The key here is to never put anything online you do not want to be used. So people also are threatened by "getting too much email." Sorry, but this is the result of being online. I usually get over two hundred emails and responses to my reader subscriptions a day. I just view this as a minor overhead item and work through them efficiently. It is really nice to have a delete button.

I think the main problem is when people start to take all this noise as a personal threat. It is not more a personal threat than any other type of advertising. I see ads for bogus businesses all the time. Part of successfully living in an information world is the ability to filter out unwanted signals. If a phishing scam gets too clever, we contact the target company with a complaint. Most of these complaint are gratefully received by the target company. We always send a copy of the offending email etc. so they can block the sender.

This is a serious problem for the unwary. But it is less difficult than many other much more serious issues in modern life. I am much more concerned about driving here with the Utah drivers than I am about anything online.

Remember the rule, throw it in the trash if it smells bad.

Friday, December 19, 2014

The Cursive Writing Issue -- A Genealogical Conundrum

Page of text (folio 160v) from a Carolingian Gospel Book (British Library, MS Add. 11848), written in Carolingian minuscule. Text is Vulgate Luke 23:15-26.
One of the most common issues raised in light of the movement to abandon the teaching of cursive writing in the public schools is the claim that somehow the children of tomorrow will be unable to read the documents of the past. In the past, I have also raised this same issue. One claim is that children in the United States will be unable to read the Declaration of Independence.

By Original authors were the barons and King John of England. Uploaded by Earthsound. [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
I have had a lot of time to re-think the whole issue of cursive writing from a genealogical viewpoint and I am no longer sure that all of the arguments in favor of teaching cursive are still valid. I am certainly not going to argue with claims that learning cursive helps children acquire fine motor skills and other such related arguments, but I think that genealogy gives us a different perspective on the issue. I have included two documents: a copy of the Magna Carta and a copy of a portion of the Bible. I would venture to say that there is nothing taught in any U.S. grammar or grade school that would help a student to read either of these documents although they are in technically, they are written in cursive. However, both documents are clearly and completely available in perhaps thousands or perhaps millions of different copies, all perfectly readable by anyone who can read English. I might also add that both documents were originally written in Latin in the versions shown above. The Bible, of course, was written in Greek, Hebrew and Aramaic. 

My point is rather simple. If you begin doing genealogical research, you will very soon find out that reading cursive script is a completely different skill than being able to write in cursive script. Can you tell me the style of cursive you were taught in grade school? (Assuming, of course, that you were taught cursive). Do you know what style of cursive is taught today in the schools that still teach cursive? Here is a brief quote from Wikipedia on the present-day history of cursive:
After the 1960s, a movement originally begun by Paul Standard in the 1930s to replace looped cursive with cursive italic penmanship resurfaced. It was motivated by the claim that cursive instruction was more difficult than it needed to be: that conventional (looped) cursive was unnecessary, and it was easier to write in cursive italic. Because of this, a number of various new forms of cursive italic appeared, including Getty-Dubay, and Barchowsky Fluent Handwriting.
Unless you are a teacher and familiar with curriculum development and teaching, most of this will be totally unfamiliar to you. Here is a sample of Getty-Dubay as it is currently taught in many home schools and public schools:

I might observe that this is markedly different than what I was taught in school. Here is a sample of Barchowsky Fluent Handwriting:

In fact, there are dozens of different forms of handwriting taught around the world, most of which are very different than the style taught when old folks like me were in school. 

To repeat my point, learning to write in cursive, especially if the style taught is much different than what was taught a few years ago, has nothing whatsoever to do with the ability to read historical examples of cursive text. When we wring our hands over the lack of cursive in grade schools, what are we talking about? 

My father was taught to write in cursive but practically no one could read his handwriting. I would venture to say that very few of the genealogists I work with on a day to day basis probably do much handwriting. When I fill out forms, which is about the only handwriting I do anymore, I print. 

Maybe there is an entirely different issue here. Maybe the real issue involves the ability to learn unfamiliar information rather than being an issue of whether or not a particular form of cursive is or is not taught in our public schools. If you do not understand what I am saying, I suggest you go back to the 1860 United States Census and start reading names.