RootsTech 2015

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

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Searching for a Surname

Very frequently, I am asked if I am related to someone who has the same surname. Although Tanner has gained great popularity in the last few years as a given name, it is a relatively less common surname. Most genealogical researchers tend to focus on an ancestor's name rather than location or other historical details. This limited focus often brings a great deal of frustration and ends up with the so-called "brick wall" situation. Understand some basic facts about names and naming patterns is a prerequisite to doing effective research.

Since, outside of science fiction, a person can only be in one place at one time, researchers should actually be focusing more on where events occurred than the particular form of the names of the ancestors involved. This is not to say that names should be disregarded, it is just more important to associate and individual with a particular location than it is a particular name.

That said, there is a rather extensive and persistent area of genealogical research known as "one name studies." One example is the Guild of One-Name Studies. This organization has the goal of research into the genealogy and history of all persons with the same surname and its variants. Here is a brief quote from the Guild's website that talks about their goal:
This is distinct from family history, in that it is the surname that is of interest, rather than the family tree of members of the same family with several different surnames. However, it does involve many of the same research skills and techniques as family history, and most one-namers are actively researching both their own family and their one-name study.
In a sense, this approach is similar to what has been done by many genealogists in the past and is still being done presently. When a researcher encounters a situation where the records are sparse, particularly in a small area such as a location in Europe or elsewhere, they sometimes focus on the surname and simply "extract" all of the people in the location with the same surname. This is sort of a shotgun approach to genealogy. The supposition is that by extracting all of the people of the same name, the researcher will inevitably have located the ancestor. When I have encountered this type of research, I usually find that when the decision has been made to extract names, the research quits trying to differentiate the people with the same or similar surname into family groups and considers each as a separate individual.

My earliest encounter with this type of research was when I was reviewing and recording a great deal of genealogical research records obtained from one of my Great-grandmothers. She had a tendency to research a particular line, but if she could not find specific records about the individuals, she would just copy out anyone in a particular parish or other area with the same surname. This activity of name-gathering was very confusing for me for a considerable period of time since I could not figure out how these people in her files were related. The simple answer was that they were not related through blood lines.

As I did more research on my own surname line, I found that the genealogy was pretty simple. The line went back to an early Rhode Island immigrant named William Tanner and stopped. Despite claims by some, no has yet demonstrated with documentation, a connection to England where this particular ancestor probably originated. As I continued doing genealogical research over the years, I encountered a lot of different "Tanner families" who were not related. One time, in the Hancock County Historical Society in Carthage, Illinois, I found a card catalog with the listing of a perhaps hundreds of Tanners, all who came from Switzerland. These and many other experiences have led me to the conclusion that searching for surnames is really somewhat antithetical to the pursuit of ancestry i.e. genealogy. They are two completely different goals. Although, there is some argument for the extraction method, if the researcher is willing to spend the time differentiating each of the individuals with the common surname and separating them into family units and then further identifying the unit that is the ancestral family of the researcher.

I have absolutely nothing against people who wish to pursue one-name studies. I have found, however, that the more the name, the less help the one-name study is in assisting genealogists and, of course, I identify myself as a genealogist.

One of the most common mistakes made by people interested in genealogy, but without any background or experience, is that people with the same name are related. I get this when people ask about a relationship by saying, "are you related to Bob Tanner in Nephi, Utah" or something like that. Because of my extensive family in the western part of the United States, this question usually elicits the same answer; if that person is a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, then the answer is probably yes. More knowledgeable individuals, who are somewhat aware of genealogy, usually ask the question differently, they say "what Tanner family are you from?"

I even have one uncle who married late in life and all of his wife's adult children who had the surname of his wife's first husband, for a lot of reasons, decided to become "Tanners" and changed their names. The more you become familiar with the limitations of focusing more on names than on places and other factors, the more you are likely to be successful in pursuing your own ancestry. But that is another topic for another time.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Spotlight on the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History

Sometimes we all need to be reminded that genealogy is really history. Although many try, genealogy cannot be pursued adequately without learning the history surrounding our ancestors. It is also the case that many of our ancestors played their individual parts in wars, revolutions, depressions, boom-times and other historical milestones. In a recent article in The Jewish Daily Forward, I read about the Gilder Lehman Institute of American History and that they have the largest private collection of original United States historical documents. Here is a description of the collection from their Featured Primary Sources:
The Gilder Lehrman Collection is a unique archive of primary sources in American history. Owned by the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History and located at the New-York Historical Society, the Collection includes more than 60,000 letters, diaries, maps, pamphlets, printed books, newspapers, photographs, and ephemera that document the political, social, and economic history of the United States. An extensive resource for educators, students, and scholars, the Collection ranges from 1493 through the twentieth century and is widely considered one of the nation’s great archives in the Revolutionary, early national, antebellum, and Civil War periods.
From my perspective, the amount of information available online and in libraries and other collections around the world is essentially limitless. I regularly discover vast new collections which were previously unknown to me. The trick is remembering that all these resources are actually there and making use of their contents.

You might wonder why I monitor a publication such as The Jewish Daily Forward. It is exactly for this reason. I see this publication and other similar ones, as windows into the rich resources just waiting for my exploration. Some people spend their time looking for gold, I find gold almost every day in the riches online.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

RootsMagic Part Two -- MyHeritage and FamilySearch

There is another aspect to today's announcement from MyHeritage.com and RootsMagic.com that you might have missed. Here is the rest of the story:

RootsMagic, first released in 2003, is an award winning genealogy program for documenting and preserving family history. Its latest version 7, released this week, includes among its highlights a new feature named WebHints powered by MyHeritage matching technologies that transforms the program into a powerful research tool. WebHints also include hints from genealogy website FamilySearch for authenticated users. Information sent by RootsMagic to MyHeritage for matching is never collected or shared, and is deleted after matching to ensure the complete privacy of RootsMagic users and their data.
I guess I will have an answer this week when someone asks me what's new.

Here is the entire press release:

RootsMagic Adds MyHeritage Matching Technologies for Powerful Automatic Research Capabilities

TEL AVIV, Israel & SPRINGVILLE, Utah – November 25, 2014: MyHeritage, the popular family history network, and RootsMagic, Inc., today jointly announced that MyHeritage’s Smart Matching™ and Record Matching technologies have been integrated into RootsMagic’s latest version of its popular genealogy software. This enables RootsMagic users to discover the life stories of their ancestors thanks to highly accurate matching between their family trees and millions of family trees and billions of global historical records available on MyHeritage.

RootsMagic, first released in 2003, is an award winning genealogy program for documenting and preserving family history. Its latest version 7, released this week, includes among its highlights a new feature named WebHints powered by MyHeritage matching technologies that transforms the program into a powerful research tool. WebHints also include hints from genealogy website FamilySearch for authenticated users. Information sent by RootsMagic to MyHeritage for matching is never collected or shared, and is deleted after matching to ensure the complete privacy of RootsMagic users and their data.

MyHeritage enables millions of families around the world to discover, share and preserve their family history on the MyHeritage website, mobile apps and desktop applications. In addition, MyHeritage is well known as a technology innovator. Its flagship technologies, Smart Matching™ and Record Matching, which generate automatic discoveries based on MyHeritage’s huge international database of family trees and historical records, are sought after within the family history space. Leading genealogy organizations are partnering with MyHeritage to integrate these technologies into their products.

“MyHeritage matches are a very exciting feature”, said RootsMagic, Inc.’s Vice President, Michael Booth. “It was like magic to me when the WebHints were first wired into RootsMagic and I opened my file and saw all the matches appear. I spent hours exploring and discovering newspaper articles, certificates, and records that I had never seen before. Our initial testers are also reporting that they have been having so much fun exploring the MyHeritage matches that they have had to pull themselves away to test the other features.”

“We’re thrilled to provide RootsMagic – an acclaimed genealogy software among the most popular in the USA – with our powerful matching technologies” said MyHeritage’s Founder & CEO Gilad Japhet. “This partnership will significantly accelerate discoveries for RootsMagic users and will expand the tremendous reach of MyHeritage.”

This announcement follows other integrations of MyHeritage matching technologies by British genealogy software, Family Historian and Dutch genealogy services Aldfaer and Coret Genealogie. Available on MyHeritage and through a wide set of partnerships, MyHeritage matching technologies have become the de facto standard for automatic discoveries for everyone interested in their family history

About MyHeritage

MyHeritage is the leading destination for discovering, sharing and preserving family history. As technology thought leaders and innovators, MyHeritage is transforming family history into an activity that’s accessible and instantly rewarding. Its global user community enjoys access to a massive database of historical records, the most internationally diverse collection of family trees, and ground-breaking search and matching technologies. MyHeritage is trusted by millions of families and provides them an easy way to share their story, past and present, and treasure it for generations to come. MyHeritage is available in 40 languages. www.myheritage.com

About RootsMagic, Inc.



For over 20 years, RootsMagic, Inc. has been creating computer software with a special purpose - to unite families. One of its earliest products, the popular Family Origins software, introduced thousands of people to the joy and excitement of family history.
That tradition continues today with RootsMagic, its award-winning genealogy software which makes researching, organizing, and sharing family history fun and easy.
www.rootsmagic.com

RootsMagic Adds MyHeritage Matching Technologies for Powerful Automatic Research Capabilities

A joint press release from RootsMagic.com and MyHeritage.com on the BusinessWire of Canada, today, 25 November 2014 announced an agreement between the two parties described as follows:
TEL AVIV, Israel & SPRINGVILLE, Utah--(BUSINESS WIRE)--MyHeritage, the popular family history network, and RootsMagic, Inc., today jointly announced that MyHeritage’s Smart Matching™ and Record Matching technologies have been integrated into RootsMagic’s latest version of its popular genealogy software. This enables RootsMagic users to discover the life stories of their ancestors thanks to highly accurate matching between their family trees and millions of family trees and billions of global historical records available on MyHeritage.
This is fabulous news for those users of FamilySearch.org's Family Tree because RootsMagic.com has a synchronization function that allows RootsMagic users to move sources into the Family Tree program. Now users of both RootsMagic and Family Tree have a potential pathway to moving sources from MyHeritage to Family Tree. I hope this works.

I must be losing my touch, because that same press release states as follows:
This announcement follows other integrations of MyHeritage matching technologies by British genealogy software, Family Historian and Dutch genealogy services Aldfaer and Coret Genealogie. Available on MyHeritage and through a wide set of partnerships, MyHeritage matching technologies have become the de facto standard for automatic discoveries for everyone interested in their family history. 
I caught the Dutch connection, but missed the British one. One of the things I have been writing about for the past year or so is the need for the genealogy software companies to be associated with a large online database. The revolution in genealogy is the automation of the search process by companies following MyHeritage.com's lead. The survival of the independent genealogical database companies will hinge on their ability to integrate this new technology. Good move RootsMagic and a terrific move for MyHeritage.com.

Swedish Research Tips



Many of those people I know personally, including my wife, have ancestors from Scandinavian countries and particularly Sweden. Recently my wife recorded a short introduction to Swedish research. This video is hosted on the Brigham Young University YouTube.com Channel along with many other both long and short videos. This growing inventory of instructional videos is fast becoming a valuable source of basic instruction.

Can I sue for plagiarism?

To rephrase the question posed in the title to this post: can I maintain a separate cause of action in a court of law based on plagiarism as opposed to claims for copyright infringement? The complicating factor in answering this question in the United States, involves the issue of jurisdiction. In the U.S. Federal District Courts have original jurisdiction over copyright claims. This means that you cannot file a copyright action in a local or state court. So how do you separate a claim for plagiarism from a claim for copyright infringement?

This is a recurrent issue in the larger genealogical community. The most common form of complaint comes from a genealogist who "shares" their family tree (i.e. pedigree and/or research) with another person, usually a relative, only to have the relative copy and publish the family tree in its entirety without attribution (i.e. giving credit to the "originator"). Of course this scenario raises multiple issues including a claim of plagiarism.

Despite the common folklore level of belief about both plagiarism and copyright, both claims arise from a concept of ownership of ideas and concepts. The distinction between the two is extremely blurred. To begin to understand the basic distinction, it is necessary to understand the concept of a "cause of action." In the legal world, the phrase "a cause of action" refers to a legal claim that can be the basis for filing a lawsuit in s court. Learning the distinction between what is and what is not a cause of action is at the heart of one of the main skills acquired by attending law school. The complete knowledge of this skill is only learned after considerable active trial experience. Failure to "state a cause of action" when filing a lawsuit can be the basis for nearly automatic dismissal of the lawsuit. One of the most common responses in an answer to a complain filed in the court is that of "failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted." In some instances, stating such a claim may involve reciting a long list of elements.

For example, a claim for fraud, in many jurisdictions, requires stating anywhere from five to twelve separate elements (or claims) each of which must be proven to maintain the action. Here is one description of the elements of a claim of fraud from the California Civil Jury Instructions Section 1901:
[1. (a) That [name of defendant] and [name of plaintiff] were [insert type of fiduciary relationship, e.g., “business partners”]; and
(b) That [name of defendant] intentionally failed to disclose an important fact to [name of plaintiff];]
[or]
[1. That [name of defendant] disclosed some facts to [name of plaintiff] but intentionally failed to disclose [other/another] important fact(s), making the disclosure deceptive;]
[or]
[1. That [name of defendant] intentionally failed to disclose an important fact that was known only to [him/her/it] and that [name of plaintiff] could not have discovered;]
[or]
[1. That [name of defendant] actively concealed an important fact from [name of plaintiff] or prevented [him/her/it] from discovering that fact;]
2. That [name of plaintiff] did not know of the concealed fact;
3. That [name of defendant] intended to deceive [name of plaintiff] by concealing the fact;
4. That [name of plaintiff] reasonably relied on [name of defendant]’s deception;
5. That [name of plaintiff] was harmed; and
6. That [name of defendant]’s concealment was a substantial factor in causing [name of plaintiff]’s harm.
Working backward, an attorney (or anyone filing a lawsuit alleging fraud) would have to include an allegation of each of these claims in his or her complaint or risk having the complaint dismissed for failure to state a cause of action.

The reason why I mention this particular cause of action is that the concept of perpetrating a fraud lies at the heart of the concept of plagiarism. Basically, plagiarism is when a person appropriates ideas and content created by another person and claims it as his or her own work with disclosing the source of the material appropriated. However, any cause of action alleging fraud for plagiarism would lie with the recipient of the work, not the originator.

Notwithstanding the existence of a potential fraud claim, plainly stated, in the legal world, there is no separate cause of action for plagiarism. Any such claim made in court must be stated in terms of some type of fraud. Further, plagiarism is usually alleged by the recipient of the plagiarized work. For example, the common context is in a school or classroom setting where the student submits a paper with material copied from another as his or her own work. In the academic world, this is very common and dealt with, sometimes, very severely, resulting in the student's failure of the assignment, or in some cases, expulsion from the school, college or university.

In the context of the genealogist whose family tree is appropriated by a relative, this third-party involvement, i.e. the academic institution, is missing. Could the school maintain a cause of action against the student for plagiarism? Realize that in this instance, the creator of the plagiarized work is very, very likely totally ignorant of the unattributed copy. In fact, the copied work could even be freely available and in the public domain. In nearly all instances of plagiarism, ownership of the original, copied material is not the issue. Failure to attribute the origin of the copied material, usually in an academic setting, is the issue. Any legal involvement arising from a claim of plagiarism is commonly raised by the student challenging the actions of the academic institution. Again, the originator (writer, creator etc.) of the plagiarized work is not involved.

Could the genealogist whose work was "plagiarized" maintain a cause of action? I have a difficult time imagining such a situation because, if you examine the cause of action for fraud, you will see that the action is based on a claim by the recipient of the plagiarized (or allegedly fraudulent) work, not the originator. If I looked at a family tree online that had been copied without authorization from its originator, would I have a cause of action for plagiarism? You might like to argue that you did, but no attorney in their right mind would take such a case absent some substantial proof of damage.

Other than hurt feelings and indignation, how is the originator of a family tree, whose work is plagiarized damaged?

Now, this is where copyright comes in. Historically, recognizing that the originators of a work had no cause of action for unauthorized copies made of their work, lawmakers made up such a claim and called it copyright protection and identified the created work as "intellectual property." The statutes conferred a type of ownership on the originators (authors, composers etc.) of a work (books, articles, compositions etc.) and gave the originators a "cause of action." The catch here was that the cause of action was severely limited by the exact words and the interpretation of those words in a court of law.

We have now come full circle. if I want to maintain an action in a court for copyright infringement, I must allege a cause of action based on the copyright statutes of the jurisdiction where I bring the action.  For example, in the United States, I must allege all of the elements of a copyright infringement case as established by the applicable statutes and existing court rulings in the U.S. Federal Court system. In the legal context, if the originator of a work, such as a family tree, thinks that the work has been plagiarized, they are really thinking in terms of ownership of the work and are, almost always, really subject to a copyright infringement claim. Plagiarism does not apply.

Can I maintain a claim for copyright infringement if someone copies my online family tree without attribution? The answer, as far as the current case law is concerned, is maybe. But my opinion is no because there is no U.S. Federal Court case that has recognized an online family tree as a "protected work" under the existing statutes. The copyright issue arises when the work becomes "original" as defined by the statutes. For example, when the originator adds his or her own original work in the form of notes, comments, stories etc. to the family tree. If you would like to pursue this issue and argue with me about the application of the copyright law, I would be glad to respond, Please see Copyright and Genealogy from the Association of Professional Genealogists as a starting point.

The extent to which any work is covered by copyright law is determined by the amount of original content created by the originator of the work. Attorneys sometimes learn by hard experience how to judge whether a claim by a client constitutes a viable cause of action.

If you believe you have a claim for plagiarism and/or infringement of copyright, please seek competent legal advice from an attorney who practicing law in the area of intellectual property. This is a narrow area of the law (i.e. may be considered to be a specialty) and many attorneys in general practice know little or nothing about intellectual property. Please remember, that I am no longer a licensed attorney and I am completely retired from the practice. This post is my own personal opinion and nothing in this post should be construed to constitute legal advice on any particular set of facts or cause of action.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Using Ancestry.com Family Trees by Cathy Magleby



This is yet another in the series of Brigham Young University Family History Library videos from classes. This one is from Cathy Magleby, a local genealogist. As I regularly point out, these videos are on the BYU Family History Library Channel on YouTube.com. There will be no regular Sunday classes in December, but you can check the BYU Family History Library Facebook page for information about classes that may be scheduled during the week in December.