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

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Blogging and Social Networking for Genealogists

Blogging and Social Networking for Genealogists - James Tanner

The Brigham Young University Family History Library started off the month of February 2017 with a webinar about the Family Tree and another webinar about blogging. Here is the schedule for the rest of the month.

During the coming year, we plan to host about this number of webinars each month and also upload shorted training videos. If you have any suggestions for topics we would be glad to consider them for production. Remember to subscribe to the BYU Family History Library YouTube Channel for notice of the new videos. 

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Crashing Computers, Logins, Passwords and Genealogy

One overriding issue with using computers and the internet as tools in all my genealogical activities is that they become necessary and I become dependent on having computers that work and a connection to the internet that works. In the past while, we have had significant challenges both in maintaining an internet connection and in keeping our computers operating.

Yesterday, since we are on our way to a conference in Yuma, Arizona this week, I began getting our MacBook Pro laptop up and ready to go. I have been having problems with the computer so, I thought it would be a good idea to see how it was operating. After more than thirty years of working with computers, I usually begin to see things that make me think they are going to die. I became so concerned, that we went out and purchased a new Apple MacBook Air. Now, I know that Apple is likely abandoning that particular model, but the current model is a huge upgrade from my very old MacBook Pro and the new computer was on sale, which hardly ever happens with Apple products. Just in case you are wondering, it was a new computer right out of the box.

When we got home with the new computer, I found that the old MacBook was in the last throes of dying. The new computer arrived just in time.

Over the past year, I have been using an iPad Pro as a laptop substitute. I have found that the iPad Pro is a good substitute for about 90% of the things that I do on a computer, but that the remaining 10% is very difficult. The main issue for me is the ability to integrate images and text by importing images, particularly screenshots, into my presentations and blog posts. This can be done, but the process is relatively painful. Since I am confronted with a series of conferences and presentations in the next few months, I could not afford the extra time it takes to work on the iPad Pro. Don't get me wrong, I really like the iPad Pro and use it all the time especially for presentations, but I have not been able to use it as much for creating those same presentations.

This experience should be a cautionary tale for all of those genealogists out there who are using computers. The computers are machines and machines, even very advanced and sophisticated ones, eventually get out-of-date and die. They may seem to be immortal, like my old, banged up, MacBook Pro, but they will eventually need to be replaced. I do not keep any irreplaceable data on either my iPad Pro or my MacBook Pro and likewise, I will not keep any such data on my new MacBook Air.

While working in libraries and helping people with their genealogy, I am faced with a constant stream of people with old, out-of-date computers, operating systems and programs. In many cases, they are trying to transfer the old data to a newer computer or online. But what I do not hear about as frequently is the constant loss of information due to computer and storage device crashes (or in the case of flash drives; lost drives). What many genealogists do not factor in when they weigh the cost of upgrading a program, buying a new or larger hard drive, or replacing a computer is the cost in time of redoing all the lost work.

When I got home with the new Apple MacBook Air, I decided to work with the old laptop. We actually have a need for another computer since now both my wife and I are presenting at some of the conferences. The next problem was that I had forgotten my password for my laptop. It had a hint, but even the hint did not help me remember. Finally, my wife suggested a really old password and that turned out to be the right one. So even if we keep our equipment up-to-date, we still need to remember our logins and passwords to keep working.

Life with computers is interesting and sometimes very challenging.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Dreaming of Medieval Manuscripts: A Genealogical Nightmare

  • [Planta, J.], A Catalogue of the Manuscripts in the Cottonian Library, Deposited in the British Museum (London, 1802), p. 220.
  • Tite, Colin, The Early Records of Sir Robert Cotton's Library: Formation, Cataloguing, Use (London: British Library, 2003), pp. 605-06.
Other than being written primarily in Latin and in an ancient script, their availability, their lack of reliability and lack of any indexing, there is not too much preventing genealogists from using ancient manuscripts to extend their genealogy back into the Dark Ages. However, by examining online family trees, you might get the impression that the current genealogical community was brimming over with medieval specialists.

Just in case you wake up in the middle of the night and have an insatiable urge to delve into this highly specialized area of genealogical research, I thought I would provide a sampling of where you might find some online offerings.

It might take you a while, but you can find a huge number of medieval manuscripts on the website.

This website has over 250,000 images and over 22,000 texts related to medieval documents. Almost all of these, unlike some other online sources, are available for re-use. You will be amazed at the quality of the images and your ability to enlarge and view the images. Here is a sample page.

Vincent de Beauvais , Miroir Historial [ Speculum historiale ], vol. 1, 2, 4 , traduction en français par Jean de Vignay. Miroir historial , vol. 2, Livres IX-XVI. [Paris, BnF, MSS Français 313] | Jean de Vignay (1282?-13..). Traducteur, Vincentius Bellovacensis (1190?-1264). Auteur du texte, Maître de la mort. Enlumineur, Pseudo Perrin Remiet. Enlumineur, and Perrin Remiet. Enlumineur

Most of the museums and larger libraries of Europe participate in providing content to and the website presently has 54,214,141 artworks, artifacts, books, videos and sounds from across Europe.

Some of the countries of Europe are very protective of their collections and subsequently, they limit their online availability and utility. Great Britain claims a Crown Copyright, for example, that applies to a work is made by Her Majesty or by an officer or servant of the Crown in the course of his duties". The Crown can also have copyrights assigned to it. There is, in addition, a small class of materials where the Crown claims the right to control reproduction outside normal copyright law due to Letters Patent issued under the royal prerogative. This material includes the King James Bible and the Book of Common Prayer. See Wikipedia: Crown Copyright. Unfortunately, many items kept in the British Library are restricted even where Crown Copyright does not apply. By the way, Great Britain is not at all alone in this practice, many institutions in the United States and elsewhere restrict access to old or even ancient documents for all sorts of reasons, none of which involve enforceable copyright claims.

Here a sampling of other sources of information and content about medieval manuscripts:

Sunday, January 15, 2017 Reports Record Sales for DNA Products

Ancestry announced that it sold 1.4 million AncestryDNA test kits during the fourth quarter of 2016. The announcement indicates that Ancestry:
  • Sold more than 560,000 AncestryDNA consumer genomics test kits globally over the holiday weekend starting on Black Friday
  • Sold 1.4 million kits in the fourth quarter
  • Sold 390,000 more kits in Q4 than were sold in all of 2015
Quoting from the press release:
The company also announced that AncestryDNA has reached a new milestone as its consumer DNA platform became the first to exceed three million participants, further establishing the company as the leader in the rapidly growing consumer genomics industry.
AncestryDNA is owned and operated by DNA, LLC, a subsidiary of, LLC.

Planning for #RootsTech 2017: Don't forget the Expo Hall

While most of the people who attend RootsTech 2017 will attend classes don't forget to spend some time in the Expo Hall with the exhibitors. Many of the exhibitors have booths where they teach about their products and programs. Not all of these are commercial enterprises. There are usually quite a few of the exhibitors that have a place where they teach classes and provide support for their products. In addition, there is the Demo theater where you can sit and rest while different presenters give 15-minute presentations and demonstrations.

This year, I have opted to do all my presentations in the Expo Hall. So far, I will be doing presentations for The Family History Guide and As we get closer to the Conference, I will post my own presentation schedule. RootsTech 2017 has apparently not yet published a list of the exhibitors, but once that list is made available, perhaps in the program handed out when you register, you should review the list to make sure you visit the booths of the exhibitors you would like to contact. But also remember that the Conference gives you a valuable opportunity to learn about new products and services you may not now know about.

You should also be ready with some kind of business card. Many of exhibitors have drawings and giveaways and collect entrants' business cards or have the entrants fill out a paper. Some attendees print off pages of labels with their contact information to avoid the need to stand there and fill out a card or paper. Some just bring a stack of pre-printed cards. Some of the exhibitors have shopping bags as giveaways. The attendees can then use these bags to collect information and giveaways from the other exhibitors. My wife then uses these same bags when she buys groceries instead of using the stores' plastic or paper bags.

There are food vendors in the Expo Hall, but bear in mind that the lines can be long. Last year, it turned out that several of the food vendors were tucked away from the main part of the Expo Floor and if you find a long line for lunch, you might want to check to see if there are other vendors whose lines are not so long.  Of course, you can fill up on soda pop and candy if that is all you want to eat.

In past years, I have tried using a wheeled pull-tote or rolling suitcase or briefcase. All of these are a real bother and hazard when moving through crowds. It is much easier to bring a backpack or over-the-shoulder bag to carry items than try to maneuver through the crowds with a wheeled pull device. I carry a backpack with my computer and other things I need. I have a coat that stuffs into a compact bag and that helps to avoid having that extra item to carry around in my hands.

The Salt Palace is really big and you will find that outside of the Expo Hall places to sit are at a premium. In some cases, you can find a seat in the large presentation halls between classes or at other times.

During the first couple of years of RootsTech, there was considerable congestion in the elevators. Now that the Conference has spread out over more of the Salt Palace, the congestion is not so bad but you still have to keep moving to get a seat in some of the classes.

If you are driving to the Conference, you need to plan ahead for parking. This year we are going to take the Trax light rail downtown and avoid the parking problem altogether. We will park at one of the Trax stations and then ride downtown to the Conference sessions. Remember that there are some events that go on late into the evenings and your parking may expire before the event is over (speaking from experience).

We have been having some cold and very snowy weather lately and you might want to be prepared.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Expanded Access to Ebooks from the Digital Public Library of America

The Digital Public Library of America or DPLA has been awarded $1.5 million to expand its efforts to provide broad access to widely read ebooks across America. Here is a summary of the grant from the announcement:
The Digital Public Library of America is thrilled to announce that the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation has awarded DPLA $1.5 million to greatly expand its efforts to provide broad access to widely read ebooks. The grant will support improved channels for public libraries to bolster their ebook collections, and for millions of readers nationwide to access those works easily.
 The announcement goes on to explain further:
The Sloan grant will help DPLA build upon its existing successful ebook work, such as in the Open eBooks Initiative, which has provided thousands of popular and award-winning books to children in need. Recently, DPLA announced with its Open eBooks partners the New York Public Library, First Book, Baker & Taylor, and Clever that well over one million books were read through the Sloan-supported program in 2016.
The DPLA's collections of free, online documents and books have now expanded to well over 15 million items available through its list of partners.

Genealogists benefit from this increase in ebook availability because any such increase inevitably adds books of genealogical interest. There is no accurate way to determine the total number of completely digitized and freely available books online, but the number has to be in the tens of millions. The website, alone, has 5,733,350 ebooks in the public domain and, the Internet Archive, has 10,809,874 ebooks and there are hundreds of other websites with ebook collections.

I have commented previously on the phenomena that very few genealogists do research into these millions of available books even though the records in the books are in some cases the only available source for certain genealogical records.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Connect with Archives

The National Archives of the United Kingdom has a clickable map of the archives in the UK and a list of national archives across the world. By the way, there are 2,246 archive institutions in England alone.

As shown above, there are 1,206 special archives, 488 local archives, 300 university archives, 96 private archives, 81 national archives, and 75 business archives. Hmm. What would constitute a reasonably exhaustive search in England? Of course, not all these archives genealogically significant records but how do you know which ones don't? Here are some more interesting numbers.

The UK Archive search only lists 276 archives in the United States of America. However, there is a Wikipedia article entitled, "List of archives in the United States," that lists a few and then links to additional pages with more lists. Notable among archives in the United States is that of State of Georgia which was scheduled to be closed in 2012 and then remained open for another year by order of the Governor after public outcry from around the U.S. The Georgia State Archives was then transferred to the University System of Georgia. By the way, the Wikipedia article is out of date.

The Society of American Archivists has a webpage entitled, "Finding and Evaluating Archives."

Of course, if you are really interested in doing some reasonably exhaustive (and exhausting) research you should be using ArchiveGrid to search over 1,000 archival institutions.

The challenge for genealogists is that few archives have comprehensive catalogs of their holdings. In many cases, you will see entries such as the following, that list only the general contents of the papers and manuscripts in their collections:

If you look carefully at this entry, you might notice that this collection contains 9 linear feet of documents in the Cline Library Special Collections in Flagstaff, Arizona. Hmm. If you are a careful researcher, you might also find the following:

This collection contains 21.25 linear feet of documents including the following:
The George S. Tanner papers (1912-1992) contain personal and family materials related to George Tanner, a teacher and historian. Included are correspondence, arranged chronologically and alphabetically; biographies and autobiographies; journals and family histories; financial and medical records; writings and speeches; newsletters and news clippings; programs and brochures; and materials relating to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church).
There is no way to find out exactly what is contained in this collection short of visiting the University of Utah and spending time examining the 21+ feet of documents.

Here is another interesting example of collections in a national library.

Here are 9 private collections in the National Library of Australia. Here is a screenshot of the reference to one of those collections.

If you were searching for information about this person, could you find it in the National Library of Australia?

What is my point? There are more places to search for information than there is time in any one person's life to look. But by using the search capabilities of the internet, including, but certainly not limited to, Google searches, you can find some very surprising resources.