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

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Gathering Source information with RecordSeek

After a brief hiatus, RecordSeek.com has come out with a new, much improved version of their useful utility program. Previously focused on working primarily with the FamilySearch.org Family Tree, RecordSeek.com now works with Ancestry.com also.


The program uses a "browers app" (formerly called "TreeConnect") to transfer information from a huge variety of websites to both the FamilySearch.org Family Tree and to your Ancestry.com Family Tree. The browser app is the green button. You drag a copy of that button to your browser menu bar. The program works with Chrome, Firefox, or Internet Explorer to name a few browsers.

Let's suppose you find a reference to your ancestor in FindAGrave.com. Rather than copying and pasting the source information to the programs, you can use RecordSeek's automated copying process to create a citation directly. Here is a FindAGrave.com Memorial Page for one of my ancestors.


I could just copy and paste all that information into a note or source in either program, or I could use the automated features of RecordSeek to do it all for me. I certainly realize that this information in FindAGrave.com is not a "primary source" and that any information is subject to verification, but I do wish to preserve what is there in the program with a citation and a link.

I begin by highlighting any of the content I wish to include in my notes. I do not need to copy the information, merely highlight it to tell RecordSeek what I want included. I then click on the RecordSee link in the browser bar to copy the information highlighted as well as a citation to where the information was gathered.

I must first choose between creating a source for the Family Tree or for Ancestry.com.


From here, you simply following the directions. You will have to have an account and log in to the target program.


Some of the features are in transition, but it has been working very well lately. I might suggest that even if you do not have an account with either Family Tree or Ancestry.com, the program does organize a useful citation that can be copied and pasted into another program. I use it with my desktop programs to save time typing.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Find your family with school records

The first schools in America date from the 1600s. Boston Latin School is credited as being the first public school in America and also the oldest existing school. The first laws in the United States making education compulsory, date from this same period, the early 1600s. School records may contain much more than a list of students; many of the registration forms included significant, genealogically valuable information. In Great Britain and Western Europe school records can date back even earlier. In some areas, notably Germany, there are possible school records dating back into the 1500s. See Wikipedia: Compulsory Education.

School records can turn up in an astonishingly variety of locations. The FamilySearch.org catalog returns well over 100 entries for "School" and a search for the keyword "school" in the Ancestry.com Card Catalog returns about 50. There are online databases the specialize in "yearbooks" that have collected thousands of this type of document. On the other hand, finding records from individual schools can be a challenge involving searches in historical societies, public libraries, university libraries and special collections, state archives, local archives, museums and many other locations. I once made a search for records in a school in the Bronx and finally found them stored at the district level.

"School records" is a common category on the FamilySearch Research Wiki. Here for example is an article on American Indian School Records.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Yet Another Camping Trip

One of the benefits of living in Utah and Arizona is the wonderful summer camping season. We are off for a week to points north, including Yellowstone, the Lewis and Clark Caverns, Glacier National Park and visit to Canada at Waterton Lakes National Park. Much of this time we will be "off the grid" so take the time while I am gone to read or re-read some of my very long series. See you soon.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

New CEO and President of FamilySearch


Both by blog and email, I received an announcement today that the present CEO and President of FamilySearch International is stepping down effective October 1, 2015. His replacement has been named. Here is the announcement from Paul Nauta of FamilySearch:
The FamilySearch International board of directors has elected Stephen T. Rockwood as the company's president and chief executive officer, succeeding Dennis Brimhall, who will retire. Rockwood, who most recently served as director of the international division at FamilySearch, becomes president and CEO on October 1. 
"Steve is an extremely capable, experienced, and respected leader with an immense passion for our mission and our people," said Elder Allan F. Packer, Chairman of the Board. "As president and CEO, Steve will bring a rich combination of management skills, customer focus, business acumen, and a can-do spirit that will build on the vision and work of Dennis Brimhall." 
After leading FamilySearch through many innovative changes including focusing the organization on developing a compelling customer experience that greatly simplified finding genealogical connections, and encouraged young people to begin a life-long love of family history, Dennis Brimhall will retire. 
"I join the board in my deep appreciation for Dennis' leadership, customer focus, and vision for what FamilySearch is and can become," said Rockwood, "We look forward to building on the vital groundwork he has laid with continued innovation." 
Prior to joining FamilySearch, Rockwood specialized in creating unique service offerings for worldwide customers of such brands as MasterCard International, AT&T, Disney, Office Depot, and Citibank among others. He was also a successful entrepreneur building two companies from the ground up that were later acquired by larger companies. 
"With his international experience, deep appreciation of our accomplishments, and the energy and skill to drive additional transformation, Steve is well suited to lead our very talented FamilySearch organization and will facilitate further expansion to audiences worldwide," commented Brimhall.


Discovering Birth Records

Many newly minted genealogical researchers are surprised to learn that government issuance of birth certificates is a relatively new development in the United States. For example, in Arizona, statewide birth registration did not begin until 1909 and general compliance did not occur until 1926. There are no "birth certificates" before 1909 in Arizona. However, birth records are free and searchable for the time period from 1855 to 1939 on the State Department of Health website, See Genealogy.az.gov. Researchers should be careful to distinguish "birth records" from the concept of a "birth certificate."

First, a few helpful links. Here are two useful pages from the FamilySearch.org Research Wiki:

I would also suggest searching the Research Wiki for "find ____ birth records." You just insert the name of the state for a Research Wiki article about finding birth records in any of the 50 states. 

If birth certificates are not available, where do you go next? Well, the answer to that question involves listing almost every type of record available. Generally, the next place to look for birth information is in any record that might have recorded the birth. The alternatives are listed in the United States Record Selection Table in the Research Wiki. For birth information, the following types of records are suggested, including some I added:
  • Vital records
  • Church records
  • Bible records
  • Cemetery records
  • Obituary records
  • Newspaper records
  • Census records
  • Biographies
  • Naturalization and Citizenship records
  • School records
In many cases, the birth date can only be calculated from an age or assumed age in another record. There are a lot of reasons why you may not find a birth record. Here is a list of some of those reasons:
  • The birth took place in an unexpected location. Sometimes babies don't wait around for the mother to be in a convenient place to be born. The mother could have been traveling or visiting relatives and the birth place my be difficult to locate. In some cases, the birth could have been outside of the country or at sea. 
  • The jurisdictional boundaries of the birth place may have changed. It is important to research the history of the boundary changes because changes in the jurisdiction of the location can affect where the historical records are located. 
  • It is entirely possible that no record of the birth was ever made. In this case, a calculated birth date is all that is available.
  • There could have been a record of the birth, but the index of the record is incorrect or incomplete. The best practice, in the event a record cannot be located with an index, is to search the entire record both for a time period before and after the assumed date.
  • You may be searching for the wrong family. The surname may be wrongly recorded or you have assumed information that is not accurate.
  • The child could have been adopted, a foundling or illegitimate. Any one or more of these circumstances may prevent discovery of the correct birth record.
  • The person may have changed their name later in life and never disclosed their birth name.
Most of the reference books about genealogical research have a chapter or more about vital records. Understanding the process of creating birth records will give you a much better chance of finding an appropriate record. 

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Essential Books for Genealogy

Do you remember books? They were those paper things with a heavier cover that some of you may have lugged around during your early school years. Well. guess what? As genealogists much of what is useful and necessary in researching our ancestors is still stored in those paper pages. All you with bibliophobia can take comfort in the fact that many of these books are available in ebook editions or are already online. The following list contains those books I consider essential to an understanding of genealogy. Some of them seem to be overly topical or specific, but they are essential none-the-less. You may disagree because of your own particular interests or ancestry, but by and large, reading and/or studying any of these books will assist you in pursuing your goal to discover your ancestry. You are certainly welcome to add your own suggestions in the comments to this post.

Another point is that there may be an existing surname book or local history that would be extremely valuable to you and may be of no interest to me. I have done a list like this some time ago, but I decided to compile the present list without reference to the previous one (or ones) just to do one from my present perspective.

This list is in alphabetical order by citation. I think that some of these books are more useful than others, but rather than give a "review" of each book, it will suffice to have a list. By the way, as search on WorldCat.org for the word "genealogy" comes up with over 1.2 million items, most of which are books.

Ancestry.com (Firm), and D.C.) Board for Certification of Genealogists (Washington. Genealogy Standards, 2014.

Anderson, Robert Charles. Elements of Genealogical Analysis, 2014.

Anderson, Robert Charles, and New England Historic Genealogical Society. The Great Migration Begins: Immigrants to New England, 1620-1633. Boston: New England Historic Genealogical Society, 1995.

Anderson, Robert Charles, George Freeman Sanborn, Melinde Lutz Sanborn, New England Historic Genealogical Society, and Great Migration Study Project (New England Historic Genealogical Society). The Great Migration: Immigrants to New England, 1634-1635. Boston: New England Historic Genealogical Society, 1999.

Baxter, Angus. In Search of Your British & Irish Roots: A Complete Guide to Tracing Your English, Welsh, Scottish, & Irish Ancestors. New York: Morrow, 1982.

Black, Henry Campbell, 1860-1927. Black’s law dictionary. St. Paul, Minn.: West Group, 2009.

Clemensson, Per, and Kjell Andersson. Your Swedish Roots: A Step by Step Handbook. Provo, UT: Ancestry, 2004.

Durie, Bruce. Scottish Genealogy. Stroud: History, 2012.

Eichholz, Alice, and Ancestry Publishing. Redbook: American State, County & Town Sources. Provo, Utah: Ancestry, 2004.

Evans, Barbara Jean, and Barbara Jean Evans. The New A to Zax: A Comprehensive Genealogical Dictionary for Genealogists and Historians. [Champaign, IL]: B.J. Evans, 1990.

Everton, George B. The Handybook for Genealogists: United States of America. Draper, Utah: Everton Publishers, 2002.

Fischer, David Hackett. Albion’s Seed: Four British Folkways in America. New York: Oxford University Press, 1989.

Greenwood, Val D. The Researcher’s Guide to American Genealogy. Baltimore, Md.: Genealogical Pub. Co., 1990.

Herber, Mark D, and Society of Genealogists (Great Britain). Ancestral Trails: The Complete Guide to British Genealogy and Family History. Stroud, Gloucestershire [England]: History Press, 2008.

Humphery-Smith, Cecil R. The Phillimore Atlas and Index of Parish Registers. Andover, Hampshire: Phillimore, 2010.

Jacobus, Donald Lines. Genealogy as Pastime and Profession. Baltimore: Genealogical Pub. Co., 1968.

Kinealy, Christine. Tracing Your Irish Roots. Belfast: Appletree Press, 1999.

Maxwell, Ian. How to Trace Your Irish Ancestors an Essential Guide to Researching and Documenting the Family Histories of Ireland’s People. Oxford: How To Books, 2008. http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&scope=site&db=nlebk&db=nlabk&AN=244183.

Meyerink, Kory L, Tristan Tolman, and Linda K Gulbrandsen. Becoming an Excellent Genealogist: Essays on Professional Research Skills. [Salt Lake City, Utah]: ICAPGen, 2012.

Mills, Elizabeth Shown. Evidence Explained: Citing History Sources from Artifacts to Cyberspace. Baltimore, Md.: Genealogical Pub. Co., 2012.

———. Professional Genealogy: A Manual for Researchers, Writers, Editors, Lecturers, and Librarians. Baltimore: Genealogical Pub. Co., 2001.

Minert, Roger P. Deciphering Handwriting in German Documents: Analyzing German, Latin, and French in Vital Records Written in Germany. Woods Cross, Utah: GRT Publications, 2001.

Ryskamp, George R. Finding Your Hispanic Roots. Baltimore: Genealogical Pub. Co., 1997.

———. Tracing Your Hispanic Heritage. Riverside, Calif.: Hispanic Family History Research, 1984.

Ryskamp, George R, and Peggy Ryskamp. Finding Your Mexican Ancestors: A Beginner’s Guide. Provo, Utah: Ancestry Pub., 2007.

Sperry, Kip. Reading Early American Handwriting. Baltimore, Md.: Genealogical Pub. Co., 1998.

Szucs, Loretto Dennis, and Sandra Hargreaves Luebking. The Source: A Guidebook of American Genealogy. Salt Lake City: Ancestry, 1997.

The Chicago Manual of Style. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2013.

Weil, Fran├žois. Family Trees: A History of Genealogy in America, 2013.

Take Time to Read a Book -- A new feature

Yesterday, I took the time to figure out how to check books out of the Brigham Young University, Harold B. Lee Library. I then went down to the first level, which is two stories underground and one level down from the underground Family History Library and walked the stacks. This activity immediately took me back in time to my earliest memories of searching the stacks in the Phoenix Public Library when I was about eight or nine years old. Reading books online is certainly more convenient and works better into my frantic life style, but there is something immensely important about seeing all those books carefully lined up and cataloged on the shelves. I can hardly convey the feeling of walking into that immense array of shelves.

It is summer at the university and my trip to the stacks was solitary. There were only one or two students studying at tables as I ventured into the human wilderness of books. After finding the specific book I was looking for, I returned to my old habit of reading the shelves. I quickly located the genealogy related books and found a significant storehouse of books on this subject. Nothing much compared to the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, but a significant collection none the less. When combined with the Family History Library upstairs and the Social Sciences Library where I was browsing, there is a useful and impressive collection of books.

As I selected a couple of books to read, I realized that I had neglected this important area of my own background and failed to share my love of books with my blog readers. I did post a list of essential books just recently, but a cold list is no substitute for a review. I do not review books in the traditional way, pointing out the problems or benefits of the book, instead, I usually communicate my own reactions and thoughts about the content. I have been reviewing chapters of the book:
Meyerink, Kory L, Tristan Tolman, and Linda K Gulbrandsen. Becoming an Excellent Genealogist: Essays on Professional Research Skills. [Salt Lake City, Utah]: ICAPGen, 2012.
but I realized that I had gained access to a goldmine of information in the BYU Library and that it would be nice to share some of that information with my readers (those I haven't driven away already by my opinions and commentary). My benefit will be to return to my habit of reading two or more books a week. I have been known to read more than a dozen, but that was long before my life became complicated and I began spending so much time writing.

Part of my motivation for beginning a book review feature is that I am acutely aware of how few genealogists or would-be researchers are acquainted with the benefits of reading genealogy books. My observations in both the Mesa FamilySearch Library and here at BYU is that visitors to the Libraries rarely, if ever, look at the books. I was asked a question the other evening and I took the person asking the question over to the shelves nearby and pulled out the book that they needed to answer the question. From what I could tell, the person was dumbfounded and didn't really know what to do with this strange answer to her question. I am sure she was asking, "Does this person really think I will read an entire book just to answer a simple question?" Well, actually the answer her reaction is "Yes, I do expect myself and others to read books and answer their own questions." 

One of the books I picked up in the BYU Library (my shorthand name for the Brigham Young University, Harold B. Lee Library) turns out to be a delightful book as follows:
Rogers, Colin, and Colin Rogers. Tracing Your English Ancestors: A Manual for Analysing and Solving Genealogical Problems, 1538 to the Present. Manchester, UK; New York; New York, NY, USA: Manchester University Press ; Distributed in the USA and Canada by St. Martins’s Press, 1989.
In this day of instant technology, it is good idea to remember that genealogists are interested in history and even an older book can have an immense value to our research efforts. This pre-computer-technology book will be my first official review in this ongoing series.