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

Sunday, July 15, 2018

MyHeritage Adds 25 Million New Records

The new additions include millions of records from Ellis Island, West Virginia, and Sweden and hundreds of thousands of records from Denmark. The new records bring the total number of records on the website to 9,145,401,868. Yes, that's over 9 billion records.

You can read about the new records on the MyHeritage Blog. See New Historical Records Added in June 2018. If you have Swedish ancestors, you should take note. Here is the explanation of the new Swedish records from the blog post.
Sweden Household Examination Books 1860-1930 Update 
This 3,662,252 million historical record collection update to the Swedish Household Examination Books marks the final installment of this collection which now totals 87,401,340 records. 
The Swedish Household Examination Books serves as the primary source for researching the lives of individuals and families throughout the parishes of Sweden, from the late 1600’s until modern times. The books were arranged by the Swedish Lutheran Church who maintained the official records of the Swedish population until 1991. Each year until 1894, the parish priest would visit each home, first testing each individual’s knowledge of the catechism, and then collecting information about birth dates, marriages, deaths, changes in residence, etc. After 1894, the parish priests continued their visits but tended to be less focused on the doctrinal exams and more focused on collecting population information. These post 1894 records came to be known as the F√∂rsamlingsbok. 
This June installment is comprised of the records of those who were away from home at the time of the original collection.
 This was particularly interesting to my wife who has Swedish ancestry.

Returning to the Challenges of Francis Cooke

Week after week as I receive an email generated from the Family Tree about those whom I am watching, I see almost constant changes to people such as the Mayflower passenger Francis Cooke. Insanity is often defined as extreme foolishness or irrationality. I think this definition applies to those who feel that they need to keep editing a prominent person. It boggles my mind to think that there are so many people out there in the greater genealogical community that know so little about history and particularly about New England history to think that they have "discovered" some new information for a person such as a Mayflower passenger.

Notes, life sketches, memories, documents, and dozens of source do not seem to make an impact on the waves of changes. Of course, all of these "changes" also fail to be supported by even one source. Fortunately, there is a small group of people who ardently defend the reality of the entries and change everything entered back to conform with the more than well established and sourced information.

For example, there is some who added a birth date for Francis Cooke of 1 October 1577 and further shows he was born in Gides Hall, Essex, England. In fact, no new sources have been added to his entries for at least a year and there are no records showing a birth or christening record for Francis Cooke. The Gides Hall records date from the 1700s and show a person named Francis Cooke marrying a woman named Hester on 2 November 1766. Remember, the Mayflower arrived in America in 1620.

These few entries in my Family Tree take up an inordinate amount of time and effort just to maintain the status quo. Over the years, there has been some discussion about making such entries read-only or locked, but that presupposes that the information is complete and correct at the time the entries are locked.

There are presently 1357 people in the Family Tree with the name of Francis Cooke.

As an example, one of them was born in England in 1566 and supposedly died in Boston, Suffolk, Massachusetts, United States in 1675.

He apparently lived to be 109 years old. There are no sources listed for this person. By the way, the actual entry and the search listing do not agree. The entry is for Francis Cooks KGS8-47J.

Usually, when I write a post like this one, I get several suggestions to make my views known in GetSatisfaction. There are presently 4929 topics on just the Family Tree in GetSatisfaction. The total number of topics is 12,209. Am I supposed to search through all these topics to see if this issue has already been raised? Should I start a new topic?

Well, I did search and, as I already knew, found that this topic has been around for at least five years or more. It also turns out that one of the people who commented on this problem is the same person who is cleaning up Francis Cooke today. So some of us have been working on this same issue for many years.

By the way, the response here outlines several options for limiting these irrational changes. This is only one of the many similar topics.

Now, short of requiring a psych evaluation for potential users of the program are there any other ways that the number of changes to these prominent people can be reduced?

I don't have an answer that is any different than all the different responses in GetSatisfaction. But I do know that I will outlast those who are making irrational changes and I already have assistance from a 2nd generation and will now start working on the third generation of those who will defend the integrity of the Family Tree.

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Where are we with social networking?

What is happing in the world of blogs? What is happening on Facebook? What about Google+? And what about Twitter and Pinterest and Instagram? Not to mention, what is going on in the hundreds of other social networking websites. Last, of all, what does this have to do with genealogy?

Here is a graphic display of some of the more prominent social networking websites. How many do you recognize?

I am only on about nine of them. What do I know?

I have observed many times in the past few years that genealogical blogs are on the decline both in content and number. I have been going through lists of genealogy blogs online and continually find blogs listed that haven't posted for years. Some have been abandoned altogether. For example, out of ten blogs I checked, only three still had viable and updated posts. Many of these were abandoned as long as three or more years ago. Even though some of them had postings in 2018, the posts were outdated by many months. As I continued to search, I looked at posted "best genealogy blogs" and "genealogy blogs worth reading." Interestingly, my blog was seldom listed but most of the ones recommended hadn't published in years.

My reality is that one of my most popular venues is I get more visits on than I do in almost all my other blogs.

One interesting development is the invitation I received from RootsTech 2019 ( inviting me to apply to be a RootsTech Ambassador. There was no mention of blogs or bloggers in the invitation.

Where have all the bloggers gone? To flowers every one? has a lot of current genealogical activity but it is not immediately evident from a common news stream. Even if you subscribe to a lot of Facebook genealogy posts, you will probably lose them in the stream of viral videos.

What about Pinterest? I have no idea how to focus on genealogy on Pinterest. Everything goes by in huge streams of photos.

Instagram? I limit my friends to my family to keep from seeing everything that goes on everywhere.

I could go on but my impression is that genealogical information of the kind sent out regularly by experienced genealogists is getting harder and harder to find.

Are you aware of the Veridian Newspaper Collections?
It has been some time since I last wrote about Veridian is a company called DL Consulting located in Hamilton, New Zealand. Here is a quote from their website about the company.
Since 2002 DL Consulting has been helping libraries around the world retain their position as critical and important community resources. We understand that libraries are responding to an increasing demand for online access to content. Our Veridian digitization services give libraries the ability to preserve archives of historic material and deliver the content as a digital collection to their communities. 
DL Consulting has proven experience delivering large projects for prestigious university libraries, large state and public libraries, and national libraries in the U.S. and abroad. Our staff is highly skilled in managing complex digital collections and is always responsive to issues large and small. DL Consulting is based in Hamilton, New Zealand, with an office in Honolulu, Hawaii.
The company maintains a huge search engine called that searches more than 149 million items from more than 2,700 historical newspapers around the world. Some of the collections include:

  • 2017/06 Purdue University Library new Done
  • 2017/07 Catholic News Archive new Done
  • 2017/08 The Vassar College Digital Newspaper Archives new Done
  • Kent State University Done
  • 2017/09 Colorado Historic Newspapers Done
  • Digital Michigan Newspaper – Central Michigan University Done
  • 2017/10 Hudson River Valley Heritage Newspapers new Done
  • 2017/11 Stanford Daily – Stanford University new Done
  • 2017/12 Eastview/Hoover Hoji Shinbun new Done

Here is a link to the complete list:

Once you begin to recognize that there are an overwhelming number of online resources to search, it will change the way you do your genealogical research.

The First Ever MyHeritage International User Conference, in Norway

I will still be in Annapolis digitizing records, but it is interesting to learn that is holding its first ever MyHeritage User Conference in Oslo, Norway from the 2nd to the 4th of November, 2018. Here is a summary of the upcoming conference from the announcement I received.
The conference will be open to anyone from anywhere in the world who would like to learn more about MyHeritage, including subscribers, DNA customers, those with free basic accounts, and even people who haven't used MyHeritage yet but would like to find out more. 
Come and learn about MyHeritage's current and future products directly from senior MyHeritage staff. Gilad Japhet, CEO of MyHeritage, will give a keynote address and there will be classes covering a range of subjects — including genealogy and DNA — as well as hands-on workshops. There will also be presentations from leading genealogists and DNA experts, and a chance to meet and exchange tips with other MyHeritage users.
I am sure there will be more information available shortly. By the way, the weather is not too bad in Oslo in November.

Friday, July 13, 2018

Is Genealogy an Elephant?

By Illustrator unknown - From Charles Maurice Stebbins & Mary H. Coolidge, Golden Treasury Readers: Primer, American Book Co. (New York), p. 89., Public Domain,
I am sure I am one of the blind men feeling the genealogical elephant. But I am also certain that there are many other blind men out there in the greater genealogical community. Why do we have such differing opinions about the nature of genealogy and its methodology? Could it be that the subject itself is the answer to that question? Genealogy is really a very personal endeavor. Each of us begins and becomes interested in our ancestral heritage in a different way and how we proceed depends as much on our own personal background and interests as it does on any objective approach to the subject.

Unfortunately, genealogy is fragmented by those who believe that their way of doing research and recording the results is the only way. They are certain that their opinion of the elephant is correct and the others are all wrong. This week, I had two experiences giving me an insight into two of the very divergent views of genealogy. One of the experiences involved a group of teenagers who were brought to the local Family History Center for a "family history experience." The second was attending a meeting of a local genealogical society where we listened to a presentation about the resources of the Maryland State Archives. The two experiences were certainly at different ends of the elephant.

My elephant reality includes a large number of such disparate experiences. For example, there is a major emphasis in some parts of the greater genealogical community on citations and proper report writing. Neither of my recent experiences could have possibly viewed the genealogical elephant through touching on either citations or reports.

I spend a huge amount of time with online family tree programs. But I also do research in libraries, archives and other large and small repositories. You only have to think of the difference between beginning a family tree on an online genealogy program and sitting in an archive looking at original records to understand the disparity between these two experiences.

When I work with people who have a real desire to find and connect with their ancestors and they struggle with technology, I feel their frustration and can certainly understand that not everyone has "grown up" computers. I guess I am still trying to completely identify and quantify the genealogical elephant and perhaps harmonize all of the disparate impressions and beliefs about the subject. I had one person who I spoke to recently say, "I need to hire a professional genealogist. I have been doing genealogy for more than thirty years and I just can't resolve some of my research problems." He was seeing his part of the elephant quite clearly.

Maybe we all need to start seeing our own part of the genealogical elephant.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Making Your Way Through a Fog of Names

A quick search on the website for the surname "Smith" shows over 15 million results and of those results, about 1.4 million of those results have the name "John Smith." Of course, not all English names are as common as Smith or Jones, but every language of the world has its "commonly used" names. My own name has over 52,000 results. Fighting your way through record searches when your ancestor has a relatively common name is like walking into a dense fog.

Unfortunately, many genealogists never get past the "name search" level of genealogy. This issue is often referred to as the "same name = same person" problem. Separating two or more people with the same or very similar names can be overwhelmingly difficult. I have found people with the same name, living in the same small area, with the same birth and death dates. The only distinguishing features seemed to be their occupations.

If you don't care if you are related to a person and are simply trying to fill in all the empty spaces on your pedigree, then this post is obviously not directed at you. But if you care about your relationship to the people you are researching, then you need to be aware of the methodology used to separate commonly named individuals.

I use because I have a huge number of English ancestors. I also use the program because their particular search engine allows me to focus on the number of people with the same or similar name in a decreasingly smaller geographic area. For example, take the search for "John Smith." Here is a screenshot of the results.

Now let's add some qualifiers or filters. First, let's limit the area under consideration from England in general to a specific county.

Here, I put in Kent County and got a significant reduction in the number of results. By the way, you can use almost any search engine to do this, but is particularly well suited for this kind of analysis. Now, let's add a time period, say from 1820 to 1825.

Although there is a drop in the number, the reduction isn't much help. This points up a basic issue with all genealogical research: We have to know where an event in the person's life occurred. I will take a look at a specific parish: Tenterden.

Now we are getting somewhere. We have only 42 results and some of them are not specific to Tenterden. If we go down the list, some of them also have middle names. Now we have to begin looking at each of the entries to see if the details match those implied from looking at the rest of the family.

The main challenge in using this type of analysis is knowing where the people lived and being consistent in looking in the same area. For example, in this list, there are two locations Wittersham and Appledore. How far apart are these two towns?

They are quite close together and we will definitely have to find more information before we determine which of these two is the one we are looking for. The first record that came up is from the 1851 England, Wales, and Scotland Census. We can start there to see the occupation that is listed and so we start the journey into more and more specific research.

In some cases, with my own ancestors, I have multiple people with the same names in the same places and have yet to find my way through the fog. The danger here is that you make an arbitrary choice.