RootsTech 2015

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

Sunday, May 31, 2009

FamilySearch Research Pilot down for maintenance

The FamilySearch Research Pilot will be off line for maintenance on June 1, 2009 for approximately 24 hours. This follows another recent maintenance issue. Keep posted and I will see if there are any changes to the system in the next few days.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Genealogy steadily down on Google Trends

Google Trends is an innovative Website that shows how frequently a topic has been searched on Google over time. It also shows how frequently topics have appeared in Google News stories and which geographic regions are making the search.

To quote Google Trends,
Google Trends analyzes a portion of Google web searches to compute how many searches have been done for the terms you enter, relative to the total number of searches done on Google over time. We then show you a graph with the results – our Search Volume Index graph.

Above is a graph showing a search for the two terms; genealogy (blue) and "family history" (red). It should be interesting to all genealogists that the trend is definitely downward from 2004 to the present. There has been a steady but significant decline in the searches on the Web for these terms. The drop in searches for genealogy is more significant.

Interestingly, the same downward trend appears for a search of the term "familysearch" except the number of searches is much more volatile.

The above graph shows the search term, "familysearch" but the overall trend is down.

I am puzzled as to the reason for the downward trend, but I speculate that overall traffic on the Internet is growing so rapidly and the amount of information is so immense, that genealogy is being overshadowed by other online interests. Google Trends may be a more accurate view of the real interest in genealogy, as opposed to commonly quoted statements about genealogy being the most popular or one of the most popular hobbies in the U.S. However, the explanation may be more simple, when was the last time you did a Google search for the term "genealogy?"

Friday, May 29, 2009

What's next? the DataFerrett

DataFerrett is a free tool that allow you to explore data, create spread sheet tables, graphs, maps, pdf documents and dowload from datasets that are published to TheDataWeb. Ferrett stands for Federated Electronic Research, Review, Extraction & Tabulation Tool. To quote the site:
TheDataWeb is a network of online data libraries that the DataFerrett accesses the data through. Data topics include, census data, economic data, health data, income and unemployment data, population data, labor data, cancer data, crime and transportation data, family dynamics, vital statistics data, . . . As a user, you have an easy access to all these kinds of data. As a participant in TheDataWeb, you can publish your data to TheDataWeb and, in turn, benefit as a provider to the consumer of data.
The DataFerrett is a product of the U.S. Census Bureau. The official unveiling of the Community Economic Development (CED) HotReport http://ced.census.gov took place on July 17, in Kansas City, MO. The groundbreaking product is the work of the Census Bureau’s Data Integration Division. HotReports utilize TheDataWeb, DataFerrett and ReportWriter technology to retrieve and analyze data from myriad data sets in- and outside of the Census Bureau and display it visually on interactive web pages.

Good question, what is this and why would I care? It is just another way to get information out of the U.S. Government.

Want to know something? Want to know anyting? Everything?

Now you can know everything, theoretically speaking. All you have to do is go to the U.S. Government's new Data.gov Website. Although the site is very new and still hasn't gotten ALL of the information available from the Government, it is a start in that direction. As the Website states:
The purpose of Data.gov is to increase public access to high value, machine readable datasets generated by the Executive Branch of the Federal Government. Although the initial launch of Data.gov provides a limited portion of the rich variety of Federal datasets presently available, we invite you to actively participate in shaping the future of Data.gov by suggesting additional datasets and site enhancements to provide seamless access and use of your Federal data. Visit today with us, but come back often. With your help, Data.gov will continue to grow and change in the weeks, months, and years ahead.
The Government goes on to say:
Data.gov includes searchable catalogs that provide access to "raw" datasets and various tools. In the "raw" data catalog, you may access data in XML, Text/CSV, KML/KMZ, Feeds, XLS, or ESRI Shapefile formats. The catalog of tools links you to sites that include data mining and extraction tools and widgets. Datasets and tools available on Data.gov are searchable by category, agency, keyword, and/or data format. Once in the catalog, click on the "name" (i.e, the name of the dataset or tool of interest) and you will be taken to a page with more details and metadata on that specific dataset or tool. Please note that by accessing datasets or tools offered on Data.gov, you agree to the Data Policy, which you should read before accessing any data. If there are additional datasets that you would like to see included on this site, please suggest more datasets here. For more information on how to use Data.gov.
Even though most of the data is in "raw" format, there are links to the agency Websites with charts and graphs and tables enough to warm a researcher's heart. Of course, all of the information was previously available in some format somewhere in a file cabinet in a government office, but now there is a commitment to make the data available to all on the Internet.

Of what use is all this to family historians and genealogists? Just try some of the searches on for size; one link takes you to the National Center for Health Statistics and the 1990 to 2006 Perinatal Mortality tables. Time will tell, but it looks like this is a major new source of information about all things coming out of the government.

Comments on technology -- obstacle or benefit

I was surprised at the number of comments on my recent post, "Technology, obstacle or benefit to genealogy" Elizabeth Shown Mills took a lot of her valuable time to make extensive comments which are much appreciated. I would strongly recommend reading her comments, they are insightful and give an entirely different perspective to some of the issues I raised in my post.

I do have several observations, genealogy is still highly paper (hard copy) oriented. I do understand Ms. Mills perspective and appreciate the need for a printed copy, especially as she points out, of the applications in the context she indicates. One of the major problems in college classes being taught today is plagiarism. Our local community college, where my brother and I have taught for years, has a program that will compare any paper submitted by a student to the Internet and find anyplace the student may have copied the information. This program works almost instantly to reveal copied material. Despite the existence of that program, many students still submit entirely copied material each semester. One drawback of working from paper copies is that this source of verification is not easily available. In these college classes the students now submit all their work online, so this verification process is easy.

Notwithstanding all of the practical reasons for having a paper copy, I predict that paper copies will become something of the past in the not too distant future.

In another comment, Ms. Mills talks bout the size limit imposed by the Board for Certification of Genealogists for their applications. Size limitations make perfect sense. I an easily generate thousands of pages of documents from my computer and use them as "exhibits" to any report I create. It would, of course, be highly questionable whether or not anyone would care to look through all of the documents. I deal with page and length limitations every time I file an appellate brief with the Court of Appeals. I certainly understand the need to say what you have to say subject to time and length limitations.

I am very appreciative of any and all comments. Thanks for the response.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

MyBlood does support LDS ordinances

Apparently, although it is not obvious or even mentioned in the documentation, LDS ordinance tags are available in MyBlood. In a comment from the programmer, I am reminded why I was impressed with the program in the first place, it has ALL of the GEDCOM tags implemented.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

My Blood moves to Beta 1

The European genealogy database program, MyBlood, has moved from the alpha stage to Beta 1 testing. Although there is a charge for the Beta program, the license key is supposed to be good for all of the release versions of the program. MyBlood is developed for PC and Mac. It uses 99% of the same code for PC and Mac, and runs on Mac OS X 10.5 for Intel and PowerPCs as well as Windows XP and Vista.

Interestingly, the program comes with the tools to be translated into any language. It comes with Dutch, French, English, German and Spanish.

The program also has extensive documentation and video tutorials. It does not appear to support LDS ordinance data. I have found that some of the European based programs do not provide LDS support. Even if you are not sympathetic to the LDS Church, it is a fact of life that a major component of the genealogical interest worldwide, stems from the beliefs of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and omitting even optional support for LDS ordinances severely limits the market for the program.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

FamilySearch Record Search Pilot site to be down

According to an announcement dated 26 May 2009, the FamilySearch Record Search Pilot Website will be down for hardware maintenance on Thursday, 28 May 2009 from 6:00 am Mountain Daylight Time until approximately 12:00 noon.

No other changes have been announced since 13 May 2009.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Utilizing online free software for genealogy

Of course the all time most popular free downloadable genealogy program is Personal Ancestral File (PAF), available from FamilySearch. But you may not know that there are other programs available online for free. Sometimes the old adage, "you get what you pay for" applies to free software, but in the case of PAF you can certainly do better, but for the time being you aren't going to go wrong.

Most of the other so-called "free" programs are really come-ons to purchase a paid version of the same program. As such these free programs usually have some limitation that prevents full use of the features or that limits the capacity of the program to so-many entries. You can try some of these programs, and it may be that the free version is all that you need or want. From my standpoint let's just say I haven't found one that I continue to use yet. If any of my readers have a suggestion for a program that might have some potential, let me know. Here is a list of some of the programs I have found:

Family Tree Builder
Brother's Keeper
GeneWeb

There are also a couple of free genealogy database programs for the Macintosh. Do a search under "free macintosh genealogy."

I have not included programs that have a "free trial period" since they will expire just about the time you decide you like the program. A free trial period program might even be the full version of the program, but from my viewpoint, two weeks or a month, even 90 days is not free in the end.

For a more extensive list, you might try this link to KindredTrails.com

One of the all time bargains in free software isn't exactly labeled as genealogy software, but these programs help in many other ways. High on my list is OpenOffice, a collaborative program that really is free. It rivals expensive commercial programs in its capabilities and features. You do need to spend a hour or so downloading the program unless you have a very fast Internet connection, but it is widely used and very popular.

If you are very technically oriented and really want to get away from commercial programs, you can even use one of the free open source code operating systems instead of Windows, such as Linux. From the Linux site, "Linux is a free Unix-type operating system originally created by Linus Torvalds with the assistance of developers around the world. Developed under the GNU General Public License , the source code for Linux is freely available to everyone."

If you want an operating system that is a little more windows-like, but still rather technical, you can also try Ubuntu. One warning, changing your operating system may make some of your software incompatible and you may lose data. Do not switch operating systems mid-stream unless you are absolutely sure you have a separate backup or are absolutely sure you know what you are doing.

Even though we don't often think about it, Google and all of its fabulous applications is also free.

Good luck, and back up your data frequently.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

What is news in the context of genealogy?

Since genealogy and family history are all about historical records, what is really news in the context of genealogy? I have thought a lot about that question the last few months while writing this blog and I have come to some conclusions.

In teaching classes each week, I find that many of the attendees are blissfully unaware of online resources. Frequently, someone will ask for assistance and tell me that they are on their way to some distant location to find out about their ancestors. In the recent past, I have had people on their way to Poland, Germany, Ireland, and many locations in the United States. Now, I certainly wouldn't mind traveling to my ancestors' birthplaces, but I wouldn't expect to find any real genealogical information, other than a photograph or so without a lot of preparation. Its not that I want to discourage genealogical travel, but I do think that it would help the cause of research to know a little bit about what was already available and what might be peculiarly available only at the source location.

For example, I happen to know that there are lot of records available in Rhode Island in the State Archives at the Westminster Street facility and in some individual town repositories. But I am not going to travel all the way from Arizona to Rhode Island on the chance that I might find something I don't already know or couldn't find either online or at a closer facility like the Family History Library. After I have identified very specific research goals, I can then travel to the distant location for further search. I have done this with many locations both in Rhode Island and in Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, and many other locations.

It is a fact that millions of new records are going online every year. Many records unavailable in the immediate past are now indexed and digitized online. Part of the function of genealogical "news" is to make the availability of these new records known so they get used and so people don't spend time and money traveling to find records they could have researched at home.

Another reason for news is to update the technology of computers and the Internet that may impact genealogy and family history. Tools from the iPhone to new Websites and new software programs may all give a little extra help to the researchers. In the past few years more and more genealogists and family historians have been sharing their families online and collaboration avoids duplication of effort.

Every so often, there is some new development, either in technology or software that fundamentally changes the way the whole genealogy world works. Computers in general had that impact, as did the Internet. Now, although the changes might not be so earth shattering, there really are new things happening, like New FamilySearch/Family Tree Project and the FamilySearch Indexing Project with the new records going on the Record Search Pilot. Because of the huge volume of records being added to these sources, they will eventually have a tremendous impact on the availability of records and the possibility of collaboration.

Important developments don't happen every day. Identifying an ancestor after years of research is an exciting event but not likely to affect many more people other than the researcher. On the other hand, the day to day events and changes are important collectively. All of the blogs, tweets and Facebook posts add to the sum knowledge of the genealogical community. Small events add up to major changes.

What I am trying to do is give one small window into the world. I know I can't possibly keep up with everything. But I can do a little bit and add to the whole. Let's all keep on keeping on.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

FamilySearch Family Tree Project Updates

FamilySearch Labs Family Tree Project announced several changes to the interface for the program. The changes are summarized as follows:

Forgotten Username?
Just click on the link Forgot? under the Sign-in name box to get help remembering your username.

Forgotten Password?
Just click on the link Forgot? under the Sign in name box to get help remembering your username.

Registration:
You can now Register for the new FamilySearch from the Family Tree login page. Simply click on the link near the bottom right, Register for the new FamilySearch

News and Updates
On the sign in page you can click on News and Updates… link to read about the changes in this release.

In the further announcement of the most recent updates to the Family Tree Project, FamilySearch clearly indicated that the ultimate look and feel of the New FamilySearch program would look like Family Tree rather than the older New FamilySearch that has been introduced and used for the past year and half or so. The transition between the programs is not yet complete since there are still a number of functions of New FamilySearch that cannot be completed in the Family Tree Project, such as adding information.

Friday, May 22, 2009

New FamilySearch Utah and Idaho Release Schedule

According to the New FamilySearch Website, all of the members of the LDS Church in the Twin Falls, Idaho; Monticello, Utah; Rexburg, Idaho; Manti, Utah; and Vernal, Utah Temple Districts have full access to the New FamilySearch Website. In addition, Family History Leaders in the Logan, Utah Temple District had been sent the preparation notification. It appears that release will be on a Stake by Stake basis, with only five Stakes participating so far. No other Utah and Idaho Temple Districts have been sent instructions to begin preparing for the release as of yet.

Planting an Ancestor Garden

Thanks to Janet Hovorka for a really good idea of Planting an Ancestor Garden. I love it. Plant a garden of flowers and/or vegetables that helps you to remember your ancestors. I remember my grandparent's home, both of them died before I was born, but our family kept the old family home. At the front of the lot was an old tangled rose bush with small roundish yellow flowers. I can still recall the smell of those flowers over fifty years later. The bushes have long since died but the memory lives on. I would plant that type of rose in second, if I knew what it was. Maybe, with a push from Ms. Hovorka, I will do that some day.

Our family has also raided our old family homes just before our parents or grandparents moved and taken some of the flowers and plants. We have heritage plants growing in various gardens around the U.S. because of our concern that some of the plants continue on in the family. I think this is a wonderful way to remember our ancestors and kept their memory alive each time the flowers bloom. Thanks again to Ms. Hovorka for the suggestion.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

All of your genealogical files on one DVD

DVD technology is moving so rapidly that last month General Electric that its holographic data storage program demonstrated putting up to 500 GB of storage on one CD sized disk. I you were to see the mountain of genealogically related paper and documents piled around my house, you would be interested in almost any storage capability that could make all that paper vanish. I know it is an impossible dream, but that doesn't keep me from following every increase in storage capacity.

The latest development is from the Australian Swinburne University of Technology, where researchers have gone way past GE by cramming up to 10 Terabytes of information storage on one disk. The GE system could store 100 movies on one DVD, the Swinburne technology would push that storage capacity to 2,000. Even the GE technology would cut down on the number of disks it would take to back up my system and be much more than most people would need, but the newer technology promises to have your entire life on one disk.

One major drawback is the recording time all this information might take. Right now recording a full DVD takes a long time and multiple DVDs can take an entire day. It would take me weeks to record 100 DVDs worth of information at today's speed.

But it certainly looks like increased storage capacity is in the future.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

An early look at the LDS Church History Library

In an article dated 20 May 2009, Ardis E. Parshall takes us all on a tour of the new Church History Library of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS). From her description, it will be a very impressive and useful addition to the world of history research. The new library will be dedicated in about a month.

Why should I upgrade my computer? Microsoft Windows 7

The demographics on genealogists show that they are mostly older people. Recent Microsoft research has shown that there is a direct correlation between age and computer use, with computer adoption dropping off dramatically as age increases. Although there is a trend towards increased computer use in older adults, there is also an obvious increase in difficulties and impairments with age.

What this means, is that older people are less likely to use computers than the younger population. From personal experience, they are also far less likely to see the advantages of new technology. It is also evident that older people have less disposable income and feel less financially secure. I find that in any large group of genealogists there are always a few who do not use computers at all. There also seems to be a significant group that are hanging on to their original computer purchase, no matter how old the machine is. I regularly find people who are still actively using Windows 95 or even older operating systems.

It is also apparent that this group of technologically challenged older people are not likely the ones reading a blog such as this one.

But what about the rest of us; those with enough money and time to upgrade their computers from time to time, when should we consider upgrading our equipment?

I have a pretty simple system. Whenever the computer starts to slow down to an unacceptable level, it is time to upgrade. Fortunately, I have had the resources to do so on a regular basis. But what other factors do we need to be aware of?

Here is one important one: obsolescence. This year, for example, Microsoft will upgrade their operating system from Vista to Windows 7. This will mean that my Windows XP operating system will then be two upgrades behind then current system. But what if I want to upgrade to the new operating system? Here is where things get complicated. Microsoft has published the minimum system requirements for the current operating system, Vista.

Here are the hardware (computer) requirements for the present system:

Minimum Supported Requirements
Processor -- 800 MHz 32-bit (x86) or 64-bit (x64) processor
512 MB of system memory
GPU - SVGA (800x600)
HDD -- 20 GB
HDD -- 15 GB
Optical Drive CD-ROM Drive

1BitLocker Drive Encryption requires a TPM 1.2 chip or a USB 2.0 flash drive
2Processor speed is specified as the nominal operational processor frequency for the device. Some processors have power management which allows the processor to run at lower rate to save power.
3Adequate graphics memory is defined as:
– 64 MB of graphics memory to support a single monitor at 1,310,720 or less
– 128 MB of graphics memory to support a single monitor at resolutions 2,304,000 pixels or less
– 256 MB of graphics memory to support a single monitor at resolutions higher than 2,304,000 pixels
– Graphics memory bandwidth, as assessed by Windows Vista Upgrade Advisor, of at least 1,600 MB per second
4A DVD-ROM may be external (not integral, not built into the system)
5A CD-ROM may be external (not integral, not built into the system)
6If the GPU uses shared memory, then no additional graphics memory is required beyond the 1 GB system memory requirement; If the GPU uses dedicated memory then 128MB is required.

We can only assume that the requirements for Windows 7 will be larger and faster. If you don't know what all this means, you probably do not have a fast enough system. Basically, any computer purchased in the last four or five years would probably be fast enough. However, the computer system may not have enough storage memory if the hard drive is full.

Another consideration is that upgrading to the new system may make printers, scanners and other peripherals inoperable. Also, some of the existing software may not be compatible and may not work. It is not unusual that the expense of upgrading the software for a new operating system exceeds the cost of the hardware.

Here are my suggestions:

1. Upgrade when you have a need to do something with the computer that your present system will not do. For example, scanning or photo editing.

2. Upgrade when the storage devices used by your system are no longer supported. For example 5.25 and 3.5 inch floppy drives.

3. Upgrade your system when you can afford to do so. Even if you cannot afford the latest and best system, perhaps one of your friends or relatives is upgrading and has a newer system they will donate to you.

4. Upgrade your system when you run out of storage space and the time the computer takes to operate becomes excessively long.

5. Upgrade your system before your present system crashes and you lose all your data.

Good luck.

E-mail instantly translated on Gmail

As family historians it is common to deal with non-English records and non-English speaking people. Part of this barrier is coming down with the aid of computer translation programs. Google has developed an automatic message translation program for its Gmail which will work between 41 different languages.

This new program adds to the already existing Google Translate program. Bloggers may also be interested in adding the Google Translate Gadget to their blogs which offers instant access to automatic translations of that page. I have installed the gadget on Genealogy's Star so you can try it out. By mousing over the translated text, you can see the original English. I tried this translation gadget into Spanish, which I speak fluently, and it works pretty well. You should find the gadget on the left side of the page.

I have used Google Translate many times, just in the last few weeks and it has been of amazing assistance in working more quickly with both familiar and unfamiliar languages. I have even used it to communicate with a Russian friend on my Facebook page.

The possible uses for these translation tools from Google exceed even my imagination. It is notable that in every case, Google requests feedback as to the accuracy of the translation. But if you don't like Google's attempt at the translation, you probably didn't need the program in the first place.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

The difference between those living and those dead in New FamilySearch

New FamilySearch has implemented extensive rules concerning the display of information on living individuals. The new rules recently released have the following guidelines:
Seeing Information about Living Relatives
If you want to see information about your living grandchildren, in-laws, aunts, uncles, cousins, and other relatives that the system does not show, you must contribute their information yourself. But remember, only you will be able to see this information.
Before you contribute information about living individuals who are or were members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, remember that the system will display their information automatically after one of the following happens:
• Death information is added to their membership record.
• 110 years have passed since their birth.
The records that you contribute become duplicate records that will need to be combined.
Until the system has better features to help you work with information about living relatives, please consider the following recommendations:
• Contribute living relatives only when you need to link the records of living individuals to deceased individuals. This minimizes the number of duplicate records that are added to the system.
• Use a computer program like Personal Ancestral File if you want to keep extensive information about living relatives.
This is one of the first issues new users confront, the absence of information about close family members. Even though people are told that the information for family members is in the database, they often still insist on adding the information again. Hopefully, these new guidelines will be extensively disseminated and will be able to persuade people not to add their relatives, especially if they were or are members of the LDS Church.

The Family Tree Project updates

Its now official, for the one of the first times in print The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) has made a definite statement about the Family Tree Project and its relationship to the New FamilySearch program. Here is the complete announcement:

The Family Tree project is redesigning the look of the new FamilySearch Web site to make it easier to use. You are invited to preview and give feedback on this new look while it is still being developed. When it is finished, this look will be used on the new FamilySearch Web site. To see the Family Tree project, go to http://labs.familysearch.org/, and click the Family Tree link.

Use your sign-in name and password for the new FamilySearch to sign in.
You see the same family information in the new FamilySearch Web site and the Family Tree project. Also, changes that you make in either program are immediately visible in the other.

Tasks That Can Be Done Only in the Family Tree Project
In the Family Tree project, you can perform several tasks that you cannot do in the new FamilySearch Web
site.
• When you open an individual’s folder, you can see the contact name of the user who has the ordinances reserved.
• You can easily resize your tree to show many more generations on the screen.
• When you hover the mouse cursor over someone in the tree, the path back to you is highlighted. This lets you more easily see how you connect to any person in your tree.
• When you display the list of your reserved ordinances, you can see whether the cards have been printed and which ordinances are done.
• You can view the individuals in your pedigree as a list. When you first switch from the pedigree to the list, the list contains the individuals in the pedigree view. Once the list is displayed, you can sort the individuals by last name, first name, gender, birth date, birthplace, or person ID.
• You can type an individual’s ordinance information in when you cannot find the official ordinance record.
New Features as of March and May 2009
The Family Tree project added several new features in March and May 2009.
March 2009.

In the March 2009 release, you could start doing the following:
• Add missing ordinance dates if you cannot find the official temple record.
• Find and resolve duplicate ordinance records.
• Reserve ordinances and print Family Ordinance Requests.
Note: In the Family Tree, the Family Ordinance Request is created as a PDF file. If you receive a message that you need to update your Adobe Reader software, please update it. This allows your computer to display and print the request correctly, especially if it contains names in Chinese, Japanese, or Korean characters.

The new FamilySearch Web site does not create Family Ordinance Requests as PDF files, so it does not require you to update your Adobe Reader software.
• Assign ordinances to the temple if you want the temple to allow someone else to perform the ordinances.

May 2009
In the May 2009 release, you can do the following:
• Register directly from the Family Tree project instead of the new FamilySearch Web site.
• Obtain news and updates in the sign-in page.
I will be discussing these changes in subsequent posts.

Changes to the New FamilySearch Website

For the first time since February, New FamilySearch has announced some significant changes to the Website. First, and most important, the number of combined records for any one individual has been increased to 150. The previous limit was 85. This has a big impact on the Individuals of Unusual Size (IOUS) for the pioneer or legacy families. The increase in the limit allows more of these individuals to be combined and thereby decrease the potential for duplication of Temple ordinances.

New FamilySearch also announced the following:
The computer program RootsMagic 4 is now certified to both reserve ordinances in the new FamilySearch Web site and print Family Ordinance Requests. For more information, please visit http://www.rootsmagic.com/fs/. (RootsMagic 4 is available in English only.) For the current status, please contact the affiliate directly, or go to http://www.familysearch.org/eng/affiliates/index.html”.
There are a number of corrections, clarifications and additions to the User's Guide to the New FamilySearch. Here is the list of updates from the Church's announcement:

The user’s guide contains the following corrections, clarifications, and additions:
• It now clarifies how and when the system displays information about members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, including those who were excommunicated or who requested that their names be removed from the records of the Church. This content is also included below.
• It now explains what happens when you use the new FamilySearch Web site for someone else who has not registered to use the system. This content is also included below.
• It now explains how adding records of living people can add duplicate records to the system and provides some recommendations on when to do it. This content is also included below.
• Information about assigning ordinances to the temple has been corrected and clarified. Before the February 2009 release of the new FamilySearch Web Site, when you assigned ordinances to the temple, the ordinances would remain available in the system for other users to reserve until a temple actually received the ordinance to do. Now the system immediately lists assigned ordinances as “In progress,” which The New FamilySearch Web Site and Family Tree Project May 2009 1 means other users can no longer reserve them. This correction did not get made in the February 2009 user’s guide. The revised instructions are also included below.
• It now contains guidelines for solving problems related to ordinance cards. These guidelines are also included below.
• It now clarifies what information you should take to the temple if you need to seal living persons to deceased spouses, children, and parents. These guidelines are also included below.
• Chapter 1 of A User’s Guide to the New FamilySearch now includes information about the Family Tree. See the new user’s guide for this content.

There are so many new changes that I don't have time to cover them all in this post. I will discuss all of the changes in future posts, hopefully in the next day or so.

New FamilySearch Roll-out

Thanks to Renee's Genealogy Blog for an update on the New FamilySearch roll-out. She has a convenient spreadsheet showing the status of all of the Temple Districts. It looks like Utah is being introduced to the program in slow stages, a few stakes at a time.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Old line genealogy confronts the new wave

Last Friday while working at the Reference Desk at the Mesa Regional Family History Center, a younger woman approached the Desk and said that she needed some help. (I have to be careful how I characterize people now that I getting older, almost everyone who comes to the Reference Desk is either my age or younger).

She explained that she had some work she had done a few years ago on a floppy disk and wanted to get onto New FamilySearch so she could work on her file and then print it all out for her Book of Remembrance. I am afraid I just sat there staring at her. I immediately began to think about how many pages of Family Group Records even one of my smaller files would generate and how useless it would be to print out the work at whatever point I was working on. I thought about how much more I had to do to put in all my sources and attach all of the downloaded and scanned images.

All of this occurred in about four or five seconds, I realized that I was not the person to help this lady with her "print out" and turned her over to someone a little more sympathetic with her goal. As it turned out, she did not have either a log in or a pass word for New FamilySearch, nor did she have the information to apply for one, so none of us were able to help.

Today, I got a comment from a reader who said, "Among some of my genealogy society acquaintances there seems to be a line of demarcation: the old way, and the wrong way. All things internet are suspect, and all things written are not suspect.

I wonder how research can be conducted by any method with a closed mind?"

I do not have a complete answer for the people who resist learning and fail to take advantage of the newer opportunities offered by the technology. I realize that there are many who do not trust technology, merely because it is new or different than the way they have done things in the past. But equally as difficult to understand is how someone could accept a portion of the technology and, for example, copy things off of the computer by hand.

For my part, I am grateful for the access that we have to source records online. I had a research project concerning Court records for one of my great-great-grandfathers. The records were kept in the National Archives Branch in Denver, Colorado and I was trying to figure out a time I could take a trip to Denver. Fortunately, I found out that the records I needed had been scanned and put online by Footnote.com. I thereby avoided the time and expense of going to a place that I really had no genealogical interest in visiting (except maybe on a vacation). I could have also hired someone local in Denver to do the research, but we all know about budgets and priorities.

One of my wishes is that I had enough time to sit down with people like the lady in the Family History Center and show them how technology can save time, energy and paper. But that will probably never happen.

Cloud Computing and Genealogy

Cloud computing or "utility computing" is the term being used to describe applications, data processing and storage on the Internet. Two of the biggest players in the online world are also the forerunners of this new concept, Google and Amazon. The present challenge of this exploding area of computing is a lack of a environmental standard for data so that data stored in one "cloud" can be used in other data storage centers. Forbes.

Genealogists have been using the basic concept for years, with such services as Ancestry.com's Family Tree and TribalPages.com. Even though it is not presently open to the general public, New FamilySearch/Family Tree also has the potential to become a major repository for genealogical information.

Storing data online is not a new concept. FamilySearch has had the Pedigree Resource File for years, what is newer is online collaboration. Google offers Google Docs, Google Video and Google Sites. The process is described by Google as Google Docs enhancing "your company's productivity suite and eliminates the need to collaborate with attachments. Employees can start a project with software like Microsoft Office, and use Google Docs to share files with coworkers for collaborative editing. Everyone accesses the same online copy of the file in Google Docs, so there are no attachment compatibility problems, inbox storage quota issues, or versions to reconcile. When the group is done editing, you can keep the file in Google Docs, or export it back to the original format." Google.

Some of the newer online genealogy services make the same claims. Articles have been written about collaborative genealogy for the past few years, (see Family History) but these programs suffer the same limitations discussed in cloud computing, lack of a uniform standard for easily sharing information across programs and applications. GEDCOM is a useful standard for file transfers, but it is cumbersome and difficult to use in a collaborative environment. There have been a few attempts to establish a common method of exchanging information, such as the Genos Project of Northface University in South Jordan, Utah, but little progress has been made.

Today, if you use a program such as TribalPages, you can have family members sign on and collaborate research and information, but the information is "locked up" in the TribalPages Website (or any other Website for that matter). Even if you have your data accessible in Ancestry.com, there is no easy way to transfer data and collaborate between programs short of downloading your data to your own computer and reloading it into another online program. Each program, such as Ancestry.com, TribalPages etc. operates with its own passwords, file structure and other proprietary issues.

Cloud computing advances the concept that true collaboration may be possible through the establishment of cross-program standards. As for now, collaboration is limited to a site specific effort. This area will undoubtedly become a major issue in the near future.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

WolframAlpha -- not helpful to genealogists yet

There have been a lot of Web comments on a new search/wiki program from Stephen Wolfram. You may not be familiar with him unless you majored in mathematics or engineering or some other physical science but in some areas, he is well known. He was born 29 August 1959 in London and is a British physicist, mathematician, and businessman, known for his work in theoretical particle physics, cosmology, cellular automata, complexity theory, and computer algebra. Wikipedia. He is probably best known for his program, Mathematica. In 1986 Wolfram left the Institute for Advanced Study for the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign where he founded their Center for Complex Systems Research and started to develop the computer algebra system Mathematica, which was first released in 1988, when he left academia. In 1987 he co-founded a company called Wolfram Research which continues to develop and market the program.[2] Stephen Wolfram is currently the majority shareholder. See Wikipedia.

His latest project is WolframAlpha, which is described as "the first step in an ambitious, long-term project to make all systematic knowledge immediately computable by anyone. You enter your question or calculation, and Wolfram|Alpha uses its built-in algorithms and growing collection of data to compute the answer. Based on a new kind of knowledge-based computing..."

So far, despite the projects ambitious goals, the searches lead to little or no useful genealogical information. You may wish to read a more extensive review on the TransylvanianDutch Genealogy and Family History blog. I find a site such as LiveRoots to be much more useful than WolframAlpha at this point.

Friday, May 15, 2009

New FamilySearch ends Beta Testing (for now?)

We recently participated in a Beta Test of both New FamilySearch and Family Tree. As far as both my wife and I could tell there were no substantive changes in either program. Although there were a few small changes in Family Tree.

Apparently, the Beta Testing is over. Here is the announcement:

Dear Member,

Testing of new FamilySearch and the Family Tree project has ended. We appreciate your continuing efforts in helping us improve and make sure everything is working before we release to the Church.

We apologize to those who could not access the beta sites of new FamilySearch or Family Tree project.

For those able to test, we would like you to participate in an important survey. Your honest feedback in this survey will provide us great insight for improving new FamilySearch and the Family Tree project.

Thank you.

Family History Department

We took the survey, which was quite extensive but have received no feedback on the test or the survey.

FamilySearch issues statement about RootsMagic 4

FamilySearch issued the following statement received on 13 May 2009:

Family History News Update

Here is some important information about a newly certified software application that will work directly with the new.familysearch.org Web site to prepare ancestral ordinances for the temple.

RootsMagic 4 is the first software affiliate product that is certified to reserve and submit ancestral names to temples to print LDS temple name cards using new FamilySearch Web services.

As an application that is certified to reserve ordinances, RootsMagic 4 has the ability to link people in your desktop genealogy file with matching people on the new.familysearch.org Web site. Once linked, a simple click on the temple icon next to a person’s name will display that person's official temple ordinances, complete with dates, temple name, and status. Incomplete temple ordinances may then be reserved to be performed at a later time. Your own file may also be updated with ordinances that are already completed. RootsMagic 4 can select reserved ordinances and print a Family Ordinance Request (FOR) form to take to the temple. Once at the temple, a worker will scan the bar code on the form and print all the desired temple name ordinance cards. Once the ordinances have been completed, RootsMagic will be updated with your ancestors’ new ordinance status.

For more product information go to: http://www.rootsmagic.com/fs/ .

Sincerely,

FamilySearch Support
support@familysearch.org
U.S. and Canada: 1-866-406-1830
International: Go to http://contact.familysearch.org for more toll-free phone numbers.

LiveRoots on FaceBook

LiveRoots is a genealogical search engine that is a "single resource that bridges the gaps between independent web sites, large commercial repositories and printed materials yet to be digitized and published on the World Wide Web." LiveRoots.

LiveRoots is available on FaceBook. You need to be signed in to FaceBook to view the page.

This resource turns out to be a good place to view the latest additions to the major online collections, such as Ancestry.com, WorldVitalRecords and other similar sites. None of the documents are actually available on LiveRoots. Clicking on a specific collection of records in one of the subscription Websites advises you to access the database either through your own subscription or through a library access.

Because many of the resources listed on LiveRoots are subscription based the actually utility of the site is diminished unless you have the subscriptions. However, there are a lot of links to "free" Websites, like the Family History Library Catalog, the Family History Archive and the FamilySearch Wiki which are very useful.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Thousands of records added to FamilySearch Research Pilot

In an announcement dated May 13, 2009 the FamilySearch Record Search Pilot Website was updated with thousands of records. Two new collections were added, Indiana Marriages from 1811 through 1959 (indexed records only) and Italy Palermo, Monreale Diocese Church Records from 1530 through 1919 (images only).

In addition, the Massachusetts 1855 and 1865 Censuses were augmented with over 15,000 images. The Massachusetts Census records were already in the collection.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Technology, obstacle or benefit to genealogy

Many of us get so caught up in trumpeting the benefits of newer and better technology, we may lose sight of those who live either outside the present technology or chose to ignore it entirely. In the past few weeks I have seen a number of people who are not only challenged by the changes but altogether resistant. One example, today in a class about subscription Websites for genealogy, one of the class members, and LDS Ward Family History Consultant, was concerned about how the material would go over with her friend who didn't have an Internet connection. The friend was seeking help in doing her family history, but either did not have the money or the motivation to get online.

The question was how could the person do their genealogy without using Personal Ancestral File and how could they obtain the program without an Internet connection. As a matter of fact, the program is available on CD from the LDS Church Distribution for a nominal price. I asked whether or not the person had a CD drive on their computer? However, the class member did not know the answer.

Another student in the same class was trying to determine which genealogical database program to use. I spoke to her of several and she was still undecided how to proceed. She kept referring to her handwritten pedigree chart, which she admitted that she hadn't looked at since college.

I recall that the introductory materials for the LDS Church's New FamilySearch program had a number of sequences of individuals throughout the world who had no access to computer technology of their own, but had to rely on others to enter the information they had gathered by hand, into the New FamilySearch program.

Maybe, we forget that you can still do family history with a pencil and a piece of paper. Just as you can still walk across the U.S. Not that I would want to try either, but the possibility still exists.

On the other hand, the problem of resistance to technology is deeper than an inability to merely participate. During the past couple of years, I have been working on various research projects with the goal of applying for some kind of certification. It is interesting to me, that neither of the major genealogical certification organizations seem to recognize the changes effected by the technology. They are essentially still in a paper and pencil world. The certifications still focus on relatively small geographic areas and neither the Board for Certification of Genealogists (BCG) nor the International Commission for the Accreditation of Genealogists (ICAPGen) recognize a specialty in online research, independent of geographic location. The BCG even has a weight limit for the amount of paper to be included with their application!! Why not submit everything on CD? or even online?

In another example, there is no sense of place or location, as such, on the Internet and it is indicative of a resistance to technology in the failure of the certification boards lack of recognition of people who "live on the Web" and are still emphasizing research limited to small geographic areas.

The counter-argument is simple, you still have to have certain basic skills to do good or adequate research, but there are those without those specific skills who can still do genealogy and there are those with technological skills that do not necessarily conform to the traditional method of "doing genealogy."

More thoughts later.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

LiveRoots adds links to Family History Archive

In a news release dated May 7, 2009, LiveRoots announced the following:
The Family History Archive collection is being added to the Live Roots catalog. Currently over 10,000 online books (all free access) have been included. Also this week, a preview for Genealogy Bank was added so you can search from within Live Roots and see what they have available for your surnames. Links to the major collections of HeritageQuest Online were added. Links for the library version of Ancestry.com are now included for anyone using Live Roots from within a library that subscribes. Additional sharing options were added to the Facebook version of Live Roots.
To further quote their description of the service:
Live Roots is an information resource that assists you with locating genealogical resources, including both those that are accessible online and others which may require assistance from another researcher. Genealogists use Live Roots to find vital records and original publications, share opinions about online repositories and learn more about tools available to simplify their research projects. For additional information, read "What is Live Roots all About?".
From my standpoint LiveRoots is supplying a way to search the contents of Ancestry.com, WorldVitalRecords and collections like the Family History Archives, in one place with one search.
LiveRoots is updated daily. It is part of GenealogyToday.com.

Its collections include:

AfriGeneas, Ancestry.com, Brookhaven Press, DistantCousin.com, Family History Archive, FamilySearch.org (LABS), FindMyPast.com, Footnote.com, Genealogical Publishing Company, Genealogy Bank, Heritage Books, Interment.net (cemeteries), JewishGen.org, NARA (microfilm), New England Historic Genealogical Society, Olive Tree Genealogy (passenger lists) and WorldVitalRecords. Real-Time Searches include: ABEbooks, Amazon.com, Ancestry.com (databases and message boards), CousinConnect, eBay, Family History Library Catalog, FamilySearch Wiki, Footnote.com, GenForum, Google Books, Scribd and Twitter.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

MacFamilyTree updated to version 5.5

Synium Software has announced a new version of MacFamilyTree. From its Website, here are a list of the updated items claimed to be in the program:

  • New: World History Database
  • Displays all Events in your Database in a historical context
  • Our predefined database features categorized historical events in 22 topics
  • Additional events can be easily added and edited from a dedicated Preferences section.
  • Add custom regional and global historical data
  • Historical data is available in Edit Mode, for each person and family. Historical information will be displayed in Time Line view, Person Reports and on Web pages generated using our powerful Web HTML Export.
  • Fully localized integration with Wikipedia (Internet connection required)

  • New: Completely Rewritten Database Engine
  • Dramatic speed increase throughout MacFamilyTree, especially on Macs running Mac OS X 10.5 (Leopard)
  • Full size images and large PDFs are stored in the MacFamilyTree database without compromising overall performance.
  • Changes to the MacFamilyTree database are now saved much quicker.
  • Reduced memory footprint, especially for larger databases

  • New: Search
  • Rewritten, fine-grained search with a new user interface
  • Search for Persons, Families and Sources with many options to narrow down and customize your search criteria.

  • New: Additional Charts Available for Statistics View
  • Age of Children at Parents' Death
  • Age of Person at Partner's Death
  • Month of Marriage
  • Other Improvements & Fixes
  • Added Auto-Save
  • GEDCOM Importer improved
  • Improved Black & White theme for Charts
  • Wood style now selectable in MacFamilyTree's Preferences, as an option for the program's entire user interface
  • The Ancestor Chart can now be flipped as an upside-down view
  • Added a parents of person popup menu to the man and woman palette
  • Editing of saved Reports improved
  • Person Report now includes notes from person events
  • Person List can be configured to show separate columns for name components
  • Many user interface refinements
I have been using the program for a while, especially the mobile version on my iPhone. I find that the non-traditional interface is both appealing and difficult to adjust to at the same time. The tree view is dramatic, especially if you have a lot of names in your database, but it is a puzzle as to how useful the information really is. My wife finds the program objectionable because of its focus on politically correct terminology, i.e. she objects to the "person" and "partner" designation but I ask, "how do you explain the woman who ran off with the Bishop's wife -- who became a man?" and other interesting family (?) relationships? Anyway, the program is very interesting and shows a lot of promise.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Enhancing your online genealogy searches

Do you know if your ancestor is already been researched? Do you know if the information is available on the Internet? Both of these questions should be some of the first concerns in addressing any research goal. There are quite a few options for online searches.

Although Google does not search the entire Web, it is a good starting place. However, the other search options may provide valuable information not easily found with Google. Here is a list of some of the popular search sites:

Google
Alta Vista
Yahoo
DogPile

Ask

This list could go on and on. There are two majorly different search engines on the list. Google and Yahoo are single entities. Search engines like DogPile and Webcrawler search a number of individual search engines at once.

Just for comparison, try to search for the same relative on each of the search engines. For example, I used Henry Martin Tanner born in San Bernardino, California in 1852.

Google found 188 results, with nearly all of the hits being my ancestor. On the other hand, Alta Vista found only 19 results which were mostly all my ancestor. With the same exact search, Ask found 10,800 hits but most of the hits were irrelevant. Yahoo found 11 items, nearly all of which were relevant. I could go on, but each of the search engines found something relevant and some of the results were specific to a particular search engine.

You may wish to try different search engines to see if you can find information not on any of the others.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Check out Google Trends below the posts on this blog

Google has a new tool called Google Trends. The application runs on this blog and shows the level of Web search activity throughout the designated geographic area during the time period shown. You can see the Google Trends App down at the bottom of this posting page. Take a moment to check it out.

To quote Google:

Google Trends analyzes a portion of Google web searches to compute how many searches have been done for the terms you enter, relative to the total number of searches done on Google over time. We then show you a graph with the results - our Search Volume Index graph.

Leave me a comment if you would like to suggest search terms and I will vary them from time to time. The graph will give you an idea of the relative popularity of specific search terms.

Protecting your genealogical data on flash drives



The inexpensive and handy flash drives have become a fixture with family history researchers. But how safe is your data on one of these memory storage devices?

Part of the answer to the question is unknown simply because the drives have been in use for such a short time. But there are some things that we already know about the drives. First of all, they can be broken if dropped on a hard surface. There is absolutely nothing you can do to recover the lost data. Also, the drives can be easily lost or stolen. If you are copying documents in a library, it is extremely easy to walk away from the computer and forget to remove your flash drive, especially if you have been distracted.

The data on the flash drive can also be lost if the drive is removed during the data transfer process. You must wait until the data is completely transferred or risk losing, not just the data being transferred, but other data as well.

We do know that the flash memory used in the drives will wear out over time. Most manufacturers do not have data on the actual length of time their products will continue to work, but it is a physical fact that the flash memory does wear out. If the drive is used for running an operating system or hosting applications, the drive may fail much quicker than it normally would

Some flash drives are physically better constructed than others. Initial purchase price is no guarantee that you are getting a higher quality drive, inexpensive drives may be as well made as more expensive alternatives, but it is not a good idea to rely on a "free" drive given away as a premium. Stick with the major brands and manufacturers

If you routinely use your drive with devices other than a computer, you may run a risk that the other device may overwrite data from your computer. Flash drives can be used with digital cameras and media players such as DVD players, not all of these devices may use the same file system as your computer. For example, you may wish to remove a photo from your drive and end up wiping out the whole memory.

The price on these storage devices has dropped precipitously in the past few years and continues to drop regularly. As the price drops, the size of the drive increases, so the purchase price may seem to remain the same. As of May, 2009 the larger flash drives store up to 32 GB of data.

The main attractions of flash drives is portability and convenience, but you may wish to back up your flash drive to another storage device, like an external hard drive, on a regular basis.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

New ways to backup your genealogy data

Technology never stands still. The last few years have seen a dramatic change in electronic data storage. We have progressed from 5.25" floppy disks to solid state memory on flash drives. The latest development is the Solid-state Drive or SSD. Apple Computer's latest super thin laptop computer can now come with a solid-state drive option. This is similar technology to the flash drives, but on a much larger scale. At the present time, SSDs are substantially more expensive than comparably priced hard drives.

As a comparison there are a significant number of 1 Terabyte (1000 Gigabyte) hard drives advertised for under $200, some as low as $87.00 for an internal drive. To look for a price comparison type the search term "terabyte hard drives" into Google Products. At the same time, the largest solid state drives are about 128 Gigabytes and cost from $300 to over $500 dollars.

It is inevitable that the SSDs will increase in capacity and decrease in cost. The advantages of the solid state drives include less power consumption (runs cooler), no moving parts to wear out, they make no noise and they have a more compact design. There are sources that predict a 1 Terabyte SSD within two years. It is obvious that the fact that the drives have no moving parts makes them potentially a lot more reliable than existing hard drive technology.

The disadvantages presently include their cost, their capacity, the flash memory cells wear out over time and performance of the drive degrades with use. Some of their limitations will be moderated over time and it is expected that they will replace mechanical hard drives, at least for laptop or mobile computing in the next few years.

The good news for the user is that there is no special need to change to a SSD if you already have an adequate hard drive. If you use your computer to travel or to do on site research, you may want the increased durability and lighter weight of the newer drives. All of these changes in technology seem to benefit genealogists for some reason.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Saving your data -- new ways to avoid losing your work

Genealogy is information intensive. But all forms of information storage are perishable. The longer you spend doing research the more paranoid you become about losing data. Many researchers still take comfort in printing out their files. Some of us passed that point years ago. I now estimate that to print out my main ancestral file records, which I have in four different computer programs, would take at least 20,000 pages or more, that is 40 reams of paper or more and I have many times that number of names in other files.

At some point backing up your research to printed copies becomes literally impossible. But how reliable is electronic storage? All electronic storage devices and media is volatile. This means that the information stored can be lost, either through mechanical failure, catastrophic loss or deterioration over time.

Let me give an example. Suppose you use a flash drive to store your data. Although there are no moving parts, the drive could be physically lost, dropped and broken, overheated by leaving it in a closed car or any other type of physical loss. In every case, the data stored is gone from that device. Absent a back up or another copy in another format, the data is now gone.

In engineering terms, any system has a mean time between failures (MTBF). If a system is replaced after a failure (like with a flash drive), this is sometimes called the mean time to failure (MTTF) instead of MTBF where the system is repaired. Here is a long discussion of the concept of MTBF. See also failure rate. For a more readable explanation see "Making sense of "mean time to failure."

In the area of electronics, even if the MTTF of a component is exceptionally long, there is always the danger of obsolescence. Think of 8 track tapes and cassette recorders and now VHS video tape for examples. In the movie Wall-E the robot is still watching VHS videos seven hundred years after the humans left the earth. Of course, this is absolutely unreal. None of the present storage methods, hard drives, flash drives, solid state storage devices, tape or whatever could conceivably last that long.

So where does all this leave us in trying to preserve our genealogical data? Here are five suggestions for preserving your data:

1. Back up (make a copy) of all of your data onto, at least, three different types of storage devices. For example, have a copy on your primary PC, another copy on an external hard disk drive and a third copy periodically on CD or DVD.

2. Migrate your files regularly. This means copy them over to a newer storage device and reopen and re-save the files as newer software formats are released. I once had my personal journal in MacWrite files and almost lost it when the program became obsolescent, I just was able to find an older computer and make the transfer to Microsoft Word.

3. Make archive copies of your files and send them to various relatives or friends in different geographic locations. This avoids natural disasters wiping out all your storage devices at once.

4. Take a copy of your files with you (if this is physically possible) when you go on a trip.

5. Keep up with technology. If it is time to buy a new computer, don't wait until the old one crashes with all your programs and data.

This is an topic that needs to be repeated from time to time and probably will.

Twitter your way to your family research


In a recent article posted 29 April 2009 on LDS Media Talk, Larry Richman, Director of the LDS Church Publications and Media Project Office, noted that "eMarketer estimates there were roughly 6 million Twitter users in the US in 2008, or 3.8% of Internet users. They project that the number will double next year and triple the year after." He went on to note that "Nielsen.com ranked Twitter as the fastest growing member communities site in February 2009. Twitter had a growth of 1,382%, compared with Zimbio’s growth of 240%, and Facebook’s growth of 228%. By all measures, Twitter is growing quickly."

Many of the genealogy sites, including this one, maintain Twitter feeds or "tweets." A recent search on Twitter for the term "genealogy" returned hundreds of sites. Some of the sites returned were simply ads, but a lot of the traffic was inquiries and news.

Although posts are limited to 140 characters, this is enough to give a headline into another link with more information. You may wish to limit the number of your subscriptions to those sites that have real content as opposed to stream of thought sites telling you when someone gets up and goes to bed.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Update to Record Search Pilot -- new collections Alabama and Jamaica

Two new collections have been added to the Record Search Pilot, Alabama Statewide Deaths 1908 to 1974 with indexed data but no images and Jamaica, Trelawny Parish Civil Registrations Births 1898 to 1930 with images only.

These new collections continue adding records from areas traditionally missing from large records collections. A search of Websites offering information on Jamaican genealogy shows that the most complete collection available is from the Family History Library microfilms. These are exactly the records that are being made available online for the first time.

If you want more information on Jamaican genealogy, you may wish to consult the RootsWeb Genealogy of Jamaica page.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Beta testing begins for New FamilySearch and Family Tree

Chosen Beta testers received the following message from New FamilySearch:

The Family History Department should begin testing new FamilySearch and the Family Tree project on Friday, May 1st at about 8:00 a.m. Mountain Standard Time. If there happens to be a prolonged delay, we will inform you by e-mail.
Below are the two “Links” for our beta test, one for new FamilySearch and one for the Family Tree project. We will include testing instructions as an attached file for both systems to help facilitate a more thorough testing and reporting of both products.
You might not have had an opportunity to use the Family Tree project before and we would like you to spend your effort on both new FamilySearch and the Family Tree project. If you have not used the Family Tree project extensively, the tasks we have included in the instructions will help you get acquainted with Family Tree and some of its features. To access these challenges, click on the attached document.

I will keep you posted on any new developments that I might run into.

Significant update to Mac version of MyBlood

In an E-mail news release, the MyBlood genealogy database program announced a significant upgrade. According to the release the following changes were made to the program:

MyBlood v1.0 Alpha 4 is available on the MyBlood site. This version is the last alpha version.
Beta 1 will be available in May 2009, bringing it to a commercial level.
This version brings some important features:
* Better GEDCOM import: Citations, Sources and Repositories are now imported
* Better GEDCOM export: Notes, Media, Sources and Repositories are exported
* Extended Web-Export, now also exporting Chronology, Media, Places... and including a fresh Layout...
* Citations, Sources and Repositories can now be managed.
There are a lot of small improvements from better icons to automatic selections...
An important addition is the Find and Replace feature which allows you to easily modify the database.

This is also the first release that has platform specific features. MyBlood has been made scriptable for Mac users. You can now do a limited a mount of Apple scripting. You can open and save files (including settings) and export web-pages (including specific settings) through scripting. More items will be made available for scripting in the future.
You can download the version on the link below:
http://www.myblood-line.com/Form_Alpha_Download.html

Finding towns in Eastern Germany/Poland/Russia

One of the problems with locating information about individuals who were born and lived in Eastern Germany or Poland or Western Russia is the movement of the borders back and forth. With each change of border, it was common to rename the towns and other political subdivisions. Making your way through the change of names can a be a formidable task. Fortunately, the Internet gives us a lot mapping tools and databases to help with the search.

One of the most interesting sites is the Karten Meister. This site is one of the most comprehensive databases of locations in the provinces of Eastprussia, including Memel, Westprussia, Brandenburg, Posen, Pomerania, and Silesia. The site claims to have 81,166 locations with over 34,125 name changes where the change occurred one time, and 5,500 where the change occurred more than once.

The site can be searched in several ways:

1. German name
2. Older German name
3. Kreis/County
4. By the next larger town, (this is a proximity search.)
5. Today's Polish, Russian or Lithuanian name.
6. by Family Name.

The site also contains a collection of high resolution maps of the target area.