RootsTech 2015

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

Sunday, January 31, 2010

MobileTree, a new app for the iPhone and New FamilySearch

This past week at the Family History Expo in Mesa, Arizona, I had the opportunity to talk to the developers of the new MobileTree App for the iPhone. I downloaded the app and started using it this week. Here is an introductory video about the app.



The first thing I have to say is to reinforce the limitations of this app. IT IS NOT FOR EVERYONE, IF YOU DO NOT HAVE A LOGIN TO NEW FAMILYSEARCH, DO NOT BUY THIS APP. OK, now that said, this is a very impressive app and well worth the small purchase price.

The graphics are impressive, although, as with all iPhone apps the loading speed depends so much on local reception. Data intensive apps are generally very slow on the iPhone, especially compared to the same applications running on a fast Internet connection. So don't be surprised at the waits in between changing individuals. As a bonus, names searched on New FamilySearch can also be searched on Wikipedia, the FamilySearch Research Wiki and Google Search with a convenient link from inside the program. Unfortunately, the program doesn't help with any of the data problems present in New FamilySearch (it would be a miracle if it did) and so you need to be aware that what you see in MobileTree is only as accurate as the information in New FamilySearch. If there are multiple combined individuals, then what is shown in MobileTree will depend on which portion of the data is selected in the "Summary" view of the individual. In addition if there are multiple options for parents, the program selects the one showing in New FamilySearch, which may not be the "correct" one.

The data limitations of New FamilySearch, especially for individuals related to pioneer families, may make the data coming over to MobileTree less than useful, but data limitations should not be counted against the app programmers.

In reading the comments about the app in iTunes, it is incredible that someone would complain that the application was limited to LDS Church members and those registered to New FamilySearch, when it says that right in the description of the app. They apparently like to admit they can't read.

"New FamilySearch" integration now available in Legacy Family Tree 7.4

In an announcement made in the Legacy News, Millennia Software announced that their Legacy Family Tree program now has limited integration with New FamilySearch. The article explains as follows:
  • Version 7.4 includes a special "pre-release" edition of our New FamilySearch integration tools which lets users: 1) Match their Legacy individuals with FamilySearch individuals, 2) Combine potential duplicates that exist at FamilySearch, 3) View the real-time ordinance status of individuals
  • After installing the update, you will be asked if you want to turn on the FamilySearch integration tools. At this time only LDS members should say yes (FamilySearch accounts are currently restricted to members of the LDS church while they conclude their testing).
  • The FamilySearch tools have been officially certified by FamilySearch, but the tools are still in "pre-release mode". This means that 1) not all of the features that we want to implement are available, but we want you to get started (the rest of the features will be released in version 7.5) and 2) there are still a few minor (non-critical) bugs to resolve.
The article states, "there is no cost for this update. If you've already installed Legacy 7.0 (standard or deluxe editions) just follow the update instructions below. The FamilySearch tools are included in both the free standard edition and the deluxe edition. If you do not yet have Legacy Family Tree, and you want to utilize the FamilySearch tools, you can download either edition."

When I was at the Family History Expo in Mesa, Geoff Rasmussen of Millennia Software was kind enough to show me a preview of both versions 7.4 and 7.5 and there were some very impressive features. It is apparent that Legacy Family Tree will be able to benefit from the experiences of the other developers in providing access to New FamilySearch that will help to make the synchronization process more user friendly. I will try to get to a more complete evaluation in the near future.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

The future of FamilySearch

FamilySearch, the genealogical organization of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, is well known for its Website, FamilySearch.org. However, the Website for the actual organization is that of The Genealogical Society of Utah, the previous name of the organization. In answering the question, "What is FamilySearch?' the Website says:

FamilySearch, historically known as the Genealogical Society of Utah, is dedicated to the discovery and preservation of a record of the family of mankind, introducing individuals to their ancestors through the widespread access of records, and collaborating with others who share this vision...


At the recent Family History Expo in Mesa, Arizona on January 22, 2010, Jim Greene, of FamilySearch, talked about unifying the logins for all of the present FamilySearch Websites. Presently, you could have a separate login and password for each of the many different sites using the name FamilySearch. That process has already begun and shortly all of the Websites will have a unified LDS account login, that's one password to remember instead of many.

Eventually, as explained by other presenters on the part of FamilySearch, many of the different Websites not just the logins, including New FamilySearch, the FamilySearch Research Wiki, Record Search and others will be consolidated into one umbrella Website. The surviving name will be FamilySearch.org. If you would like a preview of the new consolidated site, go to fsbeta.familysearch.org

Another development is that New FamilySearch will be released to the general public and not restricted only to LDS members, as it now is. The release to the public is supposed to occur by the end of the year, but that would be optimistic.

The combination of a dramatic increase in original records from around the world in Record Search, to the increased availability of research helps from the Research Wiki, will dramatically impact the genealogical community in near future. As the 2.4 or 2.5 million microfilm records become available online, the way research is conducted in many different countries will be radically affected. Records that have never been generally available will be on everyone's computer at the click of a mouse.

Friday, January 29, 2010

The end of the Family Tree Project

For the past few years, if you have been watching the FamilySearch Labs Web page, you are likely aware of the application called Family Tree. In an announcement made in the FamilySearch Labs Blog, Dan Lawyer notes that "The time has come to retire the very popular Family Tree project from FamilySearch Labs." Many users of the New FamilySearch program became acquainted with the Family Tree version of the program and used it to show a more developed pedigree view of the data and also to provide information not included in New FamilySearch. For example, Family Tree would show who reserved individual names for ordinance work.

As the Blog post indicates:
Now that most of the features from the Family Tree project have made their way into new FamilySearch and others are well under way, it is time to retire the project. At the beginning of February you will no longer be able to access the Family Tree project from FamilySearch Labs. We will move it down to the Retired Projects section of the FamilySearch Labs home page. While we won’t be able to keep the project functional like we have the Life Browser and the Pedigree Viewer, we will provide images of the application as a memorial to the great work of the team (and to help us remember what worked and what didn’t work in the project).
The expanded pedigree view from Family Tree did make its way into New FamilySearch in the December 2009 upgrade. But apparently, there are still additional features to come. At one point in time Family Tree was touted as the way that New FamilySearch would appear when it was implemented. Despite a number of public statements about the future of FamilyTree, there was a decided reversal and as 2009 progressed, eventually the "official" word was that Family Tree would remain a test program. Now, it appears that even that prediction has been replaced as the program is discontinued altogether.

The last announced upgrades to New FamilySearch came out in early December, 2009. Regular users of the program know that there continue to be unannounced changes since that time, but nothing that could be construed as releasing the remaining portions of Family Tree. My guess is that the reality of re-training all of the people already using New FamilySearch to use a new interface overcame the need to make the New FamilySearch program even more functional. Also given the fact that the core members in Utah and Salt Lake Valley just barely started learning New FamilySearch as it presently appears. It would probably be a major train wreck to try to get them to change to a new interface when they haven't even learned much about the existing one.

My guess is that, like the venerable Personal Ancestral File, the interface for New FamilySearch is pretty well cast in stone.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Recursos de Historia Familiar -- Hispanic Family History Resources

FamilySearch announced new Hispanic Family History Resources for its popular FamilySearch Website. The resources are available both in English and Spanish and link to the Hispanic Family History Resources Portal of the FamilySearch Wiki. Interestingly, our own Mesa Regional Family History Center is featured as a related Website. For the past few months, I have been helping translate the Center's Website and organize the materials at the Center for use by Spanish speaking patrons. There is also a link to a four part interview with Dr. George R. Ryskamp, AG. from Brigham Young University. His books on Spanish language genealogy are the starting point for any Hispanic research.

This move by FamilySearch can be seen as a continued extension of genealogical resources into geographic areas long ignored by the mainstream repositories and Websites in the United States. For example, the closest Ancestry.com gets to Spanish language genealogy is the Spanish American War. A look at Ancestry.com's summary of their International Collections makes no mention of any Spanish language records. In another example, on Cyndislist.com's opening page, the only mention of Spanish language Websites is a list of 169 sites from Spain and the Basque Country and 259 sites from Mexico. The list of sites, interestingly, contains one reference to Ancestry.com -- an article by Dr. George Ryskamp! As a side note about Cyndi's list, (not related to Spanish language genealogy) the site has a "New" list of genealogy wiki sites that does not include We Relate, the world's largest genealogy wiki, and was last updated in November of 2008.

Latin America and other Spanish speaking areas of the world, are routinely ignored by the predominantly northern European cultures. The reason is likely the long historic antagonism between the two cultures. However, the lack of Spanish language resources in genealogy is inexcusable since Spanish is one of the most widely spoken languages in the World and may now have more actual native speakers than English. In many lists of the world's most widely spoken languages, Spanish is now listed ahead of English. Click here for an example.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The Full Wiki revisited

A comment by a reader (See comment by John) on my last post on The Full Wiki, got me back to look a little more deeply at the Website. First of all, John is right, it is not technically a wiki, it would be better characterized as a wiki search program. It seems to compile information from the underlying Wikipedia, among others and present it in a different format. By clicking enough times, you can sometimes get down to the original Wikipedia article.

The second criticism of The Full Wiki was that you could not change information on the site. That isn't exactly a correct observation. Assuming I go back to the original Wikipedia site, for example, I could change the information. The real issue is the connection between The Full Wiki and Wikipedia. John criticizes the program for having "old" data. However, I found the references on The Full Wiki to be to a huge number of Websites, not just Wikipedia. Some of the Websites were older and some were newer. But I have the same experience when doing any kind of research on the Web.

In looking through Wikipedia at a variety of pages, I find that the pages themselves are not updated unless someone makes a change. I found any number of older Wikipedia pages, likely because few people had any interest in the subject of the page and no changes had been made. John may be correct that going to the main site, on Wikipedia for example, might give you more current information but that isn't a given since you can click through to Wikipedia anyway in most cases.

Whatever it is, The Full Wiki is an interesting site. But in fairness to John's critique, I think that the site should remain in the "interesting" category. Oh well, on to other sites. To read John's complete comments go to:
TransylvanianDutch Genealogy & Family History.

The Full Wiki -- another valuable tool for genealogists

It seems like there is a never-ending stream of new vastly large Websites that add functionality to the Internet. The Full Wiki came online in January of 2010 claiming to build the largest collection of free licensed work on the Internet. Apparently, they have already brought together the collective works of Wikipedia, Wikiquote, WikiTravell, Wiktionary and for nostalgia, the Encyclopedia Britannica of 1911.

Each article in The Full Wiki is linked to a series of interactive maps, mapping every location mentioned in every article, with links to surrounding areas and articles. Just for starts, try the "History of Western civilization: Reference" article. This site looks like a meta-Wikipedia. Rather than go directly to Wikipedia, you may wish to do your search in The Full Wiki. The site gives you all of the information in Wikipedia, but organizes it into a format that leads to more related information.

The one limitation, which will probably be corrected by use, is that many of the articles and links do not presently show up in a Google search, since Google partly uses the number of times a site has been accessed to do its searches.

Sometimes I think there cannot be even one more innovative or new Website, it is just impossible and then another, and another site comes along to prove me wrong.

Remember, this is a Wiki site, not a search engine. So someone has to have written an article about the subject you are searching. It is not a cure all for finding individuals, but it is an extension of the hugely useful reference material in Wikipedia.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Record Search update for Guatemala and Australia

As of January 23, 2010, FamilySearch's Record Search has published the Guatemala Civil Registrations. The collection is described as follows:
Guatemala established the civil registry on September 9, 1877, and set the regulations of the institution. With the civil code of 1933, the same regulations were kept with a few modifications. With the civil code of 1964 and decree number 106, a few amendments were made which set the civil registration as it currently exists. The entire population must be registered at birth; there is a registration office in each municipality. The first records were handwritten in narrative style. Later ones were created in formatted records. The civil registry registers all the principal events in the life of the people of Guatemala, from their birth to their death. A unique code is assigned to each citizen at the time of the birth registration. This code includes the department and municipality codes of the place where the person was born. These codes are determined by the board of directors of the National Registry of the People (RENAPRegistro Nacional de las Personas). Most of the records are in relatively good preservation. However, some of the older registers may have some physical damage, but in general they are in good condition for the extraction of genealogical information.
The second large collection added is cemetery inscriptions from the Australia, Sydney Branch Genealogical Library from 1800 to 1960. This is an indexed collection with images of the original index cards.

How would being deaf affect your genealogical research?

Although none of my immediate family members have been completely deaf, many of us have moderate to severe hearing loss. I recently wrote about the challenges of disability to participating in genealogical research. Since we just finished the Family History Expo here in Mesa, Arizona, it reminded me of the difficulty of functioning in that environment if you were totally deaf. I had a hard enough time with my hearing aids and being only partially deaf. Very, very few of the presentations would have had any meaning at all to a deaf person without an ASL signer, assuming of course, that the person was proficient in ASL. I wonder how many of the genealogical terms are in ASL?

ASL or American Sign Language, has its' counterparts in other language areas also. Quoting from About.com:
American Sign Language (ASL) is a complete, complex language that employs signs made with the hands and other movements, including facial expressions and postures of the body. It is the first language of many deaf North Americans, and one of several communication options available to deaf people. ASL is said to be the fourth most commonly used language in the United States.
In response to my post, I received an E-mail from a deaf genealogist named Susan. Here are some of the things she wrote to me:
I wonder if you know why I always write Deaf with a cap. D when talking about myself. This trend started that I know of back in the 60s or 70s. When we write a D it indicates to us that the person or people spoken of are ASL deaf. It brings us into the "culture".
I can't understand why all the commercials etc about eye glasses are so positive.
New trends making them more and more visible to stand right out, but h/a's [hearing aids] are advertised as "invisible" . I also have a "pet peeve" with those huge ugly things many hearing people are wearing in an ear and are so proud of it. When I was a teenager, our hearing aids were like a button and attached to a box that you wore wherever. I can remember people walking away, people leaving a table when I signed with my Deaf niece, etc and now they think those ugly things are "the cats pajamas" as my Mom use to say!

I knew of a family in Idaho who had 10 or 11 kids and the whole family was Deaf. the last 2 kids were twins and when they were old enough to be sent to Gooding to school they went together. At some point, one of the teachers said she thought one of the girls was hearing. No one believed that. The family was well known. But when they "tested" her and watched her carefully, they found that she could hear! She grew up with deafness totally and didn't really know how this "hearing" worked. She had to be removed from the Deaf School. Well, so many interesting things in this world.
Some years ago, when I was on the About Deafness.com, I opened a discussion about whether or not Deaf people were, or felt that they could, getting involved in genealogy. The responses were pretty much the same. The few who had not yet given up trying simply said there was no place for them in the meetings, etc, so they just went about it on their own.
When I was here about 10 yrs ago, there was a 2 day genealogy workshop being offered in a little logging town not far from where I lived then. I got hold of the people and asked whether there might be any interpreters available. The woman said she would look into it and got back to me within a few days. They had 2 interpreters lined up for the entire 2days of workshop and could I come. It was grand! Little bitty poor town. These ladies were there all day each day. when I later asked the people that put this on how they managed such a thing they said they simply went to the local Boy Scout troops and those troops sponsored it all!!! I was the only Deaf person there.
Do you have a disability? How does it affect your ability to find your family history? Let me know and I will post the comments.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Jumping ahead of the genealogical survey step

I meet people almost every day who are trying to do research on their family, but know little or nothing about the subject, that is, their family. I decided to put together a list of three basic questions you should ask yourself (or others) to find out if you are going to be successful in finding your family members. I find a huge spectrum of knowledge about families, from those who do not know their own parents (and were not adopted) to those who claim lineages back to Adam??

Here go the three questions:

1. Who are your parents? Where and when were they born? When and where were they married?

I realize this is a compound question, but it is aimed at the most basic family history information. Try these questions on your own children and random friends, you may be surprised at the answers. I also realize that there are a huge variety of family circumstances, single parents, divorced parents, adoptions, foster parents and many more variations. Each of these give its own difficulties, but how can you go back in time if you don't know your parents.

2. Can you name all four (or more in the case of divorce or death and remarriage) of your grandparents? I mean their complete names with the maiden names of the grandmothers. Of course, you would go on with the same information about your grandparents, birth, marriage and perhaps death. What's more important, can you do this without looking at a cheat sheet aka family group record or pedigree chart?

Another compound question, but how do you do family history if you don't know basic information about your grandparents. I am not being sarcastic, I really do talk to people almost every day who expect to do their family history without knowing anything about their own grandparents.

OK here goes question No. 3:

3. Remember those first two questions? How about the same questions about your great-grandparents?

I hope you see the point. knowledge about your family is incremental. You can't jump generations and have any possibility of coming to correct or reliable conclusions. It might happen that someone else has already done the work to record your immediate ancestors. If so, and you believe them, your first level work is started. But you really need to get to know the people, not just names. Meanwhile, I still have one friend who knows his father's name and nothing else and isn't particularly interested in finding out. I predict he will not go far in the genealogical community.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

A great experience at the Arizona Family History Expo

Despite a huge rainstorm and actual tornado warnings, the Arizona Family History Expo was a huge success. I was invited to attend as a Blogger and had a excellent time meeting other Bloggers and talking to the exhibitors and attendees. Although I have not heard any official attendance figures, I would assume there were at least twice as many people there, than last year. I hope they didn't come expecting the usual Mesa, Arizona really nice weather in January because we had a very large rain storm most of Thursday and Friday. I understand a lot of travelers had a hard time reaching the Valley.

I was uniformly impressed with the presentations. They were all excellent. The vendors worked hard and had good booths to visit. Because of my background in computers, I have worked tradeshows before, from the vendor side, and understand the amount of effort and organization it takes to spend two or three days standing on your feet talking to people. Because of this, the vendors always have my sympathy.

During the next few posts, I will be featuring new items that caught my eye at the Expo. So far, I have managed to control my urge to purchase everything in sight, but I do have some items I probably can't live without.

Thanks to all the kind vendors who talked to me. Thanks to Holly Hansen and her able crew from Family History Expos for putting on a really good show. It was interesting to see the show from a quasi-insider view as a Blogger. I did manage to send off a number of Tweets, but my AT&T card would not work with my computer, and even my iPhone would not work well from within the Mesa Convention Center. We did have a complimentary wifi connection but that didn't work that well with my computer either. I didn't appear to me that the other Bloggers were having the same trouble. Oh well.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

The Challenges of Genealogy for the Disabled

A short time ago, we had a patron at the Mesa Regional Family History Center who was deaf. I had the opportunity to work with him in doing research for quite a while. We communicated by writing our questions and answers on slips of paper. I am afraid I don't write very quickly, and tried to convince him to use the computer, so I could write more quickly, but I did not seem to get that concept across to him very well. Then in response to my last post about attending genealogical conferences, I got a very interesting comment from another member of the deaf community.

That got me thinking about resources for doing genealogical research available to those who are deaf or otherwise disabled. I did find several genealogical organizations for the deaf:

Utah Deaf Genealogical Association, This appears to be a blog by W. David Samuelsen.

Alldeaf, deaf genealogy group. It doesn't look like they have too many members but this is a rather large forum.

DeafBiographies.com. This is a website devoted to biographical information about Deaf Americans through the early 20th century. This site contains a database of information which researchers -- genealogists and historians -- can use to find a more complete picture of this oft-overlooked population.

There was apparently a Family History Workshop and Conference for the Deaf back in June of 2006.

Actually, looks like pretty slim pickings. I would be interested to hear from any readers who are disabled either deaf or otherwise. If I do get some feedback, I will pass it on. Some of the topics that would be helpful:

How does your disability affect your ability to find your ancestors?
How are you treated by the members of the genealogical community?
What do you see as your greatest challenges?
What changes in the way genealogists do their work would help you?

Thanks in advance for any comments.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Why should I go to a genealogical conference?


Genealogy can be a very solitary activity. Although you may have contact with your family and with other researchers, most of the work you do is done by yourself. Even though you may read journals, magazine articles and online resources about the work of doing genealogy, there are few places you can go to get feedback from knowledgeable people. Genealogical conferences provide the motivation to re-energize and re-think methods, procedures and sources. The social atmosphere of the conference allows you to share questions and concerns with others of the same interest. It is also reassuring to know that there really are people out there who don't think working on your genealogy is a waste of time.

Genealogy is often cited as one of the most popular pastimes in the U.S. or sometimes the most favorite hobby. However, a Harris Poll on the most popular U.S. activities by share of time, does not even list genealogy as a category. The top ten include reading, TV watching, spending time with friends and family as the top three categories. The data covered the years from 1995 to 2007. Back in 1941 a Popular Science study found America's five favorite hobbies to be photography, stamps, music, model making and home workshop. A concerted search for more recent data shows a huge variety of activities claiming to be the favorites.

Earlier this year, Dick Eastman wrote a blog post about the question of whether or not genealogy was one of the most popular hobbies in America. His conclusion was that there was no support for the claim to popularity. Let's face it, I personally know very few people who are interested enough in genealogy to actually do some research and I work with and meet hundreds of people every week. At the same time I know literally hundreds of hunters, ATV enthusiasts and dedicated movie fans.

So if you are one of those lone researchers, out there struggling to find information about your family, what can you do? I suggest that once, twice or more times a year you go to a genealogy conference. Listen to the presenters, talk to the attendees and talk to the sales people in the exhibits. You will get a better appreciation of what you are trying to accomplish and may just get some help from someone unexpected.

This week we have an opportunity to attend a conference in beautiful Mesa, Arizona where the daytime temperatures have been in the 70s for the past week or so. OK, so for the past two days it has been raining, but rain in Mesa can't last forever. Maybe only through Friday. Anyway, the convention is indoors and you can always carry an umbrella. Check out the schedule and come to the Arizona Family History Expo.


Monday, January 18, 2010

Record Search update for New Zealand and Argentina


FamilySearch's Record Search has just published the New Zealand, Immigration Passenger Lists from 1871 to 1915. The records contain images only and are further described in the FamilySearch Wiki as follows:
The passenger lists include immigrants arriving mostly from the British Isles, and also from Western Europe, Asia, and the Polynesia. Many people immigrated to New Zealand to form colonies and settle for a better life. From 1840 until the 1970s, Britain was the main source for immigrants; all ships carrying passengers in or out of any British port were required by law to present their passenger lists to the relevant port authorities. Other immigrants came from Western Europe, some from Polynesia, and Asia. Prior to 1900 there were various classes of immigrants; the largest groups were the assisted immigrants and paying passengers. Beginning in 1871 the New Zealand Government began to offer assisted passages to selected immigrants and those people nominated by relatives. The migration of the 1870s was the most significant in New Zealand history. In the year 1874 thousands of assisted immigrants arrived in New Zealand, this was the greatest level of migration ever. Almost half of the new immigrants came with government assistance. Three-quarters of these sailed directly from the United Kingdom. Because of economic difficulties in the later 19th century assistance was finally terminated. In the year 1891 New Zealand received the last small group of assisted migrants. However, assisted migration was restored in 1904, when the economy of the country returned to prosperity, making it once more an attractive country to new immigrants. During the early 20th century one-third of the immigrants came from Australia, and two-thirds from the United Kingdom. Because of the multi-cultural nature of the immigrants, New Zealand became a multi-cultural community from the outset.
An extensive discussion of New Zealand immigration and emigration is also found in the FamilySearch Wiki. Users of the FamilySearch Wiki still need to be careful in following links or trying to find resources since the cross-references between articles are frequently missing. Since the Wiki is a user generated resource, please take the time to add in these valuable cross-reference connections as you find them needed in your interest areas. For example, if you start with the main page of the Wiki and then click on the link to see all the records, you can find a link to New Zealand in the alphabetical link to all the countries. However, when you go to the New Zealand page, there is a link to "Emigration and Immigration" but that link does not connect with the new records page containing the actual records. It is entirely unclear how many of these orphan pages are out there now in the FamilySearch Wiki.

Record Search also announced that it combined the Argentine Catholic Church records for Resistencia and Tucuman and that the Santa Fe Diocese has been added to that collection.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

WorldCat, RedLaser, Google Books and much more

In my last post, I mentioned a new iPhone app called RedLaser. I guess I need to be a little more specific. RedLaser is an app that reads UPC barcodes. If you read a barcode from a product in a store (or elsewhere) it will look up the product and search for a price on the Internet. The app has recently been expanded to read UPC barcodes on books. In addition to looking up the book and a price on the Internet, the program also looks in WorldCat to find a copies of the book in libraries, starting with the library closest to your location. WorldCat is a consolidated catalog of over 10,000 libraries world wide and has over 1 billion books cataloged. RedLaser's ability to find products is a little spotty, but with the interaction with WorldCat, there is almost no book it cannot identify as long as it has a UPC barcode.

Here is the description of the app from the WorldCat Blog:

Thanks to some quick footwork by a few of OCLC's staff and the guys at Occipital, the company behind the iPhone app RedLaser, WorldCat.org libraries now appear within the mobile apps item search pages.

RedLaser users can scan a book and see the libraries near them that have that book. Then they can click to one of those libraries and get hours, phone numbers and driving directions.

We're putting WorldCat.org data to use and putting libraries right in the mobile user's flow.

Occipital is the developer of RedLaser and it is working on additional search techniques, including searching directly from text. This means you would point your iPhone at a section of text and the program would look it up on the Internet, i.e. Google and other search engines. Occipital and its program, RedLaser, work in conjunction with TheFind, which is the fastest growing search engine for shopping with over 400 million products in its search index.

So here is the issue, if you are looking at old books or books that are of limited distribution, it is likely that they do not have barcodes and so you would have to look the book up directly in WorldCat. But maybe I need to remind you that WorldCat now catalogs the digital copies of the books in Google Books and other digitized resources. If you are looking for an older surname book, it is well worth your time to check to see if the book has been digitized. I was interested in purchasing some older genealogy books about my ancestors but became discouraged with the price for an actual copy of the book. I every case, I was able to find a digitized copy of the book on CD, for sale at a very modest price.

I guess the key feature of this new technology is availability. These new programs are making genealogical information available that has been locked away in special collections or available only in a few libraries.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Now if I could just think of some use for it...

The latest from WorldCat and RedLaser, an iPhone app that looks up books in libraries:



Now, when would I use this app? I might look up books to see if I have to buy them or if they were available in the library, but if I have the book, then why look it up? Oh, maybe, if I am in a store and can't decide whether to purchase a book, I can quickly look it up on my iPhone and then go to the library and check it out? Or maybe I am at a friend's house and he has the book and I want to see if I can find it in the library rather than borrow it from him? Wait a minute, I already bought the RedLaser App because it looks up prices of stuff in stores by searching for the UPC code. Now it works with books.

Anyway, it works and it is pretty neat, now what else can I think it might be useful for?

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

The Contest Winner

The winner of my contest for the two free tickets to the Arizona Family History Expo is Kathy Wilson. She needs to contact me by E-mail so we can get her registered.

Do Wikis really work for genealogy?

Before we get into any controversy over the question in the title to this post, I believe the answer to be yes, collaborative shared information sites, like the FamilySearch Wiki or the family tree Website, Werelate.org, certainly have a large role to play in genealogical world of the near future. But, is genealogy really about consensus? Just because I can get all of relatives to agree with me where my great-grandfather was born in California, does that really change the fact that I may be wrong?

The issue is this, we can assume that in family history, there is always a set of "true" facts about a person. That is, those fact that correspond to the actual date or place where an event occurred. For example, a birth occurs only at one location and at one time. The date and location of the birth event are not subject to opinion, consensus or even a vote. To the extent that research genealogists deal in the facts about people's lives, can we rely on a vote or consensus from a person's descendants to establish historical facts?

It is correct that many so-called facts about a person's life are subject to interpretation, such as a person's beliefs or motivations. But, even if the basic facts are unknown, they are not subject to interpretation or conjecture. To the extent that genealogists deal in "true" facts, those that can only occur at a certain place and time, those facts are outside the realm of opinion and interpretation.

The information in a wiki, no matter how designated, is based on consensus. All true wikis are based on verification that occurs after the information is already posted and not upon a screening process to assure that only "correct" information can be added to the database. If I post an item of information in a wiki, for example, Grandfather Jones was born on 12 Apr 1894, that information is treated by the wiki program as the gospel truth, until someone disagrees and makes a correction. Even if my date was only a guess or pure speculation, unless someone more knowledgeable reads the information, disagrees and goes to the effort to correct the entry, it will remain as the "truth" until changed.

In the real world of wikis, there are usually moderators who can screen the information entered into the wiki, but how do the moderators know if the dates and/or places are accurate, as long as they are properly entered?

One of the fundamental differences between a wiki and a database like New FamilySearch or the old Ancestral File in FamilySearch.org, is the transient nature of the information. In a wiki the information is present only so long as it remains unchanged by another user. In my experience, when people first learn about a wiki, they immediately doubt the reliability of the information for just that reason, the transient nature of the posts. Even if I enter information that is absolutely "true" and "correct" what keeps someone from changing my entry? The answer is nothing at all. To avoid this problem, New FamilySearch has chosen to retain all of the entries, unfortunately, in an equal status. Therefore, inaccurate information is given the same billing as the "true" information. Other than an ability to temporarily chose some limited summary information as correct, there is no way in the program to show the ascendancy of one item of information over another. Someone who comes to the data in New FamilySearch for the first time is confronted with the issue of the surfeit of inaccurate information with no way to change or eliminate the entries.

This situation does not exist in a wiki, but the opposite is not a complete solution to the problem. At some point, the only way to begin to assure accuracy is through an advocacy program. Our English based court system recognizes that "Truth" (with a capital T) is not often attainable, however, in the vast majority of cases advocacy in open court establishes the truth that is most acceptable to the society.

Now, going back a little, as genealogists, we are not trying to establish either a consensus of the truth or an advocated truth, we are trying to establish the real or actual facts about a person's life. Granted, we do have the Genealogical Proof Standard and other guidelines, but does entering information in a wiki, and allowing the public at large the opportunity to "correct" the information establish the real or actual facts? That is the real question.

There is no doubt that having a wiki like the FamilySearch Wiki is a valuable resource. But the FamilySearch Wiki is not attempting to accumulate family tree information, rather they are providing only research sources and helps, the exact kind of information that is amenable to the wiki process. On the other hand, a family tree wiki, like WeRelate is mainly interested in collaborative aspect of the wiki, not the idea of consensus. However, there are no warning labels on the wikis saying use at your own risk. The contents of this wiki are subject to dispute and change at any time.

To the extent that genealogists are seeking the actual or correct facts about an ancestor, there is no guarantee in the wiki format that the "true" information will be reached. To the extent that the wiki gives the impression that the information contained is correct, that perception is an illusion. For example, my (real) great-grandfather was born in California. For almost 100 years his birthplace has been reported as "San Bernardino" County. However, he was born in 1852 when the area where he was born was in Los Angeles County. A minor historical point, but significant to genealogical research. If we were to rely on the consensus of the records, then this fact would remain forever obscured, because thousands of descendants believe he was born in San Bernardino County.

What if New FamilySearch (or the data) were in a wiki-like format? What would happen to the accurate or correct information? Would we have any assurance that the surviving information, after user corrections, was any more correct than the information already displayed in its multiplicity?

It is clear that wikis are here to stay. They provide a valuable function in our world at large and specifically to genealogy. Notwithstanding their utility, wikis need to be recognized with their limitations. I do not go to a wiki to establish a birth date. I may find a reasonable date in a wiki with a valid source reference, but there is nothing about the wiki that guarantees that any of the information is accurate and correct in an absolute sense.

More to come.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Back to Adam?

Recently, I have had several people brag to me about their extensive pedigrees. It seems that they have completed some of their lines back to Adam! I am always grateful to find out we are related, but I do have several comments about these old extended genealogies, some of which are apparently showing up on New FamilySearch.

Before getting into a discussion about the validity of these ancient records, it would be a good idea to get a feel for the types of records that survive. One good site is "Some notes on medieval genealogy" a British Website. Here are some other sites:

The Foundation for Medieval Genealogy
Gen-Medieval/soc.genealogy.medieval
ProGenealogists Great Britain-Genealogy Research

The number of records containing genealogical information surviving from before is 1500 is definitely finite. It is highly likely that very, very few of the people claiming extended pedigrees have actually read or researched those records considering that nearly all of them are written in Latin. Quoting from ProGenealogists, Great Britain - Genealogy Research:

Most records of genealogical value dating from prior to 1500 concern only a small percentage of the total population, namely the nobility, royalty, and land-owning or merchant classes.

The primary sources for genealogical research in the British Isles is church and probate records. The earliest church records in the British Isles date back to 1538. Prior to that limited probate records, tax lists, population lists, court records, land records, and manorial records exist, however they contain much less genealogical information and are difficult to research, generally written in Latin. This is also true for most of the countries of Europe whose earliest church records begin in the 17th century. ProGenealogist

The ProGenealogist article is written by Gary T. Horlacher, he cautions "Various genealogies have been compiled for royal and noble lines. Some of these connect with the Bible genealogies which continue back to Adam and Eve. Although it may be reassuring to some to think they have connected their lines back to the earliest times, such compiled genealogies contain many errors. None of these genealogies have been proven. Some pedigrees include the names of various gods from which the earliest ancestors of their peoples supposedly descend and which come from early folk tales or mythology. It is practically impossible to separate the fact from the fiction. At this time it is not possible to document a lineage back to Adam."

In an article in The Ensign Magazine of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for February, 1984, Robert C. Gunderson, Senior Royalty Research Specialist of the Church Genealogical Department wrote a short article entitled "I've heard that some people have extended their ancestral lines back to Adam." He states,"In thirty-five years of genealogical research, I have yet to see a pedigree back to Adam that can be documented. By assignment, I have reviewed hundreds of pedigrees over the years. I have not found one where each connection on the pedigree can be justified by evidence from contemporary documents. In my opinion it is not even possible to verify historically a connected European pedigree earlier than the time of the Merovingian Kings (c. a.d. 450–a.d. 752). Every pedigree I have seen which attempts to bridge the gap between that time and the biblical pedigree appears to be based on questionable tradition, or at worst, plain fabrication. Generally these pedigrees offer no evidence as to the origin of the information, or they cite a vague source."

Gunderson gives the opinion that "I would recommend that no one undertake research prior to a.d. 1500 without first checking with the Genealogical Department, and then only after all avenues of research for more recent generations have been exhausted."

Again returning to Horlacher's ProGenealogist article, "

Of five thousand heads of families who came to North America between 1620-1640, less than 50 or less than one percent were known to have belonged to the upper-class of England. Less than 250 more (5 percent) were minor mercantile or landed gentry. The rest were from the local farming or labor classes of England. Most claims to the British noble class in America are unfounded and unsupported by evidence. If you have a connection to royalty through a colonial North American immigrant ancestor, you should look carefully at the documentation for that connection."

So far, in my own experience, I have yet to meet a person who claims to have such a genealogy with sufficient education and research experience to even know what they are talking about. Before you waste your time adding these extended genealogies to your own family file, please read the ProGenealogist article carefully.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Family History Expo Contest

As a Blogger of Honor at the Mesa Family History Expo, I am told that two of my readers can receive free tickets to the event. To present these two tickets, I was told to run a contest. First of all it should be known that I do not play board games, much less enter contests. If I were an innovative design type person, I would probably be rich from ghost writing a mommy blog, but since I am an old and somewhat stodgy trial attorney, I have had a really hard time coming up with a contest.

So here is the idea. Associated with the following Websites there are numbers of either volumes or collections or whatever. The first two people, (who actually will go to the Expo) who can get the closest number to the total from those found on these sites on January 10, 2010 will win the contest.

The only other rule is that you have to either post a comment to this Blog or E-mail me to enter the contest. Again, it would help if you really, really, want to go to the Expo.

Here are the Websites with the numbers:

FamilySearch Record Search number of collections
Historical Books in Family History Archives
Number of square feet in the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah
Number of patron computers in the Family History Library

The two people with the closest total of these numbers win. I understand that the Family History Expo folks will have your ticket at the registration desk for you to pick up. But I assume we have to come up with some way to identify the winners, so you likely will have to send me some identifying information. By the way, all comments and all my E-mails have a date stamp so I can easily tell who got there first.

I will announce the winners as soon as I can get time to write another post.

Good luck.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Data miners and vampires

One of the most common complaints I hear from researchers goes something like the following:
I spent years compiling my ancestry. One of my (friends, cousins, someone -- insert the name or description) asked for a copy of my file. I sent them a copy and later found the file on their Website (Blog etc.) without any acknowledgment and claiming that it was their file.
I call these people who steal others' information and present it as their own, data vampires. Personally, I am very liberal in sharing my data files with any interested family members. But I can certainly understand the feelings of someone who has spent a considerable time working on a family line only to have some one else claim the credit.

Another variation on this theme is developing in the New FamilySearch program. I am more and more frequently hearing the complaint that people are reserving and doing ordinances for people who are entirely unrelated. Formerly, I am aware that this is and was commonly done, but now because of the ability to see the process in action, people are becoming more and more aware of the practice. As a side note, I can watch my own family's data files change on New FamilySearch from week to week with more and more duplications and wrong information.

The data miners do not care if they are not related to the people they claim, neither do they really care anything about the identity of the people as long as they can add more names to their file and print more Family Ordinance Requests and get a huge stack of cards. The motivation seems to be driven more by acquisitiveness than by any motivation to do family history. I have personally seen data miners with boxes and briefcases full of LDS ordinance cards, hundreds of them, if not thousands. As long as they can click a green arrow and print a card, that is all they care about.

I had an opportunity to look at a pile of cards recently and it was abundantly obvious that the names were in no way related to each other or even accurate to the point of being realistic. One example was a card that had an individual with an English sounding name and a birth date of "ABT 1800" in Texas. That was interesting to me because the first American settlement of Texas occurred in December of 1821. Many of the cards in the same batch had no birth date or birth place. I understand that the latest revision of New FamilySearch will not allow cards to be printed for individuals without at least a birth date and location, but here were a number of cards without either date or place.

Data miners indiscriminately gather data without regard to either relevance or accuracy. The damage that they do is that some people believe that they are actually doing genealogy or family history, both the person printing the cards and others who are impressed with the numbers. Obviously someone who has printed a thousand ordinance cards is doing a lot of research and genealogy!!! The data miner is really just indiscriminately copying others files and information, without regard to reality, historical or otherwise.

When you combine a data miner and a data vampire in the same person, you have a really dangerous individual. Someone who, by their bad example, can discourage whole generations in a whole family from actually doing any real family history.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Additions to Eastern European Records on Record Search


FamilySearch Record Search has just re-published the Slovakia Pre-Ajov Region Church Books (Slovakian and Hungarian Place Names) from 1592 to 1952. To quote the site, the collection contains "images of baptisms/births, marriages, and burials that occured in the Roman Catholic, Evangelical Lutheran, and Reformed Church parishes, as well Jewish congregations within the area of Northeastern Slovakia. The original records, created by local priests of each parish and by Jewish rabbis are located in the State Regional Archive of Prešov. These images were scanned from microfilms. The entries are in Latin, Hungarian, Slovak, and German."

To further quote from the record history:

The edict of the Council of Trent in 1563 mandated that priests create church books. In 1827, duplicate copies were supposed to be deposited in the bishop’s consistory archive. Starting in 1869, the civil authorities took charge of keeping records of births, marriages, and deaths, although the individual churches continued to actually record these events. The official legal copy was kept by local officials. This action was prompted when many of the clergy refused to perform Catholic rites for non-Catholics. Everyone was registered under this new system (not only Catholics or Protestants).

In 1949, all of the church books of Slovakia were nationalized. In 1952 the state began to transfer the books to one of seven state regional archives (Štátné oblastné arhívy): Prešov, Košice, Bratislava, Levoča, Nitra, Banská Bystrica, and Bytča.

Many church books from earlier time periods were lost during the Turkish invasions and Slovak rebellions around 1600-1700. Those which carry over past the early 1900's (even though they may have begun earlier) are still located in local city halls or other institutions. The Family History Library has copies of almost all birth, marriage, and death registers for the following religions: Catholic (the majority religion), Evangelical Lutheran, Reformed, Jewish, Greek Catholic, and Orthodox. Filming of the records was done from 1991-2009. The images in this collection are from those films.

The church books cover a majority of the population.

Another valuable site from Genealogylinks.net gives a list of Slovak Republic Genealogy Links.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Really old and really neat stuff

Cuneiform Tablets: From the Reign of Gudea of Lagash to Shalmanassar III

The Library of Congress is an inexhaustible source of really old and neat stuff. They also have a healthy dose of family history related items. The particular tablet above is in the Global Gateway in the Digital Collections. The collections include Collaborative Digital Libraries. As I teach classes on Internet resources, I am continually surprised at the general lack of knowledge about what I would consider to be basic Websites. One of these is the Library of Congress. Quoting from a Wikipedia entry:
The collections of the Library of Congress include more than 32 million cataloged books and other print materials in 470 languages; more than 61 million manuscripts; the largest rare book collection in North America, including the rough draft of the Declaration of Independence, a Gutenberg Bible (one of only four perfect vellum copies known to exist)[11]; over 1 million US government publications; 1 million issues of world newspapers spanning the past three centuries; 33,000 bound newspaper volumes; 500,000 microfilm reels; over 6,000 comic book[12] titles; the world's largest collection of legal materials; films; 4.8 million maps; sheet music; 2.7 million sound recordings; more than 13.7 million prints and photographic images including fine and popular art pieces and architectural drawings; the Betts Stradivarius; and the Cassavetti Stradivarius.
Compare those figures with these listed for the Family History Library in Salt Lake City:
The library holds genealogical records for over 110 countries, territories, and possessions. Its collections include over 1.6 million rolls of microfilmed records onsite and access the total collection of more than 2.4 million rolls of microfilmed genealogical records; 727,000 microfiche; 356,000 books, serials, and other formats; 4,500 periodicals; 3,725 electronic resources including subscriptions to the major genealogical websites.
OK, so the facts are probably wrong, but the point is obvious, the Library of Congress has roughly 89 times more books than the FHL. So how many times have you been to or used the resources of the Library of Congress? The Family History Library is obviously more focused and whole lot more helpful and it is a lot cheaper to stay in Salt Lake than Washington D.C., but what about online resources, those you can access from any computer? Surprisingly, many genealogists are not even aware of all of the online resources of FamilySearch, the genealogical organization of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, much less those of the Library of Congress.

Take for example the National Digital Information Infrastructure & Preservation Program. When was the last time you used this resource? What about the Library of Congress Web Archives Minerva?

The point is that there are so many resources that most researchers are virtually walking around with blinders when they limit their inquiries to a few very popular Websites or repositories. I do understand that there is only so much time in the world, but as researchers (if we want to be considered such) we need to broaden our perspective and realize that not all of the family history resources in the world are conveniently labeled as such.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Legacy Family Tree announces version 7.4 with New FamilySearch connection

In an announcement dated January 5, 2009, Millenia's Legacy Family Tree version 7.4 received official certification from FamilySearch, and is now listed as an official Certified Product at http://www.familysearch.org/eng/affiliates/index.html. Legacy is certified in the following categories: Access, Ordinance Status, Print.

As a long time Legacy user, I have been interested in these new developments. For many months now, the Mesa Regional Family History Center has been offering classes in Ohana Software's FamilyInsight, Ancestral Quest 12.1, RootMagic 4 and Legacy Family Tree. The Legacy classes have been offered in anticipation that the program would become an official certified product. I have been teaching a lot of these classes and see advantages and disadvantages in each of the programs. I am very interested to see how Legacy Family Tree compares to the programs that already offer New FamilySearch connectivity. All three of the competing programs have been out for several months and have already gone through a number of upgrades. You would hope that Legacy Family Tree would have benefited from the experience of the other programs.

I run Legacy Version 7.0.0.109 on my iMac with Parallels Desktop using Microsoft Windows 7. Except for some initial difficulty in loading the program, I have had no trouble with running both the Macintosh and Windows 7 functions at the same time. As soon as the program is available I will be reviewing and comparing all three of the standalone programs. FamilyInsight is really designed as an add-on to Personal Ancestral File and has no file storage capabilities of its own, so it isn't really fair to compare it to the other programs.

It will be also interesting to see how the program all evolve, including the ongoing changes to New FamilySearch. Legacy Family Tree announced that Version 7.4 would have the following features:
Version 7.4 received official certification from FamilySearch in the following categories: Access, Print, and Ordinance Status. This will allow you to:
  • Match your Legacy individuals with FamilySearch individuals
  • Combine potential duplicates that exist at FamilySearch
  • View the real-time ordinance status of individuals
The complete synchronization functions are apparently not going to be available until Version 7.5 is release in a few weeks (let's hope that it doesn't go too much longer).

Legacy Family Tree has also created a special web site devoted to keep users updated on this release. At www.LegacyFamilyTree.com/fs.asp, they will publish the very latest information.

World Digital Library

The digital collections of the Library of Congress have expanded into the World Digital Library. The Library of Congress describes this international resource as follows:

The World Digital Library is a cooperative project of the Library of Congress, the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), and partner libraries, archives, and educational and cultural institutions from the United States and around the world. The project brings together on a single website rare and unique documents – books, journals, manuscripts, maps, prints and photographs, films, and sound recordings – that tell the story of the world’s cultures. The site is intended for general users, students, teachers, and scholars.

The WDL interface operates in Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Portuguese, Russian, and Spanish. The actual documents on the site are presented in their original languages.


video

Here is a video of one of the resources, "The Arrival of Immigrants at Ellis Island." It depicts scenes at the Immigration Depot and a nearby dock on Ellis Island. It appears to show, first, a group of immigrants lined up to board a vessel leaving the island, then another group arriving at the island and being directed off of the dock and into the depot by a uniformed official. World Digital Library.

I suppose you could spend all of your time just looking at the fabulous wealth of resources becoming available on the Internet every day. But it is interesting to see how many of the items relate to families and family history.

Monday, January 4, 2010

More thoughts on privacy and genealogy files

A news report today about changes in the "privacy settings" on Facebook got me thinking about genealogy files again. Facebook is the antipode of privacy. Just this morning, in looking at my Facebook News Feed, I see notes about people going back to work, a wedding announcement (yes, a real wedding announcement with a request to RSVP) report of a trip to Hawaii, new clothes for baby, and a whole lot of posts about how people are feeling today. I won't even go into the content on my Twitter account. Do I really want to know this stuff? Now, what is privacy?

Why would I be worried that someone would steal my personal information from my genealogy if I am putting almost everything I know about myself online for the world to read anyway? There seems to be a strange disconnection here. We have a segment of our society that is so paranoid about others getting their private information that they will not even order merchandise online, while at the same time, we have a huge segment of our population that seems driven to put every inconsequential incident in their life online for the world to read.

The issue reminds me of some incidents when I was young. We lived near some large orange groves (as did everyone in Phoenix at the time). There was one grove in particular that was posted with huge signs saying "No Trespassing," "Stay Out" and other things. Although we never saw anyone around the property, we understood that the owner would shoot anyone who went onto the property. There are still people with the same attitude. In genealogy, they are the people who think they own information about dead people. This is my work, my information and no one else has a right to it, at all, period, end of story.

OK, so why are you doing the research to find out your ancestry? Where did you find the information? In "public" records? From "public" repositories? What do want? To be paid for your work? How did you come to own the information you obtained from any number of sources? What information about your third great-grandfather can possibly affect your bank account or your credit cards?

Let's assume that you find out that your family has a grave genetic disease that can be inherited. Should that information be kept private so that family members do not know about the problem?

In thinking about my own genealogical research, I am not sure that I can think of anything about my ancestors that could now be considered private or shouldn't be disclosed. There is one great-great-grandfather who may be an illegitimate child raised by his own grandparents, but is that now a privacy issue? Having more information available about the relationship could clear up a family mystery. Who is left to be embarrassed by the disclosure?

There are certainly some things about me that I would rather not publish, but it is easy to simply leave those out of my genealogy and not talk about them on Facebook or any other forum. But, I suggest that information about the past, especially about people long dead, is no longer subject to privacy concerns. Maybe we need to come to a better understanding of what me mean by privacy before worrying about putting our genealogy online or sharing it with others.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Copy large genealogy documents at very high resolution



OK folks, this gets pretty technical, but by using this method, you can digitize large documents with very high resolution. The Diploma above has some very small printed detail and is 16 x 21 inches. If you click on either image you can get an idea of the quality of the image, although you cannot see all of the detail available without zooming in. The first image is edited in Adobe Photoshop to correct the color. The second image is the original except for cropping.

The full image is actually a composite of twelve individual images taken with a 135mm lens from about two feet away. The camera has a 15.1 Megapixel sensor and the picture was taken without a flash. Because the original document had been rolled when stored, the image has some variations due to the curvature and creases of the original document. It is a little more difficult, but you can also try copying the document a piece at a time on a flatbed scanner. However, some documents do not lend themselves to the flatbed scanner method.

The twelve individual images look similar to this image:


I had to use a couple of heavy books to hold down the edges of the Diploma because of the document curl, and I cropped out the books in the final image. I am sure if I spent more time, I could come up with a more efficient way of holding the image flat, but I did not have a piece of non-reflective glass handy. I used the photomerge function in Photoshop to stitch the twelve individual photos together into one image, however the composite JPEG image was 43.3 MB in size. I also used a program called PTgui Pro, from PTgui.com, to make a second composite which was only about 12 MB and is the image above. Photoshop CS4 is a pretty expensive program, the complete program is on the Web for over $300 but most copies sold are in the $400 plus range. PTgui Pro is over $200 depending on the exchange rate of the day (it is sold in Euros).

The point here is that often I find documents that are too big to be conveniently scanned. If I use my digital camera to make a single image I am limited by the resolution of the camera. However, if I take multiple shots of the document, using the maximum resolution of the camera, the resulting image, a panorama of the document, has a much, much higher resolution than any one shot. Historically, the challenge has been to merge the individual photos into one large image of the entire document. Now, with the advent of software tools like Photoshop CS4 and PTgui, I can use the software to make a composite of the image and gain the advantage of having a tremendously more detailed image. The detail, of course, does not come without a price. The images are huge as evidenced by the merged Photoshop document before saving as a JPEG. The original Photoshop PSD image came in at 87.6 MB.

It helps to have a flat surface to put the documents on, but a table or the floor both work well. You should also have the camera at as close to 90 degrees to the document as possible. A copy stand would help, but is not necessary. Most of the newer digital cameras have sensors with more than 10 Megapixels and will all work very well. But the better camera and lens system you can afford, the better quality images you will be able to produce. If you are going to try to work with very large images, you will probably learn rather quickly why I use a dual quad core iMac for editing my images.

When taking the images, each individual image must overlap the adjacent images by at least 25% so that the software will be able to match up the pieces. If you try this technique with three dimensional objects, you will get into the issue of parallax problems, that is a shift in the three dimensional image due to a shift in the camera position. For example, hold your thumb out about two feet away from your eyes and then try closing first one eye and then the other. Watch the background shift from side to side. This is the parallax shift and it becomes very difficult to deal with in trying to take panoramic pictures of landscapes and other three dimensional objects.

There are ways to avoid the parallax problems, but if you confine you photos to flat documents and maintain the same exposure values, lens focus and camera distance from the document, there will not likely be any issues. If you are interested in some of the challenges with landscapes and other 3D images, you may want to start by looking at a Website called 360Cities.net.

I will probably talk about this subject again in the future. If you have any questions, please leave comments.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Parade of States -- online digital genealogy resources -- Colorado


From Colorado State University Libraries 1930 Three female students with chickens

Colorado has developed some respectable online resources including extensive online records in the Colorado State Archives. I have seen almost no links to these resources previously.

Colorado Cemeteries. A collection of records from almost all of the Colorado counties. The records tend to be fragmentary.

Colorado Historical Records Index. You can search the database by name, county, time span or record type. The index presently includes over 870,963 entries, including 66,000 business incorporations from 1861 to 1914. It appears that only a few of the records are actually available online.

Colorado's Historic Newspaper Collection. The Colorado Historic Newspapers Collection (CHNC) currently includes 147 newspapers published in Colorado from 1859 to 1923. CHNC contains over 477,000 digitized pages and is a joint endeavor of the Colorado State Library, the Colorado Historical Society, and generous donors throughout the state.

Colorado State Archives Digital Records. Mostly historical records with some family history interest.

Colorado State Archives Family History Page. Contains links to census records, veterans' grave registration, Civil War records, penitentiary records, Civilian Conservation Corps Enrolless, city directories, court records, birth, death and burial records and a marriage and divorce index.

Colorado State University Libraries Digital Collections. Extensive collection of photographs and maps.

Online Colorado Death Records and Indexes. Consists of a list of links to county resources which appear to be mostly indexes and abstracts, rather than the actual records.

University of Colorado System Digital Library. The University of Colorado Digital Library (CU-DL) is a collaborative project between the three campuses that make up the University of Colorado System (Boulder, Colorado Springs, Denver), the Anschutz Medical Campus, and the Auraria Higher Education Center, which is comprised of the Community College of Denver; Metropolitan State College of Denver; and the University of Colorado Denver.

Western History and Genealogy. Denver Public Library. Over 120,000 of the images in the collection have been digitized and are available for viewing online in the Digital Image Catalog (formerly Photoswest). The Digital Image Collection consists of prints and negatives that document the history of Colorado and the American West. You must be a registered user of the Library to use many of its resources.