Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Genealogy e-Book publishing

You have your genealogy book already to publish and then start finding out the cost of self-publishing a bound book. It is sort-of like the sticker shock of trying to buy a new car. Now all that is in the past. With the advent of the new e-readers like the Amazon Kindle, Apple iPad and others, e-publishing is becoming reality for every author.

A Google search on the term "e-publishing" will get you started. One alternative is Lulu.com, another is Smashwords.com . Smashwords advertises 463,456,793 words published. Quoting from a recent article about creating e-Books by Larry Richman on LDS Media Talk,
I used Smashwords, which seems to be ideal for authors to create an e-book for free and make it available online. You take a Microsoft Word file with the text of a book you’ve written and strip out all formatting except headings and normal tags, then upload it to Smashwords where it’s converted it into multiple ebook formats such as .EPUB, PDF. .RTF, .PDB, .MOBI, LRF and TXT, as well as online HTML and Javascript formats. That makes it readable on any e-reader device, including personal computers, the iPhone (via the Stanza e-reader app), Amazon Kindle, Sony Reader, Android smart phones, etc.
If there are any of you out there who have successfully e-published your genealogy, let us know about it.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

More searching for Kerlin's Well

Thanks for all the suggestions about finding Kerlin's Well. Before I set out for northern Arizona, I spent some time at the Mesa Public Library looking at every one of the topographical maps of the area. There was precious little information about the Beale Wagon Road on the USGS maps. I also checked Barnes, Will C., and Byrd H. Granger. Will C. Barnes' Arizona Place Names. Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 1960. There was an entry for Kerlin's Well but the location, cited as near Floyd's Peak, was even more vague than what I already had. I did go back and check out all of the topo maps around Floyd's Peak however.

Finding Kerlin's Well -- the search continues

After finding a picture, a video and a few other references to Kerlin's Well, we drove north out of Phoenix by way of Prescott to the small community of Ashfork which is west of Flagstaff on I40. The only directions we had to the rock where my great-grandfather carved his name in 1877 was the brief description of "9 miles north of Seligman."

We drove the few miles west from Ashfork to Seligman and quickly found the public library. This small library was housed in a double wide mobile home. The library was supposedly closed, but the door was open and we found the librarian working with maintenance people. A toilet had overflowed and soaked the carpet and they were drying out. Despite the flood, the librarian was very helpful and made several telephone calls to try to find someone in town who might know about the location of Kerlin's Well. She was unsuccessful and told me that there was only one road north out of Seligman, a ranch road that required a pass to drive.

Just east of town, we found the road without any difficulty at all. The gate was unlocked but there was a system of passes and you had to sign in and out. It was apparent that the main reason for this system was to discourage illegal hunting and poaching. This part of Arizona is a checkerboard of 1 square mile sections of land. The alternating sections are either privately owned or State lands. The private lands were part of a land grant to the railroads in the 1800s to encourage the transcontinental railroad through Arizona. Most of the private sections passed to ranchers. (As a side note, the land is horribly overgrazed). Even the public sections are subject to land leases for grazing.

The road north was the usual rutted, rocky, almost 4-wheel drive back road very common in Arizona. I have driven on these roads since I was 16 and this road was not anything out of the ordinary. Our truck had no difficulty with the road, except for a few rock scrapes. Nine miles later we stopped. There was nothing that even vaguely looked like the area of the photograph or the video. We drove slowly back and stopped a each likely looking location. Nothing but more rocks, and none of them carved. The day was overcast and the wind was blowing about 20 to 30 mph which is the usual weather for the Plateau. We finally gave up and decided that I would have to do more research to find the elusive well.

Upon returning to Mesa, I got online and ordered the book about Kerlin's Well from Interlibrary loan. It is likely this report will continue sometime in the future.

Genealogical research is sometimes frustrating, but always interesting. Driving out into the barren deserts of northern Arizona is a lot more challenging than finding a location is a more civilized area.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Several new features in update of New FamilySearch

The March 2010 update of New FamilySearch includes several changes to the program in addition to the mandatory use of the LDS Account and User Profile. See previous post. These new changes are outlined in the PDF document, "What's New in the New FamilySearch Web Site." The changes outlined include the following:
  • Seeing All Reserved Individuals on the Temple Ordinances List
  • Caching of the Family Tree View
  • Go To Button on the Family Tree View
  • Reserving Ordinances from GEDCOM Files
  • Add Spouse Links on the Family Tree View
  • New Certified Affiliates
In addition, several temple and other types of records have been added from the temples in Asia. To see more details about the changes, go to the New FamilySearch Website and click on the News and Updates icon.

None of these changes address some of the major concerns of the program, such as the inability to make changes to incorrect data submitted by others, or even the ability to either rank the reliability of submitted information or at least, comment directly on the reliability.

New FamilySearch password upgrade mandatory today

As of today, 29 March 2010, you must register for the new LDS Account to gain access to New FamilySearch. Quoting from the New FamilySearch startup page,
We are changing the sign-in system so that one user name and password works for participating FamilySearch Web sites. From now on, please use your LDS Account for new.familySearch.org. If you don't have an LDS Account, enter your new.familysearch.org user name and password, and we'll help you upgrade.
I wrote about this change back earlier in the month. See post. Considering the time we have spent getting people connected to New FamilySearch and then getting those same people to remember a login and a password, I foresee a substantial amount of confusion during the next week or so. Here is the more expanded explanation of the change from the New FamilySearch Website.
LDS Account and User Profile
You now have one less user name and password to remember. Use your LDS Account to sign in to the new
FamilySearch Web site.
If you do not yet have an LDS Account, go to https://new.familysearch.org, and click the Register for the
New FamilySearch link.
Note: If you use the Church’s Stake and Ward Web site, you already have an LDS account. You might have
recently obtained one if you contribute content to the FamilySearch Research Wiki. Church employees and
missionaries with access to Church computer systems also have LDS Accounts.
The following changes occurred as a result of changing to the LDS Account:
• The screen where you edit your user profile has changed. At the top of the user profile screen, you can
click a button to change your first and last name, user name, password, and other information stored in
your LDS Account. At the bottom of the user profile screen, you can change your address and telephone
number and your helper access number.
• The names of some of the pieces of information in your profile have new names.
- The term “user name” replaces “sign-in name.”
- The term “display name” replaces “preferred name.” The system uses your display name on the Home
page, in the upper-left corner of the screen, on Family Ordinance Requests, and on your family
ordinance cards.
There are several other changes, none major, that I will review when I get more time.

Changes in New FamilySearch's API force updates to connecting programs

If you are using a program to connect to New FamilySearch, you will likely see a notice of an upgrade. Programs connecting to the New FamilySearch program are all being substantially changed by changes in the API or application programming interface. Quoting from Wikipedia,
An application programming interface (API) is an interface implemented by a software program to enable interaction with other software, similar to the way a user interface facilitates interaction between humans and computers. APIs are implemented by applications, libraries and operating systems to determine the vocabulary and calling conventions the programmer should employ to use their services. It may include specifications for routines, data structures, object classes and protocols used to communicate between the consumer and implementer of the API.
What this all means from a practical standpoint is that all of the programs using this mode of connecting to the New FamilySearch database are forced to rewrite their code to reflect the changes. The fact that the API would change has been known for some time and was one of the topics of conversation at the Mesa, Arizona Family History Expo. 29 March 2010 is the date of implementation of the changes and many of the software developers, including RootsMagic, Legacy Family Tree, Ancestral Quest, Family Insight and others, have either already implemented software updates to reflect the change over or will do so in the next day or so.

If you do not upgrade, you will no longer be able to connect to New FamilySearch. I have not seen any charges for the upgrade except with Ohana Software's FamilyInsight. I was notified of the change to the API from Ohana but when I went to make the upgrade I was further notified that my one year license had expired and I would need to purchase a new license for $15.00, almost the cost of the new program. In other words, I now have a program that does not work and will have to purchase a new one from the software vendor. This is not a situation where the upgrade merely adds functionality, this is an upgrade that makes the program work. As far as I can tell, all of the other software vendors, RootsMagic, Ancestral Quest, Legacy Family Tree and others, are offering free upgrades.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Developing a metageanalogy

As metaphilosophy is the study of the nature, aims and methods of philosophy. I would submit that, in the same vein, a metagenealogy would be the study of the nature, aims and methods of genealogy. I did not originate the term "metagenealogy" but its previous use, as far as I can determine, has not included a development of the use of term as applied to the practice of genealogical research. I propose to develop a more rigorous set of definitions consistent with the idea of moving the study of genealogy from its presently unstructured state into a more focused and defined practical and intellectual discipline.

Val D. Greenwood in his book, The Researcher's Guide to American Genealogy, [Greenwood, Val D. The Researcher's Guide to American Genealogy. Baltimore, MD: Genealogical Pub. Co, 2000.] offers a definition of genealogy, "That branch of history which involves the determination of family relationships. This is not done by copying but rather by research." From this, we can begin to define the nature of genealogy. Greenwood considers genealogy to be a branch of history, I would disagree, I believe history to be a branch of genealogy. Ultimately all history is nothing more or less than the actions of individuals, all of whom were born into families of one sort or another. In the past, genealogy had a bad reputation because of its practicioners who disregard any semblance of systematic research in favor of fables and lies. In this regard, however, genealogy is no worse or better than the study of history in general.

So, if I begin by defining history as that branch of genealogy that focuses on the records and actions of large units of individuals and families, I can further define genealogy as the overall study of human relationships on the earth, including their activities, beliefs, records, lives, politics, wars and all other activities in general. Most compiled histories have ignored family relationships in all but a very superficial way. You can read almost any popular history of the United States, for example, and other than noting some outstanding family relationships such as father and son politicians, the family is all but ignored. On the other hand, most compiled genealogies also ignore history. Genealogist love to tell you how many names they have in their database, but seldom know anything more than a few superficial facts about all those listed ancestors.

Remarkably, historians and genealogists use some of the same sources. Until recently, historians were more concerned with the larger picture, wars, political movements, technological changes and other sweeping generalizations rather than the day-to-day life of the common people. More recent historians have focused more on causative histories and the interpretation of people's daily lives. The speculative philosophy of history focuses, in part, on the question of what is the proper unit of study of the human past; the individual, the polis or city, the sovereign or finally, the civilization as a whole. (See Wikipedia). From my perspective, each of the units beyond the individual and family are merely steps up in complexity rather than a change in emphasis. A city is nothing more than a larger group of families.

In that sense, history in the larger scale, is nothing more than choosing which families you wish to emphasize. It is apparent that the family is often treated in the more academic world as something to be studied like the history of computers or coal mining, the central nature of the family to all historical investigations is ignored. Although we hear a lot of discussion on the viability of the family, I am not talking here about any one form of family relationship. This is not an issue of traditional vs. non-traditional families or any other aspect of the family organization. It is more an acknowledgment of the importance of kinship relationships, more in the anthropological sense than is usually admitted to historical discussions. If the family (in whatever form) is the basis building block of more complex societal functions, as I maintain, then all history is literally family and all history is literally genealogy.

So, going back to the metagenealogy's concern with the nature of genealogy. What then is genealogy? A mere compilation of names and relationships? Or, as I maintain, the study of the basic underlying structure of all societies no matter at what scale. To use an analogy, physics can either be the study of the large structures of the universe such as stars and galaxies, or it can be the study of the sub-atomic nature of matter itself. In this analogy, genealogy is characterized as the study of the sub-atomic, while larger historical concerns are aimed more at the stars and universes of collections of families, when in fact, they are the same, only dependent on a difference in scale. Neither is genealogy genealogy without history and neither is history history without genealogy. In the same way that small particle physics is essentially the same physics as astrophysics, genealogy is the common study, while history mainly defines itself only as the study of the larger structures.

The separation of history and genealogy is entirely artificial. It is no more reasonable, or less so, than any of the other artificial divisions of academic disciplines. If we define genealogy as the basic pursuit, then it is easier to see how it is impossible to artificially restrict genealogy to a mere listing of names.

Next, more on the nature of genealogy in the metagenealogical sense.

Finding Kerlin's Well -- I begin the search



Kerlin's Well, where my great-grandfather carved his name into the rock in 1877, turns out to be very elusive. March in northern Arizona is an interesting month. Warm sunny days can turn icy cold and very windy. Our first expedition turned out to have all types of weather.

Before leaving for the north, I spent some time online trying to find more information but without much success. I did find a YouTube video someone had taken of the site, but there was no location information. There is a book about the location,

Smith, Jack. Kerlin's Well: A Unique Site on the Beale Wagon Road Near Seligman, Arizona. Tales of the Beale Road, no. 3. Flagstaff, Ariz: Tales of the Beale Road Pub. Co, 1986.

But I found the name of the book only very shortly before we left to drive to northern Arizona. I have since requested the book on Interlibrary Loan. But that will be another story. The only directions I had were from the book, Tanner, George S., and J. Morris Richards. Colonization on the Little Colorado: The Joseph City Region. Flagstaff: Northland Press, 1977 by my Uncle George Tanner. The description is vague, "nine miles north of Seligman."

We drove north of Phoenix to Prescott and then on to Prescott Valley. There we stopped at the Prescott National Forest office and looked at their collection of maps. The Beale Wagon Road is clearly marked on the Kaibab National Forest map but the map does not extend as far west as the Seligman area.

We continued north out of Prescott Valley to Ashfork on Interstate 40. We drove to the Ashfork Museum and the lady there showed us a map to the Beale Wagon Road north of Ashfork, but that didn't help much since Ashfork is about twenty miles east of Seligman. We are very experienced in traveling on the back roads of Arizona and Utah and our truck is loaded with everything from water, some food, survival gear, tow ropes and etc. otherwise, this could be a very ill advised expedition.

Stay tuned for the next installment.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Microfilm to digital camera image


One of items I always take with me to do on site research and especially to any library is a digital camera (assuming cameras are allowed, which sometimes they are not). The photo above is digital image taken with my hand-held camera of a random roll of microfilm projected on an ordinary microfilm reader in the Mesa Regional Family History Center. The hotspot (bright light) on the image is caused by the projector light on the microfilm reader. Other than holding the camera steady against the top of the microfilm reader, the picture was taken entirely using the light from the projector bulb.

By loading the image into my computer using Google's free program Picasa, I can easily zoom in on the smallest detail of the image. Although the copy of the image above is of lower quality than the original taken with my camera and loaded into my computer, if you click on the image, you will see that there is more than adequate detail to read any portion of the page. You can get even greater quality by using a simple tripod or other method of stabilizing the camera. This method is much faster and easier than removing the film and taking it to a microfilm printer to get a copy of the page.

I recommend a camera with a ten megapixel image, which is the norm for moderately priced cameras these days. Having a photograph of the microfilm image to take back home and study gives you the ability to gather much more information for each trip to the facility.

There is no "trick" to taking these photos other than a steady hand or a tripod. It helps to have a single lens reflex (SLR) camera so that you don't accidentally crop the image in a way to lose information. If you use a more common range finder type camera (one with a separate viewfinder) you may wish to check the image in the camera's preview before moving on to the next picture.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Finding Kerlin's Well -- a study in genealogy research

Finding Kerlin's Well is real departure from my usual topics and format. This story begins about 130 years ago in northern Arizona on the Beale Wagon Road. Henry Martin Tanner, my great-grandfather was traveling across Arizona in a wagon to settle on the Little Colorado River at a place called Allen's Camp. Along the way they suffered greatly from lack of water, not an unusual problem in Arizona at the time. The Beale Wagon Road had been constructed by Lieutenant Edward Fitzgerald Beale. Beale was famous for using camels to carry supplies. OK, but I am getting way too far from the problem.

Henry and Eliza Tanner stopped at a water hole named by Lieutenant Beale after his clerk, Fred E. Kerlin. The spot is called Kerlin's Well and it is located somewhere near the small town of Seligman on Route 66, the famous cross country highway that followed the Beale Wagon Road. That is the key to the problem, "somewhere about nine miles north." That's it, that is all the directions I have been able to find.

Now, why would I want to find a water hole out in the middle of the Colorado Plateau? While my great-grandfather was there, he chiseled his name into the rock with the date, 1877, and I know that it is still there and quite visible. In among the next few posts, I will tell the story of how we did or didn't find Kerlin's Well.

Over 60,000 books scanned in Family History Archive

The FamilySearch Family History Archive passed the 60,000 mark for items scanned into the free online digital library. As of March 24, 2010 the total was 60,144 items. As described by the Family History Archives Website,
The Family History Archive is a collection of published genealogy and family history books. The archive includes histories of families, county and local histories, how-to books on genealogy, genealogy magazines and periodicals (including some international), medieval books (including histories and pedigrees), and gazetteers. It also includes some specialized collections such as the Filipino card collection and the “Liahona Elders Journal.” The books come from the collections of the FamilySearch Family History Library, the Allen County Public Library, the Houston Public Library – Clayton Library Center for Genealogical Research, the Mid-Continent Public Library – Midwest Genealogy Center, the BYU Harold B. Lee Library, the BYU Hawaii Joseph F. Smith Library, and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Church History Library.
Volunteers and student workers are involved in the scanning project at the various locations and is supported, in part, by charitable donations.

The Family History Archive is by no means the only online resources available through the Website. By clicking on the Advanced Search option anyone can search tens of thousands of online documents including newspapers and other documents. See the Digital Collections Website for the list of collections, because it is too long to list in this or any other post.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Visit the Mesa Regional Family History Center

Metropolitan Phoenix is currently listed as the fifth largest city in the United States. Serving this huge population and even a much larger population and geographic area, is the Mesa Regional Family History Center of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Located to the east of Phoenix in the city of Mesa, Arizona, this Center is a must visit location for more than 50,000 visitors every year.

As listed on their Website, here are some of the resources available at the Center:
  • 125 computers and 16 film/fiche readers
  • Free access to Internet web sites, Including FamilySearch.org, Ancestry, Footnote, HeritageQuest, New England Historical Genealogists Society, World Vital Records, Godfrey Memorial Library and many other sites.
  • Pedigree Resource File CD's
  • Over 700 Commercial CD's with genealogical research data.
  • Over 17,000 Books. See newly acquired books and publications.
  • Over 126,000 rolls of microfilm and 52,000 microfiche. Additional films and fiche may be rented from the Salt Lake Library.
  • Copiers and printers are available.
  • Genealogy forms, research outlines, word lists, etc., available at cost in our Copy Room.
  • Free Classes and Workshops --- Over 113 classes and workshops each month.
  • Research Specialty Committees at the Regional Family History Center.
  • Workshops -- with 28 computers at the Family History Training Center, 464 E. 1st Avenue for hands-on-training.
I have found that there are even some genealogists in the Phoenix area who profess to be professionals who have never visited the Mesa Regional Family History Center. I think that the impression comes about as a result of exposure to local or Stake Family History Centers which are usually located in one of the Church's Ward or Stake buildings and usually consist of one or two rooms with very limited resources.

On a busy day at the Center, there can be more than a hundred people busy at microfilm readers or computers.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Fair use and genealogy

A common complaint among genealogists is that someone has used their information without permission. Genealogy is made up of two large components; narratives and facts. Names, birth dates, death dates, relationships, and other "facts" are not subject to a claim of copyright. Writings, interpretations, narratives, photographs, designs, drawings and many other original works are subject to a claim of copyright. In addition, ideas are not subject to copyright. A list is not subject to copyright, but the manner in which the list is displayed may be.

If you have any doubt, at all, about whether a document is subject to copyright, then the safest way to use the document is to get permission from the copyright owner. The only way to establish a level of security in the use of another's works is to become familiar with the basics of the copyright law in your country of interest. A copyright interest is not absolute, the right is subject to several limitations. The limitations to a claim of copyright include one very important limitation: fair use.

The doctrine of fair use is codified in Title 17 United States Code, Section 107. Here is Section 107:

§ 107. Limitations on exclusive rights: Fair use Notwithstanding the provisions of sections 106 and 106A, the fair use of a copyrighted work, including such use by reproduction in copies or phonorecords or by any other means specified by that section, for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching (including multiple copies for classroom use), scholarship, or research, is not an infringement of copyright. In determining whether the use made of a work in any particular case is a fair use the factors to be considered shall include —
(1) the purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes;
(2) the nature of the copyrighted work;
(3) the amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole; and
(4) the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work.

The fact that a work is unpublished shall not itself bar a finding of fair use if such finding is made upon consideration of all the above factors.
From a circular published by the U.S. Copyright Office, "The distinction between fair use and infringement may be unclear and not easily defined. There is no specific number of words, lines, or notes that may safely be taken without permission"The circular goes on to give examples of activities that courts have found to be fair use:
...quotation of excerpts in a review or criticism for purposes of illustration or comment; quotation of short passages in a scholarly or technical work, for illustration or clarification of the author’s observations; use in a parody of some of the content of the work parodied; summary of an address or article, with brief quotations, in a news report; reproduction by a library of a portion of a work to replace part of a damaged copy; reproduction by a teacher or student of a small part of a work to illustrate a lesson; reproduction of a work in legislative or judicial proceedings or reports; incidental and fortuitous reproduction, in a newsreel or broadcast, of a work located in the scene of an event being reported.
Let's say I found a really interesting article on researching probate records, so I copy the article, entirely, and reproduce it in one of my blog posts. Is this fair use? Looking at the definition, I note that copyright prohibits the use of substantially all of a document. So it appears, that my use of the article on probate records is a violation of the original author's copyright. Deciding what is or is not a substantial portion of the work, depends entirely on the ratio of the size of the copy compared to the entire document. Use of the entire document, even if the document is rather short, constitutes an infringement of the original copyright. Citation of source is not a substitute for permission to use the material.

Another example, let's say I find a history of a county published in the 1870s in a journal article. Can I quote the entire history in my book on my ancestor? The answer is going to depend on where you got the information. If you got the original source and it was outside of copyright protection, then you would be safe in using the article. But from the standpoint of honesty and intellectual integrity, you must still acknowledge your source. Just because a work is not covered by copyright law, you do not have the right to appropriate the work as your own. Likewise, if you quote the history from the journal article, you may still violate copyright if the article where the information came from was subject to copyright and you use a substantial portion of the article.

Could I copy an old photograph or design and sell it under my own copyright? Normally, unless a substantial amount of additional work goes into a work that is out of copyright, reproduction of the work does not create a new work subject to copyright.

There is a whole lot more to this subject. Next time, public domain and the genealogist.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Claiming a copyright

As genealogists, we constantly refer to historical documents. In many cases, those documents many be subject to claims of copyright. It is far easier to claim a copyright to an old document than to actually prove a claim for breach of copyright. It is not uncommon to find references to a copyright for documents that are clearly, legally not subject to any possible copyright. Unfortunately, most discussions of copyright issues are rather more inclusive than exclusive, that is, the discussion emphasizes what is protected by copyright without clearly explaining what is not protected.

As a beginning example, the Online Archive of California, has a digitized image of the San Francisco earthquake available on its Website. The image is entitled, "Looking N. E. from Sansom and Sacramento Sts. after the Earthquake & Great Fire of Apr. 18th to 20th 1906, San Francisco, Cal" The contributor is The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley, CA 94720-6000. The copyright notice is as follows:
Copyright has not been assigned to The Bancroft Library. All requests for permission to publish or quote from manuscripts must be submitted in writing to the Head of Public Services for forwarding. Permission for publication is given on behalf of The Bancroft Library as the owner of the physical items and is not intended to include or imply permission of the copyright holder, which must also be obtained by the reader.
Copyright Owner: University of California Regents
Copyright Contact: The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley, CA 94720
It is obviously implied that the photograph is subject to a "copyright" and that the copyright has an "owner." From the further information given with the photograph it was taken in 1906. So the question is whether or not there is any possible copyright law in the U.S. that would apply to or protect the owner of the photograph?

First of all, where did the photograph come from? Who took the photo? Normally, a copyright is owned by the creator of the work. Quoting from the U.S. Copyright Office Website of the Library of Congress, "Copyright is the right of the author of the work or the author's heirs or assignees, not of the one who only owns or possesses the physical work itself. See Circular 1, Copyright Basics, section “Who Can Claim Copyright.” More importantly, this photograph was taken in 1906, more than 100 years ago. Suffice it to say, that the time periods concerning copyright protection are fairly complicated, but for works published before January 1, 1978, the longest recognized term of copyright is 95 years and most works are protected for far less time periods. For a longer explanation, see the publication, Copyright Basics, from the United States Copyright Office.

So, in fact, there is no legal way that the photograph taken in 1906 could still be subject to copyright. But, there is another question. Can the scanned copy of the photograph published on the California Website be copyrighted? Without going into a huge legal discussion, the answer is no. Making a copy of a work does not create a copyright. That does not mean that the information contained in the Website is not copyrighted, it just means that there is likely no copyright protection for the image itself. So why all the verbiage from the Website about copyright? The clue is in the statement made about the copyright holder. The University of California does not what to be sued, so it is hedging and acknowledging that in some possible universe, some kind of claim might be made so they don't want to be responsible.

From a practical standpoint, it is extremely unlikely that original historical documents themselves, especially those more than 100 years old, can be subject to any possible copyright claim even if they are reproduced on the Internet.

Next time I will discuss fair use and how that might impact historical documents.

1870 Statistical Atlas of the United States

Every once in while, I am totally amazed at the things I find online. Today was one of those days. I follow the blog of the State Geologist of Arizona (I have lots of interests besides genealogy). On Tuesday, March 16, 2010 his post showed a map of the 9th U.S. Census taken in 1870. The link takes you to another blog, called Radical Cartography. What a great Website!

The U.S. Census maps are in the Statistical Atlas of the United States. Quoting from the site:

STATISTICAL ATLAS
OF THE NINTH CENSUS (1870) published 1874
Presented here are all of the maps and charts from the first statistical atlas of the US Census, widely praised in its time and still a wonderful example of sophisticated graphics, the out-of-date racial/psychological nomenclature notwithstanding. The atlas is available page-by-page from the Library of Congress, but you can download it in bulk here: download ZIP files:

All 54 Maps and Charts as 96-dpi JPG files (55 MB) — displays at actual size on most screens. All 54 Maps and Charts as 300dpi JPG2000 files (263 MB), identical to the files posted individually by the Library of Congress. The Atlas also included 53 pages of scholarly discussions of the population and geography of the country. The articles are mainly of historical interest, but you can download all 53 text pages as 300dpi JPG2000 files (253 MB) if you'd like, or go to the Library of Congress for individual pages. Unfortunately it's not worth downloading mid-res versions: at lower resolutions they're very difficult to read.


You may wish to explore some of the other fabulous maps on this site.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

New Registration and Sign-in for FamilySearch Websites

FamilySearch, the genealogical organization of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, is moving towards using a unified sign-in system for all of their Websites. This change will allow users to have the same user name and password, not only for all FamilySearch Websites, but for other general LDS Church Websites as well. Because some of the sites have information specific to members of the Church, there are two basic systems; an "LDS Account" for those who are Church members and a "FamilySearch account" for the general public. This bifurcated system has been in place for the FamilySearch.org Website for many years. LDS members who registered and signed-in to FamilySearch.org were able to access Temple Ordinance information not generally available to other users of the Website.

This system has already been introduced on the FamilySearch Wiki Website as well as a few others. The system will ultimately require that LDS members register with an LDS Account and use that sign-in only for all the Websites. The Church defines an LDS Account as follows:
LDS Account is the sign in credentials (user name and password) that most LDS Church Web sites require you to have to access their site. The LDS Church is in the process of transitioning most of its sites and applications to LDS Account in order to reduce the number of user names and passwords you are required to have.
It is important to emphasize that this new program in no way limits those who are not members of the Church from having access to all of the Church's genealogical data, with the sole exception of the LDS specific ordinances. In fact, when the program is fully implemented, the general public will have access to New FamilySearch as well.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Legacy Family Tree update to Version 7.4.0.21

Millennia Software continues to update it Legacy Family Tree software to make it more compatible with New FamilySearch and to correct minor issues with the program. The Standard Edition of the program is a free download, but the Deluxe Version, containing all of the features of the program, 98 more features than the Standard Edition, can also be purchased in different versions, with or without a CD and or printed manual. Updates to Version 7.4 of the program are free.

The latest version of the program is 7.4.0.21. I have noticed over the years I have had the program that updates are frequent and often add extensive value to the program. From my perspective, the program is well supported by the software developer.

Almost 2.5 million records added to Record Search

FamilySearch's Record Search has added nearly 2.5 million images of the Netherlands, Zuid-Holland Province Civil Registrations from 1811 to 1942 and additional records to the Netherlands, Gelderland Province Civil Registrations from 1811 to 1950.

The Netherlands Civil Registrations began when the French emperor, Napoleon Bonaparte, introduced the civil registration in the Netherlands at the time of the French occupation in the late 1700s; first in the southern part of the country later in the rest of the country. Since March of 1811 the local civil authorities in Zuid-Holland and Gelderland began recording births, marriages, and deaths using a standard format. Two copies of the records were created; one stayed in the local registration district; the second was sent annually to the district court. The district court created the “ten-year” indexes and eventually deposited the records and ten-year indexes in the provincial archives. See FamilySearch Research Wiki.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Who Does Who Do You Think You Are? Think I Am?

I have waited to write about the new TV program, "Who Do You Think You Are?, because, quite frankly, the first episode did not impress me much at all. I realized immediately from reading the blizzard of blog posts on the show, that I was in a decided minority. It seemed like there was almost universal acclaim. First of all, I don't like TV much at all. Secondly, I hate commercials. I was put off with the hyper-commercialization of the show and the cavalier way it treated genealogical research. Quite frankly, I do not identify with people who have enough money to jump on a plane and fly around the country doing "research." This is especially true, when I know that most of the records could be found in a few select locations.

Fortunately, I came back for more and all that said, I really liked the second show. Emmitt Smith was much more sympathetic and believable than Sarah Jessica Parker, probably because he wasn't a "professional" actor. Unfortunately, looking ahead to the line up of featured guests, they are almost, with only one exception, all professional actors and actresses. Some of the commentary on the show has brushed aside the commercialism and acting and touted the benefits of the exposure of genealogy to the masses. If the rest of the shows live up to the episode staring Emmitt Smith, I would have to agree, they would all be worth watching. But it appears that he may be the only light in a dreary season of over acting.

I certainly hope that my suspicions are not correct. I will watch the next episode to see what happens. I do think it is great that real genealogists make appearances on the show. I think it is possible that someone might get the idea that genealogy had other than a marginal place in our society, but I have also been on duty at the Mesa Regional Family History Center when people have walked in and asked to see "their genealogy," thinking that all they had to do was show up and ask. For me as a long time practicing attorney, I always think of the movies and TV shows about lawyers and courts and how much damage they do to our profession. I cannot tell you how many times I have had to correct impressions clients have formed of the law from watching TV. I am afraid that popularizing genealogy on TV will have much the same effect.

Let's hope that the results of exposing the world to real genealogists will have a salutary rather than a dilatory effect on genuine research.

Is there an E-reader in your future?



I have recently written a lot of posts on the expanded availability of digitized books online. Although the Apple iPad has gotten a lot of press lately, there are many other options from other manufacturers available. To get an idea of the current offerings, click here for a chart comparing E-readers. What you will see immediately is that this is a comparison of apples to oranges (pun intended). What is not highlighted is the fact that the iPad will connect to the Internet and potentially could access all of the free online books on Google Books or any of the other online resources.

One glaring omission from the chart is the Pocketbook E-reader now popular in Europe. It does not compete directly with the iPad, but is a serious contender for just plain reading.

I have been using my iPhone now for a couple of years. I am in my second version. I have all of my genealogy on the Mac FamilyTree app. I can connect directly to New FamilySearch with the Mobile Tree app. I can use it as a telephone, an electronic calendar to schedule my classes at the Mesa Regional Family History Center, look up items on Google on the Internet, look up books on the WorldCat app, read whole books on the Stanza app, check the news, monitor the USGS earthquake app, read the news on USA Today, the Wall Street Journal, MSNBC or a hundred other news suppliers, receive and send E-mails, look at Google Earth, find any location on Google Maps, listen to custom radio stations on the Pandora app, access all of the LDS scriptures on the Scriptures app, write notes to myself, take photos, look at and show photos of my grandchildren, check the weather on the Weather Channel app, check the stock market on any number of apps, check prices at Best Buy and Walmart, check out all of the present star charts for astronomy observation, check out Facebook, listen to Public Radio, read blogs, and a whole lot more.

Now imagine what you could do if the screen were considerably larger. I suppose you could just read books, but who would want to?

Free online classes from the Family History Library

The world famous Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah recently announced that it is making its popular classes available for free on FamilySearch.org. Now you can access these classes at anytime you wish. Quoting from an article in the Church News of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints:
"Most people do family history whenever they can fit it in their busy lives, on evenings, holidays, weekends, and so forth. Whether you are a beginner or experienced researcher, you can choose subjects of interest to you from the available classes and watch them anytime and anywhere," said Diane Loosle, FamilySearch community services manager.

There are 23 Family History Library classes available online, with subjects ranging from European research to United States military records. The most popular offerings are the Beginning Research Series for Ireland and England and a class on descendancy research.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Mesa hosts Legacy Family Tree

The Mesa Regional Family History Center hosted a special presentation by Geoff Rasmussen, the Developer of Legacy Family Tree. The almost two hour presentation included an in-depth demonstration of Legacy's partial implementation of a connection to New FamilySearch. Geoff indicated that full synchronization with New FamilySearch was imminent. Both RootsMagic and Ancestral Quest have already released versions of their programs that provide full two-way synchronization with New FamilySearch. Legacy is coming into the competition at the time that New FamilySearch has been fully released to members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) but has yet to be released to the public at large.

From a marketing standpoint, it could be debated whether Legacy has lost any ground to the competing programs through its somewhat late introduction. On the other hand, the market for synchronization programs for New FamilySearch is not yet past its infancy and New FamilySearch is technically still in a Beta release version .990beta.

Over 100 people were given an almost two hour tour of the program and there were a lot of questions and comments from those in attendance. I was interested to learn that quite a few of the attendees already had the program. Many of the questions came from current users rather than from those investigating changing over from Personal Ancestral File.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Should New FamilySearch be a wiki?

In my frequent visits to the New FamilySearch Website, I find that one or another of my many, many relatives has added yet another set of birth dates or death dates to one of my grandfathers, great-grandfathers or great-great-grandfathers (or grandmothers). These regular additions to the existing information in New FamilySearch would not be nearly so disturbing except that almost uniformly the new entries are inaccurate and incorrect. This constant flow of incorrect additions to the program, points out one of the most frustrating aspects of New FamilySearch; the lack of an efficient way to correct data submitted by others and to communicate the correct information. You can, of course, correct any mistakes in the data you entered yourself, but information submitted by other users is locked and can only be changed by convincing your relatives to do the correcting themselves. In my family, some of the individuals have nearly 300 separate submissions and dozens of variations in names, dates and places. Even thinking about correcting this mess is overwhelming.

Originally, the idea presented by New FamilySearch was to dispute the incorrect data. It turns out that disputing does not really accomplish what I originally was lead to believe. A dispute does notify the world that you disagree, but if the party submitting the information decides to make the change you suggest, the file is locked by the dispute and until I remove my dispute, no one, not even the original owner can make any changes. Quoting from New FamilySearch Document ID: 108899:

Adding a Dispute
Contact other contributors to see if they can correct or delete their information about the individual. If still needed, dispute the individual. When you dispute an individual, this automatically disputes every piece of information about the individual, including relationships to other family members. Use this option only if you are absolutely sure the individual never existed. In some cases, having a dispute on the individual prevents other new FamilySearch patrons from making needed corrections. [Emphasis in the original].

Presently, the only way to "correct" existing incorrect information in New FamilySearch is to add the correct information, thereby adding even more possible confusion. (See New FamilySearch Document No. 1012429). Because, for individuals with a lot of contributors, the new correct information can be lost in a cloud of inaccurate and incorrect information. Also, the amount of incorrect information does not seem to be a deterrent to people thinking they have to make yet another submission of the incorrect information. Other than the brief Summary fields, all of the other information about any individual is presented so that both correct and incorrect information have the same level of presentation. There is no way to indicate that some of the information is wrong.

By the way, if you are not that familiar with New FamilySearch, you may not recognize the references to the Help Center Documents. The Help Center for New FamilySearch is an exhaustive source of information about the program. The document numbers refer to individual responses to user's questions that are all completely searchable. When you go to the Help Center, you can search by the document number if you wish, instead of by key words. Just enter the Document Number in the search box.

Another factor, the program is presently only accessible to members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS). In essence, the members are a huge pool of Beta testers for the program, since the present release is not yet to 1.0. There are plans to open the program to the public in general, likely in stages with a few users at a time. Although it is hard to see how the data could get any more confused by simply adding more people. It is possible that the scale of confusion might grow but the degree of confusion will likely remain constant.

Given the present difficulties of New FamilySearch, would most, if not all, of these issues be largely resolved if the program had (or becomes in the future) been introduced as a wiki rather than a locked database? I would guess that issues of data integrity were some of the early concerns that pushed the program towards its present totally locked format. If the wiki format had been used, the same information contained in the present program would be preserved along with the history of any changes, just as in Wikipedia or the FamilySearch Wiki. The main difference would be in the presentation of the information, the only information showing would be the present consensus, not as is presently the case, every last piece of information no matter how invalid.

In any case, there should be a way to either rate the accuracy of any item of information or require a source so that the information can be independently evaluated. It is not enough to merely acknowledge the contributor. It seems that most of these limitations could be resolved more satisfactory by allowing the wiki-type editing or some other method to rate the reliability of the information presented.

New FamilySearch has great potential. It works very well for anyone who is entering the information about their family for the first time. For those with long histories of submitted records, it works less well.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

750,000 images online from the NYPL


Part of New England, New York, east New Iarsey and Long Iland. (ca. 1702-1707)

NYPL Digital Gallery provides free and open access to over 700,000 images digitized from the The New York Public Library's vast collections, including illuminated manuscripts, historical maps, vintage posters, rare prints, photographs and more.

More thoughts on the 10 generation issue

I am intrigued by the issues raised in a series of blogs about documenting 10 generations. Please see "Documenting 10 Generations Revisited" by Randy Seaver and follow his links. I realize that the topic died a rather quick death in the blog community. But there is an underlying issue, what kind of documentation is really possible and how believable is any documentation back hundreds of years? This issue goes along with the claims made by numbers of genealogists that they have lines going back to _________. (Fill in the blank with any historical person including Charlemagne or even Adam himself).

My initial question is why 10 generations? Why not 4, 6, 8 or even 12? Realistically, some people do not know who their parents are. Regularly, I work with individuals who are trying to identify their own parents, usually either a natural father or mother not usually both. Given the constant of adopted children and children born out of wedlock, it is not at all that unusual to find a deadend, not just a brickwall somewhere in your family tree. I have such a situation in Denmark back only four generations.

The danger inherent in the idea that a certain number of generations matters, is that it encourages name gathering at the expense of in depth family history. I know the issue lies with the term "documented." But what does that really mean? If I tie into one of the bogus Medieval pedigrees does that mean my line is "documented?" Realistically, what kinds of records pertaining to individuals exist back before 1500? 1550 seems to be the watershed year. Very few records exist before that time and many lines, especially of common people without connections to royalty, would run out of records long before that early date. Part of the issue is the simple question of where do you start? If I start with my daughter, who has the benefit of two parents who are actively involved in genealogy and then count her as the first generation, ten generations only takes us back to the early 1700s. But if I start with myself and count back to my father as one generation, that takes the lines back to the early 1600s and there are few records in many of the lines.

One more generation back takes me to the Mayflower families, who are notorious for lacking any verifiable ancestry. Taking one or two or even more lines back into the 1500s or earlier is not impossible or even very impressive, but the thought of having a consistently documented genealogy of ten or more generations on all of your lines is highly unrealistic. In addition, having that as a goal or example may become a terrible discouragement to those who give up genealogy because the "goal" is unobtainable.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Correction -- Thanks to Randy Seaver

In my last blog post, I apparently mis-read the statistics by a factor of ten. The Eastman Online Genealogy Newsletter gets about 40,000 readers a month. Certainly well up there with some of the more popular mommy blogs. The number I read was a daily, not a monthly, total. Sorry about the mixup.

Can you document 10 generations?

Randy Seaver's post on Genea-Musings entitled "Can you document all names back 10 generations" highlights a few interesting issues. One of the first is the fact that I write this blog from way outside the "in" group of genealogy bloggers. But one thing I do have is constant contact with hundreds of relatively unsophisticated genealogists every week. Last week, for instance, I taught 9 different classes on various aspects of genealogical research and programs. This while still working full time and having other commitments including writing this blog.

As part of my interaction with day-to-day genealogy, most of my contact is decidedly with newcomers to genealogy rather than those who would even be able to determine if they had documented 10 generations. In fact, nearly all of the people I work with every day wouldn't know a source from a rock. They are interested in finding their family, but have little or no idea how to go about doing so. Of course, I am ignoring the thousands of people that could care less about the whole idea of genealogy. Even in my own family, the genealogists are extremely rare.

How does this all affect the question of documentation of family lines? Very few people, overall, actually are involved in genealogy at any given time, I would guess less than 1% of the U.S. Of population. Not just interested, but actively pursuing research of their ancestors. For example, I would assume that Randy Seaver's blog is about as popular as any, with the exception of Dick Eastman. Randy's blog, according to Quantcast, currently averages about 3,000 readers per month. While Dick Eastman is slightly higher at over 4,000. However, there are more than 307,000,000 people in the U.S. which makes the readership something like 1/1000th of percent of the population. To put this further into perspective, an average "mommy blog" (one I am familiar with) averages 13,000 readers a month!

So, genealogists are rare. Documenting at all is very rare and documenting 10 generations has got to be extraordinarily rare. During the next week or so, I will ask everybody I know in the genealogical community and see if I can find one person who claims to have documented 10 generations. I will be very surprised if I find one person.

No criticism intended at all but the discussion about documenting 10 generations is a bit esoteric and probably theoretical rather than practical. It is more like discussing NBA Basketball players' statistics or Olympic records rather than the reality of my life in genealogy.

Monday, March 8, 2010

TV Show has huge impact on Google searches

No matter what you think about the recent TV show "Who Do You Think You Are?," one thing is very evident, Google searches on the term "genealogy" have spiked in the last couple of days. At the bottom of this Blog page there is an app that shows the number of Google searches for two terms, "genealogy" and "family history." Both terms show a decided upswing in the last few days. The increase in searching for "genealogy" is dramatic given the recent history.

A look at the trend for searches on "genealogy" during the past year shows a downward drift, but recently, the trend has recovered and is moving upward. Over the past six years or so, the trend has been moving decidedly down, but part of that downward trend most likely reflects the vast increase in overall Internet traffic and the ability to do more sophisticated searches. Think about it, how many times recently have you searched on the term "genealogy?"

10.4 million free records added to RecordSearch

The numbers of records added to online databases are getting into the astronomical scale. FamilySearch's Record Search announces the addition of New York State to the 1920 U.S. Census records already online. This addition constitutes an additional 10.4 million names. With all of the other records being added daily to the Internet, why is this a big deal? The index to the records was produced entirely by volunteers through the FamilySearch Indexing program and so the records are freely accessible online without paying a subscription cost and there are a whole lot more records to come.

With the addition of the New York records, the 1920 U.S. Census is 98% completely indexed. In my own experience, I have found existing indexes of the 1920 U.S. Census to be somewhat spotty. For example, my grandfather was listed as "Tamer" rather than "Tanner." But a search in the current collection shows him immediately. Unfortunately, the images are not yet online and given the current agreements with Ancestry.com regarding the upgrading of Ancestry.com's images, I guess that the images will be available only through the subscription site. Maybe one of my reader's with more access to the inner workings of the agreement between Ancestry.com and the LDS Church can clarify that issue?

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Record Search adds more Mexican States to the Catholic Church Records

FamilySearch's Record Search Pilot has just added Baja Sur, Nuevo Leon, Sinaloa and Sonora to the Mexico Catholic Church records. This brings the total number of states and regions contained in the collection to twelve. If you are unaware, Mexico has 32 states.

Those states and regions now included in the collection are the following:
  • Aguascalientes
  • Baja California
  • Baja California Norte
  • Baja California Sur
  • Campeche
  • Chihuahua
  • Coahuila
  • Colima
  • Durango
  • Nuevo Leon
  • Sinaloa
  • Sonora
The records are organized by state or region, then ciudad or pueblo and finally the parroquias (parishes).

Google completes 500,000 volume digitization project with University of Texas

In a recent post on Inside Google Books, Google announced completion of their digitization project with the University of Texas Libraries and the inclusion of over 500,000 unique Latin American volumes into the Google Books index. Quoting from the announcement:
Since we launched our partnership with the University of Texas at Austin in 2007, we have been working hard to make their unique Nettie Lee Benson Latin American Collection accessible to readers online. The collection is one of the largest Latin American collections in the world, and is renowned for the scope and breadth of its materials covering Mexico, Central America, the Caribbean island nations, South America, and the Latino presence in the United States.
Quoting from the University of Texas Libraries Website about the collection:
The Nettie Lee Benson Latin American Collection, a unit of the University of Texas Libraries, is a specialized research library focusing on materials from and about Latin America, and on materials relating to Latinos in the United States. Latin America is here defined to include Mexico, Central America, the Caribbean island nations, South America, and areas of the United States during the period they were a part of the Spanish Empire or Mexico. Named in honor of its former director (1942-1975), the Nettie Lee Benson Collection contains over 970,000 books, periodicals, pamphlets, and microforms; 4,000 linear feet of manuscripts; 19,000 maps; 11,500 broadsides; 93,500 photographs; and 50,000 items in a variety of other media (sound recordings, drawings, video tapes and cassettes, slides, transparencies, posters, memorabilia, and electronic media). Periodical titles are estimated at over 40,000 with 8,000 currently received titles and over 3,000 newspaper titles. Initially endowed with a superb collection of rare books and manuscripts relating to Mexico, the Benson Collection now maintains important holdings for all countries of Latin America with special concentrations on the countries of the Río de la Plata, Brazil, Chile, Peru, and Central America. The Mexican American Library Program, a department of the collection established in 1974, has gathered extensive research materials in all subject areas related to the U.S. Southwest and Latino culture in the U.S. In sum, the book collection of the Benson Collection represents approximately ten percent of all of the volumes in the University of Texas Libraries, the fifth largest academic library in the United States. While the purchase of private libraries laid the foundation for the Benson Collection, the acquisition of current publications is now the major factor in its growth. Researchers from the U.S. and abroad have been attracted to this remarkable resource through the last eight decades, coming to consult materials accumulated from all parts of the world, in many languages, dating from the fifteenth century to the present.
it is truly amazing the amount of information currently available online.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Experiment confirms New FamilySearch hypothesis

The following observations are not intended to be critical of the New FamilySearch program or its programmers. It appears, that despite their best efforts, the relatively unsophisticated users of the program do not understand or cannot follow the instructions and can thereby ignorantly produce extensive duplication.

Having observed thousands of Ordinance Cards printed from New FamilySearch, I suspected that the number of duplicates being processed was extremely high, despite claims that the program was having an impact on the number of duplicate ordinances being submitted. In a recent situation, a New FamilySearch user presented a stack of over fifty cards for processing. It was immediately evident to us that nearly all of the cards were requests for duplicate ordinances, that is, ordinances that had been performed previously.

From its inception, New FamilySearch was supposed to help avoid duplication of effort in the performance of Temple Ordinances. It was immediately apparent to me, at the time the program was first introduced, that there were a number of very simple ways some one using the program would end up with ordinance cards for work that had already been completed. As time passed, I was constantly aware that a significant amount of the work being done using New FamilySearch was far from original despite efforts by the programmers to discourage duplicates.

When we got the recent stack, we decided to see if my supposition or hypothesis that it was very easy to produce cards for duplicate work could be proved. So, one of my assistants took some of the cards and made copies and then returned the original cards to their owner. Later, using the copies we went into New FamilySearch and looked up each of the people for whom cards had been printed. Within seconds, by clicking on the "Find Duplicates" button, duplicate individuals for all of the cards were found and the records combined thus showing that the ordinances had already been performed. It was apparent that the user had made no effort at all to search for duplicates and had simply clicked on the green arrows and printed the Family Ordinance Request forms. However, we are not in a position to even comment to the user about the duplication.

In discussing this situation with the users, in a non-confrontational way, we do not believe that they are acting other than out of lack of knowledge of the existence of duplicates. Notwithstanding the multiple admonitions and warnings now built into New FamilySearch, a significant number of people are simply ignoring the warnings and proceeding to print Family Ordinance Requests that duplicate prior ordinance work. In discussing this situation with knowledgeable New FamilySearch sources, we understand that additional changes will be made to the program to enhance its ability to discourage duplication. If avoidance of duplication is a positive result, then the changes cannot come any too soon.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Other than digitization -- preserving the physical records

Digitization of records is one way to preserve our letters, photos, and other memorabilia from our family history, but what happens to the documents once they are captured in digital form? Unfortunately, many people believe that the documents can then be discarded. There is something fundamentally important to our heritage to be able to actually hold a physical document signed or created by your ancestor.

I have been scanning and photographing documents for years now and have a huge digital collection, but likewise have a huge collection of paper documents, photos, cards, letters, and every other type of document imaginable. Some of the documents are so trivial that I don't worry much about preservation, others are priceless. From time to time I like to look at some of the major preservation sites online to see if any of the recommendations have changed in the last few months or so.

My favorite place for information is the Library of Congress. But I have found a lot of information on the National Archives Website also. The amount of information is phenomenal and very all inclusive. I guess the real challenge is time to preserve so many documents, space to store them and how to file them when they are stored. We have boxes of documents stored all through our house. I presently have almost 61,000 digitized documents with almost that many left to scan. I hope I live long enough to process all that information into usable formats.

Once you have a large collection of digital images, you need to become interested in Digital Preservation. See the National Digital Information Infrastructure & Preservation Program of the Library of Congress for extensive information on digital file preservation.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Record Search adds records from Illinois and the Netherlands

FamilySearch Record Search has added over 500,000 records from the Cook County, Illinois Birth Certificate records. The collection includes the City of Chicago and covers the time period from 1878 to 1922 containing over 1.5 million names. From the FamilySearch Wiki:
Legislation in 1819 required physicians to record births and deaths for their practices. They were then to transmit the information to their medical society who was to publish the information in the newspapers. In 1843 a law was passed where relatives of a deceased person could appear before the clerk of the county commissioner’s court and report information regarding the death. The recording of vital records was voluntary until 1877 so few births and deaths were recorded. A fire in 1871 destroyed the Cook County Courthouse and nearly all previous records housed there. The few existing originals that were created by the county clerk may be found in the county clerk’s office or in the Illinois Regional Archives Depository (IRAD Health).
In 1877 the State Board of Health was created to supervise registration of births and deaths. All births and deaths were to be reported to the county clerk by physicians. However, many were still not registered because the penalties for non-compliance were weak. In 1915 the state of Illinois gave the responsibility of recording births and deaths to local registrars who reported the information to the county clerk and the State Board of Health (now know as the Illinois Department of Public. By 1919 it is estimated that 95% of the population was recorded in the vital records.
Marriage returns were submitted to the county clerk by the minister or justice of the peace who performed the marriage. Most of these records were also destroyed by the fire in 1871. Only a few marriage records exist prior to the fire. Couples were not required to obtain a marriage license until 1877. A statewide register of marriages was started in 1962 as county clerks forwarded marriage information to the Illinois Department of Health. By 1918, it is estimated that the vital records covered 95% of the population. A few marriage records have markers shaped like spades that indicate records with document numbering problems. When searching the collection displays a image with such markings, a second search might yield an unmarked marriage record with a new number without spades.
New records were also added to the Netherlands, Gelderland Province Civil Registration. The collection contains only images but the are arranged by municipality. Again, from the FamilySearch Wiki: "Record types found on the films are births, marriages, deaths, 10 year indexes, marriage intentions, marriage proclamations, and marriage supplements. The events are recorded either totally by hand or in partially pre-printed books where the information is then entered by hand."