RootsTech 2014

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

Saturday, March 31, 2012

The Last Two Days

Here is the last press release on Indexing the 1940 U.S. Census:

1940 US Census Project Update
Release of Images in Two Days!

Get Ready, Get Set . . .

Thank you for your interest in the 1940 US Federal Census. This will be the last email you receive on behalf of the 1940 US Census Community Project before the images start to become available online.

What You Can Expect on April 2

The 1940 US Census Community Project is creating an index to the 1940 US Federal Census that will be made available for free. This is a joint effort between Archives, FindMyPast, FamilySearch, hundreds of societies, and tens of thousands of individual volunteers. The resulting index will be made available on the websites of the primary sponsors.

On the morning of Monday, April 2, NARA will release the digital images of the 1940 census to multiple parties, including the 1940 US Census Community Project. We will immediately start uploading these 3.6 million images to servers, where they will become available online over time. The ability for people to start accessing some of these images through the community project will take hours, not minutes.

As the first five states are loaded to servers, corresponding projects will be set up to index those images as state projects. We anticipate the first five states will be available for volunteer indexing by 10pm EDT.

The first five states to be loaded and ready for indexing on April 2 are the following:
  • Delaware
  • Virginia
  • Kansas
  • Oregon
  • Colorado
The process of uploading images and setting up indexing projects by state will continue until all of the states and territories for this project are published, which may take up to two weeks to complete. Every day more images will be made available for browsing and indexing, so you will want to check back often to see which states are available.

The indexing process will be taking place through FamilySearch indexing. If you are already a FamilySearch indexing volunteer, these 1940 census projects will appear as new projects in the indexing software. No new software download or registration process is necessary to participate. If you are not currently a volunteer but want to participate in this historic opportunity, get started by downloading the indexing software and registering today.

What You Can Do Now

Download and install the indexing software
Watch an Overview | Get Started
Learn how to index the 1940 US Census
Watch a Video | Try the 1940 Census indexing simulation
Let others know about the 1940 US Census Community Project
Like the Facebook page | Follow @The1940Census on Twitter | Follow the page on Google+ | Tell friends about the1940census.com

You can keep up with the latest updates by visiting the1940census.com often over the next few weeks.

Thank You!
The 1940 US Census Community Project Team

The Players

Who exactly makes up the genealogical community? Who are the players? Some of these questions at different levels have been the topic of discussion at recent Support Meetings of the FamilySearch Research Wiki. But the issues reach much further than any one website or company. So I started thinking about who we are and how does it all work together in the fabric of the community.

This issue is more than simple demographics. Measuring who genealogists are by looking at statistics is very limited. It is sort-of like looking at average income when you have 100 people making $1000 a year and 1 person making $1,000,000 a year. The average income is $10,891.09, but what does that tell you? Exactly nothing. Unfortunately, a lot of major decisions and opinions are made on just such a level of analysis. For more on this subject see

Huff, Darrell, and Irving Geis. How to Lie with Statistics. New York: Norton, 1954.

Let's start with the large organizations and entities and work our way down to individuals since there is likely to be more controversy about who the individuals are than there is about who the larger entities are.

Here is a rough list of the players with some typical examples of each. You can see that some of these entities are involved in genealogy only very peripherally. For example, the Library of Congress has a Local History and Genealogy Reading Room, but could not, by any stretch of the imagination, be called a genealogical entity.

Commercial enterprises:
  • Large multinational companies with genealogical subsidiaries (Ancestry.com, brightsolid.com)
  • Large international companies that are primarily genealogically oriented (MyHeritage.com)
  • Smaller nationally based companies that have divisions that specialize in genealogy (Newsbank.com)
  • Much smaller companies whose business is primarily genealogy related products or services (RootsMagic.com, Millennia Corporation)
  • Family owned or very small companies that provide a specific genealogical product (FamilyChartMasters.com)
  • Professional genealogists (Association of Professional Genealogists)
  • Individuals who promote themselves or specific products (Dick Eastman)
Government sponsored or non-profit enterprises:
  • Huge national government sponsored repositories, libraries or archives (U.S. National Archives, Library of Congress, British Museum, British National Archives)
  • Government agencies (Bureau of the Census)
  • Regional or local libraries and repositories with significant genealogical collections (Allen County Public Library, New York Public Library)
  • Religious or Educational sponsored entities (FamilySearch, Perry-Castañeda Library Map Collection)
  • Private non-profit organizations (David Rumsey Historical Map Collection) 
Online community (may overlap with other areas)
  • Huge online databases (overlap with larger companies and other organizations)
  • Commercial websites promoting a genealogically related business (software vendors)
  • Online sponsored or un-sponsored organizations (RootsWeb, GenWeb)
  • Reference sites (Cindy's List)
  • Useful but not genealogical websites or online services (Google, Bureau of Land Management)
  • Family Websites
  • Surname Websites
  • Blogs
Social networking
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google+
  • Many, many others
Private, non-profit entities or organizations
  • Genealogical societies (Utah Genealogical Association, National Genealogical Society)
  • Local genealogical clubs
  • Family organizations  
  • Individual genealogists
I will probably think of a lot more. But I submit that when we talk about a genealogical community, we are probably not thinking in terms of all the players. Thinking of the community as a whole becomes extremely complicated. How do all of these entities relate. Some of them are purely genealogically oriented and some do not even recognize their participation in the genealogical community.

There are other players who sell directly to the genealogical community but seem to ignore it otherwise. Some examples of this are the Macintosh software developers who write genealogy programs for Apple devices. They seem to live in their own world and ignore any other contact with the community.

More on this subject in future posts.


Friday, March 30, 2012

Round up the usual suspects




How many times when we are doing genealogical research do we "round up the usual suspects?" What I mean by this is how many times do we go back to looking at a particular individual or individuals that seem to elude our research efforts but approach the search, again and again, in the usual way?

In the Casablanca movie, this phrase is used by Captain Renault to avoid doing a "real" investigation. But from my standpoint, the issue is doing the same research over again and again, without making any progress. In a sense, through inertia or otherwise, we avoid doing a real investigation.

So how do we avoid rounding up the usual suspects? In genealogical jargon, we talk about breaking down the brick wall, but what is really involved is approaching the problem in different ways and looking at sources that my have been ignored or completely unknown.

Here are some basic rules for avoiding the usual suspects:

Rule One: Move back one generation or more
Whenever I suggest this to someone, I can see in their eyes that they are immediately rejecting the suggestion out of hand. What I mean is to begin researching in depth in the generation preceding the target individual. The more you know about the children, brothers and sisters, nieces and nephews etc. of the target ancestor, the more likely you are to find your elusive ancestor. The challenge is that this takes work and most researchers are looking for the easy way out. No one wants to do the basic searching they need to really find out about the ancestor.


Rule Two: Expand the scope of your research
How much do you really know about the city, county, state, province, parish, etc. where you are searching? Have you read a county history? Do you know about the national or international events that occurred at the time of your search? What about migration patterns? The more you learn, the more likely you are to find suggested resources that may contain information about your ancestor.

Rule Three: Look at what you already have
Have you examined each document and source for all the information contained in the record? For example, have you looked at every section of each Census record to get suggestions? Such as occupation, ownership status, education, immigration? Think about what the record says and what it does not say.


Rule Four: Look for the obscure
What I mean by this is look for records that may contain information but are not those usually listed in genealogical research guides. For example, cemetery records may include a permit for burial, a receipt or contract for sale of the plot, a cemetery register and other records not normally listed. These more obscure, but useful records may be located onsite and may never have made their way online.

Rule Five: Widen your search
Look in adjacent counties or adjacent states. Try alternative spellings of names and widen the year spread. Don't rely on dates provided by previous researchers. One research problem I had was a person who was known to have served in World War I, but none of the U.S. Army databases for the War showed his name. I found the unit on a gravemarker and determined that he served in the Texas National Guard, which was activated by the Regular Army and there was whole history of his unit. So don't give up, widen the search.

Don't get caught rounding up the usual suspects.

An Interesting Development

MyHeritage.com has posted a press release about some recent hires. Before giving the content of the press release, I have a few comments.

For some time, Ancestry.com has been the undisputed leader in the online genealogical world. That dominance has been based on content and has not been seriously challenged. It appears that the content battle (of which genealogists are all beneficiaries) is heating up. Not that there is a "challenge" per se, but as other large online record collections continue to grow, there will be more options for online research and to the extent these online entities are in competition, there will be maneuvering going on at a very high level.

So who are the players that might challenge Ancestry.com's supremacy?  Up until now, there have been no serious competitors.  Now we see some of the non-U.S. based large genealogy content companies making decisive moves into the U.S. market and beginning to create a more diverse market. For example, brightsolid.com, the British database giant, has moved into the U.S. market with CensusRecords.com. Ancestry.com has not been idle in its acquisitions. It has acquired Genline.se and Footnote.com which it almost immediately converted into Fold3.com.

But there is a "new" player in the genealogical content market, MyHeritage.com. This Israel-based company purchased FamilyLink.com and WorldVitalRecords.com. There is no indication that MyHeritage.com is done with its expansion. In fact, that brings us back to the press release. So here is the release:

MyHeritage appoints industry heavyweights to spearhead global content growth
Appointment of senior executives boosts MyHeritage’s US presence, drives growth of historical content and kick-starts preparations for worldwide crowdsourcing project
PROVO, Utah & LONDON & TEL AVIV, Israel – March 30, 2012 – MyHeritage, the most popular family network on the web, announced today the appointment of industry veterans Russ Wilding and Roger Bell to Chief Content Officer and VP Product, respectively. The former founders and lead executives of Footnote.com, acquired by Ancestry.com in 2010 for $27 million, will boost MyHeritage’s US operations in Utah by establishing a new department for adding historical content and rolling-out an extensive global crowdsourcing project.  
The new hires will strengthen MyHeritage’s leadership in the global family history market. Their mission will be to substantially grow historical record content to complement the unique combination of family social-networking and massive user contributed content that has catapulted MyHeritage to becoming the world’s largest network for discovering and sharing family memories. The move adds significant momentum to MyHeritage’s expansion into historical content, following its November 2011 acquisition of FamilyLink Inc. with a library of four billion records, and its recent announcement to make the 1940 U.S. Census available to users free of charge in April 2012.
“We’re delighted to bring Russ and Roger on board as we enter a new period of vigorous growth”, said MyHeritage Founder and CEO, Gilad Japhet. “Their impressive track record as social thinkers within the family history world will be an ideal fit for MyHeritage, as we realize our vision of enabling families around the world to explore their family history, share important memories and stay connected.”

A highly regarded visionary with proven execution capabilities within the family history market, Russ Wilding will establish and lead a new department that will acquire, license, transcribe, crowdsource and produce historical records - such as census, birth and marriage records. Russ brings a wealth of expertise in historical content acquisition, licensing and digitization from his previous 11-year role as CEO of iArchives, Inc. and Founder and CEO of its customer-facing website Footnote.com, which was sold to Ancestry.com in 2010.
As VP Product, alongside MyHeritage’s strong product team, Roger Bell will focus on building next-generation community infrastructure and tools for the crowdsourcing of historical record production. This massive community-based initiative will involve assistance and participation from the millions of users of MyHeritage in the deciphering of handwriting and the keying in of information from digitized historical records. During the four years he spent at Footnote.com as Senior VP Product and Development, Roger was instrumental in defining the strategic direction of Footnote.com and in the creation and management of the team.  Prior to joining Footnote.com, he was Director of Product Management at Ancestry.com from 2002 until 2006, where he was in charge of the search engine, user experience and community tools.  He was also a member of the CEO’s advisory committee.
 “After a year of evaluating potential new ventures in the industry, MyHeritage emerged as the clear front-runner”, said the newly appointed Chief Content Officer at MyHeritage and father of five, Russ Wilding. “Enjoying phenomenal growth as the most social player in the family history industry, MyHeritage is poised to become the de-facto site for families, emulating what Facebook is to friends and LinkedIn is to professionals. With a talented and multi-national team, state-of-the art products and stellar investors, MyHeritage has all the ingredients to succeed.  I am thrilled to join MyHeritage and look forward to a tremendous ride over the coming years.”
“I strongly resonate with the core vision of MyHeritage: helping families across the world stay connected, by creating the best experience to discover and share their heritage. MyHeritage is pushing industry boundaries by bringing family history to a worldwide audience in 38 languages. I look forward to playing a pivotal role in driving this forward with my desire to help keep meaningful family stories alive for generations to come, and my passion for delivering value to customers."
With more than 62 million registered users and 22 million family trees, MyHeritage has become the trusted home on the web for families wishing to explore their family history, share memories and stay connected.
About MyHeritage
MyHeritage is the most popular family network on the web. On MyHeritage, millions of families around the world enjoy having a private and free place to explore their history and share special family memories. Pioneers in making family history a collaborative experience for all the family, MyHeritage empowers its users with a unique mix of innovative social tools and a massive library of historical content. The site is available in 38 languages. So far more than 62 million people have signed up to MyHeritage. The company is backed by Accel Partners and Index Ventures, the investors of Facebook and Skype. For more information visit www.myheritage.com.
 Doesn't this sound like MyHeritage.com is about to give Ancestry.com a run for the money? From my standpoint, I see this as being a very, very good thing. The genealogical community will benefit from the increase in competition and the innovations that are likely to occur. 

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Albuquerque Family History Expo features DNA Pioneer

Here is a current news release from Family History Expos:

Two of the nation’s top DNA experts will present at the Albuquerque Family History Expo in Albuquerque, New Mexico April 13-14 at the Crowne Plaza. Family Tree DNA President and Chief Executive Officer Bennett Greenspan will open the expo during a keynote speech at 2 p.m. Friday in the New Mexico Ballroom.  Angelo R. Cervantes, also a pioneer in DNA research, will present on the New Mexico DNA project at 1:10 p.m. on Saturday.

Bennett Greenspan is an entrepreneur who has delighted in genealogy research all of his life. He founded Family Tree DNA in 1999. The Houston-based company specializes in helping people use genetics for personal family history research. Greenspan’s research, company, and passion for genealogy have been featured in the mass media multiple times including on the Today Show, on 60 minutes, New York Now, and in the New York Post. His work has also been features on MSNBC, in Wired Magazine, in the New York Times, on BBC News, in USA Today and in the Wall Street Journal.
Angelo R. Cervantes is also a pioneer in the study of anthropological genetic genealogy. He created the New Mexico DNA Project in 2004. His efforts have resulted in the largest Hispanic DNA database on record with nearly 1,400 DNA samples. His work has been featured on PBS. This Albuquerque educator will share his knowledge with Family History Expo participants Saturday at 1:10 p.m. with a lecture called, “The New Mexico DNA Project,” and again at 2:30 p.m. when he will present on “Genetic Calculations for Specific Families.”

The two-day pre-registration fee is $69 for this event. Participants can attend one day only for $59. Save money by registering early online or via telephone. Two-day registration at the door is $99. Registration for individual classes is $20 each. Register now at www.fhexpos.com or call 801-829-3295 for telephone registration.

Raising the Bar

I had a singular experience yesterday helping a patron at the Mesa Family History Center. The patron had little or no understanding of genealogy, absolutely no computer skills, and in fact, did not own a computer. She came in with a stack of paper and kept shuffling through the stack for names and dates but had no idea what she was looking for. After about two hours we were finally able to get her registered in New.FamilySearch.org and make some slight headway, although she did not have the typing skills necessary to enter her own login and password. But this post is not about her or her lack of experience, per se. It is about the increasingly complex requirements of technology and its impact on genealogy in general.

Yesterday's patron has virtually no possible chance to do any meaningful research to extend her family lines. No matter what her desire, unless she relies on someone with more skills, she is essentially locked out of pursuing her research. What are those factors that enable genealogical research? Let me use the 1940 U.S. Census as an example.

Right off the bat, a hypothetical researcher in the 1940 U.S. Census would have to be aware of the existence of the U.S. Census. As practicing genealogists, we take for granted the whole concept of a census. To us, the introduction of another ten years of U.S. Census is big news. But I can assure you it is not "big news" out there in the general media. So even if you are one of those people who answer surveys and say you "have an interest in learning about your family's history," you may not have enough interest to know that censuses exist except in general terms. If you think the 1940 U.S. Census is big news, check out the latest stream of news on the Google News page. Do you find any mention of the U.S. Census without doing a search? In fact, I did a search for "census" on the Google News page and only came up with one article about the Census release.

But beyond an awareness of the 1940 U.S. Census, what will you or anyone have to know and do to even gain access to the information? Unless you have some pretty extensive computer and research skills you will not likely be sitting on the computer trying to find your family in the Census next week.

Doing genealogy is hardly a mainstream activity, but at the same time, due to technological changes this rather obscure activity is becoming even harder for people to enter. Yesterday's patron is pro-typical of the constantly raising skills level needed to pursue any activity, such as genealogy, where technological skills are impacting that activity in a direct way.

My Great-grandmother amassed a huge amount of genealogical research basically using paper and pencils or pens but she also happened to live only one or two blocks from the Genealogical Society of Utah's collection, now known as the Salt Lake Family History Library. If she were to visit the Library today, she would find much of the information only available to those with at least rudimentary computer skills. For example, rather than an paper card catalog in drawers, the only catalog is online on computers. My initial point is that technology has "raised the bar" to entry into the world of information. If you do not possess some threshold of computer skills, you will not likely even be aware of where to go and what is happening in genealogical research today and the amount of information and the skills you need is constantly increasing.

How long did it take you to acquire your computer skills? I began my "training" with a typing class in high school (one of the very few high schools classes that had any real world benefit to my life). So what happens to people who never learn any keyboarding skills? They are essentially locked out of the world of genealogy as we know it today until they acquire some level of competence.

What about the cost of entering the world of genealogy? What does it cost you for your Internet connection? How about the cost of your cell phone, your iPad, your computer? Most of the world's population can only dream of having instant and constant access to these basic genealogical tools.

What about your ability to read and write? Yesterday's patron could not easily write by hand her own name. How far can she go in genealogy with no hand writing skills and no keyboarding skills? This opens up the whole issue of whether or not our school systems are adequately preparing students to exist in a technologically sophisticated society? But my observation today is limited to the fact that the technological shift of documents to electronic sources has increased the skills necessary to do genealogical research. So as genealogists maybe we should be teaching computer skills?


Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Find a Treasure Trove in Australia

A recent post by my friend Jill Ball on her blog Geniaus, who is attending the 13th Australasian Congress on Genealogy and Heraldry in Adelaide, South Australia, posted a link to a real gem of a website called Trove.  I agree heartily with Jill, this is a great website. I had the good fortune to get to know Jill a little better at RootsTech 2012. My interest in not just academic. I have family roots in Australia and have relatives there.

Before I say anything about Trove, I have some observations about the Congress. It is very evident from Jill's photos and commentary that the Australians take their genealogy a lot more seriously than we do here in the U.S. Right off, there seems to be a significant level of participation from governmental agencies, I find missing at the conferences out here in the western part of the U.S. I do note that we have that kind of participation at the National Genealogical Society Conference so I guess I have been missing the boat by not going to the national conferences. I note the NGS Conference is being held at the Duke Energy Convention Center in Cincinnati, Ohio on 9–12 May 2012. One major consideration for me, of course, is the expense. It is about 1,800 miles to Cincinnati, Ohio and I would have to fly rather than drive my Prius.

Back to Trove. This site is sponsored by the National Library of Australia and from looking at Trove and at the National Library of Australia website, I am reminded that sometimes I feel like the United States is regressing technologically into a third-world country. We certainly do not have some of the progressive and innovative things I see in places like Australia, China, Indonesia, Taiwan and other places. Trove is only part of the National Library website, but it will certainly make you ask the question as to why we don't have something like this in the U.S.

A search on Trove on any subject brings up responses categorized by media type. You have to try this out to see what I mean. I immediately found a book about my ancestor James Parkinson,
Parkinson, Diane, and John Parkinson. James Parkinson of Ramsey: His Roots and His Branches : England, Australia, America : a Biographical History and Genealogical Record of the Family of James and Elizabeth Chattle Parkinson. Austin, Tex: Published for the James Parkinson Family Association by Historical Publications, 1987. 
Sometimes we have to break out of our traditional thought patterns and start looking across the oceans. 

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Special Bonuses for Family History Expos in April

Here is a press release from the Family History Expos about their upcoming Expos in Houston, Oklahoma City and Albuquerque:

Here are just a few reasons you don’t to miss an April Expo (we’ll be in Houston, Oklahoma City, and Albuquerque), registered attendees can take advantage of the following bonus items:
  • Free personalized genealogy wall charts for attendees (made from your personal files) valued at $19.00 or more.
  • Class Handouts Syllabus include materials from three Expos with more than 300 pages of research guidance.
  • Free online class offered by Genealogical Studies valued at $89.00
  • Download, view and study class handouts before the event so you can come prepared with questions.
  • FamilySearch developers, consultant training, and expert researchers from the Family History Library will be there teaching classes.
  • Ask-the-Pros booth where you can bring personal research and genealogical questions to discuss with our professional researchers $50 value.
  • Exhibit area filled with vendors who have unique products and services, family historians and genealogists love to learn about. (Our book vendor alone will have more than 400 titles to browse or purchase. Books selected based on expert knowledge by Leland K. Meitzler who really knows what people need to be successful.)
  • Speakers and vendors from throughout the United States and beyond. A unique opportunity to increase skills and networking with other researchers.
  • Meet bloggers who will be talking about the event via twitter, blogs, and other social media.
  • Amazing door prizes each hour and grand prizes at the end of the Expo! People qualify to win prizes by attending classes (Grand prizes include a gift bag filled with FamilySearch specialty items, $900 in online classes offered by Genealogical Studies of Ontario, Canada; a professional research package valued at $500 offered by Arlene H. Eakle, PhD and more)
We know that you want to have access to the greatest tools and continue to learn the proper procedures that will enable you to increase your research skills with as much ease as possible.
Come join us at the Expo, bring your best friend, share the news with others and use the links below for presentation details:
View agenda, speaker bios, exhibitor, and other details by choosing the Expo of your choice here: http://www.familyhistoryexpos.com/expos.aspx
Visit the press room here: http://www.familyhistoryexpos.com/pressroom.aspx choose the Houston Expo from the drop down list.
We look forward to seeing you in April!!

Google Play

Internet giant Google has been slowly increasing its cross-media presence on the Internet. You may have noticed a new menu item on the standard Google start-up page called simply "Play." This new entry is Google's move to the front of the battle between the other Internet giants, Apple, Amazon and Netflix. Yes, Google is now renting movies, selling audio, selling books and selling its own Android Apps, all in one centralized website.

If you were already registered and buying books through Google Books, your account shows up in the new Play website. First notice is that movies are all $3.99 and it doesn't take higher math to figure out that four or five movie rentals a month more than equals a Netflix rental plan.

The real question is whether or not size matters? Does Google win because it is large? Will I drop my Amazon account and my Netflix account and my Apple account and move to Google? Not likely. But let's wait and see.

Moderators a key issue with the FamilySearch Research Wiki

The FamilySearch Research Wiki is a valuable resource for genealogists that could be better if there were moderators for more of the jurisdictions and subject headings. If you would like an interesting way to help the genealogical community, you should look into being a moderator. The Research Wiki has a detailed explanation of role of a moderator.

The Research Wiki operates on a lot of different levels for people with different interests and abilities. Volunteers are always welcome and appreciated. Come and join our Wiki community.

Monday, March 26, 2012

National Archives gears up for 1940 Census

The National Archives has announced a live webcast of the opening event of the 1940 U.S. Census on April 2, 2012 at 8:30 a.m. EDT. Here is the rest of the press release:


Follow the 1940 Census on Twitter (using hashtag #1940census), Facebook, Tumblr, Flickr, and YouTube, and subscribe to our blogs: NARAtions and Prologue: Pieces of History.
The launch event is open to the media and to a limited number of members of the public on a first come, first served basis, by emailing 1940census@nara.gov.
WHAT:  Washington, DC…Special ceremonial launch of the 1940 census. The National Archives’ largest single release of digitized records will be online at 1940census.archives.gov. For the genealogical community, the 1940 census is the most eagerly-anticipated records release in the past decade. Following remarks, the Archivist of the United States David S. Ferriero will launch the first search.
Beginning April 2, 2012, users will be able to search, browse, and download the 1940 census schedules, free of charge, through the new 1940 census website: 1940census.archives.gov. National Archives partnered with Archives.com to build and host the site.
The launch event will be webcast live online starting at 8:30 A.M., please visit 1940census.archives.gov, closer to April 2 for the link.
WHO:  Archivist of the United States David S. Ferriero
U.S. Census Bureau Director Robert Groves
Archives.com Executive Vice President John Spottiswood
University of Maryland U.S. History Professor David Sicilia

WHEN:  Monday, April 2, 2012, 8:30 A.M.
Electronic media preset 8:15 A.M.
WHERE:  William G. McGowan Theater, National Archives Building, Washington, DC
Enter through Special Events entrance on Constitution Avenue and 7th Streets, NW
Obviously, I am not the first nor the only blogger to post this information. But this is certainly the biggest show in town for the next week or so. 

Tech Buzz on FamilyLeaf: Social Networking for Families

The online tech world is abuzz with a new family oriented social networking site called FamilyLeaf. The site describes itself as
Stay up to date with your loved ones.
Be current with birthdays, new phone numbers, where everyone is living, and much more.
Easily share photos (from Facebook, Flickr, Picasa, and more) with just your family in a few clicks.
As stated in TechCrunch
FamilyLeaf was created by childhood friends Wesley Zhao and Ajay Mehta... it was borne out of a desire to have an easy-to-use online space for you and your relations that address some key “misuse” of sites like Facebook — something they say became especially apparent to the two of them after they left for college... In their view, Facebook doesn’t make it that easy for families to have a private network, and it’s not very straightforward to create silos to share things with some people (like your friends) but not others (like your family). On top of that, there are many who refuse to join Facebook because of wider Facebook/privacy concerns...
 As noted in the article there are other sites already in operation, including MyFamily.com, Famento.com,  and FamilyCrossings.com, but unlike these sites, FamilyLeaf is free (for now) and very easy to use.

But isn't it is just one more thing, if you are already going on Facebook, Linkedin, Google+, Twitter and whatever? But if you all decided to use it, it might work. Here is a little more description from TechCrunch,
Once you activate a FamilyLeaf network, you can use it as a kind of private, centralized digital locker: you can share contact information, photos, and post messages to your family. And while you can do all that through the site’s homepage, you can also, more simply, update the page by sending to an email address (the site links it up automatically based on the email address). Mehta tells me that email uploading was key to developing the site because they found that this is how many families share photos and other information already these days.
Photos currently can come from Facebook, Instagram, Flickr, Picasa, or from a user’s hard drive by way of Chute. A family administrator controls each group, and users can be a part of more than one family.
Anyone want to try it and report back? I will comment if I hear anything more about the site. But will it do the dishes?

1940 U.S. Census online at MyHeritage

Here is a press release from MyHeritage.com about providing access to the soon to be released 1940 U.S. Census. I will try to keep a running list of the places where the Census will be available online, so watch for future posts.

PROVO, Utah & LONDON & TEL AVIV, Israel – March 22, 2012: MyHeritage, the most popular family network on the web, today announced it will be offering the images and a searchable name index of the 1940 U.S. Federal Census completely free of charge, starting April 2 2012. Using sophisticated technology that automatically matches names, facts and relationships in the census to family tree data, MyHeritage will provide an easy and exciting way for families to explore their American heritage. Supporting 38 languages, MyHeritage will enable family history lovers not only in the US, but all over the world, to discover more about the lives of their American relatives during this transformative period in history.

More than 3.8 million images and 132 million records of the 1940 U.S. Census will be made available on www.myheritage.com/1940census where they will be searchable by multiple criteria on MyHeritage SuperSearch™, the industry’s fastest and most powerful family history search engine to be released by MyHeritage in April 2012. MyHeritage will also provide the 1940 U.S. Census for free on the other leading family history sites it owns at www.worldvitalrecords.com/1940census and www.familylink.com/1940census. In addition, users will be able to search the 1940 U.S. Census on-the-go with a new version of the MyHeritage Mobile App for iPhone, iPad and Android, to be launched in the first week of April.

As the largest and most recent U.S. census to be made publicly available, the 1940 Census opens a window into the lives of the generation that survived the Great Depression and lived through the Second World War, described as the Greatest Generation. Family historians will be able to use the 1940 Census to learn more about their parents, grandparents, great-grandparents and other close relatives.

As an independent provider of the 1940 U.S. Federal Census, MyHeritage will be releasing its own version of the index in high transcription quality, adding value by publishing data from states not yet available elsewhere. To facilitate discoveries in the easiest and quickest way, MyHeritage will automatically match the 1940 Census records as they are being added, with the millions of family trees built by users on MyHeritage, notifying them about relevant results and eliminating the need for time-consuming and repeated manual searches. This is especially helpful given that the 1940 Census records will be added gradually, so users won’t need to revisit the census and search again as new content is added and can look forward to an ongoing stream of effortless discoveries, for free.

“The release of the 1940 U.S. Census will undoubtedly be a significant milestone for the family history industry” said MyHeritage Founder and CEO Gilad Japhet. “With such an event occurring only once a decade, and as the largest and most comprehensive U.S. census ever to be released, the 1940 Census has deep emotional interest and revealing information in store for a great number of people. With the anticipated debut of our new and incredibly powerful SuperSearch™ engine, our new technology for matching historical records to family trees and our free offering of previously unpublished census data, MyHeritage will be taking the exploration of family history and American heritage to exciting new heights.”

The images of the 1940 U.S. Census will be released by the National Archives and Records Administration on April 2, 2012, following a 72 year privacy protection period. MyHeritage will then make all images immediately available to the public and begin the gradual process of transcribing them and making the index searchable, pledging a 98% or higher degree of accuracy.

Census information includes detailed family information, such as names, ages, addresses, occupation, race, marital status, birthplace, citizenship, home ownership and the relation of each person in the household. Several new and interesting questions appear in the 1940 U.S. Census for the first time identifying where the individual was living five years before (in 1935), information about wages and also educational attainment. Five percent of the population was asked supplementary questions including birthplace of parents, native language, usual occupation, and for women only – whether they’d been married more than once, how old they were when they were first married and the number of children they gave birth to.

With more than 62 million registered users, 22 million family trees and close to 1 billion profiles, MyHeritage has become the trusted home on the web for families wishing to explore their family history, share memories and stay connected. MyHeritage made a significant move into the historical content market in November 2011 with the acquisition of FamilyLink Inc. in Provo, Utah, obtaining billions of historical records through its website WorldVitalRecords.com. These records together with the family trees form the basis of MyHeritage SuperSearch™, on which the 1940 Census will be added.

About MyHeritage

MyHeritage is the most popular family network on the web. On MyHeritage, millions of families around the world enjoy having a private and free place to explore their history and share special family memories. Pioneers in making family history a collaborative experience for all the family, MyHeritage empowers its users with a unique mix of innovative social tools and a massive library of historical content. The site is available in 38 languages. The company is backed by Accel Partners and Index Ventures, the investors of Facebook and Skype. For more information visit www.myheritage.com. The 1940 U.S. Federal Census will be available on www.myheritage.com/1940census.

Interdisciplinary Controversy

History and genealogy are closely related but highly isolated disciplines. The lack of collegiate representation of the genealogical community creates an apparent dichotomy so that the two disciplines operate almost entirely independently. When was the last time you went to a history conference? When was the last time you met a professional historian at your local genealogy conference. This separation does not rule out the possibility that an avid genealogist just happens to be a history professor or writer, but there is virtually no interaction between them on a professional or societal level. Genealogists have their conferences and historians have theirs.

But what happens when the two are involved in a controversy concerning historical events that affects both disciplines? Well, usually nothing. Either the problem is considered history and therefore ignored by the genealogists or is considered, "genealogy" and not worth the historians' time or interest. Only very rarely does a issue arise that affects both. One such issue was the Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings controversy of a few years ago. Suddenly genealogists had something historical to talk about and historians had to think about families and relationships.

If there were any historians reading this post, I am sure they would immediately become defensive and claim that they know all about genealogy but that it is such a narrow and unproductive area of concern that any attention paid to ordinary genealogy is a guarantee of professional suicide. As an aside, one of the reasons that I did not continue in linguistics was that my main area of interest, language universals, was considered, at the time, to be professional suicide by my professors. I was bluntly told that if I pursued that interest, I would never get a job. Back to history and genealogy.

How about an example. How may of you genealogists out there attended the Conference on Illinois History held in Springfield, Illinois on September 29, 2011 or are planning on attending the 2012 Conference on October 11-12, 2012? I am not advocating a reconciliation between historians and genealogists, I am just noting that we live in different parallel universes. However, my interest in history, particularly the history of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the Mormon pioneers in the southwest, often compels me to pay attention to what is going on in the history community. So like some people watch the basketball or football scores, I watch what is happening in Utah and Arizona history and every once in a while there is a teeny tiny overlap of interest.

One such controversy is brewing right now, probably totally ignored by the genealogy community and as yet hardly noticed by the historical community but with the potential to make national news similar to the issue of the Church temple ordinances for those who were victims of the Holocaust. Now am I going to tell you all about the controversy so you can be up on the latest scuttlebutt? Not on your life. You will have to ferret out the issues and the controversy on your own. But I will give you a hint. Here is the link.

The one aspect of genealogy that I do deplore is the lack of historical involvement of the researchers. As I talk to patrons at the Mesa Family History Center, it is amazing to me how little connection they evidence to history. Such as, oh by the way your grandfather lived during 1918, did he fight in World War I or register for the draft? Response: blank stare from patron who obviously had no idea when World War I occurred.

How many problems that genealogists call "brick walls" are really evidence of an ignorance of local, state and national history? My guess is quite a few.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Active Opposition

Aunt Jane won't talk about her first husband, in fact, she burned all the photos and records she had of the marriage.

Grandmother June had a certain unfortunate affair and Uncle Ralph's father is not really Grandfather Ron.

Cousin Elsie has all of her family's records but is morbidly afraid to let them out of her possession and will not allow anyone to see them.

Does any of this and similar issues sound familiar? What if you don't just find bland apathy but you find active opposition to your efforts to do research in your family? What if the answer to your inquiries is not just a polite "none of your business" but you get threatened with legal action if you pursue any investigation?

After a life time of experience dealing with conflict between people and entities, my answer would be "So What?" Why would I care what their attitude is towards my research. As for threats of legal action, I always say, anyone with the price of a filing fee can file a lawsuit, but that doesn't mean they are going to win.

The nice thing about genealogy in the present tense is that very, very few records are unique. What I mean by that statement is that there is currently almost no fact or record you have in your possession about you or your immediate family that given time and money, I could not duplicate. Obviously, there are very personal questions that cannot be answered, but those are few and far between. Take the example of the record hoarder. It may be inconvenient, but likely, all of the records can be duplicated from sources other than Cousin Elsie. Grandmother Jane may go to her grave an never reveal Uncle Ralph's true father, but that happens in many lines. We usually call that an "end of line." No records and no possibility of finding any. But is that always the case? Sometimes other more willing relatives can supply missing information on the identity of the missing father or an analysis of the men in the town may result in some possible candidates to be confirmed by DNA? But in some cases, you may just have to accept the fact that not everything will be known.

What is difficult to overcome is an active opposition to your genealogy from a spouse or other near family member. This opposition may take the form of an abusive relationship or merely a belief that what you are trying to do is a total waste of time. In those types of situations, you may have to decide whether your personal interests are more important to you than maintaining the relationship. Mind you, I am not advocating terminating a relationship solely over genealogy, but active opposition to something like genealogy usually is only the tip of the problem.

Before going despondent, think about the real effect of the opposition. Is withholding the information irrational or is there some legitimate reason? Maybe the fear of losing the records can be overcome by agreeing to copy the records in situ, by photographing them rather than hauling them to a copy machine. Maybe negotiation or intervention by another relative might help. I have always learned that there is usually a negotiation point, no matter how virulent the opposition. Like I said above, some oppositional issues require a good healthy dose of money and time, like those dealing with adoptions and other so-called "sealed" records.

In a lot of cases, I have learned that the best policy is to plow around the rock. If it can't be moved and won't yield to reason, ignore the problem and get on with your research. Don't fight, spend you time finding out what you want to know from other sources and acknowledge failure when the solution proves impossible. You are no worse off than if you didn't have the information at all.

Learning the hard way

I first got involved with genealogy mostly from the social pressure that came from the 4-generation and 5-generation programs of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. My contact with genealogy previous to attempting to submit the required sheets was minimal to say the least. I knew a few family stories and the names of some of my ancestors but that was about it. Suddenly, I was asked to submit 4 generations with a pedigree chart and all the family group records attached.

If you are not familiar with the program, the Church made a significant effort to get the members to submit family group records representing their immediate four generations, that is, their parents, grandparents and great-grandparents. This program resulted in the information that became the basis for the FamilySearch.org Ancestral File. For more information on the Ancestral File, see the FamilySearch Research Wiki article on the subject. Submissions to the Ancestral File started in 1979 and it was primarily in 1981 and 1982 that I became involved in gathering information. Technically, the Ancestral File, which was and is a huge online database of family trees, replaced the 4-generation program of the Church, but the effect on the members was that they were still asked to submit their 4 generation sheets and, where possible, extend that out to 5 generations. The current Ancestral File is now a closed database with about 40 million names. As part of the program, members who had already submitted their 4 generation family group records were asked to go back and verify the information previously submitted.  As I was to find out, this program partly resulted in a massive copy-the-previous record effort that duplicated some individuals in the file dozens, if not hundreds, of times. (One side issue, that happened much later, was that the duplication was carried over into the New.FamilySearch.org database). 

My main source of inertia, other than no demonstrable interest, was total ignorance and a belief that all of the genealogy "had been done" by various old and then deceased relatives. It is true that the primary motivation for some Church members was their religious belief, which I shared, but for me without the "requirement" it is doubtful that I would have done anything more than the average member which would have been exactly nothing. What happened to change my attitude and, I might add, my life, was to find out rather quickly that the "family tradition" that all of the genealogy had been "done" was totally inaccurate. Some individual family members had done a great deal of research, but what was left of their research suffered from an almost complete lack of documentation and in some cases, was simply incomplete or inaccurate. Right or wrong, I took this as a personal affront, sort-of like finding out there is no Santa Claus and rather than simply getting mad, I stayed mad long enough to get totally involved in genealogy.

Although I began doing research on my family lines, I was lacking certain helpful prerequisites such as any idea what I was doing. I had no mentors. I had no one in my family that I knew about to ask about how to do genealogy. I had no classes and no books. I was totally unaware of genealogical conferences and did not know any genealogists personally. During those first years, I do not believe I ever had a conversation with anyone who was even vaguely interested in what I was doing, my immediate family included. You have to understand that this was pre-computer. I really had no idea where to go and Ancestry.com was not even a gleam in any programmer's eye at that time.

What I did have was access to the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah. From the Library, I was able to become aware of some of the resources including books and etc. that I might want to look at to learn about genealogy. Over the years, I finally took a whole series of classes from Brigham Young University on genealogy and read tons of books and took classes at conferences and seminars and listened to my friends and associates at the Mesa Family History Center. All this would have helped if it had come first rather than last.

But I feel that the events that resulted in my present 7 days week/24 hours a day interest in genealogy would likely not have happened had I not been thrown out to wolves as it were, and made to learn genealogy from the ground up.




Saturday, March 24, 2012

The Invisible FamilySearch

There are two major challenges (maybe more) in doing genealogical research online; knowing where to look and knowing to look in the first place. You can't find what you don't know exits because you don't even know to ask the question. The FamilySearch Research Wiki is a hugely helpful resource. It answers both questions telling you why to look and where also. But the Research Wiki is mostly invisible and unknown. And guess what? A lot of the other FamilySearch resources are also in the same invisible condition.

What do I mean by "invisible?" I mean that the resources, although overwhelmingly valuable, are relatively unknown, relatively difficult to find on the Internet and relatively difficult to understand. So what can be done to solve this problem? I am aware that the staff and volunteers at FamilySearch have these issue as those of the highest priority. But there is still a long way to go. Here is a list of some examples of invisible websites, starting with the Research Wiki:

The FamilySearch Research Wiki
FamilySearch TechTips
FamilySearch Labs
Community Trees
FamilySearch Forums

Just for a start. By the way, FamilySearch Labs has a whole new look and a new addition, Ohio Research Assistance.

So what can be done about these invisible programs? Of course FamilySearch.org gets millions of visitors every day, year in and year out. According to Alexa.com, FamilySearch.org is ranked 5,077 in the world today out of all of the websites and 1,355 in the U.S. In places like Norway, FamilySearch.org is rank at 537. Clearly, the overall website has a huge audience. But what about the invisibles? Unfortunately, they are not all broken out by Alexa.com into different websites. trying to get the ranking for any one of the individual sites just gives you the overall statistics for the entire FamilySearch.org. So outsiders have no idea about the number of visitors to the individual sites. In addition, many of those within FamilySearch itself are not only not acquainted with the statistics, they are unaware of the existence of the websites at all. It is not at all infrequent in talking to employees or full-time volunteers for FamilySearch that they express ignorance at the existence of other segments of the FamilySearch.org that they are not specifically supporting. One person I talked to recently, worked for FamilySearch for over a year and half in the Family History Library helping patrons before he learned of the existence of the FamilySearch Research Wiki.

So where are the statistics for each of the invisibles? Over the years, I have seen and heard some statistics but not recently. FamilySearch.org keeps the individual rankings pretty much to itself.  One indication, checking today the Research Wiki had 297,021,810 accesses to its main startup page, dating back to its inception in 2008. What does that say? Not much. Since that could be one person or a million. But it is apparent that these sites are not invisible to everyone, but my perception is that they are far from well known in the greater genealogical community.

One thing that FamilySearch could do to raise the awareness of these sites is to feature them on the main FamilySearch.org home page. But if you look at the home page today, not one of these sites is so much as mentioned in a footnote or link of any kind. Why is this? Isn't this sort-of like putting your main products out in the storage room instead of on the sales floor where people can find them? Could it be that the people who are in charge of designing the Home page don't know about or use these other websites and therefore have no perspective about their value?

By the way, hidden down in the depths of FamilySearch.org there is another website called GetSatisfaction.com (the link may not work). You get to the this website by clicking on the obscure "Feedback" link at the bottom of the FamilySearch.org Home page. Then you click on Share Your Ideas. That link takes to the GetSatisfaction.com page. There has been a topic of discussion on that site about not hiding the Wiki now for almost two years! There has been no response from FamilySearch at all about the subject.

So, all we can expect in the near future is that the invisibles will remain invisible. Is there hope? Yes, I have seen demos of suggested Home pages for FamilySearch.org that give some, not all, of the invisibles some mention. I have no idea about the time table for such changes.



Friday, March 23, 2012

Houston Family History Expo Fast Approaching

The following is a Press Release from Family History Expos about their upcoming Houston Expo. 
 
Your Family History Starts in Houston

Beginners to old-timers can get a Texas-sized jump on their family history April 6-7 at the Houston Family History Expo 2012. Opening keynote speaker Lisa Louise Cooke will fire up the crowd with great ways to get started and stay motivated to engage in family history during her opening address on Friday at 2 p.m. Register online, by telephone, or at the door. The Expo will take place at the Houston Marriott South at Hobby Airport. Registration begins and exhibits open at 1 p.m., Friday and at 9 a.m. on Saturday.

“Our 2012 theme is: ‘Your family history starts here!’” FHE Founder and President Holly T. Hansen said. “We are so thrilled to bring our Expo to Houston this year. This is going to be a great event with such quality information. I just can’t believe how great our presenter line-up is for this Expo!”
Hansen said Family History Expos is responding to a soft economy by lowering prices to make family history education more affordable than ever before. “We know people are stretching their dollars as far as they can and we want everyone to get the information they need,” Hansen said. The company travels throughout the United States to help people get jump started on their family history and this year it is presenting more shows than ever before.

Lisa Louise Cooke Brings Expertise, Excitement

Keynote speaker Lisa Louise Cooke is producer and host of the Genealogy Gems Podcast, an online genealogy audio show at www.GenealogyGems.com. She is the author of the book, Genealogy Gems: Ultimate Research Strategies; and, she created the DVD called Google Earth for Genealogy. Cooke is a
national conference speaker and a writer for Family Tree Magazine. In addition to her keynote address at 2 p.m. on Friday, Cook will present a seminar on “Ultimate Google Search Strategies” at 4:50 p.m. At 7:50 p.m. she will present, “Google Earth for Genealogy – Rock your Ancestor’s World.” Cooke’s Saturday presentations include “Getting the Scoop on your Family History in Newspapers” at 11:20 a.m. and “Sharing the Joy: Projects that Will Captivate the Non-Genealogists in Your Life” at 2:30 p.m.
“Our industry experts are people with years and years of experience who are delighted to assist family history and genealogy researchers in breaking down the brick walls blocking paths to their pasts,” Hansen said.


Expo to Feature Speaker from Kumasi-Ghana

Oral historian Paul Adjei, Worldbiz Business Chief Executive Officer will be on hand to enlighten participants on his company’s efforts to preserve the oral history of the Akan, one of the most powerful tribes in West Africa. Adjei and 20 field staff members are performing research on the tribe and collecting oral genealogical data. Adjei will present on “The Importance of Oral Genealogy in Ghana” and “Challenges of Genealogical Research” in Ghana. Participants can attend any single class for just $20. Exhibitors will be on hand to offer products and services to assist families in furthering their family history research.

The cost to attend this two-day event is just $69 with pre-registration and $99 at the door. Pay only $59 for one day. Onsite registration will begin and the exhibit hall will open at 1 p.m. on Friday. The event will close at 9 p.m. Exhibits and registration will re-open at 9 a.m. on Saturday. The exhibit hall will close at 4 p.m. Prizes donated by exhibitors will be given away both days and Grand Prizes donated by sponsors will be given away at the closing ceremony. This event is sponsored by Family History Expos and supported by FamilySearch.

Register now at www.fhexpos.com or call 801-829-3295 for telephone registration.

Protecting your copyright interest

So now you have a copyright, what happens if someone uses your copyrighted work improperly? What do you have to do to protect your interests?

First of all, there is nothing in the copyright law that provides a way to give the copyright owner a notice of a copyright violation. There are no copyright police. It is entirely up to the owner of the copyright to enforce any of the rights claimed under the law. Despite the ominous notices we may have all seen when viewing rented movies about criminal penalties and huge fines for making copies, few of us have the resources of the movie industry to enforce their copyright claims through criminal action. Copyright, except in the larger corporate world, is almost entirely a civil, rather than a criminal matter.

In the U.S., original jurisdiction for copyright claims lies with the Federal District Courts. What this means is that you cannot run down to your local small claims court or state court and file an action based on a violation of the Federal Copyright Law. You must file your action in the Federal District Court. In addition, as a prerequisite to filing an action you must register your copyright with the U.S. Copyright Office. Here is the wording of the statute:
§ 411 · Registration and civil infringement actions11
(a) Except for an action brought for a violation of the rights of the author under
section 106A(a), and subject to the provisions of subsection (b), no civil action
for infringement of the copyright in any United States work shall be instituted
until preregistration or registration of the copyright claim has been made in accordance
with this title. In any case, however, where the deposit, application, and
fee required for registration have been delivered to the Copyright Office in proper
form and registration has been refused, the applicant is entitled to institute a civil
action for infringement if notice thereof, with a copy of the complaint, is served
on the Register of Copyrights. The Register may, at his or her option, become a
party to the action with respect to the issue of registrability of the copyright claim
by entering an appearance within sixty days after such service, but the Register’s
failure to become a party shall not deprive the court of jurisdiction to determine
that issue.
(b)(1) A certificate of registration satisfies the requirements of this section and
section 412, regardless of whether the certificate contains any inaccurate information,
unless—
(A) the inaccurate information was included on the application for
copyright registration with knowledge that it was inaccurate; and
(B) the inaccuracy of the information, if known, would have caused the
Register of Copyrights to refuse registration.
(2) In any case in which inaccurate information described under paragraph (1)
is alleged, the court shall request the Register of Copyrights to advise the court
Copyright Notice, Deposit, and Registration § 411
144 Copyright Law of the United States
whether the inaccurate information, if known, would have caused the Register
of Copyrights to refuse registration.
(3) Nothing in this subsection shall affect any rights, obligations, or requirements
of a person related to information contained in a registration certificate,
except for the institution of and remedies in infringement actions under this
section and section 412.
(c) In the case of a work consisting of sounds, images, or both, the first fixation
of which is made simultaneously with its transmission, the copyright owner may,
either before or after such fixation takes place, institute an action for infringement
under section 501, fully subject to the remedies provided by sections 502
through 505 and section 510, if, in accordance with requirements that the Register
of Copyrights shall prescribe by regulation, the copyright owner—
(1) serves notice upon the infringer, not less than 48 hours before such fixation,
identifying the work and the specific time and source of its first transmission,
and declaring an intention to secure copyright in the work; and
(2) makes registration for the work, if required by subsection (a), within
three months after its first transmission.
I reproduced this statute for a purpose. To illustrate the fact that initiating a copyright claim is not easy or simple. Let's suppose that you inadvertently violate someone's copyright. You get an angry letter threatening legal action. What is your response? Does the claimant have a "registered" copyright? How does the law affect copyright claims for works online? Suppose someone copies your blog post verbatim without attribution? What can you do about the copy?

There are several online resources that talk about enforcement of copyright claims. Most of these sources advise a system of letter writing and either polite requests or threats. But what happens if the requests and threats are ignored? Are you ready to dive into the complicated and expensive world of copyright enforcement? What do you think it costs to hire an intellectual property law attorney to file a lawsuit in the District Court? What do you think it costs to register your copyright? If you don't know the answer to these two questions (and I am not going to answer those questions) your threat of legal action will ring very hollow.

For example. John Doe spends years accumulating his family's genealogy. He writes an extensive book about his family and, under the law, his book is automatically protected by the copyright law. He finds that someone has copied his entire book and published it under their own name. Seems like a blatant case and ripe for a copyright infringement action. The basic question is this, does Doe have the resources to register his copyright, find an attorney, file an action in the District Court and pursue the action to completion? If not, what is his copyright claim worth?

My point is copyright claims are easy to make and hard and expensive to enforce. On the other hand, if you are the violator, how do you know that the person making a claim against you does not have the resources to pursue the claim? You don't. If a claim is filed, you will have to come up with the money to hire your own attorney and fight the matter in District Court. A major court case can easily take over your entire life. Do you want to run that risk?

The easiest way all this is resolved is to avoid infringing on others' copyrights. Don't make unauthorized copies. Oh, by the way. Writing letters does work a lot of the time. But if you threaten legal action, you had better be ready to pay the price.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Sourcing: not a new issue at all

For some time I have been posting about a 1915 publication from the Genealogical Society of Utah (now FamilySearch). Here is the citation for the book.

Genealogical Society of Utah. Lessons in Genealogy. Salt Lake City, Utah: The Geneaological Society of Utah, 1915.

In reading through the book, I was struck by the following statement made in the context of using family traditions:
If your traditional information appears to be fairly accurate and contains any names and dates of your kindred dead, then you should put such names in proper order, first in your notebook, and next in the family record of temple work. Always at the top of each page in your notebook write the sources of the information which you are recording. As, "The names which are here given were furnished me by my father," or uncle, or any member of the family who may have given them to you. Thus you show exactly where you got your information, and if your first information is furnished from memory only, you would be justified in correcting any of these which you may later find in dates from parish records, as memory is often treacherous. Let it be repeated: always write at the top of your page in both notebook and record of temple work, the source of your information, whether it be from family tradition, from individuals, from old Bibles, from books in a certain library, from county wills or deeds, from cemeteries, or from parish records searched by yourself or another at your instigation. Write out on each page just where the names you record can be found. Be careful, be accurate, and give all facts.
Does this sound familiar? Remember, this was written before 1915. So how did we go for almost 100 years without learning this lesson? When I say "we," I mean all of us collectively as genealogists. Doesn't this statement make the issue rather clear? How many books, articles and family group records have been created in the last 100 years without citations to source? Why have we collectively, not speaking of or including notable exceptions, failed to understand this simple advice?

If you are reading this post and you have extensive citations for every one of your ancestors, then, of course, you are one of the few that heed this admonition. On the other hand, all you have to do is a brief search on Ancestry.com's FamilyTrees to see how little attention is paid to sources and documentation. By putting the the name of any one of my ancestors, I can pull up from a few to hundreds of trees with no documentation whatsoever and this is on Ancestry.com where supplying sources is automated.

OK, so this is another rant. But here is the challenge. How do we encourage the new and even the existing researchers to cite their sources? I think that major steps have been taken in this regard by those designing genealogy software. Even FamilySearch has come around to its own advice and is incorporating a more robust method of citing sources in its new Family Tree program scheduled to replace the problem ridden New.FamilySearch.org program later this year.

I would suggest that it would be appropriate to emphasize source citation in conferences, genealogical societies and other organizations on a regular basis. Let's try to stop the cycle of repeating traditional errors and relationships and move genealogy up a notch in the world of believability.

The Demographics of Genealogists -- A Review

In a previous post, I mentioned a comment from someone who had done a study of the demographics of genealogists. I have been in communication with the author and have her permission to cite to her study. She is Pamela Drake and her study was done as a Masters' Thesis for California State University in Fullerton, California. The study was done in 2001 and is called Successful Aging: Investment in Genealogy as a Function of Generativity, Mobility and Sense of Place.

Here is the formal citation:

Drake, Pamela Jo Willenbring. Successful Aging: Investment in Genealogy As a Function of Generativity, Mobility and Sense of Place. Thesis (M.A.)--California State University, Fullerton, 2001, 2001.

I also found a related paper as follows:

Umfleet, S. Bradley. Genealogy and Generativity in Older Adults, A Social Work 298 Special Project
Presented to the Faculty of the College of Social Work San José State University
. Special Project, (M.A.) San José State University, San José, California, 2009.

Then, guess what? I found there is a whole string of commentaries and scholarly papers on this subject.  So what is the subject? Generativity. I found a concise definition in About.com Phychology:
Generativity versus stagnation is the seventh stage of Erik Erikson’s theory of psychosocial development. This stage takes place during middle adulthood between the ages of approximately 40 and 65. During this time, adults strive to create or nurture things that will outlast them; often by having children or contributing to positive changes that benefits other people.
Contributing to society and doing things to benefit future generations are important needs at the generativity versus stagnation stage of development. Generativity refers to "making your mark" on the world, through caring for others, creating things and accomplishing things that make the world a better place.
Stagnation refers to the failure to find a way to contribute. These individuals may feel disconnected or uninvolved with their community and with society as a whole.
 This is starting to look very interesting, particularly in relationship to the age factor in genealogy. I am in the process of reviewing several of these publications and may provide some commentary here.

These issues touch on several related subjects, including the relative popularity of genealogy as a "hobby" or interest, the median age level of the participants and whether or not genealogy as a "community" is attracting or can attract "younger" members?

It will take me a while to read through what I have found already, but I expect I will have some comments to make.


Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Family History Expos Videos from Vimeo.com





FHE 2012 Oklahoma
from KCSG.com on Vimeo.


Family History Expos has quite a selection of online videos both from past Expos and from those that are coming in the near future. The above presentation talks about the upcoming Oklahoma Family History Expo to be held in Oklahoma City on April 11th at the Oklahoma Historical Society 800 Nazih Zuhdi Drive, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma 73105.

Some of the other video include interviews with Bruce Buzbee and Mike Booth of RootsMagic.com, Mark Olsen of MyHeritage.com, and others from Legacy Media, LED Rescue Light, Incline Software and many others.

Here is a list of the exhibitors, so far, at the upcoming Houston Family History Expo in February. You can expect the same high level of participation at the upcoming Expos in Oklahoma City and Albuquerque.

AGES-online
Ask-the-Pros
Creative Continuum
Family Roots Publishing
Family Tree DNA
FamilySearch
Genealogy Wall Charts
Lisa Louise Cooke, The Genealogy Gems Podcast
MyHeritage
National Institute for Genealogical Studies
Picture Domino
Sevenpoint2
Stories To Tell
Texas State Genealogical Society
The Family Tree of Boise, Idaho
The Genealogical Institute

Lessons in Genealogy from 1915 Part Five

This series of posts talks about the book, Genealogical Society of Utah. Lessons in Genealogy. Salt Lake City, Utah: The Geneaological Society of Utah, 1915 (first published in 1912). It is available as a downloadable file from Archive.org.

The idea of these posts is to compare and contrast the methodology and background expressed by the Lessons back in the early 1900s and what we are experiencing today. By and large, the comparison is very favorable. At the core of the practice of genealogy, stripping away all the technological do-dads, the process of doing genealogy has not changed all that much. Most of the practical advice from the old Lessons book applies equally well today as it did then.

Here is what the book says about foreign research. Remember, that this was a book published in Salt Lake City, Utah. Almost everything was foreign back then because as the book notes, most of the inhabitants of Utah were either immigrants or descended from immigrants.
After all other sources of information have been exhausted,  there are still the vast accumulations of original records in the churches and archives of the older states and countries of Europe. This western part of America is still young. Either we or our immediate forefathers came here from the East or from Europe, and to these old home-lands must we eventually go for a continuation of our pedigree hunting. The European records consist largely of parish registers, containing entries of births or christenings, marriages, and deaths or burials; then there are records of wills, deeds, visitations, etc. All this is found in the original ancient scrip which, as a rule, is not easy to read, as. much of the matter is in the old style of writing and some in Latin. An expert is therefore required to get satisfactory results. A novice usually makes little headwav. Also these records are frequently in the keeping of ministers and parish clerks whom it is hard to approach, and who charge the full extent of the fees which the law usually allows them to charge every searcher at will. The Genealogical Society of Utah has helped many people to get information from foreign countries, and hopes to be able to do more in this way in the future. Competent persons have been doing this work in Great Britain, Germany, and the Scandinavian countries. However, at the present, because of the war and other causes, this work is quite unsatisfactory, and it is advised that persons who desire research work done in Europe, first communicate with the Genealogical Society of Utah. A genealogical and biographical blank record book for the use of Latter-day Saint families and individuals has recently been published and approved by the Church Authorities, which will be found invaluable as a means of recording and preserving all items and dates of importance in the histories of families or lives of individuals. The price is $1.25. It may be purchased from the Genealogical Society of Utah.
Remember that this book was written just as World War I was beginning in Europe. There certainly were difficulties in obtain access to the records at that time. If we fast forward to the present, we find this same Genealogical Society of Utah, now called FamilySearch, doing exactly the same thing; making the records of the world available. At the time this was written the entire microfilm effort was far in the future and could not have been imagined given the bulky and difficult to use camera equipment of the day. But now after 74 years of microfilming and digitizing we have millions upon millions of records either available on microfilm for a nominal cost of rental or free online at FamilySearch.org.

By the way, the book that was selling for $1.25 in 1915, adjusted for inflation, would now cost over $26.00, no small amount for the people of the time.

But what about the idea of hiring a professional genealogist to do the work over in Europe? Well, that is still quite common. I hear about people hiring genealogists all the time, although I have not had the need or opportunity to do so. But the observation about the difficulty of reading the old scripts is still very much a consideration.