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Sunday, September 30, 2012

The Historic Photo Scanning Project

 Salt Lake City at Main and South Temple, looking northwest, taken in the very early 1900s

My Great-grandmother, Margaret Godfrey Jarvis Overson, was a professional photographer in the small eastern Arizona community of St. Johns. Her father, Charles Godfrey DeFriez Jarvis started the tradition with his own photography business. The photographs date from the late 1800s until the mid-1940s, with a few photos into the 1950s. Many of the photographs were published in conjunction with her book.

Overson, Margaret Godfrey Jarvis. George Jarvis and Joseph George De Friez Genealogy. Mesa?, Ariz: M.G. Jarvis Overson, 1957.

Last December, after a year's long search, we finally located the bulk of her photographs and negatives thanks to a blog post by my daughter, Amy in her blog, TheAncestorFiles.blogspot.com. I have been publishing some of the photos as photographic mysteries from time to time, but I thought it would be a good idea to begin publishing some of the other photographs.

Many of the photos are of the Overson family and relatives, but as the town photographer, many are also of graduations, sports teams, family and town gatherings and other group shots. There are hundreds of photos of people who lived in Apache County. Hence, the mystery photos.

The physical collection consists of glass plate negatives in a variety of sizes, acetate negatives cut from sheet film also in a variety of sizes and some prints. My original estimate was about 1000 or so negatives and prints. I have now been scanning the collection for about 9 months and processing the photos and have less the 1/4 of the items scanned. I have revised my estimate to around 3500 to 4000 photos including all the negatives and prints.

So, from time to time I will be sharing some of these priceless photographs.

Unidentified family from the 1800s



Mystery Photos 30 September 2012






Here's today's mystery photos. Some of the people look familiar and I might be able to track them down, but how about some background? These photos were taken by my Great-grandmother, Margaret Godfrey Jarvis Overson in around 1920, most likely in Apache County, Arizona. The one of the two children, one standing and one sitting, were obviously a copy of an earlier photo. My daughter, Amy, in her blog, TheAncestorFiles.blogspot.com, has been helpful in identifying some of the photos.

Odds and Ends -- FamilySearch Research Wiki, Standardized Place Names, RootsTech and more

Sometimes I have a whole list of things I am thinking about but none of them is long enough to merit writing a whole blog post. So here are some of the things going on that need to be noticed. This will look a little like a list but just because I don't go on and on about the subjects they all need to be mentioned.

1. The FamilySearch Research Wiki is on the fritz. Formatting has essentially gone away due to a programming problem. Lee Drew has explained the problem in detail in his blog post "What Is Going On With The FamilySearch Wiki?" If you haven't noticed the problem, don't worry about it. If you are trying to edit pages in the Research Wiki, then have patience.

2. Standardized place names continue to spread throughout the genealogical community's online resources. FamilySearch Family Tree, Ancestry.com and others have "suggested" standardized place names for entries in place name fields. When you enter information into either a data field or a search field, the programs show a drop down menu of places with standardized names. The problem here is that over time, the names of places may have changed and the standard name should be the one at the time the event occurred not the present place name. In the case of data fields, the user may be "correcting" the entry with the wrong information and obscuring the original place name and location. This applies to many towns where the name has changed over time or counties and parishes where the boundaries have changed over time. It may even apply to countries that have changed over time. Think about someone born in the U.S. Canal Zone which no longer exists. What is the proper way to show their birth information? Are the records in the United States or Panama?

3. The website for RootsTech 2013 is now online with a lot of information about this upcoming event. As a consequence, the online presentations from the last RootsTech have disappeared. Links to the presentations now go to the new site. Here is a link to the old presentations. They are still online folks.

4. I have been using Adobe Bridge for some time now to view and edit photographs. I just got a copy of Adobe Lightroom and I am working my way through that challenging program. I will be writing more about both, when I figure out a use for Lightroom. Stay tuned.

5. Ancestry.com was expected to make a decision on the sale of the company by the end of September. Well, here it is the end of September and no news of a final sale.

6. I had one big presentation this past week to the Phoenix FamilySearch Center patrons and still have 11 or 12 more in the works over the next few weeks. The next big presentation will be an online, live webinar on FamilySearch Family Tree from the Mesa FamilySearch Library on October 15th at 2:00 pm Arizona time (right now the same as Pacific time). If you would like to see the webinar live, you will have to register. The next event will be the Mesa FamilySearch Library conference "Connecting to your Roots" on October 20th. Details on the website.

I sure there are more. I will probably expand on some of these as things begin to develop.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Do the math

I had an interesting time talking to some early budding genealogists today and in the course of reviewing the huge masses of information, their relatives had accumulated, I ran across an interesting phenomena. Apparently, some people can't add or subtract. In this case, the ancestral lines in question had been plowed over a hundred or more times by many would-be genealogists. But there in details of the pedigree chart was a couple from England where the husband was supposedly 23 years YOUNGER than the wife and their first child was born when the mother was 24. So the Father was 1? Further, there second child was born 25 years later when the husband was 25 and the wife was 59. All this back in the late 1700s and early 1800s.

Fortunately, many of the popular genealogy databases will alert you to these types of problems. But in a lot of cases, rather than accept the files from your relatives, you have to do the math. Certainly, the wife could have been the mother of the child born in about 1800 while she was born in 1777. But could the next child be born 25 years later. I suppose stranger things have happened but not with the same father. The marriage was supposed to be around 1800 which would support the birth of child in 1891 but not 1825 especially when the remaining children were born at regular intervals thereafter. It could be a case of choosing the wrong mother, having the wrong children in the family, the wrong husband or all of the above.

The interesting thing about this situation was not that the dates or people were undoubtedly confused, but that this had been included by a family that was so obviously involved in genealogy. Why didn't someone in the family do the math? In the early days, a large gap in the dates of the birth of children strongly suggested the death of one or more children or the death of a parent. I caught the problem because I automatically look at the sequence of the birth dates of children. When I noticed the parents dates, I suggested that he might want to investigate that whole family a little further and not simply accept the work of his relatives. It was a good entry into why we check sources and dates.

It always helps to have a liberal measure of good sense and base your research in reality. Individuals and families did not live in a vacuum. A 59 year old mother having her first child with a husband 23 years her junior is not impossible, but in the early 1800s it was extremely unlikely. Especially, as I already noted, when several children were apparently born to the couple over the next few years.

Most errors are not so obvious. You might notice a gap of only two or three years. But even then, it is a good idea to investigate further. It is not automatic that the information is incorrect, but simply questionable. This principle can be carried much further than simply calculating birth, marriage and death dates. You need to think in terms of reality at all times. 

Where have all the newspapers gone?

Once when I was a teenager, I had a friend whose father was a pressman for the newspaper. We went downtown one day to visit his father at the newspaper. I remember going into the huge press room where the noise was so loud that you could not hear when shouting. I think that the newspaper press was one of the largest, noisiest, and most complicated machines I had seen up to that time in my life. I always remember the old movies and TV shows, when something was happening, they would always show the presses running and a copy of the newspaper, showing the headlines would come spinning out until it showed on the screen, to emphasize the importance of the event. Presses still run and they are still loud, but the only spinning newspapers I have seen lately are in old movies.

Phoenix used to have two daily newspapers, the Arizona Republic, and the Phoenix Gazette. Now there is hardly one. If you want to get some idea of the impact of the digital age on print newspapers, look at the Wikipedia article, List of defunct newspapers of the United States and the website, Newspaper Death Watch. The only newspaper I see now is a free advertising paper thrown on my driveway three or four times a week.

Realizing that print newspapers are disappearing rapidly, a partnership between the Library of Congress and the National Endowment for the Humanities created the National Digital Newspaper Program. The U.S. Federal Government is not alone in its interest in preserving its newspaper heritage, individual states have similar projects and many other countries of the world have adopted aggressive programs to digitize existing newspaper collections. In addition, there are significantly large private commercial collection efforts. There is a list of national projects online at Wikipedia.

In my experience, genealogists tend to think of newspapers in a very limited way, mainly as a place to look for obituaries. Very few researchers have made extensive use of the newspapers' content in their research. But the newspapers' content stretches way beyond obituaries. Newspapers were the daily diary of the world. Especially in small towns, newspapers were the Facebook of their day and told the story of the families living in the circulation area. Today, most who see some of the old newspapers for the first time, are amazed at the rich detail in their pages.

Some public libraries, many historical societies and some museums have collections of old newspapers moldering away in basements and storage areas undigitized. It is still too early to tell if the digitization efforts will stem the loss of these valuable records. It is a fact of life that newspaper were printed on cheap, high acid content paper and if left unconserved, the papers will disintegrate over time.

The first go-to place for newspapers in the United States, is the Library of Congress. The Chronicling America, National Newspaper Project, has millions of pages of completely indexed newspapers online as well as a Directory of all the papers published in America from 1690 to the present. In every country where there is a similar project you can find collections of newspapers. For example, the National Library of Australia (NLA) provides free searchable online access to digitized copies of out-of-copyright Australian newspapers (1802–1982). The NLA list of available titles includes more than 50 capital city and rural newspapers. There are many, many more examples.

In the U.S. there are also online, usually commercial subscription services such as MyHeritage.com's WorldVitalRecords, Newsbank.com (GenealogyBank.com) and many others.

Hopefully, when the presses stop rolling for the last time, we will still have our legacy of newspapers to research.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Trove -- Too Bad We're Not All From Australia


Trove, the website of the National Library of Australia, has, as of today, 310,226,952 Australian and online resources. Too bad we aren't all Australians, although I am sure they are glad we are not. As a matter of fact, some of my ancestors came to the United States from Australia in my Parkinson and Bryant lines, although they were not natives, having immigrated from England. I still have relatives that live in Australia and a niece that lives near Perth. When I was younger, I dreamt about going to Australia and particularly digging for opal in Coober Pedy. Now that I am much older, it looks like this is one dream that will never come true.

I have mentioned this website before several times, but it bears repeating. It is an example of what can be done if the powers that be are convinced that digital records are important. Here is a breakdown of the Trove collections:
Journals, articles and research139813780
Books17347395
Maps386375
Diaries, letters, archives529811
Lists27741
Music, sound and video2472666
Digitised Newspapers and more73829387
People and organisation908499
Pictures, photos, objects4812909
Archived websites (1996 - now)70126130
Total310254693
If you don't have Australian relatives, you still can find some gems of information and families extending back into England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales. I have even found entries by my genealogical blogging friend, Jill Ball.

The wheel turns -- change is inevitable, life goes on

 I was talking to one of my friends at the Mesa FamilySearch Library as he was sitting working on some of his family names and made a comment about the change from New.FamilySearch.org to FamilySearch Family Tree on FamilySearch.org. He was extremely surprised and reacted very negatively. He really couldn't be bothered with a change to a new program, no matter how good it was! He saw no need for change.

A few months ago, I posted the following list:
  • The old or original (classic) FamilySearch.org website went online in 1999 and went off line in 2012.
  • The newer FamilySearch.org website went online in December of 2010 and is still online.
  • The New.FamilySearch.org website went online to a limited number of people in 2007.
  • New.FamilySearch.org is scheduled to end sometime in December, 2012 (or as I say whenever).
  • Family Tree as a link from FamilySearch.org goes online in February, 2012.
 I was commenting in response to the removal of the "older" FamilySearch.org website from active duty on the Internet. Today, I got belated comments to my post on June 25, 2012. The references to which site the commentator is referring to are not clear, but the frustration with change comes through loud and clear:
The classic site i/was much better. The new site does not work properly, at all. Waste of time putting much info in as it will totally ignore it. Programming is pathetic.

Why can't we still have both sites? The new site has too much "stuff" on it. The classic was easy to use and direct. The classic site was an easy way to quickly see if there were any useful links to the people you were researching. What is wrong with keeping the old site up and running? Can't it be done? Or do we have to wait and discover that ancestry.com now has the program, and for a fee... you,too can use it? They are buying up all the old reliable free sites where we could go to look for something quickly. Please, someone, get the site back up! [not edited for content or format]
In response, the "classic" FamilySearch.org website was severely limited in its content. It contained very little original source information and was primarily a site for user contributed information in the form of the Ancestral File (AF), the Pedigree Resource File (PRF) and the International Genealogical Index (IGI). Part of the IGI was (and is) extracted names in an index format but the remaining information was duplicative and needed to be verified. The most important thing to understand is ALL THE INFORMATION IN THE IGI, AF AND PRF IS IN THE NEW WEBSITE (which is not so new now since it has been up for almost a year).  The old site also had the Social Security Death Index. Hmm. Also on the new site. What exactly is missing? I guess the commentator would rather have to pay for and look at microfilm than have the information on his home computer for free.

If the updated FamilySearch.org website has the same information as the old, now discarded, website, then how can the older site be so much better? Especially when the new site has infinitely more information and original sources than the old? When I teach a group of people about any of the changes to the new site, I get exactly this same reaction; why do we have to change? I think that these people should get what they deserve: an eternity looking at microfilm.

The same thing goes for New.FamilySearch.org. I can tell you what one of the real issues is with the change over to Family Tree; many of the people who are qualifying names of people to whom they are not related for LDS Temple ordinances and/or doing duplicate work, realize their days are numbered. The new Family Tree program will drastically reduce the opportunity for duplication and working with unrelated names. I personally know people who are upset that they cannot continue in their old ways of doing things happily doing duplicative work. 




Thursday, September 27, 2012

Beginning of the Dark Ages for public records!

These words are not mine, they are a quote in a New York Times article. Here is the quote:
“When our humor gets black, we talk about this as a period of time that could be the Dark Ages for public records,” said Vicki Walch, the executive director of the Council of State Archivists. “Fifteen years on either side of the year 2000 is very dicey.”
The article also states,
An amalgam of recession-driven budget cuts and fast-moving technological changes could result in a black hole of government information whose impact might not be understood for decades. 
 I see this as a threat to our collective individual freedom. If we cannot obtain information about our governments' activities, we cannot remain a free people for long. Those who wish to foster oligarchies and dictatorships thrive on controlling the flow of information to the public. This is not just a challenge to genealogists finding their ancestors, but a challenge to our ability to hold our federal, state and local governments responsible for their actions.

Georgia Archives Closing -- Georgia needs your voice!

This is from a newsletter from the Georgia Genealogical Society:

Georgia Archives to close effective Nov. 1, 2012

Secretary of State Brian Kemp issued a press release on Thursday, 13 September 2012, announcing that the Georgia State Archives will be closed on 1 November 2012 due to budget cuts.
“After November 1st, the public will only be allowed to access the building by appointment; however, the number of appointments could be limited based on the schedule of the remaining employees.”
Press Release from Secretary of State Brian Kemp
You absolutely can help. Here is a link to the full information on the problem.
One person can absolutely make a difference! Getting personally involved is the best way to use your voice and to protect and preserve our access to the Georgia Archives.
  • Contact the Governor, Secretary of State, Lt. Governor and legislators.
  • You can choose to telephone, fax, e-mail or send a letter.
  • Take some time and word your comments carefully.
  • Be articulate and polite, get directly to the point and make your position clear. If you choose to e-mail, do not include attachments.
  • Remember, It is important not to send a form letter but to send your own thoughts.  A form letter may not be read.
  • Also, while it is important to sign petitions, keep in mind that one petition of a thousand names may only count as one complaint so you still need to send your comments directly to your legislators, the Secretary of State, and the Governor.
If you haven't read the full extent of the issue, please check out the link to the full information on the problem

OK, so where are all the books online?

There are millions upon millions of digitized books online and many millions of those even larger millions are in the public domain and free and completely searchable. So, you say, what good are millions of books if the one I need or want is not there? Good question, but it begs the issue. What is more likely is that there is a genealogically valuable book out there that you have yet to find or know about. Recently, one of my distant relatives showed me a surname book written about one of my direct ancestors with hundreds of pages, that I had never seen or heard about! What's so great about this? Remember, I spend literally hundreds of hours scouring the Internet and you would think that I would follow my own advice and would have long ago have found the book.

So why didn't I find the book? The reason is very simple: I didn't look. Here is the citation to the book that I now know exists:

Parkinson, Diane, and John Parkinson. Samuel Charles Bryant of Rolvenden: His Roots and His Branches : England, Australia, America : a Biographical History and Genealogical Record of the Family of Samuel Charles and Sarai Stapley Bryant. Austin, Tex: Published for the Samuel Charles Bryant Family Association by Historical Publications, 1993. 

How did I find the book online? First, I looked for the name of the ancestor. No luck. Then I tried WorldCat.org. Still no luck. I did several more searches online with no results, so I called the publisher. They didn't remember the book at all. Hmmm. I began to think maybe this was one of those family publications that never made it into a library. But that is not the case. Finally, persistence paid off. I searched WorldCat.com for the names of the authors who had published a similar book of which I had a copy. So by looking for the authors, then copies of the book began to appear online. The answer was simple, I was looking for the wrong title.

It turns out that two major libraries have copies of the book. The citation of the book in WorldCat.org references a family organization. What it turned out finally was that it was in Amazon.com and several other places but out-of-print and unavailable, I hadn't searched completely enough. Then I realized that I should check several other places, such as the Family History Library, for example.Yes, they have a copy also.

Now here is the problem. If these family organizations have these books, which are in a very few (or no) libraries, then why don't they have the book scanned an put online? Usually, if you inquire about the book, you will find some family member with a stack of the printed copies in a garage or closet. The original publishers printed the book and tried to sell it to family members to recoup the cost of publication. In many cases, in my experience, they could not sell enough of the books to pay the costs of publication, so they are not willing to scan the book and give it away to the public. With our copyright laws, we will all have to wait for a hundred years to gain access to a copy of the book. Now, I could order the book through Inter-library Loan. I tried that next.

So, I went to my local public library and logged in to my account. One of the options I had was to order a book through Interlibrary Loan.  After filling out the form with the information I found in WorldCat.org and elsewhere, I ordered the book. I will let you know what happens and if they can find a copy. Since the book is in the Library of Congress, I may also be able to get the book directly from them.

Once I found the book online, it popped up everywhere. I found it in OpenLibrary.org and the Family History Library Catalog. Persistence pays.

The lesson to be learned from this search? Keep looking for combinations of title and author or authors. First efforts may not always produce results.




Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Hindu Pilgrimage Records, 1194-2012

These are some of the oldest records I have seen on FamilySearch.org's Historical Record Collections. They are described as
Hindu pilgrimage records kept by a Pandit Madhukar Balkrishan Akolkar at Trimbakeshwar, Maharashtra, India. They include records for people from Maharashtra, Gujarat, Punjab and Rajasthan, India. These records are created and updated when family members pass on. The registers are arranged by "caste" and contain native place, names of family members, the last occasion on which a family member came to this place of pilgrimage and made an entry in the register, the ceremony performed at the time and offering made to the priest. No women are mentioned unless their deaths are referred to indirectly.
There are 191,193 images. Further explanation of the records from the Research Wiki says:
The ancient custom of keeping family genealogies is not well-known today to Indians settled abroad. Professional Hindu Brahmin Pandits, popularly known as "Pandas", kept detailed family genealogies over the past several generations at the Hindu holy city of Haridwar. The registers are handwritten, having been passed down to them over generations by their Pandit ancestors, and are classified according to original districts and villages of one's ancestors. Special designated Pandit families are in charge of designated district registers, including ancestral districts and villages that were left behind when Hindus had to migrate from Pakistan to India after the Partition of India.
In several cases, present-day Hindu descendents are now Sikhs, Muslims, and even Christians. It is not uncommon for researchers to find details of up to or even more than their past seven generations in these genealogy registers.
I think we get pretty focused on our own narrow area of research and tend to forget the rest of world out there is probably seeking their ancestors also. There are some good reminders coming up in the Historical Record Collections. 

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Books Online -- Genealogy and otherwise, Part Two

You can see from the title that this is a continuation of my post in Part One. The core of that discussion deals with the issue of availability of books for research. I make the following statement:

Basically, you have three choices in using books for research, genealogical or otherwise:

  1. Go to a library or other book repository and use their books to do research. This means sitting in a library day after day taking notes. Of course, if you are allowed, you can use a scanner or a camera to speed up the process.
  2. Spend huge amounts of money and buy all the books you need. Not much of an option, especially when every available space in your house either has boxes of documents or books.
  3. Try and find the books online, hopefully, for free.
Someone suggested a fourth alternative, employing someone to go to a library and look up a book and copy out the parts you need. I have yet another possibility, using Interlibrary loan to have a book sent from a remote library to one in your area. So there are really, at least, five options:
4. Employ someone (for pay or otherwise) to look up a book in a library and copy out the pertinent sections.
5. Use Inter-library loan to have a book sent to you from a remote location.
My prediction is that libraries participating in Inter-library loan,  will finally get tired of shipping books all over the country and start digitizing the books and making digital copies available to be checked out online. As books continue to be digitized, some of the options will become less and less of an issue.

There are enough books digitized online now, that the options involving physically obtaining the books ought to be secondary to first making a thorough search online.

All of the books online (read digitized books online) are divided into two major categories: those that are out of copyright protection and those still protected by copyright. There are books that would normally be protected by copyright, where the author or publisher has released the book into the public domain, but they are few and far between. Although both copyrighted books and those out of copyright are being digitized, it is usually only those out of copyright that will show up for free in the online collections. Otherwise, with copyrighted material, it may be that the only way to obtain a copy is to use the library or pay for the book. Many books are being published today both in paper and digital editions with an every increasing number of books being published only in digital or eBook editions.

Fortunately, as genealogists, we are not so interested (as genealogists not as regular book readers) in best sellers and such and we are therefore going to find a huge number of digitized materials online that are directly related to genealogical research. Unlike looking for a source record about an individual, books are not necessarily going to be located geographically close to place of an event in the ancestor's life. Books are highly mobile and a physical copy of any given book could literally be anywhere on earth. So, to find a book online, you may have to search a number of catalogs of various libraries and other sources to find the book.

So where would I look first? That's easy. Google Books. Google has scanned millions of books and a search in Google Books for the term "genealogy" will give millions of results. You will immediately learn that there are three categories of books on Google, dependent primarily on availability and copyright restrictions. The three categories are Preview, Snippit and Read.

Preview books are just that a previews of the book, just enough to get your interest in buying the book and nothing more. These are books that are currently for sale and under copyright protection.

Snippit view books may not be readily available for purchase, but they are still mostly covered by copyright law. Google give a little bit more information, but the contents of the book are still limited.

If a book falls in the Read category, that means the book has not only been digitized, it is also available to be read or downloaded from the Internet.

In each case, Google gives you the option of finding the book in a library. To do this, Google has an agreement with WorldCat.org, the largest online catalog with over a billion and half entries. You are missing your research life if you are not using WorldCat.org. You may have noticed that I listed it as one of the ten most valuable programs I use regularly. In order to avoid a listing in WorldCat.org, a book would have to be of such limited production that it did not find its way into a library.

Fortunately, there are not many books overall that don't find their way into WorldCat.org. Unfortunately, some of those books are very limited run family history related books. Fortunately, there are other digital book collections online that are extensive and merit a separate search.

So let me show you how I would find a book. I will use an example, surname book written by my Great-grandmother Margaret Godfrey Jarvis Overson. One of the first problems is knowing that such a book exists at all. Especially for books written many years ago, the descendents of the named ancestor or those with the surname, may not have any knowledge of the book written about their family. So, you must assume that such a book exists for any of the families in your ancestral lines until you determine otherwise. The catch here is that with all the books being digitized each year, the search for books is never over.

So digging right in, I search for my Great-grandmother in Google books, simply making the assumption that a book exists. A Google Book search, using her name as the search term, brings up her book with a search on her name. It you do not know if a book exists, then the search may or may not bring results, but the exercise is valuable for every ancestor.

Upon searching in Google books I found the entry for my Great-grandmother's book. To look further, I clicked on the Google Books' link to "Find in a Library." This takes me directly to WorldCat.org and lists the places where the book could be found in a library. Incidentally, it also gives me a number of choices for a standard citation for the book. Here is the citation:

Overson, Margaret Godfrey Jarvis. George Jarvis and Joseph George De Friez Genealogy. Mesa?, Ariz: M.G. Jarvis Overson, 1957.

There do not appear to any digitized copies of the book online, likely because the book is still under copyright protection. But just in case, I also check a couple of other places.

First, I look in the Family History Library Catalog on FamilySearch.org. Many of the Family History Library's holdings are being digitized and the catalog does not appear in WorldCat.org. So I look there and find the book but no digitized copy.

I could keep looking, but that will have to be the subject of another post. 



Monday, September 24, 2012

Mocavo -- A New Player in the Genealogical Market?

I have been writing from time to time about the "Big 4" genealogical market players: Ancestry.com, FamilySearch.org, MyHeritage.com and brightsolid.com, for some time now. Now enter on the stage Mocavo.com. Here is a quote from techrockies:
Boulder-based Mocavo, the venture backed developer of genealogy search tools, said this morning that it has acquired Orem, Utah-based ReadyMicro, a developer of document capture and scanning technology. Financial terms of the buy were not disclosed. According to Mocavo, it is "no longer just a genealogy search engine" and hinted at future announcements around new products. The firm said that Matt Garner, who is behind ReadyMicro, will join the company's team and continue to operate out of Orem. ReadyMicro's customers include FamilyLink.com, Kansas State University, and others.
 Notice the statement about one of their "customers" being FamilyLink.com which is owned by MyHeritage.com. For more information see DearMyrtle.com

My take on the Apple Maps brouhaha

As a matter of course, I upgraded by iPhone 4S to iOS 6. There were several new apps included with the upgrade and some of them appeared interesting. I knew beforehand that Apple was dumping Google Maps in favor of its own proprietary map app (say that fast six times) so I wasn't at all surprised at the new replacement.

From reading the news about the Apple iPhone 5 intro and the comments about the new Map app, you would think that Apple had shot itself in the foot and was finally going to lose its position as the most valuable company in history. Oh, and then the product was introduced and the media was so disappointed that Apple only sold 5 million iPhone 5s in the first weekend. Oh dear, what can the matter be? Apple must be losing it. Only more iPhones sold in two days than there are people in the sixth largest city in the U.S. including every single man, woman and child.

So is there some reality here? What am I missing. I have had the new iOS 6 on my iPhone for a couple of days and tried out the map several times. Oh, guess what? It isn't Google maps. But all the handwringers apparently don't use iPhones. Why is that? Google already has a map app for the iPhone it is called Google Local. You can look up anything you want in Local and then switch to Google Maps if you still wish to do so. No sweat. And just in case the rest of the commentators missed using their iPhones, there has always been MapQuest, a good alternative to both Google Maps and Apple's offering.

The real issue is the huge competition going on between Apple and Google. There will be some things that do not survive the battle. In this instance, Google is acting like a sulking child saying, "I want my way or I won't play." Apple is responding by saying we will move our game elsewhere.

When you are the biggest and the best, people will always try to tear you down. Will I look forward to a Google Maps App? Yes, I will download it as soon as it is released. Will I upgrade my iPhone 4 to an iPhone 5? Umm. Not likely anytime soon.

RootsTech Discount Offer

Here is the announcement from the RootsTech folks about the upcoming conference. I have thoroughly enjoyed the last two conferences and am looking forward to the one coming in March, 2013. I will also be presenting a class on maps. I will have more about that in later blog posts, but you will be able to download the syllabus shortly.
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I’m excited to announce that I will be an official blogger for the 3rd annual RootsTech conference on March 21-23, 2013 in Salt Lake City, UT. Building on the success and growth of previous years, RootsTech 2013 is shaping up to be the biggest and best yet!

RootsTech, hosted by FamilySearch, offers an opportunity unlike any other to discover the latest family history tools and techniques, connect with experts to help you in your research and be inspired in the pursuit of your ancestors. You will learn to use the latest technology to get started or accelerate your efforts to find, organize, preserve, and share your family’s connections and history.

New In 2013! A full track of Getting Started classes and labs will help those new to family history learn things like where to start, how to build their family tree, and how to use technology to explore your connections.  Find more information about the Getting Started track at www.rootstech.org/gettingstarted.

Text Box: Save $90 off a 3-day, full conference pass when you use the discount code RT129 when registering.  This discount is available until Oct. 12, 2012 to my blog readers! 

Registration is now live at rootstech.org.
Registration Options
Full 3-Day Pass
  Access to everything RootsTech has to offer.
$219 $149 (Early Bird) $129 with discount code RT129
One Day Only Pass
  Full admission for just one day.
$89
Student Three Day Pass
  Student ID required.

$39
NEW! Getting Started 3-Day Pass
  Beginner track with access to over 20 classes.
$49 $39 (Early Bird)
Getting Started 1-Day Only Pass
  A selection of fundamental classes to help you get 
  started.

$19
Developer Day Pass (March 22)
  A full-day technology program just for developers.
$89

RootsTech has something for everyone, whether you are an avid genealogist, just getting started, or simply want to discover the latest technologies and solutions to better connect with your family.  At RootsTech, come prepared to experience world-class content from speakers all over the country, an exciting exhibitor hall, and great keynote speakers.

I heartily agree with everything they say above. I will keep you all posted about any further developments. Sorry about some of the formatting, I got the announcement in a Microsoft Word document.

RootsTech Blogger

Well, its back again to RootsTech. Right now, it seems a long way off. I will be both a blogger and a presenter again this year. This year's conference is billed as follows:

New at RootsTech 2013

The 3rd annual RootsTech conference has something for everyone, whether you are an avid genealogist, just getting started, or simply want to discover the latest technologies and solutions to better connect with your family.
  • NEW! Getting Started Track – learn the basics, start your family tree, and get help with your family research (starts at only $19) Learn More
  • More Classes, More Speakers — choose from over 250 informative sessions and interactive workshops Learn More
  • 40% Bigger Expo Hall – visit many exciting exhibitors to discover the latest products & services Learn More
  • Developer Day – consolidated track specifically designed for technology developers Learn More
See you there!

If you noticed, I put up the blogger badge and RootsTech banner a little early. Oops. You might want to go to the website for RootsTech, they have the new site for this year up now. 

Books Online -- Genealogy and otherwise, Part One

In my top ten online websites, I discovered that most of the offerings were book sites. So, in thinking about the subject, I decided I would delve a little deeper into the subject and share so techniques for finding and using books online.

A few words of introduction are in order. When I was in high school (during prehistoric times, as my grandchildren would say), I had a research project on the U.S. Civil War (or War Between the States for you purists out there). I decided to research the battle of Chattanooga. This is really a series of battles in October and November of 1863. I couldn't find anything about the Civil War in my local high school library and so I trotted down to the Phoenix Public Library. This was happening in 1963, the 100th Anniversary of the battle. Guess what? There were no detailed books about the War in the Phoenix Public Library! No, really. I did know how to find stuff in the library. Even that early in my life, I would walk up and down the shelves and look at all the books, I didn't rely on the catalog, probably by instinct.

Today, finding information about the U.S. Civil was would be trivial. In fact, there would be so much information, you would probably have to confine your topic to one hour of the battle. But you have to remember, no computers, no Internet, and even Bruce Catton didn't write his famous trilogy about the War until 1965. Many of the books about the War were just being published and hadn't made their way into a small town library like Phoenix in the early 1960s.

The only place I found a detailed explanation of the battle was in the Encyclopedia Americana. So the point is? Some of us are still trapped back in the 1960s. We are still using the resources and methodology we learned in high school (if we learned anything).

Now, fast forward to today (wait while the tape winds). I am still doing research but only rarely do I physically go into a library. There is still a reason to do so, but being there is not nearly as necessary as it was years ago. But, there is another side to this story. The huge digitization (digitisation in England and elsewhere) vacuum is effective but not perfect. It hasn't sucked up everything yet. There are still treasures out there in the libraries waiting to be digitized. 

Basically, you have three choices in using books for research, genealogical or otherwise:
  1. Go to a library or other book repository and use their books to do research. This means sitting in a library day after day taking notes. Of course, if you are allowed, you can use a scanner or a camera to speed up the process.
  2. Spend huge amounts of money and buy all the books you need. Not much of an option, especially when every available space in your house either has boxes of documents or books.
  3. Try and find the books online, hopefully, for free.
Of these choices, number three is an obvious leader. But where do you go to find the books?Aha. That is the topic of this post.

But wait a minute. Why would I want to look in books anyway? Aren't books outmoded and outdated and etc. etc. Let's take a peek at the Mesa FamilySearch Library. Here are all the researchers gathered around their computer monitors ignoring the stacks and stacks of books that are sitting there right behind their unknowing backs. Let's be fair. Some of the researchers still recognize that the books are there, they just don't think of them very often.

What is in the books? Well, for genealogists, a lot of the stuff online started out in a book of some kind or another. Just one example, there is an index to the U.S. Census called the Soundex that is available in book format at the MFSL (Mesa FamilySearch Library).

Oh, dear, this post is getting long and I am running out of time. Check back for installment number two.

My top ten, can't miss, websites

I think we, as genealogy bloggers, focus so much on genealogy sites, we sometimes ignore other websites that are extremely valuable, not just for genealogy but for lots of other uses. But the very idea of listing non-genealogy websites raises some interesting questions, such as whether or not to include archive sites that technically are not specifically for genealogy, but are very useful for research. For example, is a newspaper archive a genealogy site? Not really.

Also, do you list sites that have a huge number of resources simply because they have a huge number of resources? I think not. Size is only one of the criteria. I decided this list was based mostly purely on utility. Another question is whether you list search sites such as Google. Basically, I use Google all day every day but what's the point of listing it in a list of go-to sites? Every computer user on the Internet has likely heard of Google. At the same time, what about blogging sites. This list of websites could quickly become my top 100 or even top 1000 favorite sites, but then the word "favorite" begins to lose meaning. So for this reason, I do not include Google Books, which I use all the time.

Also, I am not including programs. So, for example, even though I use Skype and Evernote every day, they are not included in my list because they are online applications not websites as such. That' my distinction whether it makes sense or not.

I am also excluding social networking sites. Obviously, I use Google+, Facebook and Twitter almost daily. I did not list any legal websites, mainly because I don't go to them unless I have to use them.

So, I decided to list my preferred websites with a short explanation concerning how and why they got to be on the list. After thinking about it for a while, I just decided that sites went on this list because I thought they should be there. I can unequivocally say, that I use all of these site continually, some on a daily basis. But I also have to admit that I do not use some of them daily or even weekly. They are listed simply because I like the websites.

Here is my list:

#1. WorldCat.org
This is a huge site with over 1.5 billion entries (with a "b") but size is only one of the useful factors. This site is extremely valuable and easily takes my number one position. I use the site to find books and to automate citations. Very useful. Never underestimate the utility of using this site regularly.

#2. Library of Congress
I put this second because I really like the Library of Congress. I just wrote a blog post about the LOC and I guess I haven't changed my mind.

#3. Amazon.com
OK, you are saying, what good is a store? Think about it. I check here for equipment and many of my blog posts on technology are researched on Amazon.com. I also use the Kindle portion to download purchased books and check out digital books from the local library.

#4. Internet Archive (Archive.org)
Does this qualify as a genealogy site or not? Not really. It is a mixture of a lot of different things and I just find this to be a hugely interesting website with some really unusual stuff. Sort of like an online antique store.

#5. Hathi Trust Digital Library
Another book site. You are probably getting the idea that books and research sort-of dominate my life and you would be correct. This is a site with another few millions of books in fact over 10.5 million volumes online.

#6. Netflix.com
This is honesty time. I really like watching movies and have seen thousands during my lifetime. So my life is books and movies.

#7. LDS.org
This is my church's major website and I have to admit that I spend quite a bit of time and use the resources extensively. It does have some specific resources relating to genealogy also.

#8. Maricopa County Library
Back to books. When I started thinking about this idea, I guess I didn't realize that most of the sites would be about books in some form or another. I use the library site to gain access to HeritageQuestOnline.com.

#9. Pandora.com
I usually can't listen to music and write, but if I am editing photos or something routine like that, it keeps me awake and from falling off my chair.

#10. 360Cities.net
This is a site I go to frequently, not just because I post photos there, but because it is really neat to see the photos from other photographers. A few of my grandchildren love the site also.


So there you have the top ten for today. Of course, I may change my mind anytime, but these are really interesting sites and I would miss any one of them if they went away.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Not so much of a mystery photos

These photos were taken by Margaret Godfrey Jarvis Overson in about 1920 or before in St. Johns, Apache, Arizona. The notations along the side of the photos is on the original negatives. These were scanned from the collection of photos I am presently scanning for preservation.






Update of Maps Online


The David Rumsey Map Collection, which is integrated into Google Earth as a Gallery Layer, just added 2,174 old maps. When I say that the maps are integrated into Google Earth, what that means is that you can overlay a historical map over a modern one and see where the old features match the newer maps. This is very useful for finding places that no longer appear on modern maps such as changes in street names. The additions to the David Rumsey Map Collection brings the total of old historical maps on that site alone to over 34,000 maps.

But of course, this huge site is only the beginning. If you want to see more of what is available, then you should take a look at Old Maps Online. This site allows the user to search for online digital historical maps across numerous different collections via a geographical search. Search by typing a place-name or by clicking in the map window, and narrow by date. The search results provide a direct link to the map image on the website of the host institution.

OldMapsOnline has been created by a collaboration between The Great Britain Historical GIS Project based at The University of Portsmouth, UK and Klokan Technologies GmbH, Switzerland.

The Australian site, Trove.nla.gov.au has links to 380,971 historical and current maps online. Here is an example:





And don't miss the online collections of maps at the Library of Congress's American Memory project. Although their collection is not as large as some, they may have the map you need. Here is an example:




Of course, you know about the United States Geographic Survey's efforts to digitize all of the topographical maps every drawn in the United States? If not check out the Historical Topographical Maps and while you are at it, look at the U.S. Board on Geographic Names

How about an example of a topo map from the USGS:


This is just a start. You could spend several days online just looking at historical maps and never get past some of these sites to the hundreds of others. I am always totally flabbergasted when someone tells me that they have searched everywhere for an ancestor, when I know that this is not physically possible in one lifetime. 

Oh, and did I mention Google Maps and Google Earth? And did I forget to mention the 500,000 items in the Harvard Map Collection? Did I miss the Ordnance Survey in the UK? Oh, and what about Europeana? One last example from Europeana:

And did I mention...

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Digging into the Library of Congress Online

Compared to Australia's premiere Trove website with over 309 million Australian and online resources, the Library of Congress is slim pickings. But if you dig a little you just might discover some interesting information either directly about your ancestors or at least, about the area and time where and when they lived.

The flagship collection of the Library of Congress (LOC) is the Chronicling America Historic American Newspapers project. Now with over 5.2 million pages of newspapers entirely searchable by every word, from every state in the U.S., you just might find an elusive obituary or new article about a member of your family. With the advanced search capabilities of the site, you can search an individual state, county or the entire country. You can also search a particular newspaper.  A search shows the entire newspaper page, with your search term or terms highlighted in red. You can zoom into the paper and read every word. You can also clip an image or download the entire page. If you haven't looked at this free site, you are missing a valuable resource.

Here is an example of the kind of valuable information you might find:



The digital collections of the LOC include
Additional digital collections and services include:
Caution,  you just might spend a really long time on this website. I thought I would add an example of an audio file:


Flash from the Past -- The Genealogical Computer Pioneer

I ran across a copy of the Genealogical Computer Pioneer magazine/journal. I happened still have Volume 2, No. 3 from the Spring of 1984. The journal was published by Joanna W. Posey of Posey International in Orem, Utah. She was also starting the Genealogical Computer Information Center.

The back of my copy has an ad for Family Roots, fro Quinsept, Inc. in Lexington, Massachusetts. The program was advertised for Apple, IBM and CP/M operating systems and that CBM-64 would soon be available. The program had a 900 name limit.

Some of the items of interest from 1984 included:

May
The National Genealogical Society will have its annual conference in San Francisco, May 24-26, 1984 at the Sheraton Palace Hotel...Registration is open to all. Lectures on genealogical use will be given.

June
The LDS Genealogical Depatement of the LDS Church will have its annual Family History Festival during the second week of June at the Church Office Building, 50 E. North Temple, Salt Lake City. Among other topics of family historical interest, the Festival will feature lectures on genealogical computer use.

Some of the programs mentioned in the journal are Personal Ancestral File, Roots II by Commsoft which was replacing Roots/M, Ancestors a program for Atari Owners and Family Reunion for the IBM PC from Personal Software Co. of Salt Lake City, Utah.

Here is a quote from an article entitled "Communications, One View of the Future" by Marie Irvine:
Every genealogist who uses a computer has had the fantasy of being able to connect a home coputer to a giant data base and obtain accurate details and life stories of every ancestor back to Adam or Australopithecus. Forget it! No computer that has been build can hold all of the details of every individual that has ever lived on the face of the earth.
She goes on to say after predicting that the Ancestral File "may ultimately become the largest data base specifically designed for genealogical research, but even the most optimistic observes see a communications link with it still years away,
It is also possible that other fairly large data banks may be established by other organizations which could have computerized indexes to census records or other vital records. Perhaps that information could eventually be available to home computer users.
Right on! Her article also contains the very pertinent and up-to-date admonition:
If computer aided genealogical research is to have any validity or quality it is essential that the computerized data maintained by an individual researcher must include the same attention to source documentation and detail that the research notes of conventional researchers include. 
It seems like we haven't progressed so far after all. With all of our highfalutin computer systems, we are still struggling with paying attention to source documentation.

I contributed an article to one of the very first Computer Genealogical Pioneer journals and got it back with a note from Joanna Posey, that maybe I would like to learn how to spell genealogy!

Expanded Genealogy Catalog at Family History Expos

Family History Expos is in the process of rapidly expanding their offering in their online catalog or Genealogy Store. Recently added items include the popular software programs, Ancestral Quest 14, Legacy Family Tree 7.5, and RootsMagic 5. The number of items for sale have increased dramatically just in the past week. The catalog is available through the Shop link from the startup page. Announcements of new products added to the catalog and presently available will be made regularly through the Family History Expos Blog.

Unanswered Questions

When I do a presentation, I usually ask everyone before I start whether or not they have any questions about the known or unknown universe. Occasionally, I will get a question or two but usually everyone just sits there and stares. They are likely weighing my sanity. But often I explain that I always have questions and here are some of the ones that I cannot answer (or have not yet answered). 

[Disclaimer: Some of these questions are not serious, but some of them are]

1. If genealogy can be learned in five minutes, why are there 25 five-minute-episodes so far in FamilySearch.org's Learning Center?

2. Which of Adam's children are you descended from? Can you document your sources?

3. If 2.7 percent of the members do genealogy in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, where are the other 2.6 percent?

5. If all the courthouses in America burned down, would we all have to stop doing genealogy?

6. Where is Waldo? And who were his parents?

7. Will the only free records on the Internet all end up in FamilySearch.org?

8. If the only people doing genealogy are 55 year old or older, white, educated women, what am I doing here?

9. If genealogy is so fun, why does my head ache?

10. Why did so many immigrants change their names when they came to America? Have you read anything about Arizona in the newspapers (or online) recently?

11. How long will it be until I no longer hear, "I don't have any computer skills?"

12. Why do more people do genealogy in the Winter than in the Summer?

That's probably enough questions for one day. I am sure that some of these are really obscure and will need further explanation. But, none will be forthcoming. Then again, I might comment on some of them. I'll have to think about it. As the judges used to say to me all the time, I'll take it under advisement and get back to you.