RootsTech 2014

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

Monday, March 31, 2014

MyHeritage.com Project for BillionGraves.com



This is a new video from MyHeritage.com about their project to help BillionGraves.com. In an email explaining the video Daniel Horowitz, Chief Genealogist and Translation Manager says:
As you know we have launched a pro-bono global initiative with BillionGraves to preserve every cemetery and gravestone in the world and we are providing the content online, for free. This project is important and beneficial for genealogists everywhere. 
We have produced a short video about it and we would be really grateful if you could help us spread the word by embedding the video on your blog (embed codes below). 
It features Gilad Japhet (MyHeritage's Founder and CEO) who participated in our company's trip to the cemetery and who alone was responsible for digitizing around 1000 gravestones in 3 hrs!. It's a race against time. The more people that we can encourage participate now, the more data will be preserved for future generations, before inscriptions start to fade. 
Thanks for your help.

Comments on the recent FamilySearch Family Tree issues with sources

Because of my post on some recent problems with sources in the FamilySearch.org Family Tree, we have had a flurry of comments. Rather than reproduce the comments here, although I may make some further comments in subsequent blog posts, I would recommend that you read all of the comments to the original post at "Hear us out: FamilySearch is Corrupting Sourced Entries; Needs to Stop IMMEDIATELY." If you aren't usually in the habit of reading the comments, you might consider making an exception is this case. Much of what was written in the comments explains and amplifies the issues raised in the original blog post, especially those written by my daughter Amy. You can tell the apple never falls far from the tree.


Comments on Becoming an Excellent Genealogist -- Chapter Six

This is an ongoing series of chapter by chapter comments on the book,

Meyerink, Kory L., Tristan Tolman, and Linda K. Gulbrandsen. Becoming an Excellent Genealogist: Essays on Professional Research Skills. [Salt Lake City, Utah]: ICAPGen, 2012.

I am now commenting on Chapter Six: Migration Methodology by Karen Clifford, AG, FUGA.

So far, this book has focused on some of the most important issues in genealogical research that apply worldwide to research in every country. Migration is one of the areas, from my experience, I would guess, that has the very lowest level of awareness and knowledge among most researchers. It is a topic that is seldom mentioned and even less understood. Of course, many people immediately think of emigration and immigration when they discover that their ancestors came from some other country, but as Karen explains, migration is as much of a local as it is a global issue.

The chapter starts by pointing out that some of the most puzzling ancestral issues confronting investigators arise from a lack of understanding of migration patterns and the background reasons people have migrated from one area to another. I can think of a good example of this lack of awareness. Two of my family lines came through Australia. It is well know among Australian genealogical researchers that many of the early settlers in their country did not arrive voluntarily. It is estimated that 165,000 convicts were transported to Australia from 1788 to 1868. See Ancestry.com Launches Largest Online Collection of Records Documenting Australia's Convicted 'Founding Fathers." It is further estimated that 22 percent of the Australians are descended from these British exiles. Now, what about the American colonies? We hear very little about how many of the early colonists to America were sent here involuntarily by the British. Estimates of the number of convicts sent to America run as high as 120,000. See Wikipedia: Penal transportation. Most of these convicts were sent to New England. How many researchers are anxious to find out the real background of their proud New England heritage?

It is because of issues such as the transportation of convicts and many, many other reasons why people moved from one area to another that this is a subject every serious researcher should understand, especially as it applies to the time and place where your ancestors lived. Early American history begins with what we call "The Great Migration." See GreatMigration.org. The American Ancestors website of the New England Historic Genealogical Society maintains an online searchable database with the goal of identifying every immigrant to America from 1620 to 1640.

Karen points out that some of the most important aspects of the migration issues occurs on a very local level and that understanding these movements requires a combination of map studies and historical research. Your ancestors may have moved for a very obvious reason, but without taking the effort to identify the economic or social forces that initiated the move, you may never be able to understand where they went or more importantly, why they moved.

Following your ancestors' movements across a country or across international boundaries can be one of the most fascinating and challenging genealogical research project. Beginning that investigation will be immeasurably helped by starting your investigations with a basic understanding of the issues. I highly recommend this chapter of the book as a good start to that understanding.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

The Jewish Chronicle added to MyHeritage SuperSearch

The Jewish Chronicle, the world's oldest continually published Jewish newspaper dating back to 1841, is now available as a collection on for searching on MyHeritage.com. Quoting from an email from Daniel Horowitz, Chief Genealogist and Translation Manager,
The Jewish Chronicle includes articles, stories, and details of births, marriages and deaths that occurred within the British Jewish community, for the last 173 years. Many people with Jewish roots or family will have had ancestors that resided in the UK or passed through before moving on to the USA, Canada, and other countries. 
In addition, we are adding soon, millions of records from a variety of Jewish organizations like the Israel Genealogy Research Association (IGRA) databases and Avelim, containing searchable death notices from Israel.
The press release goes on to state:
“We're delighted to offer these unique collections, that have never been offered on commercial family history mega-sites before”, said Russ Wilding, Chief Content Officer of MyHeritage. “The Jewish Chronicle is an extremely social publication, capturing the lives of individuals and families who lived in the UK and beyond. Anyone with Jewish ancestors who lived in the UK is bound to make fascinating discoveries.”

The new collections will be available for searching via SuperSearch, MyHeritage’s search engine which contains billions of historical records. MyHeritage users enjoy highly accurate matching technologies that automatically match relevant newspaper articles and records with their family trees, notifying users whenever relevant information is found.
The Jewish Chronicle collection is available online at http://www.myheritage.com/research/collection-10148/the-jewish-chronicle

Why not have a public family tree?

We had quite a flurry of activity the past few days with the controversy over FamilySearch.org adding sources to the Family Tree program. Meanwhile, there was a post a while ago from Kerry Scott on her Clue Wagon blog entitled "Why Don't People Post Public Family Trees?" This post elicited a response from Tony Proctor on his Parallax View blog entitled, "What to Share, and How." I meant to make some comments about Kerry's post earlier but got wrapped up in the Family Tree controversy and other things such as moving to Provo etc.

I have addressed this issue a number of times and Tony does a very good job of summarizing some of the issues. I would like to focus on two main issues; rewriting history and preserving our work beyond our own demise.

Kerry raises some interesting issues. She focuses, in part, on what I would call privacy issues, that is, issues that involve delicate or difficult family situations. I suppose you could include such things as incest, murder, abuse of all kinds and go on with a long litany of ills suffered by families all over the world. She maintains that the existence of these very negative activities is a fundamental argument for avoiding public trees. I fear that what she is really saying is that she would like to rewrite the history of her family by focusing on the sensibilities of the living family members at the expense of accurately recording the events. Public or private from this standpoint merely means selective publication. Kerry admits that she shares her tree with cousins who "actually contact you." So you can pick and choose who gets to see the "evidence" and make sure there are no contradictory opinions.

Genealogy is basically public in nature. You do not own your ancestors. Dead people have no privacy. If you are concerned about living people, do not include them in what you put online. If there are things that happened in the lives of dead people, keeping that information "private" is really an attempt to rewrite history to conform to your own personal view on the events. Many of the most horrible events suffered by mankind are part of all of our historical past. My own ancestors were mobbed, lost children through tragic circumstances, had children out of wedlock, owned slaves, went to prison, fought in wars and all sorts of other things. That is history. Just because we don't like what happened, we have no right to rewrite the events to suit our own opinions about what should have happened.

Now to the heart of the matter. Exactly how far back does this concern about our own feelings or those of our known family members extend? If a sister or brother is struggling with some undesirable situation, perhaps putting that whole situation online is not such a good idea. Although, I would direct your attention to Facebook and you can probably see most of what you feel is private on any given day. What about the actions of parents? Grandparents? Great-grandparents? What if you find that your Great-great-grandfather was a mass murderer or was on the German side of the issues in World War II or I, do you cover up those facts because they might offend some of his descendants? What if you feel your research should be "private" and I am you close relative and decide to publish my genealogy to the world on any number of family trees. You then look at my public family tree and see almost exactly the same people you are trying to protect on your private tree, what do you do about it? What if I publish exactly the same research you have done including all the steamy and sordid details of the family? What can you do about it? You have no legal right of action if I violate someone else's privacy, only if I violate your own. Again, dead people have no right of privacy.

I fully realize that there are any number of justifications for keeping research private, but where did you get the information? One of my Great-grandfathers was supposedly born in 1863. He had two sisters who were born in 1846 and 1847. The family tradition was that he was "adopted." Both of his "sisters" were old enough to have been his mother. So isn't it likely that the family tradition of adoption came from the fact that he was raised by his grandparents? None of the details of this situation have been preserved in any record I have yet found, so the mystery remains. Most of us probably have situations that are similar. Our ancestors decided to rewrite history and keep the matter quiet. Are we going to pass on the same sort of issues to our own posterity?

I don't really care if you make your family tree private or not. The main result of your privacy is that I do not get to share in your research efforts and have to repeat them. We will never know if we disagree about any of that research because I will never see what you have in your family tree. You will have no way to correct my online mistakes because your research and conclusions are private.

Who is going to carry on your private research for you in the future? What will happen to all of your research when you pass on? Are you going to seal up your research with directions that it is not to be opened until some date after your death?

Think about the idea of keeping ancestral information private. What are the consequences? Who benefits? Who loses?

I fully understand the issues and the desire to avoid hard feelings. I am fully aware of family members' desire to avoid unpleasant issues and their refusal to acknowledge the truth or facts of any particular case. I have dealt with contentious estate matters most of my life. But I cannot countenance re-writing history for that reason.


Genealogy is not as easy as some would like it to be

I got the following comment to a recent blog post:
Thank you for a thoughtful and insightful column. I am a DAR registrar and lineage researcher who deals constantly with people who want genealogy to be "easy" and are upset and even downright angry when it is not.  I do most of the research for them (except for the first three generations for which they must obtain the commonly available government documents because of privacy concerns -- an expenditure that many resent mightily.)  They want to have an "illustrious" lineage and they want it easy and on the cheap.  Well, it is neither. They want to bring me pages of family trees printed off of Ancestry and have me fashion it into a silk purse. They want me to use a totally unsourced history of their family that some relative has put together and are furious when I tell them that DAR will not accept it.  I don't want to make them all into genealogists; they may have many other talents which are useful to and needed by the organization.  But I demand a respect for the rigor of meeting the standard of proof of the organization, which is considerably more difficult than it used to be.  There is none so enraged as the would-be member whose great-grandmother was able to get into DAR in 1910 on nothing more than her say-so that her mother told her she was descended from a patriot, and who believes that she should now be able to do the same in 2014. Ain't gonna happen.
There is a disturbing trend, not just in genealogy, but throughout our society to always want things to be safe and easy. We used to be a nation of risk takers. We now avoid anything that does not provide instant gratification and any problem that cannot be solved in a one hour episode. One of the most evident of this avoidance of things that are difficult is the unfortunate trend away from lasting marriage relationships. For example, concerning the marriage rate in the United States:
The marriage rate has fluctuated in the past, with dips in the 1930s and 1960s, but it has been in steady decline since the 1970s. 
Now, researchers report that the marriage rate has dropped to a new low of 31.1, meaning there are about 31 marriages in the U.S. for every 1,000 unmarried women, researchers found. In 1950, that number was 90.2. In 1920, it was 92.3. See "US Marriage Rate Drops to New Low" livescience.com
 I see this disturbing trend every time I talk to a newly interested family historian and explain what is needed to find the person's ancestry. Very, very few wish to make the effort or commitment necessary to learn how to do the research. They abandon the effort as soon as they learn that their "genealogy" is not available at the click of a button. As is always the case, there are a very few exceptions. Potential researchers who dig in and make the effort to learn what is necessary. Becoming involved in genealogy is a long term commitment. It is like becoming married for life and beyond. It involves many difficulties and some significant reversals. But it is worth the effort. I would not be involved in genealogy were it not one of the most difficult and challenging pursuits I have discovered in my life. I admire all those who have made the effort.

I am somewhat annoyed every time I see a written statement or hear someone say how "fun and easy" it is to do genealogy. Almost always, those statements are made by people who have had little or no experience working with their own genealogy. It is time we face the truth. Genealogy is a very difficult and time consuming pursuit. There is no way to candy-coat that fact to make it more palatable. It is easy to copy someone else's work without evaluating its accuracy. It is much more of a challenge to discover your own pedigree though cited sources.

I am truly afraid that a generation or more of those in our own country who have worked hard to avoid commitment and the risk of long term relationships, are ill prepared to enter the world of genealogical research. I don't think we solve that problem by "selling" genealogy as easy and fun.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Find-A-Record, a valuable tool and time saver



One of the top finalists in the Developers' Challenge at RootsTech 2014 was a program called FindARecord.com. This program has a perfect fit into the process of doing basic online research in FamilySearch.org's Historical Record Collections and in Ancestry.com. It is a simple and useful starting point for research, especially for new researchers who have no idea where to start looking for information about their ancestors.

The concept of the program is relatively simple, you enter in the location where your ancestor lived and  a range of dates and the program gathers links to online resources pertaining to that time and location. That may seem simple, but it is a fabulous time saver and helps the beginning researcher focus on pertinent records. I suggest watching the instructional video above and visiting the program. I am guessing, but many genealogists will want to add this program their regular list of reference programs.

Hear us out: FamilySearch is Corrupting Sourced Entries; Needs to Stop IMMEDIATELY

Note: There have been some updates to this whole story. Please check out Amy's latest comments on the blog post linked below.

This was written by my daughter Amy in her blog TheAncestorFiles. I agree completely. This sort of action invalidates the entire FamilySearch.org Family Tree. If this continues, the Family Tree program will be essentially useless to real researchers. The problem does not stop with what Amy has pointed out. What I found last night was that I could not enter the corrected information at all. Here is Amy's blog post in its entirety:

As far as we can tell, FamilySearch is employing a battalion of volunteers to go in and corrupt sourced entries on Family Tree.

Named people are migrating data from the old NewFamilySearch by hand. Instead of a carefully and thoroughly sourced entry, these sources now look like this:


Basically, most or all of the sources have been stripped from an entry and replaced with nonsense.

For example, if I had added a census source and created a citation and copied the information out of the census about family members and the pertinent data contained in the census, now it looks something like this:

No data. Just nonsense.

In the case of George Jarvis (LWYL-M7G), his entry had been carefully and thoroughly sourced by myself, noted genealogy lecturer James Tanner, and many devoted members of the Jarvis family including Sharon Simnitt, Danelle Curtis, and family website manager Mark Jarvis.

A few of us have been trying to correct the mess, but there does not seem to be any way to restore the previous contents of the Sources and the entry is so corrupted that it could take months to get it back to where it was before FamilySearch started making corrupting the data.



This is outrageous. It is compromising any reputation FamilySearch had left with the serious genealogical community. It is compromising its integrity. It is compromising the trust I had that my work will be preserved, and if changes were made by other family members, we could negotiate and come to a reasonable conclusion.

This is not a case of what Ron Tanner at FamilySearch calls "my-tree-itis." This is clear cutting of the virgin forest.

Fix this problem immediately, FamilySearch.

End of Amy's post.

If you want to see this for yourself, you can enter George Jarvis' ID number into the program and see the entries. This is not just a minor issue. It is a deal breaker. 

Friday, March 28, 2014

Mocavo.com Celebrates adding its 300,000th Database

By adding 1000 new databases every single day, Mocavo.com has now reached the 300,000 database mark. As announced by Cliff Shaw, the CEO,
Thanks to your support, free genealogy continues to gain a significant foothold in the family history community. One database at a time, we’ve brought more than 300,000 databasesonline to help you discover your story for free. As a way to say thank you, we want to share some exciting new features to help you break through your brick walls and customize your Mocavo experience.
The new features announced in conjunction with reaching the 300,000 database milestone include the following:
  • Prioritize your search notifications. Simply select your favorite search terms and they will email you results based on those priorities, helping you make discoveries faster than ever.
  • Exclusively for Mocavo Gold members, you can find new search result displays under the Results & Summary Search Tabs. With so many new displays to choose from, making new discoveries has never been easier!
  • Now you can uncover two more ways to easily scan your search results featured under the “Results Tab.” These new views will enhance your document viewing experience by revealing the important contextual details of a record page.
  • With Full Image View, you’ll see the full image of each record on your results page. You can view up to ten results and we will highlight your search terms so you can easily identify where they appear within the image.
  • If you don’t have time to view the entire page, but still want some contextual info? Try out the new Tile View. Revealing a smaller image than the full page view, you’ll be able to quickly browse all results without losing any necessary contextual details.
  • The new Summary Search View allows you to group your results by category and database title, making it a breeze to target the databases that spark your interest, and quickly avoid those that are irrelevant to your research.
You can take advantage of the Free Seven Day offer in the link on the blog. As usual, searching any of the records individually in the huge database is free. The Mocavo Gold option allows searches of the entire database at one time and other important features. 

FamilySearch Catalog Now Linked to the OCLC WorldCat Catalog

With all the changes being made to the FamilySearch.org website nearly every day, it is no wonder that the major improvements and monumentally important changes go almost completely unnoticed. Raising the online visibility of the Family History Library Catalog (now the FamilySearch Catalog) is one of those deal-changing events that creeps in under the door and receives almost no attention from genealogists. Since my whole life has revolved, more or less, around libraries, I have been carefully watching the changes in the FamilySearch Catalog. Now, there are direct links from the entries to the same items in the huge WorldCat.org catalog. This is comparable to going from a small town in Central Utah, to the big city. It is a major, major change in the way the catalog works and its visibility. 

First, the FamilySearch Catalog. This is now a compilation of all of the holdings of all of the larger FamilySearch Centers around the world. Here is a screen shot of the link showing some of the FamilySearch Centers now being integrated into the master catalog:

First you click on the link that says "Search these Family History Centers:"


When you click, you get a list of all of the participating Centers. Any search you make will include all of the Centers. There is a further link on any resulting search window taking you to any Center having a copy of the item you are searching for:


Note that there is also a link to the digitized copy of the book, free and online, if one exists. Clicking on the link to the "Location" gives you a drop-down list of all of the FamilySearch Centers that have a copy of the item.

Now, if you look near the bottom of this same search page, you will also see a link taking you directly to the WorldCal.com (OCLC) catalog website:


Clicking on this link takes you directly to the catalog entry in the WorldCat.org catalog:


Notice that there are entries for the Family History Library and for the Mesa Arizona FamilySearch Library. But you should also note all the other locations where this particular book can be found, including the previously noted online version. 

Any genealogist worth their salt should be very well acquainted with WorldCat.org. With over 2 billion catalog entries, this is the most valuable searching resource for genealogists on the Internet after Google. If you use WorldCat.org regularly, you just might begin to understand why this linking of the two catalogs is so important. 

See "FamilySearch Catalog Will Soon Link to the OCLC World Catalog" on the FamilySearch.org blog for another announcement. 

Explore new territory in the Google Maps Gallery


Sometimes the Internet is like visiting a town you haven't seen for years and finding that all new buildings have sprung up where there were only vacant lots. The changes are in the past but new to you. I feel that way most of the time about my rambles on the Web, but the changes don't take years, sometimes they happen overnight. Well, in this case, I can't determine when this website popped into existence, but it is certainly going to impact what we do in genealogy map-wise from now on. Google has the capacity to make a brand new website look like it has been there all the time.

Google Map Gallery is certainly one of those programs that appear full-blown with content. There doesn't seem to be any indication of how many maps are on this website, but the number is climbing because anyone with online maps can contribute their maps to the gallery. Do you need a map of all of the present U.S. school districts, both elementary and secondary? Well, the U.S. Census has an interactive map of the entire U.S. showing every district. Here is a screenshot of my part of Arizona: (You can click on any image to enlarge it)


This is obviously a website that takes some considerable time to explore. Another example is an overlaid map of the battles of the U.S. Civil war from the National Geographic Society:


Zooming in on that Civil War map looks like this:


In addition, there is a further gallery of related maps:


This may take some time to figure out exactly how best to use this new-to-me website.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

What I like about popular genealogy database programs

In a popular post I wrote recently, I listed some of the genealogical database programs I use. In response, I got a short comment asking what features I like about each of the programs in my list. Hmm. That started me thinking about why I try to keep up with several programs and don't just settle down with one. For the past few years, I have been teaching classes up to six days a week at the Mesa FamilySearch Library. That is about to change with my move to Provo, Utah. I may not have the same level of opportunities to teach people directly that I have enjoyed for years. Originally, one of my main motivations for "keeping up" with all the programs was to have the ability to help patrons at the Library when I was asked a question about a particular program. That opportunity may now vanish. So what is my motivation for keeping current on all the programs now?

In the past, I have resisted the urge to do software reviews of the various programs in the sense of criticizing their various functions. This was done, in part, out a desire to maintain good relationships with all of the developers. I am more than willing to evaluate programs directly and in confidence but I feel that public criticism of the various genealogy programs is counter-productive to the development of the genealogical community as a whole. Now, online database programs, such as Ancestry.com, FamilySearch.org and others are open season. Failings in their programs affect more than voluntary purchasers. They should have a much higher standard of support and should be more cognizant of the failings of their programs. Why the distinction?

I have spent years of my life debugging programs. It is not hard for me to find a programming issue in the first few minutes of my use of any program. That is what I do. For me, this is like saying I can take a lawsuit to court. It is something that is so routine that I don't have to think much about the process. I simply think it is not fair to attack a program in public. So why do I attack the big online database programs? Supposedly, they have the resources and the programming support to make their programs work. They have millions of people everyday using their programs and relying on the fact that they work. It is mainly an issue of scale. Many of the individual database programs are the product of one or more programmers working alone and without the vast resources of the big genealogy companies. Why make enemies of the programmers? Now, I do realize that some of the programs on the list are the products of large companies, but I am not going to pick apart those programs and leave the rest alone. It is easier for me not to try to make those types of distinctions on the desktop software level. 

Enough on that issue. Here is the list I published.
  • Heredis.com OS X and Windows
  • Rootsmagic.com Windows
  • Ancestral Quest Windows
  • Celebrating Family History Windows
  • Family Tree Maker OS X and Windows
  • Family Tree Builder Windows
  • Reunion OS X only
  • Legacy Family Tree Windows
I might mention that I have looked at and worked with about a dozen additional programs over the years. The very fact that a program has made this list says something about my attitude towards the program. If you were to blindly pick any one of these programs for your own use, you would have a very good, usable and competently programmed genealogical tool. I have no trouble recommending each one of them. I know people who are very satisfied with each of the different programs. It is not up to me to tell you which one of these programs you would like the best. The features that I value in each of these programs will not be the same ones you value. My reasons for excluding other very useful programs from my own list may be far different than your own perceptions and needs. 

Most of us, when we go out to buy a new product, such as a car or a computer, spend some considerable time evaluating what is available and comparing features. In the end, our decisions sometimes come down to trivial things such as the color of a car or the look of a computer case or the price of the product. The same is true of software. We use what we are familiar with. I constantly hear complaints every time there is a program update that the users have to learn everything all over again. That fact alone keeps people using a program such as Personal Ancestral File long after it is officially dead. That fact also keeps most users from jumping from one program to another. Once you know how to use any particular program, inertia sets in and you are stuck using that program. Why do you think Windows 8.1 now looks a lot like Windows 98? Why do you think that the average car today looks almost exactly like every other car today?

If I were going to sit here in Mesa (soon to be Provo) and tell you what to buy in the way of a genealogy program and choose one of these programs as my "favorite" I would be doing you and the companies involved in furthering the work of genealogy a disservice. But I will tell the world what I like about genealogy programs in general and I will keep picking away at the major online database companies both in public and in private. They are grown ups, they can take the heat. 

I will tell you two factors, independent of the utility of the programs listed above, that will make or break any of these programs in the future. The first is that the program exchanges data with a large online genealogical database program. The second is whether or not the developers of the program participate in the genealogical community and come to the conferences. If any of the programs' developers ignore either of those two factors, their programs will not prosper and will ultimately be marginalized. 

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

My Top Ten Useful Programs for Genealogy -- Part Two Online Websites

When I wrote about my top ten most useful desktop programs, it turned out to really be about twenty or so, but in categories. It looks like this post will turn out the same way. The premise here is that these programs fall into categories and consist of programs that are not necessarily directly connected to or ever associated with genealogy as such. I view most of my computer programs more as general purpose tools that can be used for a variety of purposes. For example, you don't use a word processing program to just write about genealogy, you probably use the program for many other totally unrelated purposes. It is the same way with all of the types of programs I use. The possible exceptions are those programs dedicated specifically to genealogy. This is also true of some very limited utility-type programs. These programs are like specialized tools, in contrast to general purpose tools.

I do not treat this list as my "top ten" in any sense of competition or recognition. My point here is that these are the programs I currently use. This could change any day. I may find another program that I feel is more useful and I my start using a program again I previously abandoned. That is one reason that I try to make this kind of list periodically.

This list in unavoidably centered in the United States. This is not out of any desire on my part to exclude the huge number of useful genealogy websites in other parts of the world, but my family is heavily centered in America and goes back into the 1600s in many lines. With a few notable exceptions in Australia, all of my ancestors come form England, Scotland, Wales, Ireland and with two lines in Denmark. There are some very useful Danish websites and many in the UK and Ireland, but that is another time.

One difficulty I am running into lately is the movement of programs from localized desktop only status to programs that work with or only work on the Internet. Take Dropbox.com for example. Is this a desktop program or an online program? I think everyone would agree that it was a creation of the Internet. There is no way the program will work without the Internet. But what about programs such as Family Tree Maker and Family Tree Builder? Are these local or online programs? I am sure there are people who use both of these programs and never connect them to their respective websites; Ancestry.com for Family Tree Maker and MyHeritage.com for Family Tree Builder. I consider these types of programs to fall into the "online" category for some purposes and as "desktop" programs for other purposes.

I guess the threshold criteria for entry in this particular list of online programs is whether or not the program will work without an open network connection. If I can use the program without being connected to the Internet, it is still mainly a desktop program. However, you will immediately notice that my number one program category for local programs were Browsers which don't work at all without an Internet connection. That's what I mean, the distinction is becoming blurred.

One challenge of doing online genealogical research is the diffuse nature of the pertinent websites. They are all over the Web as evidenced by Cyndi's List which contains over 330,000 links. It is really hard to focus on any small set of programs since there are hundreds that I use from time to time. I finally gave up trying to bookmark programs and now just do a Google search when I need to go back to a program I used previously.

Well here goes the list. Oh, but before I get down to business here, I am skipping bowser programs because they were in my last list.

No. 1 Search Engines
Hands down, I use search engines more than any other online program and there is no doubt that I use Google almost exclusively. From time to time, I get questions in classes at the Mesa FamilySearch Library about other search engines such as Microsoft's Bing. It has been a while since I wrote about comparing the various search engines so a short comparison might be in order. I usually select a search term associated with genealogy in some way, such as the name of an ancestor, and do identical searches in several different search engines. I have traditionally used the name of my paternal Great-grandfather, but lately, I have switched to less prominent ancestors. One challenge is choosing a name that isn's so common that all of the results are meaningless. I thought this time I would choose, Henry Christian Overson, aother Great-grandfather. The search terms I used were "Henry Christian Overson" Arizona. I put Arizona into the search to help eliminate other people with the same name. Here are the results of a search in several search engines:

  • Google.com -- 366 results with every one of them on the first page a reference to my ancestor
  • Bing.com -- 12 results with all of them on the first page my ancestor
  • Yahoo.com -- 12 results with all of them on the first page my ancestor
  • Excite.com -- No specific number given but it looks like about 20 correct hits but a lot of incorrect hits also.
  • Ask.com -- No specific number given but it looks like about 20 correct hits but a lot of incorrect hits also. Looks exactly like Excite.com.
  • AOL.com -- 327 results, looks like they are using Google's search engine. 

Your results might vary, but it looks like I am still well into the Google camp.

No. 2 Email Programs
Let me just start out by saying I don't like any of them very much. I have a Gmail account that seems to work OK, but the local email clients I have tried have not worked all that well including Microsoft's Outlook and Apple's Mail programs. Right now, I use Sparrow which is now owned by Google. Small world isn't it. Since I get hundreds of emails every week, I depend on the programs pretty heavily. Sparrow has been working OK for me for some time now (not much of an endorsement).

No. 3 Big Online Genealogy Database Programs
Well, of course I am going to list the same programs I always put in this category. Here they are:

Missing from my list, of course, is findmypast.com. This is mainly due to the fact that I don't do much UK research, yet. I suspect that this is one of my next big areas of research. I am not going to try and compare the five websites. They all have there unique advantages. In including FamilySearch.org in this list, I am including the Research Wiki, Family Tree and the FamilySearch Catalog. 

No. 4 WorldCat.org
This selection is easy. I use this program many times each week. I also put it in a category by itself. I cannot imagine life without a library and I cannot now imagine libraries without WorldCat.org. This is ever more the case since the FamilySearch Library Catalog has been integrated into WorldCat.org

No. 4 Mapping Programs
This category, of course, brings me back to Google and Google Maps, but I use a whole variety of other mapping programs for a whole variety of purposes. Probably, one of the most useful programs is OldMapsOnline.org. This is a portal program to tens of thousands of free online historic map collections, including the David Rumsey Maps. I also find it to be the best interface. At the other end of the spectrum, with the worst possible interface is the USGS.gov National Map, Board on Geographic Names and Historic Topographical Map Collection. This huge website has extremely useful geographic information, but is so badly organized that it is impossible to navigate. Another very useful website is the Newberry Atlas of Historic County Boundaries. This is a must-use website for anyone doing research in the U.S. 

No. 5 General reference programs
Oh my, this is a vague category isn't it. I could just list the entire Internet. But what I mean here is programs that provide a broad number of resources. What I am thinking of is like the USGenWeb.org project. This is a collection of websites with a huge number of resources for genealogists. Another helpful program is the RootsWeb.com program, now owned by Ancestry.com. Both of these programs deserve more attention than they usually get. The FamilySearch.org Research Wiki would fit into this category, but I included it with FamilySearch.org

No. 6 Large Online Libraries
Well, this category could go on for a very long entry on its own. So why not take a look at the following lists of libraries. You might get the idea that there were quite a few places to go for research you hadn't considered. 
Of course, I have to mention the Library of Congress, DP.LA the Digital Public Library of America, the National Library of Australia's Trove.nla.gov.au and Europeana.eu

No. 7 Cemetery Location Programs
I don't know how we lived before FindAGrave.com (another Ancestry.com program) and BillionGraves.com (now in partnership with MyHeritage.com). They are easily the most useful newer types of websites imaginable for genealogy. But don't forget Interment.net and the United States Department of Veterans Affairs, Gravesite Locator

No. 8 Online Family Tree programs
Here is a category I could easily get mired down in. I have a real love/hate relationship with online family trees. I think they are necessary but totally out of control. I hesitate to focus on any one or more family tree programs since I am presently struggling with them all. I am partial to FamilySearch.org's Family Tree simply because I think it shows great promise, but I am harvesting so much information from Ancestry.com and MyHeritage.com that FamilySearch Family Tree has taken a backseat for a while. 

No. 9 Online Newspaper Websites
OK, so this is another really broad category. Here is the most comprehensive list of websites that I know about from Wikipedia. I must admit that I use the Library of Congress's website much more than I do any other. There are so many places to look however, that this is a real challenge. Also, there are still many newspapers only available on microfilm or in paper format. 

No. 10 Online Digital Books
Of course Google's Book site tops this list, but there are several other notable websites. Here is my rather selective and short list:
Here is a link to a more comprehensive list called The Online Books Page from the University of Pennsylvania. 

Well, that's the list. Have fun. I would appreciate comments with more suggestions. Thanks. 





Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Larry Page: Where's Google going next? Where is Genealogy going next?

Maybe we are all stuck in our genealogical past. Maybe we haven't thought enough of the future. Here are two videos that might give you some ideas about what we need to do in genealogy to get us out of the past and into the future.

 

Next is how Google can help to unite families and friends. This video is called Reunion.

   

Maybe technology has a real place in our lives and in our genealogical research.

Bits and pieces of genealogy news

Sometimes there are a lot of things going on in the genealogical community but are just "need-to-know" type items without a lot of explanation. Here are some of the things during the past week or so.

  • MyHeritage adds more than 100 million new UK records. The new additions added more than 118 million new records. One of our new UK collections - "England Births and Christenings" - dates back to 1538 and contains more than 192 million names, including births and christenings from various localities.
  • Dues for the Association of Professional Genealogists has increased effective 1 July 2014.
  • The newly FamilySearch certified version of Legacy Family Tree is free. Sort of. The free version contains only a subset of the features available in the full version of the program which cost $29.95.
  • A new method to attach historical records to FamilySearch.org Family Tree will be released by the end of March. The new version will allow you to attach all of the appropriate family members at one time rather than individually. If you would like to experience the beta version you can turn on the tool in your chosen web browser simply by loading the following URL: http://tiny.cc/attachbeta2
  • The 34th annual International Conference on Jewish Genealogy will be held at the Hilton Salt Lake City Center, 255 W Temple, Salt Lake City, UT 84101 on July 27 through August 1, 2014. For registration and information click here.



New FamilySearch Certified Products

 FamilySearch has recently announced at the following products Darnell FamilySearch certified. Quoting from a blog post by Gordon Clarke, the following programs are listed:

MacFamilyTree is Tree Share Certified. MacFamilyTree 7 gives genealogy a facelift: It's modern, interactive, incredibly fast and easy to use. We're convinced that generations of chroniclers would have loved to trade in their genealogy tools for MacFamilyTree 7. MacFamilyTree 7 helps you collect and record facts and data about your family history and turns them into informative reports and charts. MacFamilyTree 7 comes with countless features to record and visualize your family history - use them to create reports, charts or nifty 3D views within our Virtual Tree feature. MacFamilyTree 7 offers the right solution for all your genealogy needs. MacFamilyTree 7 has been translated into a total of 15 languages. MacFamilyTree 7 offers FamilySearch Family Tree integration, extensive export options and runs on all Macs using OS 10.7 Lion and newer. OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion is completely supported.

Legacy Family Tree is Tree Share Certified. Legacy Family Tree is the FREE genealogy software to organize, research, and publish your family’s tree. Use Legacy to print maps, get research suggestions, collaborate with other family members, cite your sources, publish books and shareable CDs and much more. Legacy makes it easy to work with FamilySearch and will measure your progress against the goals you set for temple work and more. Easily import from PAF and other programs. Get started today by downloading Legacy for free.

MagiCensus Deluxe is Tree Share Certified. MagiCensus is a Windows-based genealogy software that opens, reads, and saves in the GEDCOM format. The new tool Census Tracker, helps you to easily extract and view census data for an entire family across many years in countries such as the US, Canada, Ireland, Scotland, and Great Britain. Use MagiCensus to easily take your existing information, or information extracted from a census and add it to FamilySearch, merge duplicate information, then reserve ordinances. MagiCensus merges GEDCOM files, standardizes place names, and helps you research by location, analyze census data, and generate HTML reports to share your research with others.

MagiTree  is Tree Share Certified. MagiTree is a Windows-based genealogy software that opens, reads, and saves in the GEDCOM format. The new tool Census Tracker, helps you to easily extract and view census data for an entire family across many years in countries such as the US, Canada, Ireland, Scotland, and Great Britain. Use MagiTree to easily take your existing information, or information extracted from a census and add it to FamilySearch, merge duplicate information, then reserve ordinances. MagiTree merges GEDCOM files, standardizes place names, and helps you research by location, analyze census data, and generate HTML reports to share your research with others.

See these new products and previously certified products at www.FamilySearch.org/products

Tree Share Certified programs means that they are certified to read and write Family Tree data to match, compare, and modify records. Also includes required certification for sources, discussions, change history, and interaction with community members.


Comments on Becoming an Excellent Genealogist -- Chapter Five

This is an ongoing series of chapter by chapter comments on the book,

Meyerink, Kory L., Tristan Tolman, and Linda K. Gulbrandsen. Becoming an Excellent Genealogist: Essays on Professional Research Skills. [Salt Lake City, Utah]: ICAPGen, 2012.

I am now commenting on Chapter Five: Demography as a Tool for Genealogists by Kathryn M. Daynes, Ph.D., AG.

This chapter of the book has one of the best quotes yet. Just at the end Kathryn says:
Family Historians neglect history at their peril of failure; history may not remove every roadblock, but it is an essential tool for every astute genealogist. 
What does it mean to be astute? Well, being astute means that you can accurately assess situations and use them to your own advantage. My personal experience in teaching hundreds of classes about genealogy is that very few genealogical aspirants have even a moderate understanding of the history of the places where their ancestors lived. They are not astute in the area of history.

In the United States, this is not too surprising. History, as such, is hardly taught in our public schools. Throughout the United States, students learn about "social studies." Social studies includes the following subjects for students during secondary school (9-12) as selected at random from the Tennessee Department of Education:
  • Ancient History
  • African American History
  • Contemporary Issues
  • Economics
  • Modern History
  • Personal Finance
  • Psychology
  • Sociology
  • United States Government
  • United States History
  • World Geography
  • World History

In that same state of Tennessee, there are the following "advanced placement" courses:

  • Bible Curriculum Guide
  • Comparative Government and Politics
  • European History
  • Micro-Economics
  • Macro Economics
  • Psychology
  • U.S. Government and Politics
  • United States History
  • World Geography
  • World History

OK, before you get all excited and say that see, they do teach history, here is the Tennessee description of what the students are supposed to learn when they take World History:
Learning Expectations:
The student will
 1.1 understand the multi-cultural components to world culture.
 1.2 understand the development and migration of art, architecture, language,
religion, music and theater.
 1.3 understand the ways in which individuals and groups contributed to changes
in social conditions.
 1.4 examine how various individuals and groups use methods to diminish cultural
elements and eradicate entire groups. 
This isn't history, it is propaganda. (Propaganda is information, especially of a biased or misleading nature, used to promote or publicize a particular political cause or point of view). I am not picking on Tennessee, I expect that they are merely typical of the type of course descriptions current in American schools. 

This is nothing new. When I took history in high school we never got past the U.S. Civil War. 

Now back to becoming an excellent genealogist. If this lack of knowledge or even awareness about history is common, it is no wonder that so many genealogist get stuck doing simple research tasks. Let's suppose that you are researching a family in a Pennsylvania county. How many of the following questions could you answer off the top of your head:
  • When was the county first settled?
  • Where did the first settlers come from?
  • Why did the first settlers come to the county?
  • What was the dominant occupation of the settlers?
  • When did your ancestors first arrive in the county?
  • Were they rich or poor?
  • Did they purchase land or did the rent?
Do you see a pattern here? Now in her chapter of the book, Kathryn focuses on demographics. This type of study involves births, deaths and migration, all of which play out against a historical background. This type of investigation goes beyond just the history of the area, to look at the details of the population's composition and origin. In addition to knowing about the the sequence of historical events and the people who were involved, demographic investigation would include asking these types of questions:
  • At what age did the people in the area get married?
  • When were the first children born?
  • How many children did couples have on the average?
  • What was the mortality rate for different ages of the population?
  • Why did people leave the area?
This may seem overkill to some, but investigating these topics is really absolutely essential to an understanding of your ancestors' circumstances. If you do not understand both the history and the demographics of the area where your ancestors lived, you cannot claim to have a real brick wall. 




Monday, March 24, 2014

FamilySearch Photos Find Function Very Limited

FamilySearch.org Photos has a "Find" function. I wrote about my efforts to figure out how it worked a short while ago. Each photo can have three different identifying fields; a title, a description and an event. The following screenshot has the title marked as No. 1, the description marked as No. 2, and the Event link marked as No. 3.


The link to the Event field allows two further choices, entering a date and/or a place.


Now, the question was, which, if any, of these fields were searched by using the Find function located in the menu bar at the top of the page in the shaded area below the FamilySearch logo and standard menu items?

The answer to this question is all of them, but only if at least one person in the photograph is tagged to someone in the Family Tree program. Otherwise, none of the fields' contents will be found. The only problem is what if you don't know the person in photo and wanted to allow people to search for a place and try and identify people from a particular place?

So far, I have found no way to do this but to tag the photo to some person in Family Tree. In my case, I elected to tag the person to the individual who took the photographs or accumulated them, that is, my Great-grandmother Margaret Godfrey Jarvis Overson. Do I really want thousands of unknown photos tagged to the wrong person? How else can I upload unidentified individuals and allow other users the opportunity to identify their ancestors? Should I forget the whole idea and simply remove the photos I have already uploaded that were clearly taken by a photographer in St. Johns, Apache, Arizona?

These seem to me to be interesting questions.

Dropbox, Evernote and Quip -- Isn't One Enough? Not Really

Every so often new computer applications (now called apps) or programs come along that seen to change the way we use computers and even how we view them as part of out society. Obviously, the "social networking" type of program has had that impact. All you have to do to understand the power of social networking is to read about the suppression of Twitter.com in Turkey. As genealogists, we are not immune to these fundamental shifts in usage. Even if we stand on the outside as non-users our families and the society around us changes with the technology.

I can remember, just a few dozen years ago, when a huge segment of our society resisted the idea of credit cards. They prided themselves on paying cash for everything. There were those who straddled the line by paying only with checks. I remember driving across the United States and getting to West Virginia and discovering that none of the service stations took credit cards. We barely made it out of the state.

In some states of the United States, there are laws requiring service stations to dispense gasoline and prohibiting the customer from doing so. They require a service station attendant to put the gas in the car. In Arizona and Utah, this is non-existent. If you are disabled and can't easily get out of your car, there a very few places where there is an attendant who will help. Again, I can remember when "self-service" gas was a gimmick. OK, enough examples showing how old I am.

Computers have their examples of fundamental changes just like credit cards and self-service gas. Sometimes, you don't even realize that there is a change in progress until it becomes so pervasive as to be ubiquitous.

One of those changes, dependent entirely on the existence of the Internet, is the almost instantaneous transmission of documents between individual computers. Some of us do this so regularly that we hardly think about it. For example, my wife just moved into the texting world. She discovered the convenience of sending brief messages to her children living all around the country. On a more mundane level, we discovered Dropbox.com some time ago. At first, it seemed like a good place to backup our data files. But soon, we discovered that it was a really good place to share documents, especially larger documents that could not be sent as email attachments. The next step in the evolution was a little more complicated. We figured out that the documents we were handing each other back and forth, even while sitting in the same room on two different computers, didn't have to be printed out. We could make PDF copies of almost everything and exchange the documents almost instantly by creating a dedicated Dropbox folder for only my wife and I to use. Anything we put in the folder instantly became available to the other person. This went from being an novelty to becoming an integral part of how we conducted our various businesses almost overnight. Accounting, taxes, applications, and everything else was reduced to digital copies and even signed digitally. For example, we recently purchased a house in Utah. The entire transaction was accomplished by using Dropbox and digital signatures. We closed on the house without ever leaving our office. We never even had to go to the title company and sign anything. We did it all at home on our computers.

Of course, this use of Dropbox has affected our entire use of genealogy documents and sources. We can immediately transmit photographs, certificates and copies of all kinds to anyone who needs to see them. I keep all of my source documents in Dropbox so that they can be used across all of the different programs I use. That way I can consolidate the document usage. I also keep all my presentations on Dropbox so I can use them immediately and have a backup is for any reason my flash drive and computer don't work. A week or so ago, I almost gave the Directors at the Mesa FamilySearch Library a heart attack when I couldn't get my PowerPoint presentation off of my computer and had forgotten to put it on a flash drive. This happened just a few minuted before my scheduled online Webinar. At the very last minute, I went online and retrieved the file from Dropbox and went on with the presentation as if nothing had happened.

All the time Dropbox has been evolving, so has Evernote.com and now there is a new addition to the family in Quip.com. Both Evernote and Quip have sharing capabilities that give them the potential to do exactly what I am doing with Dropbox. But they are different. They add the ability to capture information from the Web and annotate it, organize it and store it. The idea here is to make all of your routine notes and documents available on every electronic device at any time and they work very well at doing this.

The one fatal flaw in all of these programs is that they rely on my memory to look at my to-do lists. Reminders and flashy things on the screen don't work for me. I can ignore almost anything. But despite this limitation, they are changing the way I do my work and especially how I do my genealogy. One thing I have decided though is that you need to get into the instructions for each of these programs and learn about all of the features built in to them. As you do this, you will find things that will help you personally. I can give you stories about how the programs work all day, but you have to try them and adapt the features to your own online and work style.

Good Luck.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

My Top Ten Useful Programs for Genealogy -- Part One Desktop or Local Programs

As you begin expanding your understanding of what is and what is not genealogy, you find that there are some things that are very useful to genealogists that don't come with a genealogy label. I see many "genealogists" who are very dedicated to gathering their family history and doing research into their ancestral lines, but have such limited computer skills and such a narrow view of genealogy, that they are like a person starving to death with pockets full of money in the middle of a supermarket.

Obviously, we benefit from word processing and spreadsheet programs, but there are so many more programs that can be used to benefit our involvement in genealogy that almost never get mentioned as such. It has been quite a while since my last posts on the subject and I guess it is time to go back and update some of the posts I have written over the years about the programs I am currently using. Part of making progress in doing genealogy is continuing education about our areas of interest. This education should also include a significant effort to upgrade our computer skills. YouTube.com is a huge resource for instructional videos on almost any imaginable subject. I realize that to many people watching an instructional video is like going back to school, but from my standpoint, learning and school are not synonymous. I find that there are things I need to learn about every day.

Recently, I started back into using the Evernote.com program. I had drifted away from the program for quite a while and it took reading an entire book on the program to get me started again. You may also have noticed that I started using Quip.com for to-do lists and such. As I continue to work on the computer, I keep finding new programs and features from older ones. It is a continual process of evolving and education.

I guess it is time to get to the list. Here are the program categories, but not in any particular order. Some of the categories turn out to be generic, in the sense that I don't rely on any one program exclusively. My top ten might really look like a top twenty or thirty, but really I view some programs as a group and not individually.

No. 1 Browser programs
This is an easy first place program category. The first thing I do every day is open the network to see what is going on in the genealogy world. I use my iPad for reading the general world news, away from my computer, but almost every time I sit down to work on the computer, I start with opening a browser. Right now, I am using Google's Chrome. Oh, by the way, if you don't know what a browser is, it is a program that runs on your computer to allow you to see websites on the Internet. I say I am using Chrome right now because that could change any minute. If I find a viewing or website problem, I will move immediately to another browser, usually Firefox from Mozilla.org. I also use Safari and Opera on occasion. I very occasionally use Internet Explorer but never if there is an alternative.

No. 2 Word Processing Programs
I realize that there are a lot of word processing programs out there in the world but I have been using Microsoft Word for so long that I just don't bother to use anything else. I think this is probably one of the areas where most people would benefit from some instruction. Word is a very complicated program and spending some time with a few tutorials will really help your over computer experience. If you choose another word processor, make sure you learn how to use its capabilities.

No. 3 Photo Processing Programs
This is an area where the number of available programs is overwhelming. I use Adobe Lightroom for almost all my photo manipulation and storage needs. But this didn't come without a great deal of effort. I do not recommend a program such as Lightroom unless you are really, really serious about photography and not just genealogy. If you have any images at all, I strongly suggest downloading the free Google program, Picasa. This program will identify and organize all of the images on your computer and any attached hard drives. It does this without moving the images or making an extra copy. It also does not send a copy to Google unless you want it to do so.

No. 4 Genealogical Database programs
You might notice that this category refers to "programs." That is on purpose. I use more than one, in fact, many more than one single program. Now, I realize that this is anathema to most users who view programs like they do having a permanent home, but I move from one to another as my needs and interests change. Here is my current list. I would suggest that using any one of the following programs would work for anyone. I find that the programs are changing so much that my jumping from program to program may have to be abandoned in the future simply because I cannot keep up with all of the features of all of the programs. I will also have to mention the fact that there are some Windows only programs that I would use more and maybe exclusively, if they came in Apple OS X versions. Here is the list:

Heredis.com OS X and Windows
Rootsmagic.com Windows
Ancestral Quest Windows
Celebrating Family History Windows
Family Tree Maker OS X and Windows
Family Tree Builder Windows
Reunion OS X only
Legacy Family Tree Windows

The fact that I don't have a program listed does not mean that I haven't used it. It just means that I haven't found it to be as useful as the others. I may add a program to the list or stop using one depending on what I perceive to be the benefits. I realize that there are many, many more programs with many more supporters out there. I suggest reading reviews on the GenSoftReviews website for more comments and suggestions.

No. 5 Dropbox
I am fully aware of OneDrive and Google Drive, but I use Dropbox.com for online storage almost exclusively. I find both OneDrive and Google Drive to be cranky and hard to use. Dropbox is almost a daily routine part of my computer life. But as I mentioned above, both Evernote.com and Quip.com are making serious inroads. I probably ought to devote an entire blog post to these three programs. I also use the Evernote program Skitch on my iMac for screen shots.

No. 6 Dragon Dictate
I have written about my experience with voice recognition programs recently, but the Dragon Dictate (Dragon Naturally Speaking on Windows) program needs to be included in my list. In this case, there are no comparable programs with which it can be associated. When I feel the pressure of writing a lot of content in a relatively short time, this is one way to get down more information. Whether or not it is faster than using the keyboard is debatable, but it is a change from typing and I can write some types of posts much faster using dictation.

No. 7 Spreadsheet programs
I use Microsoft Excel more than most of the other available programs but back when I first started using a desktop computer, I found that the spreadsheet programs gave me the first insight into the power of a computer to solve day-to-day problems. Microsoft has shifted its software from selling the programs to renting them online. This works for Adobe, but may not work for Microsoft. There are too many open source and free software solutions to choose from.

No. 8 Presentation Programs
I feel like I am supporting Microsoft singlehandedly. I use PowerPoint even though Keystone is available on OS X. I have looked at Apple's  program and others and always come back to PowerPoint because of the compatibility issues. I am never sure that when I take a presentation out into the world that it will turn out to work unless it is PowerPoint.

No. 9 Photoshop
I suppose I could have called this category "photo manipulation programs" but I only use Adobe Photoshop, so that's what it has to be. For the rest of this description see Photo Processing Programs above.

No. 10 VueScan
VueScan is a universal scanning tool available for both OS X and Windows. The main attraction is that it works on both Windows and OS X so I have the same program for each. It also captures scanned images in RAW format. That is enough to sell me.

Well, that's the list. I could keep on going, but it gets more difficult with many more programs to choose from.


Israel Genealogy Research Association joins MyHeritage in the BillionGraves Project

In a post dated 11 March 2014 entitled "IGRA participates in cemetery documentation project" by Garri Regev, the Israel Genealogy Research Association announced that it was joining with MyHeritage.com and BillionGraves.com to help photograph cemetery grave markers and add information to cemeteries in Israel and elsewhere. Here is their explanation:
With the new cooperative initiative between MyHeritage and BillionGraves it should be possible within a relatively short period of time to document thousands of cemeteries. This will allow researchers to connect with burial information regarding their relatives all over the world. The force behind this revolution will be the volunteers involved and IGRA is excited to be a partner in preserving this valuable information. Please join in this effort!
 In their most recent newsletter, they gave the following instructions which, by the way, apply to all those who are in the process of photographing grave markers:

  • Check to see if the cemetery you want to visit has already been documented by looking at the app.
  • You may need a brush to help clear away leaves or dirt - but there is no need to clean the gravestones.
  • Do not use shaving cream or other methods of enhancing the writing.
  • Be certain to respect the tombstones.
  • Avoid having your shadow in the picture.
  • Make sure you capture all of the writing on the tombstone in your picture.
  • On your phone screen you'll see the image of a chain link in the upper left corner. This will allow you to take additional pictures and link them together (front & back, zoom, double grave...).
  • Depending on the weather take along a hat and drinking water.
Just in case you read Hebrew, here are the instructions: 

להלן מספר עצות למתחילים בעבודת תיעוד בית העלמין
בדקו, על ידי קריאת האפליקציה, אם בית העלמין כבר מתועד
הצטיידו במברשת כדי לפנות עלים או לכלוך - אך אין צורך להבריש ולשפשף את המצבה עצמה
אל תשתמשו במשחת גילוח או בשיטות אחרות האמורות להבליט את הכתוב
אנא, התייחסו למצבות בכבוד הראוי
שימו לב שהצל שלכם לא ייפול אל המצבה בזמן הצילום
הקפידו לתפוס במצלמה את כל הכתובת שעל המצבה
על צג הטלפון, בפינה השמאלית העליונה, תראו לולאות. לחיצה שם יאפשר לכם לעשות צילומים נוספים ולקשור אותם ביחד, למשל חלק קדמי עם
חלק אחורי, הגדלה או מצבה כפולה 
שימו לב למזג האוויר - קחו כובע ומים לפי הצורך

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Genealogy Blogger Alert -- Spam Comments

It seems really supportive to get a comment from a supposed reader of your genealogy blog that compliments you on your writing ability or on the wonderful content. The problem is that the comments are bogus. They are really links to a business or worse and generated automatically by spammers. They are really easy to spot, if you review all of your comments before you publish them.

The hallmark of the spam comment is a mention of an entirely unrelated business or organization as part of the comment. I preview all of my comments before publishing them and recently have seen the incidence of spam comments go from one or two a week to one or more a day. At a minimum you should review and approve any comments before posting them online. Here is a link to Google's explanation about moderating comments.

Do we need our own desktop program for genealogy?

A few years ago, the question asked in the title to this post would not have made any sense. The answer would have been, of course, what other options are there? Today, the issue is much more complex. My guess is that there are likely many more family trees online on the large database companies than there are maintained in individual computers. For example, I would be confident in assuming that between Ancestry.com's Public Member Family Trees and MyHeritage.com's Family Trees, that there are more family trees in just those two databases that exceed the number of those maintained by individuals on their own computers by a huge margin. So for most of the larger "genealogical community" the answer to this question is somewhat irrelevant.

This question is raised by my friend, Renee Zamora in a recent blog post cited by RootsMagic.com in their newsletter. Her post is called "Do I Still Need a Desktop Genealogy Program or is FamilySearch Family Tree Enough?" RootsMagic.com describes her article as follows:

While at conferences, we often get asked why a person needs a desktop genealogy program (like RootsMagic), when there are websites that let you build trees. The following is an article written by Renee Zamora (one of our great tech support agents) for her personal blog. The article was specifically written using FamilySearch Family Tree as an example, but can easily apply to other sites which let you put your tree online. Renee has given us permission to reprint the article here in RootsMagic News, and also to create a PDF version of the article that you can share with others.
The original article is in Renee's Genealogy Blog.

Renee gives a huge list of reasons for maintaining a local genealogy program. If you have this issue come up and need to give some reasons, I think she about covers it all.

Genealogy’s Cultural Imperialism

For the most part, as genealogists, we are a complacent and pretty self-absorbed community. For that reason, there are a few undercurrents of important issues that go mostly ignored. Among the issues lurking in the outer limits of genealogy is the fact that the structure of our genealogical databases, inherited from the old paper forms, does not fit many of the world’s kinship systems, even some of those that come from Western Europe where the paper forms originated.

On one of my recent trips, I was listening to and audio book of the book, Mandela, Nelson. Long Walk to Freedom. 1994. In the first few chapters of the book, he outlines his family’s genealogy and makes reference to his kinship system. I realized immediately that what he was describing would be nearly impossible to duplicate in any of the existing genealogy database programs. To put this problem in the perspective of the Black African’s terminology, this was just another example of European-centric imperialism imposing their cultural mores on the “natives.”

I have written about this issue previously but it has been some time and it is time to write again. Here is the Google definition of a kinship systems. See Google Search on Kinship Systems Definition.
Kinship systems are how people organize themselves into social relationships. These social relation- ships are often the building block of society, and involve relationships reckoned through blood – consanguinity, and through marriage – affinity. Through these relationships social roles and responsibilities are mapped.
For example, on the startup page of the FamilySearch.org website, there may appear an invitation to use Puzzilla.org to "find your cousins." Who is and who is not your cousin? As genealogists, we consider a descendent of one of our grandparents (great-grandparents etc.) to be a "cousin." Does this definition apply to all the world's kinship systems? What if your grandfather had more than one wife? Are his grandchildren through a second or third wife, not your direct grandmother, your cousins? If your father had more than one wife, what is your relationship to the other wives who are not your mother? What if your society recognized plural marriage as was the case with Nelson Mandela's family? 

Now the question is how do you represent these relationships on our "standard pedigree chart and family group charts?" Since I last wrote about this subject there are some attempts among the genealogical database programs to adjust to these issues, but still from a very European perspective. For example, the relatively new program from Heredis.com, has, what they call, the Extended Family View:
This new and more comprehensive view of your family shows its composition as a whole: siblings, remarriage, stepchildren, step- brothers and step-sisters, children from other unions of the different spouses… noting or not when they belong to the direct lineage. All the people with whom they lived, all those who they knew are in the extended family. A practical tool for analyzing re-marriages in the family.
Here is a screenshot of part of my Great-grandfather's family. Note, he had two wives and his father had five wives.


Another example would be the Haida, group of people who lived primarily in the Queen Charlotte Islands off the northern coast of British Columbia. Here is a brief description of their kinship system:
In the sense of "maternal grandfather," the term is extended to all men of the second ascending generation and upward in the opposite moiety, and in M also sometimes to men of the first ascending generations except those of the father's clan, who are call ye' (paternal uncle). In the sense of "paternal grandfather," however, it refers specifically to the father's father, who must, of course, belong to the speaker's moiety though not necessarily to the same clan. 
See, American Anthropologist, New Series, Vol. 36, No. 3 (Jul. - Sep., 1934) "Kinship and Social Behavior among the Haida," George Peter Murdock pp. 355-385 (31 pages) p. 357.
There is, of course, an argument that we can ignore all of this and simply view human family trees from a strictly biological basis. Are we then to ignore the true culturally determined relationships? Let's just throw all that out and impose our own world view on the rest of humanity.

But, you say, I don't have to deal with that so why should I care? Well, I would submit that those of us who are living in the United States today have just as complex a kinship system to confront. You can read the National Vital Statistics Reports, Volume 62, number 9 from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Births: Final Data for 2012. This compilation of statistics says:
The birth rate for unmarried women fell for the fourth consecutive year in 2012 to 45.3 per 1,000 unmarried women aged 15-44 years. The percentage of births to unmarried women was unchanged from 2011 at 40.7%, but the number of nonmarital births increased slightly, by less than 1%, to 1,609,619.
This says that 40.7% of the children born today in the United States are born out of wedlock. What is the kinship system of these children? How will we be accounting for their families in the future as genealogists?

We have some real issues here.