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

Friday, April 15, 2016

Real Genealogists Use Cameras

Whenever a subject like the one suggested by the title to this post comes up, there is always a backlash. Even genealogy has its detractors who start out saying things like, "you don't have to be a genealogist to..." and then they go on to explain something you have be a genealogist, by definition, to do. As a photographer (WalkingArizona), I also hear a lot of, "you don't have to be a professional photographer to..." statements all the time. Granted, both genealogy and photography have their "professional" side. I recently went to Victoria, British Columbia and visited the Royal British Columbia Museum. They were having a exhibit called "Wildlife Photographer of the Year." When I go to see such an exhibit, I quickly learn what it means to be a professional photographer. There were only a few of the photos that I could even imagine taking myself.

I am sure that there are those who get the same feeling when they talk to or work with an experienced genealogist. I have an extensive background in genealogy and a lot of other subjects, but I frequently talk to other genealogists who know far more than I do on a multitude of subjects. I had an opportunity to look at some church records from the Netherlands (more about this later), such as this one:

"Netherlands, Noord-Holland Province, Church Records, 1523-1948," images, FamilySearch ( : accessed 15 April 2016), Nederlands Hervormde > Amsterdam > Dopen 1673-1697 > image 524 of 604; Nederlands Rijksarchiefdienst, Den Haag (Netherlands National Archives, The Hague).
Here is a closer look at the entry I was interested in.

I have to admit that it is going to take me a while to be able to adequately read this particular style of writing. Just when you might start believing you know something, this comes along and shows you how really far you have to go.

So twice in a week or so, I was shown how far I had to go in photography and again in genealogy.

So, was I serious when I said real genealogists use cameras? Yes, I was as a matter of fact. A camera is an indispensable tool for anyone, at any level of family history, genealogy or whatever you want to call it. I still see people laboriously copying entries in books and other records by hand into notes, when all they have to do is pull out their cell phone and take a photo of the entire page in a few seconds.

I went to a Brigham Young University surplus equipment sale this week. We visited the electronics department and the had floor to ceiling shelves overflowing with electronic junk. When I say junk, I mean junk. You could buy a relatively recently manufactured computer in working condition for $5.00. No, this is not a mistake. You could buy a more recent one loaded with Windows 7 with a 1 Terabyte hard drive for $77. I saw one lady pick up an older camera, 2.3 Megapixels, and look at it for a while and then throw it back on the pile. My older iPhone has an 8 MP camera.

Really, I am serious. You can buy a Sony 20.1 MP digital camera on for $88. See
Sony DSCW800/B 20.1 MP Digital Camera (Black). By the way, that camera is marked down from $89.99. You could also walk into any Walmart store and buy any number of similar cameras for under a $100. 

These are mostly point and shoot cameras. The recent popularity of Instagram illustrates the pervasiveness of cameras in our society today. The key here is to always, always, always, carry your camera around with you. Then when you think, oh, I could take a photo of that, you can. 


  1. As a professional genealogist in the Netherlands I am curious what you want to say about Dutch church registers!

    1. I will be interested to see what I have to say also. :-)

  2. Well, after reading a bit more, I think you can better ignore that entry for now. And that's because a discussion attached to the FamilySearch entry for Joseph DeFriez born 1740 ( suggest that his parents are Marcus Mordecai Jacob Devries and Sarah Levy. And although I don't see sources supporting that, I do think that it's more likely indeed, because the Isaac that's supposed to be mentioned in the Jarvis/DeFriez book was a Protestant. And without reading that book, I dare to suggest that someone may have just picked a De Friez with a given name that looks Jewish. And when it comes to names, I think that the alternatives are way more Jewish, if I'm still allowed to write that in an age of political correctness. What I can say is that I found no trace of their marriage in the Amsterdam marriage intentions, or the marriage bans, which suggests that it may indeed have been registered in the Jewish community, which was quite large at the time. There are no on-line films for that, so if you want to trace those, you'll have to visit the FHL.

    1. The Jarvis book is online in the Books section. You can download an entire copy of the book if you wish to do so. Here is the link to the book:

    2. Thank you. I read the relevant chapters, and found not much support for the idea that Isaac De Friez was Jewish. Biblical given names like Isaac were quite common in Protestant circles too, as you can see in the attached baptism record from the Noorderkerk. Amsterdam had quite a large Jewish community at the time, and synagogues, so I see no reason for Jew to be baptized in a Protestant church, meaning that if the record really belongs to this Isaac, he probably was not Jewish at all.
      In the list of changes, I can see that the christening was added by FamilySearch, and I also see that Isaac is the result of a merge, with an approximate birth year two years before the baptism. I have no idea where that comes from, since at that time, births were not registered at all, although their dates were sometimes mentioned with the baptism. On FamilySearch Isaac's wife Joanna Catrina has some weird data too, since she seems to have been born in London, and baptized in the Oude Kerk, in Amsterdam. Again, I can't imagine that there is a source for her birth, but her Christening was indexed from film. She's also a Protestant, giving more support for my thought that if the Isaac in the book was Jewish, it's not the Isaac in the Family Tree.
      To my regret, there is no source for the alternative parents either, so unless Mr. Bowden adds that, Joseph's parents are no more than a legend. There's no source for Joseph's ancestry on Geni either, btw.