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

Friday, July 21, 2017

Family Tree Maker 2017 Finally Released has finally released its updated version of Family Tree Maker 2017. The program was discontinued by back in 2015 and then licensed to MacKiev. You can read a review of the new version on See "Family Tree Maker 2017 Released: A Review."

Thursday, July 20, 2017

German Resources from the Brigham Young University Family History Department

If you have done any research in German language genealogy at the Brigham Young University Family History Library or at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah. You probably became acquainted with the writings of Professor Roger P. Minert, a professor of family history at BYU.

Professor Minert has listed 116 books about genealogy and family history on I attended the Foundation for Eastern European Family History Studies Conference in Salt Lake City, Utah and attended a number of classes on German research. Professor Minert's name was frequently mentioned. I looked up his publications on and decided to write about these resources in order to start writing about German genealogical research.

Here is the list to get started. This is the first in a series of posts about German records. These are just the books written by Professor Minert or co-authored. I think you might be interested in some of the books from just one BYU professor if you have German ancestors and this is not a complete list.

Minert, Roger P. Against the Wall: Johann Huber and the First Mormons in Austria, 2015.
———. Alsace-Lorraine place name indexes: identifying place names using alphabetical and reverse alphabetical indexes, 2015.
———. Alte Kirchenbücher richtig lesen.: Hand- und Übungsbuch für Familiengeschichtsforscher. Wuppertal: Brockhaus, 2008.
———. Baden place name indexes: identifying place names using alphabetical and reverse alphabetical indexes, 2015.
———. Bavaria place name indexes: identifying place names using alphabetical and reverse alphabetical indexes, 2015.
———. Brandenburg place name indexes: identifying place names using alphabetical and reverse alphabetical indexes, 2015.
———. Braunschweig, Oldenburg, and Thuringia place name indexes: identifying place names using alphabetical and reverse alphabetical indexes, 2015.
———. Consolidated Index to German Immigrants in American Church Records, Volumes 1 through 14, 2015.
———. Deciphering Handwriting in German Documents: Analyzing German, Latin, and French in Historical Manuscripts, 2013.
———. Deciphering Handwriting in German Documents: Analyzing German, Latin, and French in Vital Records Written in Germany. Woods Cross, Utah: GRT Publications, 2001.
———. East Prussia place names index: identifying place names using alphabetical and reverse alphabetical indexes, 2015.
———. Gerhard Henrich Meinert: His Ancestors and His Descendants. Woods Cross, Utah: GRT Publications, 2000.
———. German census records, 1816-1916: the when, where, and how of a valuable genealogical resource, 2016.
———. German Immigrants in American Church Records. Volume 9, Volume 9,. Rockland, ME: Picton Press, 2010.
———. German Immigrants in American Church Records. Volume 15, Volume 15, 2014.
———. German Immigrants in American Church Records. Volume 16, Part 1 Volume 16, Part 1, 2014.
———. German Immigrants in American Church Records. Volume 17, Volume 17, 2015.
———. German Immigrants in American Church Records. Volume 19, Volume 19, 2016.
———. Hanover place name indexes: identifying place names using alphabetical and reverse alphabetical indexes, 2015.
———. Hesse-Nassau place name indexes: identifying place names using alphabetical and reverse alphabetical indexes, 2015.
———. Hesse place name indexes: identifying place names using alphabetical and reverse alphabetical indexes, 2015.
———. In Harm’s Way: East German Latter-Day Saints in World War II. Provo, Utah: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, 2009.
———. Kingdom of Saxony (with Anhalt) place name indexes: identifying place names using alphabetical and reverse alphabetical indexes, 2015.
———. Mecklenburg place name indexes: identifying place names using alphabetical and reverse alphabetical indexes, 2015.
———. Palatinate place name indexes: identifying place names using alphabetical and reverse alphabetical indexes, 2015.
———. Pomerania place names index: identifying place names using alphabetical and reverse alphabetical indexes, 2015.
———. Posen Place Name Indexes: Identifying Place Names Using Alphabetical and Reverse Alphabetical Indexes, 2015.
———. Province of Saxony place name indexes: identifying place names using alphabetical and reverse alphabetical indexes, 2015.
———. Rhineland place name indexes: identifying place names using alphabetical and reverse alphabetical indexes, 2015.
———. Schleswig-Holstein (with Bremen, Hamburg, and Lübeck) place name indexes: identifying place names using alphabetical and reverse alphabetical indexes, 2015.
———. Silesia place name indexes: identifying place names using alphabetical and reverse alphabetical indexes, 2015.
———. Spelling Variations in German Names: Solving Family History Problems through Applications of German and English Phonetics. Woods Cross, Utah: GRT Publications, 2009.
———. “The Influence of Student-Identified Factors on Enrollment in Foreign Language Courses in Public High Schools in the United States,” 1991.
———. The Rauth Family: From Bavaria to Galicia to the United States. Woods Cross, Utah: GRT Publications, 2000.
———. Under the Gun: West German and Austrian Latter-Day Saints in World War II. Provo, Utah: The Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, 2011.
———. Westphalia (with Hohenzollern, Lippe, Schaumburg-Lippe, & Waldeck) place names indexes: identifying place names using alphabetical and reverse alphabetical indexes, 2015.
———. West Prussia place name indexes: identifying place names using alphabetical and reverse alphabetical indexes, 2015.
———. Württemberg Place Name Indexes:Identifying Place Names Using Alphabetical and Reverse Alphabetical Index. Woods Cross, Utah: GRT Publications, 2000.
———. Württemberg place name indexes: identifying place names using alphabetical and reverse alphabetical indexes, 2015.
Minert, Roger P, and Casidy A Andersen. German Immigrants in American Church Records. Vol. 6, Vol. 6,. Rockport, ME: Picton Press, 2008.
Minert, Roger P, and Jennifer A Anderson. German Immigrants in American Church Records. Rockport, Maine: Picton Press, 2005.
———. German Immigrants in American Church Records. v. 1, v. 1,. Rockport, Me.: Picton Press, 2005.
———. German Immigrants in American Church Records. v. 2, v. 2,. Rockland], Me.: Picton Press, 2007.
———. German Immigrants in American Church Records. v. 3, v. 3,. Rockland], Me.: Picton Press, 2007.
———. German Immigrants in American Church Records. v. 4, v. 4,. Rockland, Me.: Picton Press, 2007.
———. German Immigrants in American Church Records. v. 5, v. 5,. Rockland, Me.: Picton Press, 2007.
Minert, Roger P, Kathryn Boeckel, and Caren Winters. Germans to America and the Hamburg Passenger Lists: Coordinated Schedules. Westminster, Md.: Heritage Books, 2007.
Minert, Roger P, Shirley J Riemer, and Susan E Sirrine. Researching in Germany: A Handbook for Your Visit to the Homeland of Your Ancestors. Sacramento, CA: Lorelei Press, 2013.
Riemer, Shirley J, Roger P Minert, and Jennifer A Anderson. The German Research Companion. Sacramento, CA: Lorelei Press, 2010.
Roger P. Minert. “UP Quiz: ‘Was Soll Man Denn Sagen?’” Unteteacgerm Die Unterrichtspraxis / Teaching German 24, no. 1 (1991): 61–63.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

25 New Videos in the Past Month from the BYU Family History Library YouTube Channel
The Brigham Young University Family History Library YouTube Channel has posted 25 new video presentations in the last month with a broad range of genealogically relevant topics. We are always looking for new ideas for helpful and relevant topics. If you have any ideas for new topics, you are welcome to send them to me by means of comments to my blog posts. You can also contact the Library directly through their website.
However, the last part of July and August have the University hosting a series of events and school holidays before Fall semester that will likely slow down our production until school gets back in full swing in September.

We invite you to subscribe to the BYU Family History Library YouTube Channel, not only to receive notifications of the new videos but also to help the Library with a little more visibility among the millions of videos uploaded every day to YouTube.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Helping Others With Their Genealogical Research

One of my favorite books is T. H. White's "The Once and Future King." [White, T. H. 1939. The once and future king. Collins.] here is a quote from the book that sums up my philosophy about learning:
The best thing for being sad," replied Merlin, beginning to puff and blow, "is to learn something. That's the only thing that never fails. You may grow old and trembling in your anatomies, you may lie awake at night listening to the disorder of your veins, you may miss your only love, you may see the world about you devastated by evil lunatics, or know your honour trampled in the sewers of baser minds. There is only one thing for it then — to learn. Learn why the world wags and what wags it. That is the only thing which the mind can never exhaust, never alienate, never be tortured by, never fear or distrust, and never dream of regretting. Learning is the only thing for you. Look what a lot of things there are to learn.
Look at what a lot of things there are to learn! Now, I would add one more step in this learning process: look at all the things there are to teach! And for me, there is one more step: look at all the things there are to write about!

Genealogy is an open field for learning. Isn't that great? We can keep learning every day and still not run out of things to learn. Once we have learned, we never run out of things to teach and should we be so inclined, we never run out of things to write.

Monday, July 17, 2017

What is a Digital Genealogical Workflow? Part Three: Organizing and Accessing the Digital Notes

Incorporating computers and all their iterative devices into a daily genealogical workflow is an interesting challenge. For me, the word "interesting" connotes activities that are both challenging and difficult. You can only begin to rely on a digital workflow if you have already begun to use digital devices ubiquitously. For example, if you are still using a flash drive as a primary element in your digital work flow, then you are dependent on remembering to carry a flash drive everywhere you might need one. A true conversion to a digital workflow relies on using digital items that you will automatically and consistently have with you. Fortunately, those devices now exist in the form of smartphones, tablets or iPads, computers and a means to connect all those devices together almost seamlessly.

In addition, the digital workflow assumes that you have either a way to store digital documents and images without resorting to a secondary storage device such as a flash drive or hard drive and further that you know how to integrate all of you research activities into this digital workflow.

The whole idea of digital incorporation breaks down if the genealogist resists using any one of the devices or activities involved in the process. One example is if the genealogist hates his or her smartphone and sees it as a "tether." This usually comes from a feeling of compulsion to respond to every outside inquiry that comes through that channel of access to the internet. Basic to this whole concept of using electronic devices as tools is the idea that they are "tools" and when used for purposes other than "work" they become distractions. For example, if I use my smartphone or tablet to access Facebook all day or to play video games, I am defeating the concept of using the device for a tool. Essentially, this is an issue of self-control and discipline. If you become addicted to texting or Facebook or Instagram, you will be incapable of viewing these electronic devices as working tools.

In my case, I operate in a larger genealogical community composed of many different contacts. Researching my own genealogy and that of others is a major component of what I do, but writing, presenting and working in the BYU Family History Library are also major components of my daily workflow. Depending on your own involvement, you may not feel the need to maintain almost constant contact with the larger genealogical community, but the basic tools are still part of the process.

For example, my iPhone is part of the set of digital tools that enables me to capture information from libraries, cemeteries, archives and other research location and integrate the images I capture into my workflow. But let's start at the core of the workflow concept and work outward to the use of a smartphone.

The core idea of a digital workflow is the use of a centrally located family tree program that supports all of your digital activities. The idea here is to eliminate unnecessary steps in the research process so that information is acquired, stored, evaluated and made permanently accessible in a way that avoids duplication of effort and loss of data.

To start out, I will repeat an example of moving information from a paper-based document or record, i.e. a book, through the process to storage.

Step One: Acquisition
Let's suppose that I am sitting in a library and find a book with information about my target research family. Assuming the library allows me to use my smartphone, I take a photo of the title page and the page or pages where the information is found. I have now acquired the information and the way to create a citation to the source.

Step Two: Storage
This step is automatic if I have set up my smartphone to archive all my images in an online storage program. Either while I am taking the photos, if an internet connection from my smartphone is available, or when I leave the library and once again I am online, the images are automatically transferred to an online image storage program such as Google Photos, Amazon Photos, Dropbox Photos or some other backup program.

Step Three: Evaluation
When I arrive home and I am sitting in front of my desktop computer or when I have access to my laptop or whatever, I can then review the digitized images I have gathered and begin the process of transferring all of the data into my designated family tree program. As I have written many time before, I use the Family Tree for this purpose. But, depending on your preferences, you could use another online program or a local computer-based program. This is the step where duplication of effort becomes a real issue. If you have to copy or re-key the information more than once, you will begin to resent the extra effort and either delay incorporating the information into your work flow or lose it altogether.

The Evaluation process is really where the research begins and ends. If you do not carefully examine all the information you have gathered, the whole process is a waste of time. In this process, I use a series of online documents that are available either from Google Docs, Dropbox, or some other program that allows me to keep my notes and observations in a format that is readily accessible from any one of my devices. By the way, many of the desktop programs available today, have online digital counterparts that allow you to synchronize your database to a variety of electronic devices.

Step Four: Creating Accessibility
Organizing your data is essentially the process of tagging and incorporating all of the information in an accessible fashion. For example, if I tag all of the information and add sources to every individual mentioned in the document or record, then I have a consistent and usable way to review and evaluate all the information I gather. The information then stays accessible to all my devices.

There are still a few more details that need to be addressed. I am also adding this series to the list of topics that will be covered in the future by a BYU Family History Library YouTube Video. Occasionally, I find myself repeating what I have already said or written. But this is a process of evolving ideas and come back to the same topics allows me to expand and change the perspective on what I am saying. For example, see "Taking Advantage of Your Smartphone for Genealogy - James Tanner."

Please see the following for the earlier posts in this series.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Busy Times Ahead

During the next three weeks, I will be participating in or presenting at three different workshops and conferences. I will also be out for a camping trip away from computer connections. I anticipate times when I will not be able to post regularly. But the benefit will be that I will accumulate a whole new and long list of topics to write about.

I will be presenting at the following two conferences and also be attending the conferences:

I will also be attending a workshop sponsored by FamilySearch in Salt Lake City, Utah. We will also be camping for a week with our family. 

Sorry about the interruptions, but please take the time to view a video on the BYU Family History Library YouTube Channel or read some of my thousands of previous blog posts. 

Saturday, July 15, 2017

How does Net Neutrality Affect Genealogists?

You may or may not have had a startling warning appear on your computer telling you that the website you are trying to use may be blocked in the future. These unsupported and alarming messages are part of the battle going on over the euphemistically named issue of "net neutrality."

As genealogists, some of us spend a lot of time working online on our computers. Issues such as current hullabaloo over net neutrality intrude into our work whether we are interested or not. Because the entire issue, if there is one, is so emotionally politicized, it is almost impossible to get a fair idea of what is actually being discussed and what the issues are all about. Because this issue intrudes into my daily use of the internet, I finally decided to write about the issue.

First of all, a bare bones definition of net neutrality:
The principle that Internet service providers should enable access to all content and applications regardless of the source, and without favoring or blocking particular products or websites.
If you think about this for even a few seconds, you will begin to see that this statement opens up a whole Pandora's box of issues. Do we really want every terrorist, pornographic and other evil websites in the world to have free and complete access to the entire internet? At one level this statement seems to be advocating unlimited and unrestricted speech even when that speech is dangerous and destructive. Do you really want spammers to have unlimited and complete access to you and your family?

What most of the emotional appeals current being made ignore is the difference between regulating content, i.e. the message of the signal and the signal itself. Related ideas include not only net neutrality, but also open standards, transparency, lack of Internet censorship, and low barriers to entry.

The key here to understanding what is going on is to focus on the three words at the beginning of the definition: "Internet service providers." This whole issue is not about whether or not terrorists can send you messages, but, at its core, it is about the ability of commercial internet service providers' ability to limit and charge different fees for different commercial activities. For example, can Comcast or Cox charge more for streaming Netflix than they do for streaming some other content? However, the argument has been put into the context of the individual internet user's ability to freely connect to content. Here is a quote from, a private organization.
When you go online you have certain expectations. You expect to be connected to whatever website you want. You expect that your cable or phone company isn’t messing with the data and is connecting you to all websites, applications and content you choose. You expect to be in control of your internet experience. 
When you use the internet you expect Net Neutrality.
Hmm. But you might get a little more insight into what is going on if you keep reading into the next paragraphs:
Net Neutrality is the basic principle that prohibits internet service providers like AT&T, Comcast and Verizon from speeding up, slowing down or blocking any content, applications or websites you want to use. Net Neutrality is the way that the internet has always worked. 
In 2015, millions of activists pressured the Federal Communications Commission to adopt historic Net Neutrality rules that keep the internet free and open — allowing you to share and access information of your choosing without interference. 
But right now this win is in jeopardy: Trump’s FCC chairman, Ajit Pai, wants to destroy Net Neutrality. And on May 18, the FCC voted to let Pai’s internet-killing plan move forward.
Who is this? Here is their explanation: is a project of Free Press and the Free Press Action Fund. Free Press and the Free Press Action Fund do not support or oppose any candidate for public office. We are nonpartisan organizations fighting to save the free and open Internet, curb runaway media consolidation, protect press freedom, and ensure diverse voices are represented in our media.
I could go on. If you want to know more you can look up this charity and many others on the Charity Navigator.

I am reminded of the battle that occurred many years ago when VCRs were first introduced. The big movie producing companies wanted to ban VCR taping. They took the position that if individuals could record movies, then the movie industry would be destroyed. They put up petitions on tables in the theaters to gain public support. Today, the movie industry makes more money off of DVDs and licensing than they sometimes do off of theater presentations. Additionally, the movie industry was certainly not destroyed by recorded movies. As with the present net neutrality issues, the discussion involved the method of distribution and not directly the content.

Sometimes, even though the various parties react in highly emotional ways, none of the "solutions" proposed really address the underlying issues. There are countries in the world that limit almost all the content of their internet service providers. For example, Netflix is completely blocked in China it is also blocked in some countries due to regulations from the U.S. Government. Do we have a fundamental, human right to watch Netflix?

Has the internet always been free and open? Not at all. It actually started out as the ARPANET or the Advanced Research Project Agency Network run by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency or DARPA.

The real issues here are commercial and political. As they say, "follow the money." Who will benefit from "net neutrality" and who will end up paying more for internet access? For more information, start with this article on Wikipedia: Net neutrality.

Friday, July 14, 2017

A Visit to the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah

The Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah is taking on a new look. Large photo graphics are being installed not only here on the exterior but also inside. This is part of the new direction of the Library. The entire first floor of the Library has been converted into a Family Discover Center. 

The stations of the Discovery Center are very large screen monitors and each area focuses on a family history related activity. The center is staffed with a number of full-time and Church Service Missionaries of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. They are not there to proselytize but to assist visitors in having an immersive family history experience. The books and microfilm are still there on the other floors and researchers are not required to enter the Discovery Center if they do not want to do so. 

My wife and I spent some time in the Family History Discovery Center before it was officially opened and were surprised at the variety of activities and the interest they generated. On my most recent trip, I was completely engaged in looking at books and microfilm and did not spend any time in the Discovery Center. 

To find out more about the Family Discovery Center see their web page

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Who are you really related to?

I frequently receive notifications from the large online genealogy family tree programs that they have found record hints for me. In most cases, these hints are listed as being for a specific person. Some of these hints have lately been giving me some pause for reflection on who I am really related to. For example, a recent hint was like the following:

Great-great-grandfather's half brother's wife's first husband's daughter's husband

Technically, I can follow the lines on my family tree and see this person. I am certainly not discounting the value of record hints. They are extremely valuable. But am I related to my Grandfather's half sister's son-in-law?

Relationships are culturally determined. From time to time, I talk to people who did not know their parents or any of the "blood" relationships. I grew up in a family where we associated with my mother's relatives but had little or no contact with my father's relatives. As I became more and more involved in genealogical research, these dynamics became more of an issue with me. Why did we have a relationship with some "relatives" and not with others? As I learned more, I discovered the existence of possible family conflicts and other situations that probably influenced the interaction between family members. Now, as I grow older, I see the same types of situations develop in the families I associate with.

But these social and culturally based relationships or the lack of a relationship are only part of the story. We now have the ability through the electronic family tree programs to specify our social relationships to a degree that was likely impossible only a few years ago. I am literally deluged with possible family relationships through the online family trees and DNA testing. My multiple DNA tests have also markedly redefined who I am "related" to. In my case, for example, I now have 138 DNA matches from and 401 DNA matches from Out of the list from, I only recognize one or at the most, three people that I have ever met or had any contact with. Many of the people listed as DNA matches have not linked a family tree to their DNA results and have no family history research interests or even any public family history content information and so I am unlikely to ever discover who they are and how we might be related. The fact that someone is a third or fourth cousin does not help me a lot.

When a DNA test or a family tree match tell you that someone is a "close" relative what does that mean? If you happen to be a person who falls into the category of adopted or abandoned at birth, DNA testing may help to establish some familial relationships. But for most of us who are swimming if a larger pool of relatives, the apparent relationships established by sharing family tree data or by DNA are puzzling rather than helpful. Should I contact these people and try to establish some sort of social or cultural family relationship?

In my own case, my social relationships with family members extends to my own children and grandchildren, some of the siblings of my family and my wife's family. and their descendants. Your own family relationships may extend further or be more limited. But as a genealogist, I have had contact with a pool of more remotely connected relatives. I have found valuable genealogical contacts with people who are not blood relatives at all. In one case, I had an extensive correspondence that included visits with the daughter of the first husband of the second wife of one of my great-uncles. We shared a mutual interest in preserving photos and artifacts from my great-uncle and his immediate family.

How you define these relationships and what you do about the definitions is highly personal but no matter how those relationships are defined today, they are likely to begin changing and be different in the future due to the notices that keep coming from DNA test results and family tree matches.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Cost for storage per Terabyte

What does it cost now to store 1 Terabyte of information? What would it have costs in the past? What is the optimal size hard drive available today?

10 Terabyte hard drives are beginning to be sold on It seems to me that the average genealogists would not likely fill up a ten Terabyte hard drive in an entire lifetime unless they were collectors of movies and books and music to a marked degree. The push for larger and larger capacity hard drives comes from gamers and others with voracious data appetites. Of course, as is illustrated above, the server farms that support the internet also gobble up huge numbers of hard drives. For example, an online backup service might need to purchase thousands of hard drives every year.

Over the past few years, the cost of hard drive storage has fallen from around $500,000 per gigabyte in 1981 to less than $0.03 today. See "Hard Drive Cost Per Gigabyte." At the 1981 price of memory, a 1 Terabyte hard drive would have cost $500 million dollars. Actually, the technology did not exist to manufacture a 1 Terabyte hard drive. Likewise in 1981, a 10 Terabyte hard drive would have cost (assuming its existence) $5 billion. So today, a 10 Terabyte hard drive costs about $400 or about $40 per Terabyte. If we compare that with 8 Terabyte hard drives, the cost drops to $170 or about $21.25 a Terabyte. A 4 Terabyte hard drive is currently selling for about $100 or $25 a Terabyte. From this, the least expensive hard drive looking at the cost per Terabyte is the 4 Terabyte drive but not by much.

If you look at the overall numbers, you can see the dramatic impact of the advances in technology encapsulated in the cost of hard drive storage; from millions of dollars to less than a hundred. I think there are few better examples of the need that we have to back up our data. The cost of backing up everything we do on a computer is ridiculously small compared to the time it would take to recreate lost files and information.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Web Indexing from FamilySearch has been digitizing millions of microfilm records for the past few years. In order to make these digitized microfilm records more available to researchers, the records need to be indexed. As a result, FamilySearch has provided a way for hundreds of thousands of volunteers from around the world to participate in this indexing program. Until recently, indexing could only be done on a desktop computer. For the past few years, FamilySearch has been trying to provide a web-based indexing solution. Web-based indexing is now a reality.

Access to the web-based Indexing program is through

One of the missionary volunteers at the Brigham Young University Family History Library has prepared a short video that provides an excellent, updated introduction to Web Indexing.

(NEW) FamilySearch WEB Indexing (June 2017) - Judy Sharp

Monday, July 10, 2017

Choosing among the millions: apps and programs

Current statistics show the growth of the Apple App Store since its inception in 2008.
The website indicates that there are over 2.2 million apps or programs for the iOS operating system. This number is exceeded by the number of apps for Android devices. The Google Play Store has over 2.8 million apps. Here is a chart showing the number of apps in the largest online app stores, including Google Play, Apple App Store, Windows Store, Amazon Appstore, and Blackberry world.
How do you choose when there is essentially an unlimited number of choices? That is an interesting question and one that actually confronts the genealogical researcher while doing research every day. Unfortunately, there is no one out there in the vast online world providing us with the total number of valuable genealogy-related websites. Altogether, there are over a billion websites on the internet.
This web page link is to the website that has an active counter representing the number of online websites in the world. By the way, the first website went online in 1991. I can remember looking at the World Wide Web when there was a total of six websites.

Part of the reason that I have continued writing this blog is that the available topics are infinite as far as my personal ability to write is concerned. True, I do have common themes that have developed over the years, but the number of new websites and the existence of valuable genealogical websites just keeps growing and growing.

As genealogists, we are still people. For example, there are hundreds of restaurants where I live in Provo, Utah. But my wife and I have probably only been to less than ten. We just do not go out to eat very often, particularly when we are close to home. Likewise, even though there are millions of apps and millions of places to look for genealogical data online, I use the same familiar apps and familiar research sites all the time.

Right now, I have 120 apps on my iPhone. Of those 120 apps, I use about 44. The rest are like books on the shelf that I never get around to reading. Every so often, I deleted all the apps that I haven't used for awhile.

What is the point? We live in a world of genealogical abundance that is so enormous to be beyond comprehension. Notwithstanding this wealth of information, we use only a small fraction of the available number of websites and conclude that we have "looked everywhere" for information about our ancestors. Hmm. Everywhere? Of course, a huge percentage of the websites fall into categories that I am never, ever going to look at or even try to look at.  But that leaves what? Thousands? Tens of thousands? Additional websites that likely have valuable information about my ancestors.

Rather than be discouraged about these numbers, we should be happy that we have such unlimited resources. I find new, helpful websites regularly. I find more information about my research nearly every time I look. Life is good. This is the best time possible to be doing genealogy. So far.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

What is a Digital Genealogical Workflow? Part Two

As I work, I move from computer to computer. However, the process of converting all of the paper-based records into digital format is only partially computerized. For example, when I order microfilm at the Brigham Young University Family History Library, I still have to fill out a two-part paper form. The student employee at the Library then keys in the information on the paper and I am given one of the two parts as a "receipt" for my order. Theoretically, I am supposed to be informed when the microfilm arrives in the Library, but that almost never happens. I have to check from time to time to see if the films I ordered are now "available" and I can order more films.

We are constantly caught in a wide variety of similar issues. As I have written about recently, some of my major breakthroughs in research have come from reading the book shelves in the Family History Library. No, not all the books are digitized and no they are not likely to be digitized as long as the United States has a copyright law. Notwithstanding these paper issues, much of my workflow has been digitized.

I am going to write about my own personal research process. I realize that I have written previously on this subject but my methodology keeps evolving and I am doing things differently than I did just a few months ago. I begin formulating a research objective by closely examining the information contained in my online family trees. For serious and complex research objectives, I cannot rely completely on my memory; I have to create a research outline. I use an online word processing program for this step such as Google Docs. By using Google Docs, I can access any of my notes from any computer including my iPhone and my laptop.

There is a simple reason why I use Google Docs or Dropbox or the equivalent. Many of the so-called note taking or research assistance programs are not free and not completely available on all of the computers I use. For example, I am frequently using a computer at the Brigham Young University Family History Library. Almost all of their computers are older PCs hooked up to the internet through the BYU network. Of course, I cannot put my own programs on their computers and I see no reason to lug my own computer into the Library and work on WiFi. But I do carry my own computer to the Family History Library in Salt Lake City because I am usually there for an entire day at a time and I like the convenience of having my own computer to work on. Also, by using internet-based programs, I can access all my notes and documents on my iPhone or an iPad. Since my wife is frequently working on presentations, research and helping others also, we move between different devices all the time.

Some of the basic digital techniques that move me from using paper notes include screenshots (frequently featured in my blog posts) and photos taken with my digital camera. Here is a screenshot of some of the photos I took recently at the Family History Library in Salt Lake.

These images were taken with my iPhone. I have set up a Google Photos connection and all of these photos are "backed up" on my Google Photos account for free. When I get home from the Library, they are already available on my computer at home or at the BYU Family History Library or wherever I happen to need them. Here is a closeup of one of the pages so you can see that I can certainly use these images later.

Of course, the images are not "archive" quality. They are electronic notes. It takes me a few seconds to have all this information rather than laboriously copying parts of the information by hand onto paper.

Now, some of these notes are not pertinent to my research. Some come out too blurry or whatever to use. But those that I do use are helpful. I do not usually spend the time in the Library analyzing these digital pages. But sometimes that is necessary. Because I am working on a computer linked to the internet, I have all my research and access to all of my online family trees. This constitutes a massive amount of information and by having it all digitally available, I save the huge amounts of time it takes to manage the paper records, notes etc.

In the next installment, I will focus on orgnizing and accessing the digitial notes.

Please see the following for part one of this series.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

AncestorCloud rebrands as Trace and acquires

I received an email from my friend Wesley Eames who started AncestorCloud in 2015 that they were rebranding the company as "Trace" and had acquired They will be closing down AncestorCloud and moving their services to claims the title of the world's largest family history research firm with over 4000 professional genealogists worldwide.

Here are some more of the details of the changes from a news release dated July 7, 2017.
AncestorCloud rebrands to Trace and announces the acquisition of 
Trace adds additional genealogy expertise to its technology products and services. 
July 7, 2017 (Provo, Utah) - Trace, a technology company making family history more accessible, announced the acquisition of, the world’s largest family history research firm. has developed a network of thousands of expert researchers worldwide who perform genealogical projects for the lowest price and highest quality. The addition of will increase Trace’s network of professional researchers to over 4,000, bringing unmatched expertise to Trace’s products and services. 
Trace is the new brand for AncestorCloud, a company which started by offering cloud storage and sharing for genealogy documents and evolved into a marketplace to buy and sell genealogy services at an affordable price. The rebrand allows the company to expand into new businesses and have a company identity more in line with the value offered. The marketplace technology that exists on will be moved to to further scale the business. 
Trace will continue to provide clients with custom research services while accelerating its technological capabilities and providing the business with expertise in marketing, sales, customer experience, and investor relations. “Trace will be the innovative catalyst needed to sustain phenomenal growth in the U.S. and overseas,” says James Heddell,’s founder. 
Wesley Eames, Trace CEO, explains “With an ever-increasing global interest in family discovery, the demand for custom researching grows annually. We’re confident this acquisition will help us make family history an easy, affordable, and quality experience. Genealogists and non-genealogists alike are seeking this information.” 
The acquisition was completed on April 7, 2017, growing the number of employees and contractors from six in February to seventeen today. James Heddell has been named Head of Research for Trace, and will continue to manage operations for team members will remain in their current locations across the United States and Canada. Trace will keep its headquarters in Provo, Utah. 
About TraceStarted in 2014 by Wesley Eames, Trace (formerly AncestorCloud) is a technology company making family history more accessible. To date, Trace has developed a cloud storage and sharing solution for genealogy records, built a marketplace for finding affordable genealogy services, and created a packaged research product featuring a custom heirloom book. With this acquisition, Trace will bring
new technological capabilities to the custom research market. 
About Genealogists.comStarted in 2012 by James Heddell, has created the world’s largest network of professional genealogists, including hundreds of DNA experts, forensic genealogists/scientists, private investigators, historians, religious scholars, clergy, and university professors. With researchers located onsite throughout the world, provides its clients with localized experience and unmatched access to records.

Friday, July 7, 2017

The Congregational Library and Archives: Opening a window to early Colonial History

I ran across this website the other day and finding it highlighted the fact that, as genealogists, we will never really run out of new places to look and new collections to explore. Quoting from the Website for the Congregational Libray and Archives:
The Congregational Library holds some 225,000 items, both archival and published, covering Congregational Christian history and a broad array of related topics. 
Our rare book section includes an unusually rich and complete representation of English and first-generation Puritan works, including an original copy of the Cambridge Platform of 1649. The Library’s archive of colonial-era church records is also extensive, containing many sets of seventeenth-century documents as well as full collections from large and historically significant modern churches like Boston’s Old South, established in 1669, and Park Street Church, formed in 1809. Many are available in digital form as part of our Hidden Histories collections, and accessible on our website. 
The Congregational Library also has a large sermon collection, some 15,000 individual pieces, covering the period from the late 1600s to the twentieth century, in both manuscript and printed form. 
As the designated archive of the Congregational Christian churches (up through 1957), the Library holds all the major institutional records of the denomination, as well as some 1500 different periodicals representing its longstanding interest in social reform, missionary work, and education. The Congregational Library also holds rare newspapers from the Christian Connection, a denomination that merged with the Congregational churches in 1931.

If your ancestors came from New England, there is a good possibility that some of them were Congregationalists. Again, quoting from the website:
Who are the Congregationalists?
The Congregational tradition dates back to sixteenth-century England, where Protestant reformers formed the ideal of independent local churches free from liturgical ceremony and hierarchical control by the Church of England. These reformers, also known as Puritans, emigrated to New England in the mid-1600s, to establish a "godly commonwealth" of locally governed church with simple forms of worship, governed by the people of the congregation. As a Protestant denomination built on strong community bonds, the Congregational churches went on to exercise a broad influence on American culture, both in the world of ideas and in efforts for social reform. 
These churches exist today within the United Church of Christ, and in two continuing bodies, the National Association of Congregational Christian Churches and the Conservative Congregational Christian Conference.
Many of my own ancestors were probably Congregationalists,  especially those who are descendants of the Mayflower passengers. There is an extensive collection of digital images on this website of records that are likely unavailable anywhere else.

Walking the Shelves -- A Basic Genealogical Tool

Libraries have books and books have information about your ancestors. In our mad rush to get online and use all the resources, it is grounding to remember that we have thousands of years of accumulated knowledge in books. Current copyright laws around the world severely limit newer books from being generally available through digital copies online. Fortunately, there are still a few people out there who are publishing valuable genealogical records in paper book format. To access these newer published records we have three options:

  • We can buy the book from a publisher or supplier
  • We can try to find a digital copy of the book available
  • We can try to find the book in a library
I also need to mention that there is a lot of information available on CDs and microformats such as microfilm and microfiche, but I am focusing here on books. 

Some of us end up buying a lot of books. I have been trying to give my book collection away to my children for several years, but they all have huge collections and really don't want to add in all my books also. Despite resolutions to avoid buying any new books, we seem to add new ones at an alarming rate. But there is a limit. Some books are wonderful for reference, but I really don't need my own copy. If I can't find a digital copy, I start looking in libraries. Fortunately, I live very close to the huge Brigham Young University Harold B. Lee Library and reasonably close to the Salt Lake City Family History Library. Between those two libraries, I can find almost any book I can identify that I need and is not available in digital format. 

Here is an example of a book I discovered and could not find online:

Watson, Judith Green. South Kingstown, Rhode Island Tax Lists, 1730-1799. Rockland, Me.: Picton Press, 2007.

I did find that the book was in digital format, but it was only available from the in a university library. Unfortunately, my access to the Brigham Young University Harold B. Lee Library does not include access to digital books from the So I had to look for a paper copy. Fortunately, the BYU Lee Library catalog showed that they had a paper copy. 

So, I went to the Social Sciences section of the Lee Library and started looking. I ended up crawling on the floor, looking book by book at the books in the section where the book was supposed to be because it was on the bottom shelf. Meanwhile, I began to see other interesting books that might help my research. This is commonly called "walking the shelves" and it is the ultimate way of doing research in any library. Catalogs are great. Looking in is great. But there is no substitute for walking the shelves. 

This past week I spent a day in the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah and during almost the entire time I was there, I walked the shelves. I simply look at every single book on the shelves and pull off every book that might be of some possible interest. I then go through the books and see if they are relevant. Using this method of searching, I foud the exact information I was looking for. When I went into the Family History Library, I had no idea if what I was looking for was even available, but I found the exact information, this time a will abstract, that opened up the research I was doing at the time. 

When I write about "walking the shelves," I am referring to this process of pulling every single book off of the library shelves and examining its contents. I may seem slow, but it is ultimately the most efficient way to find what you are looking for and a lot of things that you did not expect to find. Oh, I first became aware of the Tax book cited above by walking the shelves in the Family History Library in Salt Lake City.