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

Friday, June 23, 2017

Genealogical Isolationists and the Consequences

Genealogy is a solitary pursuit. In its traditional paper-based past, a genealogist worked as an individual researcher. Occasionally a family would cooperate and share some of their joint information, but even with this sharing, families remained isolated from each other. This genealogical isolation first began to break down with the establishment of the GEDCOM program back in 1984. During my first twenty or so years of doing genealogical research, I worked entirely on my own. None of my immediate family members were at all interested in what I was doing and I was entirely unaware of the efforts of any other living family members. Even sharing my files by uploading copies of my data to the Pedigree Resource File did not provide any collaboration or sharing opportunities.

Across my many family lines, the research was fractured and disjointed. Some lines seemed to be well researched as evidenced by a collection of surname books, but others had apparently been entirely neglected. Slowly, as computer technology advanced, I was able to obtain an overall view of my family lines, but I still had no contact with any other family members. On some of my lines, such as the Tanner family line, to this day I have still never encountered a serious, source-based, genealogist who is actively working on this family line.

The effect of this isolationist fragmentation was that there was no "feedback" and errors accumulated rather than being eliminated. With the introduction of the internet, individual online family trees became a possibility. The internet opened up a way to share information. Unfortunately, the "sharing" process that evolved consisted primarily of indiscriminate copying. Shortly after online family trees became available, I began to realize that my early uploaded copies of my family lines, including all my early wrong conclusions and errors, were being quickly and efficiently copied across the internet.

The seriousness of this situation became evident when FamilySearch introduced the program. Some of my ancestors had multiple hundreds and perhaps thousands of copies. Most of these copies originated as result of the isolated word of family members for over a hundred years. But a significant portion was also the result of copies made from online sources such as the Ancestral File and Pedigree Resource File.

Because each "genealogist" or "family historian" had to have their "own" copy of "their family" the number of copies, with all the accumulated errors and wrong conclusions, proliferated at an extraordinarily fast pace. The solution was the introduction of the Family Tree. This free, online, unified, collaborative program allowed everyone to cooperate and collaborate in fixing the problems generated by the years of isolation.

Guess what? Some individuals feel threatened by the unified program. There is still a huge core of isolationists who think they own their ancestors and that they somehow are right when all the rest of the world is wrong (sort of like some of the governments out there today). They not only fail to share their work, they become belligerent and protective to the point of refusing to cooperate with anyone. The tragedy is that they are very likely spending their lives duplicating research that has already been done. The Family Tree acts as a giant clearing house for genealogy. If you put your research in the Family Tree, then anyone else can see what has already been done and does not have to repeat your work.

But what about the issue of changes? Yes, the information in the Family Tree is in a state of flux. But that is the price we pay for over a hundred years of isolation. But what about the other online, collaborative family trees? Yes, there are some other collaborative family trees but FamilySearch is in a unique position due to its sponsorship by the worldwide organization of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The Church has far more than a mere economic interest in maintaining the integrity of the Family Tree. The Family Tree may evolve in the future, but it will be maintained in some fashion as long as is foreseeably possible.

But what about the isolationists? Too bad for them. They are condemned to spending a life duplicating the work of others and in the end having all their work lost to their posterity or anyone else for that matter.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Some Surprising Records on

A short time ago, I was asked to help a patron who had come from out-of-state to the Brigham Young University Family History Library with some genealogical research in the Philippines. I immediately accepted the opportunity because I simply assumed that likely had a large number of records from the Philippines for the reason that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has a large number of members in that country.

I was not disappointed. There were a great number of records and I soon found some crucial ancestral names for the patron. The patron was obviously very happy. But what about finding records on the website from countries where there are few members of the Church? I learned from some of the other missionaries at the BYU Family History Library that the website had a large number of very useful records from India (see the screenshot above). 

Then I got interested to find out what other countries, outside of those usually associated with genealogical research, might be represented by records on the website. 

One key to answering the question is to start any search by using the Catalog rather than simply looking at the list of digitized records available in the Historical Record Collections. For example, there is a huge list of records from Italy. 

Granted, there are still places around the world where genealogical records are not easily obtained, but before you make such a conclusion, I would suggest that you do extensive online searches. The website has more than a hundred year's worth of accumulating records and I would not discount the fact that some records may have been obtained that are pertinent to most of the world's population. 

Another example comes from China. It seems that many researchers automatically assume that Chinese records are not available. However, FamilySearch has a huge and rapidly increasing number of records from both China and Taiwan. Here is a representative screenshot.

You will never know what you are missing until you look. One last example. This one is from Africa. 

If you keep clicking down in the places included links, you will see additional resources, but you can also search by looking for a specific country.

Monday, June 19, 2017

We Take A Break For a Family Reunion

When we have a family reunion, we all go camping. We will be camping in this lovely site in the Wasatch Mountains State Park. We will have about 40+ people all camping together for a couple of days. Hmm. Real internet connection. I might not have any posts for a couple of days. :-(

Meanwhile, take this opportunity to read some of my thousands of previous posts or watch some of the almost 300 videos on the BYU Family History Library YouTube Channel. :-)

Sunday, June 18, 2017

The Family History Guide adds Content Review

The Family History Guide is a free, structured and sequenced education website sponsored by The Family History Guide Association. The goal of the Association is:
To greatly increase the number of people actively involved in family history worldwide, and to make everyone's family history journey easier, more efficient, and more enjoyable.
The Family History Guide is being used as an essential training tool at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, the BYU Family History Library, the Riverton FamilySearch Library, and many Family History Centers around the world.

The Family History Guide contains thousands of links to valuable family history resources. It is a monumental job to keep all of that useful content updated and accurate. It is also possible that the users can see additions and corrections that need to be made to the content. For those reasons, we have implemented Content Review.

This new Content Review feature is designed to allow users to provide detailed feedback on the Projects, Goals, and Choices on the website in three easy steps:
  1. Reserve a Goal. Only one person at a time can review any particular goal.
  2. Work through each Choice and each step in the Goal, recording your suggestions and feedback as you go.
  3. Send your feedback to The Family History Guide.
The submission process uses a Google Docs page to submit suggested changes.

The instructions for reviewing and submitting changes are easy to follow and of course, you can also submit suggestions about the content of the Content Review itself. 

We invite all who are using the website to consider sending us a Content Review when you find broken links or feel that further additions are or would be helpful. 

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Science Fiction and Genealogy

I have been a science fiction fan since I was about 7 or 8 years old. I can still remember the first science fiction book I ever read. It happens to be:

Asimov, Isaac. 1950. Pebble in the sky: science fiction. London, England: Sidgwick & Jackson.

The edition that I read was most likely one of the many published in the United States about the same year. Here we are more than 60 years later. Now we can read the "old" science fiction and see how many things they got "right" and how many things they got "wrong." We have to remember that the people who wrote much of the old science fiction (maybe not so much the folks shown above on the Amazing Stories cover) were smart and thought about the future a lot. Did they really get things right?

What does this have to do with genealogy? Just about everything. Let me give a little background.

If you go back and read science fiction from the 40s and 50s, you immediately see a disconnect between the future portrayed by the writers and what we are living today. In some ways, such as space travel, we are hopelessly behind where we should have been according to the science fiction writers. We have no colonies in space, no settlements on Mars or Venus and nothing at all on the Moon. We certainly have not discovered evidence of interstellar travel and have no way to speed up the time it takes to get to the planets around another star. Star Gates, Warp Drive, and a lot of other inventions are still waiting to be discovered. 2001 and 2010 have both come and gone.

However, in other ways, such as computers, we have access to devices that were never dreamed of by the early writers. Not one early science fiction writer predicted the rise of the personal computer. I am not talking about 60s and 70s TV series like Star Trek. You can always read computers into Star Trek, but the "computer" was the whole Enterprise and the com units or communicators were merely dumb cell phones with no memory. The closest the writers came to computers was imagining extraterrestrially made devices that were "wonderfully compact calculation machines." 

See Norton, Andre. 1954. Space pioneers; stories. Cleveland: World Pub. Co., Gallun, Raymond Z., "Trail Blazer," p. 92.

The essence of the impact of computers is our ability to almost instantly talk to anyone anywhere on the face of the earth (within a few very practical limitations). In addition, the computer power sitting on my desktop right now is so far above what could have been imagined just a few years ago, that we can hardly begin to speculate how technology already in the pipeline to be sold will continue to affect our lives. One brief example: the iMac Pro: the new iMac scheduled for shipment by the end of this year will have a 27-inch Retina 5K display, up to 42MB cache, up to 4TB SSD, up to 18-core Xeon processors and up to 22 Teraflops of graphics computation. No one could imagine that you would be able to buy that much computer power for a home use.

From our near-sighted and parochial genealogical viewpoint, we are still living in the 19th Century. I still talk to people who profess an interest in genealogy that eschew the use of cell phones and have no usable computer skills. We have major genealogical companies that resist using optical character recognition or crowdsourcing indexing. Granted the changes in technology have come faster than can comfortably be assimilated, but what if the world had changed as much as the science fiction writers had predicted?

I was caught up in a group discussion recently about fraud. Many of the participants expressed concern and admitted they had been defrauded by such mundane issues as robocalls and other telephone solicitations. As a culture, we are so naive that we cannot even defend ourselves against the dangers inherent in worldwide communication, much less take advantage of the opportunities it affords us.

For example, I just received a solicitation to "present" at a major genealogy conference. Hmm. If I did so, I would spend my time, my money and my effort to attend the conference and end up talking to, at most, a few dozen, perhaps a few hundred people. That would be that. I would be one of dozens of other presenters and my presentation would quickly be forgotten. However, let's take a different tack. Suppose I decided to do a webinar for the BYU Family History Library. Preparing that webinar will take me about the same amount of time it would take to prepare a presentation for the major genealogical conference. I would not spend any time at all traveling since I live 10 minutes from the Library. Because of the new technology, I can do my presentation at any time convenient to me with no substantial cost or effort. Once the webinar is recorded, we can upload it to Google on the BYU Family History Library YouTube Channel and I can get hundreds or even thousands of views. What is more, I can do several of these presentations every month not just once a year at the large conference. I can compress a hundred years' worth of conference presentations into a few months of work and anyone, any place in the world (practically speaking) can watch my presentations at a time convenient to them and save the same time and money they would have spent attending a conference. In addition, many other people can take advantage of the same technology. The number of viewers of our combined webinars exceeds any possible projection of the attendance at any possible genealogy conference.

Granted, there are other reasons for attending a genealogy conference, but perhaps sitting in a classroom is no longer one of those reasons. By the way, the longstanding genealogy conference in England, "Who Do You Think You Are?" is being discontinued. See "Who Do You Think You Are? Live! Conference to Cease." I happen to see a connection here.

Let's look at some other aspects of genealogy that will change due to technology. I regularly go to the BYU Family History Library to help patrons. Most of the time, the patrons have a specific genealogical question they would like me to answer. Let's suppose that they sent their questions to me electronically. I can now look at their portion of the Family Tree and see the problem and see if there is a solution. Let's further suppose that I have a solution. I could simply get together with the person online and through video conferencing techniques "talk" to them while they were working on their home computer and "solve" the problem. Maybe, they would like to meet in person. I could still have looked at their problem before meeting and we could expedite the solution and spend some additional time in training and networking.

This week, and other such websites, have added millions of newly digitized records to their online collections. Most genealogists are oblivious to these newly added records. From my experience, few genealogists even know that the online collections exist. I am consistently making researchers aware of digital collections that they have never heard of. In fact, I am continually learning about new additions to online websites myself and yet there are some genealogists who are more concerned with formalities than substance. They are still worried more about how to present their "findings" than how to use all of the technological changes that are happening all around them.

As I expressed in a recent post, my genealogical efforts have taken on the nature of a conversation with the world. Perhaps you would like to join in the conversation?

What else is happening? If I will be using Google Fibre with an iMac Pro, I can't even begin to guess what I can do. I am now living far advanced of what I used to read as science fiction. 

Friday, June 16, 2017

Accessing Brigham Young University Collections Online -- Part Six
You can access a virtual tour of the Brigham Young University Family History/Genealogy Department online. In addition, the Library provides public access to a broad spectrum of very sophisticated electronic equipment.
Although I have been focusing on the BYU Family History Library and genealogy, the larger Harold B. Lee Library has a huge online presence.
Here are a few more examples of the broad range of online offerings from the Library.

BYU Family Historian
Quoting from the website.
BYU Family Historian was a periodical written annually from 2002 to 2007 by The Center for Family History and Genealogy. Assorted authors including Howard C. Bybee, David H. Pratt, and Mark I. Choate wrote articles for the publication. 
The Center for Family History and Genealogy was established at Brigham Young University in order to utilize BYU resources to simplify the process of finding of ancestors and the discovery of the world in which they lived. The Center also supported student training for life-long temple and family history service. Partners of the Center include: BYU Religious Education, BYU Department of History, BYU School of Family Life, BYU Computer Science, State Archives of Niedersachsen, Germany, and the State Archives of Bavaria, Germany.
German Maps, Topographische Karte 1:25,000

There are over 3,500 maps just in this one collection. 

Electronic Resources Statistics
This list includes references to over 2.8 million digital resources. 

I could continue highlighting collections and resources almost indefinitely and never cover them all. As genealogists, we need to become more collectively aware of the fact that genealogy is history and that the label "genealogy" does not have to appear in a library catalog for the information to be useful for our research.

For the first parts of this series see:

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Accessing Brigham Young University Collections Online -- Part Five

Every major library has a special collections section or department. The Harold B. Lee Library at Brigham Young University has an extensive archive with a huge underground preservation vault. The L. Tom Perry Special Collections Library has some surprising collections.

Special collections libraries often collect the "papers" of historically important or interesting people. Usually, in a university or college library, the decisions to add documents to the library's collections is made by the curators, usually professors, at the school. You cannot assume that your family was "too poor" or "too obscure" to have important genealogical documents preserved in a university special collections library. For example, my Great-grandmother accumulated a huge collection of genealogically important documents during her lifetime. Normally, those documents would have been lost to her posterity. But, I made the effort to convince the BYU Special Collections Library to take all the documents. There are over 16,000 names of people she collected in those documents. Here is the catalog entry for the Mary Ann Linton Morgan Papers.

Here is the description of the documents from the Library Catalog:
The Mary Ann Linton Morgan family papers contains geneaological information and pedigree charts compiled by Mary Ann Linton Morgan. Also included are letters from 1869, 1878. Old family trees of the Sutton family are included. A diary from 1924 is contained as well as the patriarchal blessing of Mary Ann Linton Morgan. In addition, there are two letters to the family of John Hamilton Morgan from Heber J. Grant. Missionary photographs from the 1930s in Tonga are included from an Elder Vincent. The collection contains documents from 1869-1990 but primarily consists of materials from circa 1930-1950.
These "papers" are genealogically and historically valuable. A more complete description of the papers is contained in the Manuscript Collection Descriptions.

The idea here is simple. Special collections libraries might have some valuable documents relating to your family history that are "mixed in" with a collection from someone who lived at the same time and in the same place as your family members. You will never know what is there unless you look.

Another way to approach the Special Collections library is to use Here is a description of the ArchiveGrid from the website:
ArchiveGrid includes over four million records describing archival materials, bringing together information about historical documents, personal papers, family histories, and more. With over 1,000 different archival institutions represented, ArchiveGrid helps researchers looking for primary source materials held in archives, libraries, museums and historical societies.

Here is the entry for the Mary Ann Linton Morgan family papers from

Here is another entry for another of my ancestors.

Of course, I am using my own ancestors who lived in the Utah/Arizona area. But there are special collections libraries in every part of the United States and many foreign countries. These libraries have collections of documents that may include many of your ancestors. I could keep going with examples of people with huge collections. But here is one more example using my surname and searching in

There are 4,288 collections of documents. How many of these pertain to my family? That is a question that can only be answered by searching through the catalog entries and looking for the neighbors, friends, and associates of my ancestors. For an illustration, let me use an ancestor who lived in another area of the country.

Simply because I happen to know a lot about my family, I can recognize that some of these papers might have information about my own family.

For the first parts of this series see:

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

DustyDocs -- Links to Free British Isles Parish Records

There is always another interesting website to explore online. Here is one of those. DustyDocs is a portal website from Australia with links to the United Kingdom's parish register records. Here is the description from the website:
Dustydocs is a 'web-linking site' of English Baptisms, Marriages and Burials records for the years 1538 to 1900. Our information is sourced from freely available church BMB records and validated user contributions. 
Searches can be conducted using family names and/or locations. Dustydocs categorises England into counties and towns to facilitate searches within specific locations. 
We encourage you to contribute to our growing source of information by adding a certificate, correcting existing dates, or adding new links. New countries will be added to Dustydocs as our database expands.
Here is the page with links to English websites

You may find that this website opens up new possibilities for your British research.

Maryland Digital Collections on Digital Public Library of America

The Digital Public Library of America ( has increased its free online collections to 16,520,747 items. The most recent acquisition is a connection to Digital Maryland.

Every time one of these huge collections are added to the Digital Public Library of America, genealogists benefit from the included genealogical and historical data made available from this one location. Here is a quote from the DPLA Blog about the new addition.
Our collections and our partner network are growing! The collections of our newest hub, Digital Maryland, are now searchable in the Digital Public Library of America (DPLA) alongside millions of resources from partners across the country. The new Maryland Service Hub represents a collaborative effort between Digital Maryland, a statewide digitization program, and University System of Maryland & Affiliated Institutions (USMAI), a consortium of seventeen public colleges and universities across the state. Through the efforts of Digital Maryland and USMAI, over 83,000 new resources from public libraries, museums, historical societies, and college libraries are now available via DPLA.

Digital Maryland offers a unique and rich array of materials that speak to the distinctive history of the state, the Chesapeake region, and its people, as well as to national history and culture. Explore the development of the nation’s earliest railroads through the B&O Railroad Museum collection, dive into the life and letters of one of American literature’s most intriguing writers with Enoch Pratt Free Library’s Edgar Allan Poe collection, and learn how women took charge of Maryland’s farms during World War I in Montgomery County Historical Society’s Woman’s Land Army of America collection–and that’s just a preview!
I have been following the development of the DPLA website since its inception and as the website grows, it is fulfilling its original goal of becoming a go-to portal for online historical and genealogical research.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Untangling a Place Name: A Genealogical Nightmare

From time to time, I encounter some very difficult research issues. In the course of helping a friend with some of his German/Swiss ancestors, I ran across this record on his ancestor's German Military record. It was on a World War I Bavarian, Germany Personnel Roster and gives the place of birth of the ancestor. This is what that ancestor had recorded as a birthplace in the Family Tree:

14 October 1882
Ulmerthal, Buchenberg, Oberallgäu, Schwaben, Bavaria, Germany

Why was this important? As I have written many times, identifying the place where an event occurred is the key to finding records about the individual and the family. I began with a two prong approach; deciphering the handwriting and trying to locate the places mentioned on maps and in gazetteers. The place as it was recorded in the Family Tree, did not seem to exist. The real problem was that the place named on the military record did not seem to be the same as the place recorded on the Family Tree. They both referred to a place in "Bayern" or Bavaria, but nothing else seemed to match. 

I suspected that the place named "Ulmerthal" was a farm name. There was a secondary problem in that the female ancestors involved seemed to retain their maiden names and for two generations the children had their mothers' maiden names. A little bit of research showed that this was a custom in some areas of Germany concerning "farm names." Here is a quote from the Research Wiki on German Names, Personal:
The development of alias surnames was often tied to agriculture. When a man moved to a new farm, he sometimes changed his name to the name of the farm. Also, when a man married a woman who had inherited a farm, his name may have changed to her family name. In this situation, some of the children born to the couple may have used his surname, while others in the same family used the wife's family name.
In this situation, I sought out one of the missionaries serving in the BYU Family History Library for help with place names. He began searching in the Meyers Gazetteer of the German Empire aka Erich Uetrecht. Meyers Orts- und Verkehrs-Lexikon des Deutschen Reichs. 5th Edition. Leipzig, Germany: Bibliographisches Institut, 1912-1913 and very quickly solved the apparent conflict between the place names.

As I suspected, the first place in the Military Record is deciphered as "Ulmerthal" a farm name, and that agrees with the name of the place as it is recorded in the Family Tree. Ulmerthal is near Kempton, which is the place recorded in the Military record. Kempton is also in Swabia, Bavaria. So, some of the places between the two different entries were in agreement. But the key here is that the entry in the Family Tree did not mention Kempton or Kreuzthal. After some more digging, the name of the place was sorted out.

Ulmerthal, Kreuzthal, Kempton, Schwaben, Bayern, Germany

The key here is that according to the Meyers Orts all of the records for this area would be found in Kempton. Now we get to another problem. and the other online document database programs do not have this as a place. Here is a satellite view of the farm.

But the key still remains that the records are in Kempton which was not mentioned as the place was previously recorded in the Family Tree.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Accessing Brigham Young University Collections Online -- Part Four

Because of the size and complexity of the Brigham Young University (BYU) and its long-term interest and commitment to genealogy, there are many online resources maintained by different departments. Of course, the most prominent is the BYU Family History Library, the recently implemented BYU Family History Portal leads to most of the other resources.

The Portal has a link to Religion 261, a college level course introducing family history. Although the course is aimed at students, the materials and lessons are freely available online for anyone to use. However, since the materials contained in the course are directed at the students attending BYU, some of the information contained in the outlined classes includes religiously related instruction concerning the doctrine of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS).

Here is a screenshot of the Introduction to Family History, Student Manual.

If you have ever wondered why members of the LDS Church or Mormons are interested in family history, this is a good introduction.

One of the most innovative and advanced areas of family history technological investigation is being conducted by the BYU Family History Technology Lab. Of course, there is a link to the Lab from the BYU Family History Portal.

The BYU Family History Technology Lab is a non-profit student research lab sponsored by the University's world famous Computer Science Department. During the past few years, the BYU Family History Technology Lab has developed a number of family history related programs. Icon links to the programs are on the right side of the screenshot. All of these programs are related to the Family Tree and require the user to be a registered user of the Family Tree as well as to have information in the Family Tree. Some of the programs are fun family history games.

Here is a list of the programs:
Relative Finder
Virtual Pedigree
One Page Genealogy
Pedigree Pie
Wheel of Family Fortune

For the first part of this series see:

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Carrying on a Conversation with the World

Sitting in the quiet of the morning and looking out the window at the wooded hillside, I often wonder about the phenomenon of writing on a computer and sending what I write out to the world. Genealogy is such a personal pursuit and for years what I thought and what I wrote was also very private. No one besides my immediate family, consisting of my wife and children, had any idea that I was involved in so much research and writing. Then one day, the internet came along and I start posting short bits of ideas online. After fussing around with a few other blog ideas, I started Genealogy's Star on November 21, 2008. Now almost 5000 blog posts later, I am still writing.

There have been some dramatic changes in the genealogical community in those years. We spent almost three hours yesterday listening to Ron Tanner of FamilySearch talk about the future of the Family Tree. Almost all the ideas he talked about were only vague ideas just eight or nine years ago and now most of them are well developed or will be shortly. We are sometimes so completely involved in what is going on right now, we cannot see how rapidly the world of genealogy (and the rest of the world for that matter) is changing.

One of the major benefits of being online with the blogs and all of the YouTube videos on the BYU Family History Library YouTube Channel is that I can immediately identify with and talk to people all over the world. Granted, the genealogical community is very small compared to other interests, but because it is small, I can feel like I am part of a real community and not just one of the minions in a nameless and faceless mob.

What is really going on in genealogy is part of what is going on around the world with technological changes that allow us to actually carry on conversations with the world whether we like the idea or not. Genealogy has become a very public topic and issue. Those who choose to ignore its public nature are very likely simply repeating what has already been done and because of the geometric progression in the number of our ancestors, the further back we do our research, the more likely it becomes that our efforts are being duplicated by someone else. Genealogists who ignore this reality are deluding themselves into believing that what they are doing is somehow unique.

I was recently helping a friend with his research. He is an immigrant who came to America as a child from Europe. In the course of helping him discover his ancestry, I began searching for records in the website. I immediately had record hints (green shaky leaves) for others who share his ancestral heritage. I am certain that he is entirely unaware of his relatives that are doing research about the same people he is interested in finding. Our lack of knowledge about those who are doing concurrent research into our common ancestors and relatives does not mean they do not exist.

Just as I can sometimes believe that no one out there reads this stuff, people with less contact to the internet than I have can firmly believe that they are the only ones "working" on a given ancestral line. In imagining this, they are denying the very nature of the world as it exists today. What is even more isolationist is to believe that you are the only one doing any "real" research and that the rest of your vast web of relatives are all stupid and don't know what they are doing.

Yesterday, my daughter was showing me an exchange she was having with a researcher on the Family Tree with a relative who was doing some extremely detailed and documented research into one of our family lines and correcting the misinformation online. We may believe that no one else out there knows how to do research or could possibly contribute anything useful, but we would be wrong every time.

In essence, we are all talking to the world, but the real question in genealogy is are we listening to the responses?

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Accessing Brigham Young University Collections Online -- Part Three

Online lists of genealogical websites are a way to begin discovering previously unknown resources. The Brigham Young University has wealth of such resources, not all of which are obvious and listed on the BYU Family History Library website. The main access point to the entire University's resources is the BYU Family History Portal.

The links on the Portal are described as follows:
Explore BYU's many resources for family history. From a 4-year bachelor's degree to library resources, from innovative computer applications to the ability to publish your family history, BYU offers a variety of services for students, researchers, and the public.
Some of the links are directed at those who would like to attend BYU as students and earn a degree in Family History, but others are very helpful to anyone who has an interest in genealogy. Here are some of the resources. I am sure you will find a few surprises.
The BYU Center for Family History and Genealogy sponsors several free online websites with amazing genealogical resources. Here are the selections with a description of each one. 

Nauvoo Community Project
 Quoting from the website:
Family history students at Brigham Young University's Center for Family History and Genealogy are working in conjunction with LDS Church Historic Sites to identify the residents of Nauvoo, Illinois, from 1839 to 1846. Wherever possible, each resident will be documented from birth to death in the records of the time. This data is available to all who are interested in the history of the community, as well as descendants seeking information about their families.
Immigrant Ancestors Project
Quoting from the website:
The Immigrant Ancestors Project, sponsored by the Center for Family History and Genealogy at Brigham Young University, uses emigration registers to locate information about the birthplaces of immigrants in their native countries, which is not found in the port registers and naturalization documents in the destination countries. Volunteers working with scholars and researchers at Brigham Young University are creating a database of millions of immigrants based on these emigration registers.
Bertram Merrell's Index of English Marriages 1750 - 1836
Quoting from the website:
This website features a unique index to the marriage records of the Chester Diocese from 1750 to 1836. Records of marriage licenses, allegations or bonds have been matched with their corresponding Bishops' transcripts or parish registers. We are pleased to present his index as a fully searchable database created by student employees at the Center for Family History and Genealogy at Brigham Young University.
BYU Script Tutorials

I have written about this collection of websites quite a few times over the years, but I still find very little awareness of their existence. They are almost never mentioned in classes or in blog posts online. This points out an important principle of learning and research: there is always more to learn and always more to search. Here is a short explanation of the Script Tutorials from the website:
Welcome to BYU's Script Tutorial. This website offers guidance in the deciphering of documents written in handwriting styles or alphabets no longer in general use. The tutorials and materials gathered here are meant to help a variety of people – students, researchers, historians, genealogists, and indexers – learn more about old scripts and how to make use of that knowledge to analyze and interpret the past. The concentration is on western European scripts, particularly those in use between 1500 and 1800. There is general introductory material about the history of writing and the development of different scripts (or hands) as well as extensive, and interactive, language-specific materials.
Discovering English Ancestors

Here is the stated purpose of this website:
The purpose of this web site is to provide an outline of some efficient ways to trace English persons in the past. It does not attempt to cover the rest of the British Isles. The researcher can scan through it quickly and click on the underlined terms for greater details in less familiar areas. The overall approach is to list web sites where the sources can be searched on-line, and then to list the key books and filmed materials in the Family History Library (hereafter FHL) in Salt Lake City and at Brigham Young University (BYU) in nearby Provo, Utah, needed to do original research. 
This web site is meant to assist professional scholars doing biography, demography, prosopography, the study of a place or the family as an institution as well as the genealogist. If you are interested in personal family history or are a beginning genealogist continue with the next section. If you are a professional scholar or seasoned genealogist in English research you may wish to skip to the last two sections on Web Sites and Major Records for Original Research.
Welsch Mormon History

I happen to have Welsh ancestors. Believe me, if you do, you need all the help you can get. Here is a summary of this helpful website. 
Welsh Mormon History seeks to find and share information about the Welsh converts to Mormonism who immigrated to the United States in the 19th century. Family history students at Brigham Young University are working to document each immigrant through the available records of the time, as well as linking journals, biographies, and photos to each immigrant.
The last Project listed by the Center for Family History and Genealogy is the Family History Companion. Some of the information here might be useful, but the Guide referred to on the website has been discontinued and replaced, so the information is somewhat outdated.

Stay tuned for more on this subject.

For the first part of this series see:

Friday, June 9, 2017

Wrong is usually wrong, so let's get it right? Is this possible?

Technology sometimes advances in ways that are not particularly comfortable. The Tree Consistency Checker is one of those "advancements." Obviously, the information I have in my "family tree" on reflects the information I also have in other online family trees including the Family Tree. However, with, the errors are reported by little red icons and you have to actually be looking for them to see any.

I can ignore this notice because I am not working on this family right now and I am sure that we have the wrong person in the Family Tree. Hmm. What did I just write? I can ignore the errors? Really? Actually not. But as the report from shows, I have so many errors that I need to start somewhere rather than run around trying to put out fires that will take care of themselves for a while.

Part of the problem here is that the technology is advancing in different ways in each online program. The Tree Consistency Checker is much more "in your face" than the little red icons. Let me illustrate this issue by examining the first error cited by MyHeritage.

The problem is that I do not have a "Robert Sanderson" in my portion of the Family Tree. Apparently, since the time I entered my information into and the present, someone has entered a completely new "John Sanderson" family into the Family Tree and this family does not have a child named "Robert Sanderson." So now the problem is not that the information about Robert Sanderson is incorrect, but that there is a whole new line. The problem is now that my ancestor Sarah Sanderson is duplicated in this new family and one of the duplicates is born in South Carolina and one is born in Vermont. That wouldn't be so much of a problem, except that my family line came from Virginia, Kentucky, and Indiana rather than Vermont.

So, both the Family Tree and my file in are wrong. But I also know that we have been working on the line in the Family Tree and it is very likely that we are not even related to these people. What has really happened here is that has pointed out something we already knew: this particular family line is messed up. I am not yet ready to work with the Sanderson family because I am still concerned with connecting this line to the Sandersons.

Unfortunately, the technology in both programs fails to tell me that my line is off base well down from where it branches off into the Sandersons. Sarah Sanderson is presently in the Family Tree as the wife of "Garrard Morgan II." However, we do not have any sources, as yet, showing a marriage between Garrard Morgan and a Sarah Sanderson. So the problem of Robert Sanderson is purely academic at the moment. My bigger problem is determining if I am related at all rather than correcting a bad date.

One issue that makes this whole issue unresolvable right now is that there is no convenient or efficient way to synchronize my family trees between programs. There have been claims in the past that developers had "solved" this problem, but they were exceedingly premature in their announcements. Subsequently, my family tree in is long overdue for a severe pruning.

Correcting your family tree can be a real issue. It is not just a simple as fixing a few dates. This is especially true as you go back in time and find fewer supporting sources.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Accessing Brigham Young University Collections Online -- Part Two

A visit to the Brigham Young University Family History Library has a number of benefits. One of the ones not usually anticipated is the in-library access to the huge list of online resources available in the bank of computers available for free public use. This list is not you usual public library list of "free" websites, you will find online subscription services that you would never have access to in a local library.

There are some limitations. Some of the online programs are limited to the students and staff of the University. However, most of the those that pertain to family history are more widely available. In order to use a computer in the BYU Family History Library, you need register with the student workers at the Reference Desk for a free temporary login and password. A picture ID will be required for registration. This takes only a few minutes and you are then free to use any of the computers that are not already being used. In my experience, there are very few times when an available computer cannot be found. The busiest time is on the two Sunday afternoons when the Library is open. Use of the computers will also depend on the academic schedule. Around final exams in each term or semester, there is an increase in usage.

Because of the huge number of websites, it is only possible to give a few examples. One of the most interesting for viewing in the Library is the HistoryGeo website. This website contains two major components: The First Landowners Project and an Antique Maps Collection. Here is a short summary from the website:
Instead of looking at landowner maps township by township, imagine what it would be like to have a SINGLE, INTERACTIVE MAP containing over 12.3 MILLION LANDOWNERS among 30 states (all 29 of the public land states in the Continental U.S., plus Texas). Imagine constantly expanded map coverage, and having the ability to keep track of all the early homesteaders you're researching. Imagine...wait, you don't have to imagine. IT'S HERE, and AVAILABLE NOW to Our Subscribers! (Emphasis in the original)
The map collection is also described as follows:
Over the years, we have compiled and indexed HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS OF LANDOWNERS from a constantly expanding collection of nearly 4000 MAPS from various sources and time periods. All you need to access this content is a subscription.
You should also be aware that the BYU Family History Library has complete access to the Harold B. Lee Library map collection that contains over 290,000 maps. The maps are located on the same level as the Family History Library and are open for use by patrons during the time the Library is open.

Historic or merely old newspapers are a valuable genealogical source, especially for legal announcements and obituaries. The Library has links to about 50 valuable newspaper websites. Half of these can be viewed only in the Library. Incidentally, the Library also has an extensive collection of newspapers on microfilm. When you are doing research is a large library, such as the Lee Library, you need to be persistent in looking for resources. The extra research effort will usually result in finding more information.

Speaking of microforms (including both microfilm and microfiche) the Library has access to over 3 million items in its collections. Many of these are directly related to genealogical research and are housed in the Family History Library.

The online collections also contain links to many other genealogically valuable websites, such as the following:
  • Bible Records
  • Census Records
  • Death and Obituary Records
  • Immigration Records
  • Military Records
  • Record Databases
If you go to the BYU Family History Website you will find these links organized by category and most of them will be accessible from your home computer.  Here is a screenshot of part of the list.

Additional categories of links on the BYU Family History Library startup page include the following:
  • Blogs/Message Boards
  • BYU
  • Census Reference
  • Databases/Archives/Indexes
  • Dictionaries/Encyclopedias
  • Digital Libraries
  • General
  • Language/Name/Term/Abbreviation Helps
  • LDS
  • Libraries/Centers
  • North America Maps/Gazetteers
  • Obituary Reference
  • Periodical Indexes
  • Reference Portals
  • Vital Records Reference
  • World Maps/Gazetteers
A standard U.S. research collection is the Sanborn Maps. This collection is only available for access in the Library but is a valuable reference. The Sanborn Maps were created by the Sanborn Map Company for the Sanborn Fire Insurance company beginning in 1867 and cover approximately 12,000 towns and cities in the United States. Here is a quote from the Wikipedia article "Sanborn Maps" describing the content of the map collection.
The Sanborn maps themselves are large-scale lithographed street plans at a scale of 50 feet to one inch (1:600) on 21 by 25 inches (53 by 64 cm) sheets of paper. The maps were published in volumes, bound and then updated until the subsequent volume was produced. Larger cities would have multiple volumes. In between published volumes, updates were sent out as correction slips. Subscribers would paste the slips on top of the old maps to reflect new or altered buildings or lots. 
The map volumes contain an enormous amount of information. They are organized as follows: a decorative title page; an index of streets and addresses; a ‘specials’ index with the names of churches, schools, businesses etc.; and a master index indicating the entirety of the mapped area and the sheet numbers for each large-scale map (usually depicting four to six blocks); and general information such as population, economy and prevailing wind direction.
Here is an example of one of the maps from Durham, North Carolina in 1888.

The Harold B. Lee Library is also a Government Repository Library. This means that the Library is part of the Federal Depository Library Program and has over 377,000 government documents.

Stay tuned for more information about the BYU Family History Library.

For the first part of this series see: