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

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Click Your Way Genealogical Success Online - Part One

An Introduction

It seems obvious that since genealogists are primarily researchers, they would use online resources for their research. Unfortunately, that is not always the case. Many genealogists find themselves on the disadvantaged side of the digital divide. From the genealogical perspective, this division is caused by demographics: people who, for a variety of reasons but primarily age, motivation, and access, have not taken advantage of modern technology. This lack of technological ability can be as simple as discomfort with all things electronic to a rejection of everything having to do with technology from smartphones to the internet. I have friends who are interested in genealogy, who can't type, do not have a smartphone, will not look at a computer and do not have an internet connection. I am not writing this series for these people.

If you have adequate computer skills and a desire to do genealogical research, I am writing to you. You may even have attended classes on using technology for genealogical research. But classes on the subject of online research usually focus on websites and resources rather than methodology. This series is not exclusively about Google or any other specific website. It is about learning how to use online resources in a way that materially assists you in finding your ancestors and other relatives.

Of course, Google Search and all the other Google programs are an important and vital part of the online research process. But research online involves more than familiarity with a few websites, it involves a major adjustment in the way genealogical research is conducted. Some classes that focus on using Google Search and other online programs for genealogical research go into great detail about complex and often arcane ways to optimize searching using formulas and boolean algebraic functions and other specialized programs but neglect the important factors that make searching online productive. The Internet is more than just using Google and genealogy programs and genealogists need to adapt to the methodology that produces successful online research.

This is not a new topic for me. I have written a number of blog posts and have several widely watched videos about using Google and other online resources for genealogy. However, technology changes constantly. The tools and programs I have today and vastly different than those I had ten or so years ago when I started writing this blog online. This series is my attempt to articulate what I have learned over the years and update it with information I have accumulated since my previous posts.

Despite the dangers of repetition, it occurs to me that the topic needs to be given more intensive coverage with very specific examples.This continuing series is going to focus on augmenting the current genealogical methodology in a way that reasonably and exhaustively includes the sophisticated use of online resources, including a large dose of Google, to achieve genealogical research success. We are well into the information age and it is tragic how little of the vast online resources available are used by most genealogists.

I might suggest, right up front, that what I have to write about will challenge some of the well accepted and traditionally comfortable ways genealogy is being taught and practiced by nearly everyone. The whole point of this series will be to move forward into genealogy based on information technology.

Let's get down to basics

To take advantage of the vast amount of online information that is presently available and constantly increasing, we need to readjust our way of viewing genealogical research. Before getting too much further into this topic, I need to acknowledge the constant genealogical response to any reference about online resources that not everything is online and that you have to do "traditional" genealogy sitting in a library or archive to find much of the information that has yet to be digitized.  As I have said many times before, that is likely true, but the people who use that as an excuse to ignore online sources cannot articulate what is and what is not online in any meaningful way. I am painfully aware of the amount of information that is still locked up on paper, but I also recognize the vast amount of information that can be accessed online. I suggest that almost all genealogists can add significant amounts of information using online sources and if there are sources that are still only on paper, the existing online resources give you the ability to locate and gain access to those records.

One of the important things I have learned from my time digitizing records at the Maryland State Archives is the vast amount of information that exists about people who lived in the United States. I am also learning home much of that information is being digitized every day, day after day. It will still be many years before all the Maryland probate records are digitized, but this is only one project by one entity, in this case, FamilySearch, digitizing records around the world. Another thing that has impressed me since I have been here is that so many of the people I talk to about genealogy are totally unaware of the freely accessible records on Just two nights ago, I was helping a friend find records for a family from Mexico. We were unsuccessful in finding information about the parents but had been adding information about the children in the family. We did some additional searches on and found the parents' marriage record with the names of both sets of grandparents. This experience illustrates part of the methodology I will be writing about.

The first basic principle here is to think of genealogical research as a web. The tree analogy is pervasive in genealogy but it is really much more complicated than a tree structure. In fact, the tree structure is both misleading and outdated. For example, my parents are second cousins, more specifically, they have the same ancestor. He is my mother's maternal great-grandfather and also my father's maternal great-grandfather. How do you represent that on a standard tree structured pedigree chart? That same individual, the common ancestor appears in two entirely unrelated places. If I go to the Family Tree and click on the link to show my relationship to that common ancestor, Jens Christensen, I will see the following:

This does not tell me that my father is also a descendant of Jens Christensen. In this instance, my parents knew about their relationship. On the other hand, let's suppose that I was researching further back in my family line. How would I know whether or not individual ancestors were marrying relatives? In fact, there is a well-developed genealogical principle called "pedigree collapse" that illustrates the fact the not only is it possible that our ancestors married cousins, it is for all practical purposes inevitable even if it is not always demonstrable. There is a program that illustrates this principle called Relative Finder. That program uses the data in Family Tree to search for possible ancestral connections and then shows possible shared relationships. A recent study done by's Science Team and reported in an article published in the journal "Science," found the following:
The team found that industrialization profoundly altered family life. Before 1750, most Americans found a spouse within six miles of their birthplace, but for those born in 1950, that distance had stretched to about 60 miles. Before 1850, marrying in the family was common — on average, fourth cousins married each other, compared to seventh cousins today. Curiously, they found that between 1800 and 1850, people traveled farther than ever to find a mate — nearly 12 miles on average — but were more likely to marry a fourth cousin or closer. Their hypothesis is that changing social norms, rather than rising mobility, may have led people to shun close kin as marriage partners. See "MyHeritage Science Team’s Research Featured in the Prestigious Journal Science."
What is the point I am making with these examples? The point is that genealogy has traditionally been a linear pursuit based on extremely limited information. It is now changing into a loosely organized web-like pursuit based on an overwhelmingly large amount of information and there is a direct relationship between the explosion in the availability of information and the breakdown in the traditional viewpoint of genealogical research.

In the past, some genealogists have been involved in what has been called "cluster research." The idea of cluster research is that more information can be obtained from researching the family members, relatives, friends, and surrounding neighbors of our ancestral families and in many cases the research that results is more accurate. But cluster research was extremely difficult and time-consuming. It also seemed pointless to most researchers since they weren't obviously related to the people being researched.

How has that changed? We now have the ability to search vast databases of basic information about our the places where our families lived. We can extract information that gives us the ability to bring our family into sharp focus. This series is about that process.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Don't Forget the Archives
Since my wife and I are currently serving as volunteer FamilySearch Record Preservation Specialists at the Maryland State Archives, it follows that I am interested in all of the aspects of the operation of the Archives as well as the resources available. The Maryland State Archives has a very detailed and extremely valuable website that provides an in-depth explanation of the records as well as a major introduction to the history of Maryland.
I am only part way through reading all of the articles and explanations on this very detailed website.

As the first screenshot from the National Archives shows, there are Archives in every state of the United States. There comes a time in the life and learning of genealogists when they realize the vast number of records that they have never looked at or attempted to research. This is when the genealogist visits a state archive.

Here in Maryland, for example, as we have been digitizing records, I am just now beginning to see that nearly every person who lived in this state in the 1800s could be found in the records we have seen so far. The number of people in the probate records is staggering. I may have mentioned before that the volunteers here in the Archives will digitize somewhere between 1.5 and 2 million records this year and the project is expected to continue for 6 to 8 more years or so.

Many of the state archives have substantial online, searchable databases. However, entering the world of the archives can be a daunting and complicated process. Many of the archives have access restrictions that include registering and complying with strict use procedures. Here is an example from a video about the Maryland State Archives.

Planning a visit to the Maryland State Archives

Some of the state archives are closely associated with a state library and/or a state historical society. Genealogically important records may be located in any one or all of these additional repositories. Perhaps it is time that you began this expanded aspect of your genealogical research efforts. 

Monday, April 16, 2018

MyHeritage's DNA Quest Goes Global

At RootsTech 2018, MyHeritage announced a program to supply free DNA testing kits to adoptees seeking their birth parents. I wrote about this program in a post entitled, "Free DNA Testing for Adoptees from" Now, that fabulous offer has been expanded. Here is the announcement of the expansion from the blog post entitled, "DNA Quest Goes Global."
Last month we launched DNA Quest, a new pro bono initiative to help adoptees and their birth families reunite through genetic testing. 
The initiative, initially launched in the USA only, received an amazing response. More than 10,000 applications were submitted so far to receive free DNA kits, from the quota of 15,000 free DNA kits pledged by MyHeritage, worth more than one million dollars. 
Being that the deadline for submissions is the end of April 2018 and there are still about 3 more weeks to go, and in light of the many requests we received from the community to expand DNA Quest worldwide, we decided to increase the scope of the project, as of today, from USA-only to global. This means that people are now eligible to participate in DNA Quest regardless of their place of residence and regardless of where the adoption took place. 
DNA Quest is brought to you by MyHeritage, in collaboration with a top-notch advisory board, which includes top experts in the fields of genetic genealogy and adoption. 
Information about the DNA Quest initiative including a detailed FAQ and an application form are available on the project website,
You can also view this video by Aaron Godfrey from MyHeritage on

 MyHeritage Announces DNA Quest at RootsTech 2018

Latin Legal Terms for Genealogists -- Part Twelve

Plato, Republic, translated into the Latin language by the Humanist Antonio Cassarino. Rome, Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana, Vat. lat. 3346, fol. 153v.
This is pretty much a never-ending series. But I only post to it when I think about Latin, which only happens when I am looking at old documents. But since that is what I am doing right now all day long every day, I am back to Latin.

Here we go with the Latin words and phrases. You might want to remember the rules of this series which are that I am only selecting terms that I have actually heard used at some time in my 39-year career or phrases that have passed into English and no longer sound like Latin.

nudum pactum - literally "naked promise"
We spent an entire year in a Contracts course in law school and I can say that I still did not understand contracts until I had been practicing law for a number of years. Technically this term refers to an unenforceable promise due to lack of consideration. The phrase "lack of consideration" is the one that takes a long time to understand. Obviously, having made these statements, I will not try to summarize years of contract law in one or two paragraphs. The key here is the idea that the contract is unenforceable because one of the parties didn't get anything out of the deal. Sort of.

nota bene - literally "consider or note well"
Do people really think that using these phrases impresses anyone? Anyway, people (attorneys) use this phrase occasionally when they are concerned that their most important argument will be ignored. But when the judge sees this used, he or she will automatically assume that what the attorney is trying to say is that the argument has no support.

non obstante verdicto - literally "notwithstanding the verdict"
This phrase has been shortened to nonobstante (pronounced non-ob-stan-tay) and it has nearly passed into English. It means that the judge is about to overrule the jury's decision or verdict in the case. As a side note, civil juries now make decisions not verdicts and the term verdict is more commonly used only in criminal cases.

non faciat malum, ut inde veniat bonum - literally "not to do evil that good may come"
This is another phrase that has been shortened. The short form is "non faciat malum." This phrase is actully used in the context of arguments that some reprehensible act really promotes a good result. The phrase essentially means that the good does not justify the bad act. The argument does work on occasion.

non est factum - literally "It is not [my] deed" 
This is used in a defense when a party is claiming that his or her signature to a contract or document is not valid because he or she did not know what they were signing. This argument also works if there are substantiating and supporting facts that would make the execution of the contract subject to some factual dispute. 

non compos mentis - literally "not in possession of [one's] mind"
Yes, people do say these things and write them in legal briefs. It is more polite than saying that your client is crazy. 

nolo contendere - literally "I do not wish to dispute" 
This is another phrase that has been shortened to "nolo" and has long since passed into English as in a "nolo plea." You also hear questions such as "Is your client going to plead nolo?" It means that the person will not dispute the claim or charge against him or her. 

nolle prosequi - literally "not to prosecute"
This phrase gets confused with "nolo." But this is the state or government representative informing the court that the case will not proceed to prosecution. 

nisi prius - literally "unless first"
This is actually the phrase and it is not same as "nisi" variously pronounced as "nicey" or "neesy." It also does not have anything to do with the Toyota car of the same name. But it might be considered a compliment if said to the driver of such a car. This phrase refers to the court that has original jurisdiction in a matter. The word "jurisdiction" here is something many attorneys never understand during their entire careers. 

OK, so here is the short version of what this phrase means when used without the "prius" from the Legal Dictionary:
NISI. This word is frequently used in legal proceedings to denote that something has been done, which is to be valid unless something else shall be done within a certain time to defeat it. For example, an order may be made that if on the day appointed to show cause, none be shown, an injunction will be dissolved of course, on motion, and production of an affidavitof service of the order. This is called an order nisi. Ch. Pr. 547. Under the compulsory arbitration law of Pennsylvania, on the filing of the award, judgment nisi is to be entered: which judgment is to be as valid as if it had been rendered on the verdict of a jury, unless an appeal be entered within the time required by the law.
Is that clear? This is why attorneys can charge money for what they do. 

nemo plus iuris ad alium transferre potest quam ipse habet - literally "no one can transfer a greater right than he himself has."
Are you going to guess that this phrase also has a short form? Yes, it does. The short form is "ad alium." The phrase is sometimes used to refer to the fact that a purchaser of stolen goods cannot obtain ownership as against the rightful owner. By the way, the phrase has nothing to do with the captain of the Nautilus. This is why some police departments have piles of bikes.

I still have a huge number of these wonderful sayings to look at. See you sometime.

Here are the previous posts in this series.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Shoe Boxes of Old Letters, Photos and Papers -- Part Three

Paper Continued

As I mentioned in the previous post in this series, the enemies of paper are water, mold, insects and time. The example above is typical of an old piece of paper that has water, mold and chemical decomposition due to the passage of time. Even under the best of conditions, most of the paper documents of the world will simply disintegrate. I am guessing that few people outside of archivists, librarians, some genealogists, and other historical researchers have ever seen or had to deal with paper as damaged as the image shows above. The blue discolored areas are mold and chemical decomposition.

I have acquired thousands of documents over the years and some have been in even worse condition than the image. I also have a collection of thousands of books and so I have seen paper in all stages of destruction. I remember one inexpensive paperback book that I acquired when I was a teenager. Many years later, I decided to read the book again and found it had decomposed into small tatters of what was formerly paper. On the other hand, I have handled books hundreds of years old and found them in almost perfect condition. This illustrates the fact that the quality of the paper and the conditions in which the paper has been stored can drastically affect the rate of decay.

Here are some observations on the various factors and causes of damage to paper including books, of course.


One of the most common insect enemies to paper and books is the common silverfish or Thermobia domestica. Here is a photo of a silverfish.

By Jscottkelley - Own work, CC BY 3.0, High-resolution photograph of a Silverfish-related (insect) with ruler (metric) for scale. Found in my house in Dallas, TX, USA. This is a Ctenolepismatinae, very probably Thermobia domestica
Silverfish eat the lignocellulose found in wood and therefore paper. They are almost impossible to eradicate entirely. But they can be controlled by keeping the area where paper or books are stored dust free and dry. Here is a quote from the South Australia Community History website article entitled, "Managing pests in the collection: Integrated Pest Management (IPM)" that talks about what to look for to determine if you have an insect pest problem.
What is at risk from pests? 
Organic materials are most at risk from pest infestation – paper, textiles, and objects made of materials such as wood, plant materials and fur.
Some pests are attracted to materials made of cellulose – paper, starch adhesives and sizing – and others to protein-based materials, such as wool, feathers and fur. Some pests eat anything. 
While not often directly consumed by most pests, inorganic objects (eg stone, metals and ceramics) can be damaged by general dirt and staining caused by pests. 
What to look out for 
Some signs that you may have a pest problem include:
  • Holes, surface grazing or bite marks in objects. Borer holes are usually perfectly round, while moth holes are more irregular. Small piles of fresh dust often accompany borer holes.
  • Droppings. (The polite term for insect poo is “frass”).
  • Eggs. Insect eggs often look similar to pale poppy seeds.
  • Some insects leave webbing from their larval stages.
  • Some insects leave cases and cocoons from their larval stages. These can often be difficult to spot as they may be made from the object itself.
  • Live insects, dead insects, and cast skins.
  • Some pests, such as termites, can be heard chewing.
  • Some pests, such as termites and rodents, can leave distinctive odours.
A few years ago, we had some documents stored on shelves in our garage. They were old business documents and not particularly important. We found that we had a termite infestation and they had chewed their way up the wall into the shelves and eating into the documents. We had to go through the entire termite eradication routine with holes drilled in the walls and floors and poison all around the house in holes. The treatment apparently worked because yearly inspections showed no further damage, but many of the old documents were ruined.

Here is a photo of some common termite of the infraorder isoptera.

Public Domain,
Termites are a worldwide problem. They live on every continent except Antartica. They are voracious eaters of anything made of wood or wood products. A termite queen can live up to 50 years. Good luck if you find termites.

There are a huge number of other insects that eat wood products. One you probably have not seen is booklice. Again quoting from the South Australia Community History website article:
Booklice graze on microscopic moulds that grow on the surface of paper-based material, leaving surface damage similar to that caused by silverfish. They are also attracted to glues, binders and paper sizing. 
Booklice are usually very tiny (less than 1mm in length) and are a slightly transparent brown colour. They do not have wings.
Here is a photo of some booklice or Liposcelis sp.

By S.E. Thorpe - Self-photographed, Public Domain,
Crickets also eat paper and so do many other insects. The best conservations procedures include isolating the paper products in clean, controlled areas. As I learned with my documents stored in my garage, that type of storage puts the documents at risk. It may seem almost impossible to avoid insects infestations, especially if you live in a warm, humid climate area. When we lived in the Republic of Panama, we lost many organic items to mold and insects. In Mesa, Arizona, where we lived for years, papers and documents kept indoors and in dry, dark areas such as interior closets were not affected by insects.

This series will go on indefinitely. Stay tuned.

See the previous posts in this series here:

Saturday, April 14, 2018

English and Irish Workhouse Records

The variety and number of genealogically valuable records available can be overwhelming to a researcher. British and Irish Workhouse Records are some of the lesser known and lesser used records that are really quite readily available. sends out email notices to me every week and these notices highlight classes of records that remind me of where I need to go to find my English, Scottish and Irish ancestors.

You can get a good introduction to these workhouse or poorhouse records on the Research Wiki. See England and Wales Poor Law Records 1834-1948. You can search these records on the website. You will need a subscription to the website or you can search it for free in FamilySearch Family History Centers around the world. On the website, you can see a list of all the records available when you do a search of the A-Z of record sets.

The link to the list of records is on the "Search all Records" page of Here is a screenshot of the beginning of the list of workhouse or poorhouse records.

There are millions of these records available.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

What is WalkingArizona?
What is WalkingArizona? I am WalkingArizona. It is also a blog of my photographs that are semi-biographical and taken as I make my way through life. You can tell where I have been and you can see what I have seen by looking at thousands of photos from my WalkingArizona. WalkingArizona is not a place. I currently live in Annapolis, Maryland but will return to my home in Provo, Utah. Even though I live in Utah or Maryland, I am still WalkingArizona. My other blogs, including this one, reflect my life as a genealogist. WalkingArizona reflects my life as a photographer. Get the whole picture by WalkingArizona from my photography blog.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Do You Know Your Past?

"He who does not know his past cannot make the best of his present and future, for it is from the past that we learn."
Shaikh Zayed

Genealogy can appear to be a trivial pursuit of names and dates. But when we learn about our past, as the quote above indicates, we learn how to make the best of our present and our future. As my wife and I serve as Senior Missionaries for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we are daily involved in history. We are called to serve as Record Preservation Specialists to serve in the Maryland State Archives in Annapolis, Maryland. We are digitizing probate records for the Archives. Copies of these important historical records will be made available on I have been chronicling our experiences on my other blog, Rejoice, and Be Exceeding Glad... Yesterday, for example, in preparing documents for digitization, my wife Ann, found some documents signed by our first president, George Washington.

With this constant and very immediate contact with history, we can't help be reflect on our own personal histories and those of our ancestors. Fortunately, we have a lot of assistance from FamilySearch and from the Church, in general, helping us to learn about our history. For example, my direct line ancestor, Sidney Tanner, who was my Great-great-grandfather has the following connections in the Family Tree provided by FamilySearch.

These historical links show that he crossed the Plains three times (at least) and also lived in Nauvoo, Illinois. For me, after having done genealogical research for years, this is not new news. But for many others, these connections may open up a whole world of family history that they were not previously aware of. There is also a Life Sketch of Sidney Tanner.

Of course, these entries and all this information did not just magically appear in the program. It came from the diligent research of generations of genealogists. But the Family Tree is more than a place to park your genealogy. It can be and should become a vast resource for historical information about all of your ancestors.

Monday, April 9, 2018

Shoe Boxes of Old Letters, Photos and Papers -- Part Two

It has been some time since I started this series. I will begin with details by looking at the issue of book preservation. The book above is a good example of what happens when books are used over time and not carefully curated. But first, a look at paper.


Here is a quote from a Wikipedia article entitled, "History of paper."
Paper is a white material primarily used for writing. Although contemporary precursors such as papyrus and amate existed in the Mediterranean world and pre-Columbian Americas, respectively, these materials are not defined as true paper. The first papermaking process was documented in China during the Eastern Han period (25–220 C.E.), traditionally attributed to the court official Cai Lun. During the 8th century, Chinese papermaking spread to the Islamic world, where pulp mills and paper mills were used for money making. By the 11th century, papermaking was brought to medieval Europe, where it was refined with the earliest known paper mills utilizing waterwheels. Later Western improvements to the papermaking process came in the 19th century with the invention of wood-based papers.
Paper is made by pressing moist fibers of cellulose together under pressure and sometimes heat. The cellulose comes from ground up wood, rags, or grasses. As is mentioned in the above quote, the wood-based paper did not make its appearance until the 19th Century. Earlier paper products made from linen or cotton cloth were and still are more stable than more modern paper. Wood-based paper is composed primarily of two polymers: cellulose and lignin. The lignin is what makes paper turn yellow from oxidation when exposed to sunlight and air as it breaks down into phenolic acids which are yellow. The acid in the paper also eventually destroys its structure and becomes brittle and breaks into flakes.

More modern (expensive) paper has a high rag content or is made acid free. Newsprint is the cheapest form of paper and as I have observed in past writing and speaking, can yellow in one day if left out in strong sunlight. 

The point here is that paper and all paper-based products such as books will disintegrate over time. Hence, the need to preserve the paper books as long as possible but also a major incentive for digitizing paper records as soon as possible. 


The main resource for information about preservation in all its forms for all types of records and objects, is the Library of Congress, Preservation Directorate. The Preservation Directorate has specific recommendations concerning the Care, Handling, and Storage of Books. As with all preservation efforts, there is a basic decision level deciding which books or other paper documents are candidates for preservation. Preservation takes time and it could involve some expense, so plan ahead, learn about the processes involved and choose wisely what you preserve.

At the basic level books contain information and can be preserved by making a digital copy. An institution, such as the Library of Congress, preserves books as books. Books as books become valuable due to age, scarcity, condition, or inscriptions. For example, a rare first edition of a book by a famous author could be valuable, but it would be more valuable if it had a verified inscription from the author or a famous person who owned the book. Unless you are an experienced book collector, you probably cannot tell the value of a book without doing a lot of research. The age of a book is only one factor in establishing its value. When I was working with a law firm, we changed law offices and had a sizable library of old law books. We were going to use online legal services and no longer needed the books. No one else did either. Most of them ended up in the trash because there were no buyers and we couldn't give them away.

Genealogists are likely to have a rare book and not know that it is rare. Many family or individual published "surname" books are extremely limited editions. There may be only a few copies of the book in existence because the author self-published the book and only produced a limited number of copies. But surname books are a good example of books that have valuable information but may not be worth much as books. Another type of book that may be in the possession of a genealogist is an old family bible. These books are almost always worth preserving. If you do feel that you want to spend the time or effort to preserve an old book, consider donating it to a university special collections library. If a university library declines to accept a book, it does not mean that the book has no value, it may only mean that the library already has a copy of the book or that the book is not something they are collecting.

To determine the value of a book, you should search for used copies online. Google Books is a good place to start your search. Start searching just as if you were going to purchase the book and see how much you might have to spend to buy a copy of the book.

If you have a book that you determine has some value as a book, here are some suggestions from the  Library of Congress about the proper care when handling the book.
Take proper care when handling books by:
  • Having clean hands and a clean area to use the book
  • Keeping food and drink away
  • Removing the book from the shelf by gripping on both sides of the spine at the middle of the book (push in the neighboring book on both sides to get a good grip), instead of tugging at the top of the spine
  • Not forcing a book to lie open to 180 degrees; instead, prop up the covers of an opened book to decrease the opening angle
  • Not using paper clips, "dog ear" folding, or acidic inserts to bookmark pages
  • Not using rubber bands, self-adhesive tape, any kind of "leather dressing," and/or glue on books
The enemies of books are water, sunlight, and heat. Again, the Library of Congress suggests the following ways to properly store books.
Good storage significantly prolongs the life and usability of books and includes:
  • A cool (room temperature or below), relatively dry (about 35% relative humidity), clean, and stable environment (avoid attics, basements, and other locations with high risk of leaks and environmental extremes)
  • Minimal exposure to all kinds of light; no exposure to direct or intense light
  • Distance from radiators and vents
  • Regular dusting and housekeeping
  • Shelving books of similar size together, so that the face of the covers are maximally supported by the neighbors on each side
  • Keeping upright shelved books straight and not leaning (storing books lying flat is also good)
 If a book is very valuable or in very poor condition or both, you may wish to investigate boxes, book jackets, and other storage methods. The Library of Congress has a list of suppliers but you can search for preservation supplies online. Be prepared to pay a premium for archive level supplies.

This series is going to be quite detailed and long. So stay tuned and I will get to your preservation questions eventually.

See the previous posts in this series here:

Sunday, April 8, 2018

The Family History Guide: Your Pathway to Learning About Genealogy

The Family History Guide is truly your free learning, research, and training center. If you missed talking to them at RootsTech 2018, take some time to explore the newly redesigned website. If you want to know what's new take a look at their fabulous blog.
If you take the time to explore the website, you will be surprised at the depth of the instructions. In addition to basic guides on computers, researching genealogy and getting started, the website contains detailed information about research in specific countries around the world. If you read the blog, you will see that the website is only getting better. Here is an example of the Computer Basics page.

Add caption

And here is an example of instructions for doing research in a specific county in England.

Perhaps you would like to learn how to use Here is the beginning of the instructions about using that website.
There are thousands of links to articles and videos to help you with your genealogical journey. What about DNA? Here is the beginning of DNA section of The Family History Guide.
Be sure to watch the new introductory video and get started learning.

Quick Tour

Saturday, April 7, 2018

Back Up Your Data NOW!

Here is a summary of all the reasons to back up your data.

Back Up Your Data Now or Cry - James Tanner

It is about time to get back to this subject. One of my last blog posts talked about the need for your own desktop genealogy program. See Update of Do you still need a desktop (local) genealogy program? In focusing on this topic, I neglected to emphasize the need to back up all of your genealogical information. Since I am currently serving as a volunteer/missionary at the Maryland State Archives digitizing records, I can daily see examples of documents that are almost lost due to water damage, mold, and other causes. This daily experience has made me even more hyper about having more than one copy in more than one venue of everything I want to preserve. 

Watch the video. Think about what might and will happen to all your precious documents and genealogical research. Then get busy and back up everything. 

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

What are the chances of making a mistake in your family tree?

One of the realities of doing any kind of work is the possibility of making errors or mistakes. This is a fundamental part of our universal life experience. How we deal with our mistakes and errors is a very personal matter. Some of us refuse to believe that we could be in error, but more commonly, we believe that our genealogically inclined ancestors were perfect and never made any errors.

Some of the most common errors in family trees come from orthographic and typographical errors. Some researchers assume that their ancestral names were spelled in one way and one way only. This viewpoint overlooks the fact that consistent spelling of surnames did not become common until well into the 19th Century. Adopting one form of spelling over another turns out to be arbitrary and there is no one "right" way to spell names historically.

The reality is that our "genealogy" is based on records of the past. We are advisedly limited in compiling our genealogy to what is in the historical record; right or wrong. But all of us who pursue genealogical research into original historical records, as opposed to indexes and narrative accounts, will unavoidably encounter contradictory records purporting to record the same event. This is the most persuasive reason for discovering as many historical records as it is possible to discover. Reconciling contradictory historical records is a constant challenge.

One of most persistent activities of my long involvement in genealogy has been the need to "correct" the records that have been copied and passed down from generation to generation by my relatives. Inevitably, some of our most highly cherished traditions and ancestral links have been found to be inaccurate. Some of us have difficulty in remembering what we did yesterday. Some of us can't remember the days of the week or what we ate for our last meal. Personal memory is chronically unreliable. So even though relying on the memories of our relatives and ancestors may be our only source for some information, we need to treat orally transmitted specifics and some traditions with skepticism and make an attempt to verify the information whenever possible.

You can get into a never-ending epistemological quandary if you begin doubting that you can ever achieve historical accuracy. But if you are a careful researcher and take the time to document every conclusion, you will be as accurate as is possible given the nature and reliability of historical records. If you would like to get into a more detailed analysis of the nature of historical and scientific limitations, you can begin by reading one of the many editions of the following:

Descartes, Rene. 1637. Discourse on the Method of Rightly Conducting the Reason, and Seeking Truth in the Sciences. 
To make any headway in our genealogical research, ultimately we need to accept the inconsistency and inaccuracy of historical records and move on to building a logically structured pedigree based on the best available historical records and substantiated with carefully crafted conclusions. We can never be absolutely certain about our ancestral narrative, but by creating carefully crafted conclusions regarding relationships supported by sources, we can achieve a high degree of accuracy.

So what are the chances of making errors in our family trees? Very high. This conclusion supports the need to become involved in an entirely collaborative family tree where anyone with information on a particular person or relationship can contribute, edit, correct or delete information. The possibility of inaccurate information remaining in such a family tree is diminished by the number of participants.

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Update of Do you still need a desktop (local) genealogy program?

The last time I had a post with this title was in 2013. See

Here is a comment I recently received to this old blog post.
I am a beginner genealogist and have only used and family I inherited a FTM file with 64,000 names on one of my lines and was able to upload it onto However, I want to go through the names one by one to verify them before I put them in my family tree or do anything else with them. I'm looking for a program that will help me create a methodology or system for going through these names. Since I'm a beginner, right now, I just randomly work on names or lines that seem interesting but there is no rhyme or reason to how I am going about this. I would like to have a system so that I know where I am going, where have been and what I have accomplished. Let me know if anyone can give an update on the debate about online versus desktop software for genealogy and recommendations on which program might help me accomplish my goal the best. I realize this is a personal decision so maybe there is no way to comment. Just thought I would ask.
This commentator is looking for the same things I have been looking for since about 1982. I am not sure that what we are looking for exists even now more than thirty years after I first got involved in doing genealogical research. To be a good tool, the tool has to assist in doing the work you want to accomplish and not become a task itself. For example, computers are marvelous tools, but learning how to use a computer is just as difficult as getting any benefit from its use. Sure, ultimately, the benefits far outweigh the effort, but the effort needed to obtain the benefits takes valuable time away from the work objective. Hmm. That sounds really complicated to me and I guess it is.

For all the many years I was learning about genealogy and the same time learning about computers and computer programs, I could see that eventually, computers would help me with the massive amount of information I was gathering in my genealogical research efforts. I also think that this blog and my other genealogy blog are simply ongoing reflections of this ultimate objective to make it "easier" to make progress in my genealogical research. There is no doubt that my ability to do accurate, pertinent, and effective genealogical research has been magnified hundreds, perhaps thousands of times as computers and computer systems have developed. But, and this is a huge "but," the basic ideas of finding accurate historical records and applying the information to my research have not changed.

Back in 2013, my perspective about a local program was entirely different than it is today. One thing that has changed is that steps have been taken by the genealogical computer program developers to finally integrate both online and local desktop programs so that information can be relatively quickly and somewhat more easily moved from one program to another. The limits on being able to do this are still rather rudimentary, but they are beginning to be implemented. In 2013, we were still talking about GEDCOM and whether or not we needed to "back up" our data in an online family tree. Now, I think the question of maintaining more than one family tree and including a desktop program has evolved and taken on a different set of considerations. Also, back in 2013, the ideas of linking your desktop program or two different online family trees were still in the idea stage and not yet a reality.

First of all, you need to seriously consider the fact that the big, online genealogy programs that host family trees, such as,,, and all provide automatically generated record hints that augment your research. By having a family tree in one or more of these programs, you are in effect hiring a full-time research assistant to search records on each of the programs hosting your family tree. My experience is that these record hints are extremely valuable and provide information that you would likely overlook. So let's suppose you have your family tree data on one or more of these programs, are you going to spend the time to maintain an entirely separate desktop-based program? You have to answer that question for yourself.

From my perspective, the big issue has become the time involved in maintaining more than one family tree that I consider to be my "primary" place where I maintain my research. I can more than adequately do this with any one of the online family tree programs. This is especially true if I am not short-sighted and do not want to collaborate online with other members of my extended family.

For a beginner, I think the best idea is to start with an online family tree using one or more of the big database programs. Later, if you think you need to have a more proprietary family tree, which I think runs counter to the whole idea of genealogy by the way, then I would investigate your options. If you decide to do genealogy today, the reality is that you will need to learn to use some kind of computer program, either online or desktop-based. If you start out using paper, you are only guaranteeing that your information will be lost at some point or that you or someone else will have to spend the time duplicating your paper information in a computer program.

What are the main considerations? I would consider the following:

  • Will the program be supported and available for upgrades in the future?
  • How much time do I want to spend duplicating my data on more than one family tree?
  • Do I feel comfortable with all my data online?
  • Do I know enough about the available programs to make a reasonable choice? (See
  • Do I want to take advantage of the automatic record hints online?
  • How much do I know about using a computer and will I be able to learn more than one program?
There are probably a lot of other questions that should be considered, but this short list should start you thinking about the options. 

Monday, April 2, 2018

MyHeritage add more than 27 million new records in March 2018 recently announced the addition of 27,100,858 new records in March of 2018. The records are completely indexed and searchable using's SuperSearch capability. Much of this content is exclusive to MyHeritage and cannot be found on any other major genealogy service. Searching is free. A Data or Complete subscription is required to view the records.

You can read about all the records added in their blog post entitled, "New Historical Records Added in March 2018." If your ancestors came from Denmark, you will want to know the following:
Denmark Church Records 1576-1919
This is a collection update to the existing Denmark Church Records collection: About 17.7 million of these records are from the years 1576–1814 and about 1 million are from 1814–1919. This is an exclusive collection you can only find on MyHeritage. 
Significantly, this new set includes three new types of historical records the original collection did not have: Communion, Introduction, and Absolution records.
Here is an explanation from the blog post about these particular records.
Communions (Confirmerede): These records show the individuals who received communion on a given date. Sometimes individuals were recorded in family groups with only the head of the family listed by name, and the other individuals in the family being referenced by number and relationship to the head. For example, “Hans Jensen and wife and 2 sons and a daughter”. 
Introductions (Introduserede): These records show the women who were reintroduced into the congregation by their husbands, after childbirth. At the time, after a woman gave birth, according to the Denmark Church, she was considered “unclean” and had to be reintroduced into the congregation. The woman may be listed directly (by her name), or indirectly (by her husband’s name, e.g. “wife of ….”). 
Absolutions: These records show absolved individuals. At the time, according the the Denmark Church, certain transgressions had to be absolved by the Church. The most common absolution was for pre-marital sex resulting in a pregnancy, in which case both parties had to be publicly absolved before they could return to the congregation. Other transgressions that could be absolved included failing to receive communion regularly, public drunkenness, violence, blasphemy, theft, and murder. These records were kept up until about 1767.
Here are some of the other records added:


Sunday, April 1, 2018

New Improvements to the One-to-Many Chromosome Browser from MyHeritage
I was in a discussion with some of the local genealogists here in Annapolis, Maryland who are volunteering to work at the Maryland State Archives. Our discussion revolved around the problem of using the genealogical data generated by taking a DNA test. At first, the discussion was mostly an expressing of frustration with the results of the tests. After I explained to them what was being done by to alleviate this difficult situation, they were all anxious to take a serious look a the tools now being provided by

If you are wondering what to do with your DNA test results, I seriously suggest taking a look at MyHeritage's newly developing tools for analysis. You can start by reading their most recent blog post. See "New: Improvements in the One-to-Many Chromosome Browser."

Saturday, March 31, 2018

Introducing the New MyHeritage Inbox and Document Scanner

You may well wonder how it is that can attract so many users?

Part of the answer to that question lies in the ability of users to interact with their families directly through the program. With this new Inbox and Scanner feature for their mobile app, that interaction just moved into high gear. Here is a short explanation of both, but I suggest that you read all about the new features in their blog post entitled, "New mobile app features: Inbox and Scanner – Part 1."

Findmypast: New Records Every Week

Regularly, every week, I get an email notice from about new records added to their vast online collection. This week the notice showed an addition of well over half a million records. According to the weekly notices, this month, March 2018, has added a total of 10,305,727 new records. These records are mostly either in the British Isles, Ireland or the United States. One notable addition of over 4 million records was the Catholic records from New York, Chicago, and Baltimore.

These additions highlight the need for researchers to be aware of all the records going online. There are so many, it is likely that some of your own ancestors will be included in the new records.

Friday, March 30, 2018

The Curse of Spam Comments

I am amazed that anyone would think that an active blogger would be so stupid as to post spam comments. They are easily detected especially when they always refer to some business in a part of the world that would not dream of reading the target blog. I got this spam comment and had already deleted about ten copies of the comment when I did the screenshot of the list. This type of online activity is at the core of the problem many people have with posting online.

Interestingly, one of the main problems we have had in moving from Provo, Utah to Annapolis, Maryland has been in getting the U.S. Post Office to accurately forward our mail and packages. We have easily spent more time on that one problem than any other that might have been incident to moving. But, guess what? We still get a pile of junk mail every day, some of which has followed us from Utah. In addition, I get about 30 or so "junk" emails every day. Some of them are so regular that I can delete them without opening them at all. Some of them fall into the category of background ads for stores and businesses that I might use, but others are just plain junk and unrequested.

If you do write a blog, make sure that you do not automatically post any comments. There is always an option to review anything before you post it and you should do that automatically. I would also suggest liberal use of the spam marker in any online programs you use such as Facebook etc. Remember the "Delete" button.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Two Important Announcements from MyHeritage

The first announcement is as follows:
At we take customer support very seriously, and are happy to announce that we are now offering customer support 24 hours a day, 7 days a week! We are probably the first and only family history and DNA company to provide round-the-clock support. 
Our support team now includes 138 full-time employees, taking phone calls and handling support questions via email. We’ve spared no expense and doubled the size of the team in the past 6 months in order to scale up and provide shorter wait times for calls and tickets, as well as keep up with the huge growth of our business. We’re also experimenting with an online chat service and are testing other platforms to provide you with more ways to contact us and allow us to respond faster to your questions. Our support team members speak 18 languages fluently, to ensure that most of our global members could receive assistance in their native language.
To call support, use's toll-free numbers (1-800-MyHeritage in the U.S.), and keep your account ID handy in case you are asked for it. You can find your account ID by clicking on the drop-down menu by your name on the top of the screen when you’re logged into MyHeritage. To read more about the new customer support, see: "MyHeritage Customer Support is Now Available 24/7

You can find MyHeritage's Contact Us in a drop-down menu link in the top menu bar by clicking on "Help"

The second announcement is a little more complicated.
Quoting from the announcement: has released two new features that were requested by our users at the RootsTech conference in Utah in February, to make navigating in the list of DNA Matches easier. Following major updates and improvements to our DNA Matching in January 2018, MyHeritage DNA users are receiving 10 times as many matches as before. It’s therefore only natural that there is now demand for easier ways to work with this information and make the most of it.Users can now jump to a specific page of matches, or increase how many matches are displayed on each page. We're pleased to have been able to implement this so quickly.  
We also fixed the distant relationship estimates for DNA Matches with relatively little shared DNA which used to be displayed as “3rd cousin – 5th cousin”. Now, the more distant matches are listed as “3rd cousin – distant cousin”, which is more correct because in reality they might even be your 6th or 7th cousins.
 You can read more about these new features in a blog post entitled, "New: Easier navigation in your DNA Match list."

Sunday, March 25, 2018

A Commentary on the Results of Four DNA Test Results

My friend Louis Kessler has taken four separate DNA tests and in a blog post, he discusses the results. Louis has a somewhat unique genealogical history, he is 100% Ashkenazi Jewish based on years of genealogical research in an area within a couple of hundred mile radius that is restricted to northeastern Romania and southwestern Ukraine. With this unique perspective, Louis has carefully documented and compared the results from his four DNA tests. There are also links to earlier blog posts on the same subject. My posts today give you a broad perspective on the incorporation of DNA testing in genealogical research.

Free DNA Webinars from MyHeritage
You will find several free webinars on the subject of DNA testing on the Legacy Family Tree Webinars website. This is a fee-based webinar website that has been online for a number of years. Some time ago, the website and the Legacy Family Tree genealogy program was purchased by I guess this really is my day for DNA posting.

Another DNA Success Story

I guess this is the day for DNA success stories. A recent DNA Match brought together two half-sisters living thousands of miles away from each other: Tonny in Australia and Janny in Holland. You can also watch a video of the reunion.

Half Sisters from Australia and Holland Reunite Through MyHeritage DNA

A Complex Example of DNA Success
This BBC News story recounts the long and complicated process that 80-year-old Anthea Ring had in finding her birth parents after being abandoned with her hands tied, in a blackberry bush in southern England. This is an excellent example of both the limits and the power of DNA testing to make discoveries that previously would have been virtually impossible. From my perspective, it provides an example of the level at which DNA interacts with genealogical research to provide accurate family information. You will enjoy taking the time to read the entire article entitled, "Who were my parents - and why was I left on a hillside to die?"