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

Sunday, March 24, 2019

Keynote Speakers Announced for the BYU Conference on Family History and Genealogy
The 51st Annual Brigham Young University Conference on Family History and Genealogy will be held from July 30 to August 2, 20119 in the newly remodeled BYU Conference Center on Campus in Provo, Utah. The Conference will offer more than 100 classes, including a free track, this year on Wednesday, for Family History Consultants, allowing participants to gain new skills and helpful information.

This year's Keynote Speakers are the following:
Elder Cecil O. Samuelson Jr. served as a member of the Quorum of the Seventy from October 1994 to October 2011, when he was granted General Authority Emeritus status. He presided over Brigham Young University from May 2003 to May 2014 and the Salt Lake Temple from 2014 to 2017. Elder Samuelson has worked as a physician and senior vice president of Intermountain Healthcare, vice president of Health Sciences at the University of Utah, and professor and dean of the School of Medicine at the University of Utah. He and his wife, Sharon, have five children and 14 grandchildren.
Stephen W. Valentine is senior vice president of FamilySearch International and a director in the Family History Department of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He works closely with the chief genealogical officer in the oversight and strategic development of the Family History Library. He has worked at FamilySearch for more than 20 years, helping to develop FamilySearch Indexing and establishing key partnerships to help the growth of the family history industry. He is the father of five children and grandfather of five grandchildren.
Dan Debenham is a nationally recognized news anchor, reporter, writer, and producer. He has worked for ESPN, and his production company Lenzworks produces the BYUTV series he hosts, Relative Race. He has also produced several original television shows including Endless Vacations, New Ways to Play, and RCI TV. He is the recipient of the Sports Foundations Network Journalism Award, two international ARDY Awards, and was nominated for two Emmys and three National Cable Ace Awards. Dan and his wife, Mona, live in Sandy, Utah, and have four children and four grandchildren. 
I will be presenting two classes this year also. 

Saturday, March 23, 2019

Are DNA Experts Genealogy Experts?

The marriage of genealogical DNA testing to more traditional genealogical research has produced some dramatic results for finding relationships in the first few generations of an ancestral line. Finding a birth mother or father or related grandparent was and is extremely difficult using research-based genealogy. This is due in the most part to both privacy concerns and court rules that "seal" adoption records and change the names on birth certificates.

But I have seen an interesting phenomenon; many classes and presentations about DNA testing talk about biology almost to the exclusion of how the DNA tests can be used in real genealogical research practice. I have spent the last few years reading and studying about DNA testing but I am sure that no one would consider me a DNA expert merely because I don't represent myself as one. Additionally, I do not have a degree in any biological science. However, I do have years of experience as a genealogical researcher and a background, including years of formal genealogical training, that qualify me as a research genealogist. What if I suddenly started billing myself as a DNA/Genealogy expert and began teaching and presenting about DNA? I guess the follow-up question is how then do DNA experts get to genealogy experts?

I have been reviewing the calls for papers for genealogy conferences around the country recently and I recently saw one from the National Genealogical Society (NGS) that said: "NGS also requests proposals that include the integration of DNA and technology in family history research as well as methodology and problem solving." That statement is exactly my point, where do you find people who are competent to address that subject? Granted, there may be a few. There probably are biologists who are now involved in genealogy and can adequately address the real issues in using DNA testing beyond the first two or three generations so it is possible that such a presentation is possible but what qualifies them as competent in both areas? Experience with solving one difficult genealogical relationship issue?

Not too long ago, in October of 2018, the Board for Certification of Genealogists (BCG) adopted Standards for DNA Evidence. Quoting from an announcement dated October 28, 2018:
BCG firmly believes the standards must evolve to incorporate this new type of evidence,” according to BCG President Richard G. Sayre. “Associates, applicants, and the public should know BCG respects DNA evidence. It respects the complexity of the evidence and the corresponding need for professional standards. BCG does not expect use of DNA to be demonstrated in every application for certification. However, all genealogists, including applicants, need to make sound decisions about when DNA can or should be used, and any work products that incorporate it should meet the new standards and ethical provisions
The announcement goes on to state, in part:
Meeting the Genealogical Proof Standard requires using all available and relevant types of evidence. DNA evidence both differs from and shares commonalities with documentary evidence. Like other types of evidence, DNA evidence is not always available, relevant, or usable for a specific problem, is not used alone, and involves planning, analyzing, drawing conclusions, and reporting. Unlike other types of evidence, DNA evidence usually comes from people now living. 
I might comment that very few of the ads I have seen for genealogical DNA testing include any reference to the issues raised by BCG. Here are the areas that the new standards will address, also from the announcement.
• Planning DNA tests. The first genetic standard describes the qualities of an effective plan for DNA testing including types of tests, testing companies, and analytical tools. It also calls for selecting the individuals based on their DNA’s potential to answer a research question.
• Analyzing DNA test results. The second genetic standard covers factors that might impact a genetic relationship conclusion, including analysis of pedigrees, documentary research, chromosomal segments, and mutations, markers or regions; also, composition of selected comparative test takers and genetic groups.
• Extent of DNA evidence. The third genetic standard describes the qualities needed for sufficiently extensive DNA data.
• Sufficient verifiable data. The fourth genetic standard addresses the verifiability of data used to support conclusions.
• Integrating DNA and documentary evidence. The fifth genetic standard calls for a combination of DNA and documentary evidence to support a conclusion about a genetic relationship. It also calls for analysis of all types of evidence.
• Conclusions about genetic relationships. The sixth genetic standard defines the parameters of a genetic relationship and the need for accurate representation of genealogical conclusions.
• Respect for privacy rights. The seventh genetic standard describes the parameters of informed consent.
I certainly applaud the BCG for addressing this basic issue. One thing that articulating a standard does is raise the bar for declaring oneself an expert in both genealogy and genealogical DNA testing. The new standards have been published and are available for purchase on the BCG website and from Here is a link to the sale.
I might remind everyone that if you buy through Amazon Smile they will donate a portion of the sale to a charity. In our case, you should consider naming The Family History Guide Association as your charitable donation recipient.

Thursday, March 21, 2019

Lawsuit Alleges Harvard Profits from Photos of Enslaved People
This story has seemingly been picked up by every news service in the country and is quickly spreading all over the world. This seems strange to me since the basic facts of the story date back to 1850 when Louis Agassiz had 15 daguerreotypes taken in Columbia, South Carolina. According to the following journal article:

Wallis, Brian. "Black Bodies, White Science: The Slave Daguerreotypes of Louis Agassiz." The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education, no. 12 (1996): 102-06. doi:10.2307/2963000.

I quote:
The daguerreotypes, which were taken for Agassiz in Columbia, South Carolina, in 1850, had two purposes one nominally scientific, the other frankly political. They were designed to analyze the physical differences between European whites and African blacks but at the same time, they were meant to prove the superiority of the white race. Agassiz hoped to use the photographs as evidence to prove his theory of "separate creation," the idea that the various races of mankind were, in fact, separate species. 
Although there are still vestiges of Agassiz's theory being put forth today in the form of racism, current genetic testing has shown the homogeneity of the human race as it exists today. However, that is not the basic issue raised by the present controversy over the photos but inherent issues of racial prejudice are obviously the reason why this lawsuit has garnered so much media attention.

For many years now, I have been aware of the use of old photos and documents by certain universities, archives, and museums for revenue enhancement. This is the practice of these institutions to claim "ownership" of old photos and documents and restricting access and use of these items behind a paywall. This is not an issue of copyright. Documents and photos, such as those being considered in the present lawsuit, are clearly not subject to any claims of copyright protection although a claim of copyright is commonly used as an excuse for creating the paywall especially after the original photos or documents have been incorporated into publications and sold by the institution as has been done in this case by Harvard University.

The above lawsuit seems to raise an issue of "ownership." Some of the questions I would ask are as follows: Who owns the photos? What constitutes ownership of old documents and photos? How does one acquire ownership of an old photo or document? Is possession of a photo or document sufficient to acquire commercial rights to its republication and exploitation? Can a person acquire ownership of personal property merely by possession?

Copyright law is designed to protect the originator of a work but has evolved into a complex legal system that ends up mostly protecting the rights of the "publisher" of the work. In the present case, I have yet to see that the originator or photographer who created the original daguerreotypes has been identified. It is also not yet clear how Harvard University acquired any rights to the photos other than the fact that they were "found" in a storage area of the Peabody Museum on the University campus.

What I have found, time and again, is that the university, library, museum, archive, or whatever, uses the artifacts it has "acquired" for commercial purposes assuming, I am certain, that their possession gives them the rights to do so. Reports here indicate that at least one of the photos in question was used for the cover a Harvard University book. See "Harvard Profits From Photos Of Slaves, Lawsuit Claims."

In the United States, the rights conferred by mere possession of personal property (everything that is not real property) are determined by Property Law. To begin an analysis of the status of the ownership rights to the photos it will probably be necessary to determine who "owned" the original photos. However, there is another legal principle that ownership can be acquired by possession over an extended time.

Another fundamental issue of the lawsuit is whether or not the distant heir of the person or persons portrayed in the photos has any rights at all to the photo. Did the original subject of the photos acquire any rights of ownership and could those rights have passed to that person's heirs? Does the person who claims a right to inherited property have any duty to establish a right to inherit or is there some other method of acquiring ownership or possession?

We can assume that the plaintiff in the above lawsuit is not the only descendant of the subjects of the photographs. What rights do the other descendants have? How does the lawsuit establish the rights of all the other unknown heirs?

The issue that I am mostly concerned with assumes that the institution in question, here Harvard University, can acquire ownership of the artifact. But how does the institution acquire the sole right to reproduction of a work that is clearly not protected by copyright law? Doesn't giving these institutions the right to control the publication or reproduction of the artifact a de facto copyright without any basis in the law? For example, suppose I go to a library that has a collection of very old books, say 1700s or before, and I say I would like to take photographs of the books' contents. Can the institution stop me from taking photographs? Apparently, some institutions think they can and do. For example, access to original documents in the U.S. National Archives is very limited and copies are strictly controlled. See the instructions that begin with "Plan Your Research Visit." Of course, there are good arguments for maintaining control over the documents, but in the absence of an active digitization effort, the National Archives has absolute control over who, where, and when the documents can be viewed and copied even though almost all U.S. government documents are not subject to copyright claims.

The claim made by the plaintiff in the Harvard lawsuit is similar to the issues addressed in the American Antiquities Act of 1906. It seems to me that this plaintiff is asking for a court-ordered extension of the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA), Pub. L. 101-601, 25 U.S.C. 3001 et seq., 104 Stat. 3048, is a United States federal law enacted on 16 November 1990. As an institution that receives Federal funding, Harvard may fall under the provisions of this act. But then the issue would become whether the photos fall within the Act's provisions and whether the plaintiff has standing to make a claim under the Act.

Well, I thought that you might like to know some of the issues involved in making such a claim.

How to Scan Your Old Photographs

This is a guest post from Max Ernst Stockburger of You can also read his blog: "Tipps and Tricks for Photos" Here is an example of photo restoration. 

What to consider when scanning your old photographs

For the best results in photo restoration, you need to have high-quality scans of your photographs. We then apply our expertise to this ‘raw material’ to restore the original beauty of your images. The good news is that you can easily follow our advice for proper scanning so that we can then have the best chance to repair and rejuvenate your old, faded, or even damaged photographs. As long as the ‘material’ you give us is of good quality, we can even fix instances of heavy damage such as watermarks and missing pieces.

In this tutorial, we will show you step by step how to set up and adjust your scanner for the best results on both MacOS and Windows 10. These settings work well with scanners of all manufacturers: Epson, Brother, Kodak, Canon, and so on. There are 7 easy steps to follow for beginners and professionals alike:

7 things to remember when scanning damaged photographs

1. Make sure your scanner is clean and free of dust and grease
2. Make sure your photograph is clean and free of dust
3. Make sure the whole of your photograph is being scanned
4. Try to avoid any reflections from occurring within the scanner while scanning
5. Always scan with at least 300 dpi
6. Always scan in 8-bit color mode (photo mode)
7. Name your files in a systematic way so that you can easily find them in the future.

Let’s go through each of these tips in a bit more detail.

1. Make sure your scanner is clean and free of dust and grease

Before you do anything else, check the glass surface of your scanner. Nasty particles and fingerprints can create optical aberrations or even hide certain details from appearing in the final scan. If you notice any dust or grease use a microfiber cloth and glass cleaning detergent to get rid of them. Always make sure the surface is dry again before you put your valuable photograph on the glass.

2. Make sure your photograph is clean and free of dust

What we said of the glass surface of your scanner equally applies to the surface of your damaged photograph. Any dust or particles on the photograph can hide valuable information on the resulting scan. On these delicate surfaces make use of a soft brush and/or a dust air blower with the greatest care. Never apply any force or use detergent as this may result in damaging the surfaces of your photographs.

3. Make sure the whole of your photograph is being scanned

If you are scanning multiple photographs or pieces of one damaged photograph make sure that neither individual photos nor fragments are overlapping or only being partially scanned. An easy way to avoid this is to take a look in the preview section before you do the final detailed scan.

4. Try to avoid any reflections from occurring within the scanner while scanning

Curled, torn, or damaged photographs can often cause reflections within the scanner during the scanning process. These reflections can then mask important details in the scanned image. There are two ways to approach this problem. The first is to flatten any curled or warped old photographs with heavy weights such as books. A tried and tested method is to simply place your damaged photographs between two heavy books and wait for a day or two. The second option is to place a reasonable amount of weight directly on top of your scanner. If you decide to follow this method, the vintage photograph is temporarily pressed upon the scanner surface during the scanning process. Both options help minimize internal reflections from occurring while scanning.

5. Always scan with at least 300dpi as a professional photo restoration service needs to work with data that has been scanned at least 300dpi. This way we can guarantee you that you will be able to print your restored photograph at the same size as the original. If you would like to further enlarge the photograph please scan the image at 600dpi. To see how to set up the DPI take a look at the videos below.

6. Always scan in 8-bit color mode (photo mode)

Always scan your vintage photographs in 8-bit color mode, even if it is black and white. This setting produces the highest quality scans which in turn gives us the best material to which we can apply our professional restoration skills to deliver the best results to you. Check the video below to see how it’s done.

7. Name your files in a systematic way so that you can easily find them in the future.

This is very simple but important advice. When you save your scans make sure you carefully think about and decide on a method that will ensure you can find your photographs in the future. The name of the subject, the date, whatever works for you!

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

A Step-by-Step Approach to Using Genealogical Cluster Research: Step Two

Most genealogists, as they gain experience in doing research, evolve a methodology that reflects their own personal background. If you were influenced by traditional "paper-based" genealogy, then your personal methodology will usually rely on those techniques and methods you witnesses while working with your contemporaries. In genealogical terminology, a "cluster" consists of extended family members, friends, neighbors, and other associates such as business partners. Using the term expansively, a cluster could include anyone who would possibly come in contact with the person who is the target of your research. Cluster research is a research technique or methodology that is supplemented by "jurisdictional research" and utilizes the concept of beginning your research in the lowest or basic jurisdictional level. An early exposition on jurisdictional research was described in the following book.

Jones, Vincent L., Arlene H. Eakle, and Mildred H. Christensen. 1972. Genealogical research; a jurisdictional approach. [Salt Lake City]: [Printed by Publishers Press for Genealogical Copy Service, Woods Cross, Utah].

This book was later revised and published as follows:

Jones, Vincent L., Arlene H. Eakle, and Mildred H. Christensen. 1972. Family history for fun and profit. Provo, Utah: Printed by Community Press for the Genealogical Institute.

I have yet to figure of the profit part of genealogy and I am also skeptical about the "fun" part either. I assume the title was changed in an attempt to increase sales of the book.

The idea of focusing on cluster research is essentially the same as researching in the "home jurisdiction" as the term is used in the books cited above. Jurisdictional research expands on the idea of focusing on clusters and expands research outward using both geographically and politically defined areas. But it is important to understand the need to expand your current research methodology to include the target family's or person's relational surroundings.

By the way, most books on genealogy will never really go "out-of-date." The exceptions, of course, are those that focus on technology. Even though the two books listed above (really essentially the same book) were published in 1972, now nearly 50 years ago, all of the principles laid down in the books are still valid and useful.

The currently popular emphasis on the technological aspects of genealogical research, including, but not limited to DNA testing, has almost completely overshadowed the need to understand the valuable concepts developed over time by more traditional genealogists. That is not to say, that all of the methodologies developed by traditional genealogists are presently applicable. Computerization has dramatically affected most of the ways that the traditional genealogical community gathered, stored, and reported their genealogical research.

Traditionally, the research project was visualized as a circle. However, I believe that the circle metaphor is limited. A better representation would be a web. In order to understand how to implement cluster research, it is important to place close to research in the context of general historical or genealogical research. In describing the research process, depending on your proclivities, you could use from a few too many discrete steps. Despite the fact, that I can list discrete steps in a research process, I almost never follow this pattern. Research is organic. Every time you find a document or review what has already been discovered the objectives of your research change. However notwithstanding the fluid nature of research, here is my own simplification of the process:

1. The first stage of research is generally referred to as the survey stage. In a real sense, the survey stage is a continuous process because, in the technological environment that presently exists, there is no end to the amount of information developed by others in the genealogical community usually represented by additions to online family trees. Consequently, reviewing what has been done previously or recorded previously can almost overwhelm all of the other aspects of the genealogical process. 
2. As you proceed through the survey stage, hopefully, you will accumulate some information about your family that enables you to identify documents or records that may contain information about your family. The process of identifying records and documents and then subsequently discovering where they might be located is really the most time-consuming part of genealogical research. 
3. Once you have located documents as records which may contain information about your target family or individual, you must review the documents and records and extract the information and add it to whatever method you are using to record genealogical information. At this stage, it is also really important to review how any information obtained affects any other information and conclusions which you have already made. 
4. Once you have a corpus of information you must constantly review what you have already concluded and revise any conclusions based on the acquisition of additional information obtained through records and documents.
Inexperienced genealogists almost always focus on names rather than on the overall historical context of the individuals and families they are researching.  cluster research should not be thought of as a new way to do genealogy, it is merely an extension of whatever methodology you may have already adopted. It does, however, require that you become more aware of the historical context of each of the events in your target family or individual's life. Subsequently, I am not replacing any of the discrete steps in genealogical research however they may be defined, I am intending to augment those steps in a way that increases the possibility of finding the information being sought.

At its most basic level, the first step in implementing cluster research is to become aware of the historical setting and surroundings of the target family or ancestor. In this context, I am using the term "target" in the sense that the researcher will choose a particular family or individual to research. Of course, as I mentioned already, the target family or individual will evolve and change as you work through the research. It is entirely possible, but you will find out that you are not related to your target family or individual and abandon the research altogether.

Let's suppose that you were going to research a person such as Eliza Ann Hamilton. Let's further suppose that you had done some preliminary survey of the existing information and found that family tradition said that she was born and Kentucky in the early 1800s. Using today's technology, it would seem to be indicated to simply go online and begin searching in a large online genealogical database for an Eliza Ann Hamilton in Kentucky in the early 1800s. A search for that name on the website in the Historical Records Collections using a birthday range from 1800 to 1830 and a place of Kentucky will produce 4,262 results. It should be obvious at this point that searching for a name without a sufficient amount of context information is unproductive.

In order to move beyond the "search for a name" stage, it is necessary to add additional contextual information even if we want to utilize online search engines. So it is important to put the person into their historical context and utilize all known information about the family even if you are focusing on an online search.

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

More about

I recently wrote a blog post entitled, "An Introduction to" I response, I received a kind letter from clarifying the difference between their "free" level and the paid level or Pro level. Here is the explanation.
A brief explanation of our account types - With a free basic account, users may add unlimited people to the tree, collaborate with others, participate in genealogy projects, and take advantage of our DNA features, which we provide in partnership with Family Tree DNA. Those who wish to have access to more advanced tools on Geni may choose to upgrade to Geni Pro. A Pro subscription includes access to Tree Matches (these are matching profiles on Geni), full access to our search engine, unlimited media storage, and priority support. Note it is not required to upgrade to use Geni. 
I appreciate this concise explanation. I guess my explanation was too simplified.  I would point out that is a useful and important option for those who want their own family tree online.

F&W Media Publisher of Family Tree Magazine Files for Bankruptcy
Apparently, I am late in the game in mentioning that F+W Media, the publishers of Family Tree Magazine and the sponsors of the Family Tree University and the Family Tree website, has filed bankruptcy in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Delaware. Here is a link to the online case file: Delaware Bankruptcy Court Case 1:19-bk-10479 - F+W Media, Inc. This bankruptcy filing will personally affect a number of professional genealogists who either work for the company or are scheduled to speak at upcoming conferences and other activities sponsored and paid by the company. For example, here is a conference that is already scheduled. I heard that the conference may go forward, but there is a question as to whether or not the presenters will be paid.
Here is a list of the other companies involved in the action.
F+W Media, Inc.
1140 Broadway
New York, NY 10001
Tax ID / EIN: 20-2955953
aka F+W, a Content + eCommerce Company
aka Catalyst Aspire Holdings Corporation
aka Aspire Operations, LLC
aka Frontenac Aspire Holdings Corporation
aka Interweave Press, LLC
aka Aspire Media, LLC
There is apparently a pending motion on paying professionals, but that may only apply to the attorneys representing the debtor. Here is the reference to the motion:
Motion for Order Establishing Procedures for Interim Compensation and Reimbursement of Expenses of Professionals Filed by F+W Media, Inc.. Hearing scheduled for 4/8/2019 at 01:00 PM at US Bankruptcy Court, 824 Market St., 6th Fl., Courtroom #3, Wilmington, Delaware. Objections due by 4/1/2019. (Attachments: # 1 Notice # 2 Exhibit A) (Kochenash, Jared) (Entered: 03/18/2019)
Most of the information in the Court file is available only for those who have logins and permission to participate in the case or are representing clients in the case. If you need information about the case, I suggest contacting an attorney who is admitted to practice in the Federal Bankruptcy Court and has access to the Court's Pacer portal.

In the past, Family Tree Magazine has been an important part of the genealogical community and I am saddened by the bankruptcy action and the impact it will have on some of the active members of the genealogical community.