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

Monday, March 1, 2021

MyHeritage extends its offer to let you upload any other company's DNA for free


Wow,  this offer is now extended by to March 7th, 2021. Here are the details:

Due to the enthusiastic response, we’ve decided to extend our offer to upload your DNA data and access advanced DNA features for free! 

Users who have tested with another service can upload their data now through March 7, 2021 and gain free access to all DNA features on MyHeritage!

Uploading DNA results to MyHeritage is easy, and the results will be ready within a day or two.

Enjoy lifetime access to the Ethnicity Estimate and the new Genetic Groups feature, as well as the Chromosome Browser, AutoClusters, Theory of Family Relativity™, and much more! These features will remain free for any DNA kits that are uploaded to MyHeritage this week. Read more about this offer in the blog post

 For more information see: Upload DNA Data


Searching beyond the Ordinary


Online search engines find the most actively used records first. Many genealogists have about the same level of awareness and attention. They always look for the ordinary, comfortable, and usually the most used records first but sometimes also stop there. It is time to break out of the ordinary and look for records that may not be ones you are used to searching but may prove to be extraordinarily useful at the end of your search. 

Very early in my genealogical journey, I started to read some of the books that were on the "reference" shelf in the local Family History Center. This was about 35 years ago. One of those books was the following:

Eakle, Arlene. 1984. The source: a guidebook of American genealogy. Salt Lake City, Utah: Ancestry Publ. Co.

Little did I know at the time that this book and another one,

Greenwood, Val D. 1973. The researcher's guide to American genealogy.

would become the foundation for establishing my genealogical research skills. One of the interesting things that happened over the years is that I became friends with Arlene Eakle, the original author of The Source but that is another story. What these books helped me understand was the breadth of types of records that constituted genealogical research. Even before I began to regularly use census records and vital records, I understood that these were only a starting point for research. 

One statement, often repeated, about genealogical research methodology is that you begin with what you know before you jump off into what you do not know. To do this, you must make sure the information in your family tree is as complete and accurate as possible. This includes relying on validated records and documents that support a relationship between each generational advance. It doesn't matter how many documents and records you find about an individual unless those documents and records support a valid conclusion identifying a parent. 

To start, make sure you have searched all of the obvious records first. If you have your family tree in an online, major family tree/database program, you can also begin by processing and validating all of the record hints suggested by the program. Validation involves carefully considering the record hints to make sure they apply to your individual ancestor or relative. Most of these early record hints and searches will involve vital records and census records. However, these sources are usually time-limited. For example, most people in the United States have a birth certificate but birth certificates have only been consistently issued in the 20th century. Many researchers who do not know this fact, keep looking for a birth certificate long before these documents existed. 

If you get stuck trying to find a birth record, you may have to start looking into other records. Some of those that help establish a birthdate include:

  • Death records
  • Social Security applications and the Death Index
  • Census records
  • Cemetery records
  • Church records
  • Military records
  • Bible records
  • and many more...
You will soon realize that the large online genealogy websites seldom suggest some of these categories of records. One way to remind yourself to move beyond the ordinary records is to use a genealogy source checklist. 

Genealogically significant records are those created at or near the time of an event by someone who witnessed the event or had a duty to report it. However, the person who witnessed the event or had a duty to report the event may have reported the event at a time remote from the time of the event. In addition, everything having to do with genealogical research is dependent on identifying an accurate and specific location of an event in each ancestor's or relative's life. General locations such as England or Germany are only marginally useful. So, the main activity of doing genealogical research is locating records that relate to events in your ancestral lines. 

For example, the United States Federal Census records are valuable because they identify a person at a particular location and at a particular time. They are not so useful when they report the country or state where the parents of the person are reported to be born and the calculated year of the person's birth. If you were to find a draft registration card for the same person, you would likely find a record of the person's specific address as well as a specific birthdate. 

For people born back to the 1800s in the United States or in Western European Countries, there are a seemingly unending number of possible record categories to research. Don't give up. The more learn, the more places you will know to look and the more you look, the more you will find. 

Saturday, February 27, 2021

Much of RootsTech to continue on for a year

Although some of the features of the RootsTech Connect 2021 website will end on February 27, 2021, much of the website, including the Sessions or classes will continue on at least until next year's RootsTech 2022. What has been discussed by many people, there is still an open question about whether or not RootsTech 2022 will have an "onsite" component. Given the time and effort that went into RootsTech Connect 2021, I am guessing that the next conference will look similar to 2020 with additional resources and perhaps some different venues. The one most important factor in this decision should be the global reach of this first virtual RootsTech conference. With over 1000 presentations, the existing website will become a major repository of genealogical information for as long as it is available. 

By the way, I actually have several of my own videos in the huge pile of classes or presentations on this year's website. They are all part of The Family History Guide and if you do a search for "The Family History Guide" in the Sessions section, you will see most of our videos. There are two more that are part of the Main Stage presentations. We now have about 130 videos on our The Family History Guide YouTube Channel also. Many of these videos can be viewed in up to 7 different languages. We will be expanding the language coverage in the future. 

So, if you feel like you missed something then you probably didn't. Make sure you make a playlist and work through it. It will be worth your time and any effort.

Friday, February 26, 2021

Where are the Records on the Website?


There are four main types of genealogically significant records on the website. They are as follows:

  • Indexed records in the Historical Records Collections that are also listed in the FamilySearch Catalog
  • Unindexed records in the Historical Records Collections that are also listed in the FamilySearch Catalog
  • Unindexed records that are available by searching in the FamilySearch Catalog
  • Images of records that are not indexed nor are they in the FamilySearch Catalog
Indexed records can be searched by name, date, location, and usually other relevant information depending on the information in the original record. 

When located by searching in the FamilySearch Catalog, unindexed records must be searched by location and date sometimes page by page. In some cases, the original record contains its own index which may be helpful in finding individual ancestors or relatives. 

In addition, there are records that are images only and very generally identified by the name of the records, a date, and a place. These records are indexed and have yet to be cataloged. 

Here is a screenshot of the drop-down menu showing the selections:

The "Records" link takes you to the Historical Record Collections. The "Images" link takes you to the images only records that are not yet in the catalog.  The "Catalog? link, of course, takes you to the catalog.

If you try to search for the name of an ancestor or relative and do not find any information, that does not mean that there are no records on the website, it just means that either you do not know how to search for the person or that there are no indexed records for that person. You can see a list of the indexed and unindexed records for general locations such as states or countries, using the interactive map on the Historical Record Collections page. 

When you click on a region, a pop-up menu will appear and you can select a more specific location. If I click on England for example I get the following list of records for that country.

This list can be very extensive. Here is a screenshot of the search page for the Images section.

The records are then organized by country and the subdivisions of countries. 

Thursday, February 25, 2021

MyHertiage introduces Deep Nostalgia: a really remarkable innovation


Deep Nostalgia Page has unveiled another amazing development, Deep Nostalgia. You have to see it to believe it. You can animate your family photos. This is in addition to colorizing, enhancing, and cleaning up those same photos. Here is the link to the Deep Nostalgia Page. Yes, that is a photo of me and my wife Ann shortly after we got married 53 years ago. Here is a bit more about the process from an email.

[We are] excited to announce the release of our latest feature for historical photos, Deep Nostalgia™! Deep Nostalgia™ animates the faces in still photos, and gives family history a fresh new perspective by producing a realistic depiction of how a person could have moved and looked if they were captured on video. 

The technology for animating the faces in photos was licensed by MyHeritage from D-ID, a company that specializes in video reenactment using deep learning. Deep Nostalgia™ uses several pre-recorded driver videos, which direct the movements in the animation and consist of sequences of real human gestures. A preferred driver is automatically selected for each face based on its orientation, and then seamlessly applied to the photo. The result is a short, high-quality video animation of an individual face that can smile, blink, and move. To achieve optimal results, the photos are enhanced prior to animation using the MyHeritage Photo Enhancer, which brings blurry and low-resolution faces into focus and increases their resolution. 

My grandchildren are impressed. They think it looks like Harry Potter technology and it does. You have to go to the Deep Nostalgia page to see how it looks. The photos are converted to an MP-4 video. The process does not change or affect the original photo. 

Breaking News: MyHeritage to be purchased by US equity firm in reported $600 million deal


A news article in the Times of Israel dated 24 February at 11:07 pm with a headline reads: "MyHeritage to be purchased by US equity firm in reported $600 million deal." Hmm. Here are some quotes from the article.

The Israeli online genealogy platform MyHeritage announced Wednesday it has reached an agreement to be purchased by US private equity firm Francisco Partners.

A statement from MyHeritage said the sides signed a definitive agreement, but didn’t disclose financial details of the deal. Sources told Hebrew media the deal was valued at over $600 million.

 “This move will enable us to reach new heights, invest more resources in creating greater value for our users and to reach a larger audience. We’re incredibly excited for this next chapter in our company’s evolution,” MyHeritage CEO Gilad Japhet said.

That is about all I know at the moment.  

Explore the World of RootsTech Connect 2021


With over 500,000 people registered for the event, RootsTech Connect 2021 has an abundance of opportunities to visit, chat, and explore the world of the international genealogical community. Unfortunately, eating, sleeping, and other essential activities get in the way of being online 24-hours a day for three days. 

We started with the Virtual Expo Hall. Each of the vendors has a virtual "booth" which is actually a miniature website with a selection of videos you can view about their products. You can scroll down almost all of the screens and discover more information and content. Here is an example using our booth from The Family History Guide. 

First, you find the icon for the booth. This is the selection of the Society Sponsors. We aren't really a Society but I guess they didn't know where else to put us. 

You can see The Family History Guide in the bottom row of large icons. When you click on an icon, you see the virtual booth or mini-website.

From here, there are a large number of options, you can click on any one of the videos offered or you can click on a link to talk to someone, an expert, about The Family History Guide (or any of the other booths represented in the virtual expo hall) or join in a chat with the "Connect" button. In every case, there will be more options to explore. 

Of course, you should take advantage of all the presentations or classes. These are all "live" and you can go down through the list of over a thousand offerings and click on the plus button and add them to your playlist. If you get lost, click on the blue button at the top of the screen and ask a question. 

We are all adapting to an expanded online world that some of us didn't know existed until the pandemic came along and I am sure some of us don't like very much. But as I have observed, over time, the online world becomes the "new normal" and it really ends up expanding our ability to engage and interact with a much larger group of people. 

In your explorations, you may find a few real gems. Here is one example.

By searching in the Sessions tab, you can find a whole list of presentations about specific subjects. In this example, eighteen links to information about African American Research. So, take the plunge. Get clicking away to find out about what all of us in the genealogical world do all day every day.