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

Saturday, December 14, 2019

My RootsTech 2020 Survival Guide

The very first thing I learned after my initial visit to RootsTech 2011 was to wear very comfortable walking shoes. The Salt Palace in Salt Lake City, Utah is nowhere near the largest convention centers in the world, but it is still sizable enough to engender a lot of walking. In addition, it is located in a rather large walking city and depending on where you end up staying or parking, you will have quite a long walk just to get into the Salt Palace Convention Center.

Of course, some of my suggestions about attending the RootsTech Conference are the same as the ones I wrote about in previous years but the all bear repeating.

Another thing I already knew was that the elevation of Salt Lake City is just over 4000 feet above sea level. Parts of the city are well over 5000 feet. The RootsTech 2020 Conference is also being held in the middle of the Winter from February 26th to the 29th. The altitude can bother some people but the weather can stop the entire city. The average temperatures of Salt Lake City are a high of 45 degrees and a low of 31 degrees. The average can be misleading. The hottest February temperature recorded is 60 degrees and the lowest temperature recorded is -14.1 degrees on February 7, 1989. The lesson from this is to dress in layers and expect extremes.

Don't miss the keynotes. Although the people featured may not be familiar to you, you will find all of them to be extraordinary. A lot of the people who attend RootsTech come for a wide variety of classes but I would suggest that you spend what time you can in the Exhibit Hall. I will be in the Exhibit Hall most of my time at RootsTech either helping with The Family History Guide, presenting at the MyHeritage booth, talking to people in the Media area for Ambassadors, or visiting with the exhibitors and people in the Exhibit Hall.  By the way, the Exhibit Hall has a lot of seating if you just need a rest.

Find a way to carry what you need for the day. I use a shoulder bag or a backpack. My latest shoulder bag is extremely comfortable to carry and so I can have my computer and accessories plus whatever else I decide I need for the day.

Parking is a challenge. There is some parking underneath the Salt Palace Convention Center but the cost of parking all day can be a consideration. One option is to find free parking next to a TRAX light rail station and take the TRAX to the area of the Salt Palace, however, this means more walking.

Food is always a consideration especially if you have a chaotic meal schedule like mine. The concessions at the Salt Palace are quite good but there may be a wait during the lunch hour and if you are late (like I am sometimes) they may close down or run out of food. Sometimes a place to eat is also at a premium. There are a lot of restaurants within walking distance of the Salt Palace but this does mean more walking. We usually end up eating at the food court at the City Creek Shopping Mall. It is a couple of blocks away but has a good variety of faster food restaurants.

Driving in the Salt Lake Valley and in Utah Valley is an experience. The freeways are regularly stalled due to accidents and slowdowns from the volume of traffic. One thing to be aware of this year on the freeways is that the Highway Patrol has initiated a zero-tolerance for speeders. You can get a ticket for driving one mile per hour over the speed limit. The Salt Lake Valley and Utah Valley to the south may be the US Center for red-light runners. You need to be overly cautious when your light turns green to make sure that the cars coming from right and left have actually stopped before going through the intersection. We have seen multiple red-light violations in one day. One time we saw five cars go through the same red light. Stay safe. Don't assume cars will stop.

You can always rest in the Exhibit Hall so make sure you come by to say hello to both Ann and me.

Thursday, December 12, 2019

Online Genealogy Resources Continue to Increase
Of course, the large online genealogy family tree programs continue to add content, but perhaps you are not as tuned in to the fact that many genealogically valuable records are being regularly added to what most would not consider to be "genealogy oriented" websites. This category includes websites such as, the Digital Public Library of America or and many others.

As you can see from the image above, the Digital Public Library of America (DPLA) has well over 36 million images. Recently, the DPLA announced a partnership with the Wikimedia Foundation. Here is part of the announcement.
In an effort to make artifacts from cultural heritage institutions more accessible to all, Digital Public Library of America (DPLA), the national aggregator of digital heritage collections, and the Wikimedia Foundation, the nonprofit that operates Wikipedia and other free knowledge projects, are collaborating to incorporate DPLA’s cultural artifacts into Wikipedia and other Wikimedia projects. Funded by a generous grant from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, this collaboration will expand the availability of artifacts such as books, maps, government documents, photos, and more from U.S. cultural heritage institutions across the web. 
“If you’re in the business of democratizing knowledge, there’s no better partner than Wikimedia,” said John Bracken, DPLA’s executive director. “As a result of this collaboration, many of the artifacts carefully contributed by our cultural heritage partners across the country and aggregated at will be seen by millions of people online, which will help to ensure that the story of our nation can be told and retold for generations to come.”  
One of the first collections that will be integrated into Wikimedia projects will be from DPLA’s Pivotal Ventures-funded Black Women and the Suffrage Movement collection—a series of photos, manuscripts, historical documents and more highlighting black women and their contributions to the Suffrage Movement. These artifacts will be uploaded to Wikimedia Commons, the freely-licensed repository of images, videos, and more. Making these items broadly available on Wikimedia sites will amplify the stories of black suffragists, who are all too often left out of the national narrative on women’s suffrage. 
Perhaps it would be helpful to know that the DPLA also has a specifically targeted genealogy area on their website.

This is one website you may wish to explore and add to your list of must-search places on the internet.

Now, there is also another website to search and that is the Wikimedia website. It is part of the overall umbrella of Wikipedia related websites.
Sorry to give you more places to learn about and look. :-)

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

MyHeritage LIVE Conference in Tel Aviv Israel

MyHeritage LIVE 2020 Tel Aviv
Quoting from the blog post:
Following the success of MyHeritage LIVE 2018 and 2019, we’re delighted to announce that MyHeritage LIVE, our annual user conference, will take place in Tel Aviv on October 25–26, 2020. As one of the most celebrated genealogy events of the year, MyHeritage LIVE brings together family history enthusiasts, top international experts, and MyHeritage staff for two days of fascinating lectures covering the latest topics in genealogy and DNA. Each year, hundreds of MyHeritage users from around the world attend.

Register now on the MyHeritage LIVE 2020 website to secure early bird pricing of $100 per ticket.
The details of the Conference are as follows:
MyHeritage LIVE 2020 will take place on October 25–26, 2020 at the Hilton Tel Aviv. Set in landscaped Independence Park, this upscale hotel is a short 8-minute walk from the Mediterranean beachfront and just 5 km from the Tel Aviv-Savidor Center train station. 
If you haven’t visited Tel Aviv yet, now is your chance to experience a beautiful, vibrant city that’s known as a “city that never sleeps,” making it a perfect fit for night owl genealogists who toil late into the night to work on their research. Explore the past and experience new cultures in a truly unique country steeped in ancient history. 
In addition to a plenary session from MyHeritage Founder and CEO Gilad Japhet, there will be multiple lectures, panels and workshops covering genealogy and DNA, as well as sessions from local speakers covering Israeli resources and Jewish genealogy. 
We’ve lined up an excellent array of international speakers for the event including Roberta Estes, Thomas MacEntee, Dick Eastman, Diahan Southard, and Lisa Louise Cooke. Joining them from Israel will be Garri Regev and Rony Golan along with others to be announced soon. From the MyHeritage team, you will hear from Gilad Japhet, Founder and CEO; Maya Lerner, VP Product; Schelly Talalay Dardashti, U.S. Genealogy Advisor; Michael Mansfield, Director of Content Operations; Daniel Horowitz, Genealogy Expert; and more. 
Conference tickets include access to lectures, workshops, coffee breaks, lunches, and the MyHeritage party, all of which you don’t want to miss!

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Vergen purchases GEDMatch

GEDmatch, the online genetic genealogy website has been sold to Verogen. Quoting from the above article,
Brett Williams, Verogen’s CEO, said in a statement that a new version of the existing site will focus on solving crimes, “not just connecting family members via their DNA.” 
“Never before have we as a society had the opportunity to serve as a molecular eyewitness, enabling law enforcement to solve violent crimes efficiently and with certainty,” Williams said.
The article went on to note the following:
GEDmatch users logging in after Monday are now required to accept the site’s updated terms and conditions. These terms include updating users of Verogen’s purchase, and also giving them the option of deleting their data from the site entirely, the statement outlines.

The official statement from Verogen identifies the company as follows:
Verogen. Inc. is an independent forensic genomics company that tailors next-generation sequencing solutions for forensic laboratories. Based in San Diego, California, the company is advancing science to unlock the true potential of forensic genomics.
I am certain that we will see some of the same major moves in the future from almost all of the genealogical DNA hosting companies. Consolidation is almost inevitable since the advantage of one company over another comes from the size of its DNA database. 

How to take better photos for genealogy: Part Five: Cameras

There have been some major shifts in photographic technology during the past few years. Of course, the major transition was from film-based cameras to digital cameras. The first digital camera was invented by Steven Sasson in 1975 while he was working at Eastman Kodak. Unfortunately, the first digital image was not saved. See "The Worlds First Digital Camera, Introduced by the Man Who Invented It." The first digital camera weighed about 8 pounds and created a .01 MP (Megapixel) image. The images were stored on a cassette tape.

Trying to even review the number of models of digital cameras available today can be overwhelming. However, cameras do fall into a number of general categories. Here are some of the most commonly used categories based on the skill or sophistication of the user:
  • Smartphone cameras
  • Point-and-shoot cameras
  • Prosumer cameras
  • Professional cameras
Another way to classify cameras is by the technology. Here is a list of some of the different general types of cameras by the technology used:
  • Smartphone cameras
  • Point-and-shoot cameras
  • DSLR or Digital Single Lens Reflex Cameras
  • Mirrorless Cameras
Another distinction is between cameras with an integral or fixed lens and cameras that have interchangeable lens systems. You will immediately note that there is an overlap between the different types of classifications. 

It is important to know, as is commonly repeated, that the best camera is the one you have when you need to take a photograph

What is happening today is that the quality of the images being produced by all types of cameras is increasing dramatically and the difference in the quality of the photographs being produced is collapsing in that almost any newer camera will take a very adequate looking photograph. Essentially, all newer cameras are computers as well as cameras. 

Now I need to start with some fundamental concepts. First of all, all photographic images on all of the types of cameras depend on the quality of the camera's lens. But the latest camera technology is using software to "correct and enhance" the images from the camera so that it is becoming more and more difficult to tell the difference between an image made with a high-end and expensive camera using a very expensive lens and the image made from some smartphone cameras. Subsequently, the market for high-end DSLR camera systems is crashing and very high-quality cameras are becoming less expensive. Of course, the die-hard professional photographer will still insist that really good photography requires a really good (read expensive) lens system and camera, but for those who do not aspire to become professionals, high quality can be obtained at a reasonable price. 

To give you an idea of the difference, you can buy any number of very high-resolution cameras for well under $1000.00. For example, a new Canon - EOS M50 Mirrorless Camera with EF-M 15-45mm f/3.5-6.3 IS STM Zoom Lens with a 24.1 APS-C CMOS sensor is currently selling for $599.99. 

If you are the type of person who reads reviews before purchasing anything, then you will be overwhelmed with reviews about the different camera types available. To add even more complexity to the subject, there are thousands of lens options for all of these different cameras and every lens has its own set of reviews. There are thousands of reviews that compare different models of cameras and lens combinations to each other and other reviews that insist that a certain level of camera and absolutely essential to being a "good" photographer.

But the camera does not make the photographer. One of the newest photographic controversies is raging over the quality of images from Apple's new iPhone 11 Pro and any number of high-end DSLR or Mirrorless cameras. Here is one recent example: "Photo battle between an iPhone 11 Pro and a $7,500 DSLR might surprise you." The difference today is being called "computational photography." I might mention that I opted for a new iPhone 11 Pro rather than purchasing a newer DSLR or equivalent camera and if you take a look at the photos on you might have to try and guess which ones are taken with smartphone and opposed to my currently two other cameras; a Sony and Canon.

So what is the answer for a genealogist? If you have a newer camera, say no more than 2 or 3 years old, you probably have all that you really need to take acceptable photos. If you are trying to "make do" with an old, inexpensive camera, you might want to think about upgrading. If you are going retro and insist on using a film camera, there is not much I can do to help you. If you have a huge pile of photographs and need to digitize them, I suggest investing in a good flatbed scanner rather than a camera. If you don't want to upgrade your smartphone, you might consider any one of the below $500 range Canon, Nikon, Sony, Samsung, or Panasonic cameras available.

Stay tuned for more on cameras.

See the previous posts here:

Part One:
Part Two:
Part Three:
Part Four:

To see some of my images go to Walking Arizona or

Saturday, December 7, 2019

Reclaim the Records: The Mississippi Death Index goes online, for free!

I got the following email notice from Reclaim the Records:
Hello again from Reclaim The Records! We are pleased to announce that for today's 'Giving Tuesday' quasi-holiday, we have decided to give y'all a new treat. 
Introducing the first-ever freely-available publication, online or otherwise, of the Mississippi Statewide Death Index! This record set covers deaths in the state of Mississippi from about November 1912 (although a few counties were slow to join in) through 1943. This record set was originally compiled by the Works Project Administration (WPA), as part of their incredibly important Historical Records Survey group.

Up until, oh, right now, the only place anyone could see or use this index was by visiting the Mississippi Department of Archives and History in Jackson, Mississippi in person, then tediously cranking through the faded and scratched microfilm rolls, or shuffling around microfiche sheets for some of the years. But now it's all scanned and online and free to use from your own home, without restrictions or copyrights, forever! 
And we at Reclaim The Records couldn't have done this without teamwork: a dedicated genealogist who knew about the records and about his rights and reached out to us for help; two generous genealogy non-profits that helped us digitize and host these new materials; and a pool of awesome supporters and donors that enabled our work on this project. (This is you!)
The records are on one of my favorite websites, or The Internet Archive. Here is a screenshot and a link.

Thursday, December 5, 2019

The Top 10 Genealogical Opportunities of 2019

Looking back over the year 2019, I thought I would post my choices for the 10 best genealogical opportunities of this year. I didn't put them in any order but I did spend some time in serious thought considering what I should list. Here I go with the list but not in any particular order:

1. The continued growth and usefulness of the Ordinances Ready app.

Granted, this program is only available to certain members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints but the benefits of this program or app extend well beyond its primary purpose. If effect, the program finds areas in the FamilySearch Family Tree that need research and cleaning up. I am sure this was not the original intent of the program or app, but it turns out to be a highly efficiently was to find those areas of the Family Tree needing attention. This benefits all the users of the Family Tree. Like many tools, their ultimate usage goes beyond their original design.

I put this choice first because overall the app has had the biggest impact on the way I approach my constant research in all my family lines.

2. RootsTech Salt Lake City 2019 and RootsTech London 2019.

I loved being back in person at RootsTech 2019 in Salt Lake City, Utah. Extending the reach of RootsTech to London seemed like a gamble. One of the most prominent England-based conferences, Who Do You Think You Are Live, had closed its doors in 2017. The attendance at the Who Do You Think You Are Live Conference was about 15,000 people and my guess is that the numbers were just not enough to cover the cost of the venue. However, with FamilySearch as the main sponsor, the RootsTech London 2019 is off to a good start with a total attendance of 9,727. See "RootsTech London 2019 in Review." Personally, I am looking forward to attending RootsTech Salt Lake City 2020 in just a few short weeks.

3. The new developments and features added to the website including, but not limited to, the new Health feature and other new features and updates to the website. 

One of the big media attractions in the commercial world is the annual Apple product announcements, usually in the Fall of each year. For genealogists who are aware of what is going on in the area of technology and product development, one highlight of the RootsTech Conference in Salt Lake City, Utah has been the announcements made by In the last two years, the announcements at RootsTech have been supplemented by the MyHeritage LIVE Conferences held first in Oslo, Norway and this year, 2019, in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. You can read a recap here: "MyHeritage LIVE 2019 Recap." The MyHeritage LIVE 2020 Conference will be held in Israel.

4. The impressive number of original source documents digitized during the year. 

I have yet to find a way to calculate the total number of genealogically important documents that have been digitized so far in 2019, but the number is likely in the billions of records. Although the number of paper records is also growing, digital records are appearing online in millions each week. For example, the records available on one website,, regularly increase by 100 million and is presently over 10.2 billion. Numbers aren't everything, but having so many records available online has certainly decreased my personal need to travel to libraries and archives and to view microfilm.

5.  The tremendous increase in online genealogical classes, webinars, and conference presentations. 

Some of the major conferences, such as the MyHeritage LIVE 2019 Conference in Amsterdam, the Netherlands and RootsTech 2019 in Salt Lake City, Utah have expanded their attendance by making all or part of their conferences available online. In the case of MyHeritage, all of the MyHeritage LIVE 2019 presentations are free online on the website. Another example is the Brigham Young University Family History Library's YouTube Channel. There are currently 472 free videos on a multitude of subjects available. This list could go on and on. All you have to do is do an online search for genealogy and videos or presentations.

6. The increase in genealogical research opportunities in non-genealogy specific websites. 

A leader among the websites that are accumulating a huge number of genealogically important digitized documents that are not specifically identified as "genealogy" is the Internet Archive or with over 22 million free digitized books and publications plus millions of other items. There is literally more than any one person could comprehend with all of the online resources.

7. The advances in electronic technology that facilitates genealogical research.

Having all of the digital information online is not much use to a person who is technologically challenged. I got into a conversation with a friend the other day about a lost check he had written. I suggested he get online and see if the check had cleared his bank. He replies that he did not know how to do that and in any event did not have a computer that he could use to get online. OK, so ignoring or failing to utilize the online genealogical resources is not an excuse. Don't complain to me, as some have recently to me when you are not willing to do the online work to find all these resources.

8. Free online classes from local public libraries.

I have been relearning doing online videos, particularly for The Family History Guide and a few of my own. I have been discovering the huge number of free online classes for learning the new software such as Adobe Premiere Pro and other such complicated programs available from my local public library. These online classes are high-level learning opportunities for anyone who wants to spend the time to learn. Also, don't forget the flood of information about genealogy and almost any other subject on

9. The insight obtained from DNA tests.

As genealogists, we cannot ignore DNA tests. Putting aside all the privacy concerns and related issues, genealogical DNA testing is opening up a whole new avenue for accurate and verifiable discoveries. As I pointed out, there are a large number of basic to advanced classes online and many of those are about DNA and genealogy.

10. Last, but by no means, the least, is The Family History Guide itself. 

The Family History Guide has been evolving steadily over the past year. Bob Taylor, one of the principal innovators keeps a running list of all the changes to the website. You can see the list of all the changes on the website at The list is impressive. If you don't do anything else this next year, make a resolution to read and study The Family History Guide and your own genealogical knowledge will measurably increase.

Looking forward to all the opportunities of 2020.