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

Monday, October 18, 2021

How Many Genealogically Significant Records have been digitized?

 

Of course, there are claims about billions of records online, but how many are there really? Nobody really knows and even if we knew, the number would be meaningless. What is evident is that the number goes up by millions, perhaps billions of records every year. I get many announcements about new record additions to the larger genealogy websites but even though these numbers are impressive they are only a small percentage of all the digitization projects going around the world. Just before I retired from practicing law in Arizona, the Maricopa County Court system serving the largest county by population in the state, converted entirely to digital pleadings. This meant that every document filed with the court from that time forward had to be electronically filed. Unless you work as part of the court system somewhere in the world, you cannot imagine how many digital pages are being generated by that decision over time fueled by over 4.5 million people (the population of Maricopa County as of the date of this post).  Hmm. Court documents. Isn't this one of the record collections that are listed as genealogical resources?

I just completed some real estate transactions and except for some documents that required notarization, everything I did was online, digitized and electronically filed and stored. Hmm. Last time I checked, land and property records were also listed as genealogical resources. Oh, by the way, the notarized documents were digitized and are online. If I look at the county recorders' websites online in Arizona, I find that the digitized records contain really old deeds. Here is copy of the first deed recorded in Apache County, Arizona on February 14, 1880.

Maybe we need to start thinking about records that aren't categorized as genealogical records and that don't end up on a big genealogy website? 

I live in Utah but I have a library card for a library in Arizona. Yes, I have to pay a fee every year to renew my card but then I get access to the Greater Phoenix Digital Library. I look through thousands of digital books for reference or reading. All of this is online. 

FamilySearch.org has a digital book collection with 523,848 books. When was the last time you checked to see if any of your ancestors are in any of those books?

You can begin to see the reality. There are more records both online and still on paper that anyone could completely search during the average lifetime. When you add the number of records to the exponential growth of your pedigree lines as you go back in time, you can begin to see we all need a different methodology for addressing genealogical research. 

Let me give the ultimate example. If I am looking for genealogical information, I will usually end up looking in the Internet Archive or archive.org. There are presently 33,024,881 digitized books on the Internet Archive website; all of them completely free to view with a significantly large number of them free of copyright restrictions and downloadable in a variety of formats. The website also has videos, audio recordings, and images. It is also the archive of the internet with over 616 billion internet pages preserved.

To put it bluntly, genealogical research should not be confined to searching what someone has labeled a genealogical record. 

Saturday, October 16, 2021

MyHeritage adds 463 Million Historical Records from France

 

The recent acquisition of the French website, Filae.com (See MyHeritage to Acquire Filae) has apparently resulted in MyHeritage.com adding millions of French records to their website. The new records consist of the following from an emailed announcement. 

  • France, Church Baptisms and Civil Births with 154.4 million records.
  • France, Church Marriages and Civil Marriages with 125.3 million records.
  • France, Church Burials and Civil Deaths with 149.1 million records.
  • 1872 France Census, taken in the aftermath of the Franco-Prussian War and consisting of 16.4 million records from 67 French departments.
  • 1906 France Census, consisting of 17.6 million records from 63 departments in France. Paris is not included in the 1872 and 1906 collections, as census taking in Paris only began in 1926. 

The total of the records added is 463 million records, this brings the total number of records on the MyHeritage.com website to 76 collections with 516,214,971 records.


https://www.myheritage.com/research/catalog?location=France&s=562098391

These additional records help to consolidate MyHeritage.com as the leading genealogical database program for European records. 



Saturday, October 9, 2021

Talking to Latin America

 


Since RootsTech in February 2021, I have been volunteering for Virtual Genealogy Consultations. I schedule the consultations during two two-hour blocks during my week. The consultations last twenty minutes each and there is a break of ten minutes between consultations so I can schedule eight individual consultations each week. If I cannot be available the scheduling program allows me to block out those times. During the initial experience at RootsTech, I was scheduled for four hours every day from Monday until Saturday. I can say that this was an intense experience. Almost all of these consultations are in Spanish. 

As the weeks have past by, I have seen a pattern emerging. Most of those people researching their ancestors in Argentina and other countries are searching for their ancestral roots. They are trying to identify their first immigrant ancestor. Almost all these immigrants came either from Italy or Spain during migrations that were instigated by wars or other disruptions. These facts simplify my responses. Most of the researchers do not know where exactly their ancestors came from in either Italy or Spain and those that do cannot either find or access the records they need to do further research. Sometimes, the amount of time and effort these people have expended in searching is remarkable. 

Another observation is that almost uniformly they have superior computer skills although many of them are using a smartphone rather than a computer. They are challenged by the closure of the FamilySearch Family History Centers due to the pandemic because some of them depend on the centers for computer access and many others are prevented from doing their research by the restrictions imposed by FamilySearch on the records. These restrictions are at the core of the problems these willing researchers face in trying to connect their ancestral lines. Presently, almost all the records on the FamilySearch.org website for the entire countries of Italy, Spain, Argentina, Uruguay and many other countries are restricted to viewing in the closed down Family History Centers. I have never received an adequate answer as to why so many of these records are restricted. 

Fundamentally, the researchers face the loss of contact with relatives and the subsequent loss of any personal family records that show the origin of the first immigrants. The records kept in Argentina and other countries are insufficient to identify the exact origin and usually all the records state is that the person came from Italy. The common issue with researching immigrant ancestors leads us to suggest that research start in the country of arrival not the country of origin. But with these researchers, extensive research into the available records in their own countries does not help the process. 

Subsequently, I usually end up suggesting to the researchers that they try DNA testing with a copy such as MyHeritage.com that has an extensive database of people in Europe. The hope here is that the researchers will connect with potential family members in Italy or Spain. 

Many times, these short twenty minute consultations are not long enough to fully develop a research plan for the patrons. This often ends up with me continuing contact by email or through the Brigham Young University Family History Library Virtual Family History Help Portal

Being online and having a virtually unlimited pool of researchers who need assistance has transformed my contact with individual researchers. Rather than sit in the library and wait for patrons, I can now reach out and talk to many more people individually every week. After spending the last nearly 40 years doing my own genealogical research and working in both the Mesa, Arizona FamilySearch Library and the Brigham Young University Family History Library for the past nearly 18 years, I appreciate the opportunity to talk to people one-on-one, instead of spending so much time writing, doing webinars, and teaching classes. Not that I am going to stop doing what I have over the past years, but I am going to balance the time I spend in each. 

Wednesday, October 6, 2021

The Wayback Machine's First Crawl 1996 -- The Internet Archive

 

https://archive.org/details/wayback-machine-1996/The+Wayback+Machine's+First+Crawl+1996.mp4

Quoting from the Internet Archive article, "The Wayback Machine's First Crawl 1996," 

In October of 1996, engineers at the the San Francisco-based Internet Archive launched their first web crawlers, taking snapshots of web pages. At the time, the World Wide Web was only 2.5 terabytes in size. In 1996, it was still impossible to predict how large the World Wide Web might become.

Even in those early days of the Web, broken links (404 errors) were a growing problem, and it was clear that most Web pages were short-lived. Brewster Kahle and Bruce Gilliat invented a system for archiving Web pages before they vanished. The tools for this project were not terribly sophisticated; they were essentially PC applications built to capture entire websites by following the links from the main page.

Most of the genealogy community is probably not aware of the Internet Archive (Archive.org) or the Wayback Machine. The Wayback Machine--which first launched as a public search engine of web pages in 2001--has preserved some 588 billion web pages by working with 800+ partners around the world. These webpages are searchable with some limitations on the Internet Archive. 

I find this website to be essential for doing research in many places in the world. 

Saturday, October 2, 2021

Long awaited RootsMagic Version 8 released

 


Yes, folks, you can now upgrade or purchase Version 8 of RootsMagic. It is on sale for a while and is very reasonably priced. I upgraded by copy of Version 7 and loaded in my files from where they were stored on my computer. Here is a screenshot of the new version with my file. 

It will probably take you a little bit of time to get oriented with the new update unless you have been beta testing the preceding versions all along. Check it out. 

Wednesday, September 29, 2021

Changes in the Record Search for Historical Records on FamilySearch.org

 

The FamilySearch.org website had undergone another change. The Historical Record Collections feature has been completely redone. Yes, the screenshot above is what it looks like. Missing from this view are the options to search film/fiche and other specialized searches. You can essentially search by a name, a place, or collection title. There is a more options link that gives you the following:

which includes all the previous search fields. A search gives you a different view also. This is beginning to look like a way to make last year's model look older and out-of-date. 


You now have a preference area. 


That apparently lets you export search results to a spreadsheet (that is what those XLC, XLSX, ets. are referring to). I never thought about exporting my search results to a spreadsheet especially when I got several thousands of possible results. There is an option for translated text. I tried a search for a name in Argentina (with 363) results with both the translated text option checked and the original test option checked. The main thing I saw was that the dates changed from standard genealogy dates (5 November 1874) to a shorter format (5 Nov 1874). So are they accepting the shorter form of the dates as standard? I guess I will have to try it to see. That will make it a lot easier to import information from Ancestry.com.

Browse places on the first page gave me a new larger map. 


Browse all collections still gives your the list of Historical Record Collections with 3,098 Collections. I initially thought this was a major change but it turns out to be mostly cosmetic. The old website is still there it just has one or two new faces. 

Monday, September 27, 2021

The Accuracy of Catalog Entries in the FamilySearch.org Catalog

Many of the digitized documents on the FamilySearch.org website are not indexed. If you want to view the images you need to search in the FamilySearch.org Catalog. The main way to search in the Catalog is by the places that events occurred in your ancestors' lives. To find the proper records to search, researchers rely on the catalog entries to identify the records. For example, here is a record of a birth in Cambridge, Middlesex, Massachusetts.


The link takes us to this record for citation: "Massachusetts Deaths, 1841-1915, 1921-1924", database with images, FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:FX4K-XNR : 27 October 2020), Sarah Borstell, 1894.

The image linked is as follows with Film # 004212538;


The information link at the bottom of the page takes us this entry:


I searched the list for the film number given for the record above and found the record among the those on the list. 


I would think I was going to find a death record, but what I found was a birth record. 

This example might be a little bit obscure but it raises an issue with how the FamilySearch Catalog is working or not working. Presently, while looking for records in the catalog, I get this newer page of information that is not consistent with the actual records.


From this entry, you would think you had a death record. But there is not one in the sources listed on on the record shown as the reference. 

This confusion comes primarily from the initial faulty catalog entry. What this should indicate to a careful researcher is that when you see a list of documents such as this one from Uruguay,


that apparently has records for births, you should look further. In this case, the first entry listed says that it has births from 1879 to 1891. If you work your way through 2930 images, you will find that the first set of records begin in 1920. Here is the link to the list of these collections.


 In this particular section of hundred of collections of Uruguayan records, many of the catalog entries are wrong.  For example, the next section, Sección 8. Nacimientos 1881-1889 does begin with records in July of 1881 and the collection that starts with 1920 ends with the rest of 1881. 

Jumping down a ways in the long list of collections, there is another section from the same time period. 


The first one in the list is Sección 10. Nacimientos 1879-1893. Hmm. This on starts off with records from 1928. 


I could go on and on with these examples. Unfortunately, I do no have the time or access to the Catalog database to audit all these cataloging errors. But as genealogical researchers using the FamilySearch Catalog, I would suggest that you take the time to examine all the collections in a country. You may find that the 1920 records you are looking for are located in a collection that says it ends in 1881. Just beware. In this post, I have not even started to give examples where the records are not only not in the correct years but are scrambled together without being in any chronological order.