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

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Looking at the original record

Many states recognize the validity of a holographic will, that is a will written entirely by testator in his or her own handwriting. Some states recognize the validity of such a will even if only the dispositive provisions are handwritten. In a recent case involving a dispute over the validity of such a handwritten document, the document was scanned into a computer. When the scanned copy was viewed on the screen, it was evident that the document, which appeared to written at a single time, was actually a composite.

In this case the scan was more "accurate" than an examination of the original. It was apparent that the document had been written by three and maybe four different pens. The scans revealed details undetectable to the unaided eye. We have found that scanned documents often reveal more information about the "original" than a visual examination. I have heard genealogists over the years admonish me to "look at the original" in order to make sure I have gleaned all of the possible information from a documentary record.

Is this concern about examination of the original documentary evidence outdated in our era of digitized and scanned documents? Before answering this question, read about the Canon DR-4010C Color Scanner:

The DR-4010C scanner was built for up most productivity, with 100-sheet ADF at rapid speeds of up to 42 ppm and 84 ipm in color just as quickly as in black and white, your documents are scanned in seconds. This scanner easily handles a wide variety of document sizes from business cards to legal size document and up to 39" in long document mode. With its ability to handle a range of document types and sizes, the DR-4010C scanner provides the utmost document scanning flexibility.

The DR-4010C features a versatile dual paper path designed to accommodate diverse document types. The default U-turn paper path handles batch scanning at high speeds, while a straight paper path provides the flexibility to scan plastic cards, fragile and thick documents.

Fine lines and intricate image details are captured with utmost precision and clarity thanks to the DR-4010C device's advanced scanner technologies. The 3-line sensor combined with the pinpoint color matching of the 3-Dimensional Color Correction chip reproduce exceptional vivid 24-bit color images.

The DR-4010C desktop scanner is packed with advanced image processing features to boost your scanning efficiency. For fast, unattended batch scanning, this scanner automatically detects page size, skips blank pages, straightens skewed images, and rotates images that are sideways or upside down, and much more. The DR-4010C scanner is equipped with Automatic Color Detection for easy, low-maintenance scanning. By detecting color, it eliminates the need to separate black-and-white and color documents prior to scanning.

For added value, the DR-4010C comes bundled with Canon's CapturePerfect 3.0, Adobe® Adobe® 8 Standard and a full featured ISIS®/TWAIN driver.

Now back to the question, when would it be better to examine the original record? Not in the circumstance usually meant by the genealogy instructors of the past, that is, look at the microfilm, but likely only in those extremely rare cases when all of the "copies" fail to provide a clear image. Even then, the real "original" such as the original census record, may now be much less readable than the older microfilm image taken by camera when the original had faded much less than at the present time.

Thirty years ago, it was absolutely necessary to produce the "original" of a contract or other written document in court, now, the question of the "original" is never even considered. Copies are accepted for all purposes, unless there is an allegation of tapering or changing the original. Maybe we need to move on to a new level of concern in genealogy also, considering that the accuracy of a scanned copy may reveal more information about the document than an examination of the actual original handwritten document.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Genealogy Today's StateGenSites

A useful site for organized genealogical links is the StateGenSites on the Genealogy Today Website. The listing is organized by State with many helpful links for each state. In my home state of Arizona for example, clicking on the state name gives me a listing of Arizona vital records, historical societies, cemeteries, census records, obituaries, adoption support and other links. Some of the links take you to other Websites, but there are helpful links to primary source records such as the Arizona Department of Health Services which has online Birth and Death Certificates.

To quote the Website:
Genealogy Today is pleased to announce that it is the new home of the StateGenSites database of over 20,000 genealogy web sites. Launched on October 7, 1999 by Michelle Rich and Bill Hocutt, the SGS database started as an in-depth study of Alabama (by Bill) and Pennsylvania (by Michelle). It has since become one of the most popular directories for U.S. genealogy, categorizing links by state within 27 categories.

Bug fix for Record Search Pilot

Apparently, FamilySearch Record Search Pilot had a compatibility issue with Microsoft Internet Explorer Version 6. The program was down for maintenance and the announcement is that the compatibility issue has been fixed.

By the way, the 1920 U.S. Census index is now 5% complete but has no images as yet.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Association for Gravestone Studies

The mission of the Association for Gravestone Studies is to foster appreciation of the cultural significance of gravestones and burial grounds through their study and preservation. Since grave markers may be the only physical evidence of some people's lives, the markers are an important historical and genealogical resource. I have been able to reconstruct whole families in multiple generations from grave markers. In one notable case, in a small cemetery in Arizona, one of the grave markers had an entire four generation pedigree chart engraved in stone.

It is always important to be aware of the organizations involved in preserving graveyard information. To quote their Website:
The Association for Gravestone Studies (AGS) was founded in 1977 for the purpose of furthering the study and preservation of gravestones. AGS is an international organization with an interest in gravemarkers of all periods and styles. Through its publications, conferences, workshops and exhibits, AGS promotes the study of gravestones from historical and artistic perspectives, expands public awareness of the significance of historic gravemarkers, and encourages individuals and groups to record and preserve gravestones. At every opportunity, AGS cooperates with groups that have similar interests.
The AGS Archives is a collection of about 1000 books and many papers written on various aspects of gravestone studies. We are always looking for more books and information to add to this collection, with a goal of eventually making it the best repository of materials on gravestone studies that there is.
The Website also has some links to similar organizations in the various states.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Update on changes to New FamilySearch

New FamilySearch is still in pre-release versions and is subject to periodic updates and changes. There are several new changes announced in the February 2009 update.The updates deal primarily with the way records of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) are handled by the program. Many records that were missing from the database have now been added and the Ordinance status for over 500,000 ordinances has been updated.

Although the changes affect only those members of the LDS Church who presently have access to the data, the changes are significant for those who rely on the data for clearing ordinance work in the Church's Temples.

There has also been a renewed reference to the Third-party Certified Computer and Web Programs.

Most of the development of the New FamilySearch program is aimed at the final version of the program, presently available as a development product called Family Tree. The features of the Family Tree program are listed as follows in the announcement:

• When you open an individual’s folder, you can see the contact name of the user who has the ordinances reserved.
• You can easily resize your family tree to show many more generations on the screen.
• When you hover the mouse cursor over someone in the tree, the path back to you is highlighted. This lets you more easily see how you connect to any person in your tree.
• When you display the list of your reserved ordinances, you can see whether the cards have been printed and which ordinances are done.
• You can view the individuals in your pedigree as a list. When you first switch from the pedigree to the list, the list contains the individuals in the pedigree view. Once the list is displayed, you can sort the individuals by last name, first name, gender, birth date, birthplace, or person ID.
The Family Tree is available in English, Spanish, Portuguese, French, German, Italian, Russian, Chinese, Japanese, and Korean.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Record Search Pilot Release 1.5

In an announcement dated February 21, 2009, FamilySearch Labs described the changes made to Record Search Pilot in their release of Version 1.5. The changes include an updated home page, listing all of the collections in a single column, a new upgrade to the image viewer and improved help and feedback screens.

On the updated home page a map shows the number of collections available when your mouse hovers over a region and the drop down list of regions and collections has been changed.

The collections' list shows collections that are waypoints only, that is referrals to other Websites, and also collections that have no images.

The image viewer has been rearranged and adds image rotation, full screen view and the ability to print selected areas of an image.

The help and feedback screen have improved options to find answers to questions.

Although not dramatic changes, the functionality of the Website has been increased. The real issue with Record Search Pilot however, is the number of useful collections being added on a regular basis. As I have noted before, the number is not overwhelmingly large, as yet, but the steady increase in the availability of records makes this a more valuable site every month, especially because the records are free.

There were a number of comments to the Blog announcement of the upgrade indicating that people using older computer systems are experiencing a problem viewing the Website. As systems change and programs, such as Flash Player, get upgraded it is inevitable that older systems will lose the ability to view newer content. When upgrading software it is more important to incorporate new technology than it is to continue to support much older technology. The cost of upgrading you computer is now in the $300 range and costs much less than a new HDTV or many other appliances. Perhaps those people still using Windows 98 need to seriously evaluate their needs. I certainly sympathize with those on fixed incomes in this time of economic hardship, but computers have always changed and will continue to change and evolve in the future. As a consolation, many libraries, including Family History Centers, have free access to computers.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Google Translate, a boon to genealogists

Rather than chase down an English/Spanish or Spanish/English dictionary every time you run across and unfamiliar word or phrase, if you use a program like Google Translate, all you do is type the word or phrase into the text box and click and the program instantly makes you go find a dictionary. No, really, what it does do is give you a pretty fair translation of about 34 different languages. You don't really need to type the word or phrase, all you need to do is copy and paste from some foreign language Web site. What is even more impressive, you can enter a URL and have the program translate an entire Webpage at one time.

Google's research group developed its own statistical translation system for the language pairs now available on Google Translate. To quote what they say the program does:
Our system takes a different approach: we feed the computer billions of words of text, both monolingual text in the target language, and aligned text consisting of examples of human translations between the languages. We then apply statistical learning techniques to build a translation model. We've achieved very good results in research evaluations.
You can also install Google Translate on you iGoogle page and have it always ready, like a desktop application. I tried a test translation of the German Website page on The translation was reasonably accurate and very useful.

I don't make any claims as to the accuracy of the program, but it certainly cuts down on my search for dictionaries. If you want a lot of information about the program go to the About page with its Frequently Asked Questions.

There are plenty of other programs out there that do translation, such as Yahoo Babel Fish, (I didn't think the translation of the target German page was as helpful as Google Translate) but a lot of them are lead-ins to commercial programs. If you have a favorite, send it in and I will give it a try.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Update to FamilyInsight

If you have been struggling with New FamilySearch then you need to learn about FamilyInsight from Ohana Software. They have just released another update to their FamilyInsight program version 2009.2.16. For years the Family History Centers relied on PAFInsight, the predecessor to FamilyInsight to do exhautive searches of the International Genealogical Index (IGI). Now, FamilyInsight will do the same for New FamilySearch.

Although New FamilySearch is still in the developmental and technically, prerelease, stage, it has been introduced in virtually all of the world outside of Utah and Idaho. It will still be some time before the program is generally released to the public, but meanwhile, those using the present version will find their use of the program enhanced immeasuably by using FamilyInsight as the main access rather than logging on to directly.

If you already own FamilyInsight, the newer versions of the program update automatically upon opening. If your version predates this feature, just go to the help menu and look for updates.

New look and new software at Records Search Pilot

The FamilySearch Records Search Pilot underwent a major renovation and upgrade. The look and feel of the program has changed a little, but there has been a substantial reorganization of the records to reflect the steady increase in variety and depth of the upcoming additions. The announcement stated:
18 February 2009: Record Search has a new look and feel! The upgrade to Record Search has been completed, and we hope you enjoy using the new interface, as well as some of the new features, such as full-screen image viewing, the ability to print a selected area of an image and numerous other enhancements.
A first impression is that the program is now much more well organized and has increase utility. I found it interesting that the sub-menus now include references to Africa, Australia and New Zealand and the Pacific Islands even though there are no records listed, as yet.

Record Search Pilot has the potential of providing substantial records for areas outside the U.S. and Europe, which is a major change in the record availability of the past. Check it out!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Over 600 scanned books added to Family History Archive

The number of books available in ever growing Family History Archive increased by over 600 in last two days to a total of 28,342. Although this number of books is only a very small percentage of the total volumes available in libraries around the country, this is the first time that access to this number of genealogy specific books has been free on the Internet.

Other large collections of digitized books are available from but access is subject obtaining a subscription or visiting one of the libraries or Family History Centers that have free public access.

Google Books also has a huge catalogue of digitized books including thousands of books relevant to genealogical research. However, not all the books that show up in a Google Books search are actually digitized and online. Most of the books are merely cataloged and possibly available for sale. Project Gutenberg also has a very large selection of digitized books, but only relatively a few are related to genealogy or family history.

Update to FamilySearch Record Search Pilot delayed

The announced upgrade to the Record Search Pilot software was delayed from February 17th to the 18th as indicated by a newer announcement. Software is a mixture of science and art and seldom works the way the programmers first think it will work, so this is no surprise. In fact, further delay would not be a surprise either. Check back for updates on the status of this fast growing database.

Monday, February 16, 2009 -- the German source

Willkommen auf dem deutschen Genealogieserver, Alles rund um Familienforschung (Ahnenforschung/Genealogie) is the greeting on the huge Website associated with the Computergenealogie Magazine. It would be very helpful if you read German since the site is almost entirely in that language, but it contains portals to the following:


The site claims to be the largest genealogical organization in Germany and it certainly appears that it lives up to its claim. Quoting from the site:
Unter dem Namen "Verein zur Förderung EDV-gestützter familienkundlicher Forschungen e.V." wurde am 26. Oktober 1989 in Dortmund der gemeinnützige, überregional tätige Verein gegründet. Aus diesen Anfängen entstand der "Verein für Computergenealogie e.V.", eingetragen im Vereinsregister des Amtsgerichtes Lünen Nr. 470. Mit über 2800 Mitgliedern (Stand: Januar 2009) ist der CompGen -Verein heute die größte genealogische Vereinigung in Deutschland.
The site contains a lot of reference material including lists of abbreviations (Abkürzungen) and even a list of old crafts and their modern meanings in German. You can get the idea of the meaning of the pages if you use the Google Translate program to work your way through the text. Good Luck. More later about Google Translate.

Announcement from FamilySearch Record Search Pilot

The FamilySearch Record Search Pilot site will be unavailable from 9:00 am until 5:00 pm Mountain Standard Time on Tuesday, 17 February 2009 for installation of new software. I will advise you of anything new or interesting by Wednesday.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

New addtions to Record Search Pilot

Additions to the FamilySearch Record Search Pilot are now coming regularly due to the constant effort of all those involved in FamilySearch Indexing. The latest additions include adding California to the 1920 U.S. Census. Two entirely new collections have just been added; the South Dakota 1915 and 1925 Censuses.

You can volunteer to help with the Indexing project. As stated by the Website:
The key life events of billions of people are being preserved and shared through the efforts of people like you. Using our online indexing system, volunteers from around the world are able to quickly and easily transcribe the records—all from the convenience of their homes. The indexes are then posted for FREE at
The Germany Baptisms collection has been temporarily removed for an update to that collection.

You may wish to note the running total of books now in the Family History Archives. I keep that total current with the number of new items added. You can see this total to the right of the post with the date of the last update.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Who came to America?

Immigration has always been a hot topic in America, from the time of the first European settlers in the 1500s and 1600s. The U.S. Declaration of Independence lists as one of the grievances against the King his immigration policy. Genealogists are always trying to find the origins of their immigrant ancestors. It is extremely interesting to see how immigration has changed over the centuries. If you would like to understand the background and culture of the area of America covered by the United States, there is one basic book you should read, Fischer, David Hackett. Albion's Seed: Four British Folkways in America. New York: Oxford University Press, 1989. has a huge collection of immigration records as do the Castle Garden and Ellis Island Websites.

If you would like to know who came to the United States and when, recent statistics are available from the Office of Homeland Security, but older records are also available from the U.S. Government in two documents;"Historical Census Statistics on the Foreign-born Population of the United States: 1850-1990" and the Bicentennial Edition: Historical Statistics of the United States, Colonial Times to 1970.

There are other resources available and I will highlight them from time to time.

Need help with old handwriting?

There doesn't seem to be an end to all of the wonderful online helps available somewhere in the vast world of the Internet. Brigham Young University has an active involvement in all aspects of family history and if you need help with old handwriting there is a very extensive and useful site to give relevant assistance. The site, called Script Tutorials, contains help suggestions, examples, lists of abbreviations and forms with digitized examples and many more resources. To quote the site:
This website offers guidance in the deciphering of manuscripts and other old documents that were printed in old typefaces or written in old handwriting styles. Languages covered here include English, German, Dutch, Italian, French, Spanish, and Portuguese. The content of this website may be useful for genealogical, historical, and literary research.
Another helpful Website comes from the National Archives in Great Britain. It is called Palaeography and contains an interactive tutorial developed in partnership with the School of Library, Archive and Information Studies (SLAIS)External website - link opens in a new window, University College London. You can also learn Latin with their online tutorial for beginners. The interactive tutorial is structured from easiest to the most difficult.

In both sites there are valuable links to many other useful resources.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Changes in backing up files

If you have spent any time at all working on a computer, you have experienced some kind of data loss, either from your computer or program crashing or a loss of power. There are so many ways to lose your work, it is sometimes surprising that we can save anything at all! The more time and effort you have invested in your computer files, the more concerned you should be about backing up your work.

There is another, less obvious problem, program obsolescence. If you have data in an old program format, it may not be able to be read by any of the newer programs. It is not unusual for people to bring me old MacWrite disks and unfortunately, there isn't much we can do anymore to get off the old files.

There are presently a number of different ways to make a backup. Obviously, the frequency of your backups puts a limit on the amount of information you might lose. Here is a list of the common backup media with some comments on each's reliability and durability:

Floppy Disks: If you still have information or files on floppy disks all of this work is at risk. None of the newer computers are being sold with floppy disk drives and it is getting harder and harder to find machines capable of reading the disks. I would recommend immediately transferring all your work to some other media. The old 5.25 inch floppys are definitely outdated and 3.5 floppys are disappearing rapidly.

CDs and DVDs: We are seeing a dramatic change again in this media also. We are now moving to Blu-Ray DVDs and it is likely that the older CDs and DVDs may become obsolete. It is imperative that you check your older files and migrate them to newer technologies periodically. We have also learned that CDs and DVDs do not last nearly as long as they originally were believed to last. Although convenient, this is not the long term storage solution it was once thought to be.

Flash Drives: Also called Thumb Drives, Memory Sticks and other names. These storage devices are currently changing rapidly. Although they all rely on USB connector technology, there is no guarantee that the USB standard will not change. The memory on these small drives in stable but the drives themselves can be lost or dropped and broken. They do fail and are should not be a primary storage option.

Spinning media: Also called Hard Drives. These are presently the most reliable method of backup and storage. The price on hard drives has been steadily decreasing and huge hard drives are readily available and very inexpensive. This is the best option for backup and storage. There is no reason to delay in purchasing an external hard drive and backing up all your files. If you think the cost of the drive is too much, how much is your time worth to recreate all of your files?

Online storage: You can get a certain amount of storage online for free. If you want more space you can rent additional storage at a nominal price. But, you are relying on access to the Internet to get to your backup. Think about it, if your Internet service is down, you cannot get to your backup. There is some convenience factors but this should be a secondary way of backing up your data.

There are other methods of backup, such as tape drives and other options. But they are relatively expensive and also subject to technology changes.

Do your homework, look around and talk to people with more experience. You will soon get an idea of how to back up your work and have a little more peace of mind.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Google Maps -- a help to genealogical research

Over the past year or so, Google has been extensively adding to the capabilities of its mapping program, Google Maps. One of the innovative functions is Street View. Now, using Google Maps Street View, you can actually see the streets, houses, buildings and lots of myriads of places across the world. This function was only available in larger cities and downtown areas, but has since spread to thousands of smaller locations around the world. If you need to travel to a location, you can actually preview your trip by using street view.

The Google Maps are also tied to specific photographs, submitted by users, of virtually the entire country. In addition, if there is a Wikipedia article about a location, you have the option of showing the existence of those articles. I was recently able to put myself right at the entrance to a local cemetery and could actually see the streets in the cemetery and the entry way with the sign. Most of the photos are of acceptable quality, but some are decidedly poor. However, the street views are constantly being updated and it is likely that more recent photo will be better than the last. For example, the current photo of my own house is extremely overexposed and has a city repair truck parked right in front, blocking the view.

This is one of those WOW type Web sites that you just can't get enough of. Look for ancestral homes, cemeteries, farms, practically any where you want to get down on the street.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

The Parish Chest and

The Parish Chest is advertised as an online family history superstore and as the the premier online genealogy specialists internationally renowned for quality products and speed of service. Reviewing their site, the breadth of their supplies and offerings is impressive. They have a convenient link to dozens of British Family History Societies. Many of the organizations listed do not appear to have their own Websites so the list is helpful in making contact with these local organizations. They also have a listing of the available Parish Registers for England which can be purchased primarily in fiche format.

The Parish Chest Bookshop is extensive. They also list military matters, reference books, MIs and Memorials, Maps and Atlases, Directories and Census Records. The purpose of The Parish Chest is to provide an online store where family history societies and suppliers of top quality genealogical goods could list their products, and make them available to customers at any time.

The Parish Chest also sponsors, with free resource pages and a message forum. The resources pages are arranged by subject and have everything from old books to maps and wills. Some of the site is under development, but this is a site worth looking into.

Monday, February 9, 2009

New collections added to Record Search Pilot

There have been some significant collections additions to the Record Search Pilot. Two entirely new collections have been added, Cook County, Illinois Birth Registers from 1871 - 1915, and Cook County, Illinois Birth Certificates from 1878 - 1922. The Cook County Birth Certificates include indexes and images of birth records including the City of Chicago. This collection is 62% complete. The Cook County Birth Registers are only 8% complete but also include the City of Chicago.

Illinois legislation in 1819 required physicians to record births and deaths but actual state registration didn't begin until 1877 when the State Board of Health was created to supervise the registration of births and deaths.

In addition to the Illinois records, the West Virginia Births, Deaths and Marriages have been completed with the addition of the three remaining counties. Also, Michigan Deaths and Marriages have had some of the missing images added to the collection. The Michigan records in the collection, now all show as complete, those are Michigan Births 1867 - 1902; Michigan Deaths 1867 - 1897; and Michigan Marriages 1868 - 1925.

The Record Search Pilot can be accessed through the Research tab in and through FamilySearch Labs.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Genealogy on the iPhone and PDAs

Apple Computer has created a programming environment for its iPhone through what they call the App Store. A recent check of the App Store shows three genealogy apps for the iPhone. None of these applications are free.

Since I am both PC and Mac based, I already have MobileFamilyTree, the mobile version of MacFamilyTree Software which only runs on a Macintosh. Graphically, this is a pretty impressive software program, both on the computer and on the iPhone. It is only $4.99 but you also have to purchase the Synium Software MacFamilyTree program for $49.00 making the whole package rather expensive. The program is very visually oriented but routine entries and sourcing are pretty awkward. Despite the visual interface, it is pretty difficult to find people and see how the families relate to each other. This was the first genealogy App available for the iPhone. I would suggest you try out the demo before buying either program.

I have not had a chance to see or use either of the other two iPhone programs; FamViewer from Aster Software which is pretty highly rated by its users but is $14.99 or Shrubs developed by Benoit Bousquet for $4.99 which is much less highly rated. Both programs claim to be able to read and display standard genealogy GEDCOM files. From the reviews, it appears that both programs have some issues in loading files from the PC or Mac. It is good thing to remember that these are Apple iPhone programs and therefore do not run on PCs at all.

Getting away from the trendy iPhone, you might want to check out for a forum on mobile genealogy. The premier program is NothernHillsSoftware's Pocket Genealogist. Before moving to an iPhone, I had a SuperPhone (PDA and phone) and ran PocketGenealogist. It was a highly useful program and synchronized with my Legacy files directly. The Advanced version is $35 and well worth the price. It will sync with almost any computer based genealogy program.

England Barnraising for FamilySearch Wiki

I just got an E-mail from Alan Mann, the Community Manager for the FamilySearch Community Services Team, about an England Barn raising at the FamilySearch Wiki. A wiki barn raising is a short, focused community effort to create or revise content relating to a single topic such as "getting started with genealogical research in England." To quote the E-mail, "During this February 2009 barn raising, volunteers will be revising the England Portal, topic pages for the four basic English record types and adding pages for the major English research sites. At the end of the barn raising, the wiki will contain information about the latest and best basic records and web sites to use in finding English ancestors."

Family Tree Connection

Family Tree Connection part of Genealogy Today, appears to be a very interesting site with a growing collection of data indexed from a variety of secondary sources such as high school and college yearbooks, city directories, local club member lists, church records and other U.S. source records from 1830 to 1930. As examples, their newly indexed sources list some of the following:

Enterprise High School 1905 Commencement USA|KS Enterprise
Status: Indexed 08/Feb/2009
Caesar Creek Township 1900 Commencement USA|IN|Dearborn Caesar Creek
Status: Indexed 08/Feb/2009
Joaquin Parlor No. 5, N. D. G. W. 1911 By-Laws USA|CA Stockton
Status: Indexed 08/Feb/2009

Blair Lodge, No. 14 I.O.O.F. 1915 By-Laws and Roster USA|NE Blair
Status: Indexed 08/Feb/2009

This collection is subject to an annual subscription of $29.95 a year. The index to their collections is free and searchable, so you might find something interesting before subscribing. Family Tree Connection says that it is run by Genealogy Today, LLC. The Genealogy Today Website says that the company was established in 1999 and is "a specialized portal providing unique databases, search tools and original articles, along with links to the newest sites and online resources. We also offer subscription based databases and newsletters, and over 500 products in our marketplace"Their Marketplace is full of genealogy related merchandise.

This is an interesting, although somewhat specialized database.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

FamilyInsight as a stand alone tool

Those familiar with FamilyInsight (or its predecessor PAFInsight), may assume that it is a utility for enhancing the features of Personal Ancestral File (PAF). However, it is much more. First of all, FamilyInsight has been developed for both Macs and PCs, that there are versions for both OS X and Windows operating systems. On both platforms, the program can run as a stand-alone application. The implications of this ability may not be evident at first. What this means is that FamilyInsight can be used with any lineage-linked database program, i.e. RootsMagic, Ancestral Quest, Legacy Family Tree, Family Tree Maker etc. as long as the program allows you to make a GEDCOM file. FamilyInsight will now open any GEDCOM file directly without first importing the file into PAF.

This stand-alone feature is more significant to users of the online program known as (nFS), presently available only to members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints since FamilyInsight allows you to synchronize a file with nFS. However, it does make the other valuable features of FamilyInsight available to all genealogical program users, such as its powerful feature allowing you to compare and sync two different files.

As a stand-alone program, FamilyInsight will open any GEDCOM file and allow the user to use all of the functions of the program. As a note, this same thing could be said about Ancestral Quest or many other stand-alone programs with synchronization functions, but FamilyInsight is now available on both Mac and PC, making it the first such utility to have cross platform application.

For those using nFS, FamilyInsight allows full synchronization of files, including combining records, separating records and disputes. Ancestral Quest has most of the same features, but presently does not provide for separating nFS records. One major negative, FamilyInsight does not appear to be very stable on the Mac and crashes frequently.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

The official archives for England, Wales and the central UK government

The National Archives is a government department and an executive agency of the Secretary of State for Justice. It brings together the Public Record Office, Historical Manuscripts Commission, the Office of Public Sector Information and Her Majesty's Stationery Office. It is also the UK government's official archive, containing 900 years of history with records ranging from the Doomesday Book and parchment and paper scrolls through to digital files and archived websites. The National Archives makes open records available to all, either onsite or online, continuously developing new tools to make history tangible for everyone.

Part of the National Archives Website is the ARCHON Directory, which includes contact details for record repositories in the United Kingdom and also for institutions elsewhere in the world which have substantial collections of manuscripts noted under the indexes to the National Register of Archives. This is an extensive collection of repositories with 2050 listed in England alone.

The National Archives' DocumentsOnline include such popular databases as WWI Campaign Medals, Wills, Cabinet Papers, WWI Diaries, the Domesday Book, Digital Microfilm Project and many other records. Some of these records are free and others may have a nominal charge for downloads or copies.

This is another major collection of online records that gets little mention in genealogy circles. Interestingly, this huge site is not listed as one of FamilyTree's 101 best Websites for British Researchers. However, FamilyTree Magazine does list one of the services, Access to Archives, as a favorite site. Also, lists ARCHON Archive Online as a resource but does not have a reference to the whole National Archives Website.

Monday, February 2, 2009

The Godfrey Library's Online Catalog

One of the lesser used genealogy subscription sites is the Godfrey Memorial Library. But this library has many unique resources and advantages for the serious genealogical researcher. To quote their Website:
Godfrey Library's online catalog approaches 400,000 entries and is getting bigger every day. The reason for this difference is that Godfrey Library's catalogers go beyond the usual work and do what is called "analytic cataloging." Simply put, if cataloging the title page is regular cataloging, then analytic cataloging is cataloging the index.
Presently, Godfrey Library has approximately 200,000 books and periodicals in its collection including: state and local histories, international resources, family histories, biographies, records by religious organizations, church records, funeral records, cemetery records, military records, maps, etc.

A basic subscription to the Library is only $35 with additional levels up to a $100 a year which includes all of the Library's basic content plus subscriptions to and WorldVitalRecords U.S. Collection. You may wish to verify that these special offers are still in effect since the Website uses the older name of

Sunday, February 1, 2009 releases African American Collection

In a press release dated January 29, 2009, launched its African American Collection in celebration of Black History Month. The Press Release stated as follows: has been working with the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) in Washington, D.C., to digitize records that provide a view into the lives of African Americans that few have seen before.
“These records cover subjects including slavery, military service, and issues facing African Americans dating back to the late 18th century,” explains James Hastings, Director of Access Programs at NARA. “Making these records available online will help people to better understand the history and sacrifice that took place in this country.” has spent the last two years with NARA compiling this collection and is currently working on adding more records that will be released in the upcoming months. African American records currently on include:
• Service Records for Colored Troops in the Civil War – Records for the 2nd-13th infantries including enlistment papers, casualty sheets, oaths of allegiance, proof of ownership and bills of sale.
• American Colonization Society – Letters and reports relating to this colony established in 1817 for free people of color residing in the U.S.
• Amistad Case – Handwritten records of this landmark case beginning in 1839 involving the Spanish schooner Amistad, used to transport illegal slaves.
• Southern Claims Commission – Petitions for compensation resulting from the Civil War. is also going to announce additional records in the near future.

GEDCOM and XML -- a clarification

In a previous post, I stated that GEDCOM was an Extensible Markup Language or XML. Thanks to reader Mark Tucker, I have a clarification of this statement. GEDCOM 5.5 is text based but is not an XML. If you are interested in the technical explanation please refer to an article by Aaron Skonnard a teacher at Northface University in Salt Lake City, Utah entitled XML Data Migration Case Study: GEDCOM. A beta version of GEDCOM 6.0 is available and is completely based on XML.

If you are further interested in pursuing this issue, I would suggest starting with the GEDCOM article in Wikipedia and doing a general search in Google on "GEDCOM 6.0 xml."

However, as the article states:

On January 23, 2002 a beta version of GEDCOM 6.0 was released for developers to study and begin to implement in their software.[9] GEDCOM 6.0 was to be the first version to store data in XML format, and was to change the preferred character set from ANSEL to Unicode. (Uniform use of Unicode would allow for the usage of international character sets. An example is the storage of East Asian names in their original CJK characters, without which they could be ambiguous and of little use for genealogical or historical research.)

Today, lineage-linked GEDCOM is still the de facto common denominator. Since the 2002 publication of the beta version of GEDCOM 6.0, no genealogical software supplier has yet supported it, despite the inherent advantages of an extensible and portable language like XML and its multi-lingual Unicode support.

Corrections, additions and comments are always welcome.

Introduction to the New England Historic Genealogical Society (NEHGS)

If your family has connections to New England, then you need to be aware of one of the premier genealogical resources. The New England Historic Genealogical Society (NEHGS) is one of the leading genealogical institutions in the United States. Founded in 1845, it has over 20,000 members. The NEHGS Research Library has more than 12 million original documents, original artifacts, records, manuscripts, books, family papers, bibles, and photographs dating back more than four centuries. Every week, NEHGS scans and digitizes at least one new database to be made available on-line. During 2008 NEHGS added 5 million names to its databases.

The NEHGS is a membership organization and annual memberships start at $75 a year, with a family membership starting at $90 a year. Membership includes
  • Annual Membership
  • Access to all areas of website.
  • Unlimited use of Research Library (including rare books and manuscripts) in Boston.
  • Access to premium databases like the Early American Newspapers.
  • Subscriptions to New England Ancestors and The New England Historical and Genealogical Register.
  • Discounts on research services and sales.
The NEHGS Website contains more than 2,400 searchable databases containing over 110 million names. Some of the more popular databases include:
The research library, located in the NEHGS Headquarters building in Boston, Massachusetts, contains more than 200,000 books, periodicals and microform materials and more than one million manuscripts. The library catalog is searchable online.

Geneally, a genealogy and family search engine

The Website formerly known as has gotten a new name, Geneally. Geneally claims to be the world's first dedicated genealogy and family search engine. The site is in beta and still under development. was a genealogy news site. They indicate that they will have a "full launch" in March with links to hundreds of thousands of new links.

Searches on the Beta version of the site seemed to produce quite a few hits for the larger and more visited Websites and products, but returned no results, as yet, for surnames or family Websites. I wonder how they are going to differentiate between personal Websites with family information and commercial family history sites? How do would the search engine know that a site called Blind Pig & the Acorn was a family history site?

One of the most referred to Websites, Cindy's List, currently claims more than 264,040 links. But in discussions among the researchers I talk to frequently, almost no one is using this resource because so many of the links are duplicative or not relevant. Most searchers I know, would rather do a Google search for the same information. The one area in which Cindy's List is still helpful is in starting to look for records from smaller geographic areas, i.e. The Virgin Islands or someplace like that.

I will keep watching Geneally and we will see if it will become a useful site when it goes to its release version.

Just for the record, the Blind Pig & Acorn site does not show up in Geneally, nor in Cindy's List, but it does come up with 38,500 hits on Google.

Another bit of information, not relevant at all, the name of the Blind Pig & Acorn site comes from the saying, "Even a blind pig finds an acorn." There are a number of variations on this saying usually involving truffles rather than acorns.