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

Saturday, October 31, 2009

A genealogist's view of Windows 7 -- upgrade or not?

In teaching classes to genealogists I have found that they are mostly people who can be shocked by the high price of a software program costing $29.95. So it is unlikely that these same people who think that it is outrageous to actually pay for a genealogy database program, would be anxious to upgrade their operating system, especially when the retail price of Windows 7 runs from $50 for the Windows 7 Home upgrade to over $200 for the Windows 7 Ultimate version. Furthermore, if you upgrade from Windows XP you need to manually reinstall your programs after you install Windows 7, according to the instructions that come with the program. If you upgrade from older versions of Windows, such as 2000 or perish the thought, Windows 98, it is likely that you will have to upgrade some of your other software programs as well. Upgrading can be very time consuming and expensive.

Windows 7 is advertised as your PC simplified. Whatever that means. It is certainly not simple. I am installing the Windows 7 Ultimate version on an iMac using Parallels Desktop and I would characterize that process as anything but simple. Installing Parallels Desktop on the iMac is simplicity itself. It took about three minutes. Installing Windows 7 has taken me three days and I still do not have some major functions working. These problems are not issues with Parallels Desktop or the iMac, they seem to be purely Windows 7 issues.

In future posts, I will discuss how the various genealogy programs run on the iMac with Windows 7, but that is another day. Just for information sake, I have loaded Personal Ancestral File, RootsMagic 4, Ancestral Quest and Legacy 7. I did have extensive problems getting Legacy 7's Geographic Database to load but the other programs seem to load and to be functioning without problems.

First impressions are that Windows 7 is a remake of Windows Vista with some of the rough spots smoothed over. It also looks like Microsoft decided to try and copy a few Macintosh OS X features and not too successfully.

Out of the box, the program came with two disks, one for 64-bit software and another for 32-bit software. There is free telephone and online support, but nothing in the materials that come with the program tell you how or why you should install either 64-bit or 32-bit. I happen to know that the iMac is a 64-bit computer so I chose to install the 64-bit program. I guess I will figure out sometime in the future if that is a problem. Obviously, if you buy a new computer and it comes with Windows 7 you don't have to worry about this problem.

Installing the program took longer than I expected. Plus, as a bonus, once I got it loaded, every time the program starts, I get the standard old DOS based Windows warning that the program was not closed properly and asking if I want to start up in protected mode and other things. This reminds me that the apple never falls far from the tree.

OK, so far, I am not that impressed. It seems to have most of the Windows Vista problems with a few of its own. As to being faster, that is likely due to running the program on an iMac, which makes all of the programs run faster because of the speed of the processor. One of the features highlighted in the skimpy installation manual is the Windows Taskbar. I have yet to get that feature to operate consistently. So far, it appears and disappears randomly. The small manual shows you how to "pin" a program to the Taskbar, but doesn't tell you either why this is needed or any benefit from doing so.

At this point, and of course I might change my mind as I get further into this program, I would suggest waiting to upgrade from Windows XP until you find a really good reason to do so. As to upgrading from Windows Vista, why not? It might be better.

Obviously, more later.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Can you do genealogy on a Mac?

One of the most re-occurring questions asked me at the Mesa Regional Family History Center involves running genealogy programs on a Macintosh computer. Very frequently, during a class on Ancestral Quest Family Tree or RootsMagic 4, someone will ask if the programs can be run on an Apple Computer. The answer is yes, but with qualifications and the solution is not necessarily simple.

There are three main stream solutions to running genealogy programs on the Mac:

1. Purchase a Macintosh based genealogy program.
2. With newer Macintosh computers with Intel Processors, run Boot Camp and install a Windows partition.
3. Use a program like Parallels Desktop on Intel based Macintosh Computers to run PC based programs.

You can avoid the whole issue by using a Macintosh based genealogy program. There are many, but the leader is Reunion 9 from Leister Productions. For a partial listing with links see Genealogy.

In June of 2005, Apple announced that it would begin producing Intel-based Macintosh computers in 2006. Since that time all of the Macintosh computers sold now use some type of Intel processor, in some cases the same or very similar processors used in many Windows based PCs. The two options above only became a practical reality with this introduction. It is true, that there were Macintosh programs that would run PC program in emulation but they never gained a very big product base and were by and large difficult to use.

With the newer processors the Macintosh can run a Windows based operating system. The Boot Camp program creates a separate "partition" or portion of the hard drive and then you can load a Windows operating system. Yes, you do have to own a copy of whatever level of operating system you install, Windows XP, Vista or 7. This solution works very well. The resulting Windows portion of the Macintosh runs as well or better than many PCs. The main drawback is that to use the PC you have to quit your Macintosh programs and operating system and reboot into Windows. It is more like owning two different computers in one box.

The last solution is Parallels Desktop. This program creates a Virtual Machine on the Macintosh which with the addition of your copy of a Windows operating system, becomes a PC. Early on, this solution was slow and clunky. On one of the faster new Macintosh's with the new Parallels Desktop 4, it is amazing. The main drawback is that running a PC on your Mac is like towing a house trailer with your Porche. You might be able to do it, but you better have a good reason to do it.

In short, you can run almost any PC program made, including virtually all of the popular genealogy programs on a Macintosh. If you really want to do so.

Stay tuned for my review of the new Windows 7 and why you might want to upgrade (or not).

Thursday, October 29, 2009

First Salt Lake Valley Temple to gain complete access to New FamilySearch

Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in the Draper, Utah Temple District will be the first in the Salt Lake Valley to have full access to New FamilySearch. The roll-out will be complete for the Draper Temple District on November 2, 2009. This leaves the only the three remaining Salt Lake Valley Temple Districts without online access to the program.

All members in the following temple districts have full access to the Web site:

  • Twin Falls Idaho
  • Monticello Utah
  • Rexburg Idaho
  • Manti Utah
  • Vernal Utah
  • Logan Utah
  • Boise Idaho
  • St. George Utah
  • Idaho Falls Idaho
  • Provo Utah
  • Ogden Utah
  • Mount Timpanogos Utah
  • Bountiful Utah
This staged release of the New FamilySearch program to LDS Church members has taken over two years and meanwhile the program has been modified and updated numerous times. Although the program has not been modified as much as anticipated, it is still far more developed than the first releases.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Preview -- a genealogist looks at Windows 7

While my copy of Windows 7 has been ordered and is on its way, I have been looking at the reviews. Bear in mind that the previews and early reviews for Windows Vista were all over hyped, I began looking to see if the glow of the initial release of Windows 7 had begun to dim. I remember the introduction of Windows Vista and clearly recall that there were multiple sources in the genealogical community that were panning the program and telling users to wait to upgrade. I was one who waited so long that I never did upgrade my PC from Windows XP.

Genealogy programs, unlike high speed games and intense graphics programs like video editing or 3D rendering, do not get perceptively faster with a newer operating system. Many of the most popular genealogy programs are relatively text based and do not rely on either huge amounts of RAM memory or super fast computers to run perfectly well, thank you. Even with tens of thousands of names, the venerable Personal Ancestral File will load in a few seconds with a moderately fast computer. I have a five year old Pentium 4 computer and a PAF file with almost 7000 names opens in less than a blink of an eye.

One of the most touted features of the new Windows 7 is its faster performance. OK, if PAF opens in a blink of an eye, will the new program take half a blink. How fast is fast? And do I need any more speed? Well, as a matter of fact I do. One of the challenges driving my upgrade to a newer operating system is the hope that my huge collection of graphics files will load and sort more rapidly. Even with Picasa, sorting the image files is a slow process and using Picasa's new people identifier is positively painful. Advertisements for Windows 7 claim increased speed, well we shall see.

Many of the features supposedly coming with the new Windows 7 have no relevance to genealogy or how I work with my computer at all. I do not plan on purchasing a multi-touch computer so the fact that Windows 7 will support gestures, handwriting and voice, does not make me want to change to the program.

On the other hand, improved navigation to find folders and files would be a benefit and an improvement. Coming as I do from the Apple Macintosh environment, the Windows search function has always seemed slow and very clunky. Improvement in searching would be a positive feature.

Windows Vista was a very incompatible program. However, it is one of the advertised aims of Windows 7 to be compatible with the same accessories and applications as Windows Vista. As a Windows XP user, why doesn't that claim impress me? Obvious, it appears that the problems I may have had with Windows Vista are certainly going to show up again in Windows 7.

Since I don't use Windows Explorer much now, nor do I use the Internet Explorer of whatever number (I use Firefox), the fact that the new Windows 7 comes with an upgraded Windows Explorer is no great draw.

So what does this all mean? When I load Windows 7 into Parallels Desktop on my iMac, I will be looking to see if there is any perceptible difference from my Windows XP experience and if so, how will it impact all of the genealogy programs I depend upon for my research and work? Looking forward to when the program arrives...

Searching the Family History Archives

FamilySearch's Website has a tab for "Search Records." This tab has pulldown menu items for both Record Search and the Family History Archives. In the menu, Record Search is called the "Record Search Pilot." Unfortunately, the Family History Archives name does not appear anywhere on the menu list. The item is called "Historical Books."

The search screen on the Family History Archives is very basic; you can search on surname, author and title. There is another option to search all which includes a check box for searching the full text of the documents. There is also a button for browsing the entire collection or just certain types of materials, such as the book collection or gazetteers.

What you may overlook is a link to "Advanced Search." Clicking on this option takes you to the search page for the entire BYU Libraries Digital Collections. You can then choose whether to search all of the collections in the digital archives or just a specific collection. The search fields give you the ability to search for:
  • All of the words
  • The exact phrase
  • Any of the words
  • None of the words
Judicious use of these four options with allow you to be very specific in your search results. If you are looking for a particular person, you may wish to enter his or her name in the exact phrase search box. But remember that you get what you ask for. You may wish to try searching on the full name as well as any nicknames or shortened variations. If your person was a blacksmith and not the carpenter of the same name, you may wish to exclude "carpenter" from the search in the "None of the words" field.

If you notice above the fields there are further deliminators, that is you can search by selected fields, proximity or by date. Just because you do not find the information or person you are looking for on the first try, does not mean the information is not in the collections. Try again and again with different variations in your search terms.

Whenever you use a search function, it is a good idea to try words in a different order. You may also want to start your search with as few words as possible and add words if you get too many responses. Searching is part art and part science. It also takes some measure of luck, so good luck in your searches.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Milestone for Family History Archives

The BYU Harold B. Lee Library, Family History Archives has reached a milestone of over 50,000 items, 50,092 to be exact. To quote from the site:
The Family History Archive is a collection of published genealogy and family history books. The archive includes histories of families, county and local histories, how-to books on genealogy, genealogy magazines and periodicals (including some international), medieval books (including histories and pedigrees), and gazetteers. It also includes some specialized collections such as the Filipino card collection and the “Liahona Elders Journal.” The books come from the collections of the FamilySearch Family History Library, the Allen County Public Library, the Houston Public Library – Clayton Library Center for Genealogical Research, the Mid-Continent Public Library – Midwest Genealogy Center, the BYU Harold B. Lee Library, the BYU Hawaii Joseph F. Smith Library, and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Church History Library.
This collection of indexed books and other documents is entirely searchable. It continues to increase in size at the rate of 1500 to 2000 items a month.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

To upgrade or not, that is the question for genealogists

I ordered my copy of Windows 7 and I am proceeding with my plan to put Parallels Desktop on my iMac and see how it works with all my genealogy programs. I am presently regularly running about six or eight or more, genealogy programs and will report on how each one works. I have many more other types of programs, as well, and I will try to load all of them and report on how they work. Meanwhile, I usually upgrade all my programs regularly as updates become available, so most of the programs should work. Tune in as I publish the results from this experiment. If all goes as planned I will transfer all my work from the five year old or so PC I now use to an iMac. If that scenario doesn't pan out, I will probably go to a newer PC.

Considering the bad reception of the previous Microsoft operating system, Vista, I am pretty sceptical of the initial hype for Windows 7. This time I want to see for myself before I am committed with a system trying to work with a clunker.

As I discussed in my last post, one of the most important factors compelling an upgrade of the computer hardware or software is the impact of graphics and the perceived slowing of the computer. Early in the computer years, the decision to upgrade was simple, a new computer system came on the market. Every time there was a new system, the increase in computing speed and memory increased so rapidly that the advantage of moving to a new upgraded system was obvious. However, a few years ago, the basic computer systems became so fast and powerful, that few people could actually observe an advantage. Even though the new systems came out with more memory and faster processors, none of those improvements heavily impacted the genealogy programs which were for the most part, text based and rather simple.

More slowly, the genealogy database programs began incorporating ways of attaching media files to genealogical records. Even the venerable Personal Ancestral File in version 5.2 supported attached media files. At the same time, digital photos got larger and larger and graphic files became more and more available. My PC, that was perfectly adequate five years ago, now take five minutes to boot up and two to five minutes to open iGoogle. I am sure there people out there who would tell me I could add memory or whatever to increase the capacity of the computer and prolong its life. Let's just say that I did all that. I am to the point that I recognize that any significant increase in the speed of the computer is going to require a faster or more efficient processor, not just add-ons to my existing computer.

One countervailing issue to rapid upgrades is the cost of upgrading software. It is sometimes a shock to computer owners who buy a new system to learn that they also have to upgrade all their software to run on the new processor. The software upgrades can easily cost more that the computer system itself. We have kept computers long past their real useful life for this reason alone.

So now I will do what I have done dozens and dozens of times in the past. Test out a new operating system and a new hardware configuration. Although those who say they know claim that the new high end Apple processor, a quad-core Intel Core i5 or Core i7 “Nehalem” processor in the 27-inch iMac, really is over kill but experience tells me that programmers will always use all of the available hardware if given the chance and that over the next couple of years it is likely that many programs will not just run on such a processor, but will begin to require one.

Waiting for the Federal Express delivery of my new Windows 7 software. (I already have Parallels Desktop and an iMac).

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Genealogist's dilemma -- new hardware or new software

If you are running Windows 95 on a ten year old (or older) PC storing your genealogy files in Personal Ancestral File Version 4.0, you probably aren't reading this post and likely don't know or care about the latest in software and hardware releases. But if you are like me and have a scanning project where you have tens of thousands of files, including video, audio, and photos, you may be interested in looking for a new computer. One of the issues driving new acquisitions is the overwhelming prevalence of graphic files, not just from digital cameras and scanners, but from browsers like Google. For example, try loading Google Maps Streetview on an older computer with a dial up Internet connection. What a dilemma!

Right out of the chute, I have to advise you that I am a dyed in the wool Apple person. I used to be an Apple retail dealer and have owned almost every level of Apple computer since about 1980 when I bought my first Apple II. That said, I do almost all my work presently on various PCs, primarily because of the compatibility issue with genealogy software.

Now the world turns and I don't really have to rely on PCs anymore. Both Macintosh computers and PCs use similar types of Intel chips and theoretically could run the same software. As a matter of fact, Macs can now run almost every PC program either in emulation through Parallels Desktop, or by setting up a partition on the computer and actually running a Microsoft Operating System. Since we can now do both of those, I am now ready to dump my PCs once again and go back to being a Mac only user.

To make the issue of what computer platform to use even more interesting, Apple just came out with new iMacs. Both Apple and Microsoft have just recently introduced new operating systems. Apple's Snow Leopard is incredible. Microsoft has just very recently introduced a new version of Windows, Windows 7. With all such products, only time will tell as to actually how good or desirable they are (I am still running Windows XP because of Windows Vista issues).

So how do you know when to upgrade your computer system or software? The answer is pretty easy if you are young and rich and more of a challenge if you are old and poor. We face some of the same issues with TVs and the change to digital broadcasting, cars and the issue of fuel economy, and many other products in daily use. Unfortunately, computers hit us where we work. The more time spent on a computer doing genealogy, the more likely you are to be aware that your work could be done faster or easier with new programs and/or hardware. Sometimes the software issues drive the hardware purchase. Many newer software programs are not backwardly compatible with older operating systems. Sometimes we are simply driven by the need to keep up with our children and/or friends.

My analysis includes a vital commodity; time. I spend a huge amount of time in front of computers every single day, probably from eight to ten hours and sometimes more. Much of my time is spent waiting. Waiting for programs to load, waiting for images to render, waiting for Google to load. To me time is money. If I can trade dollars for more speed, then I save time and that means money. It also helps that I have billed my work by the hour all my life. If you have a lot of time and no money, you can probably stay with older technology for a while. If you actually want to produce something in your lifetime, you may want to take some of your precious time and upgrade both your hardware and your software.

I don't think I am done with this topic, but that is all for the moment.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Don't forget the stories

One of my numerous Great-aunts told this story about herself. When her first grandchild was about three years of age, he got int the jam and was found with incriminating evidence smeared all over his face. My Aunt said to him, "Why did you get into the jam?" Surprised that his misdeed had come to light, the tiny boy asked, "How did you know?" "I'm not a dumb as I look" was the reply. To which the toddler retorted, "You couldn't be!"
Gibbons, Francis Marion and Helen Bay Gibbons, Nana and The Judge, Salt Lake City, Utah, 1978.

In our constant search for sources and citations, it is a good idea not to forget the stories that bring the dates and places alive and made our ancestors real people. To get an idea what storytelling is all about, visit one of the frequent storytelling festivals around the country. It will be an experience you will long remember and may start a tradition in your own family. For a listing of festivals near you, visit The Call of the Story. If you are fortunate enough to visit one of these events, you might look forward to attending the National Storytelling Festival, to find out more, visit the International Storytelling Center in Jonesborough, Tennessee. One of the other major events is the Timpanogos Storytelling Festival in Orem, Utah. There are many, many more festivals throughout the country.

I warn you, hold onto your wallet, you just may come away with a whole stack of CDs containing some of the most touching, funny, sad, wonderful stories in the world.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

New FamilySearch roll-out -- nearing the end

According to the Utah and Idaho Release, News and Information site, by October 26, 2009 the Bountiful, Utah Temple District with have complete access to New FamilySearch. In addition, all but five of the Stakes in the Draper Temple District will also have access to the program. This leaves only three Salt Lake Valley Temple Districts; the Jordan River, Oquirrh Mountain and Salt Lake Temples.

This has been a very long process starting more than two years ago and still in its last stages. By the way, as users, we are already seeing a marked effect on the responsiveness of the system during key working hours; it is slowing down substantially. Meanwhile, there have been no announced changes to the Website since the August, 2009 update. Can we assume that once all of the Stakes in all the Temple Districts have access, that they might turn their attention to updating the program some more? I would hope that some of the problems of the data files would be addressed.

After working with the program for a while, especially if your family has been members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (LDS) since pioneer times, it is hard to keep from being frustrated and almost exasperated over the data in the vast file. For example, my 3rd Great-grandfather is depicted as being born in Cottonwood, Utah in 1795. If you aren't familiar with Utah or the Salt Lake Valley, it might help to know that Utah was first settled by the pioneers in 1847. Since there is no way to correct this information to show his correct birthplace, the incorrect information will remain as a monument to poor research for a long time.

Looking past the deficiencies in the data and the problem of duplication of ordinance work, the program itself is fundamentally sound and fairly simple to use. With rumors of the program being made available to those who are not members of the LDS Church in the first part of 2010, it will probably be around as long as I live. I just hope that people will finally come to view it as what it is, a huge collection of unverified records, and not the ultimate authority on family relationships. However, as we are still teaching classes and talking to people who have never seen or heard of the program, even with the roll-out there is a long way to go.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Parade of States --- online digital genealogy resources -- Washington

The online collections of the state of Washington are digital heaven for genealogists. The scope and variety of the records would be impressive for an entire country, much less for a state. If you have or had relatives in Washington, you just hit the jackpot.

  • University of Washington Libraries Digital Collections To quote from the Website "This site features materials such as photographs, maps, newspapers, posters, reports and other media from the University of Washington Libraries, University of Washington Faculty and Departments, and organizations that have participated in partner projects with the UW Libraries. The collections emphasize rare and unique materials."

  • Washington History These are records held by the Secretary of State and are in addition to the huge Digital Archives (see next entry).

  • Washington State Digital Archives Probably the largest collection of state records online in the U.S. Presently there are 84,681,069 records online with 67,689,139 of them searchable. The variety of records is amazing and can only be believed by actually looking at the list.

Genealogical software connections to New FamilySearch

The list of programs utilizing the FamilySearch Affiliates and Product Certification Program continues to expand with new products and announcements by existing developers. Here is the most recent list quoted from the announcement site apparently in alphabetical order: (See my brief comments at the bottom of the list).

All My Cousins (Web)
Access, Ordinance Status
Use to quickly view your relatives from New FamilySearch. See a summary of which relatives need ordinance work and jump to New FamilySearch to combine duplicates or reserve temple work. In just a few minutes you can submit and reserve temple work for one of your relatives.

Ancestral Quest (Win)
Access, Helper, Ordinance Reservation, Ordinance Request, Multi-Language, PAF
Add-in, Print, Sync, Update
Ancestral Quest is an easy-to-use, full-featured family tree program. The Windows versions of PAF were created from an earlier version of AQ, so PAF users will feel right at home using the screens, reports, and other functions. PAF users can upgrade to AQ or continue to use PAF, supplementing it using the new features in AQ, including the ability to synchronize both AQ and PAF data with new FamilySearch.

AppleTree (Web)
AppleTree is the big family tree we all belong to. Smoothly zoom and view the global visualization of the entire tree all at once on your browser. This is a Wikipedia-like approach to solving the master genealogical puzzle. The service is free and users are highly encouraged to upload all high-resolution photos, videos, audio and documents associated with people, events and places in order to preserve our history and memories.

Charting Companion (Win)
Access, Print
View, customize, print and publish your family history. Choose from an incredible variety of formats and more than 16-million color options. Browse through generations of New FamilySearch using the onscreen tree views. You can customize your charts: choose the number of generations, the events to include, the content of your box charts, date format, photos, etc. Save charts in a range of file types for sharing and printing.

FamilyInsight (Win)
Access, Helper, Ordinance Reservation, Ordinance Request, Multi-Language, PAF Add-in, Sync, Update
Designed specifically to help PAF users synchronize with the new FamilySearch website. It ranks matches and highlights differences so you can quickly import or export data and get right back to your research in PAF. Also gives you the ability to merge, cleanup, and compare files with increased accuracy. Received 2 FamilySearch Software Awards for its Place Editor and Person Separator.

FamilyInsight (Mac)
Access, Helper, Ordinance Reservation, Ordinance Request, Multi-Language, Sync, Update
(see above description)

Generation Maps (Web)
Access, Print Service
Generation Maps is a comprehensive genealogy chart printing service. Choose from inexpensive working charts that assist your research, or decorative charts suitable for framing with online approval. Generation Maps will individually handcraft your chart from information in FamilySearch or your personal genealogy/photo files. Quality and attention to detail is in each Generation Map chart. And it’s easy—just pick out your chart, and it arrives on your doorstep!

Get My Ancestors (Win/Mac)
Access, Multi-Language
Sprout your family tree with this FREE downloadable program from the makers of PAF Insight and FamilyInsight. Get My Ancestors will help you download a few generations of family records from the website and save them as a PAF File. It is a quick and easy way to get started on the search for your ancestors.

Grow Branch (Web)
Access, Update
USFamilyTree's "Grow Branch" is the only Familysearch certified software which focuses on researching USA relatives for the Temple. Grow Branch in combination with USFamilyTree's Best Branch service is the most cost effective US Temple research application available for a consistent, affordable supply of Family Names for Temple. Learn more at

LiveRoots (Web)
Research Wiki Access
A specialized search experience for genealogists.

MagiKey Family Tree (Win)
Access, Ordinance Status
MagiKey Family Tree is a GEDCOM based software that helps users: organize family history, analyze researched data, and publish customized book-like searchable web pages. It is designed to access NewFamilySearch from within the program; prepare temple work and merge information without losing the format integrity. Advanced features include: US census tracking, relationship calculator, task suggestions, find anomalies, and place normalization. MagiKey: Made by Genealogists for Genealogists.

Ordinance Tracker (Win/Mac)
Access, Ordinance Status, Ordinance Request
Ordinance Tracker is the easiest way to work with your reserved ordinances. Find baptisms for the youth to do, or just one ordinance for your own temple trip. Just drag and drop each card to the Family Ordinance Request. Then print it or save it as a .pdf file to email to your aunt. No time? Easily assign some ordinances to the temple. Take them back from the temple just as easily. Whether you work directly with FamilySearch or use a desktop genealogy program, Ordinance Tracker is for you.

RootsMagic 4 (Win)
Access, Helper, Ordinance Reservation, Ordinance Request, Print, Sync, Update
Winner of the FamilySearch award for "Easiest to Sync", RootsMagic 4 genealogy software makes working with new FamilySearch a breeze, including reserving ordinances and creating temple trips. Import directly from PAF and other programs and take advantage of other features like running RootsMagic directly from a USB drive, SourceWizard, integrated web search, creating Shareable CDs, and much more.

I usually try to buy all of the genealogy programs, but with so many new entries into the field, that project has fallen by the wayside. Both FamilyInsight and RootsMagic 4 have new updates. Ohana Software's Ordinance Tracker appears to be a very interesting implementation of the interface with New FamilySearch.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Problems With Updates to Record Search

October 17, 2009 is the date of the latest announced updates to the FamilySearch Record Search Website. The news release on the Website refers to the Massachusetts Census of 1865 and the Wisconsin Census of 1855. Unfortunately, neither of these collections appear in the list of available collections in the main list. The site also lists the total number of collections as 147. On October 4, 2009 the total was 151. It certainly appears that there are some serious problems with the site. I guess we will just have to wait and see if they can fix the problems and if the new collections appear.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Genealogical proof or merely evidence?

I find it common that genealogical researchers often confuse evidence with proof. For example, in looking for a birth date of an ancestor, the researcher finds a birth certificate. Although a birth certificate might be good evidence, it is not "proof" of the facts set forth in the document. Birth certificates have known to be wrong and errors are not uncommon. In the absence of any other evidence, the birth certificate may be persuasive as to the fact of birth, but still not be sufficient to establish the date of birth with certainty.

The distinction between evidence and proof is especially important when the evidence in contradictory. Taking the birth certificate example a little further, what if continued research finds a Bible entry, made by the mother, giving a different birth date than that shown on the birth certificate? What then? Some people would merely throw up their hands at this point and give up, saying "What difference does it make anyway?" But carried to its extreme, this attitude would allow a researcher to simply make up any missing facts. Proper identification of the individual and the birth date may be crucial in situations where there are multiple people with the same or similar names in the same community.

Although my example uses a "birth certificate" the evidence could consist of many different things. Evidence can be oral or written testimony, documents, photographs, maps or any other record that is used for the purpose of proving or disproving a question under inquiry. In this sense, evidence is objective, that is outside of the researcher's opinions or belief. Further, in order to be useful, evidence must be reproducible and subject to verification. Returning to the birth certificate example, in the case of documentary evidence, like a birth certificate, I can verify the information provided to me by the researcher by looking the original or a copy of the birth certificate. When I compare the birth certificate information to that contained in the family Bible, I must decide what weight to give each. The legal concept of weight of the evidence is a basic part of our legal system of proof. It is not enough to merely have evidence, each item of evidence must be weighed as to its relative ability to prove the fact in question. The same consideration should be given to genealogical evidence.
In considering the weight given to any particular evidence, one succinct explanation of weight is that given in a common jury instruction:
In weighing the testimony of a witness you should consider relationship to the Plaintiff or to the Defendant; interest, if any, in the outcome of the case, manner of testifying; opportunity to observe or acquire knowledge concerning the facts about which the witness testified; candor, fairness and intelligence; and the extent to which testimony has been supported or contradicted by other credible evidence. You may, in short, accept or reject the testimony of any witness in whole or in part.
Although not all of these issues apply to genealogical research, some undoubtedly do, most importantly, the ability of any witness (or creator of a document) to observe or acquire knowledge concerning the facts about which the witness (or document) testifies.

In the past, I have repeatedly encountered the attitude that "I am right because I have evidence." In the course of representing clients in a legal context, my clients have assumed that merely because they had evidence to support their position or claim, that the court had to rule in their favor. Genealogists sometimes take the same attitude, merely because you find a document that provides information, it does not follow that the information you have found is correct and either proves or disproves the inquiry.

After gathering evidence a researcher must determine if the weight to give to the evidence and whether or not to consider the evidence to be proof of the facts being researched. Genealogical research ultimately only makes sense if there is some way to establish a standard for proof which goes beyond merely accepting evidence. As I have indicated in a previous post, members of the genealogical community have tried to establish a proof standard. Unfortunately, despite the efforts of the Board for Certification of Genealogists, the Genealogical Proof Standard is not widely known and has no weight of authority to govern issues involving proof and the Board for Certification of Genealogists, does not act as a judge or jury in disputes over proof.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Help with FamilySearch Research Wiki

In a letter sent out to all Family History Consultants and Center Directors, FamilySearch made the following invitation, quoting from the letter:
The FamilySearch Research Wiki is a collaborative Web site where individuals can find answers to family history research questions and share personal knowledge with others. As individuals contribute their knowledge to the Wiki, it becomes more and more valuable as a research tool. In order to achieve its potential, the Wiki currently needs more information about local communities.

Each of you knows something about the local community in which you live. You know about the cemeteries, the schools, the newspapers, the libraries and archives, and some of the history about your community. Individuals who live in other areas are looking for the very information you have about your community. That information may enable them to find an ancestor, tie him or her into their family pedigree, and provide needed temple ordinances.

Please help us enhance the FamilySearch Research Wiki by completing one simple task. Use the attached job aid containing illustrated, step-by-step instructions to add information about the cemeteries in your local community to the Wiki. Please be sure to include the name and location of the cemetery and information about how to contact the cemetery for details about those buried there.

Thank you for your service. Your contribution will bless the lives of those searching for their ancestors who lived in your local community.


The letter came with the two pages of instructions shown at the beginning of this post. Although the letter is directed to Family History Consultants and Center Directors, the FamilySearch Research Wiki is open to anyone who would like to contribute. The site already has a significant amount of information and links to useful sites.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Ten Million (or more) Books

You may or may not have heard of the settlement of the Google Books lawsuit, but if you have any interest in the future of books or libraries, you may wish to read about it in the Official Google Blog.

For many years, Google has had an ambitious project to digitize all of the world's books. Yes, all of them. In 2005, the Authors Guild and the Association of American Publishers filed a class action lawsuit against Google challenging the project. The settlement of that lawsuit just occurred. You may want to read about the terms of the settlement, especially if you are the owner of a copyright to an out-of-print book. One of the major effects of the settlement is that the agreement is to make many of these out-of-print books available for preview, reading and purchase in the U.S. and helping to ensure the ongoing accessibility of out-of-print books.

To quote Google's summary, "Once this agreement has been approved, you'll be able to purchase full online access to millions of books. This means you can read an entire book from any Internet-connected computer, simply by logging in to your Book Search account, and it will remain on your electronic bookshelf, so you can come back and access it whenever you want in the future."

You can certainly see that many of the books of genealogical interest will be included in this vast collection. Right now in October, 2009, a search in Google Books on the term "genealogy" returns 30,417 book references.

Monday, October 12, 2009

RootsMagic 4 has new update (

Bruce Buzbee of RootsMagic on October 12, 2009, announced an update to the popular RootsMagic 4 program. Quoting from the RootsMagic Bolg, the new, fixed and updated items are:


- Added blank reports (pedigree chart, group sheet, cemetery record log, correspondence log, research log)
- Added Print button to the Count Trees screen
- Added Print button to the Relationship Calculator screen
- Added option to display birth year in side list index
- Added option to display record number in side list index
- Marriage list report can now print marriage rec# with any sort order (as an option)
- Any events which don’t fit on a printed calendar print on an overflow page at the end of the calendar
- Double clicking a fact in RM Explorer now opens the edit screen to that fact in edit mode
- Added “Edit Family” button to problem list
- Added RootsMagic Launcher to manually start RM on flash drive since Vista now disables autorun on removable drives
- Installer will warn if you try to install on a removable drive (use RM to go instead)
- Added Oquirrh Mountain temple to LDS temple list


- Direct line children in ancestor narrative now show spouse / marriage information
- Doing “Add multiple people” when sharing a fact now assigns a default role (which can be changed for each person)
- When deleting a shared fact, RM will warn you that it will delete the fact for everyone sharing it
- Named groups side list is now updated when you change color coding for a person
- Alternate names in family group sheets now reference the correct sources
- Family sources are now printed on group sheets
- Sources now print in group sheets for LDS facts
- Replacing a “submitted” ordinance with the actual ordinance in the NFS sync screen now clears “submitted” in the RM fact
- Unlinked non-image media items now show broken link in media gallery and media albums
- Fixed the format that latitude and longitude are exported to GEDCOM
- Lat/Long and Media for place details are transferred via GEDCOM
- Mapping screen (Tools > Mapping) remembers size and position
- Fact types turned off for individual summaries aren’t printed in the summaries anymore
- The title of a text page in publisher appears in the table of contents (instead of “Text page”)
- [Husband] and [Wife] fields now work properly in narrative report sentence templates
- :Age and :Role modifiers now work for [ThisPerson] in witness sentence templates
- Helper status bar now shows on File > FamilySearch > FamilySearch Import when in helper mode
- Living flag is cleared during FO import if person has a death-like fact or over 105 years old
- Publisher can print blank pages that appear at the very front of a publisher book
- Todo report doesn’t print false repository when todo item doesn’t have a repository
- RootsMagic on flash drive (To-Go) can find place database on computers w/o RM installed
- Deleting places and place details removes media links to those items

In a recent online survey conducted by Dick Eastman, RootsMagic 4 appeared in the top five of users surveyed favorite genealogy programs. See reference in Randy Seaver's Best of the Genea-Blogs for October 4 through 10, 2009.

Digitization at the National Archives (NARA)

The National Archives (NARA) in Washington, D.C. as well as its many branch repositories, contains only about 1% to 3% of the documents and materials "created in the course of business conducted by the United States Federal government." (Fortunately, I might add). See About the National Archives. Only those documents of historical or legal importance (as judged by the government itself, of course) are kept in the vast storage areas. There is no practical way to describe the variety and complexity of the types of records maintained by the NARA. The records kept by the government are so vast that they are beyond the comprehension of any one individual and their value to genealogists and historians is priceless. The archival holdings number more than 10 billion pages of unique documents, many of them handwritten, and include formats such as maps, charts, aerial and still photographs, artifacts, and motion picture, sound, and video recordings.

To quote from the NARA Website:
With NARA’s strategic plan, Preserving the Past to Protect the Future: The Strategic Plan of the National Archives and Records Administration, 2006-2016, NARA recognizes the need to develop a long-term coherent strategy for digitizing and making available its holdings. The strategic plan says that NARA will work to digitize selected records, including those most requested by researchers, and will put searchable descriptions of all our holdings online. It also says that NARA will make digital copies of selected non-electronic records available online, and will set priorities for putting these holdings online.
If you have had the opportunity to visit the National Archives in Washington, D.C. you will recognize that digitization would be a substantial improvement over the present on-site method of research. Not only would digitization preserve the documents from further deterioration, but it would make the documents available without the extensive restrictions imposed on visitors to the National Archive building.

Having said this, the NARA has very few actual records online. As of October, 2009, the following list of records were available from the NARA Websites directly:
However, the National Archives has a subscription to Footnote, Ancestry and Heritage Quest, which have digitized many of NARA's holdings with genealogical interest, and made them available online. There is unlimited access to these services, free-of-charge, from any NARA facility nationwide. See Genealogists/Family Historians. Of course, you can also access these Websites free from other libraries including regional libraries of Family History Library or you could just subscribe and have your own access from your own computer. Before you visit a Family History Center for the first time, you may wish to call ahead and determine if the particular center you want to visit has access to the subscription services.

In my experience, as an example, I was able to find the Federal Court records of one of my great-grandfathers through the digitized images on Footnote from the Denver Branch of the National Archives. I have also found that the records on the Indian Reservations are very detailed and extensive, although not yet adequately represented online.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Parade of States -- online digital genealogy resources -- Arkansas

Picture from the Arkansas History Commission

Arkansas is not known for its online digital collections but the number of records in increasing regularly. Across the U.S. there is a substantial difference between the collections being digitized by the various states. There are considerably more resources online than those shown in the lists below, but most are not digitized and are indexes or transcribed lists.

  • Arkansas County Marriages FamilySearch Record Search index and images of marriages recorded in counties of Arkansas. Index and images are currently available for the following counties: Ashley, Baxter, Boone, Chicot, Clay, Crittendon, Desha, Drew, Fulton, Jackson, Johnson, Lee, Logan, Madison, Monroe, Montgomery, Nevada, Perry, and Pike. There may be related records included with marriage records. Once an image of a marriage record is located, browse through preceding and following images to check for related records. This project was indexed in partnership with the Arkansas Genealogical Society. The collection is 26% complete as of 17 August 2009.

  • Arkansas Genealogical Society E-zine Quoting from the Website, "The Arkansas Genealogical Society began to publish the E-zine (electronic magazine) to keep individuals informed about information, activities, publications, and web links. This E-zine is a supplement to, not a replacement of, the quarterly publication, the Arkansas Family Historian or to the AGS Newsletter."

  • Documenting Arkansas (Arkansas History Commission) Documenting Arkansas is an online digital archive of documents, visuals, maps, broadsides, pamphlets, and three-dimensional objects significant to Arkansas history and culture, from the holdings of the Arkansas History Commission, Arkansas's state archives.

There always seems to be more, every time I keep looking. If you know of any more resources please let me know and I will include them in supplement posts.

Where have all the libraries (and newspapers, telephone directories and etc.) gone?

The other day we had occasion to go to a large university apartment house. In the lobby there was a huge pile of telephone books all in plastic bags. Evidently, the local telephone company had delivered this huge pile, one for each apartment, for the use of the residents. There was just one catch, hardly an of the University students had bothered to pick up their directory. I commented on this to the person we were visiting and she said, "Oh, we don't need one, we just look everything up online anyway." What changes will take place if telephone books disappear? How will all these changes affect the way you and I do our genealogical research?

Print media, especially books, have a lot of negatives. They take up space. They go out of date. They physically deteriorate as they age. Multiple copies are expensive. Historically, we have had to build huge physical structures to house our books. We spend time driving to libraries and searching for books. Often the book we want is already checked out and so we spend more time waiting for a copy to be returned to the library. If we can't find the book we want, we have to order it from another library and that can take weeks, if ever. These problems are even more pronounced by ephemerals, like newspapers. Try finding a week-old newspaper physically, outside of a library or from the publisher. With all these issues, how can books and newspapers compete with digital copies?

I don't really need to get into the discussion about the merits of physical vs. online books. What I am talking about is pure information. As a researcher, I don't really care if I have a physical book in my hand, digitized images of the relevant pages are just fine, thank you. I will talk about the advantage of perusing open book shelves for relevant information in another post, but face it, a digitized copy of a birth certificate has essentially all of the information of the original and given today's advanced scanning technology, it is possible that the scanned image actually has more information than was evident in the original.

Think about this for a minute, (maybe more than a minute) if all the books in your local library were available for free online in digitized form, would you still go to the library? Now, let's be more specific, if all of the genealogical information in your local library were available for free on the Internet, would you still drive to the library to do your research? I must say that I go to the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah, not because I love to go to the library, but because I want the information that is stored there in the form of books and microfilms.

How many times in the last week did you look for news online? My married children and now my wife, all go online to get the food ads, much less to get the news. We haven't taken a daily newspaper for years. We get all of our news through radio, TV and online. If you want to get an investor's viewpoint on the decline in newspapers, you might read, "The Demise of the Newspaper Industry." See also Newspaper Death Watch. From the Newspaper Death Watch, the list of newspapers that have died or have recently adopted a hybrid online/print or online-only model is impressive:
The ability to get information instantly and relatively free online is definitely changing the entire print media market. Many people may view the online book readers, such as the Amazon Kindle,
as a passing fad, but the devices are getting so inexpensive and pervasive that the impact on the whole book selling industry will likely be revolutionary.

Now, what about genealogy. it is obvious that there is an international concerted effort to digitize nearly every kind of record. Recent news articles, highlighted the fact that all of the 2.5 million microfilms held by the Family History Library would likely be digitized by sometime next year.

But what about the records that no one, except genealogists, are interested in any more? What will happen to all the old courthouse records and other such documents if the county or city or whatever doesn't want to take the time or money to digitize their records? There are certainly more questions than answers but there are a few things that are almost certain, newspapers, telephone books and even regular hard cover books will continue to disappear the same way that video stores will shortly do so.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Digitized British Newspapers 1800 to 1900

The British Library sponsors a number of huge online resources including digitized copies of the British Newspapers from 1800 to 1900. This mostly subscription Website contains, to quote the site:
  • Millions of articles from 49 London, national and regional newspaper (1800 - 1900) titles.
  • Over two million pages - all fully text searchable with keywords in context visible in the results list.
  • 1000's of illustrations, maps, tables and photographs.
To access the millions of articles in this database, you will need to first register as a user and then purchase either:
  • A 24-hour pass for £6.99 that provides you access to 100 articles over that period.
  • A 7-day pass for £9.99 that provides you access to 200 articles over that period.
"The digitised nineteenth century British Library newspapers are freely available for people in UK higher and further education, in some UK public libraries, and in some institutions in other countries. Please contact your library to find out about access." See Welcome to British Newspapers Online.

It is pretty obvious that British English spells digitized with an "s." Also, it appears that £6.99 is about $11.18 U.S. dollars, so £9.99 is about $15.97. It seems that you would need a reasonably focused research goal to support that kind of cost. This is especially true, for me, since I can look at 100 articles in a matter of an hour or so, especially if I am getting a lot of negative results.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Which is it? Genealogical Proof Standard or Legal Proof?

In a comment to my recent blog on the Genealogical Proof Standard, the Ancestry Insider raised the issue that the professional genealogical community has rejected the legal standard of a preponderance of the evidence and appears to have moved in the direction of a standard of clear and convincing evidence. Although I heartily approve of the Genealogical Proof Standard, I question whether or not, in the absence of a judge and an adversarial system, it is really possible to personally adhere to a standard of clear and convincing evidence.

First of all, in the legal context, clear and convincing evidence is commonly defined in the context of instructions given to a jury. Here is one common definition in the form of a jury instruction:
Thus, a party cannot meet the burden of establishing <state cause of action> by simply producing evidence which is slightly more persuasive than that opposed to it, which would meet the burden of proof under the preponderance of evidence standard. Instead, the party must produce clear and convincing evidence which is evidence that is substantial and that unequivocally establishes the elements of tate cause of action>, which I shall shortly explain to you. Clear and convincing evidence is evidence that establishes for you a very high probability that the facts asserted are true or exist. See Connecticut Civil Jury Instructions.
Here is another definition:
The clear and convincing standard requires evidence of such convincing force that it demonstrates, in contrast to the opposing evidence, a high probability of the truth of the fact[s] for which it is offered as proof. To be clear and convincing, the evidence must be so clear as to leave no substantial doubt and be sufficiently strong to command the unhesitating assent of every reasonable mind. See Sample Instruction.
It is not sufficient that the person presenting the evidence be convinced that the evidence is clear and convincing, it is necessary that the judge and the jury also believe it to be. Now, here is the rub, who acts as judge and jury in the genealogical context? It is all well and good to talk about such a standard, but how is it obtained?

The Board for Certification of Genealogists explains the Genealogical Proof Standard (GPS) as follows:
The GPS reflects a change from the term "Preponderance of the Evidence," used earlier to describe the high standard of proof BCG had always promoted. (For further information about this topic, click here for information on BCG's decision and here for a detailed article on this subject.) Case studies in national genealogical journals, such as the National Genealogical Society Quarterly and The American Genealogist, illustrate the GPS.
For example, the first element of the GPS is a reasonably exhaustive search. Who determines whether or not the search is "reasonably exhaustive"? If the researcher is the one making the determination, then there is, in effect, no standard.

Although it is convenient to think about the "preponderance of the evidence" standard being raised to the higher "clear and convincing proof" standard, this is not really a viable concept given the requirements of an adversarial proceeding and the decisions made by judge and jury in the legal setting. I suggest that as genealogists, we simply rely on the GPS without direct reference to the legal standards which do not really apply to our individual work.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

The Digital Librarian: a librarian's choice of the best of the Web

The Digital Librarian is maintained by Margaret Vail Anderson, a librarian in Cortland, New York and is a very interesting selection of Websites useful to genealogy. This is an alphabetical listing but it is a good list to browse through to make sure you are aware of a number of helpful sites. Libraries and librarians are becoming more aware all of the time of the impact of the Internet on the viability of libraries in the future. In an undated article from the National Library of Australia, by Maggie Jones Director, Collection Management & Retrieval Service, and Colin Webb Manager, Information Preservation, National Library of Australia, she assesses the impact of the ongoing digitization on the traditional library model.

Quoting from Ms. Jones, "Increasingly, important information is being created in digital form. Libraries have traditionally taken responsibility for ensuring continued access to the diverse range of materials which reflect a nation’s cultural heritage. In the digital environment, libraries also have a role to play and need to combine theoretical understandings and overriding principles with solid practical activity in order to overcome the challenges posed by the technology."

As more resources become available online, it is apparent that researchers will likely spend less and less time in the traditional library setting. For example, let's assume that the FamilySearch Indexing project reaches its goal and all of the 2.3 million or so microfilms in the Family History Library were available online. Let's also suppose that most, or nearly all, of the paper books were scanned and included in the Family History Archives. Why would you travel to Salt Lake to visit the library? Maybe you would go there for research assistance or for classes or whatever, but the traditional role of the library would certainly change.

In my experience as a trial attorney, I used to spend considerable time sitting in one or the other of the various law libraries researching cases and writing briefs. With the advent of online cases such as those maintained by WestLaw, there is no longer any need to go to a library, and, in fact, I haven't been to one in years. I remember the last time I went to a law library was over ten years ago. Won't the same thing happen to the genealogical libraries in the future as more and more original resources go online? It is extremely hard to imagine that ALL of the records could ever be digitized, but just a few years ago, who would have guessed at the number that are currently available?

It is interesting that libraries are also under a greater and greater attack from allocations of state and federal resources. They are an easy target for budget cuts. Recent news accounts talk about the lack of funding for even keeping the libraries open. See Michigan Governor Eliminate the Michigan State Library and similar stories.

These trends will directly affect both the availability of genealogical resources and the way access is provided.

Parade of States -- online digital genealogy resources -- West Virginia

West Virginia is in the forefront of states with online vital records it may not be almost heaven, but there are good resources. To quote from the West Virginia Archives and History:
The West Virginia Vital Research Records Project is a collaborative venture between the West Virginia State Archives and the Genealogical Society of Utah (GSU) to place online via the West Virginia Archives and History Web site selected West Virginia county birth, death and marriage records, and statewide death records in a viewable, downloadable and searchable format accessible at The project is on-going, with more records being added when possible and the system undergoing refinement as needed. In Virginia/West Virginia, births and deaths were first reported to the counties in 1853, while marriages were recorded in the counties from the inception of each county. All three types of records are still reported to county clerks today. In 1917, the West Virginia Dept. of Health Vital Registration office began collecting the county reports of births and deaths and issuing official state death certificates. The records made available online in the Vital Research Records database come from both sources: county records as recorded on microfilm by the GSU largely from 1967 to 1970, and statewide records as selected for release by the West Virginia Dept. of Health Vital Registration office.
  • The Allegheny Regional Family History Society This site contains searchable census information for some counties for 1850, cemetery readings for the Allegheny Region, obituaries of the Allegheny Region. Some of these resources require a membership.

  • Hacker's Creek Pioneer Descendants The Hackers Creek Pioneer Descendants is an organization dedicated to the history and genealogy of West Virginia, especially the central part of the state. Lewis County, Harrison County, Monongalia County, Barbour County, Upshur County, Webster County, Braxton County, Gilmer County, and Doddridge County. Some of the resources require a membership.

  • Online Exhibits (West Virginia Division of Culture and History)Photos and other objects from West Virginia history.

  • Vital Records Research Project (West Virginia Division of Culture and History)
    Images of birth, death & marriage records. Death Certificates from 1917, with some county records dating back to 1853. See explanation and link above.