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

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

My Online Nightmare

 You might call me a worry wart and you would probably be correct. But long experience does engender a heightened sense of doom. Thomas MacEntee asked some thought provoking questions on the Facebook Group, Technology for Genealogy and my very recent bad experiences ended up in the persistent nightmare about accessing and losing data both on my own computer and online.

Cloud computing is like the old Patent Remedies that still show up in ads and on TV.  The one above is quite famous. See Wikipedia:Chlorodyne. The only problem, quoting from Wikipedia, was "Though the drug was effective in many ways, its high opiate content also made it very addictive, and deaths from overdoses, either accidental or deliberate, became a frequent occurrence."

Here's what prompts my response to Thomas. I have a wireless account with AT&T for which I pay dearly. My issue with the account is that it is cranky and unreliable. Not the service mind you, that is OK and pretty reliable, what I mean is my account with AT&T. For example, on my present road trip, I am sequestered in the wilds of Nebraska on my way to Springfield, Illinois for a Family History Expo. I purchased an AT&T Internet card to use with my computer so I could work as my wife and I motor across the huge United States of America. Because I spend most of my life sitting at home or next to a WiFi connection, I seldom need my own connection to the Internet. But when I do need it, I need it. So I purchase a data plan from AT&T.

Guess what?  When the plan runs out, resubscribing is like buying a whole new setup. AT&T shows me as online and connected, but it takes me a trip to the dealership and two SIM card replacements to get online. So I am sitting in Nebraska. I have paid the exorbitant fee to AT&T and my card cannot find the network. So what good is it that I have all my files backed up online if I can't get online?

That is the basic flaw of the whole "Cloud Computing" bugaboo. You have to be able to get online to get your data. So here are the answers to Thomas' questions:

1. What do you consider "cloud computing?" Just file storage or would programs like FTM's ability to sync to Ancestry or a program like Evernote or OneNote also qualify?

Synchronization is great if it works. Family Tree Maker will only sync to one particular tree at a time. So if you happen to have multiple files, on multiple computers, like I do, the program is essentially a one time, one device tool. Not so useful and not so reliable.

2. What do you find most helpful as a genealogist about being able to access your research "in the cloud?"
Convenience is great. It is the one of the buzz words of modern advertising. But convenience always comes with a price. If I did not have multiple ways to access the Internet and copies of ALL of my data on local devices, I would be dead in the water.

3. What is your biggest fear about storing stuff in the cloud? Do you still keep a copy locally or not for everything?
I think I have answered this one already. Having all your stuff in Cloud is great, if you can access it. I think the Cloud is being touted as a cure-all like the old patent medicine, but it has some interesting lethal side effects.

Don't rely on any one source to backup your files, Cloud Computing or not.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

NGSQ features review of The Guide to FamilySearch Online

My book, The Guide to FamilySearch Online, was featured in a review in the current edition of the  National Genealogical Society Quarterly. Here is an excerpt of the review:
New and intermediate users will find this guide helps them "navigate through the huge and complex online world created by FamilySearch" (p. 3). Readers are walked through the entire website, link by link and page by page. Even experienced users of may learn something new.

The lengthy first section covers The second covers FamilySearch Indexing, largely of interest to volunteers in the FamilySearch Indexing program. The third addresses, where users preserve their family trees online and Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints members perform temple ordinances on behalf of the dead. The final section briefly covers other FamilySearch pages, including how to order microfilm online and on Facebook and Twitter.

The text is aimed at computer and Internet novices, explaining the origin of basic terms such as "blog" or the use of site logos to return to home pages. To be user-friendly, Tanner's book builds in the same kind of redundancy present on the site: at 361 pages, the text is sometimes repetitive. Advanced readers should be prepared to skim.

Most readers will use the book as a reference rather than as a program for learning The volume is a hefty investment but of value to readers seeking a guide to an unfamiliar website.

Mara Fein, Ph.D., CG
Los Angeles, California

Bits and Pieces of News

Here are a few unrelated bits and pieces of news about the genealogical community. They aren't in any particular order so I strung them all together in one post:

The Salt Lake Tribune ran a story headlined, "Buyout talk for Utah’s intensifies, reports say." The article states,
The New York Times, citing sources that it did not identify, reported earlier this week that the publicly traded company is in talks with TPG Capital, Providence Equity Partners and Permira on a possible sale.
"The way it’s trading, people think it’s a no-grow," Raghavan Sarathy, an analyst with Dougherty & Co., told the Times. "But there should be interest from private equity because they are generating copious cash."
I just thought you might want to know that you are helping generate copious cash. 

In a press release, Family History Information Standards Organisation, Inc. (FHISO) announced today 28 July, 2012, that RootsMagic, Inc., has finalized its plans to become a founding member of the organisation. As a founding member, RootsMagic will designate organisational member representatives to participate with other FHISO members from the global genealogical community in the development of standards for the digital representation and sharing of family history and genealogical information.

In a statement on its website, FHISO states, "Family History Information Standards Organisation, Inc. (FHISO) was incorporated earlier this year to act as the community-owned standards organization serving genealogists, world wide. Standards organizations depend on broad support — that includes support across some of the entrenched territorial lines we find in our community."

LineageKeeper in his Family History blog, wrote an extensive article on "FamilySearch Wiki ~ Use Google Site Query." You might want to try the techniques Lee Drew outlines for other huge websites.

In blog, Amy updates information on the Mormon Migration Site. This site was compiled by Brigham Young University professor Fred E. Woods, with the help of many research assistants and colleagues. Mormon Migration is a very useful resource, similar in its scope to the Mormon Pioneer Overland Travel database. Here is a description of the project:
About the Mormon Migration Website

America's Favorite Pastime -- Genealogy?

From time to time I review the status of genealogy as a pastime or hobby in the United States. I reminded to do this by the common claim that genealogy is the most popular U.S. pastime or hobby! I am sure that I will hear this again in the very near future. The question is whether or not there is any sort of study or valid statistics to support such a claim?

Just as an example, here is a webpage from the Mid-Continent Public Library, a library with a large genealogical collection, entitled "America's Favorite Pastime." In the body of the article the title is modified to read, "Genealogy has become one of America's favorite pastimes." However, there is nothing in the article citing a source to support the conclusion. Reading many more of the results from a Google search on "genealogy pastime" you find a lot of qualified statements saying that "many people have genealogy as a favorite pastime" which is a far cry from being a favorite with everybody.

I am highly suspect of most "favorites" lists because they usually turn out to support whatever special interest group wrote the list. So if "gardeners" write the list, gardening comes out high and so forth. What indication do we have as to how many people are directly involved in genealogy on a regular basis? So far, I have never been able to find anything that would indicate that genealogy ranks on any list of pastimes. But what about the numbers?

Here is a good number to start with; the number of subscribers.'s second quarterly report for 2012 lists total subscribers worldwide at 1,870,000 as of March 31, 2012. The figure has to be approximate, but let's assume it is relatively correct. Let's assume all of those users are in the U.S. This is not a valid assumption but is probably high. Let's further assume that anyone willing to fork out $300+ a year is likely interested in the subject. But even though there are that many subscribers, how many of them would rank genealogy as their "favorite" pastime? For the purposes of argument, let's further suppose that all of them rank genealogy as their favorite pastime.

By the way, none of those assumptions are at all valid. It is also not fair to assume that all of the people who consider genealogy to be their favorite pastime or hobby, also subscribe to But we have to start somewhere.

Before going too much further, I need to cite a few "favorites" lists from the Internet:
But, you say, I could still go fishing or garden and be a genealogist. Yes, but would you place genealogy as your favorite or just one of the many things you do? The above list of sites could go on and on and it would still say the same thing. Genealogy just is not a "favorite" on the popular lists.

OK, back to numbers. What about gauging pastime interest by readers of the popular genealogy blogs? Dick Eastman's blog is considered the most popular, so lets look at the most recent statistics from the date of this post. (Eastman's Online Genealogy Newsletter) ranks number 7,629 in the U.S. Pretty respectable, but ranks 695. I mentioned the number of subscribers, well, the Phillies baseball team had 2,235,781 paid attendance for 50 games in 2012. The average ticket price for a major league game is almost $27 dollars so over the course of a season, if a fan went to all 50 games, they would pay $1,350 or more even if you didn't count food or drinks.

Genealogy is a great pursuit, but I don't think we need to worry about it being number one on anybody's list except our own.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

What is your response to bad data added to Family Tree?

If you are thinking of working on FamilySearch's Family Tree program or are already entering sources and data, you probably need to think through how you will handle other people adding spurious or outright wrong data to your ancestors' records. Even though I had thought this through, I was confronted with the addition of blatant wrong information just in the last few days.

A few introductory words are in order about the nature of my "genealogical research." I have had very active genealogists on several of my family lines. I may have mentioned before that I am aware of almost a dozen surname and descendents books written about various family lines. Except for a few inaccuracies handed down from generation to generation, for at least six generations back on all of my family lines, the information on almost every individual is extensive and not controverted. There is really no disagreement about births, deaths, marriages or any other data. Except for a few refinements, I established a file with all of the pertinent data many years ago and so most of the online data about my family came from my files originally.

Now, we have the new age. The age of finding accurate original source information about the families. I am well into the task of accumulating source information and digitizing records. Enter Family Tree. For the first time, I have a way to accurately portray my entire family in one place with virtually unlimited and universal access. I certainly know that Family Tree will not provide a way to record all of the information about my family, although that may happen in the future. But it is the most accessible and best system I have yet seen. Almost all of the other online family tree programs rely on individual submissions of duplicate family tree information. FamilySearch Family Tree is designed to produce one entry per person.

So, now, what do I do when someone enters inaccurate information. In this case, the information is not subject to interpretation or "honest" disagreement. The recent addition was to an individual who is extremely well documented and although there are some issues with the way to display his name, almost nothing about this individual is at all subject to personal opinion.

The change was made to the name of my Great-great-grandfather, Charles Godfrey Jarvis (born Defriez or DeFriez). His birth date in England is documented. His employment and history are well known to the family and his date of arrival in the United States is documented and almost everything else about his life is well known and recorded in published books that are generally available.

So why would someone change his name to something different than that recorded in literally dozens of primary source documents? Who knows? The real issue is what is the appropriate response?

My response was as follows:
Thanks for your interest in Charles Godfrey Defriez Jarvis. Please take time to read the source records for this individual on FamilySearch's Family Tree program. If you make changes to the file, please provide primary source records. Let me know if you have any questions.
James Tanner
 In addition, I added in all of the source citations documenting his birth, death and residences. I also provided a link to his life history that was readily available online.

I suggest that this is one appropriate way to respond to the addition of inaccurate information. Give the person a chance to read and digest the supporting information for the individual. If there is a legitimate disagreement, then compromise by adding in all contradictory or contested information and allow the community the option of providing more specific proof of the correct information.

What do you think? Is this an appropriate response? Would you handle things differently?

By the way, Charles Jarvis was born Charles Godfrey Defriez in England. When he married my Great-great-grandmother, he took her name, Jarvis, instead of retaining his birth name. He later changed his name officially to Jarvis, so all of his children are surnamed Jarvis. 

What exactly is data obsolescence?

How can my data become obsolete? History is history. My ancestors are my ancestors and none of that is going to change. When we talk about data obsolescence, we are referring to a more recent phenomena of changing computer file formats rendering older formats unreadable by more recent computer programs. We are also talking about the computers or hardware going out-of-date, and rendering the programs and files stored on computers and other storage devices unreadable. We are  not worrying about our information going out-of-date.

The first problem is hardware obsolescence. This happens over time as new computing devices are invented and developed. My newer iMac, for example, will not run any of the programs I used on my old Apple II Plus computer. The reason for this is not very simple. A computer, in whatever form, is really a number of different electronic circuits strung together in a highly sophisticated array of switches. The type of programs or files created by a computer depend on both the hardware and the software. But in the case of computers, the central processing units (CPU) of the computer has undergone tremendous changes. Information stored in a particular computer is coded to that computer's CPU.

Each type of CPU has its own operating system. As the computer chips change over time, the operating systems used by the computer to run the software also changes. In addition, each time there is a change in the CPU and the operating system, there needs to be changes in the programs that work with the newer computer and operating system. Sometimes the companies that manufacture computers make incremental changes to both computers and operating systems that don't immediately affect whether or not a particular program will work with the newer computer and operating system. Eventually, and almost inevitably, the cumulative changes make older programs obsolete.

Let me give an example of recording information on paper. The type of paper used is analogous to the file format used to store information on a computer system. I could use a paper with a high acid content, such as newsprint, and after a very few years (or even days) the paper will start to yellow and eventually it will become brittle and disintegrate. Uncared for, the information stored on newsprint will be lost. Although the data held in digital format may not disintegrate like newsprint, it can age and lose the ability to retrieve the information over time if the format of the file becomes obsolete. In the case of newsprint, the changes are natural processes. In the case of computers, the changes come about as a result of technological developments.

Although hardware changes may render a specific device or storage media unreadable, such as the quickly vanishing ability most computers have to read floppy disks, the real issue is the format of the files on whatever media. If I store my information on a 3.5 floppy disk, it is not impossible to retrieve the data. The difficulty is finding a device that will read the information from the floppy disk and transfer it to a newer device. With floppy disks, reading the information is difficult and it may take some time to find someone with a functional floppy disk, but floppy disks are not quite totally extinct. On the other hand, some file formats have already become entirely unreadable even if the file can be physically transferred to a newer medium or device.

The challenge of old file formats is formidable and twofold. First, you have to find a device that will recognize the storage media, and then second, you have to find a program that will recognize the file format. There are hundreds (if not thousands) of unique file formats and very few of them are cross-compatible with other formats. I had the experience, I have mentioned a few times previously, of almost losing my entire journal due to most of the data being stored in a program called MacWrite. If you are interested, here is a forum discussion about trying to recapture information from MacWrite.

I have mentioned Personal Ancestral File (PAF) a number of times as a potential candidate for file obsolescence. One aspect of the program that is already a problem is the "backup" function. PAF had a file option to create a "backup" file, which was essentially a compresses file format. Many PAF users religiously backed up their files using this file compression. In later versions, the program used a variety of Windows zip file or WinZip, but earlier programs spread larger files over several floppy disks. So far, I have been successful in restoring most of these older files, but there may soon come a day when either the media or the file formats will become so obsolete that they cannot be restored.

So what is the solution? Migration. What this means is simple, copy the information to newer file formats and files before the older files become obsolete. Yes, this takes time, effort and money. It is like going to the dentist or having an annual physical checkup, you may put it off forever, but you will ultimately pay the price of your neglect.

What do I do with old PAF files? PAF files for Macintosh are very difficult to recover. Presently, almost all of the current programs for Mac or PC will read GEDCOM files from PAF. Some of the programs will also read PAF files. I am not aware of any of the genealogy programs currently that will restore a PAF backup file except Ancestral Quest.  (Let me know if you have something else that will work).

More on migration in the future.

Expansion of the Family History Library Catalog

There have been a few comments about the utility and efficacy of the Family History Library Catalog. The online catalog is on the website and there is a link to the search engine on the startup page. What you may not have noticed is that the entries in the catalog have expanded to include items held in larger Family History Centers, now referred to as FamilySearch Libraries. For example, a surname book written by my Great-grandmother has always been in the Family History Library, but now, the catalog also shows a copy that is located in the Mesa Regional Family History Center (Mesa FamilySearch Library).

There may be some confusion for a while about the names of the entities holding the materials, but the locations are clear and the Family History Library catalog now tells the world that there is a second copy of the book in Mesa, Arizona. What it does not yet show is that the book was digitized by the Mesa FamilySearch Library about two years ago. But if the book had been cataloged as digitized, a link to the digitized version will show in the catalog.

The confusion about the names of the entities comes from a change in the names of the Family History Centers. The larger centers are now being called FamilySearch Libraries, the smaller centers are now called FamilySearch Centers. The geographical designations remain the same.

Friday, July 27, 2012

A review of Your Family History Toolbox

Paul Larsen, the author of Your Family History Toolbox, published by, 1914 Pikes Drive, St. George, UT 84770, provided me a copy of the book for my review. The book comes on a CD and from the ISBN it looks like the book is only available in an electronic version. I have been acquainted with Paul's books for sometime and he is a consistent exhibitor at various genealogy conferences, especially Family History Expos.

Even though the format of the book is heavy on clip art, the book has some solid substance. It is well organized and gives a very broad overview of online genealogy resources and tools. I am not aware of any other publication with so many suggestions for assisting with your genealogical research. The book is a good starting point for anyone interested in learning more about the types of resources available online. The book is by no means exhaustive, but the selection of topics and the subject matter of each topic give an adequate review of what you might never become aware of otherwise.

I must admit that despite practically living on the Internet, there were quite a few programs and websites mention in Your Family History Toolbox that surprised me. The book could literally gone on to be two or three times larger than its 139 pages, but the information is presented in an easy to review and read fashion. More information would not have necessarily have improved the book. The selection made by the author was enough to get you started in almost all the areas covered.

It is basically the kind of book that every genealogist needs to go through to give a feel for the types of resources you might or might not find on your own. The tag line on the cover is a good description of the book, "Cutting-Edge Tools and Gadgets to Make Your Family History Research Easier, Faster, and More Fun."

Here is a sample from the Table of Contents
1.What is a ‘Family History Toolbox’? 
2.What’s IN a Family History Tool Kit? 
3.Your Basic Essential Tools
Family History Software 
  • Free Online Software Directory 
  • Free Online Software Tools & Utilities Directory 
  • Free Software Reviews by Experts
A Free ‘Family Tree’ Email Address
‘How-to’ Book/eBook: A Step-by-Step Illustrated Guide and Resource Directory 
  • Free Intro Video: Crash Course in Family History
eBook – My Family Tree: Where Do I Start? 3-Easy-Steps
Beginners Helps/Tutorials
Valuable ‘How-to’ Articles/Videos/Podcasts/Blogs
Free Tools, Forms, Calculators and Worksheets
Wikis: Key Information Source
  • FamilySearch Wiki 
  • WeRelate Wiki 
  • Ancestry Wiki
101 Best Web Sites: Family Tree Magazine
 The list could go on, but I expect you get the idea. This book is all about making genealogists more aware of the resources that are as close as our computers. Good job, Paul. 

Am I slamming Personal Ancestral File?

Some comments and some history seem to be in order about the genealogical database program Personal Ancestral File (PAF). The following is entirely my opinion. I do not usually review software programs for genealogy. The reason is simple. I like almost all of them and do not want to be in a position of comparing programs when I really like them all.

First, I used PAF for years, both the PC and Mac versions. Second, it was, for the time, an outstanding program. I am perfectly aware that there are commercial updates to PAF such as Ancestral Quest, a very good program and originally the basis for PAF and several free or shareware spin-off programs based on PAF. There is also an extensive add-on commercial programs from Ohana Software such as FamilyInsight that add functionality. Please feel free to make other programs known through comments to this post.

Because it was and is free, PAF had a huge influence on the genealogical community. All changes or updates to the program ceased in 2002. You can see an extensive history of the program on Wikipedia:Personal Ancestral File. Unfortunately, because it was free, it made it harder for other software developers to market their products. Also, because it was free, there is a huge segment of the genealogical community that rejects any software program that is not free. As a result, most of the popular genealogy database programs offer a "free" version. In my opinion, the "free" issue has been a huge drag on the development of genealogical software. Many of the genealogy programs are under $100. As a simple comparison, check out the prices for Adobe software products. I have had genealogists blanch at the price of a software program for $29.95! Try and match the quality of the genealogy software programs in any other area of software for that low price.

Yes, as users we benefit from "free" or nearly free software. But in the long run, low prices are not sustainable. We need good, solid, programs that function in our online, cloud world, not a 10 year old dinosaur.  (OK, was that a slam?).

Given today's advances in technology, it is only a matter of time until PAF will not run on some new operating systems. The Mac version died years ago. It is only because of Microsoft's fixation with MSDOS and support for older programs that PAF can run at all on the latest operating systems.

If the still huge PAF customer base would move on to newer and much better programs, then the entire genealogy software community would benefit. It is time for that to happen. Those who think I am slamming PAF should spend the time I have spent resurrecting old PAF data files off of floppy disks and old computers. It is time to move on.

Is your data obsolete?

What would happen if you spent considerable effort researching your genealogy and then, due to personal issues, you stopped working on it for a time. Let's suppose you had used the free program called Personal Ancestral File. How long could you "store" your information in that file format before your data became inaccessible? This is a real question since Personal Ancestral File or PAF has not been upgraded or changed since 2002. The latest and last version available of the program was issued in July of 2002. But PAF isn't the only problem, each of the file formats presently used by any genealogy program or other programs also, for that matter, are subject to change with or without notice.

I am not talking about all of the genealogists out there that have data on old hardware formats such as 5.25 and 3.5 inch floppy disks. I am talking about all of us that have stored data in programs that have disappeared over time or are no longer supported. I have recounted previously how my data in MacWrite was saved at the last possible moment and then the same thing happened again with old Microsoft Word files. Almost every program uses its own proprietary file format and there is no overall standard that assures users that the file format won't be changed or modified so that older files are not usable.

Very recently, I wrote about the intro of the new Apple OSX program, Mountain Lion. Every time there is a new operating system on any computer, Mac or Windows or whatever, there is a possibility that some of the existing programs may not work.

OK, so you point out that you are still using your Intel based Pentium IV computer running Windows 95 and its works very well for you, Thank you. And what's more, that is all you need and you don't need one of these fancy new expensive computers. For interest and as an example, the Intel Pentium IV computer chip was introduced in 2000 and discontinued in 2008. It is really likely that a lot of genealogists still have a computer with that chip. For further illustration, Windows 95 was introduced in 1995 and was replaced by Windows 98 in 1998 (obviously). So why change it your computer is still working?

The issue is not that your own personal computer is still chugging along, The issue is data compatibility. Who can use the files produced by your programs? You may still be able to get the data physically off of your computer storage but can anyone read it?

What is the solution? The concept here is called data migration. That means that periodically, you move your data to a newer computer, newer program and newer storage device. Moving the data does not mean that you have solved the problem, because data migration is a process not a end. You have to keep moving your data to keep it readable by new operating systems and new programs.

Is there a cost involved? Yes, you could just print out everything and keep a hard copy of all your data and all your files and all your attachments, but that just postpones the issue to another day. In my case and I realize I am not typical, one copy of one of my files would involve printing over 80,000 pages. This is simply not feasible.

More on this later.

Free Guide to London Ancestors

FamilySearch has posted a free guide to London Ancestors on the FamilySearch Research Wiki. Here is the introduction to the article:
In celebration of the London 2012 Olympics starting this week, FamilySearch is pleased to announce a new online guide to tracing London ancestors. The guide has been published in the FamilySearch Research Wiki.

Features include articles on each of London’s 109 historic parishes loaded with descriptions of records available online at major websites, British History Online,,,,, Google Books, Internet Archive, London Lives, and among others.
The article goes on to state:
Genealogists will find tables describing where to find parish registers online, maps to pinpoint places London ancestors lived, locate census-like records for the Metropolis dating back to the 1500s, determine where to find wills of historic Londoners, find out if the parish church where your ancestor worshiped and its burial ground are still available to visit (or have been demolished), learn more about inhabitants’ status and occupations, and how to find and use major London archives and libraries, such as the London Family History Centre, London Metropolitan Archives, The National Archives, and the Society of Genealogists Library.
Guides are also underway for Greater London counties of Essex, Kent, Middlesex and Surrey.
 Always something new in FamilySearch's huge online resources.

Upcoming Events for Family History Expos in 2012-2013

It is time to update your calendar with events from Family History Expos!
As we plan our calendar of upcoming events many factors affect the feasability to setup an Expo in your area. We look at past Expo experience, support from the local region, requests for new areas, feedback from attendees, speakers, bloggers, and exhibitors. Of course conference center rentals, fuel costs, meals and lodging all play a part in the decisions we make. We also depend on you to tell us what you want to learn, where you want us to come, and how you can assist in the success of the event.
As we near the end of July we want to let you know what we have planned for the rest of 2012 and give you a sneak peek into 2013. Not all events you see here will be listed on the website. We want you to be among the first to know!

Illinois Expo ~ Springfield

AUGUST 3-4, 2012

Conference Hotel – Crowne Plaza Springfield
3000 South Dirksen Parkway, Springfield, IL 62703
Cost – Online registration $69 & at the Door $99
Additional Options – Printed Handouts (CD Syllabus Handouts included with registration)
The two-day Illinois Family History Expo will feature the nation’s top genealogists, researchers and some fun bloggers. The keynote address is free to the public, as is an exhibit hall filled with professionals demonstrating the techniques, tools and technology to trace family roots.
To view class agenda, exhibits, and to register Click Here!

Midwest Expo ~ Kearney

SEPTEMBER 7-8, 2012

Holiday Inn Convention Center
110 South Second Avenue, Kearney, Nebraska 68848
Cost – Online Early Bird registration $39 (Expires Aug 14)
Online registration $69 & at the Door $99
Additional Options – Mormon and & California Trails Tour, Printed Handouts (Handout CD included with registration)
If you are from the Midwest, have heritage in the Midwest, or just plain want to network with family history enthusiasts don’t miss this event. This Expo is especially of interest to family history enthusiasts, businesses and volunteer organizations who cater to history minded individuals and families. The Midwest Family History Expo is “THE PLACE” to network with like minded people.
Click here for full details on tour, class agenda, exhibits, and to register.

October Salt Lake City Family History Library Retreat

OCTOBER 22-26, 2012

Retreat Hotel – Salt Lake Plaza Hotel (right next to the FHL)
122 West South Temple, Salt Lake City, Utah 84101
Cost – Online Early Bird registration $399 (Expires Sep 4)
Online registration $499 & at the door $600
Come join us in Salt Lake City for a whole week of family history research dedicated to your very own research families with personal assistance from our professional genealogists (our pros have more than 1,000 hours experience in the collections at the FHL).
Your family history starts here! With the largest family history collection under one roof anywhere in the world with access to records from countries throughout the world and most counties and cities in the USA. This Retreat will have an emphasis on U.S. & British Military Records. Researchers often overlook the value of these documents, they are full of exceptional and often unexpected information.
To view classes, research agenda, and to register Click Here!

Georgia Expo ~ Duluth

NOVEMBER 9-10, 2012

Gwinnett Center
6400 Sugarloaf Parkway, Duluth, Georgia 30097
Cost – Online Early Bird registration $69 (Expires Oct 9, 2012)
Online registration $89 & at the Door $110
Additional Options – Printed Handouts (Handout CD included with registration)
This will be our third annual Expo held at the Gwinnett Center in Duluth, GA. Information is being added daily for this event.
Click here to register at the Early Bird cost and save!

Arizona Expo ~ Mesa

JANUARY 18-19, 2013

Mesa Convention Center
263 N. Center Street, Mesa, Arizona
Details coming soon!

St. George Family History Expo

FEBRUARY 22-23, 2013

The Dixie Center
1835 Convention Center Dr., St. George, UT 84790
Details coming soon!

April Salt Lake City Family History Library Retreat

APRIL 8-12, 2013

Retreat Hotel – Salt Lake Plaza Hotel (right next to the FHL)
122 West South Temple, Salt Lake City, UT 84101
Details coming soon!

Thursday, July 26, 2012

The Technology Wheel Turns

We are all so accustomed to new models of cars every year, we have come to expect it as if it were a natural part of life. But automotive technology has changed very slowly and there are few fundamental differences between year models. In fact, in the case of my old Chevrolet truck, (which I no longer own), there were few changes for the 13 years I owned it. That is not the case with electronics. First, there is no "annual" change and second, the changes are not just adjustments and cosmetic, but some are fundamental and life changing.

In the past few years we have seen smartphones, such as the iPhone, and tablet computers, such as the iPad, change the way people do their work and interact. Texting has become a way of life (and death) for many and WiFi has become ubiquitous.

We are once again on the verge of another turn of the technological wheel and the world will never be the same again. There is a dark side to the constant technological change, however. The constant pressure of change has created a world society split between the technological haves and the have nots. This split does not follow national, political or social lines. It splits families and friends. It creates new social dynamics through opening and closing channels of communication.

As genealogists, we are caught up in this rapidly changing world, whether we like it, accept it or even fight against it, or not. So what caused this periodic reflection on my part? The introduction of yet another version of Apple's Operating System, called Mountain Lion

What if you woke up today and the news was that with the introduction of the new model cars, they would no longer run on gasoline and that all the gas in the world would be used up and then your car would no longer run? What would your car be worth? This happens every time a new computer operating system comes out. The results might not be as dramatic as my gasoline example, but they are just as effective at making your older model obsolete and unusable.

Taking my car example a bit further, when new model cars come out, unless I am in the market for a new car, the introduction is a non-event. I could care less. I can keep driving my car as long as I want to maintain it. I usually keep a car anywhere from five to fifteen years (or more). I don't feel compelled to sell any of my vehicles until their value falls below the cost of repairs. I am not into restoration.

OK, but what happens if I have the same attitude towards computers? The difference is dramatic. Right now, for example, if I were still using a fifteen year old computer, I would not be able to buy even one genealogy program (except Personal Ancestral File and a few other similar programs) that would run on my computer. What is even more serious is that none of the connectors on my old computer would work with any of the newer equipment. I would have a difficult, if not impossible task in connecting to the Internet and my computer would have neither the memory storage capacity nor the speed to operate with downloaded programs from the Internet. I would not be able to buy even one new program that would work with my old operating system.

But these types of changes in computers are not just incremental. The new Apple OSX, Mountain Lion, is an example of the changes that are literally forced on the electronic users. Here are the hardware requirements for the new operating system:

  • iMac (Mid 2007 or newer)
  • MacBook (Late 2008 Aluminum, or Early 2009 or newer)
  • MacBook Pro (Mid/Late 2007 or newer)
  • Xserve (Early 2009)
  • MacBook Air (Late 2008 or newer)
  • Mac mini (Early 2009 or newer)
  • Mac Pro (Early 2008 or newer)
In other words, if your present computer does not fit into these categories, you cannot upgrade to the new operating system and eventually, none of the new or upgraded software will work on your computer. So you are laughing because you use a Windows compatible computer. Think again. Windows 8 will be out shortly and it will have similar requirements. Just look at the hardware requirements for the new OSX from Apple and you can see what will happen with Windows 8.

Here are some additional requirements for Mountain Lion including hardware:
  • OS X v10.6.8 or later
  • 2GB of memory
  • 8GB of available space
  • Some features require an Apple ID; terms apply.
  • Some features require a compatible Internet service provider; fees may apply.
To some, this will be another indication of the perversity of the world. These same people, probably bought a new car within the past ten years and didn't think the same thing. I know people who rail against technological change, but buy a new boat or whatever anytime they feel the old one doesn't suit their needs.

How soon will you need to buy a new computer? The first time you want to take advantage of some new innovation or software product and it turns out you cannot upgrade your present one.  If you wish, you can live with your present computer the rest of your life, just don't expect anyone to be able to use your data.

I will likely have a lot more to say about this, especially the part about data obsolescence.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Eating the Crust of the Bread

I would guess that most of my grandchildren refuse to eat the crusts of slices of bread and the heels of the loaves are often not eaten or even thrown away. I see this a failure to come to grip with the reality of life, that is, life is mostly in the crust. Almost anything worth doing is difficult. But even when we have mostly overcome our childish propensity to leave the difficult tasks and only do the easy ones, we have to fight that tendency all of the time.

For example, we would like to believe that all that we need to know about our ancestors can be learned from the U.S. Census records, that is, the white air bread centers of our genealogical loaves. This reminds of the reaction of some of my grandchildren to some "12 grain bread" we had for dinner. There was quite a controversy over what each of the ingredients might be and whether or not the ingredients were "acceptible" for consumption. In the end, they refused to eat any of it.

When do we know we are "eating the crust" so to speak? I believe it is when we begin extending ourselves into new areas we have never researched before; such as learning German Black Letter Script or studying out 16th Century parish registers. In the U.S. it may be learning about probate or beginning to understand land records. In every case, moving into a new area of research is like eating the crusts of our research loaves. One thing I can say is that after a while, you will begin with the crust and relish it for its consistency and nourishment. You may even go on to eat 12 grain bread!

Ignorance of the law is not an excuse

If you are speeding down the highway at 65 mph and are stopped by the police and find out the speed limit is 50 mph, your ignorance of the posted speed limit is not a defense to a speeding ticket. Likewise, lack of knowledge of the laws of theft or murder do not make for a defense under our legal system in the United States. The principle is not limited to criminal or quasi-criminal activities. Even if you have little or no understanding of the civil law, you are still bound by its precepts.

If you are a genealogist, ignorance of the law can also have unforeseen consequences, it may prevent you from finding crucial information about your ancestors.

For example, in my own state of Arizona, the trial courts of general jurisdiction are the county Superior Courts. Each of Arizona's counties has its own Superior Court system, with the main courthouse usually in the county seat and a presiding judge. However, in Utah, just next door, the main trial courts are called District Courts and there are 39 courts in 8 districts in 29 counties. If I were to go through each of the states, you would quickly see that there is a total lack of consistency and no uniformity in the U.S. Court system.

Generally, there are various levels of court jurisdiction from small municipal courts, to justice courts and on to the trial courts of general jurisdiction, then appellate courts and finally the various states all have a supreme court. The variations in court procedures and jurisdictions makes for a tapestry of differences across the country. In addition, most all of the states have go through various adjustments and reorganizations of their court systems over the years. It may take some considerable research to find out the particular court system during different time periods in the state. 

Why would you want to search court records? Think, probate, wills, civil lawsuits, naturalization of immigrants, divorces, child custody, adoptions, and many, many more topics. But if you don't have any idea how the courts are organized or their procedures in any give point in time, then how do you expect to find anything? Immigration records are a good example. I you are interested, you may wish to review the article, Legal History of Immigration in the FamilySearch Research Wiki.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Official Announcement from

Apparently, I managed to get partially on the emailing list for an announcement from I say partially, because they had my name correct but the name of the blog was not correct. This sort of thing always gives you pause, sort of like when we used to receive junk mail at our law office addressed to Mr. JacksonWhite, the name of the firm. In fact, my brother and I specifically used a tradename with our design business so that we could identify genuine junk mail.

But nevertheless, I feel like the announcement warrants repeating, so here it is (with some slight editing to the right blog):
Hi James,

I’ve got some news from findmypast US that might be of interest to your Olive Tree Genealogy (Genealogy's Star) followers –

Earlier today, we launched and a World Subscription that includes our International records from England, Ireland, Scotland, Australia and Wales.  As a valued blogger, you are among the first to hear of this exciting launch.

To the general public, we are launching a significant introductory offer for the World Subscription.  Our introductory Pioneer Offer is just $4.95/mo. (normally $20.83/mo.) for a short time to a limited number of early subscribers. Attached is an official release announcing the Pioneer Offer.

We are continuously expanding our record collections. Soon, articles from the British Newspaper Archives will be added to the world subscription including English, Scottish, Irish and Welsh newspapers dating back to the 1700s. Other new US and overseas collections, some unique to, are being secured and will be announced as they go live online.

Enjoy playing around on the new site. Please call or email with any questions.
 OK, my last post on this event took the position that's entrance into the U.S. market puts them in direct competition with The wording of this announcement would seem to imply that I was correct.

By the way, is one of the "free" websites at the various FamilySearch Centers (formerly Family History Centers) around the world. I suppose it is a valid question as to whether or not the "new" content site will continue to be free at FamilySearch Centers?

Never a dull moment.

Banning Photography

In a recent article in the Imaging Resource Newsletter,  the author, Steve Meltzer, asks the quiestion, "Does flash photography really damage art? The persistence of a myth." This article caught my eye because of a planned outing to a local display garden where the "Photography Policy" imposes a $100 fee for taking pictures in the garden. A similar policy exists at another botanical garden we frequently visit. I am aware of many museums and art galleries where photography is subject to an outright ban.

I cannot, for the life of me, imagine what kind of interest these gardens claim in their plants and flowers? It is obvious that banning photography is nothing more or less than an attempt to increase revenue. I can imagine some circumstances that might warrant outright bans on photography, but outdoor gardens, open to the public, do not fall into that category.

This same issue regularly confronts genealogists. Take for example the New York Public Library. Here is an excerpt from their Terms and Conditions:
Proprietary Rights
As between you and NYPL, NYPL owns, solely and exclusively, all rights, title and interest in and to the NYPL Websites, all the content (including, for example, audio, photographs, illustrations, graphics, other visuals, video, copy, software, etc.), code, data and materials thereon, the look and feel, design and organization of the NYPL Websites, and the compilation of the content, code, data and materials on such websites, including but not limited to any copyrights, trademark rights, patent rights, database rights, moral rights, sui generis rights and other intellectual property and proprietary rights therein.  Your use of the NYPL Websites does not grant to you ownership of any content, code, data or materials you may access on these websites.
Does this really mean that the New York Public Library claims to own all right, title and interest to all of the books, photographs and other materials in their collection? How did the library obtain such a vast interest in the world's intellectual property? My best guess is that the attorney who wrote this ridiculous statement, never used a public library. Actually, this statement is a sad commentary on the state of affairs of intellectual property rights and property rights in general. It is in exactly the same vein that the gardens claim ownership to photographs of their plants.

What is more interesting about both the gardens' and the library's position is that the claims in all cases, are patently false and at the very least, fraudulent. For example, later on in the New York Public Library's Terms and Conditions is the following:
1.  Low Resolution Files (Only Non-Commercial Uses Allowed).  Materials downloaded from the NYPL Websites may only be used for personal, educational, or research purposes.  They may not be used for commercial purposes. 
2.  High Resolution Files (All Uses Allowed, Including Commercial Uses).  High resolution digital files of photos in the Library’s Digital Gallery are available for editorial and commercial use for a reproduction fee.  For more information, please go to:
 Reading on in the Terms and Conditions it is evident that what is intended is that the Library does not want to get into the position of violating copyright law. But they are still charging a "reproduction fee" for downloading documents they do not own and which, in many cases, are clearly in the public domain, for example, photographs taken in the 1800s in the United States. It is the law in the United States that once a work is in the public domain, you cannot originate a copyright interest in the work buy mere possession or ownership.

What is at the heart of all of these issues are claims of ownership and control. The real question is who owns the public. In all of the cases, the putative owners do have sizable investments in the gardens and libraries. Neither would exist unless someone paid for their creation and upkeep. I have no problem with paying a use or entrance fee to a park or garden. I also have no problem paying taxes to support libraries, what I do question is when these entities go beyond providing a service and claims ownership.

If I create a work, I can claim a copyright interest. But, if I plant a tree in my front yard, can I stop people from taking a picture of the tree? Do I own the copy right to an image of a tree, I did not take?

Celebrating the 24th of July

From my childhood, I remember one holiday every year even more than Christmas or Thanksgiving. I remember the 24th of July. Almost every summer of my early life, I spent in a small Mormon community in Eastern Arizona. The community's celebration of the 24th was easily the biggest event of the entire year. The festivities lasted for almost an entire week.

Why the 24th of July? This marked the entrance of the pioneers into the Salt Lake Valley in 1847. To this day, if you tried to drive through any one of the small towns in Eastern Arizona around the 24th of July, you might end up waiting for an hour or two and watching the parade through the main street.

The 24th was a signal for all of the former residents of the towns to return to their traditional homes. Many families, like mine, planned family reunions around the 24th and the town soon filled with old and new friends and relatives. The official beginning of the 24th celebration was the Camporama. Everyone in the community was invited to a location nearby to "camp" and fix their dinner over an open fire. Instead of wagons, they would drive their cars and trucks into a huge circle and every family would have their own camp. The highlight of the evening was walking around the circle and greeting old friends and meeting relatives you hadn't seen for a while. As the years passed, I would take my own children to the Camporama.  Since I was related to about half the town, there were always a lot of relatives. 

The next day literally started off with a bang in the form of a simulated cannon, usually setting off sticks of dynamite. The big event was the parade down mainstreet with homemade floats and marching bands and lots and lots of horses and riders. There were usually some wagons and a few authentic looking pioneers. Many of the people on wagons and floats would throw candy to the children along the route and there was always a huge race to get to the candy before others.

In case you don't know what a float is, it is a wagon or trailer or truck decorated with fancy paper flowers or streamers, usually with a theme, and then driven or towed through the town for the parade.

There was always a barbeque lunch, parties and for many years a real rodeo with mostly local participants. The rodeo also had some featured horse races. I never did get up my courage to ride a calf in the rodeo, but I did a lot of horseback riding and participated in some of the events. Some of my favorite events were the wild cow milking contest, usually for very fast and very strong cowboys and the hide races. I don't think you can imagine a wild cow milking contest, but the cows were at one end of the rodeo ground and the teams of three milkers were at the other and the participants had to race across, catch a cow and milk her, the first team to get back across the finish line and actually pour some milk out of their container won. Let's just say the cows did not cooperate.

The hide race consisted of a rider on a fast horse and a younger, smaller participant on a cow hide on the ground tied to the saddle horn of the rider by a rope. The race consisted of pulling the cow hide around the rodeo grounds in a race to the finish line. Not only was the boy on the hide bounced by the uneven ground, you have to understand that Arizona is dry and the rodeo ground was solid dust. The hide riders would end up covered in dirt. The winner was the one who held on the longest or crossed the finish line first.

Every night of the celebration there was a dance. Of course, when I was younger, I didn't get to go, but as a teenager, I did get to participate. In my earliest years, the town would have a special program of skits and blackouts. Blackouts were short skits, usually very funny, that would end with the lights being turned off since there was no stage and no curtains. The end of the programs would always be a diorama of pioneers, usually pulling a handcart, and everyone singing Come, Come Ye Saints.

The celebration would end on Sunday with a special Church meeting where most of the talks centered around our pioneer heritage.

I am sure that my deep feelings about genealogy and my ancestors come, in part, from these types of early experiences. Now that I live in the big city and I am not surrounded by relatives, we do not remember or celebrate the 24th as extensively as before, but I still carry the celebrations in memory and my heart. 

Monday, July 23, 2012

Tablets galore and more -- technology update

Microsoft's announcement of its upcoming Surface tablet computer has heated up the market considerably. The delay from the time of introduction to the first product shipment has helped potential competitors to analyze the market and respond with new products of their own. Sales of the new tablets such as the Acer Iconia Tab W500, the Samsung Galaxy Tab, the Amazon Kindle Fire and the Motorola XOOM, have barely dented the sales of Apple's benchmark iPad line.

Rumors online indicate that Amazon will shortly introduce a new lineup of Kindle tablets and there are many other potential products from a variety of sources that are just now gaining traction, such as Google's Nexus 7. Apple is not sleeping and with the yet unannounced iPad-mini device just around the corner, there may be a whole new round of products. One thing is certain, Microsoft's delayed entry into the field with its own Windows 8 operating system, may be too little too late. No matter what happens with Microsoft, Apple is expected to maintain over 60% of the market.

Here in the U.S. we usually have a very myopic view of markets, thinking that what sells well here is all that matters. But the really big markets are in China and Southeast Asia, and most of the current products are gaining ground by making sales in those venues. Apple has just begun iPad sales in China and the boost from those markets could be decisive in which products live or die. If you watch the global perspective, you will see that what sells here has little impact on those huge markets where some of the most popular models have not even been sold in the U.S. See the Calcutta Telegraph.

Here's what I think. Tablet computers, like the Apple iPad fill a definite niche for a lot of people. My wife is a good example. She has now gotten to the point of carrying her iPad with her almost everywhere she goes. She does not have a direct Internet connection, but sees that available WiFi fills almost all her needs. I am still dependent on my iPhone and only switch to an iPad occasionally when my eyes refuse to focus on the smaller print. My daughter took a trip to a National Park recently and commented on how many people were taking pictures using their iPads and other tablet computers. If I were making inexpensive cameras, I would be worried about the future.

For genealogists with a need for portability and programs, both Android and Apple tablets are extremely useful. I am not convinced that they work for extensive data entry, but that may change as keyboard evolve and become more practical. I do not think I will ever learn how to type on the virtual keyboad on the iPad, but I understand that many young people now prefer it.

Speaking of cameras, the high end cameras are also rapidly evolving. Nikon has thrown down the gauntlet with its introduction of a 36+ Megapixel sensor and it is likely that Canon and other manufacturers will follow suit.

The only constant is change itself.

What can you accomplish in your lifetime?

I get the opportunity to talk to a lot of people about genealogy and I find a common theme; that genealogy is something you do "when you have time." Let's face it, no one "has time." We all have jobs, interests, commitments, hobbies, family, friends, in short, life. So what do you want to accomplish in your lifetime? Is doing genealogy something you do when you have time or is it something you do? Period.

One of the most common questions people ask me is whether or not I ever sleep. I can assure you, I sleep. But it is what we do with the time we are awake that is important. For example, we recently gave away our TVs, again. How many hours a week do you watch TV? That includes the news, the weather, sports, whatever. My total time watching TV is zero. Oh, so how do I keep "in touch" with what is going on? I have replaced TV with the Internet. My one great time killer is movies. But I hate commercial interruptions, so I watch movies from DVDs or on Netflix. I have never been interested in commercial sports and so that has never been an issue. I am likely the last adult of my age who has never seen a complete professional football game in my entire life.

The basic question is how badly do you want to do your genealogy? What is genealogy's priority in your life? The simple answer for me is that I made it one of the very first priorities. Then making decisions about what to do or when to do it, fall naturally into place. I also work. I cannot sit and do nothing for more than a few minutes before I get up and start working. I wake up. I start to work. Simple. I always have a long list of tasks to complete and I work all day, everyday, even when I am not sitting at a computer. If I can't write, I think about what to write. I do this all day, every day.

By the way, I do have jobs. I have law cases on appeal. I have businesses to manage. I have family to care for. Boy Scout work. Church work. Lots of things to do. We go hiking, swimming, camping. It is just that I am always moving and gainfully employed. I fill in all of the spaces between activities with genealogy.

Am I out to convert the world to my life style? Not hardly. I fully realize that most people are not motivated to work all the time.

My main goals involve the following:
  • Processing tens of thousands of documents and cataloging them including thousands of glass and acetate negatives.
  • Processing tens of thousands of digital images and adding metadata.
  • Distilling the information from all those documents and incorporating it into my genealogy files.
  • Resolving some of the issues with my present ancestral lines.
  • Adding whatever information I can to the FamilySearch Research Wiki.
  • If FamilySearch Family Tree turns out to work, and if there are no onerous limitations, adding all of my research to the Family Tree.
That should take a while. Meanwhile, I will continue to travel around and present classes and talk to groups about genealogy.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Google buys Sparrow

Just when I thought I had worked out the problems I was having with various email programs, Sparrow announced it was being purchased by Google. After working through Microsoft Outlook, Mozilla Thunderbird, Apple Mail and a few others, without success in getting my email straightened out, I had finally decided to use Sparrow as a reasonable alternative. has been very stable and a good email client for the last couple of months. Now this, it is purchased by Google. Let's just say that my opinion of Google Mail is very poor. I have lost two email addresses, and very good addresses at that, to unexplained and unexplainable crashes. One of the addresses works very infrequently but the other is dead, dead, dead. Having your email address crash is like being forcibly ejected from your house or apartment; you have to establish a whole new email address and who knows what you miss in the meantime.

Lately, I have tried to hedge my losses by having a backup address, just in case. But Sparrow was working so well, I had almost forgotten my plans. Now, I will have to get busy again and make sure I have a viable contingency. Just in case one of my Google Mail addresses decides to go visit its relatives in outer darkness.

I am not so certain that this endless round of big companies eating up smaller companies is such a great benefit to the consumers. I am guessing that the Sparrow service I have had for the last while, will get worse and probably have a cost associated with it. I am a big fan of Google, but they have a dark underside. They continually monetize their products, like Google Drive, that went from a free service to a paid one and then jumped over 10 times in cost. Most of the Google components are still technically free, but for how long? Especially when they finish buying up the competition.

Blessed, Honored Pioneer!

This next week we celebrate the 24th of July, the commemoration of the entrance of first Mormon Pioneers into the Salt Lake Valley in 1847. All of the Mormon immigrants to the West are considered to be pioneers if they traveled between the years of 1847 and 1868 when the railroad was built to Utah. I write about this for a number of reasons. First and foremost, because 14 of my 16 Great-great-grandparents were pioneers. Some died in the attempt to cross the Plains, other suffered incredible hardships, such as my Great-great-grandfather Sidney Tanner who lost his infant son and namesake, when a wagon rolled over his head.

As I write this, we have just begun celebrating the 24th here in Utah with a pancake breakfast and a symbolic pioneer trek by the neighborhood children in a parade. Shortly, my wife and I will drive the Mormon Trail from west to east, on a trip to Springfield, Illinois, that will also involve a stop in Nauvoo, Illinois, the start of the Mormon exodus across the continent.  My ancestors were driven out of Nauvoo in the dead of winter, to face a 1300 mile trek across the wilderness.

The Mormons were mobbed and persecuted across the country, starting in New York state, until they finally made their stand in the barren desert valley of the Great Salt Lake. My own ancestors either settled in parts of the Utah Territory, or moved on south as settlement missionaries to Arizona. Only two of my Great-grandparents were born outside of the West, one great-grandfather was born in Indiana and another was born in Denmark and came to West as a small child. 

The 24th of July is a state holiday in Utah and involves parades and fireworks. I kind of understand the parades, but I am at a loss to understand the connection with fireworks other than as a general celebration. My relatives, along with all of the other pioneers, were a persecuted minority that was literally driven out of the country. In 1847, the part of the continent that became Utah was still part of Mexico.

I think the words to the hymn by Ida R. Aldredge in the video say it well.

Mystery Photos 22 July 2012

I think I recognize a couple of people in the top photo, but most are unfamiliar. The time frame of both photos is before 1920 in Arizona. The photos are images from glass negatives likely taken by Margaret Godfrey Jarvis Overson near St. Johns, Apache, Arizona.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Speaking of Cemeteries

I draw the line at looking for tombstones for people who aren't dead yet. One old couple we know arranged for the their burial plots to the extent that they already have the headstone in place ready for the burial. Unfortunately (?) they aren't yet occupying the site. There graves are planned for cemetery in a small town in Utah and as we drove by, my wife suggested that we visit their graves. I balked. I said it is only proper to at least wait until they are dead.

I was doing a scanning project at the Mesa City Cemetery and noticed a new grave site right next to the Cemetery office. I commented to the Cemetery workers about the new grave and was told that they had to dig up the person that was there so they could have the new burial. Apparently the newly deceased either had a more prominent position in the City or more money, but they threw out the former inhabitant of the grave.

One time we were on a rather long hike, looking for a mine in the mountains near Mesa, Arizona and found evidence of a small cemetery. The place we found probably had a name, but none of the graves were identified and only one or two were marked. I wonder how many of us are descendants of these poor unfortunates who lacked any kind of burial remembrance?

Sometimes looking for gravemarkers turns up more than we have bargained for. I was once wandering around in a cemetery looking for relatives when we ran into one of the groundskeepers. He not only told us where the graves were located, he showed us a list of everyone buried in the cemetery and told us to visit the cemetery's sexton, in an office in the town. We went to the sexton's office and he had a copy of a book containing all of the early births and deaths in the community. No one, outside of his office, would even know of the existence of this book.

After searching in a very large municipal cemetery for relatives, I found the grave marker for one of my Great-great-greatgrandfathers. When we checked in the cemetery office, we found that the date of his burial was nearly fifty years after he died. We subsequently found that he and his wife had been dug up two times previously and moved, first from a cemetery in the middle of the town and a later one that had been gobbled up by development in the big city nearby.

Some of my relatives are buried in a small cemetery in a town called Joseph City, Arizona. This town is in the middle of a vast desert called the Colorado Plateau where the wind blows almost every day of the year and the temperature is over 100 degrees in the summer and 20 degrees below zero in the winter. Every time I go there, I always ask the same question. Why on earth did they stop here? The story is told that my Great-grandfather and his wife upon arriving at the spot now called Joseph City, just kept driving in their wagon until forced bad by a snowstorm. They stayed there for the rest of their lives. goes head-to-head with

Thanks to an alert from Dick Eastman in a blog post entitled " Launches an International Records Web Site" I learned about a new "offer" from brightsolid's website. I have previously pointed out that the big four online genealogy sites,,, and are locked in a battle to expand and dominate the online genealogy community.

Well, I wouldn't actually think that was locked in a battle with anyone, but all four are rapidly expanding their acquisitions, services, alliances and market positions. The offer from, confirms as I speculated, shows that's earlier move to establish a U.S. Census website was part of a larger plan to expand significantly into the U.S. and world markets.

The line up of major sites just got more interesting.

Friday, July 20, 2012

The Evolution of Methodology

I remember the first time I saw a copy of the U.S. Federal Census. I was researching in the old Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah and somehow decided I needed to look at the census. I had only the most vague understanding of how I might use the Census or even what I might find, but I searched through a huge cabinet of rolls of microfilm until I found one roll I thought might help. I looked at the Census in one of the hundreds of microfilm readers and quickly gave up. The images were unreadable to my inexperienced eyes and I have no idea how to find what I was looking for (if I knew). That ended my census experience for many, many years.

Did I attend a class on the census or look for a research guide? I didn't know such things existed. Did I ask for help? Of course not. I simply ignored the census for years. As it turned out, my own lines were not overly census dependent. Most of the "missing" information would not have been supplied from census records but many of my early conclusions may have made more sense had I used this resource.

My awakening to sources first came about through reading. I have mentioned this before, but my basic understanding of genealogy started from reading two books:
  • Greenwood, Val D. The Researcher's Guide to American Genealogy. Baltimore, Md: Genealogical Pub. Co, 1990. 
  • Eakle, Arlene H., and Johni Cerny. The Source A Guidebook of American Genealogy. Salt Lake City, Utah: Ancestry Pub. Co, 1984 and the later version, Szucs, Loretto Dennis, and Sandra Hargreaves Luebking. The Source: A Guidebook of American Genealogy. Salt Lake City: Ancestry, 1997. 
 As an interesting aside, I never dreamed that I would be working with Arlene Eakle in a common enterprise at Family History Expos back in those early days.

In today's online world of genealogy, it is very common for researchers in the U.S. to start with the Census records (and end there too). But during most of those early years, I was mainly trying to understand what was known and what was not known about my family.  Significantly, what took me many years of effort and multiple visits to the Family History Library, would today take no more than a few minutes looking at online family trees. The main difference was significant. Because I did not have an instant overview of "my family," I was forced to look at every connection, one by one, and verify, as much as I knew how at the time, the information and resolve any conflicting claims. Today, it is too easy to simply assume all that online information is correct and wonder what to do next.

My investigations centered mainly on looking at the thousands of family group records submitted by my family members at various times. These records were on paper and collected in huge binders. Sometimes I would find multiple copies of the same family with the usual variety in details and accuracy. Most of my efforts were focused on resolving those contradictions and eliminating the unbelievable ones.

I think I instinctively understood the need for sources to verify the information in the records I was examining, but of course, I had no idea of the extent of the records available until I began reading, as I pointed out above. Despite my understanding of the need for sources, it took me a long time to understand the importance of recording those sources as citations. I am still not fully convinced that the format of the citation has any real value, other than consistency and making journal editors happy, but I am more inclined as time goes by, to record more about the source rather than some artificial minimum amount of information.

The real transition came from the formal requirements of taking classes in genealogy from Brigham Young University. The years spent taking classes helped to focus my research and organize it into something coherent, something others could understand and reproduce. Writing papers for university level classes, some of the hardest classes I ever took, may not seem like fun, but it does train you to think more systematically. I remember one comment from a professor at BYU who sent back a long note to my first paper scolding me for "sounding like an attorney." I guess to some extent, I will never get past that issue.

So where am I today? Still evolving. I usually start out helping someone with their "genealogy" by asking a whole lot of questions. I don't think that is what most people have in mind when they start, but I have found it necessary to establish what the person is really thinking about.

I am sure that my methodology will continue to evolve as new technical resources become available and as I keep learning how to do what I have been trying to do for the past thirty or so years.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Blogger of Honor -- Illionois Family History Expo

We are just 2 weeks away from the upcoming Illinois Family History Expo! I wanted to let everyone know that I am one of the Bloggerrs of Honor! Please share the word. At our last Expo in Sacramento, California, I met several people after the Expo who express disappointment that they didn't know it was happening. As you know, there are few ways to communicate directly with the genealogical community, so take time to share this news with your non-Internet genealogical friends.

The Family History Expos will be coming to Springfield, Illinois August 3-4, 2012 at the Crowne Plaza – Springfield. Join us to meet me and other bloggers, presenters, and see the exhibits.  You are most cordially invited to come on over and spend some time with us at the Expo. I am really looking forward to speaking with you!

It’s not too late to take advantage of early online registration, a savings of $30, until August 2nd , $69 today $99 at the door.

The keynote address will be given by Bernard E. Gracy, Jr, External CTO and VP Business Development, Volly at Pitney Bowes.

Grand Prize Drawings include:
  • is giving away 2 World Discovery Memberships as door prizes
  • FamilySearch is giving away a canvas goody bag filled with fun FamilySearch stuff
  • National Genealogical Studies is giving away a $900 online genealogy course
  • Arlene H. Eakle, Ph.D. is giving a full $300 research package
As well as many additional door prizes given away between classes both days.

Expo details and the class schedule are available online at:

There is no cost for attending the keynote address or visiting the exhibit hall. Early registration for classes is $69, at the door $99, for a single day $59 or to attend any single class $20.

Come join us for two educationally fun packed days of family history and genealogy. Ask-the-Pros will be available for Q&A so bring your questions.

Follow us on Twitter hashtag #fhexpo.

Looking forward to seeing you there!

An Illusion of Security -- Online Cloud Storage

If you use the Cloud for storage is your information secure? This story should give you something to think about. I just had the experience of losing significant online storage. If I had not had a copy of the data on my computer, I would have lost it altogether.

The Loss

I have been using Dropbox for some time and decided to compare some other methods of online backup. I have used several different programs. I had about 18 GBs of photos in Microsoft's SkyDrive. I had been using SkyDrive for some time. Editing the photos on different computers and then backing them up to hard drives. Today, I got an error message when I started up my laptop that SkyDrive could not find the drive on my computer. I had to resign into Windows Live and prove that I was an authorized user. When I looked at my SkyDrive, all of my photos were gone. Vanished.

The Investigation

Let me make sure you understand. I am totally skeptical of any kind of storage. I have backups of backups and give copies of my data to my children. I use online storage as a convenience and maintain local copies of the documents on different computers. I use hard drives primarily and have multiple backups of everything on my computer. That said, I began to investigate Microsoft's SkyDrive. There is a standard "free" amount of storage and then you have to pay for additional space. The same thing is true with almost every other type of online storage. I found Google Drive to be particularly worrisome. They have changed the rules about their storage this year (2012) and made it more than ten times as expensive as previously. There are so many loopholes in their storage plans that you could lose your data at any time. See Old storage plans vs. new storage plans.  Dropbox just added some storage to its "premium" plans but there are no guarantees that any of these companies wouldn't change the rules, pricing structure or anything else about their online storage for any reason especially if it is in their interest to do so.

By the way, did you know that Google includes every photo you upload to your blog as part of your online storage? Did you know that your Picasa Web Album is part of the storage included in your Google Drive? 

The Conclusion

I reconfigured SkyDrive and reloaded my photos online. By the way, to upload 18 GBs takes many hours. I am going to be even more conservative in my backup practices. I am going to make sure that I have local copies of all of my documents stored online and make sure that I use the online storage as a convenience not as "permanent" storage of my data. This is not just a problem with "free" online storage. In the case of Google, I pay for additional storage.

Now, what if you say to me, I use Carbonite or Mozy or whatever? Are you really sure you are any more secure?

The Honeymoon is Over! FamilySearch Family Tree Invitation

Imagine my interest in receiving an emailed invitation today from FamilySearch entitled, "Get Early Access to Family Tree on! Now you can view, edit, and link to sources from your tree like never before." The invitation goes on to say:
Congratulations! You have been selected to be among the first to use Family Tree on

Now you can access your family tree and the largest collection of genealogy resources in the world from a single website—
Should I try out this "new" program? (I hope you recognize my sarcasm). Apparently I was sent this "invitation" because:
Why you? Because you have previously used Family Tree, which represents a new approach to researching and organizing your family tree, will be replacing in the coming months. Early access allows you to experience Family Tree using your own tree data on a live system. You can also invite other users of to work with you. (They will just need to follow the activation instructions provided below.)
Does this mean virtually everyone who is presently on got this same invitation? If so, the honeymoon is over. All of my relatives who have been putting interesting things into can now show up in FamilyTree and duplicate their contributions, such as showing my grandfather as the son of his second wife and other such nonsense.

The long invitation has some interesting comments. One is a helpful suggestion to download the entire 127 page manual from the FamilySearch Help Center. I notice that the manual has been upgraded to the date of 10 July 2012, but is out-of-date with the operation of the program. Right at the beginning of the manual, it states that the feature of adding new individuals is not yet available, however the program provides for adding people. There is a feature lag between the manual and the program. I should note, that the Manual goes on to explain how to add people to the file. So the disconnect is likely just an editing error.

The Manual states,
The Family Tree is currently being tested and is not yet available to everyone who currently uses If you do not see the Family Tree link, it means either that you are not authorized to use Family Tree or that you have not signed in.
Who is not authorized to use Family Tree? I thought everyone was invited to use the program?

The invitation concludes with the statement:
During the initial stages of the Family Tree, your experiences, insights, and ideas will help us to refine the process. Please take the time to share your thoughts by clicking the orange Feedback tab on the top right of the web page. You’ll also be able to view the comments of other users. 
Remember to use the Feedback tab and report all the problems you are having with the program.

How many people will take up FamilySearch's invitation? Any guesses?

Climbing the ladder one rung and a time

I was watching some painters painting the interior of my daughter's house. She has a stairwell with walls that are quite high. The painters were using a series of ladders to reach the higher parts of the walls. At one point, one of the painters ended up standing on the top of an extended ladder. I mean, right on top of a ladder in the form of an "A," balanced on the very point of the top. This is not something I would ever have tried as he had no support at all except for his exceptional balance.

I am sure that there were a number of "safety violations" in the way that the work was done. But the comparison to my own work in genealogy was obvious. At times even though we climb one rung at a time up our ancestral ladder, we reach the top and sometimes it takes some substantial risk to go further. It takes a great deal of balance and some considerable risk. Genealogy is not a competitive sport. It isn't even a situation where there are winners and losers. In a real sense, everyone who participates in genealogy, wins. But on the other hand, all of the factors that go into successfully competing or, in the case of the painters, completing a difficult job, apply to genealogy.

We can only progress in finding our ancestors is we take the job one rung at a time. If we skip a rung or skimp on our research, we may get stuck and never get to the top of the ladder. But by making sure we can make it to the next rung, we will inevitably get to the top of the ladder. That's where balance and skill start to come in. I am sure that this was not the first time the painter had balanced on the top of a tall ladder. His experience had given him a sense of confidence that I,  a rank amateur could never have. Likewise, as we climb the rungs of our genealogical ladders, we need to accumulate experience that will give us the ability to stretch beyond the end and reach higher into areas of real difficulty.

OK, enough with the ladder analogy. I have been steadily, although somewhat slowly, been adding sources to FamilySearch Family Tree. Where the ladder analogy breaks down with genealogy, is the fact that as you climb your ancestral lines you will cross with others looking for the same information. Genealogy doesn't come to a point with no support. As you climb, you get more and more opportunities to interact with other relatives descended from the same people. If you are lucky, you will end up building the same support structure and the risks at the end of lines will be substantially diminished.

Hmm. Here I am talking about collaboration, when a few posts ago, I was railing against the fact that, in my own family, I have yet to find any substantial cooperation or support or even acknowledgement of my existence. I have to admit, when I go onto a huge online family tree program, I have little or no incentive to contact "relatives" with submitted trees without any documentation or sources. Why should I waste my time? But I know that somewhere out there, there must be motivated genealogists working on some of the issues in my family lines. Maybe I am deluded, but I think FamilySearch Family Tree opens up the possibility of finding those people. Will they talk to me? That remains to be seen.

Back to ladders, remember it takes a significant effort to get to the top.