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

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

New Blog Posts from the FamilySearch Blog

Since my RSS Feed does not work for the FamilySearch Blog, I thought yours might be either, so here are the most recent offerings:

BYU Class Offerings in Family History – Winter 2013 Semester

The International Black Genealogy Summit—2012 was a Great Success

Billion Graves—It’s So Easy!!

Halloween Trick or Treat from FamilySearch Family Tree

Since I checked earlier in the day, a new edition of Using the FamilySearch Family Tree: A Reference Guide (31 October 2012) went online. It is available under the Help menu link on It is only visible if you are registered and sign into the website. Thanks for heads up from my loyal readers.

It might be helpful to have some idea of the changes in the new manual and subsequently, the changes to the Family Tree program, but we are left to try and glean out the changes from the text that differs from previous editions and versions. One place to look for differences is the Feature Comparison between Family Tree and in Appendix F near the end of the manual.

A careful reading of the Feature Comparison shows the following:

Print a Pedigree Chart -- Still waiting
See a Family Group Record -- Still waiting
See a list of the people who were in a GEDCOM File that you contributed -- Still waiting
Add Notes -- Still waiting
Upload GEDCOM file -- Still waiting
Add new people and families that are not connected to your family line -- Still waiting
Add information using templates that are customized for Asia, Latin America and other parts of the world -- Still waiting
Sign in to help someone else -- Still waiting
Have Family Tree find possible matches -- This feature was there for a while and now has disappeared
Search for possible matches yourself -- Still waiting
Merge duplicate records -- Another feature that has been there for a while and maybe is no longer available
Unmerge and re-create incorrectly merged records -- Another feature that has been there for a while and maybe is no longer available

Hmm, looks suspiciously like they are going backwards for a while, some of the features I have been using for the past few weeks have now been retracted. Is this a treat or a trick?

Primary and Secondary Sources -- A multiple part discussion

In a recent blog post on Midwestern Microhistory: A Genealogy Blog, Blogger Harold Henderson raised an issue with a blog entitled, "There Is No Such Thing as a Primary Source." It seems to me that the issue needs further clarification and discussion, mainly because commonly used terminology may be misleading in evaluating the value of source records. His discussion is based, in part, on the following:
Mills, Elizabeth Shown. Evidence Explained: Citing History Sources from Artifacts to Cyberspace. Baltimore, Md: Genealogical Pub. Co, 2007.
The real question is whether there exists an adequate terminology to discuss the issue of evaluation of evidence at all in the genealogical context. This issue of proof, in the genealogical sense, is one of the factors that has separated genealogy as a non-academic pursuit from the main body of historical studies.  In the past (as in the present) there was little rigor in establishing valid family lines. There are on record instances of wholesale fabrication of genealogical data. In addition, the attitude of the academic community has been antagonistic to studying mere family relationships.

One example of this antagonism is the fact that there are very few university level degrees awarded specifically in the area of genealogy or even the more expansive category of family history. If I wanted to go to Arizona State University, one of the largest universities in the United States, and study "genealogy" I might end up in the School of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies with a class offering that includes the following:
From the multiple disciplinary approaches of history, philosophy and religious studies we investigate those matters that most make us human—mind, rationality and morality, spirit, and memory; our current areas of strength include: history and philosophy of science, intellectual history and history of philosophy, American and global religious history and cultures, environmental history and bioethics, women’s history and feminist philosophy, Native American history and indigenous epistemologies, history and philosophy of politics and the quest for justice; history, philosophy and politics of religion.
Do you see anything in there that might be called "genealogy?" I suppose if you keep digging, you might find something related to searching out your ancestors or even oral history, but it is anathema to the academic community to be interested in something as mundane as "genealogy." My point here is that there are various divergent academic disciplines that touch on genealogy, but none of them are directly involved in the subject.  We can look back in the development of genealogy as a pursuit for the reasons this has occurred.

To understand the issue of genealogical proof and the evaluation of evidence, it is necessary to examine the background of genealogy in Western Europe and the United States. In our online world it is rare to find genealogists who have studied the physical books written on the principles of genealogical research, describing the types of source materials and discussing the evaluation of evidence. Most current writing concentrate on methodology rather than the foundations of genealogical studies as a whole. Mills' book, Evidence Explained (see citation above), has a concise outline of the origins of genealogy, but her book is not intended to be a discussion of the underpinnings of genealogy, but rather a treatise on citation.

Most writers on the subject of the development of evidence evaluation in genealogy attribute the foundations of the modern practices to copious borrowings from the legal profession. Some of the most influential early U.S. writers on the subject were lawyers by profession and genealogists by avocation. Notable are the writings of Donald Lines Jocobus and even further back to the book:

Whitmore, William H. The American Genealogist: Being a Catalogue of Family Histories and Publications Containing Genealogical Information Issued in the United States. Albany, N.Y.: Joel Munsell, 1868.

If we go back to these early writings, we can begin to see the interplay between the serious academically oriented researchers and the results-oriented casual genealogist, who is more interested in names than history. I have referred to this before, in Spain, a common saying about an unreliable person was that he "lied like a genealogist." This unforgiving tradition still haunts the pursuit today. 

Here is another book I will be referring to from time to time as I develop this topic;

Greenwood, Val D. The Researcher's Guide to American Genealogy. Baltimore, MD: Genealogical Pub. Co, 2000.

Introduction Week -- Day Three, Still waiting for FamilySearch Family Tree

By today, I am starting to think that whoever sent out the notice that something was going to happen this week with FamilySearch Family Tree was likely a little premature in their assessment of the challenges of introducing a new online program. In addition, it is apparent that the RSS Feed for the FamilySearch Blog does not work. I have "subscribed" multiple times and I still find blog posts there that never show up in Google Reader or Feedly. Hmm. Sounds like complaining day to me! Better change my attitude.

Since I don't see any changes. I suppose I will wait and write something when I do.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Surprise, Google's advanced voice search works

Even though I have an iPhone, I am not a fan of Siri. Apple's voice activation software seems cranky and is not accurate enough for me to be useful. I was pleasantly surprised to find out that Google's advanced voice search, using the Google App on my iPhone, works appreciably better and in fact, starts to become useful. Some of the questions I asked both systems seemed to baffle Siri but were easily answered correctly by Google.

Both systems seemed to have a hard time with the word "genealogy." Google thought it was "Jenny ology" and Siri thought it was a place. But the incidence of correct answers for Google seemed to be significant. I am not certain that talking to your computer (iPhone) itself is such a marvelous breakthrough for humans, but it is interesting and will likely save a lot of keystrokes.

Introduction Week -- Day Two of FamilySearch Family Tree

No changes this morning, that I can see.

There has apparently been some confusion concerning exactly what I am talking about. is a website containing millions of digitized records, the Catalog of the Family History Library, digitized Books, links to the Ancestral File and the Pedigree Resource File, the FamilySearch Research Wiki, the Learning Center with hundreds of instructional videos and many, many more resources for genealogists.

Added to this list of resources is a program that was introduced at RootsTech 2012, called FamilySearch Family Tree. If you go the website, and do not sign in, this is what you will see today: (you can click on the image to see it more clearly)

  • Number 1: This is where you go to sign into the program.
  • Number 2: This is a link to search the Ancestral File and the Pedigree Resource File, this is NOT Family Tree. 
  • Number 3: This is the link to the Family History Library Catalog
  • Number 4: This is a link to the digitized books collection
  • Number 5: This is a link to the digitized records from microfilm and from current acquisition through digitized cameras
  • Number 6: This is the link to the Research Wiki and other resources such as the Learning Center with over 400 classes

All of these resources, plus everything else on this site, is free.

NOTE: The link to FamilySearch Family Tree does not appear.

Right now, although this may change in the future, the link to FamilySearch Family Tree does not show unless you are #1: registered and sign into, and #2: have an invitation to view the Family Tree program.

You can register for free and sign in simply by clicking on Number 1 above, the Sign In link.

You can get an invitation to enter the Family Tree program by clicking on the Help link in the upper right hand corner and looking at the entries on that page. Here is a screen shot of the Help Center page:

The big red arrow points to the link to the document explaining how to get access to the program.

Once you follow the directions and click the link (assuming you have signed into you will have access to the program from then on. You only have to go through this process one time.
From then on, the link to Family Tree will appear next to the FamilySearch logo like this:

If you click on this link, you will enter the program. This is what it looks like to me:

I have blanked out some information showing living people. Now you are ready to start working. You may see something different, especially if you have never previously contributed information to or any of the other programs that made up the data in Family Tree.

If you still have questions, Please send me your comments.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Georgia Family History Expo 2012

On November 9th and 10th, I will be in Duluth, Georgia, outside of Atlanta, for the annual Family History Expo. Attending a conference such as this one is a marvelous introduction for newcomers to genealogy. When I have been at past conferences, I have commonly had the experience of telling someone living in the area about the conference, only to hear, "Oh, if I had known there was a conference, I would have gone."

Now, here is the deal. If you know anyone in the Atlanta area or beyond, who might be interested in attending the Family History Expo, send them an email or Facebook post or whatever now and invite them to the conference. Even if you can't go yourself, please don't leave people out there who would like to go, but haven't yet heard of the event.

We have enough trouble getting people interested in genealogy, without ignoring this kind of opportunity.

OK, so in the interests of disclosure, I work with Family History Expos and present classes at the Expos. But I was enjoying attending our local Mesa Family History Expo, long before I knew Holly Hansen or anything about traveling around the country.

Introduction Week -- Day One for FamilySearch Family Tree

OK, so this is supposed to be the week that FamilySearch Family Tree (FSFT) is "introduced." We have been working with a rather cranky website for the past week on and would welcome some stability, at least. Last Monday, the site was down completely and since my class was on FamilySearch Family Tree, I had the class members vote on what else they would like to learn and taught about Google tools for Genealogy instead. The class went well. I have the same scheduled class today and if anyone shows up, we'll see if the program is still running.

I worked some on FSFT and noticed some issues, such as when two obvious duplicate people where showing, even in the same family, the program failed to find any possible duplicates to allow the people to be merged. FSFT also refused to allow a gender change when there were two entries, one showing the person as a male and the other showing the same person as a female. Perhaps that feature will always need the intervention of Family Search?

Anyway, a check of the program today shows it pretty much the same as yesterday and last week and so forth back to the not-so-recent-now changes. I checked the Reference Guide and it is still dated 2 October 2012. So there are no major updates.

I did get contacted by one reader who asked if FSFT was a "replacement" for Personal Ancestral File? I am not really sure how to answer such a question. I do think that it is important to have your own research on your own computer in some format using a genealogy database program but those genealogists that are still using Personal Ancestral File (PAF) should do something with their data. Especially since I spent over an hour transferring some files from an older version of PAF to something usable just this last week. This might not be possible too much longer.

If I hear anything or see anything online, I will try to respond, but this week we are beginning our travels to Atlanta for the Family History Expos. I am not sure how much writing I will be doing with the travel schedule. We are leaving early to visit family and then to the Expo on November 9 and 10 at the Gwinnett Center, 6400 Sugarloaf Parkway, Duluth, Georgia 30097.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

More on Genealogy's Popularity Declining

Most of the comments received on my post concerning Google Trends were attempts to explain the apparent decline in Web searches about genealogical subjects. Some people attributed the decline in Web searches for the term "genealogy" to a more sophisticated genealogical community. However, many of the comments showed a lack of understanding of what Google Trends is showing. 

Google records every search made by every person on the Google search engine. Here is the explanation from Google about how Trends operates:
Google Trends analyzes a portion of Google web searches to compute how many searches have been done for the terms you've entered, relative to the total number of searches done on Google over time. This analysis indicates the likelihood of a random user to search for a particular search term from a certain location at a certain time. Keep in mind that Trends designates a certain threshold of traffic for search terms, so that those with low volume won't appear. Our system also eliminates repeated queries from a single user over a short period of time, so that the level of interest isn't artificially impacted by these type of queries. 
Say you've entered the search term tea, setting your location parameter to Scotland, and your time parameter to March 2007. In order to calculate the popularity of this term among users in Scotland in March of 2007, Trends examines a percentage of all searches for tea within the same time and location parameters. The results are then shown on a graph, plotted on a scale from 0 to 100. The same information is also displayed graphically by the geographic heat map.
One commentator suggested that genealogists had become more specific, that is, they were searching for "Smith genealogy" rather than just for genealogy. This quote from Google answers that suggestion in part:
Does a downward line indicate lower search volume?
No. A downward trending line doesn't necessarily mean that the absolute traffic for a search term is decreasing - only that its popularity (or query share) is decreasing. Query share can be understood as the ratio between the number of queries for that term and the total number of queries (at a given time and location). Read more about how the data is normalized
Let's take an example: suppose the city of Melbourne, Australia, has 1000 internet users and 500 of them (or 50% of internet users in Melbourne) searched for the term spring festival in October. In November, 500 more internet users moved to Melbourne, but none of them knew about the spring festival, so no one out of that group searched for that term.
So even though there was a total of 1500 internet users in Melbourne, only 500 total (or 33% of the total number of internet users) searched for spring festival; although although the search volume for that term remained the same, its popularity actually decreased percentage-wise.
So the downward trend does not indicate that any genealogists quit searching for the term, it means that as a percentage of the entire network, interest in that particular term decreased. So my question is valid, is there a decrease in interest in genealogy on the Web? The answer is yes as a percentage of the overall use of the Web, genealogy as a search term has decreased.

The Overson Negative Project -- Grandmothers

I mentioned before that I am in the process of digitizing thousands of negatives, including old glass negatives taken by my Great-grandmother Margaret Godfrey Jarvis Overson. Today, in developing some of the negatives I had photographed, I found several showing different grandmothers. I thought I would share those photos going back to my Great-great-grandmothers.

Here they are:

This is my Great-grandmother Margaret Godfrey Jarvis Overson (b. 1878, d. 1968)

This is my Great-grandmother Francis Ann Thomas Christensen (b. 1864, d. 1950)

This is my Great-great-grandmother Margaret Jarvis (b. 1857, d. 1934). She is surrounded by her daughters, including my Great-grandmother Margaret Godfrey Jarvis Overson (b. 1878, d. 1968) on the right in the back standing.

This is my Great-great-grandmother Mary Kjerstine Christensen Oveson (b. 1846, d. 1922)

This is my Grandmother Eva Margaret Overson Tanner (b. 1897, d. 1932)

Genealogy's popularity declining?

There are indicators that the popularity of genealogy is rapidly declining. This would seem contrary to the emphasis placed on the pursuit by both commercial and non-profit genealogical enterprises. You can disagree with my assessment but the statistics compiled by Google Trends show otherwise.

Google Trends plots the frequency of searches on specific topics. Say, you search on the term "genealogy," Google then benchmarks the number of searches on any term based on Web search, Image search, News search or product search. The results are displayed in a graph over time.

Here are a few examples.

This is a search on the term "genealogy."

You can see a definite downward trend for the past eight years. The bench mark in this case was back in 2004. So, you don't believe this? OK, here is a plot for searches on

Down somewhat, but almost no real change over eight years of web searches. What about FamilySearch? Here's the trend:

This one turns out to be roughly the same as a search for the term "genealogy." What about "family history?"

Same downward trend. What about a search on MyHeritage, its rapid growth should show up, shouldn't it?

Yes, the rapid growth shows up, but the trend is still downward.

Why is this the case? What is going on globally with genealogy? Oh, just in case you want to see if there is some reality to these graphs, try searching on the term "hurricane." You will see a jump for each year when there was a major storm in the U.S.

Interesting? Challenging to most current perceptions about genealogy? I think so.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Stepping Off Into the Past -- Moving up a generation

You could do as some records I have seen and that is add the next generation automatically by calling them Mr. Smith and Mrs. Smith or whatever and adding in approximate birth and death dates and an imaginative birth place, such as "born abt. 1800 in the United States." If that makes you feel good then I guess that will suffice, but as for me, I feel some obligation to be more specific. Blanks in my record don't bother me nearly as much as making up the data does.

End of lines are inevitable. Where it ends is not. In the past weeks I have seen several instances of people looking for their fathers and mothers, not remote ancestors. Because of our privacy laws and our social structure, finding someone who lived within the past 70 years or so can be more difficult than researching in the 1800s. Finding these more recent people is sometimes completely beyond the pale of genealogy.

The one ironclad rule about moving your research back one generation is to be fully satisfied with the record and sources for the originating generation. In other words, when you focus your research on your Great-grandparents, you need to be satisfied that you have first adequately identified your Grandparents. Too many researchers jump back a generation or two or more before they are even acquainted with the intervening generations. Never assume. Always question any inherited pedigree. It is tempting to race back to some remote ancestor, but it would be heartbreaking to find out that because of faulty research in between, you aren't really related to that person.

So what do you need to know to move back one more generation? To be intentionally repetitious, you need an adequate level of knowledge about the jumping off generation. If you are trying to extend your ancestral line and all you know is that your ancestor was born in Ohio or Pennsylvania, how are you going to find his or her parents? Start where the specific information ends.

Another issue that arises frequently is that the information passed on to you is incorrect or incomplete. Your record may show that your Great-grandfather was born in Virginia but that may not be correct. To assume that the information you have been given by someone else is correct is always a mistake. There is one exception and that is if the information is well sourced and you verify that the sources say what they are supposed to say. Even if you have a level of confidence in your grandmother or aunt's genealogy, assuming that is correct without verifying the information may lead you to exactly the same dead ends that your relatives passed on to you.

During the past few editions of this series, I have been examining on the lines in my own family that ends in a quandary; that is the apparent marriage of step-siblings, where the father is the same for both the husband and his wife with different mothers. This could be true, but not very likely. It is possible that the two fathers, both with the same recorded name, same recorded birthplace and the same year of birth, are really two different people. But this is the challenge. Despite all the research in my family, no one seems to have solved this question.

In order to begin the process, I started doing research two generations down the line closer to me. Here is the line I am researching, starting with my Great-grandmother:

Frances Ann Thomas (b. 1864, d. 1950)
who is the daughter of
David Thomas (b. 1820, d. 1888) and
Adeline Springthorpe (b. 1826, d. 1891)

Adeline Springthorpe (b. 1826, d. 1891)
was the daughter of
James Springthorpe (b. 1785, d. 1851) and
Frances Springthorpe (b. 1797, d. 1862)

This last couple show the same father with different mothers. Now I am satisfied with my research so far concerning Frances Ann Thomas (b. 1864, d. 1950). So it is time to move on to the next generation. I will set aside the issues with David Thomas for now and move on to Adeline Springthorpe.

Stay tuned for further installments. This series is designed to show my methodology in extending family lines. In this case, I have no predetermined results. You will see what happens when I do.

What will happen this next week with FamilySearch Family Tree?

It was announced by the Directors of the Mesa FamilySearch Library that they received an email notice that FamilySearch Family Tree on would be "introduced" during the week of 29 October 2012. I have been wondering what the "introduction" will consist of and watching the program carefully. Since the program has been active and not in a Beta test since February, 2012, I have been speculating about the changes that might occur to constitute an introduction.

First, in response to some severe criticism lately, let me say; I am not associated with FamilySearch other than as a volunteer with the FamilySearch Research Wiki, as a contributor to the FamilySearch TechTips and other voluntary associations. I am not an employee of FamilySearch and I do not claim any particular insider knowledge. I do watch FamilySearch carefully as an outsider. I do this for several reasons, primarily because I am a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS or Mormon) and have been using FamilySearch and its predecessors for over 30 years to do my research. Secondarily, because as a genealogist, part of my motivation for seeking out my family comes from my beliefs as a member of the Church.

If my association with the Church and/or my enthusiasm for FamilySearch and its efforts to support the genealogical community bother you, then find something else to do with your time and ignore my posts.

In addition, although there are other wonderful genealogical resources out there in the world, some free and some by subscription, I just happen to believe that FamilySearch Family Tree shows the best promise of being the solution to some of the problems found in the research in my own family lines. I fully realize that very few genealogists out there in the community have generations of previous genealogical research in their family lines such as those among my ancestors. This is both good and bad news if you are in this position. The good news is that the records are usually available, the bad news is that very, very little of the family lines have been documented or sourced. Much of the information is either incomplete or incorrect. Hitherto, I have had no way to sort out this huge tangle of information. I see FamilySearch Family Tree as the first glimmerings of a solution to sorting out what is and what is not accurately recorded about my family.

I started this process over thirty years ago and I just might live long enough to finish it. For the first time I believe I have the tools to do the job. So those are some of the reasons I keep a close watch on FamilySearch. It is mostly out of self interest.

So, what will happen next week? I doubt that even those at FamilySearch are exactly sure. But the program will continue to evolve and I will keep working on my family lines and all my other projects. And, I will likely continue to write, despite the criticism, until my fingers and mind no longer work.

Friday, October 26, 2012

More about Windows 8, the Microsoft Surface and etc.

A few days ago, I wrote a short piece about the introduction of the new Apple products and made the observation that the intro was timed to occur just before the introduction of the new Microsoft Surface, tablet/computer and the formal introduction of Windows 8. My comments were apparently disturbing to some of my readers. Especially my note that early reviews of the Surface tablet/computer were negative. Since writing the short note I have gone back and viewed additional Surface reviews. There are really two products that are being introduced as Surface tablets/computers. By the way, the reason I do not put the Surface into a single category is that the two products run different operating systems. The first Surface to be introduced today along with the introduction of Windows 8, will run a version of the Microsoft system called Windows RT. Hardware reviews are uniformly positive. It is looking like a great machine. Software reviews are mixed. There is apparently another more powerful tablet that is really a laptop computer in the works for later release that will run the full Windows 8 operating system.

From a practical standpoint, I received a notice from Parallels Desktop, the program I use on my iMac to run Windows 7, that their program is not yet compatible with Windows 8 and that I should not upgrade yet.

I am sorry if my opinion of the upstaging done by Apple was a little too strident for some. The media is always too eager to predict the fall of Apple or to snipe at Microsoft. I should have been more balanced in my approach. But I will note that you will always get adversarial reviews of any product. I have used both Apple and Microsoft operating systems for the past years as they have developed. I used Windows exclusively for work and Apple OS for graphics and design. They are different and obviously some people prefer one over the other. I am firmly in the Apple camp. But I have a PC running Windows sitting within arm's reach.

As to the products from Microsoft. I will have more to say when I have had the opportunity to see and use them. I will upgrade to Windows 8 as soon as Parallels Desktop fixes their program. Change is inevitable and change in the computer world is ever more than inevitable. Since I already have an iPad, I am not certain I am in the market for another tablet, but who knows. announces the first API for FamilySearch Family Tree is a archive website that describes its mission as:
Our mission is to provide a secure platform to archive personal testimonies that represent the living history of our time and the legacy of our ancestors while connecting families to share these stories regardless of geographical impediments.
They are presently the first such organization to have a direct connection (API) to's Family Tree program. Here is a copy of the announcement:
LegacyStories is proud to be the first web application to be FAMILY TREE ACCESS CERTIFIED by FamilySearch. 
This special certification allows our LegacyStories members to search for and bookmark their writings, photos and oral narratives to ancestors found in the Family Tree 
In late November, 2012, FamilySearch will launch the revolutionary TREE CONNECTfeature. At that time our members will be able to easily link their bookmarked stories to the Family Tree.
One of the features of FamilySearch Family Tree that has been discussed in their presentations on the subject will be the ability to link to or incorporate media with the individual records. FamilySearch has indicated that this will occur in the future, but it now appears that the future may be sooner than later.

As I see it, FamilySearch can either increase its storage capacity exponentially to accommodate media files, or it can license out the function to third-party developers. It appears that FamilySearch will license this out to developers, even if it decides in the future to host media files. includes the following;
  • The Living Legacy Project which includes the "I Ask" or International Association of Storykeepers, an organization of independent heritage professionals dedicated to saving the living history of our time. Members are mentored through an online Certified Legacy Advisor course, then provided career pathways to serve growing demand in the senior living and financial planning arenas.
  •, the official family-connection archive and sharing platform for the Living Legacy Project. The site provides free and secure cloud-based back-up storage for the things families hold most dear—their legacy stories, photos, audios and family history. The site enables members to discriminately share this content and collaborate in its accumulation with anyone they choose. Each story or media contribution can be linked to one of 2.5 billion records as part of the world’s genealogical tree.
  • Legacy Matters a kick-start program designed to help get the ball rolling. We have a program for families/individuals looking for assistance and a program for care facilities interested in implementing the program for their residents.
It will be interesting to see how future concepts begin to interface with Family Tree. 

Stepping Off Into the Past -- Moving Beyond the Census

Census records may be the beginning of genealogical research, but they certainly are not the end. Despite common practices to the contrary. Most people who are starting out researching an ancestral line logically move from census records to vital records. In the case of the U.S. Federal Census, the coverage is well known since the Census was taken every ten years beginning in 1790. What is less known, is the coverage of U.S. vital records. Many researchers are surprised to learn that there are beginning dates for every jurisdiction when any form of vital records became available.

As far as U.S. civil jurisdictions are concerned, the earliest records are usually marriage records, followed by death records and then birth records. Although in some Eastern states, the records can go back hundreds of years, as you go west, the dates become later and later when keeping birth and death records was mandated by law.

Here are an examples of a pages from the FamilySearch Research Wiki that talk about the availability marriage, birth and death records.

United States Vital Records - has a link to every state's vital records page explaining when the records became available.
United States Birth Records
United States Marriage Records

Remember that the Research Wiki has a page for every state and most countries of the world with links to articles about the availability of their vital records.

Sometimes, there are compilations of vital records in the form of various indexes. In looking at the ancestral line I am working on, the Springthorpes, and moving beyond census records, the first othere records that I find are associated with birth, marriage and death. In the case of Frances Ann Thomas (b. 1864, d. 1950) Arizona had several records that I found through and These sources included the following:
  • Arizona Department of Health, Division of Vital Statistics, Certificate of Death, Frances Ann Christensen, State File No. 3956, Registrar's No. 49, 17 August 1950.
  • Western States Marriage Index, 1809-2011 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2011. Original data: Western States Marriage Index. Brigham Young University–Idaho. 
  • Arizona Marriage Collection, 1864-1982, Upper Snake River Family History Center and Ricks College (Rexburg, Idaho) and Arizona Marriage Collection, 1864-1982 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations Inc, 2007.
Since Frances was born in 1864, this was long before any birth records were recorded from a civil jurisdictional standpoint. Any birth information would have to be found elsewhere. General registration for births did not begin and no government agencies in Utah were required by law to record birth before 1898. Though not required to do so, Salt Lake City and Ogden began registering births in 1890 and Park City began registering births in 1892. State registration of births began in 1905 and were generally complied with by 1917.

Evidence concerning Frances' birth, of course, appear in the Census records as well as the marriage and death record. The records I have examined so far in this exercise give me ample evidence of the date of her birth and the identity of her parents and siblings. But we are not through with our investigations as yet. 

Before moving on to other records, we should never forget that there are other death records, mainly from mortuaries and cemeteries. In the case of Frances Ann Thomas (Christensen) we have a gravemarker in the St. Johns, Apache, Arizona Westside Cemetery found on The entries in sometimes gives additional information from other researchers. In this case, there is a link to the online death certificate and other burials. 

You probably have guessed that this exercise in research was pre-staged. I already had most of this information in my files, but the point here is that I moving on with the research up the Springthorpe line to answer some unresolved questions. But to do so, I must build my case from the ground up, so to speak. I need to make sure we are on firm ground with each member of the line before moving on to the next generation. 

If you would like to jump ahead and see the extent of some of the research and items about Frances Ann Thomas, please go to and look in the left-hand column for her name. You will find 11 articles written by my daughter Amy summarizing the life of this ancestor. 

TechTips moves to Blog

Among all the changes happening to, they have moved the TechTips site to be integrated into the Blog. It is now in a list of categories for the Blog and the posts will appear in chronological order. You might notice, however, that there seems to be some issues with the RSS Feed. I have subscribed several times and sometimes the posts appear and sometimes I find that they have not.

We are having a lot of discussion about the status of the website at the Mesa FamilySearch Library because of the changes to Family Tree and other parts of the site, it has been up and down all the past week. I guess we all need to be patient with changes.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Odds and Ends and Such

Just a few comments about things too short to do a whole blog post:

TechTips, for which I am a contributor, has moved from its status in outer darkness, to the Blog link on I guess it is time to get busy and write some more posts.

The iPad mini is getting some rather nice reviews. The iPad mini has a 7.2mm body, and weighs .68lbs. The display has a 1,024 x 768 resolution, which is the same as the iPad 2, allowing users to run iPad 2 apps on the mini without issue. The gadget has a 5MP rear camera and FaceTime HD front camera. For example, see iPad mini review: Apple (AAPL) new iPad is just barely thinner than the iPhone 5, fun to hold. Read more: I am looking forward to seeing one for the first time. If you want to see how money Apple is making, click here.

Google Scholar, a free Google App, has a auto-cite mode that lets you cite any Google Scholar document in either MLA, APA or Chicago style. I am not sure how much of the information in Google Scholar is relevant to genealogy, but the site has a lot of information. I did find some genealogical materials on Google Scholar. 

Fortunately, the new startup advertisement on FamilySearch Family Tree can be disabled. Seeing it once or twice is fine but coming up every time interferes. 

Since the large Family History Centers are now called FamilySearch Libraries, can changing the name of the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah be far behind? just completed updating their website language for Hindi, making it possible for millions of people to use MyHeritage to build and share their family history in this language.

Randy Seaver does a really good job of reviewing's Chart and Report Print Options. I really haven't printed out anything for a very long time, but it is a good thing to know I could. 

The U.S. National Digital Newspaper Program Update

As of today, the Library of Congress' Chronicling America, National Digital Newspaper Program shows 5,206,652 pages digitized. This free, online collection contains pages from more than 800 newspaper titles, published in 25 states between 1836 and 1922. You can read about in depth in the Library of Congress blog, The Signal Digital Preservation. Quoting from Deb Thomas, NDNP program coordinator:
We have full-text search for newspapers from all across the country covering almost a hundred years – you can find first-hand reporting on the battles of the Civil War, diverse voices during the years of Reconstruction, life events throughout families going back generations, and the scandals and crimes that riveted the reading public during these decades. You can explore land disputes, crop reports, society news in both cities and small communities, American perspectives on events across the world, fact and fiction in technological advances, poetry, serialized literature by such classic writers as Charles Dickens and Arthur Conan Doyle and much, much more. All digitized papers in the collection can be searched by date, location and full-text options in both a simple keyword search and a more advanced approach which allows users to zero in on specific times and places with combinations of words and phrases.
I am aware that there are other huge online collections of newspapers, such as the Newspaper Archive that claims 95,548,797 records but this is a subscription site and costs $71.88 a year. By the way, if you subscribe to you can search the included in the cost of membership. It is also unclear whether the claimed number refers to articles within the newspapers or the number of pages. states that the website has 120 million newspaper pages. In any event, there are a lot of newspaper pages to search. In addition, the site is searchable for free at FamilySearch Centers.

There are other huge online collections such as and its sister site., both subscription sites.

Some states have extensive collections of digitized newspapers, such as the Utah Digital Newspaper Project but others such as my own state of Arizona are less extensive.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Two days to System 8 and Apple is ahead by an iPad

By introducing new iPad 4, the new mini-iPad and a newly designed iMac just a few days before Microsoft's official introduction of its Microsoft Surface tablet, Apple may have successfully directed attention away from the long disclosed "old" news about Microsoft's products. This is particularly true since early reviews of the Surface tablet are negative about the product and the availability of apps. See here for Innovative tablet stranded in an app desert. Have you switched over to Microsoft's System 8?

Oh, did you forget that the Microsoft Surface introduction was in two days?

Google adding trails to Google Maps Street View

Google has sent teams with huge backpacks of their new cameras down the trails in the Grand Canyon to give a Street View of places never seen before by the mapping program. As they continue to expand the scope of their street level mapping, it is inevitable that they will cover places of interest to genealogists.

Although this may seem to be another stunt, it foretells a significant expansion of mapping technology. 

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Apple Introduces new iPads and new iMac

In a surprising and unheralded move today, Apple introduced not only a new mini-iPad but also a new model iPad 4. At the same time, Apple also introduced a new slimmer and much faster iMac. Here is a good summary of what happened today on Fox News.

Well, since our house is already saturated with Apple computers, iPads, iPods, iPhones and etc. it is quite unlikely that we will run out and stand in line to buy one, but it is apparent that the products just keep getting better.

One of the best introductions to FamilySearch I have seen!

I thought this video was one of the best has done to introduce itself.

Stepping off into the Past -- U.S. Census Records

No, the genealogical world does not revolve around census records. Some people seem to think that once they have found a family in one U.S. Federal Census, they have "done" their genealogy. Countering this belief is the fact that, unfortunately, U.S. Census records are not entirely reliable. Any given year may have information about and ancestor's family that is entirely misleading. It is only through building a thorough set of Census records that you have a more reliable picture of your ancestor's family.

Because of the way Census records were obtained, the spelling of names, the dates of events and other information may not be even vaguely correct. But sometimes even incorrect information can lead to more specific and accurate names and dates. It is common for beginning researchers to rely only upon the indexes to find their families. They conclude, incorrectly, that failure to appear in's index is an indication that their family somehow got missed by the Census enumerators. Frequently, a page by page examination of the Census will show that the family was not missed, but simply recorded in way as to obscure the index entry.

Finding your ancestors in any census records, anywhere in the world, are really just the very first small step in researching records about your family. One huge value of finding your family in the census is the additional record searches suggested by the entries. This is also an important reason for finding the family and all the members of the family, in every single available census during their lifetimes. Beginning researchers often fail to follow up on the myriad of sources suggested by each census record.

My recent compilation of records for my Great-grandmother, Francis Ann Thomas (b. 1864, d. 1950), is a good example of both the benefits and the detriments of relying solely on U.S. Census records. Since Francis was born in 1864 and died in 1950, she should appear in every Census beginning in 1870 and ending with the most recent release in 1940. In each year the Census was taken, the questions asked changed, so there is a reason for finding the Census record for every year that may apply to your ancestor.

For example, here is a list of the important categories of genealogical information in the 1870 U.S. Federal Census:
  • Full name
  • Age (can be used to approximate birth year)
  • Sex
  • Race
  • Birthplace
  • Occupation
  • Whether married during the previous year
  • Town, township, or post office of residence
  • Month of birth if born during the previous year
  • Month of marriage if married during the previous year
  • Whether the father and mother of each person was born in a foreign country 
By 1900, the information included the following categories:
  • Full name
  • Race
  • Sex
  • Age (can be used to calculate an approximate birth year)
  • Birth month and year
  • Relationship to the head of household
  • Birthplace of the individual and the parents (included even if the parents were not members of the household)
  • Marital status (single, married, widowed, or divorced)
  • Number of years married (can be used to calculate the approximate marriage year)
  • Number of children born to each mother and the number of those still living
  • Year of immigration and number of years in the United States
  • Whether a naturalized citizen
  • Occupation
  • Street address and house number
The census also includes the following information for people who lived in Alaska:
  • Tribe and clan
  • Date of locating to Alaska
  • Occupation in Alaska
  • Post office address at home
The census also includes the following information for Native Americans (Indians):
  • Indian name
  • Tribe of the individual and the parents (included even if the parents were not members of the household)
  • Percentage of white blood
  • If married, whether living in polygamy
  • Whether taxed
  • Year of citizenship
  • Whether citizenship was acquired by land allotment
The census also includes the following information for people living in the Hawaiian Islands:
  • Year of immigration and number of years lived in the Hawaiian Islands
The census also includes the following information about people serving in the military or Navy:
  • Name of military, naval station, or vessel
  • Company or troop, regiment, and arm of service
  • Rank grade or class
  • Residence in the United States 
See the FamilySearch Research Wiki for complete information on each U.S. Federal Census. 

Every single one of these entries may suggest further places to look for records.

Now, back to Frances Ann Thomas. Each of the Census records compiled during her lifetime is available. But that fact is neither obvious or easy to ascertain. For example, in the 1880 U.S. Census, the enumerator got her father's names reversed. His name was David Thomas, but it was recorded as Thomas Davids, so none of the indexes even come close to having his name or the name of his family members correct. It can be found, however, by a relatively short search of the small town the family lived in during that census year.

As you can see from the categories listed above, doing a census search for every year for every family member is far from redundant.

Monday, October 22, 2012

The integrity of wiki databases

A wiki is a website that which allows its users to add, modify, or delete its content via a web browser usually using a simplified markup language or a rich-text editor. Wikis are powered by wiki software. Most are created collaboratively. See Wikipedia:Wiki.

By this definition, the FamilySearch Research Wiki is definitely a wiki, as are the following:
and probably quite a few more that I didn't find immediately. It is a dead give-away if a program identifies itself as a wiki, but there are many wiki-like programs that eschew admitting that they fall within the definition of a wiki, at least in part. Two genealogy related programs that fall in this category are and's Family Tree program. In both these programs, additions to the programs have been limited to specific fields and there is no access to the underlying wikitext or a rich text editor, but they retain the ability of users to add, modify, or delete content.

Almost uniformly, when people are first introduced to a wiki program, the fact that anyone registered with the wiki can add, modify or delete information is viewed as the wiki's fatal flaw. The questions revolves around the concern that the wiki will evolve into a pile of junk. Although it is entirely counter-intuitive, wikis retain their integrity for two very simple reasons; human nature and the structure of the wiki itself.

If anyone can enter wrong information, why doesn't that destroy the integrity of the wiki? Because it is human nature to correct errors. You may think so, but there is a significant segment of humankind that will automatically correct an error when they see or hear one. But how do we know that these people who go around correcting errors will get it right either? Experience with wikis says that cumulatively the system will work. Errors will get corrected properly and the whole wiki will become more and more reliable.

But what about my crazy aunt (or whoever) that keeps putting in information that I know is off-the-scale wrong? This is where the structure of the wiki comes into play. It is much easier to erase wrong information than it is to put the information into the program in the first place. For example, FamilySearch Family Tree has a "Restore" function that allows any user to reverse an entry back to its original state. In addition, wikis have a built-in notification system to tell interested users of any changes to the page or individuals they are watching.

So, in FamilySearch Family Tree I enter my "correct" family information and someone comes along and changes it to something that is not correct. If I am watching the individual changed, the programs sends me an email telling me that my watched page has changed. I can then click on the link in the email and see the change and change it back if necessary. I can also contact the person who made the incorrect change and gently educate them with the correct sourced information. What if the person doesn't have an email address in the system? Then that person will not be notified when I change the information back to its original state! Simple. The system itself limits the ability of people to change legitimate information.

Any tendency people might have to make improper changes can also be limited by adding sources to the entries. Most rational people would see that the entry was sourced and read the sources to see if they were believable. Irrational people, if they continue to make unwarranted changes, can also be locked out of the system. So who is the ultimate judge of what is correct? The users themselves.  

Official Announcement of FamilySearch Family Tree on the way

Today, 22 October 2012, has been down most of the day and unavailable. However, it is likely that this downtime in in preparation for the "Official" introduction of the program during the week of 29 October to 2 November, 2012. The Mesa FamilySearch Library received an email announcement to that effect and has been sharing the information with all the Library volunteers.

I am not really certain what will happen to the program in conjunction with the Official Announcement, since it has been operational for some time and available to anyone who wanted to register and obtain the freely available invitation. What is likely is that Family Tree may now appear on the menu, with or without signing in. I doubt that the connection between and Family Tree will be severed until the users of both programs have gotten used to the idea of the newer program, but that is a possibility. More likely is that the name Family Tree will appear on the menu, but the two programs will remain connected for the time being. to sell for $1.6 billion

BloombergBusinessweek is reporting the sale of to Permira Advisers LLP, a European private equity firm. The article states:
Permira Advisers LLP has reached an agreement to buy Inc. (ACOM), the family-history research website, for about $1.6 billion, according to a person familiar with the matter.
Permira will pay about $32 a share for the company and an announcement is scheduled before the stock market opens in New York, said the person, who declined to be identified because talks are private. The private-equity firm had resumed the talks with after earlier discussions stumbled over price, people familiar with the situation said earlier this month.
Interesting but the company has been up for sale since much earlier in the year. Comments are all over the genealogy blogs. 

Sunday, October 21, 2012

The Duplicate Issue in FamilySearch Family Tree

One of the overriding issues with (NFS), the predecessor to's Family Tree (FSFT), is the abundance of duplicate submissions. Some individuals have hundreds of duplicates due to their inclusion in a multitude of user submitted family group records and electronic files. I view the duplicate issue as the one paralyzing feature of the NFS program that prevents me from using it in any meaningful way.

[I warn you in advance, I am not going to stay entirely in my analogy, I am going to jump in and out as it suits my narrative].

To understand this problem, I am going to use an analogy to a stage and the characters that appear on the stage. The program, NFS, in this first example, is the stage. The submissions are the characters that appear on the stage. In my analogy, each character can have one or even many more alter egos in the form of a "duplicate" characters. The problem with these alter egos is that they are not exact duplicates. They vary from the "original" in sometimes very important and distinctive ways. These alter egos are created by those submitting the characters to the stage. [For example, multiple submissions of the same families to the Ancestral File or Pedigree Resource File].

This multiplicity of characters would not be a problem if the differences reflected actual "real world" differences. But the variation in the alter egos are primarily the results of sloppy, inaccurate or negligent activities on the part of the submitters. Other alter egos are created due to changes in the submission standards over the years. [For example, historically, because of the space limitations on the forms used, it was acceptable to use abbreviations]. In NFS, unfortunately, all of these alter egos appeared on the stage with the primary character all of the time. In many cases the stage [the information in the NFS files] was so congested with duplicate alter egos that the main character was entirely lost in the throng. If a subsequent user of the NFS program detected an error in a submission, that error could only be corrected by adding a new alter ego to the masses already on stage.

This multiplicity of alter egos rendered the NFS program unusable for many people who would have liked to clarify the issues created by having all alter egos on the stage with the main characters.

There was no solution to the problem within the context of the NFS program. End of story.

The producers (FamilySearch's developers) decided to build a new stage, one that would let only one character at a time appear to the audience [users of the program]. In an abundance of caution, they did not kill off all of the alter egos, but they provided a way so that the audience [users] could select which of the characters appeared on the stage and further allowed changes, deletions and merging of alter egos, so that the character that appeared was the universally accepted standard and incorporated only the correct variations in the story line [data about the individuals in the program].

OK, enough of this analogy. FSFT only allows for one person with one set of descriptive characteristics to be visible at a time. All of the variations [alter egos] are banished to the background. They are not lost forever, but the people using the program don't have to deal with the differences. In effect, everyone who uses the program is forced to accept only one version of all the possible variations in a person's information. If there are legitimate differences they may be documented with the individual but only one individual can fill each slot or node on the family tree.

For me, this solves the problems I faced in NFS. If my tangled relatives can be sorted out, for the first time in the 30 years of doing genealogy, I will have a place to make some sense out of my pedigree and work out all of the thousands of duplicates and come to a consensus with others in the vast family I have out there in the world. In truth, FSFT solves the duplicate problem present in all other iterations of my family tree online and elsewhere.

Now, if this explanation of how the program works doesn't make sense to you, please submit your comments. I will make further comments if they are warranted. 

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Questions about FamilySearch Family Tree

At the Mesa FamilySearch Library Expo today, I taught two well-attended classes on FamilySearch Family Tree (FSFT). The questions about the program are fairly predictable and consistent from class to class, including the classes I teach every week at the Mesa FamilySearch Library. I realized that I should probably cover some of those questions in a blog post.

You can see from the nature of the questions that there are some serious issues that need to be addressed concerning the way people are doing genealogy and how the program will function in the future.

Question: When will I be able to add people outside my family lines?
Presently, you can only add people on your own family line in FSFT. The Reference Manual indicates that the feature of adding individuals outside you own family lines will be implemented shortly. I am quite sure that this is a very controversial topic given the reaction of the national press to recent allegations concerning some of the users of submitting LDS Temple ordinances for people to whom they are not related in any way. This includes submitting the names of celebraties and victims of the Holocaust, a practice emphatically condemned by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Quite franky, I wouldn't care if ability to add people outside of your family lines were never added to the FSFT program, since many of the most blatant errors in my own lines come from people who are arguably not related to me. But there are some circumstances warranting this option. Perhaps those circumstances could be handled on a case-by-case basis rather than opening the entire program. I would assume that the timing on the resolution of this issue will depend on how the question of the improper submissions is resolved.

Question: When will we be able to submit GEDCOM files?
From my perspective, this question falls into exactly the same category and the preceeding question. The huge number of duplicates that keep appearing in are partially caused by people adding entire pedigrees without any verification or sources. I see no need for the ability of individuals to add a large number of names at one time to the program. As with the issue of adding people outside your family lines, I view adding names from a file to be one of the main contributors to the duplicates in This is another feature I would be happy to see left out of the final program.

From one standpoint it may seem somewhat inefficient to restrict the inclusion of GEDCOM files, but if what we want from the FSFT program is accuracy and sources, adding more names by uploading GEDCOMs defeats the purpose of the program.

Question: When will the connection with the program be severed?
My answer is not soon enough. Because the two programs are still synchronized, those who want to add huge numbers of people in GEDCOM files are still doing so by means of (NFS). People are also making changes in NFS without documentation and without having a proper, working email address. This is causing me and others to have to re-do changes may to correct the wrong information in FSFT.

Question: If everyone can change in the information in FSFT, why isn't this going to result in a mess?
This question is asked mainly out of ignorance of the way the program works. In fact, there are adequate mechanisms in place to ensure that the data in FSFT maintains its integrety. What is presently unspoken about the program is whether or not if there is a revert war, the program can be locked to prevent multiple changes.

These are a few of the questions I get in almost every presentation of the program. They are very interesting and show that people presently have little concern or regard for duplication. In some cases, people have told me that they will accelerate their efforts to upload large files to NFS and also to add individuals outside of their families before the connection between the two programs is severed. So there is a total disregard for the concerns that created the need to move to FSFT from NFS in the first place.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Stepping off into the past -- working your way to the unknown

Too many researchers decide on an objective and then dive off into the deep end of the research by trying to find information about the subject. I want to resolve the Springthorpe issue, so of course, I begin with the first person in that line I am confident we have identified correctly. In my case, I begin my investigation of the Springthorpes by working with Francis Ann Thomas (b. 1864, d. 1950). Even though I am quite sure that her mother is Adeline Springthorpe, I find that my source records are not very substantial, so I begin with the daughter.

What do I consider to be the basic records for an individual? Well, that varies, to some extent, with the time depth of the person I am researching. In the case of an individual who lived a substantial portion of their life in the 20th Century in the United States, those records would commonly include U.S. Federal and State Census records for the applicable years, vital records (if they exist in the time period in question), Social Security Death Index, surname books, photos and personal journals, biographies, obituaries, cemetery records, newspaper articles and other similar records.

All the time I am looking for information that will carry me back one more generation. These would be the minimum types of records I would like to have about an individual before I begin research back to the next generation. I am somewhat assured that among those records will be at least one and maybe more, that give the person's parentage. So, beginning with Francis Ann Thomas (b. 1864, d. 1950) here is what I identified as records in my first sweep concentrating on the U.S. Census:

1870; Census Place: Kanosh, Millard, Utah Territory; Roll: M593_1611; Page: 351A; Image: 49; Family History Library Film: 553110. 1870 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2009. Images reproduced by FamilySearch.

1880; Census Place: Kingston, Piute, Utah; Roll: 1336; Family History Film: 1255336; Page: 530C; Enumeration District: 036; and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. 1880 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations Inc, 2010. 1880 U.S. Census Index provided by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints © Copyright 1999 Intellectual Reserve, Inc. All rights reserved. All use is subject to the limited use license and other terms and conditions applicable to this site. Tenth Census of the United States, 1880. (NARA microfilm publication T9, 1,454 rolls). Records of the Bureau of the Census, Record Group 29. National Archives, Washington, D.C.

[Note the claim to a copyright on the 1880 U.S. Census records. Interesting but not possible.]

"United States Census, 1900," index and images, FamilySearch ( : accessed 19 Oct 2012), Marvin Christensen, ED 2 St. Johns Precinct, Apache, Arizona Territory, United States; citing sheet 5B, family 103, NARA microfilm publication T623, FHL microfilm 1240045.

"United States Census, 1910," index and images, FamilySearch ( : accessed 17 Oct 2012), Francis L Christensen in household of Marinus Christensen, St Johns, Apache, Arizona; citing sheet 49A, family 269, NARA microfilm publication T624, FHL microfilm 1374051.

1920; Census Place: St Johns, Apache, Arizona; Roll: T625_46; Page: 2B; Enumeration District: 5; Image: 59. 1920 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations Inc, 2010. Images reproduced by FamilySearch.  

"United States Census, 1930," index and images, FamilySearch ( : accessed 19 Oct 2012), Frances Christensen, St John's, Apache, Arizona; citing enumeration district (ED) 0018, sheet 5B, family 79, NARA microfilm publication T626, roll 55.

1940; Census Place: , Apache, Arizona; Roll: T627_099; Page: 6B; Enumeration District: 1940 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2012. Original data: United States of America, Bureau of the Census. Sixteenth Census of the United States, 1940. Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 1940. T627, 4,643 rolls.

Looks pretty complete for U.S. Census records. It also looks like she lived her life in Utah. So I check the CensusFinder to see if there might be a Utah state census I have missed.  Not that I am aware of. So now I am ready to look at each record and see what I can learn about both Frances Ann Thomas and her parents and family. I am also double checking to see that I have the family members and approximate birth dates complete, at least from the U.S. Census. 

I find that all of these records give me corroborative evidence about her birth and two of the records, for 1870 and 1880 give me further information about her family and her parents. Once I have examined all of these records carefully I am ready to move on to other records. You might note that all of these records came either from or I did this because of the convenience in finding the records online. 

If you were to redo my research, you might notice that the indexes for the 1880 U.S. Census had the Thomas family entirely confused and had the father's given name as the surname. So Frances Ann Thomas appears as Francis A. Davids. That was only a very minor issue however and easily resolved because they came from such a small place, I could have reviewed the entire town to find their record. But that was not necessary because someone had corrected the record in

Still waiting for changes to FamilySearch Family Tree

In past posts, I quoted a source who indicated that the FamilySearch Family Tree Program would go "live" this week, whatever that means. Well, today is Friday, 19 October 2012, and there have been no major changes this week in either the FamilySearch Family Tree program nor the way it is displayed and presented on

I used to own a Macintosh software company and I understand the process of programming and debugging a program for commercial production. Often, the time frame for doing upgrades or modifications are highly speculative. I am sure they are working diligently on the program, but I think we ought to cut them some slack and take things as they are ready to be introduced. Artificial "deadlines" for production are a corporate artifact and do not fit well with the real world of writing computer programs whether they are online or in a package for sale.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Stepping off into the past -- The Springthorpes

When you start out doing genealogical research, you hardly know your ancestors. Slowly, each generation starts to come alive. Some start with their own parents, but most of us spend some time getting to know our grandparents and great-grandparents. In my case, I have an overwhelming wealth of information about nearly all my great-grandparents. One exception is my Great-grandmother, Frances Ann Thomas (b. 1864, d. 1950), who married Marinus Christensen (b. 1863, d. 1927), a Danish immigrant.

One of the reasons for our lack of connections to our ancestors is their unavailability. On my maternal side of the family, all four of my Great-grandparents died either before I was born or when I was still a small child. In my case, all but one of my great-grandparents lived in the same small town at one time or another. So this photograph of Frances Ann Thomas Christensen was taken by another of my Great-grandmothers, Margaret Godfrey Jarvis Overson. They were "cousins" through marriage.

Where the real challenge begins in genealogical research, is moving back with each succeeding generation. Memories of the older folks grow much dimmer and contemporary documents become harder to find. In this case, Frances Ann Thomas Christensen's parents almost reach the limit of my research on one of my family lines. Her parents were David Thomas (b. 1820, d. 1888) and Adeline Springthorpe (b. 1826, d. 1891). In my lines, my great-great-grandparents are those individuals who begin to be immigrants to America. In my case, the countries are rather limited, England, Scotland, Wales, Ireland, and Denmark.

Both the Thomas line and the Springthorpe line end in the next generation. In the case of the Springthorpes, this is where the research get interesting. Adeline Springthorpe's parents are the question, presently without and answer. Here are the details as they show in my records at the present time:

Adeline Springthorpe's (b. 1826, d. 1891) parents are:
James Springthorpe (b. 1785, d. 1851) and Frances Springthorpe (b. 1797, d. 1862)

Yes, they have the same name. Here's how each of their parents are listed:

James Springthorpe (b. 1785, d. 1851) son of John Springthorpe (b. abt. 1764) and Mary Bailey (b. abt. 1766)

Frances Springthorpe (b. 1797, d. 1862) daughter of John Springthorpe (b. abt. 1764) and Elizabeth Sprigs (b. abt. 1775).

Yes, they do appear to have the same father. Well, here's where I figured it was time to get into the family line and resolve this conflict. I find my file with the usual situation of not one shred of documentary evidence to support any of the lines. I will be working on this line over the next few weeks to demonstrate how I go about finding the documentation and finally either reaching a conclusion or admitting that I can't find any more information to clear up the issue. If there are any Springthorpes out there who have already done this work, I would appreciate some help, but if not, this will be an interesting "reality" research project where I don't know the conclusion from the onset.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

New Start-up screen for FamilySearch Family Tree

I am still waiting to see if the blogger in Utah has the inside scoop on some kind of announcement or intro for FamilySearch Family Tree on the 18th of October, 2012, but this new start-up screen showed up with Family Tree this evening 17 October 2012:

I also know that FamilySearch is actively editing people in my family tree, with edits done today. The edits by the way are extremely valuable in cleaning up the mess inherited from Stay tuned for more developments. Maybe as soon as tomorrow?

Over 2000 (new to me) source records

I rarely get enthusiastic about a "new" website or computer program for more than a few minutes. When I was operating my Apple Dealership, I used to review dozens of programs a week. So, to some extent, it is a rare exception when I find something that changes the face of world of computers and it is even rarer to find something new in genealogy. This year has definitely been and exception.

One of those exceptional developments has been a long time coming and is still on the way, so to speak. That is the development of a replacement for in the form of FamilySearch Family Tree.

But now, there is a second significant and totally unforeseen development in the Record Match feature of Why is this significant? And why would I care? Don't I already have a subscription to and doesn't that pretty well cover everything? Well, no to be blunt.'s usefulness is not diminished by an additional tool. In the commercial world, and may be competitors, but from the genealogist's perspective, it is like having Sam's Club and Costco on the same block. They are competitors but we go to both stores, depending on what we are looking for. (As an aside, there is a place in Salt Lake City, Utah where the two stores are less than a block apart).

Why go on and on about Simply put, because of the depth of the searches and the number of valid source records discovered.

You can upload either part or all of your genealogical file to, just as you can with or any of dozens of other programs. pioneered the concept of giving you "hints" in the form of green leaves, on your uploaded file with suggestions as to records in the data base. I have been mining those records for some time now. Right now, my file shows 114 leaf suggestions. The way this works in is slick. You look at the suggestion and if it applies, you simply attach the record to your ancestor. This connection between your online database is very convenient.

Now, we come to With the same file, Record Match has found 2313 source matches for my family tree. The number looks significantly greater than's figure, but in actuality, they are different numbers.'s number is the "new" matches found.'s number is the total. In both cases I have more records than I can comfortably process.'s suggested records are what makes a difference. They do not come from one huge database, but from dozens upon dozens of separate unrelated databases around the world. I do not recall ever giving me a suggestion for records for my Australian ancestors, but there are suggestions from I cannot remember ever giving me a suggestion for newspaper obituaries with copies of the entire newspaper page to download. Likewise,'s suggestions for are from an index. gives links to the actual website. I would spend hundreds of hours even beginning to locate the records suggested by The existence of this tool gives a whole new perspective to the process of searching for and finding source records.

Neither nor find "all" of the sources by any means. But both are valuable tools and extends the search to places neither you nor I could imagine going.