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

Saturday, August 31, 2013

The Issue of Genealogical Licensure or Certification

Should genealogists be licensed to "practice genealogy?" This issue has been raised yet again, in part by Thomas MacEntee in a post entitled "Genealogy: A House Divided or a A House With Many Doors?" and mentioned in a post by Tony Proctor in a blog post entitled "Are we a Genealogical Community?" Having practiced in a licensed profession for many, many years, I have some rather strong feelings on the subject. I have dipped in and out of this subject for most of those years both in and out of court. 

From my perspective, comparing genealogy as it is practiced to the law profession is entirely inappropriate. In fact, finding a clear analogy between any licensed profession and genealogical researchers takes a great deal of fact stretching. The closest activities where I find a basis for comparison are real estate appraisers and property and business valuations. In both those fields, the appraiser or valuator gives a personal opinion based on research or personal experience. You can either believe what the appraiser says or not. But in the case of a real estate appraisal, you may or may not get a loan to buy the real estate based on the appraisal. 

In genealogy, a professional does research and gives you an opinion. You may or may not accept or like the opinion and you may think you have been overcharged. But there are no other monetary implications to the opinion. You do not lose a sale. You do not have to pay a higher price for a piece of property. You do not have a loan application declined. You can throw the opinion of the genealogist in the garbage and ignore it with total impunity. 

Real Estate Appraisers are licensed at differing levels and with different results in each of the U.S. states. However, in many states, you do not have to have a license to give an appraisal except for federally related transactions. Most appraisals are based on the research and the experience of the appraiser rather than the existence or non-existence of a license. In some states, anyone with a real estate license can sell real estate. At least in Arizona, by law, anyone who owns property can testify in court as to the value of the property the own. Equally, in Arizona, any can sell their own property, although access to professional online tools, such as the Multiple Listing Service, are limited to certain licensed professional real estate salespeople. In most of the U.S. the term "Realtor" when used with the sale of real estate is a trademark and limited to licensed Realtors.

Now, I said that most of the attempts (all?) at using other types of licensed business practices as analogous to genealogy is a stretch. As I pointed out above, the main factors for this difference lie in the use of the work product of the licensed professional. Some so-called professional licensing schemes in the U.S. are nothing more than revenue enhancement. They are simply a tax on the right to do business. At the other end of the spectrum are such professions as lawyers and medical doctors where there are very specific and extensive sets of rules that govern their actions and practice and where there are formal boards or in the case of attorneys, a bar association, that enforces those rules and practices. Denial of a license to practice, essentially bars a person from the profession. Except for some extremely limited circumstances, if you are not a licensed attorney, you cannot represent a client in court. Period. This is enforced by rules passed by the Arizona Supreme Court and binding on every other court in the state. Are there exceptions? Of course. But they are reviewed on a case-by-case basis by the regulatory authorities who happen to be judges in the state court system. 

You might question why this type of system exists and why it is necessary, but such questions are simply ignored by the licensing authorities. Any such arguments immediately get into the area of competency, educational background and accountability. One good way to get a perspective on professional licensing is to read the list of censored and disbarred attorneys printed in the Arizona Bar Journal every month. 

Now, is there some ground or reason for imposing such a regulatory structure on the genealogical community (however that is defined)? First of all, there is only a tiny professional genealogical community in Arizona (or anywhere else for that matter) whereas, in Arizona alone, there are somewhere between 20,000 and 30,000 licensed attorneys. Yes, you read that right. My best guess is that there are far less than 100 practicing "professional genealogists" in the State of Arizona. The Association of Professional Genealogists advertises that they have somewhat less than 2000 members in the entire United States. I would think that the professional genealogists are highly concentrated in the larger population areas and especially in New York, Washington D.C. and Utah. 

There is no easy way to determine how many people practice genealogy and of that number, how many are charging a fee for doing research for others. Of the number who may have been paid for their services from time to time, I would guess that the number who actually make their living as professional genealogists to be a much smaller number, especially if you discount all those who are professionals who work for libraries, repositories and other online databases and aren't doing "research for hire."

From this standpoint alone, talking about licensing genealogy is inappropriate (I might say ridiculous, but I didn't). Why bother? If someone wants to go through the process of certification from one of the two major boards who do that sort of thing, more power to them. If they want to join the Association of Professional Genealogists, go at it. But leave the rest of us alone. If any kind of professional, licensed or unlicensed, breaches their employment contract (whether or not a written one exists) there are ample remedies in court for breach of contract, fraud, misrepresentation, theft, or negligence. 

From my perspective, there are no persuasive arguments for any kind of governmental regulation of genealogists at any level of activity, simply from the standpoint of the number of participants. Do we really need another government bureaucracy to regulate genealogy? I think not.  

Travels on the Web - Resources for Genealogists - Destination Perth, Western Australia

Discoveries in Western Australia from documents furnished to the Colonial Office by J.S. Roe Esqre., Survr. Genl. (with) Guildford. (with) Fremantle. (with) Perth. (with) Kelmscott. (with) Augusta. By permission dedicated to R.W. Hay Esqre., one of H.M. under secretaries of state for the colonies, by his obliged servant J. Arrowsmith. London, pubd. May 31st, 1833 by J. Arrowsmith, 35 Essex Street, Strand. David Rumsey Map Collection

I have always wanted to travel to Australia. I have a niece who lives outside of Perth and some of my own ancestors lived in Australia before immigrating to the United States. Places in Australia are sort-of the same as in Arizona; most of the settlement came in the mid- to late 1800s. I think there is a general assumption among genealogists that the records of any country, other than the exact one where your ancestors lived, are not much use. I probably do need to point out that the largest ethnic groups in Perth, Western Australia are English, Australian, Irish, Scottish, Italian and Chinese. See Wikipedia: Perth. It is entirely possible that an elusive ancestor that "disappeared" from England or Ireland, ended up in Australia. 

I can only assume that Western Australia suffers from the same distorted impression that much of the world has of Arizona. That it is all a desert wasteland. True, both areas have a lot of desert, but both Perth and Phoenix are huge and diverse metropolitan areas and a very diverse topography. One thing Arizona is missing is the thousands of miles of beaches as well as kangaroos. But then the Australian desert is missing our saguaro cactus. 

From my own experience, Australia, including Western Australia, has a very active genealogical community. Here are a few links to societies and other organizations in Wester Australia:
Looks to me to a very active area for genealogy. Australia as a whole is greatly benefited by the National Library of Australia with their huge online website; This site ranks among the very largest and most valuable websites on the Internet and is almost in a class by itself. However, Western Australia also has a State Library with valuable genealogical resources. See the State Library of Western Australia. The State Library has an extensive online section on Family History. Here is a link to a list from the Australian National Archives of the Australian archival institutions.

You should also be aware of resources of the National Archives of Australia and its Family History online webpage. There are several publications that assist genealogists in Australia:
Here is a list of links to additional Australian resources:
You might also want to check into the Australian Joint Copying Project. The Genealogy Centre of the State Library of Western Australia holds nearly 5,000 reels of Australian Joint Copying Project microfilm. These reels contain copies of original records relating to Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific held at the National Archives at Kew as well as other libraries and archives in Britain.

Another source of records is the online subscription database by The Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages of the Department of the Attorney General of Australia offers free online historic index searching of births, deaths and marriages from 1841. Here are some more useful sites:
Obituaries Australia Hosted by the National Centre of Biography at the Australian National University, is a digital repository of obituaries published in newspapers, journals, magazines and bulletins. Here you will find the life stories of Australians from the earliest times to the present. There is also the opportunity to submit obituaries to this site. Australian death and funeral notices plus obituaries obtained from funeral directors or though contributions by members of the public. Notices are available from January 2006. The Obits Quick Search only searches recent notices so check the Archived Notices also.
The Last Post This site lists basic information about funerals as submitted by funeral directors on behalf of their clients.

Well, G'day and hope you have luck finding your Australian ancestry. See you on my next Travels on the Web. 

Friday, August 30, 2013

U.S. Census Records Free for Labor Day Weekend is offering free access to the entire U.S. Census record collection from 1790 to 1940 during the upcoming Labor Day weekend. Here is the announcement from

Search for your ancestors in US census records for FREE!Discover more about the lives of your American ancestors as MyHeritage celebrates Labor Day with FREE access to all 713 million US census records from 1790 to 1940. Where were they born? Where did they live and with whom? What was their occupation? How much did they earn? What education did they have? Get answers for free this weekend, from August 31 through September 2
You might want to take advantage of having a completely different indexing system to see if any more of your ancestors can be found in the U.S. Census records.

Lost Username and Password

One of the issues we deal with constantly at the Mesa FamilySearch Library is patrons who have forgotten their username and password for Many of these sessions end up with a call to the telephonic support and even then, may not end up with the patron having the username and password restored. However, developments on the website are making this process much less painful.

The first step in restoring a user name and password, using the new features of the program, involves trying to sign in to the program. Here is a screenshot showing the link to sign in:

When you click on the link, a window appears where you can enter your username and password. If you have forgotten either of these, there are links to "Forgot your user name or password?" Here is another screenshot showing the link to restore the username and password:

When you click on this link, you will be asked to indicate whether you have an LDS Account (member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) or a FamilySearch Account (everyone else). After clicking on the continue button, you will be given options about how you would like to have you username and password restored. For FamilySearch accounts, the restored information will be sent to the email address you used when you registered. For LDS account members, the restored information can go to a cellphone by text, to an email address or be restored directly online by providing a membership number.

Here is a screenshot of the selection screen for those with an LDS Account:

If the patron can supply an LDS Membership number, the username and/or password will be provided immediately. For those of us who do this regularly, this is a great improvement and will reduce the number of calls to Support.

A Matter of Maps, Counties and History

Yesterday, I had an interesting discussion involving Irish research. The researcher's ancestor apparently came to the U.S. as a domestic servant, likely indentured, at 12 years of age. Unfortunately, she had a very common name. Her arrival was in the early 1800s, possibly as a result of the Great Famine (Irish Potato Famine) of 1845 and 1852 or other economic conditions existing in Ireland before that time. The researcher believed that she had traced the young girl's departure from Ireland to a Dublin passenger list. After she reached America, she began to be well documented, so that wasn't the issue. The real issue was that there were three different candidates for her identity in Ireland from three different counties; Cork, Tiperary and Clare. In two cases, the candidates had the same names, similar birth dates and parents with the same names.

If you study the map above, you will see that all three counties are more or less distant from Dublin. If the Irish girl's parents were so poor as to send their 12 year old daughter off to America as an indentured servant, then how could they afford to pay her passage to Dublin? Did the indenture contract include passage from Southern Ireland to Dublin? Did the girl travel unaccompanied across Ireland? Was her immigration to America an attempt to save her life?

If the transport to America had been much earlier, it might have been a case of the girl being an Irish slave, many of whom were transported to the West Indies and ultimately to America in the 1600s and early 1700s. But in the 1800s declining potato prices and ultimately, the Famine, led to about a million people leaving Ireland for America.

Unfortunately, I did not have the time to get into more of the details of this immigrant's life. Perhaps I will get the opportunity. But the question of the three different girls with the same names is puzzling. It is very unlikely that the case is yet settled. Irish research can be very interesting, but very challenging. Sometimes, I only get a short snapshot and then move on to another question from another patron at the Mesa FamilySearch Center.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Family History Expos Research Retreat in Historic Nauvoo, Illinois

Historic Nauvoo, Illinois will be the site for a Family History Expos Retreat on October 17 - 20, 2013. Here is the flyer announcing the Retreat:

Nauvoo is one of my favorite places in the world and I am looking forward to a visit with a family history emphasis. I had two of the Great-grandfathers and their families live in and around Nauvoo. I hope you can come and join us.

Updates to FamilySearch Community Trees

Have you wished you could prove that relationship to royalty? (Just kidding) Well, if you do, there is a place to go to find out some of the latest research on the European Royal Families. It is a surprising place called the FamilySearch Community Trees. (Not kidding). This little known and little used site is a gem of information, but only if you happen to have ancestors in one of the places where there is a community tree.

As explained by the website:
Community Trees are genealogies from specific periods and localities that have been linked according to family lineages. Many trees include associated documents and images. Each community tree is a searchable database that allows views of individuals, families, ancestors, and descendants and gives various options for printing. 
The scope of projects may involve members of a small villages or townships who work together to form a family tree of all known residents of the community for a given time period. Some are projects involve (sic) genealogical and historical societies that work with FamilySearch to index several sources of data to link them to common, lineage-linked genealogies of a targeted geographic area. 
The database that I refer to in the introductory paragraph is the Royal and Noble Houses of Europe. This database is described as follows:
This database contains individuals ranging from A.D. 100 to the 1800s; includes ancestors and descendants of Clodion "der Langhaarige" ancestor of the Merovingian kings; Gorm "den Gamle" of Denmark; Charlemagne of the Franks; Wladimir I Swjatoslavitsch "der Heilige" Grossfürst von Kiev; Louis IX of France; Edward I of England; Charles I of England; and Spanish Kings of Navarre, Castile and Léon with many other European royal, noble, and gentry lineages with Colonial American connections. UPDATED Jun 2013
By the way, there are 323,307 individuals in the Royal and Noble Houses of Europe database.

The Community Trees project has databases from Australia, the British Isles, Canada, England, Europe, French Polynesia, Iceland, India, Ireland, Italy, Latin America, Liechtenstein, Mexico and many, many more.

Why does a resource such as this go so unused? My guess is that there is simply a lack of visibility. There are hundreds or even thousands of such websites on the Internet and the noise level when you are searching is so high, it is unlikely that you will ever find these low-key, but highly useful types of sites.

Are there really any genealogical standards?

Let me take a simple example of the reason for the question in the title of this post. On any given day, I can go to dozens, perhaps if I wanted to, hundreds of online family trees. In reviewing the entries and ignoring the differences in data, one thing is abundantly clear: there is a total lack of consistency in how the entries are entered. Starting with the family trees that have no information about any particular included individual, you can see a huge number of variations in the way the data is entered.

For some examples, I will go back to my Great-grandfather Henry Martin Tanner, who, by the way, is extensively, I should say exhaustively documented online. Here is a list of some of the variations in the birth date and place taken from's online Public Member Family Trees. Please note that the spelling of the name of the town in California is San Bernardino.

11 Jun 1852, San Bernardino, San Bernardino Co., California
11 Jun 1852 San Bernadino, San Bernadino, CA
11 Jun 1852 San Bernadino, San Bernadino, California, United States
11 Jun 1852 San Bernadino, S Brno., CA
11 Jun 1852 SB, S, California, USA
11 Jun 1852 San Bernadino, S Brno., CA, USA
11 Jun 1852 San Bernadino, S Brno., Ca
11 Jun 1852 San Bernadino, San Bernadino CO, CA, USA
11 Jun 1852 San Bernadino, San Bernadino, California

Now, how do you cite the city, county, state and country in "standard" format? I suggest this is the full and should be standard entry:

11 June 1852, San Bernardino, Los Angeles, California, United States (or USA whatever)

As I have noted many times in the past, San Bernardino County was not formed until 1853. SAN BERNARDINO created from LOS ANGELES. (Calif. Stats. 1853, 4th sess., ch. 78/pp. 119–123) See Newberry Atlas of Historical County Boundaries. But ignoring the mistakes, such as misspelling the name of the town and county, and the inaccuracies, such as the wrong county, it is clear that there is no standard way of putting the information into an online program. So here are the questions:

  • Do we care?
  • Is there any reason at all to care?
  • Should we be concerned about consistency?
  • Does it matter that the entries are different?
  • Since the correct information is freely available and there is no controversy, why should we even think about having a standard?
  • Isn't this a free country and we can all do what what we want?
  • Some of these contributors may be just starting out and do we want to discourage them with a need for accuracy?

I suggest that we have a more basic issue than merely establishing data exchange standards. Do I really want to exchange data from someone who has some of these types of entries? Do I want to spend the rest of my life cleaning up some one else's citations, when I have enough of that to do with my own database? Wouldn't it be nice to decide if the standard way of citing the country here in America was either "United States" or "USA" or even if adding that is even necessary as sort-of a basic beginning?

I could go on to dates and names but it would be too discouraging. I would guess that most of these entries come from people who have absolutely no awareness at all of anything approaching a standard way of entering data. They have probably never even heard of the concept. So, back to my question. Do we really want to try to exchange data when this type of problem exists? I can be a meticulous as all get out and then add a few of these entries into my database? Think again.

Now, I do not want to become the standards police of the genealogical community; the job doesn't pay enough. But the inconsistencies do raise some serious issues when you get into the larger discussion of standards for exchanging data. There are issues that are more insidious. Why would you want to exchange data when the standard for accuracy is so low as to be non-existent? I am speaking of the standard of citing the location with the jurisdictions that were in existence at the time the event occurred. Even if we ignore the differences in format, can we simply ignore the fact than none of these people even suspect that the county did not exist at the time of the event and probably do not care?

By the way, there are 83,115 family trees on with a reference to Henry Martin Tanner and in going through the entries for a couple of pages, I did not find one accurate entry. Oh, I could have gone on and on about the lack of sources, but one example is sufficient. This is the source cited for the entries:


Hasn't the genealogical community dug itself into a hole we can't get out of? Doesn't creating a better information exchange standard simply facilitate this whole mess?

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Find Your Ancestors Using Google Search

This Quick View of Genealogy talks about searching for your ancestors using Google Search. I cover some of the basics of searching and suggest than you might want to search for each of your ancestors using the techniques suggested in the video. Follow the instructions in the video to do your own searches online. Please take a second to subscribe to my YouTube Channel so you can see all of the upcoming videos.

The Genealogy Collections on and the

Currently, has 80,455 items that it classifies in it genealogy collection. All of the items are free and usually come in a variety of formats for all types of eReaders. About the collection, the website states:
The Archive's ever-expanding collection of genealogy resources includes items from the Allen County Public Library Genealogy Center in Fort Wayne, Indiana; Robarts Library at the University of Toronto; the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign Library;, the National Library of Scotland, the Indianapolis City Library's Indianapolis City Directory and Yearbooks Collection, The Leo Baeck Institute Archives of German-speaking Jewry Leo Baeck Institute Archives, and the Boston Public Library.

Resources include among many things books on surname origins, vital statistics, parish records, census records, passenger lists of vessels, and other historical and biographical documents.
Of course, the collection also includes a complete copy of the U.S. Census records from 1790 to 1930. Here are a few of the other valuable resources from the collection:
I find that the search capabilities of the program are limited but persistence pays off in finding a lot of items that you may not realize have been digitized and are available for free reading or download. 

The other big digitized record site is the The HathiTrust is a partnership of academic & research institutions with currently 10,777,980 volumes of digitized titles from libraries around the world. Although the collection is overwhelmingly large, many of the books are online only as part of university or other library collections and available only to those who have access through those institutions. You can search and access fully viewable materials in HathiTrust, and download materials where there are no third-party restrictions. The currently has 25,216 books classified as genealogy of which 6,351 are currently classified in the public domain.  There are also many, many more items classified in various history subjects, including 198,099 local histories of the United States, Great Britain, France and Latin America. 

Numbers of records, volumes or collections are not a very useful measure of the value of any online collection. But in these two cases, there are a lot of very old and otherwise unavailable books online, including a large number of surname books. The broad reach of both of these collections and the fact that both are actively adding to the the number of books regularly, enhances the need to review both websites from time to time. 

Stories and Photos

I am speculating that the idea that genealogists are not interested in stories and photos comes from those who know little or nothing about genealogy. Let me quote from The Source, A Guidebook of American Genealogy. [Szucs, Loretto Dennis, and Sandra Hargreaves Luebking. The Source: A Guidebook of American Genealogy. Salt Lake City: Ancestry, 1997.] Bear in mind that the original edition of this book was published back in 1984 with Arlene Eakle as the editor. [Eakle, Arlene. The Source: A Guidebook of American Genealogy. Salt Lake City, Utah: Ancestry Publ. Co, 1984.] I can tell you that Arlene is very much alive and active and will be with me at the Midwest Family History Expo 2013 in Kearney, Nebraska on September 6th and 7th and again at the October Salt Lake City Family History Library Retreat with Family History Expos, the week of October 28th through November 1st.

So the issue is what role do stories and photos play in acquiring information about family history? Now to the quote from page 7 of the 1997 edition:
In family history research, we begin with the present. The first steps in research include consideration of what is known about the family by observation or from the traditions and stories passed down through the generations. Conversations and interviews with family members, friends, former neighbors, and perhaps people familiar with the history of the local area supplement our own memories.
The text goes on to state:
First steps involve discovering these clues, organizing them into a coherent pattern, and then following them on what might be the most remarkable and compelling journey of your life: the reconstruction and preservation of your own family's history. 
There is a pattern here we need to remember. First is the discovery of the stories and artifacts, including photographs, about our families, then comes the organization and finally, following the clues to the past to discover even more accurate and compelling information about our ancestors. Do you know the stories of your ancestors? Do you have photographs?

 We are coming up on the thirtieth anniversary of the publication of The Source. Seeking out stories, photographs and other artifacts of family history has been going on for a really long time. Gathering these priceless stories and artifacts is at the core of what we do as genealogists. I think it is unfortunate that somehow the idea has become prevalent that genealogists are not interested in stories and photos and that if you want to have stories and photos, you need to do "family history" not genealogy. As a point in support of this concern, I can send you to the comments made to some of my recent blog posts on the subject. There are those who are adamant that there is a distinction between "family history" and mere name-gathering genealogy. As I have said before, I have been in meetings about family history where the introduction to the meeting included the statement that we don't have to be genealogists any more.

During the past few years, I have accumulated hundreds of thousands of pages of family history including stories, letters, diaries, journals and other vitally interesting documents about my extended family. During that same time, I have shared much of that history with family members through blog posts, posting photos and sending copies to interested family members. For example, in the Brigham Young University Library, L. Tom Perry Special Collections Library, I found a document about my Great-Grandfather entitled "Some of the Wit and Humor of Henry M. Tanner and Stories we heard around the Tanner Home." I am afraid that many of the stories would not be acceptable in today's world of political correctness but some of them are funny. It is interesting that some of those same stories were told to me by own father.

Let me point out something important about this example. First, I only found those stories after years of doing family research. The reason I found the stories was because I finally became aware of the need to search in university library special collections for stories about my own family. I also had to learn how to do that research and what to do with what I found. Second, some one had taken the time to preserve these stories in way that they could be found. Lastly, except for the fact that some of the same stories were still being told by my father, I had no idea that more of these stories were available until I did the research.

Do you see the connection here? It is the serious genealogical researchers who find the stories. They do not drop into your lap uninvited. Yes, stories and traditions can be a great motivating factor in initiating an interest in family history, but to down play or even denigrate the genealogical researcher's part in acquiring and preserving those stories and the photographs that go with them, is a serious error. Rather, I would suggest exploring how we transition the neophyte family historians to the point where they can do productive family history (read genealogy).

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Using the obvious and not so obvious genealogical resources

I was sitting at a table in the Mesa FamilySearch Library working away on a project and looked over to see one of the missionary/volunteers making notes from a large reference book. Here is the citation for the book he was using:

Szucs, Loretto Dennis, and Sandra Hargreaves Luebking. The Source: A Guidebook of American Genealogy. Salt Lake City: Ancestry, 1997.

It warmed my heart to see someone actually using a basic reference book. There is still hope for the future. But at the same time, it reminded me of the need to consult basic genealogical resources. Using the reference book, The Source, is one of the most obvious ways we can gain insight into the mechanics of genealogy. For research in the United States, I would recommend a core of books that can be obtained either in paper or ebook format. By the way, The Source is also the basis for's Wiki and the entire book is reproduced in the wiki format, as is another basic book, The Redbook. Here is that citation:

Eichholz, Alice. Redbook: American State, County & Town Sources. Provo, Utah: Ancestry, 2004.

Even though both these books are easily available online, I still find myself referring to the paper copies of the books. Having preached the value of computers and online sources for so long, I would suppose that some would accuse be of having gone retro. Never fear, just because you like to refer to a good old paper book once in while, that fact does not contaminate your online abilities. 

I would also be remiss if I left out my favorite reference:

Greenwood, Val D. The Researcher's Guide to American Genealogy. Baltimore, Md: Genealogical Pub. Co, 1990.

This book does not seem to be online completely anywhere in digital format, but it is certainly still available to purchase or use in a library. There is an ebook copy on the but it is limited to search only. I saw used copies online for sale for as little as $4.00.

Of course, I often refer to my copy of the following:

Mills, Elizabeth Shown. Evidence Explained: Citing History Sources from Artifacts to Cyberspace. Baltimore, Md: Genealogical Pub. Co, 2007.

Whatever your feelings about citations, I still find this book helpful to give me a clear idea of what I am trying to accomplish with my own citations. 

Where would the list go from here? I have a lot of books but there are two more that I think add to the general background of a U.S. genealogical researcher and can be considered basic books:

Fischer, David Hackett. Albion's Seed: Four British Folkways in America. New York: Oxford University Press, 1989.

I would credit Albion's Seed with opening up my understanding of the effect of waves of migrations to America. This is truly one of the books that changed my way of thinking in a dramatic way. 

You might notice that none of these books are particularly new. I think that reflects the fact that the core issues and values of genealogy do not change nearly as much as the superficial technology does. I will add one more book which turn out to be more recent, but no less important to an overall understanding the genealogy and genealogical processes:

Weil, François. Family Trees: A History of Genealogy in America. 2013.

This is a book I did purchase and read as an ebook, but it is the source of a basic understanding of what has happened in the past in genealogy and what is likely to happen in the future. I have noticed, since reading the book, that we go through cycles in genealogy just like everything else in the world.

Moving on beyond big online genealogical data sources

One of my daughters asked me to get a clearer copy of a christening record of one of my direct line ancestors. She knew that the record was in the Bishop's transcripts of 1675-1877 from the Parish Church of Llanfyrnach on a microfilm in the Mesa FamilySearch Library. Hoping for a way to avoid searching an old microfilm record, I looked for the same record online from different sources. I found that likely the record was in the database but only in an index. When I got into the microfilm, it took me a while to figure out that there were two different parish transcripts on the microfilm and the one I was looking for was at the end of the film (of course). The parish transcript record we needed was actually Llangadock (or Llangadog), Carmarthenshire, Wales.

After a relatively short search, I found the record we needed and then started searching the microfilm for additional records of the family. I am still in that process. This small exercise forcefully reminded me that once again, it was time to move on beyond the big online genealogical databases and get on with research in original records as opposed to indexes.

The ease of finding a relative online (or not finding the same relative) is really a trap. If you fall into the trap, you will begin believing that you have actually researched your family lines when all you have really done is look in some obvious places. From time to time when I am teaching a class, I use the following as an example: I search for county records in or and see how many records there are available compared to the same entries in the Family History Library Catalog and then I do a search online for additional records, not online but also not in the Family History Library Catalog.

Here is one example. I use a random county in North Carolina, say Beaufort County. If I search for North Carolina in the FamilySearch Historical Record Collections, I currently find 17 collections of records. Beaufort County was created in 1712 and was one of the original counties in North Carolina. There are county records in the FamilySearch Historical Record Collections but only two of the digitized records are county records. One collection, North Carolina, County Records, 1833-1970 has 593,567 images and contains the following Beaufort County records:
There may be other Beaufort County records in the 17 Collections list also. Here is a list of the 17 collections with the number of records and the date added to FamilySearch's Historical Record Collections:
This seems like an impressive list of records and it is. But how does this compare to what is in the Family History Library Catalog of records still not digitized? To determine what is and what is not digitized, you would have to look at the catalog entry for each record. But here is a list of what is in the catalog:
Sorry about the long list, but I am making a point. It is abundantly clear that only a small number of these records have made it through the digitization process as yet. Of course, some of these records, such as the U.S. Census records are cataloged in other places in the Historical Record Collections, but there are still a huge number of records waiting to be digitized and put online. 

So how does fare in the same type of comparison? By going to the Card Catalog, you can see a filtered list of any category of records among all 31,394 collections. If you filter for a particular state, you will see a huge number of records, many of which are national or regional and not specifically pertinent to the state. A filter for North Carolina shows 8,565 collections but many of those are general records such as directories and general U.S. records. Guess what? Beaufort County is not listed as a filtering option.

Now we have to think. Why is the county not showing as a filtering option? A glance down the list of counties included in's filters show why. The number of records from any given county is very small. The largest number of records is from Guilford County with 15 collections but the rest are mostly with one or two, up to five. 

So how many records are there in the Family History Library Catalog for Beaufort County? Here is the list:
Once again, excuse the long list. I think the point is illustrated. There is still a long way to go before even a majority of the available records are online and the large online genealogical databases are not the answer to all of the research options. As a matter of fact a quick Google search for Beaufort County genealogical records shows about 54,000 entries. Quite a bit to keep you busy with your research both online and on microfilm or paper.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Why attending RootsTech is a good idea

In some cases large is good. In the case of a genealogy conference, having a huge conference has some distinct advantages. First and foremost, the RootsTech 2014 conference has already attracted a world-wide participation from highly qualified instructors. If last year is any indication, the number and quality of the vendors will more than make for a great conference. You also cannot discount the distinct advantage of mingling with and speaking with fellow genealogists from all over the world.

The advantage of being only a few steps away from the Family History Library is also a huge reason for going to Salt Lake City, Utah in February. It also doesn't hurt that Salt Lake City is the center of one of the world's premier ski areas. From my own perspective, having lived in Salt Lake City for years and having family in the area, I have one more excuse to see some of my children and grand-children. But even without that reason, the shear amount of information that will be available is almost overwhelming.

I have thoroughly enjoyed all of the preceding RootsTech Conferences and find that I come away with a huge number of new ideas and concepts that I did not have before the Conferences. In the past, RootsTech has come to be the place to make new product announcements and vendor specials. I expect the same thing will happen this year.

From a blogger's standpoint, it is a time to renew friendships and make new ones. I hope to be able to do the same thing this next year.  

In genealogy, the basics really matter

Our grandchildren are starting into the years when they get driver's licenses. It has been interesting to find out that they now have spend up to 65 hours (depending on the local state laws) in supervised driving before they let them drive alone. I quickly figured out that 65 hours would mean 5 trips between Mesa and Salt Lake City, Utah or one huge trip from Mesa to Bangor, Maine. After driving for about five hours with one grandson, I began to despair that 65 hours was even possible. Once again, what does this have to do with genealogy?

Well, in talking to three new researchers yesterday, I realized that they had no training whatsoever. None. Zip. Did it help to tell them it takes much longer than just a mere 65 hours of experience and training to learn how to do genealogy in a competent fashion? I am afraid that they will dip their toes into the cold icy water of genealogy and decide they do not want to get in and swim. At the same time I was trying to help the brand-new researchers, I was also helping a researcher who was trying to find her ancestors on three different Indian Reservations in Arizona and New Mexico. I would not have helped to tell this researcher about a 5-minute Getting Started Videos.

Getting a start in genealogy is not just a matter of sharing photos and stories. The questions I have to answer almost every day, do not involve simple topics. They are serious, complicated research questions about how to find ancestors in a huge variety of circumstances and all across the world. Fortunately, the methodology for finding resources is nearly always the same, but finding the specific answers to questions ranging from Poland to Zuni, New Mexico is not a trivial or particularly fun experience. So how do we facilitate the transition from casual interest in a person's family to serious research that produces usable information?

Does it help to minimize the difficulties in doing research or is it more important to provide the tools to do an adequate job? Can you sugar coat the genealogical pill? I guess the problem I have with this issue is that I don't believe genealogical research can be watered down to the point of consumption without effort. How do we handle the transition from casual interest to serious interest and research? I have been working with some of the same people for years and I have seen them progress from frustrated, casual researchers to competent and very motivated. But that transition only happened because they were willing to learn the basics of research and spend the time necessary.

I keep going back to The Ancestry Insider's graphic example of The Chasm or as Hartley's First Law says, "You can lead a horse to water, but if you can get him to float on his back, you've got something." Some things are not easy. I am not sure why, but the consensus is growing that looking at genealogical research from the perspective of a researcher has a negative connotation. It is somehow assumed, I suppose, that if people realize the scope of the difficulties of doing research that they won't start; sort of milk before meat. But to repeat, what if there is no clear path to the meat?

One thing about sixteen year old teenagers, they are generally motivated by the desire to drive a car. That motivation led my grandson to put up with my constant instructions about where and how to drive. Can we create the same motivation to do genealogy? Yes, I believe we can and I heartily agree that stories and photos facilitate that interest. But I also know that there has be a clear path from interest to proficiency. The consequences of reckless driving may be much more serious than ignoring the basics in genealogy, but the effect on the final product is similar. Motivation to do genealogy is extremely important, but once motivated, there needs to be a clear path to competency.