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

Monday, November 30, 2015

Buying Into the Revolution -- Part Four -- How must genealogy change

Here are the previous installments of  this series:

Genealogical research has been and always will be limited by the content of the preserved historical records. Inexorably, as we move back into the past with our research, there are fewer records to find and utilize. But for the last two hundred years or so, the number and variety of records is enormous. Today, we live in a virtual avalanche of records. Any one living in a developed country today, can usually trace their ancestry back four to six generations. Of course, there are always exceptions, but they are exceptions.

The Information Revolution is defined as the proliferation of the availability of information and the accompanying changes in its storage and dissemination owing to the use of computers. The key here is the word "availability." This and the fragmentation of the records into various repositories are the two most serious limitations on genealogical research. The large online genealogical records database programs have barely dented the vast accumulation of records.

The barriers to genealogical research go by different names: copyright, privacy, legal restrictions and ownership, but they all have the same effect of limiting our ability to do research. The reason a particular record is not available for research is not as important as the inability to discover our ancestry. For example, during the past hundred years or so, access to records of adoption procedures in the United States have become more and more restricted. There are several social and cultural reasons for these restrictions, but the net effect is that doing genealogical research is made either impossible or much more difficult.

So why am I taking the position that genealogy and genealogists have not yet bought into the information revolution? The answer involves the issues I have already discussed, but also involves an overwhelmingly pervasive practice of compiling and maintaining separately compiled family files. What I have in my file on my computer and what you have in your file on your computer is no more available than if the information was still locked up in a repository on a paper record. Here are a few of the scenarios that are rampant in the genealogical community:

  • I am not going to share my information with anyone until I am good and ready.
  • It spent all my time and effort compiling this family's record and I want credit for what I have done.
  • I'm not ready to put any of my work online, I am waiting until it is completely done.
  • I don't know much or anything about computers and paper is good enough for me.
  • I am afraid someone will steal my identity and so I can't let those records go online.
  • Something may happen to my children or grandchildren if I put my genealogy on line.
  • I am not going to put my book online until I recoup the publishing cost from sales.
As usual, the list could go on and on. So here we sit. We know there are uncounted billions of records out there but due to the fact that they are scattered all over the world and yet to be digitized or otherwise made available we cannot even know that they exist. In addition, we are restricted from accessing many current records even when they are digitized because of copyright, ownership claims or other restrictions. We realize that there are millions of people around the world looking for and accumulating the same information we are seeking, but we have no adequate way to identify those people and even if we did, many would refuse to cooperate or collaborate. 

In order for genealogy to become part of the Information Revolution, we need to have a proliferation of the availability of the information. You might have the opinion that this is already happening and you would be right. There is certainly a lot more information available today than there ever has been previously. But so far this availability of information has not resulted in much of a change in the genealogical community. My list above illustrates part of the problem We are also severely limited by the computer programs that have been developed so far to record and share information. Each of the online record repositories is still locked into a unique format and moving information from one program to another is slow and difficult. In this way, we are still missing the dissemination part of the definition of the Information Revolution. 

More to come. 

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Buying Into the Revolution -- Part Three -- Where are we now?

Here are the previous installments of  this series:

In my last post in this series, I mention the insular nature of genealogical software. Years ago, if I were researching paper books in a library and found information about my family, I would have to copy out the information, record a citation to the location, evaluate the information and then incorporate the findings into my records, usually on a family group record. If I were using some type of file system, I might include the notes I made in that family's file folder or notebook or whatever. Years later, if I stumbled across the same information again, in another book or record, I would have go through the same process again, copy, evaluate, then I might discover that I already knew that particular item if I managed to put my notes into the same folder.

I could have used a card file for the notes and then I would be dependent on my ability to characterize the information about my family in a way that was consistent with my earlier characterization or I would have two cards with the same information. Guess what? This happens all the time in libraries across the world. Libraries depend on their catalogers to characterize and organize vast quantities of information so it can later be found and they can prevent the same material to be duplicated in different parts of the library unintentionally.

Genealogists have used all sorts of schemes to prevent this type of duplication. What is even more disconcerting is the fact that individual researchers duplicate a great deal of the same research. Some people estimate that 80% or more of what genealogists do is mere duplication of what someone else has already done. I would place that figure much higher.

The effect of this insularity is that most of what we do as genealogists is wasted effort. The research has already been done, we just do not know where to find it. This issue also arises due to the possessive nature of the average genealogist. The idea that someone can own information creates more problems than just duplication, but the concept and belief in ownership is one of the causes of the insularity.

What is truly amazing is that despite all the duplication, there are still vast areas of genealogical research that remain unorganized and are not incorporated in any kind of organization.'s Family Tree and other similar efforts to consolidate genealogical research are mired down in inaccurate and incomplete information. From my own experience, correcting even one small branch of these massive trees is a monumental undertaking.

So where are we in our efforts to eliminate the insularity? On a scale of one to ten with ten being the goal, we have not made it to one yet. What is preventing our progress? At the core of the problem is our inability to easily and completely transfer genealogical data from one venue to another. Simply put, if I have spent years accumulating information about one of my ancestors, there is no adequate way for me to incorporate all of my information into one place that makes it available to every other person related to the same ancestor. has made a start by creating a unified family tree program, but after years of working on the Family Tree, we are still waiting to have a way to eliminate duplicate entries, even when those entries are obvious duplicates.

If you want to get some idea of the overall scope of the problem, you can look at my family tree in the program. uses advanced programming techniques to match the entries in my family tree with the family trees of all of the other users of the program. Right now, the program is telling me that I have over 100,000 matches. Just imagine the duplication that this figure implies! The details of the matches say that I have 8,815 matching family trees with 60,244 Smart Matches, not quite 100,000 but who is counting. I have no mechanism at all that will allow me to examine all those potential matches and this is only one program. What about all the trees in all the other programs? Each of those matches is a potential duplication of effort.

Perhaps these examples give you an idea of the challenge faced by the genealogical community. At this point all the technological advances we have available to us have only given us a window to look out on the scope of the problems we face. We have only made the barest beginnings at solving those problems.

Genealogy deals with a specialized type of information, but it is information. We are supposed to be in the information age. So what are we doing with our massive amounts of information. Here is one more example.

My parents are cousins. They share a common ancestor. My mother's great-grandfather was also my father's great-great-grandfather. The same person is in both family lines. This is called pedigree collapse. None of the present genealogical database programs convey this information in an adequate way. Nothing tells me that by going back in two different lines, I will ultimately be looking at the same people. I happen to know about this particular problem and others, because I recognized the names, but what happens when you get back a few more generations? Can you really keep track of all of the common relationships? The answer is that presently we have no programs or mechanisms that identify common ancestors in the same programs where that information is stored. Yes, I have a utility program that will tell me if I am related to someone and yes the programs will tell me how I am related to another person in the same program, but none of them show me where my lines merge. For example, there is a program called Relative Finder that works with the Family Tree. According to that program, my wife and I are related as 6th cousins 2 times removed. We supposedly share a common ancestor back in the late 1600s. However, absent the suggested link from Relative Finder, we might never had known of that connection. We are only, just now, getting to the point where we can recognize such connections.

Well, it is time to move on to the next installment. Thanks for reading this far. Stay tuned.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Watch out for specials that aren't special

Like many people around the country, I have been looking at some of the "Black Friday" specials. First of all, there were very, very few things on sale that I really needed or wanted. Second, even those things I might have been interested in were being advertised at prices that I could find any other day of the year. In addition, I found that the really low prices were for either inferior products or products that were well out-of-date. The special discount was often off of an unrealistic "regular price" that was well above the actual sales price for the product even without the discount.

For example, the ads for special sales in our area are full of large screen monitors at or under $200. But if you examine these monitors or TVs closely, you will find that they have none of the new features incorporated in the slightly more expensive models. Of course, it is always possible that something you have been shopping for goes on sale at a reduced price, but the longer you have been looking for that product, the more likely it is that the product is at the end of its life cycle.

This life cycle issue is a serious one. With computers, for example, Intel has just recently released its 6th generation chips, but only a very few of the currently sold computers have yet to incorporate the new chip set. This means that whatever the discount price of a "new" computer, it is not "new" in the sense that it has the updated chips. On any electronic purchase, it is important to be well aware of the technical specifications of the product being sold at a "discount."

One very helpful solution to these common problems is to search for the same product at different locations online.

Buying Into the Revolution -- Part Two -- Returning to the Great Divide

Here is the previous installment of  this series:

There are a huge combination of technological advances that had to accumulate before genealogy began to be affected in a revolutionary way. You could consider the development of microfilm as one of the first harbinger of the technological revolution, but it was only until a huge document acquisition and distribution structure was created by FamilySearch and its predecessors, that the benefits of this technological advance could have an impact on the entire genealogical community. But you can hardly equate the availability of rental microfilm with the technological changes that have occurred in the last 50 years.

We visited an historical museum out in the west desert of Utah recently. Back in 1858, under the false belief that the Mormons in Utah were rebelling against the laws of the United States, President James Buchanan sent one third of the troops in the entire U.S. Army to put down the rebellion. When the troops finally arrived in Utah, they discovered that there was no such rebellion, but they established a camp. Here is a quote from the Camp Floyd State Park Museum.
Believing Mormons were rebelling against the laws of the United States, President James Buchanan dispatched 3,500 troops, nearly one-third of the entire U.S. Army, to suppress the rumored rebellion in the Utah Territory. No rebellion or war ever took place in Utah. The army stayed to monitor the Mormons, explore the western frontier, and provide safety for immigrants moving west to California, Oregon, and Washington. 
Camp Floyd, named in honor of Secretary of War John Floyd, was built by the army with the help of local citizens. The Army pumped nearly $200,000 into the local economy to build Camp Floyd. Camp followers soon increased the population of Camp Floyd and Fairfield to 7,000, making it the third largest city in the Utah territory. At their height, Camp Floyd was the largest military installation in the United States.
Camp Floyd only existed for a very short time, the U.S. Army was recalled to the East with the start of the Civil War. I found the Museum interesting because of the artifacts from the mid-1800s. What was even more interesting to me was the fact that many, if not most, of the common everyday objects in the Museum were familiar to me from my childhood in Eastern Arizona. I knew all about cream separators, irons heated on a wood stove, butter churns and other household objects that were still in use when I was a child nearly a hundred years after the Utah War.

The technological changes I have seen in my own lifetime are extensive and dramatic. I certainly remember when both radios and TVs were considered new innovations. But when I began my first incursions into the world of genealogical research, genealogy was still well settled in the 1800s or earlier. I was still seeing handwritten family group records. It was still necessary for me to travel to Salt Lake City, Utah to see the millions of family group records that had been accumulated for over 100 years. If I wanted to view any of the rolls of microfilm, I had to be in Salt Lake City to do so.

From my present perspective, the swirling technological advances I was seeing with the advent of the electronic revolution or the information revolution or whatever, had barely touched the hallowed halls of genealogical research. Now, thirty or so years further on down the revolutionary trail, we are finally seeing the very first vestiges of impact of the those same technological changes on genealogy. Rather than tout how much technology has changed genealogical research, let me point out that most of what we do in genealogy is exactly the same as it was thirty, forty, fifty or even a hundred years ago.

The Great Divide I refer to in my title to this post is not between any sub-section of the genealogical community and another. It is not between the technological haves and have nots, it is between genealogy as a pursuit and the rest of the advancing technological world. It is only now, in the past four or five years that any of the technological advances have really had the potential of impacting genealogy in a basic way. We are still mainly in the butter churn and cream separator level of genealogy while the rest of the world has moved on.

We are not so much focused on genealogy as information processing as we are focused on genealogy as a topic. We are, for the most part, simply electronically reproducing the same forms, the same limited information and the same methodology that has been in place for the past 150 years or so. We are copying what has been done in the past rather than applying the new technology in new ways. Those who are pushing for change are being marginalized in the same way that all technological innovations have been received over the centuries. Rather than being embraced, change is viewed as a threat.

Even for those who characterize themselves as early adopters, genealogy has only now begun the transformation from a study to a manipulation of information with an ever changing and evolving electronic technology.

Let me give you some examples of what I am talking about. Rather than capitalize on the technological advances in the exchange of information, until very recently, it was not possible to completely move information from one genealogical database to another. The existing technology, GEDCOM and other methods, was and are extremely limited.

 If I write a document using my computer in my own office with images, charts, etc. I can transmit that entire document, with all the formatting etc. to almost any device in the world with no loss of information. However, if I make an entry in my local genealogical database program for an individual ancestor and include source citations, notes, copies of documents etc., there is no way to move all of that information intact to any one else unless they are using exactly the same program I am using on the same device. In almost all cases, if I want to share that information, I am limited to sending one field at a time. Even the most extensive file transfers are fraught with limitations on enclosed media. When I have an extensively documented file in any one genealogy program, I am essentially locked into that program just as I would have been had the same information been on paper. There is not a PDF file equivalent for genealogy.

The electronic revolution is about moving information from one venue to another. In this, genealogy has yet to be born; it isn't even into the infancy stage.

Well, now I hope you know the direction of this series of posts. What I intend to do, is show where the positive areas of information transfer exist and where they are still only dreams. Stay tuned.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Buying Into the Revolution -- Part One -- Setting the Stage

In 1975, I passed the Arizona State Bar Exam and was sworn in as a new attorney. I was to be an active attorney, on and off, for the next 39 years. Two years later in 1977, my brother got a personal computer. It was a TRS-80. We spent some time working on simple programs. Because of my previous experience with the mainframe computer at the University of Utah, I saw the potential of this inexpensive and very limited device.

Our one greatest challenge in operating a law office was the paper work involved. We usually had to make copies of everything we sent out and were using copious amounts of carbon paper. Most of our typewriters were IBM Selectrics. They had a dual ribbon system with a roll of "white out" that allowed for far easier correction than using an eraser or re-typing the entire document. Photocopying machines were huge and very expensive, so we charged for all the copies we made. As attorneys, we relied heavily on our staff to "produce the documents."

By 1982, I was aware of the strides being made in office automation. Some of the larger law firms had complex word processing machines. We heard such names as Vydec, Xerox and Star Information Systems. But the attorneys I worked with were still using the same method of correction using IBM Selectric Typewriters. I began to see that word processing could be done on a computer, but it took another few years before that could happen. When I purchased my first Macintosh computers, I was already in the business of selling Apple computers and other brands. I began using the Macintosh in my office to produce legal documents. The advantage (and disadvantages) were obvious.

Now we fast forward to the 1990s. By this time, I was fully involved in computers. I did 100% of my word processing on computers. In fact, rather than dictate documents to my assistants, I had taken over the process of creating the documents directly. From there, they would proofread them and make all the copies and send them out. We had stopped charging for copies.

I could go on, but I need to point out that when I left the practice of law in 2014, there were and are still attorneys who did not know how to operate their computers and did not compose documents themselves on the computers.

How does this apply to genealogy? I use the example of word processing as one of the most common computer applications. By the 1990s, I was also involved in a graphic design business and we were using the most advanced equipment we could purchase to produce posters, banners, and all sorts of documents from hardcover books to advertising flyers. By the time I quit my law practice, the Arizona courts were requiring all pleadings to be filed electronically. I am now creating my documents using voice recognition and other technologies. I am now considering whether using an iPad Pro is going to work for me instead of a laptop.

I am known as an "early adopter," that is, a person who accepts and adopts technology as soon as it becomes available.

Now we come to the great divide. Here we have an ever accelerating and evolving technology that is touching every aspect of our lives and there are segments of our population who are not at all involved and in fact, actively resist that technology. There are a multitude of reasons for this division. Some can be attributed to economic disparity, others are age related. Whatever the reason for the division, it is real and forms a barrier between those who accept the technology and those who either fail to use it or oppose it.

Genealogy is one of the very late adopters of the new technology. This is partially caused by the opposition of the record repositories. Genealogists do not control the rate of technological change adopted by the various entities that control documents. We are basically information consumers. We need information to find our ancestors and other relatives. Much of that information is still locked up in paper copies. Despite the advances in technology allowing digital access to billions of documents, the conversion of paper or its paper equivalent, microfilm, to digitized copies is slow and opposed by many entities. A prime example is the U.S. National Archives. The National Archives very likely accumulates paper much faster than it is digitizing it and only a vanishingly small number of its documents are available outside of paper copies.

But focusing on a very personal level, genealogy is finally moving into the technological revolution. However I still work in a library with 300,000 plus rolls of microfilm that are not digitized. I also have to travel and view some documents on paper, such as books and other records. But more importantly, I still find that the majority of the people I work with day after day, do not recognize the changes that have occurred in the methodology of genealogy. Just as many attorneys were and still are resistant to the changes from paper to electronics, such as my father who still wrote everything out by hand until he died, there are many genealogists who resist the technological changes.

I could go on and on with examples of the difficulty genealogists have with technology, but my point here is that the changes are inevitable. We will either embrace them or be run over by them, but genealogy has now begun to participate in the technological revolution. You can either get on the train or be left standing in the station, but you will not change the fact that the train is leaving with or without you.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Pilgrims, the Mayflower and such

Just in case you want to find out a little more about the Pilgrims, the Mayflower and all that stuff that happened back in the 1600s, I decided to put together a list of some resources. Of course the General Society of Mayflower Descendants has an entire library dedicated to the Pilgrims (i.e. the term commonly used to wrongly identify the passengers) but we all need to get started somewhere. I might also mention that this was one of few libraries I have visited where I was asked to leave, but that is another story. I might also mention that my initial search turned up over 1,700 books on the subject so I have limited this list considerably. My guess is that at least some of these books are not going to be very helpful since a lot of them are fictionalized accounts.

Addison, A. C. The Romantic Story of the Mayflower Pilgrims, and Its Place in the Life of to-Day,. Boston: L.C. Page, 1911.

Apel, Melanie Ann. The Pilgrims. San Diego: Kidhaven Press, 2003.

Armentrout, David, and Patricia Armentrout. The Mayflower Compact. Vero Beach, Fla.: Rourke Pub., 2004.

Barth, Edna, Ursula Arndt, Carol Basen, and Seabury Press. Turkeys, Pilgrims, and Indian Corn: The Story of the Thanksgiving Symbols. New York: Seabury Press, 1975.

Beale, David O. The Mayflower Pilgrims: Roots of Puritan, Presbyterian, Congregationalist, and Baptist Heritage. Greenville, S.C.; Belfast, Northern Ireland: Ambassador-Emerald International, 2000.

Brooks, Philip. The Mayflower Compact. Minneapolis, Minn.: Compass Point Books, 2005.

Bunker, Nick. Making Haste from Babylon: The Mayflower Pilgrims and Their World : A New History. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2010.

Caffrey, Kate. The Mayflower. New York: Stein and Day, 1974.

Carpenter, Edmund J. The Mayflower Pilgrims,. New York; Cincinnati: Abingdon Press, 1918.

Carter, E. J. The Mayflower Compact. Chicago: Heinemann Library, 2003.

Colloms, Brenda. The Mayflower Pilgrims. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1977.

Conner, Peter, Alan Mumby, Alan Murphy, Barry Coleman, David Collings, PA Communications (Firm), and Janson Media (Firm). The Mayflower Pilgrims. [United States]: Janson Media, 2003.

Crosher, G. R. The Mayflower Pilgrims. London: Chatto & Windus, 1966.

Davis, Kenneth C, and S. D Schindler. Don’t Know Much about the Pilgrims. New York: HarperCollins, 2002.

Dillon, Francis. The Pilgrims. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1975.

Donovan, Frank R, and Hedda Johnson. The Mayflower Compact,. New York: Grosset & Dunlap, 1968.

Fradin, Dennis B. The Mayflower Compact. New York: Benchmark, 2007.

General Society of Mayflower Descendants, and William Alexander McAuslan. Mayflower Index,. [Boston: General Society of Mayflower Descendants, 1932.

Gill, Crispin. Mayflower Remembered: A History of the Plymouth Pilgrims. New York: Taplinger Pub. Co., 1970.

Greenwood, Mark, and Frané Lessac. The Mayflower, 2014.

Hays, Wilma Pitchford, Roger Duvoisin, and Inc Coward-McCann. Christmas on the Mayflower. New York: Coward-McCann Inc., 1956.

Heaton, Vernon. The Mayflower. New York: Mayflower Books, 1980.

Hopkins, Anthony, Donald Pleasence, Richard Crenna, Jenny Agutter, Michael Beck, David Dukes, Trish Van Devere, Inc Syzygy Productions, and HBO Video (Firm). Mayflower the Pilgrims’ Adventure. New York: HBO Home Video, 1999.

Howells, Anne Molloy, and Richard Cuffari. The Years before the Mayflower: The Pilgrims in Holland. New York: Hastings House, 1972.

Jackson, Dave, Neta Jackson, and Julian Jackson. The Mayflower Secret. Minneapolis, Minn.: Bethany House Publishers, 1998.

Jones, Nathan Henry. The Ancestors of My Daughters: Comprising Three Mayflower Pilgrims, One Colonial Governor, over Forty Colonial, Fourteen Revolutionary, and Three War of 1812 Ancestors. Poultney, Vt.: N.H. Jones, 1914.

Kallio, Jamie. The Mayflower Compact, 2013.

Kellogg, Lucy Mary, Edna W Townsend, Robert S Wakefield, and General Society of Mayflower Descendants. Mayflower Families through Five Generations: Descendants of the Pilgrims Who Landed at Plymouth, Mass., December 1620. Plymouth, MA: General Society of Mayflower Descendants, 1975.

Kesteven, G. R. The Mayflower Pilgrims. London: Chatto & Windus, 1966.

Kimball, Sarah Louise. The Mayflower Pilgrims. [Place of publication not identified], 1923.

King, Jonathan. The Mayflower Miracle: The Pilgrims’ Own Story of the Founding of America. Newton Abbot: David & Charles, 1987.

Lasky, Kathryn, and John Manders. Two Bad Pilgrims. New York: Viking, 2009.

Leynse, James P. Preceding the Mayflower: The Pilgrims in England and in the Netherlands. New York: Fountainhead Publishers, 1972.

Limbaugh, Rush H. Rush Revere and the Brave Pilgrims: Time-Travel Adventures with Exceptional Americans, 2013.

Lindsay, David. Mayflower Bastard: A Stranger among the Pilgrims. New York: Thomas Dunne Books/St. Martin’s Press, 2002.

Making Haste from Babylon [the Mayflower Pilgrims and Their World: A New History]. Westminster, Md.: Books on Tape, 2010.

Marshall, Cyril Leek. The Mayflower Destiny. Harrisburg, Pa.: Stackpole Books, 1975.

Massachusetts Society of Mayflower Descendants. “The Mayflower Descendant: A Quarterly Magazine of Pilgrim Genealogy and History.” The Mayflower Descendant : A Quarterly Magazine of Pilgrim Genealogy and History., 1899.

Mathews, Basil. The Argonauts of Faith; the Adventures of the “Mayflower” Pilgrims,. New York: George H. Doran Company, 1920.

Mayflower a Story of Courage, Community, and War. Prince Frederick, Md.: Recorded Books, 2006.

Mayflower Compact. Hoboken, N.J.: BiblioBytes.

Mayflower Compact. Washington, DC: Great Neck Pub., 2009.

McGovern, Ann, and Anna DiVito. --If You Sailed on the Mayflower in 1620. New York: Scholastic Inc., 1991.

McGovern, Ann, and Elroy Freem. The Pilgrims’ First Thanksgiving. New York: Scholastic, 1993.

Noble, Frederick Alphonso. The Pilgrims,. Boston: The Pilgrim Press, 1907.

Osborne, Mary Pope, Natalie Pope Boyce, Sal Murdocca, and Mary Pope Osborne. Pilgrims: A Nonfiction Companion to Thanksgiving on Thursday. New York: Random House, 2005.

Owens, L. L. Pilgrims, 2014.

Philbrick, Nathaniel. Mayflower: A Story of Courage, Community, and War. New York: Viking, 2006.

Philbrick, Nathaniel, and Nathaniel Philbrick. The Mayflower and the Pilgrims’ New World. New York, NY: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 2008.

Plimoth Plantation, Inc, Peter Arenstam, John Kemp, Catherine O’Neill Grace, Sisse Brimberg, and Cotton Coulson. Mayflower 1620: A New Look at a Pilgrim Voyage. Washington, D.C.: National Geographic, 2003.

Poolos, Jamie. The Mayflower: A Primary Source History of the Pilgrims’ Journey to the New World. New York: Rosen Central Primary Sources, 2004.

Pratt, Walter Merriam. The Mayflower Society House, Being the Story of the Edward Winslow House, the Mayflower Society [and] the Pilgrims. Cambridge, Mass.: Priv. Print., University Press, 1950.

Rajczak, Kristen. The Mayflower Compact, 2014.

Raum, Elizabeth. The Mayflower Compact. Chicago, Ill.: Heinemann Library, 2013.

Reece, Colleen L. The Mayflower Adventure. Uhrichsville, Ohio: Barbour Pub., 1997.

Richards, Norman, and Darrell D Wiskur. The Story of the Mayflower Compact. Chicago: Childrens Press, 1967.

Roser, Susan E. Mayflower Increasings. Baltimore, MD: Genealogical Pub. Co., 1995.

Roy, Ron, and John Steven Gurney. Mayflower Treasure Hunt. New York: Random House, 2007.

San Souci, Robert D, N. C Wyeth, Malcolm Varon, Kathy Warinner, and Chronicle Books (Firm). N.C. Wyeth’s Pilgrims. San Francisco: Chronicle Books, 1991.

Schulz, Charles M, Evert Brown, Lee Mendelson, Bill Melendez, Charles M. Schulz Creative Associates, United Media Productions, and United Feature Syndicate. The Mayflower Voyagers. [Hollywood, Calif.]: Paramount, 1994.

Sizer, Kate Thompson. Mayflower Pilgrims. London: Charles H. Kelly, 1898.

Stein, R. Conrad. The Pilgrims. Chicago: Childrens Press, 1995.

Stowe, Harriet Beecher. The Mayflower, Or, Sketches of Scenes and Characters among the Descendants of the Pilgrims. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1843.

Van Leeuwen, Jean, and Thomas B Allen. Across the Wide Dark Sea: The Mayflower Journey. New York: Dial Books for Young Readers, 1995.

Webb, Robert N, and Charles J Andres. We Were There with the Mayflower Pilgrims. New York: Grosset & Dunlap, 1956.

Weygant, Charles H. Biographical Notes and Genealogical Tables Giving Line of Descent of Jonathan J. Rogers and Other Descendants of Ezra Earll and Mary Sabin from the Mayflower Pilgrims Francis Cooke and Richard Warren. Newburgh, N.Y.: Newburgh Journal Print, 1905.

Whitehurst, Susan. The Mayflower. New York: PowerKids Press, 2002.

———. The Pilgrims before the Mayflower. New York: PowerKids Press, 2002.

Wolfinger, Lisa, Rocky Collins, Edward Herrmann, Paul Drinan, Erin Raftery, Sam Redford, Chris K Layman, et al. Desperate Crossing the Untold Story of the Mayflower. [New York]: A & E Home Video : Distributed by New Video, 2007.

Yero, Judith Lloyd, and National Geographic Society (U.S.). The Mayflower Compact. Washington, D.C.: National Geographic Society, 2006.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

StoryPress offline?

I just checked out a tip about the website and found that it is offline. I don't know if this is temporary or not. I will continue to check to see if I can ascertain its status.

DNA Test to Challenge Legitimacy of the English Throne

An anonymous tip from a comment lead me to an article in the U.K. Daily Mail for 26 November 2015. The title reads as follows:

Who's the real aristocrat? Queen demands DNA to be tested in court to settle dispute over 330-year-old baronet title (...but could ruling mean a Utah Mormon is our king?)
  • Britain's most senior judges will decide if DNA evidence can settle the row
  • The dispute is over a distinguished lineage dating back to the 13th century
  • Analysis revealed the last baronet came from a different bloodline to family
  • Two rival family branches have spent thousands of pounds on legal battle 
Read more:

Since I have no information as to the validity of the article or the claims, I will let the article speak for itself. 

Can Technology Save Genealogy or will it destroy it?

The title to this post is meant to be understood on a number of different levels. Considering all the world's serious problems, genealogical concerns could be considered to be "small potatoes" compared to the important issues of the day. Perhaps we should start viewing genealogy in the larger context of the preservation of our cultural heritage. During the past hundred years or so, we have seen massive efforts in the form of "cultural revolutions" that were aimed at transforming our world societies in a major way. On a huge scale, millions of people have been killed in the name of cultural cleansing. On a much smaller scale, localized ethnic and cultural groups have been effectively destroyed and absorbed into the dominant milieu. Preservation of our cultural and family history is fundamentally more than a casual pastime or hobby.

Most of those who live in the United States today have bought into the dominant "American Culture" with capital letters. One significant symptom of this adoption is the way that "Black Friday" celebrations have supplanted the traditional celebration of a treasured national holiday. For many in our country today, Thanksgiving is all about football and or shopping. It is no longer a day for quiet family gatherings and contemplation of our collective blessings. In most stores, for example, any tribute to Thanksgiving has long been overwhelmed with pre-Christmas decorations and sales.

In my last post entitled, "Can we "Twitter" family history," I touched briefly on the issue of preservation issue. But the issue of preservation is much greater than just a concern over the possibility of somehow capturing all of mindless blather of Facebook, it is a concern over the loss of basic values of family and home. Genealogy, by its very nature, looks backwards in time.

Back near the end of the U.S. Civil War on 10 November 1864, just before General William T. Sherman began his march to the sea, leaving Atlanta in ruins, President Abraham Lincoln gave a short address to a group who had come to serenade the White House. He said, in part:
Human-nature will not change. In any future great national trial, compared with the men of this, we shall have as weak, and as strong; as silly and as wise; as bad and good. Let us, therefore, study the incidents of this, as philosophy to learn wisdom from, and none of them as wrongs to be revenged.
Today, we are fighting a cultural battle instead of one consuming our entire nation in a shooting war. We are in the midst of a cultural revolution that is so much greater and far reaching than anything we have faced as a nation and by extension, faced as a world population, that threatens the very foundations of our diversity and culture. Genealogy ties us to the past, but that past is rapidly being supplanted by the immediacy of the present. The issues raised by a technology that can transform our interactions on a personal basis go far beyond simple issues of the preservation of present personal communications, they go to the heart of cultural values that are being reduced in substance to a tweet.

When I was a lot younger than I am today, one national concern was the impact of television on the rising generation. Well, I can say that impact of television is mild compared to impact of smartphones connected to the Internet. On the one hand, genealogical research is reaping the benefits of the tidal wave of online resources but at the same time, the very basis of our interest in our ancestors is threatened by a society that puts little value on tradition and culture and more on the immediacy of instant messaging.

As we live through another holiday season, let's think of our own cultural and ancestral heritage. Let's take time to share that heritage with our families.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Can we "Twitter" family history?

When I was much younger than I am now, it was common to "condense" books. The Readers' Digest had a whole series of these condensed books. If condensed books were still too much for you to digest, then there were Classic Comics. Now we have Twitter where comments are reduced to 140 characters. Do we want to reduce genealogy to a tweet? Is that even possible?

The real issue is the ascendancy of social media as the communication venue of choice for much of the younger population. For the past year, I have been conducting oral interviews for preservation in the Special Collections Library at Brigham Young University. Some of these oral interviews lasted as long as eight or nine hours. I guess that this experience makes it difficult for me to reconcile the limitations of social networking content with the need to preserve an adequate record. In addition, I am looking at a stack of books about genealogy including several extensive family history books. Most of these family history books, chronicling many generations of selected families, exceed 500 pages in length. Most serious genealogical researchers find that they are very quickly buried in paper.

Are we willing to sacrifice the rich content of our family histories merely to accommodate the limited attention span of the Twitter generation? Perhaps, we should consider how we are going to preserve family history in the light of the popularity of the program such as Snapchat. Here is an explanation of Snapchat from Wikipedia:
Using the application, users can take photos, record videos, add text and drawings, and send them to a controlled list of recipients. These sent photographs and videos are known as "Snaps". Users set a time limit for how long recipients can view their Snaps (as of September 2015, the range is from 1 to 10 seconds), after which Snapchat claims they will be deleted from the company's servers.
Certainly, we need to address the more serious question of how we are going to preserve the records of a generation of people whose main records in life are preserved in bits and pieces online. It might be helpful to realize that Snapchat reach the level of 6 billion videos per day in November 2015. Genealogists wring their hands over the loss of a few records in a courthouse, when we are losing 6 billion records a day after 10 seconds. Most users make no effort to resolve the problem of preserving their family records located on Facebook or other social media venues.

No matter what we think about social media, the issue of the evanescence of historical content is not new. We merely need to remember that all of the lifetime of conversations between our ancestors is forever lost. Perhaps, you have a copy of a telegraph message sent by an ancestor announcing a birth or death. The rarity of these messages is a graphic illustration of the problem faced in the future and reconstructing social media. Absent some spectacular method of reconstruction, I believe that virtually all of the content of the social media will be lost. For this reason alone, I would strongly limit efforts to expand the inclusion of some social media as a basis for "doing genealogy."

The reality of the present situation is that absent a concerted effort to move the content now presently available in the social media to a more permanent venue will result in its loss. Encouraging genealogical content to be shared in social media ignores this reality. We should be implementing pathways to allow those whose primary contact with the world is through social media to easily archive and preserve genealogically significant content. This is especially true where the content is primarily based on oral communication. We sometimes fail to recognize that much of the world's history is still contained in the minds of the family members. We need to be more proactive in capturing oral histories. We also need to recognize that much of social media falls in the same category as oral histories and will be lost absent our preservative efforts.

Can you do genealogy on a mobile device?

There is still a distinction between what we call mobile devices, such as tablets, smartphones and the more traditional desk top computers with a separate keyboard, pointing device and monitor. The main distinction is the operation systems involved with mobile devices and the desktop computers' operating systems. iOS does not function the same as Mac OS X. Is a laptop computer a mobile device or a desktop computer? The distinction is which operating system it uses.

Granted, there is a vast difference between using an application on a mobile device and sitting down to 27 inch or larger monitor attached to high-powered computer. But the real question is not the differences in the devices, but the limitations of the software and the memory of the mobile device. For example, here are the system requirements to run Adobe Photoshop.
  • Intel® Core 2 or AMD Athlon® 64 processor; 2 GHz or faster processor
  • Microsoft Windows 7 with Service Pack 1, Windows 8.1, or Windows 10
  • 2 GB of RAM (8 GB recommended)
  • 2 GB of available hard-disk space for 32-bit installation; 2.1 GB of available hard-disk space for 64-bit installation; additional free space required during installation (cannot install on removable flash storage devices)
  • 1024 x 768 display (1280x800 recommended) with 16-bit color and 512 MB of VRAM (1 GB recommended)*
  • OpenGL 2.0–capable system
  • Internet connection and registration are necessary for required software activation, validation of subscriptions, and access to online services.**
Mac OS
  • Multicore Intel processor with 64-bit support
  • Mac OS X v10.9, v10.10 (64-bit), or v10.11 (64-bit)
  • 2 GB of RAM (8 GB recommended)
  • 2 GB of available hard-disk space for installation; additional free space required during installation (cannot install on a volume that uses a case-sensitive file system or on removable flash storage devices)
  • 1024 x 768 display (1280x800 recommended) with 16-bit color and 512 MB of VRAM (1 GB recommended)*
  • OpenGL 2.0–capable system
  • Internet connection and registration are necessary for required software activation, membership validation, and access to online services.**

* 3D features will be disabled with less than 512MB
The bottom line is that although there has been a tremendous increase in the capabilities of mobile devices, there are still limitations in the input and capabilities of the mobile devices that make some kinds of work either unavailable or very difficult.

Two new devices, the Apple iPad Pro and the Microsoft Surface Pro 4 have engendered a great deal of online discussion about whether or not these devices will "replace" the more traditional laptop. The answer is mixed with some commentators adopting the new devices and others recognizing that although both are powerful mobile devices, they are not yet a substitute for the computing power and storage capacity of most laptop computers. 

I have been exploring the possibility of using one of the two devices instead of replacing my now aging MacBook Pro. So far, I have determined that I do not want to move to a mobile device. I am impressed with both the iPad Pro and the Surface Pro 4, but not enough to replace my MacBook Pro. I also looked at the possibility of replacing my iMac with a MacBook Pro attached to a large monitor. This is an attractive alternative, but also suffers from some limitations, mainly the cost of the system and the limitations on internal storage.

What about the programs? Many of the popular online genealogy programs and even the desktop based programs have mobile apps. Some of these apps are very functional but still, adding extensive notes or attaching media are cumbersome and mostly difficult with the mobile apps. Granted, I am involved in a very extensive and intense usage of computers compared to the "average" user (whatever average is) but it would not be a good idea to base your decision to adopt a particular mode of input, mobile vs. desktop, without realizing that you may decide to become more involved in the future. 

My solution is to do what I already do. Use the mobile devices to their capacity. Use a laptop for presentations and travel and finally, rely primarily on powerful desktop computers for the majority of my work. All three have their advantages and disadvantages. Right now, it looks like I will keep my present iPad for a while until the new iPads have an operating system or programs that will not run on my dated machine. I will likely replace my MacBook Pro with a new model, mostly because my old one has been dropped so many times it is about ready to break. But I will be watching to see if there is a reason to replace my desktop iMac. It is still functional, but I see signs that it will be failing in the not-to-distant future. 

The final answer to the question in the title is that you can do many genealogical tasks on a mobile device. You may find that using an iPad Pro or Surface Pro 4 will be sufficient for the way you use a computer. You may also find that you need the additional capacity and storage of a desktop device. I suggest you try out the mobile devices as they become available and decide your own best solution. 

Monday, November 23, 2015

Genealogical Tools You Cannot Ingnore

I recently taught a two-hour class on breaking down genealogical brick walls. In the course of teaching the class, I referred to a number of useful websites and online tools. As usual, I found that a majority of the attendees were unfamiliar with the programs I suggested using. In many cases, these programs take us well beyond the four large online database programs.

I am reminded of when I buy a furniture item from IKEA, the Swedish retailer with stores around the world. The assembly instructions always start out with a simple diagram of the tools you need to have before you start assembling the item. It is too bad that genealogy doesn't come with a set of instructions giving you a similar set of tools. Of course, genealogical tools are a lot harder to use and understand than a screwdriver and a hammer, but they are still just as necessary and useful.

The real issue is where to start and where to stop when talking about tools. For this reason, I think it is important to realize that no simple list will suffice. Another analogy is in order. Many years ago, I owned a Jaguar motor car. It was a very used car and the front steering bushings has disintegrated. We diagnosed the problem and set about replacing the bushings by removing the front idler arms. It doesn't really matter if you have no idea what I am talking about because the problem was that we could not separate the idler arms from the linkage to the wheels. If you care, here is a short explanation of the idler arm function.
The idler arm supports the end of the center link on the passengers side of the vehicle. The idler arm bolts to the vehicle's frame or subframe. Generally, an idler arm is attached between the opposite side of the center link from the Pitman arm and the vehicle's frame to hold the center link at the proper height. Idler arms are generally more vulnerable to wear than Pitman arms because of the pivot function built into them. If the idler arm is fitted with grease fittings, these should be lubricated with a grease gun at each oil change. See Wikipedia: Idler arm
 One of my friends had volunteered to help me with the project. We spent most of two days trying to separate the ball joint (pivot function) at the end of the part. Finally, we gave up, leaving the car sitting in my driveway. The next day, we were talking to another friend about the experience and he said, "Oh, you need a ball joint fork. I have one I can lend to you." Neither of us had ever seen or used a "ball joint fork."

Once we had the proper tool, we separated the ball joint and had the repair done in under an hour. This was a good lesson to learn. If you want to do a certain type of job, you need the right tools. This is also extremely important to genealogical research. Of course, there are an abundance of generalized genealogical tools out there but often, finding a particular ancestor requires a specialized tool. In these cases the rule is as follows:

Search for and make sure you have the proper research tools before you search for the ancestor.

This lesson has been brought home to me time and time again, both in my genealogical research and in doing car and household repairs. I have also found that most, in fact almost all, "brick wall" situations can be resolved by discovering the right genealogical tools and using them in the way they were intended. The best way to learn about these tools is to take the time to read a few good books about genealogical research. It also helps to attend a few classes and spend some time talking to good researchers.

I might mention that I know some outstanding genealogical researchers and I have benefited from their experience over the years. I might also point out that nearly all of these researchers are entirely unknown outside of their family and a few friends. I have gotten to know these folks because I have spent so much time in the libraries. Unless you happened to be related or know them personally, you would never know about their level of expertise. Their names are not on journal articles and they don't show up listed as presenters at conferences, but these people know how to do research and they can show you the right tools. When you find someone like this, you are doubly blessed.

I might also mention the help I received from taking independent study classes from Brigham Young University for five years. Study and learning at this level was invaluable to understanding what genealogy was all about.

We all have to start somewhere and I thought I would leave you with another list of books. These are the ones that got me started in understanding how to do genealogical research.

Cerny, Johni, and Arlene H Eakle. Ancestry’s Guide to Research: Case Studies in American Genealogy, 1985.

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

Herber, Mark D, and Society of Genealogists (Great Britain). Ancestral Trails: The Complete Guide to British Genealogy and Family History. Baltimore, Md.: Genealogical Pub. Co., Inc, 1998.

Mills, Elizabeth Shown. Professional Genealogy: A Manual for Researchers, Writers, Editors, Lecturers, and Librarians. Baltimore: Genealogical Pub. Co., 2001.

Ryskamp, George R. Finding Your Hispanic Roots. Baltimore: Genealogical Pub. Co., 1997.

Szucs, Loretto Dennis, and Sandra Hargreaves Luebking. The Source: A Guidebook of American Genealogy. Provo, UT: Ancestry, 2006.