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

Thursday, June 30, 2016

MyHeritage adds PedigreeMap

This new pedigree map from appears to do automatically, what I have been doing for some time manually using searches, spreadsheets and manual lists. They describe the new program as follows:
PedigreeMap displays all your photos and events grouped by country and location, allowing you to easily filter the map to view it by person, family group, event type, and time period. If you have a tablet device, such as an iPad or an Android tablet, PedigreeMap will look awesome on it. You will be able to pan and zoom with your fingers, and enjoy the maps tremendously.
One of the immediate benefits of this type of program is the ability to visually see inconsistent places associated with families and individuals within families. For some considerable time, I have been advising people to approach their genealogy from a geographic standpoint. I fully realize that there are several mapping programs out there, but having this degree of integration with my full family tree is a distinct advantage. This is the type of advance that we have seen before from

You can read the entire description of the new PedgreeMap on the MyHeritage Blog in their post entitled, "Introducing PedigreeMap™ — an Interactive Map of Your Family History."

In order for this program, or any similar program, to work properly, you need to make sure the geographic data in your family tree is accurate and complete. The first thing I noticed when using the program is that two of my relatives were shown living in Chile. In checking this out, It illustrated a situation that needed to be corrected and clarified.

I will be working on updating my records in my family tree so I can better use this program.

Update on the very large online genealogy companies

Arrows, Growth Hacking, Marketing, Strategy, Startup

With the changes to the website, I thought it might be interesting to take a quick look at all four of the very large online genealogy companies and see wat was going on. I guess I will start with

All of the four large online genealogy companies continually add to their huge digital record collections. All of them provide extremely valuable records to researchers and all are constantly growing and adding new programs and features. It is an exciting time to be doing genealogical research (if that can be said at all about doing research). Genealogists worldwide can hardly afford to ignore any one of these companies' holdings.

Apparently, has moved into their new offices in Lehi, Utah. In looking at their corporate website the location of the Corporate Headquarters is listed as follows:
Lehi, Utah (Corporate Headquarters)
1300 West Traverse Parkway
Lehi, UT USA

Headquartered in Lehi, Utah, Ancestry is focused on making family history more accessible to millions of people around the world. The company has grown to more than 1,400 employees globally, 1,000 of whom are based in Utah. In addition to phenomenal views of Mount Timpanogos and the surrounding valley, our location helps the company broaden its footprint in attracting and retaining top talent throughout the Wasatch Front.
Since they didn't have much of a view of the mountains from their old location in Provo, Utah, it would seem to be the American dream of moving up on hill. By the way, has offices in San Francisco, California, Dublin, Ireland (International Headquarters), London, United Kingdom (United for the time being), Silver Spring, Maryland, Stockholm, Sweden, Munich, Germany and Sydney, Australia.

Here is a list of their brands, businesses and products:

  • Ancestry
  • AncestryDNA
  • AncestryHealth
  • AncestryAcademy
  • Archives
  • Fold3
  • Ancestry Institution
  • Find A Grave
  • AncestryProGenealogists
  • Rootsweb by Ancestry

Actually, Ancestry has eight different international websites:

I reported about the ownership and investment changes recently at Ancestry. See Ancestry Closes Investment Deal

Moving on to The company has offices around the world and far more subscribers than But there is much less information online about the company. This may be due to the simple fact that they are headquartered in Israel rather than Lehi, Utah. is growing extremely rapidly around the world and in looking at their membership map, they have over 83 million members worldwide in all the countries of the world on all the continents. They maintain a database of more than 6.8 billion records and are consistently adding new features. Their website supports 42 different languages with more than 2.6 billion names in over 28 million family trees.

Personally, I find easy to work with and highly professional. The company has considerably fewer employees than the other large online genealogy companies and is much more personal. In my opinion, they are the company driving the innovations in genealogical technology. has been making an aggressive move to increase both its business and influence in the genealogical community. Previously, was DC Thomson Family History. It is a Delaware corporation and lists an office address in Provo, Utah but also lists a location in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Although is has been identified for some time as a British-based and owned company, it is making a decided effort to expand worldwide and has been adding millions of significant genealogical records from the United States. has the following websites:

Here are some facts about Findmypast from their website

  • There are 850 million U.S. records on
  • More than 2 billion records globally.
  • Part of a network of 18 million subscribers around the world.
  • Records date back to the 1200s.
Findmypast is also a very personally oriented company and very professional in their approach. They have been very innovative in adding specifically targeted collections. My perception is that the company is advancing rapidly and constantly becoming more publically attractive to membership.

I have written a lot recently about's efforts to improve the functionality of its Family Tree program. FamilySearch is unique in that it is not a commercial company at all, but a non-profit corporation maintained and supported by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. As such, the number of employees (listed as 1001-5000) and other information about the company is not readily available online. Officially, the company is FamilySearch International headquartered in Salt Lake City, Utah. However, the company just recently broke ground for a new office building in Lehi, Utah. 

Here is a summary of the company from its LinkedIn listing.
FamilySearch International is the largest genealogy organization in the world. FamilySearch is a nonprofit, volunteer–driven organization sponsored by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Millions of people use FamilySearch records, resources, and services to learn more about their family history. To help in this great pursuit, FamilySearch and its predecessor organizations have been actively gathering, preserving, and sharing genealogical records worldwide for over 100 years. Patrons may access FamilySearch services and resources free online at or through over 4,800 family history centers in 132 countries, including the main Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah.
If it seems that the companies are moving to Lehi and Provo, Utah, they would be joining many other high tech companies opening offices in Utah Valley.

Well, as I said above, it is an exciting time to be involved with genealogy online.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

What to do when you are lost in genealogy

The classic example of being lost takes place in a thick, dark forest. But the feeling or condition of being "lost" really depends on your understanding of your perceived situation. In the past, when I have been lost, I have really been lost. One time, I even ended up in the wrong state.

Many people feel lost when experiencing an unfamiliar situation. Confronting the complexity of genealogical research can make you feel lost. Fortunately, there are some common rules for those who find themselves lost. Over the years it is evident that the real danger and damage to being lost comes from disregarding these rules. Some of us have taught these rules to our children with varying results. I did not put these rules into any particular order and you may wish to rearrange them.

Rule Number One:
When you find yourself lost, stop moving around and stay in one place.

If I translate this rule for genealogists, I would say a little bit more. I would suggest that much of what we see as problems with online family trees, to take one example, comes from people who do not recognize the fact that they are lost. Even when they have taken a wrong turn by adding someone who is unrelated or any of a number of other choices, they fail to recognize that they are lost. But the rule applies, none the less, but in genealogy it is necessary to review your trail. Are you supporting all of your entries and conclusions with records or documents? Are you recording your sources? (i.e. leaving a breadcrumb trail that you can follow back to where you got lost?).

Rule Number Two:
Stay on marked trails and don't travel alone.

Genealogist tend to work alone. For some reason, they wait until they are really lost before seeking help. If you find yourself wondering where you are and what you might be doing, seek some help from someone who may have done some research in the area where you find yourself.

Rule Number Three:
When you find yourself alone and aren't sure where you are going, stay calm, find a place to stop and don't try to hide the fact that you are lost.

Too many genealogists take the attitude that they are right and everyone else is wrong. They are like the people in the wilderness who just keep walking even though they should have long since reached safety. Working on an unsecure genealogical line does not make any sense at all. You should stop at the first hint that there is a problem and start looking around at your surroundings. This applies doubly to genealogists. If you don't know the territory, you will probably make a mistake in adding new unsupported information. One simple example is people who add names to a family when the places attached to those names do not match the family's location at the time.

Rule Number Four:
Find a safe place to stay where you can keep warm and dry.

One of biggest issues with genealogical research is identifying when you left the trail. When you find yourself lost, don't try to backtrack. Unlike being physically lost in the forest or where ever, you need to go back to the first place in your research where you could positively identify an ancestor with validly evaluated sources. Then redo your research until you can see a positive way to proceed.

Rule Number Five:
If you must keep moving, always go downhill.

This rule applies more frequently in the southwestern part of the United States, where I live, than in other localities. It can be translated to say, unless you know what direction to go stay put. A related rule says to follow the water, i.e. go downstream. After reading many, many accounts of people who were lost, the biggest problems begin before the person leaves home. They are either too young, too naive or limited in some other way to be wandering out into the wilderness. The same goes for genealogists. Take some time to learn what you need to know about doing genealogical research before you march out into the wilderness of genealogy.

I am reminded of a couple of examples where the lost person lit a fire to signal that they were lost and ended up burning down have the state of Arizona. Unfortunately, some researchers not only fail to recognize they are lost, when finally do, they do even more damage by adding even more wrong information. If careful, competent people are telling you that you are lost, perhaps you need to start listening to them.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Findmypast gives free access for the 4th of July is celebrating the 4th of July with access to over 1 billion records for free. Here is a list of the records included in this offer.
  • From June 29th until July 6th 2016, over 1 billion UK, US and Irish records will be completely free to search and explore on Findmypast 
  • This includes all 118 million “Travel and Migration” records, 116 million US marriages, and all UK, Irish and US censuses 
  • Over 7 million new US Naturalisation records and over 1.7 million US Passport Applications have also been released, marking the first phase of two brand new collections ideal for uncovering early immigrant ancestors
Here are some more of the details from this interesting offer.
Leading family history website, Findmypast, has just announced that they will be granting 8 days of free access to over 1 billion records as part of a new campaign designed to help US family historians learn more about their family's path to red white and blue. This will include free access to their  entire collection of Travel and Migration records, all US, UK and Irish censuses and all US marriage records. 
The campaign has been launched to coincide with this year’s 4th of July celebrations and will provide customers with exciting new opportunities to uncover the pioneering immigrant ancestors who started their family’s American story.Researchers will be provided with daily getting started guides, expert insights and useful how to videos designed to help them trace their family’s roots back to their earliest American ancestors and beyond. A special webinar will be hosted by expert genealogist, Jen Baldwin, at 11:00 MDT, July 1st, in which she will be sharing essential tips and tricks for getting the most out of Naturalisation records.  
The campaign also coincides with the release of two new record sets that will prove incredibly useful to those looking to explore their family’s pre-American roots. Over 2 million US Passport Applications & Indexes (1795-1925), and over 7 million US Naturalisation Petitions have just been released in the initial phases of two brand new collections that will allow family historians to learn more about the first members of their family to become US citizens.  
Over 1.1 billion records  will be free to search and explore on Findmypast from June 29th until July 6th 2016. This will include free access to: 
  • Over 106,000 US passenger list records
  • Over 116,000,000 US marriage records
  • Over 690,000,000 US & Canada census records
  • Over 265,000,000 UK & Irish census records
  • Over 10 million new and existing Naturalisation records
  • Over 1.7 million brand new US Passport applications 
  • Passenger Lists Leaving UK 1890-1960 
  • Over 827,000 convict transportation records 
This vast collection of travel and migration records coupled with unique UK, Irish and US data, makes Findmypast the best place for tracing ancestors back across the Atlantic and uncovering their English, Welsh, Irish or Scottish roots. Findmypast is home to more than 78 million exclusive UK parish baptisms, banns, marriages and burials, the largest collection of Irish records available online (totalling more than 110 million), and over 100 million United States marriages including millions of records that can’t be found anywhere else online. 

Can Computers Create and Maintain an Accurate Family Tree?

Pods, Space, Deisgn, 3D, Render, Pod, Organic, Green

During the past few years, we continue to see amazing advances in computer technology from self-driving cars to virtual reality experiences. Genealogists are certainly part of all of these changes. An interesting aspect of all these technological advances is that none of this was anticipated, even by the most imaginative science fiction writers. You only have to go back to some of the rather primitive technology in the original Star Trek series to see how much has changed in our present world.

Regularly, I talk to genealogists that, rather than embracing the new technology, are being dragged into the future kicking and screaming. Well, there really isn't much actual kicking and screaming going on, but none the less many genealogists are actively resistant to technological change. One disturbing fact about the technological changes is the constant replacement of human jobs by computers or robots. There are estimates that over half of the jobs now done by humans will be automated over the next 20 years. There are dozens of commentaries online making these predictions. In fact, many lawyers may lose their jobs to technology. See "Robots threaten these 8 jobs" from CNN Money.

Online genealogists are now being "supported" with semi-automatic record hints. Consequently, much of routine research needed in the past has been dramatically reduced by computerized programs that feed us endless lists of suggested sources from huge online databases. Some online websites, such as and already give many of us an extensive suggested pedigree the first time we sign in and provide some minimal information about ourselves and our families. I believe that it is entirely logical that this trend will continue. If may well be that our basic research as genealogists may consist of clicking on buttons and evaluating the options presented.

Before you start to expound on the complexity of making genealogical decisions, I would call your attention to the fact that many lawyers have already been replaced by semi-automated kiosks that provide the complete forms necessary to conduct your own divorce or bankruptcy. Genealogists tend to focus on the "difficult" relationships and the obscure research issues. In reality, most people today could likely discover four or even five generations of their ancestry by relying entirely on record hints from the very large online genealogical database companies.

If you are quick to point out that record hints are "unreliable," just think about the last time you incorporated one into your family tree. Oh yes, if your family came from a non-European background, you are yet so generously assisted, but what about the near future?

The main limitation today is still the lack of digitized records. I spent many happy hours last evening staring at a roll of microfilm. But at the same time, I was checking what I found against a significant number of online, digitized records. As it turned out, almost everything I found on the microfilm was already on digital records. The problem was that there was not yet enough information organized online to identify the records that had been digitized and once I entered enough information, the programs found the records immediately. If the programs can match records to our ancestors with any degree of accuracy, it is only a relatively small step to when the programs provide extensions to our genealogy automatically. Oh, wait. There are already programs such as that give us "Instant Discoveries."

Before you begin to rail about the inaccuracy of computerized genealogy, think about the inaccuracy of human-created genealogy. Couldn't computers do a better job than some of us humans? Think about it.

Monday, June 27, 2016

For more on the upgrade

I am switching back to posting my comments on the Family Tree upgrade to my Rejoice and be exceeding glad... blog. I have been posting most of my comments about the website on that blog just so I didn't have to post everything twice.

A New Beginning? The FamilySearch Family Tree Saga -- Part Four: The Merging Begins

Who would think that this screen was a reason for celebration? This was my "test case" of an entry that could not previously be merged. The fact that I can now merge these two duplicates signals the dawn of a new age on the Family Tree.

However, no matter how important this particular change is, there are still some residual problems that cannot be yet immediately solved. Here is an example of duplicates that cannot, even now, be merged.

The reason given is "These two people cannot be merged. Both people must be in the same public or private space." I can't figure this out and will have to send in a Feedback.

This duplicate will have to be resolved by some other method. However, there were two duplicates and one of them could be merged.

The next previously blocked merge goes through without a hitch.

Congratulations!!! you finally did it.

A New Beginning? The FamilySearch Family Tree Saga -- Part Three: The Website Pops Up

The good news:

This may not seem to be much news at all, but this change signals the fact that has finally, after years of waiting, separated the program from the old program and we are off to an entirely new experience in functionality. We were told that if the last three changes showed up after the maintenance, then the change over is successful. 

One significant effect is that the "Cannot be Merged At This Time" people can now be merged. 

Stay tuned. I am going to start working on the program.

A New Beginning? The FamilySearch Family Tree Saga -- Part Two: The Wait Goes On

Hands, Walking Stick, Elderly, Old Person, Cane

I am not particularly good at waiting. After waiting for a short time, I usually start doing something else, like reading or thinking about something that needs to be done. I many cases, I simply go to sleep. Blogs aren't particularly good at reporting "breaking news." People don't read them to find out what is happening that day, they are usually viewed as commentary to be read whenever there is time to do so.

It is now after 6:00 am on Monday, June 27, 2016. The website is still down for maintenance. The little bit of information that leaked out about this "scheduled maintenance" was hopeful that the end product would be the separation of the program from the Family Tree. The most "reliable" of the rumors indicated that the target was to have the program separated and up and running by 5:00 am. Well, here we are, waiting to see what happens.

It could well be that the attempt to upgrade the program will not work. In that case, the change-over, will happen when it does, sometime in the future.

If you have no idea what I am writing about, I suggest you read a post from my other blog entitled, "What will the FamilySearch Family Tree look like when it is fixed?" While I am waiting to see what happens with the maintenance, I will write about the history of the problems again. I will quote from a handout I wrote in 2012.
Development of a database for storing personal genealogical information by FamilySearch began in 2001. The first Beta test of the new program took place in 2007. The New FamilySearch program was released in stages, first, only to members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and later to selected individuals outside of the Church. Introduction of the New FamilySearch program was done in stages by LDS Temple District. By the end of 2009, most of the Church members had access to the program. 
New FamilySearch was primarily designed as a method by which members of the Church could submit names of their deceased ancestors to the Temples of the Church so that proxy ordinance work could be performed. In this regard, the program worked very well, but due to number of duplicates in the file, there was a danger that the ordinance work would also be duplicated. was originally seeded with data from five different sources; the Ancestral File, the International Genealogical Index, the Pedigree Resource File, Church membership records and Church Temple records. Unfortunately, combining all of these sources of information resulted in a monumental problem of duplicate information. Additionally, the program did not allow the users to change any of the information in the file and errors and duplicate information proliferated. Whenever a change was made to the file, the older, sometimes incorrect, information was preserved along with the correction. Some of the individuals in the file ended up with hundreds of duplicates. 
Sometime after the initial introduction of, there was a discussion about the impact and problems with the New. website and development of a replacement program, to be called Family Tree, was started. Family Tree went to Beta test in 2011 and was introduced in substantial form at RootsTech 2012 in February of 2012. 
At the time of its introduction, Family Tree was and has been a “live” program and not another Beta test. During 2012, the program evolved with the gradual addition of new features. It is very likely that the program will continue to evolve in the future. At some point, will be discontinued. Certain key features of the Family Tree program were not immediately released with the introduction of the program and it is anticipated that Family Tree will continue to evolve over time with additional features being added over the next year. But as of the date of this Syllabus, the program is essentially complete. 
Remember, this was written in 2012, about four years ago.  I observed that "at some point, will be discontinued." Now, four years later, we are getting closer to that event happening. Maybe.

A New Beginning? The FamilySearch Family Tree Saga -- Part One: Anticipating the Changeover

Is this bad news or good news? I am up early, which is nothing new for me, to watch the saga unfold on the website. This is one of those momentous events in the history of mankind that goes entirely unnoticed except by a few, hardcore enthusiasts. I am certain that there is only a small handful of us sitting at our computers at 5:00 am MDT waiting for the results of the "update." It is now 5:45 am and the website is still down. Hmm. Is this good news or really bad news?

Since the website is not up and running. I am going to keep up a running commentary throughout the day. I have been writing about this day with anticipation for years. If, for any reason, the change over on the website does not work, I have been around computers and programming most of my life now, and I am more than used to programs that do not work as expected.

You can check the progress for yourself. All you need to do is try to open the website. The solid rumors were that the website would be "up and running" by 5:00 am. So, the fact that it is now close to 6:00 is not a good sign.

I know most of the world out there has no idea what is going on. But I will keep watching and posting until the website is either upgraded as planned or the whole attempt is aborted and rescheduled. I certainly do not expect any explanations or commentary from so I will just keep watching and waiting.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Latin Legal Terms for Genealogists -- Part Four

Portrait of Desiderius Erasmus by Albrecht Dürer, 1526, engraved in Nuremberg, Germany.
The English language is peppered with words derived from Latin. Because of the invasion of England in 1066 AD, through William the Conqueror and his followers who spoke "Oil" a range of dialects from Northern France, the English language became divided between its Anglo-Saxon roots and the newly added overlay of Latin-derived words and grammatical constructions. Hence we have two sets of words for many common objects. Such as the following:
  • ham/pork
  • kingly/royal
  • brotherly/fraternal
  • bring or bear/carry
  • ghost/phantom
  • smell/odour
  • hue/color
  • hen/poultry
This list could go on and on. This may be of casual interest to genealogists, but more importantly, for more than a thousand years, Latin was the language of the Catholic Church. Ecclesiastical Latin, also know as Liturgical Latin or Church Latin, was used until the Second Vatican Council of 1962 - 1965. Interestingly, Latin is still taught in many public schools in the United States.

As genealogists research their family lines back more than a hundred years or so, it is very likely they will encounter records written with Latin terms. In researching church records in Europe, finding Latin is inevitable. As I have been pointing out in this series of posts, Latin was and is used extensively in legal documents.

I have been reviewing some of the more common Latin terms and adding a bit of commentary where appropriate. Of course, if you encounter an entire text in Latin in the course of your research, you will need a lot more than just a word list. I suggest the online version of Black's Law Dictionary and the books in the following list:

Chambers, Paul. Early Modern Genealogy: Researching Your Family History 1600-1838. Stroud: Sutton, 2006.

Cook, Michael L. Genealogical Dictionary with Alphabetical Nationwide Index Included. Evansville, Indiana: Cook Publication, 1979.

Durie, Bruce. Understanding Documents for Genealogy & Local History. Stroud, Gloucestershire: History Press, 2013.

Gosden, David. Starting to Read Medieval Latin Manuscript: An Introduction for Students of Medieval History and Genealogists Who Wish to Venture into Latin Texts. Lampter, Dyfed: Llanerch, 1993.

Shea, Jonathan D, and William F Hoffman. In Their Words: A Genealogist’s Translation Guide to Polish, German, Latin, and Russian Documents. New Britain, CT: Language & Lineage Press, 2000.

Now back to the word lists.

viz. literally namely
This is an abbreviation for the word "videlicet" and could be used instead of the term "following" that I frequently use.

veto literally "I forbid"
This is good example of a word that has passed entirely into the English language. I would guess that very few people recognize its Latin roots. It has a broad range of meanings today, but is used extensively when referring to a governmental executive's power to prevent the passage of legislation.

uxor literally "wife"
This term is commonly encountered in the context of the captions of lawsuits, deeds and other legal documents where a man's name is followed by the term "et ux." or "and wife." It still appears from time to time when an old document is cited as authority in a lawsuit.

ultra vires literally "beyond the powers"
Rather than falling into disuse, this is one of those terms that have moved into a special niche in the English language. They are still recognized as Latin (foreign) terms but are so commonly used that they have acquired additional meanings in English. An "ultra vires" act is one that exceeds a person's legal power or authority. I found this used in arguments when the attorneys disagreed over the power of the court or judge to decide a particular issue. In most cases, throwing in a Latin term or two was an attempt to appear more erudite and to bolster otherwise weak arguments.

trial de novo literally "trial anew"
There seems to be no movement away from the usage of this term. It is completely entrenched in legal terminology and in fact, is almost always used by the courts instead of the plain "new trial." The reason is that there are several reasons why a trial would be reheld. Not all of the reasons compel that the entire proceeding be repeated, but a trial de novo is a complete rehearing of the entire trial. I have been through this experience where the new trial was decided completely the opposite of the original. Believe me, it is not fun to go back and retry a long trial the second time.

trial literally "trial"
Yes the word "trial" is derived from the Latin word "triallum." This is another example of how pervasive Latin words are in the English language.

supra literally "above"
You could probably guess that this is a Latin term, but if you were taught a formal citation method, you probably did not think of this as a Latin term. It goes along with the other citation word, "ibid." which is an abbreviation for "ibidem" meaning in the same place and used when citing sources that come from the same reference location as the preceding one.

i.e. literally "that is"
If you have read any of my posts over the years, you have probably noted that I use this term frequently to mean "for example" or "in other words." It is a useful term and is used from time to time in legal documents today. The expanded Latin phrase is "id est" and is almost never used.

supersedeas literally "refrain from"
This is a technical term for which there is no English equivalent. It is commonly used in the context of a "supersedeas bond" or a money payment that is made to prevent the execution of a judgment. For example, if a party obtains a formal money judgment from the court, then the opposing party who then owes the money can post a "supersedeas bond" during an appeal to prevent the execution of the judgment until the appeal is decided. The court has the option to stay or prevent the execution of the judgement (collection of the money due) or not and the also has the discretion to set the amount of the bond required to be posted with the court. Arguments over the terms of the supersedeas bond can be quite involved and require a separate hearing.

Well, as you can probably guess, I am not running out of Latin terms. See you next time.

Here are the previous posts in this series.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Can the FamilySearch Family Tree become an accurate master reference?

By Teconología - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,
There is an innate distrust of wikis. Most people in a Western European derived culture have a strong sense of ownership and a website designed to be a source of contributions from all the users feels "out-of-control." The fact that "anyone" could correct "your" family history is uncomfortable for most and unbearable for some. When you add in the fact that the program is based on the Internet where things seem to randomly change and change quickly, the entire structure seems unstable.

Contrary to all these doubts and misgivings, wikis are fundamentally sound. The key to the success of wikis is based on human nature. The people who care the most about any particular entry are the ones who "win out" in the interchange between the users. When there are fundamental differences, the program can enforce a "truce" until a compromise is negotiated. The key to reliability, is sourcing. If the entries in the wiki are supported by source citations, then any user who doubts the validity of an entry can check the facts and make corrections. Over time, the wiki becomes more and more reliable.

What does this have to do with genealogy and particularly, with the Family Tree? The simple answer is that the Family Tree is a wiki. This is a case that if it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck and lays eggs, it is probably a duck. The Family Tree has every characteristic of a wiki-based program and when being candid, FamilySearch admits the fact.

Aren't there other family tree based wikis? Yes, there are. Are they accurate? That is a good question. To the extent that entries are supported by sources, they may be accurate. Simple citation of a source does not guarantee accuracy. The person entering the source may have chosen a document that is not related to the individual who is in the tree. So, we can think about the Family Tree in the same way. To the extent that accurate and well-supported sources are added to the Family Tree and further, to the extent that the information from those sources is incorporated into the Family Tree, it will become more and more accurate over time.

Can the Family Tree become a "master source" for genealogical information? The potential is there. One thing that would help the Family Tree to become even more accurate, would be for the program to promote accuracy as a goal. For example, the program now marks entries without source citations with icons informing the users that the entries are incomplete. Ultimately, the program relies on the constant review of the users to correct and update the entries.

My personal observation is that the Family Tree is becoming more accurate in the small area encompassing my own family lines. For many of the entries, there is a huge amount of information that supports the conclusions shown as details. My analogy is that the Family Tree is solidifying and becoming inherently more reliable. I believe that this will continue to happen. As long as FamilySearch does not do anything to undermine the ability of the users to correct the information in the Family Tree, it will ultimately become the "go-to" master reference it always had the potential of achieving.

Friday, June 24, 2016

Adding to the Collections: A Look at the Large Online Genealogy Websites

There is always a background of commentary on newly added digital records accumulating on the very large online genealogy websites (VLOGW). A recent announcement close to home started me thinking about this topic again. Here is a screenshot of the email post from

Here is a link to the Blog with information about the new collections.

I decided to check out the other VLOGWs and see what was going on. Here is a list of the newly added collections from

This is from the Card Catalog sorted by Date Added. Most of what is shown was added in June, 2016. These illustrations demonstrate the importance of looking at all these websites on a regular basis and searching for new records. You never know when the records you need might be added. Next, is the current list of additions to the website's Historical Record Collections.

You can sort the list of Historical Record Collections by date by clicking on the heading of the date column "Last Updated." This will sort the column to show the last updated collections on the top of the list.

Last, but certainly not least, is the website. This website had a little bit of a setback when the was dropped. But notwithstanding the loss, the number of records added keeps climbing dramatically. Here is screenshot showing the total as of the date of this post:

You may not be able to read the number of records but the number is 6,832,762,726 and this number goes up by about 100,000,000 a month according to my observations.

The easiest way to monitor these VLOGWs is to upload your family tree and watch the record hints that get added to your ancestors. Not everyone has such an easy time, depending on where and when you ancestors lived, but the record hints are a benefit to many researchers.

Genealogy and Politics: Moving Records Across the World

File:Panama Canal Zone Air Mail Stamp.jpg

Recent political developments around the world, including the recent vote of the United Kingdom to leave the European Union, highlight the relationship between politics and boundary changes and the movement of records around the world. I have experienced some of these changes first hand. For example, our family lived for two years in Panama. Some of that time was spent living in the Panama Canal Zone, a political entity that no longer exists. Where did the Canal Zone records go?

This is certainly not a recent phenomena. When I was collecting postage stamps as a child, I became aware of all sorts of places that no longer existed. Here is a short list of some of them focused on Europe. There are long lists of these countries online. For example: Former countries in Europe after 1815.

  • Saarland
  • Transcaucasian Democratic Federative Republic
  • Austrian Empire
  • Avar Khanate
  • Baden
  • Bavaria
  • Catalan Republic
  • Czechoslovakia
  • Danzig
  • Frankfurt

The list could go on and on and on. I still have postage stamps from some of these countries. What is important to realize is as far as genealogical research is concerned is that history matters. Already this week I had this discussion with a patron in the Brigham Young University Family History Library who was searching for his ancestors in "Germany" in the 1830s. I cannot begin to count the number of times I have had similar discussions about counties, cities and states in the United States. Currently, there is one of my lines on the Family Tree that shows birth places going back into the 1700s in West Virginia.

The tragedy of all this geopolitical confusion among genealogists is that many lines are misidentified through the same name = same person trap. I spent most of the afternoon yesterday focused on one small parish in England. The Richardson family lived in Glatton, Huntingdonshire, England. The only records show that the family lived, married, had children and died in that small parish. The time period involved was the early 1700s and my ancestors were primarily agricultural laborers. Here is a short summary of Glatton history:
Glatton was listed in the Domesday Book in the Hundred of Normancross in Huntingdonshire; the name of the settlement was written as Glatune in the Domesday Book.[6] In 1086 there was just one manor at Glatton; the annual rent paid to the lord of the manor in 1066 had been £10 and the rent was the same in 1086.[7] 
The Domesday Book does not explicitly detail the population of a place but it records that there was 35 households at Glatton.[7] There is no consensus about the average size of a household at that time; estimates range from 3.5 to 5.0 people per household.[8] Using these figures then an estimate of the population of Glatton in 1086 is that it was within the range of 122 and 175 people.
I left the footnotes in the quote in case you are interested in more information. This is sort of the reverse issue from that of changing boundaries. Once my ancestral lines converge on one small parish, it is extremely likely that many of the people in that small area have intermarried and I will find a lot of relatives. But it is also very likely that none of them moved very far and any names that pop up from distant parishes are not likely related. In this case, the Family Tree showed a number of non-Glatton connections that proved to be wrongly attached. In each case, a child was added to the family from a distant parish and the only real connection was the fact that the names of the parents matched.

If you understand this principle, you will be more concerned with the geography and history of your ancestral lines than you will be about their names and dates. Names and dates do matter, but focusing on the history of your family lines will inevitably produce a more consistent and believable pedigree.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Understanding Land Rights: Land Leases for Genealogists -- Even more about leases revealed

Cambridge, Building, Structure, Architecture, Street

Beginning in 1850, the United States Census records included questions about real estate ownership. It is my guess that most genealogical researchers in the United States have acquired this information about property ownership and ignored it. This is more especially true if the information failed to show that the family "owned" any real property. One of the main reasons for writing about the subject of this series is to point out that land transactions, even including rental agreements of all kinds, can produce genealogically valuable documents. But what is even more important is finding out whether or not your ancestors owned or rented property.

Home and land ownership has traditionally been a basic part of the "American Dream." Huge numbers of immigrants came to America motivated by the idea that they could own their land. Land ownership becomes an indicator of the economic and to some extent, the social status of our ancestors. But there is a more serious issue with land ownership or the lack of land ownership. Many researchers automatically assume that finding that their ancestors rented property, absolves the researchers from investigating land and property records. This should not be the case at all.

This limited attitude towards land ownership is part of a larger, more fundamental problem associated with genealogical research. This is the tendency of researchers to ignore the context of the families that they are researching. People seldom live in complete isolation from their friends and relatives. Contiguous property ownership or occupation is often an indication of some kind of relationship. This is more certainly true historically than it is today. Our current mobile society has almost, but not completely, erased proximity as a factor in family relationships.

A good example is the part of Provo, Utah where I now live. We moved into a condominium development that is relatively newly established. But we are surrounded by "old" family homes. Some of the houses in our neighborhood, as we have found out, are owned or rented, by third and even the fourth generation of families. Over the past two years or so we have lived here, some of the homes have sold to the children and grandchildren of the "original" owners or those who built the houses in the first place. As another example, my grandfather's original home in Arizona is now owned by relatives and occupied by descendants.

I can only assume, from my experience, that many researchers also assume that the main issue is whether or not their ancestors paid rent. But it is just an important to realize that their ancestors may have collected rent from others. If your ancestors were landlords, then they certainly left a rich legacy of property ownership and the resultant records generated by their transactions. It is also very likely that they rented property to their own relatives. This is particularly true of farmland and farms.

I suggests you look at the Iowa State University, Extension and Outreach webpage on Whole Farm -- Leasing.  Here is a screenshot of part of the page:

Now, not all went well in the relationships between landlords and tenants. If there were disagreements, there may also be additional records of court cases or lawsuits.

Here is another example of the type of records that might help in locating difficult-to-find ancestors. Quoting from the FamilySearch Research Wiki article "Ireland Landed Estate Court Files (FamilySearch Historical Records)."
During the 1840s, Ireland suffered a massive famine. Many tenants died, and others emigrated, hoping to find relief. As a result, landlords lost their major source of income, and their estates went into debt, culminating in a high number of foreclosures. It is estimated that between the years 1850 and 1858 around 8,000 estate foreclosures were handled. 
In 1849, an act was passed which established the Encumbered Estates Court. This court handled the sale and accounting of bankrupted estates. In 1858, the Landed Estates Court was established. This court handled both unencumbered and encumbered estates. 
These records were created to provide a detailed accounting of bankrupted estate sales. These records are generally reliable. 
This collection covers records for the years 1850 to 1885. 
These records consist of maps, which are hand-drawn, and tenant lists which are typed on preprinted forms. The records are divided by county and lot.
Note that these records contain "tenant lists."

Ireland is a particularly good example of place where tenant lists can be a valuable adjunct to genealogical research, but certainly not the only place. Here are some links to additional websites of interest. There are hundreds of other sources.

“England Manors Genealogy - FamilySearch Wiki.” Accessed June 23, 2016.
“Estate Records for Kildare: Irish Ancestors.” Accessed June 23, 2016.
“FINDING YOUR ROOTS: Discovering Ordinary Folk in Manorial Records.” Accessed June 23, 2016.
“Getting Started - ScotlandsPeople.” Accessed June 23, 2016.
“Land Estate Records.” Accessed June 23, 2016.
Lyons, Dr Jane. “Irish Estate Records: An Introduction.”, March 5, 2013.
“Manorial Documents.” Accessed June 23, 2016.
Team, National Records of Scotland Web. “National Records of Scotland.” Document. National Records of Scotland, May 31, 2013.

Sometimes it is important just to realize that records exist.

Here are the previous parts of this series. 

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

The Law vs. Procedure and Civil vs. Criminal: What Genealogists Should Know About Court Cases -- Part Two

Hammer, Horizontal, Court, Justice, Right, Law

First year law students (and even many practicing lawyers) grapple with the concept of the differences between the law and procedure. Genealogists who are not lawyers are similarly lost when it comes to understanding the distinction. Non-lawyers are also stymied by the distinction between criminal and civil law. Simple explanations of the differences do not adequately convey the differences. Court cases and legal proceedings are an extremely valuable source of genealogical research but these records are not usually maintained or available through traditional channels of libraries and archives. Most legal and court documents are maintained in court houses and law libraries that are completely separate from the facilities normally used by genealogists.

Genealogists who talk about "research trips" commonly refer to "searching courthouse records." But my years of doing legal research in law libraries has shown me that a courthouse search, even if involving many days, would likely miss much of the information available to lawyers and court personnel. Even today, with the vast resources of the Internet, finding one particular case can be a real challenge. One of my daughters was recently doing research here in Utah for a book she is writing and was looking for a particular court case that had been referenced in other publications. Even after a diligent effort, we could not locate the original court record.

The idea of this and other series of posts I am currently writing is to explore some of the basic concepts of the law to assist genealogists in their research. In some cases, I may repeat the explanations is several different ways to try and make the subjects as understandable as possible.

First, law and procedure. In the United States, the law is an amalgamation of statutes and regulations created at all the levels of government and the decisions of all the judges in all the courts in American history and even dating back to ancient times in England and beyond. I have seen references, for example, to Hammurabi's Code from 1754 BC made in legal arguments. Although there are huge online websites containing vast collections of legal cases and other documents likely of interest to genealogists, these websites are extremely expensive and not generally available for casual research.

When lawyers speak of the "Law," they are generally referring to all of the statutes, cases decisions and other rulings by courts and government administrative organizations that define the relationships between people living within the United States. Only a relatively small amount of this information has any relevance to genealogical research. Genealogical research is more focused on the records kept by the courts and other agencies in deciding legal controversies.

In the past, there were books of compilations of both the statutory law and the decisions of all of the courts that recorded such decisions. These books came out in updated series. The federal statutes were contained in a huge set of books called the United States Code or USC. An annotated set of these statutes with cases citations to lawsuits involving each statute were contained in a set of books called the United States Code Annotated or USCA. Here are the citations to these two works.

United States, United States, Congress, House, Committee on the Judiciary, and West Publishing Company. United States Code. Washington: U.S. Govt. Print. Off., 1971.
United States, West Group, West Publishing Company, Edward Thompson Company, and United States. United States Code Annotated. St. Paul: West Group, 1927.

These sets of books have been outmoded by the online versions. The case law of the United States is contained in the "Reporter system." West Publishing has a set of all the court decisions on both the federal and state levels. It would take a substantially sized library to have a complete set of all the federal and state reports and the statutory volumes. The cost of paying to update all these books is substantial. My last law firm in Mesa got rid of almost all these books about twenty years ago. However, copies of the books are still maintained in large law libraries around the country. The complete reporter system of state and federal cases runs into thousands of volumes.

The challenge, of course, if finding anything at all of genealogical significance in these huge libraries. Some of this accumulation of U.S. law has made its way online and is searchable. For example, if I wanted to know about a lawsuit involving my Great-grandfather Henry Martin Tanner, I could simply do a Google search for his name, with variations, and add some or all of the words "court, judge, jury, decision, verdict," and so forth. By doing a general search and adding the term "Arizona," I found a number of references to court cases involving my ancestor.

Legal procedure, on the other hand, deals with the rules of the courts and other government agencies. The procedural rules are published every year as they are revised. West Publishing has a Federal Procedural Book and one for each of the states and territories. Procedural rules deal with how a case is filed and proceeds through the court system. This is generally the area of court cases that causes the genealogical researcher the most problems. Without a general knowledge of the court procedures at the time any such action was maintained, the outcome of the action may be obscured by the procedures involved. Genealogical researchers may completely miss important facts or even important documents because of a lack of understanding of the court procedures of the time.

One good example of this involves probate cases. Unlike some other types of court actions, the time limits for various procedures involving the probate of an ancestor's estate can take many years to complete. A probate action could be also be filed years after the ancestor died. There are very few probate case reports or files that have made their way into the online genealogical database programs and if those cases are indexed, it is not likely that every mention of every person involved in the probate was included in the index.

There are procedural rules that govern cases generally, but there are also specific rules that apply only to very specific types of cases. For example, the rules of court procedure may have some general provisions about filing any kind of lawsuit, but there will also likely be specialized rules that apply to one type of court or to one type of court action. So, for example, there are Rules of Procedure but there are likely also Rules of Probate Procedure.

My legal experience gives me only a slight advantage when it comes to knowing and applying the rules of procedure for any given court in any given time period. I have to do the research just like any non-lawyer would have to do.

I will keep writing on this topic and get into the issue of civil vs. criminal law.

Here is the previous post in this series:

Is Research a Skill or a Talent? Or Both?

[Please take time to read the very extensive comment to this post]

I had a disturbing encounter with a patron the other evening. I was directed to help a patron with some questions and soon felt entirely inadequate. The discussion centered around how to proceed to find the next generation of ancestors in the Family Tree. It became painfully apparent that the patron did not understand the relationship between a record with information about an ancestor and the idea of using that information to expand the entries in the Family Tree.

For example, we looked at one of her ancestral families and I tried to explained that if we searched for an historical record, we might find some additional information about the family members and even find unknown members of the family. The patron then asked how that was supposed to happen. I was not sure I understood the question. I showed the patron the Historical Record Collections with digitized copies of records and tried to explain how searching through these records in the places where the ancestors lived and at the time they lived, might give us some additional information about the family. The patron did not seem to understand the connection between the records and finding additional information about the family. The more I explained, the less the patron seemed to understand.

I went on to try an explain how the records were organized and how a researcher could use the catalog and other finding aids to locate potentially useful records. The patron could not grasp the concept that searching for a record might produce additional information. The patron became frustrated and I eventually had to give up.

On reflection, I realized that we were not communicating. I was not using terms or concepts the patron could relate to or understand. I began to return to my analysis of the research process and ask the question, yet again, about how that process works and what it is that we do as genealogical researchers.

It appears to me that we create a model in our brains that has a series of symbolic elements. We visualize in a general way what we know about the world around us and then ask questions. Putting this into the context of genealogical research, I look at a the information I see about a family and note certain things that raise questions in my mind. For example, I see that there is a multi-year gap when the family did not add a new child to the family. In my mind, I have a rule that says when there is such a gap in certain types of situations, the gap indicates a missing child. I then think about what kinds of documents or records might supply the missing information.

It is this ability to look at the information that was present and known and ask questions based on a set of rules that seemed to be missing in the patron I wrote about above. Information in the Family Tree that seemed obviously deficient to me, raised no such questions with for the patron. When I pointed out a missing or incomplete date or place, the missing information did not seem to trigger any questions. My explanations that a missing date or place or complete name was an open question did not resonate with the patron. Even when it seemed that the patron had understood that information was missing or incomplete, I could not explain the concept that there were potentially documents or records that might contain that same information. The patron kept asking why we needed to look at the Historical Records or search in the catalog.

I have noticed this difference before without realizing the connection. Some people ask questions about everything and some seem to never ask questions at all. Being able to formulate questions is fundamental to doing research. I realized that I do not consciously ask the questions, they are "obvious" and seem to hang in the air over any data I see. A missing date or whatever is a question waiting to be answered. An absence of information is like a magnet, drawing me into the process of finding whatever is missing.

I have been told that I sometimes I cannot help people because I know too much. But on the other hand, I feel that apparently there is some level of innate talent involved with doing research that defies explanation. I cannot explain to you why you need to ask questions if you do not see that the questions need to be asked. It would be overly simplistic to attribute this lack of curiosity to some social convention or another, but I realized that my curiosity was what also drove me to get to the top of the hill to see what was on the other side. Some people see no reason to go up the hill at all.

I am reminded of the children's nursery song, "The Bear Went Over the Mountain." Apparently, I had this song on a record when I was very young and played it over and over again until it drove my parents out of their minds. But I think the song encapsulates the entire idea of research. Here is a video of the song to remind you of the fundamental concept of research.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

The End is Nigh

Finish, End, Completed, Completion, Finishing, Stop

Here is a quote from the GetSatisfaction, official support for FamilySearch.
Preparing to stop synchronizing between nFS and FamilyTree, on Beta

FamilySearch is preparing to stop synchronizing nFS (new.familysearch) with FamilyTree. The release of the update to FamilyTree has multiple steps, to test and verify the code changes. They are currently testing the updated FamilyTree in the environment. The engineering teams are inviting you get a sneak peek and to test the updated FamilyTree (FT) on Beta. Joe Martel (Official Rep). 
This is supposed to happen on June 27th, 2016. I will obviously make some comments about how things turn out after the upgrade.

Digging Into Homesteads: First Owners for Genealogists -- Part Two

Hultstrand 61 from 1898 A Milton, North Dakota, photographer took this picture of John and Marget Bakken and their two children, Tilda and Eddie, in front of their sod house in Milton in 1898. John Bakken was the son of Norwegian immigrants, who homesteaded and built a sod house in Milton in 1896. This sod house was used as the basis for the design of the Homestead Act Commemorative Stamp in 1962. Since living persons cannot be represented on US stamps, the children were blocked out by a haystack. Ironically however, John Bakken was still alive at age 92 when the stamp was issued. This photograph was also used by Norway on its postage stamp in 1975, to commemorate the sesquicentennial of Norwegian emigration to America. The children were left in the picture for this stamp, rendering a more accurate image of the original photograph. Desctiption from uncopyrighted webpage
In the midst of the Civil War in 1862, the United States began passing a series of laws that are collectively known as the Homestead Acts. Quoting from the Wikipedia article on Homestead Acts:
Land-grant laws similar to the Homestead Acts had been proposed by northern Republicans before the Civil War, but had been repeatedly blocked in Congress by southern Democrats who wanted western lands open for purchase by slave-owners. The Homestead Act of 1860did pass in Congress, but it was vetoed by President James Buchanan, a Democrat. After the Southern states seceded from the Union in 1861 (and their representatives had left Congress), the bill passed and was signed into law by President Abraham Lincoln (May 20, 1862).[2] Daniel Freeman became the first person to file a claim under the new act.
Further quoting from the website for the Homestead National Monument of America in Nebraska:
Over the course of the Act's 123-year history, over two million individual homestead claims were made. Each and every one of these claims generated a written record known as a case file that was kept by the U.S. General Land Office. Today, these case files exist only as paper originals and are stored in the National Archives in Washington, D.C. The complete collection of case files created under the Homestead Act contains over 30 million individual pieces of paper. These invaluable documents are subject to natural deterioration, fire and water damage. Since 1999, Homestead National Monument of America has been involved in a project that aims to eventually digitize all 30 million documents of the homestead case files collection.
It almost goes without saying that this vast assemblage of documents is a valuable resource for genealogical research. The current status of the digitization project is recorded on the Homestead National Monument website. The records are not easily accessible. Here is a description of the most important records and their availability.
The paperwork required of homesteaders before they could obtain a patent, or title, to part of the public domain resulted in exceptionally detailed land records. Called land-entry case files, these records describe improvements made to the property, including houses constructed, wells dug, crops planted, trees cleared, and fences built. Some case files mention family members who lived on the land. If the claimant died and a widow or heirs completed the homesteading process, a date of death is given and relationships are explained. Because military service could reduce the residency period, information regarding such service is sometimes included. Resident aliens who had declared their intention to become citizens provided information about their naturalization process and occasionally even mentioned place of origin. In other words, the land-entry case files of homesteaders are an important source of genealogical information.
Here is where the records are located:
All land-entry case files are held by the National Archives in downtown Washington, is no general name index to these files, they have not been reformatted in microform or digital form, and they are not available in any other repository. (A name index to the pre-July 1908 case files does exist at the Archives on file cards for Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Florida, Louisiana, Nevada, and Utah.) 
If you are researching Nebraska homesteaders, you can search for their homestead records at Homestead National Monument of America for free. You can also conduct these searches for free at University of Nebraska-Lincoln or at Family History Centers. You may also search for Nebraska homestead records from your own computer on, both of which require a subscription for these premium records. Nebraska homestead records were the first to be digitized, indexed, and made searchable in an online database. Nevada, Arizona, Iowa, Illinois and Indiana have been scanned and are awaiting availability online. Following these states will be Wyoming, Utah, Alaska, and Ohio which are in progress of being scanned. The rest of the states will follow, but it is a slow work in progress. For now, records from all other states must be requested from the National Archives. 
Access to and descriptions of the land records held in the National Archives is addressed in several webpages on the website. See the following pages.

There is a subscription website, available through some libraries and universities for students and faculty, called This website has an interactive map described as follows:
What is the First Landowners Project? 
Instead of looking at landowner maps township by township, imagine what it would be like to have a SINGLE, INTERACTIVE MAP containing over 12.3 MILLION LANDOWNERS among 30 states (all 29 of the public land states in the Continental U.S., plus Texas). Imagine constantly expanded map coverage, and having the ability to keep track of all the early homesteaders you're researching. Imagine...wait, you don't have to imagine. IT'S HERE, and AVAILABLE NOW to Our Subscribers!
This interactive map is available at the Brigham Young University Family History Library for patron use in the Library.

Here is the first segment of this series: