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

Sunday, July 31, 2016

How do program updates affect you as a genealogist?

There has been some considerable news lately about Microsoft's Windows 10 operating system with the July 29, 2016 cutoff of the "free" version of the program for most users. If you happened to miss that date and still want Windows 10 then see this article from, "How to upgrade to Windows 10 for free after July 29."

In my experience, there are a significant number of computer users and possibly a larger percentage of genealogists who either ignore updates to their programs or who update only very infrequently. I must admit that when I am working away on something important at the time and run into a need to "upgrade" a program or the operating system, I am not a happy camper. But I almost always take the time to immediately install the update.  However, I do run into people who are still using very old programs such as Personal Ancestral File or have operating systems on their computer dating back to Windows XP or even earlier.

One fact of life for computer users is that the hardware, i.e. the computers with all their chips inside, continue to change dramatically almost yearly. For example, Intel, one of the major computer chip suppliers is now supplying 6th Generation Intel Core processors. When the manufacturers develop new computer chips, there are necessary changes in the operating systems to take advantage of the new features. When Gordon Moore formulated Moore's Law back in 1965 until the present, there has been a steady change in computer processors. Although there is some controversy as to whether or not the changes predicted by Gordon Moore will continue into the future, it is certain that computer chips will become more complex and continue to rapidly develop. In short, you can expect new computers and other devices to "upgrade" every two years or so. If the hardware is evolving so rapidly, it should be no surprise that software programs continue to change.

As I have written a number of times in the past, if you opt out of the process of change, you will eventually run the risk of having a catastrophic loss of your computer data. As I noted recently, I came within one day, after moving all my computer data to a new computer, of having the old one crash completely. You insurance against this type of loss is to upgrade your computer system and software periodically, say no more than every four or five years.

Genealogists, more than the average person, usually have a significant amount of research and documentation on their computers memory storage system. Even if you are careful and back up your data regularly, you are still in danger of obsolescence due to changing operating systems and programs. For example, many genealogists have been encouraged to use a popular note taking program called  In fact, there have been a number of classes at major genealogy conferences about how to use the program effectively. I note that Evernote is updated frequently. However, most recently. It has had a "free" version for some time and paid version. Recently, the free version, which used to run on all of my devices and computers and exchange data was revised to support only two such devices. So, I either had to upgrade to the paid version of the program or give up using the program as I have for quite some time.

Program developers are in the business of selling their products and we cannot expect that "free" will last forever except in very limited contexts. So we have multiple issues, software developers, including online developers, want to make money. They do this, in part, by improving their programs and changing the subscription parameters. For example, recently raised their monthly fee. Users of the programs either have to upgrade their programs or pay the additional costs if they want to keep using a particular program. If you opt out of this change, you either have to migrate your data to a new program or risk losing it altogether.

Another example, this year the popular online genealogy program ceased to exist. It was purchased by and then shut down. If you were storing any data on, you either moved what you were doing to or lost the data.

We have several different things going on simultaneously. We need to back up our data regularly. We need to upgrade our programs and computers on some regular schedule and finally, we need to migrate our data to new programs as the older ones become abandoned or unusable.

Friday, July 29, 2016

Where am I working now?

This week, I dropped by the Brigham Young University Conference on Family History and Genealogy for a few minutes to say hello to some friends. I was immediately asked if I were presenting at the Conference. I explained that I was busy in other areas and had a number of family commitments during the week. But it did raise an issue as to what I am doing in genealogy. Not that anyone really cares, but I thought it might be interesting to see what I am doing.

First of all, my wife and I are serving as a volunteer missionaries at the Brigham Young University Family History Library. In conjunction with our service, we teach a number of classes every month to the other approximately 130 missionaries serving there and to the patrons of the Library. Personally, I am also working steadily on presenting six or seven live, online webinars each month. Those webinars are then recorded and uploaded to the BYU Family History Library YouTube Channel. Presently, cumulatively, we have uploaded over 150 videos and we have 1,677 subscribers as of the date of this post. During the month of August, 2016, I am scheduled to present seven more webinars.

In the past, I actively sought out speaking opportunities in conferences around the country. I am still scheduled to speak at several such events during the coming months, but they are mostly local and smaller. My emphasis for the past year or so has been on helping people one-on-one with their research. I am usually scheduling several such opportunities every week. I find this to be much more productive than teaching a class.

In addition, I am spending a great deal of time on my own research. I have been working on cleaning up my portion of the Family Tree and adding in new people from my research.

Of course, I have been writing my blogs. Cumulatively, the blogs have accumulated more than 4.5 million views. Of course, I get both positive and negative feedback about my posts, but for the time being I will keep writing. Lately, I have been trying to add more substantive content to the blogs. I also need time to do other things like visit with my family. We have been able to travel this summer and see all of our seven children and their spouses and our grandchildren for the first time in many years. If you look at WalkingArizona you can see where we have been and some of the things we have done.

We live busy, interesting and sometimes challenging lives.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Latin Legal Terms for Genealogists -- Part Six

You could almost believe the lawyers used Latin as a way to obfusticate and aggrandize themselves in the eyes of their clients. But surprisingly, few attorneys know any more about Latin and Latin legal terms than the general population. Most of the commonly used Latin legal terms have long since become so Anglicized that many of those using these terms do not even think of them being in a non-English language. During much of the time that the English language was developing, Latin was used by scholars, lawyers and clerics and so many Latin terms passed into common English usage. In addition, we need to remember that English, through the invasion from France in 1066, has a huge Latin-based component. For some idea of the pervasiveness of Latin in English see "Latin Derivatives A to V - Latin is English!" Can you tell how many Latin derived words I have already used in this blog post?

Genealogists have a different challenge. As historians, they encounter older documents that frequently use Latin terms that are no longer currently included in most legal discourse. The simple fact is that the further back you research, especially in legal and church records, the more Latin you will encounter. Hence, this series on Latin terms. It looks like I got to the "s" category. 

sui juris literally "of his own right"
This is a phrase that refers to the ability of a person to manage his or her own affairs. Latin has masculine and feminine declensions, i.e. word endings that reflect gender. In this case, sui is the genitive masculine singular of suus so the term includes references to both males and females similar to the English word "us." 

Individual competency to act has always been an issue in the English/American law system. Today the term "competency" generally refers to a mental state, but historically and legally, the term refers to any disability, including age and gender, that may impair a person from legally conducting their own business. 

subpoena, subpoena duces tecum, subpoena ad testificandum literally "under penalty," "under penalty to bring with you," and "under penalty to be witnessed"
A subpoena is an order issued by the court (judge) to compel some sort of action, usually to provide evidence or testimony. This is one of the legal terms that is used so frequently that it has passed into the English language completely. It is now used as both a noun, i.e. "a subpoena" and a verb, i.e. "to subpoena a document." Today, most commonly, the term refers to a document called a subpoena that is issued by the court requiring the recipient named in the document to appear in court or at a law office to produce evidence, either documents or testimony, such as a deposition. A subpoena is often issued to enforce a notice of deposition, i.e. a notice that a person must appear to give testimony under oath.

sua sponte literally "of its own accord"
This term is used most frequently to refer to actions taken by the court (i.e. the judge) on his or her own motion without the request of one of the litigating parties. For example, if the court (I keep referring to the judge as the "court" but this is how we commonly do that) decides to take some action without having been prompted by the parties, the judge is considered to be acting sua sponte

status quo, status quo ante literally "the state in which" and "the state in which before"
This is another of those Latin terms that has passed into common English usage. In the legal sense, this term refers to an order or judgment of the court requiring a party or parties to be put back into the position they were before the litigation began. 

situs literally "the place"
If you want to show off your linguistic skills, you can throw in a few Latin terms and use situs for "the place." In my experience, there was no real need for this word at all, but it was used occasionally by lawyers who wanted to show they were erudite. 

sine qua non literally "without which, nothing"
I don't believe I have ever heard an attorney actually say this outloud, but it is used infrequently in legal writing even today. I might say that a knowledge of Latin is the sine qua non of historical research and particularly genealogical research. 

sine die literally "without day"
I don't hear this much at all in court, but it is really common in reference to the actions of legislative bodies. It is also used to refer to an action where the court adjourns without setting a date for the next hearing in a series of hearings.  

scienter literally "knowingly"
Most commonly used when referring to actions of a criminal nature. Scienter is often an element in the definition of certain types of crimes. A criminal is considered to have acted with or without scienter or knowledge of the consequences of his or her actions. 

respondeat superior literally "let the matter answer"
In cases involving tort (personal injury) claims, if the wrongdoer was acting in some capacity as an agent for an employer or other such entity, then the theory of respondeat superior will hold the owner, employer or whatever accountable for the damages done by the agent or employee. This is why you can sue the owner of the vehicle in an automobile accident in addition to the driver. 

res judicata literally "a matter judged"
Some of these Latin legal terms are so complicated, it can take years before an attorney fully understands all the consequences that arise as a result of the actions that invoke the particular area of the law. I recently wrote one of the parts of this series about one such legal term, stare decisis. As simply as I can, I suggest that this means that once the court has ruled on a particular issue, subsequent litigation on the same issue is foreclosed. Unfortunately, this is not always cut and dried and a lot of argument and litigation occurs over whether or not any particular ruling is res judicata as to subsequent claims. 

Well, that wraps up this post. There is still a long list of such terms waiting for my comments. 

Here are the previous posts in this series.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Does Genealogy have a Free Lunch?

Also known by its acronyms, TANSTAAFL or TINSFAAFL, the phrase "There Ain't (is) No Such Thing As a Free Lunch" has been used in a variety of contexts. The word "free" is the key issue discussed by any interpretations of the phrase. I once contemplated writing a book entitled, "How to Live Free in America" but I decided that I did not want to contribute to the cumulating lack of observance of the law and propriety in the country. However, in this context, we need to be careful to distinguish between the concept of "free" and the philosophical concept of "freedom."

A quick search on Google produces over 13 billion references to the word "free." This is a pretty direct example of how grossly overused this word has become, not just in America, but worldwide. If you are one of those who expects to find things free, then your life will be filled with frustrations and disappointments.
Genealogists, probably even more than most in the general population, have been conditioned to expect their genealogical lunch to be free. Even in the much larger online community, free has almost become expected. So, here I am writing a blog post on the "free" Google Blogger program and it is free but only if I happen to have an Internet connection, a connected computer and want to spend my time blogging. Even if I try to work the system and go to a library where I can use a free connection and computer, I will have paid state or local taxes to support the library's free computers.

For years, I have taught classes about both online genealogy programs and those that run on a local computer. In many of those classes the participants expressed outrage and indignation over the fact that there might be some charge for using the program. This was especially true for "upgrades." As hobbies and other interests go, genealogy is relatively inexpensive, but it is and never has been free in any sense of the word. If genealogically important information is found "free" online it is due to the fact that someone has paid to put the information online. In this context, the time to enter information online is considered to be the payment.

During my life, I have had a lot of friends and relatives that ran "home businesses." Almost without exception, as they ran these businesses they looked at the normal business expenses but they commonly neglected to factor in the time they spent in operating the business. They sometimes made an "income" from the business but never applied the income to paying themselves for their time spent. Of course, unless you are planning to become a "professional" genealogist, genealogy is not remunerative.

Stepping back a bit, genealogical software is fairly inexpensive. For example, claims that the average American spends $936 annually on eating out at restaurants. If that amount alone were spent on your genealogical endeavors, you would probably benefit more from learning about your family than eating out. You could also subscribe to all four of the major, online genealogical database programs including the "free" one, But the real point here is that the amount of out-of-pocket money needed to do genealogy is not significant. Genealogy does involve a lot of time spent. It can become "expensive" if you feel the need to travel and visit family locations or to do research in distant locations.

Personally, I have never viewed either the time or the money I spent in pursuing my family history as a burden. We do pretty much what we want to do.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Taking a Look at Tongan Genealogy

Quoting from Wikipedia:
Tonga ([ˈtoŋa]; Tongan: Puleʻanga Fakatuʻi ʻo Tonga), officially the Kingdom of Tonga, is a Polynesian sovereign state and archipelago comprising 169 islands of which 36 are inhabited.[1] The total surface area is about 750 square kilometres (290 sq mi) scattered over 700,000 square kilometres (270,000 sq mi) of the southern Pacific Ocean. It has a population of 103,000 people of whom 70% reside on the main island of Tongatapu.
It is interesting to me that in both Arizona and Utah there are significant immigrant Tongan communities. As a result, from time to time, I am asked questions about researching Tongan genealogy. Now, most English-speaking genealogists would literally throw up their hands in despair even thinking about "doing Tongan genealogy." But the reality is that doing genealogical research has a commonality that transcends language or locality.

Translating any particular language with which you are not personally acquainted is almost inevitable if you expect to do any genealogical research in depth. Even if every one of your ancestors spoke English as the native language, as you go back in time, you will have to contend with Middle English and eventually Old English, both of which appear to be "foreign" languages to modern English speakers. In addition, even older English records are written in Latin, another language challenge.

I have studied enough languages to be comfortable doing research in almost all the Western European countries and non-European languages are only a slightly different challenge. Why did I choose Tongan as my example? Simple. It is spoken by and familiar to very few native English speakers. Here in the Western United States, we can always find someone who speaks both English and Spanish for example, by locating someone who speaks both English and some of the other of the world's languages can be problematic and Tongan is not one of the language available in the Google Translate program.

The key here is that I do not have to speak Tongan to do genealogical research in records written in that language. I also do not have to speak Tongan to help someone else do genealogy in their Tongan family lines. The vocabulary I need to do research or to help is rather limited and the resources to make the translation possible are available online. Here is an example of a Tongan text.

Start with the Research Wiki. Here is a screenshot of the Tongan Genealogy page:

Here the page you need to read to start the process, "Tongan customs and research ideas."

You can start by investigating the language. Here is a Wikipedia article about the Tongan language.

You may also want to get started with a Tongan-English, English-Tongan dictionary. Here are some that are available:

Churchward, C. Maxwell. Tongan Dictionary: Tongan-English and English-Tongan. London: Oxford University Press, 1959.
Morton, Ermel J. A Tongan-English, an English-Tongan Dictionary. Salt Lake City, Utah: Filmed by the Genealogical Society of Utah, 2004.
Schneider, Thomas. Functional Tongan-English, English-Tongan Dictionary. Nukuʻalofa, Tonga: ʻAtenisi University, 1977.
Thompson, Richard H, and ʻOfa Thompson. The Student’s English-Tongan and Tongan-English Dictionary. Palo Alto, Calif.: Friendly Isles Press, 2000.
Tuʻinukuafe, Edgar. A Simplified Dictionary of Modern Tongan. Auckland, N.Z.: Polynesian Press, 1992.

As a final note, you just might want to know that Tonga and Tongan are two different languages. Tonga is spoken in Zambia.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Where is all the genealogy? Part Six: Historical Societies

A Google search on the term "historical society" resulted in over 30 million entries. There is also a huge, but very incomplete, list of societies on Wikipedia. See Wikipedia: List of historical Societies. In the United States there are national, state and local societies as well as specialized organizations for the preservation of everything from ships to battlefields. Some of these organizations are just a few individuals while others have thousands of members and maintain major libraries and archives. Many genealogical researchers seem to ignore any organization or website that does not contain the word "genealogy." In doing this, they seem to forget that genealogy is nothing more or less than history.

There is a contrast between "genealogical societies" and "historical societies" but the overlap is significant. A Google search for "genealogical society" results in about 389 thousand results. Clearly there are a considerable number of both types of societies.
In an online article on entitled "History of Historical Societies in the U.S.", author Sara Lawrence makes the following observation:
If the historical societies in the United States today were to be characterized in a single word, no doubt the word would be, “variety.” Some historical societies, like the Massachusetts Historical Society focus on national history, while others specialize in the history of a particular state or locality, such as the Oregon Historical Society, or the Chicago Historical Society. There are historical societies specific to particular ethnic and religious groups, such as the American Jewish Historical Society, or topics of historical interest, such as the Railway and Locomotive Historical Society. Also common are societies that specialize in pioneer history, genealogy, or preservation of antiques or historic buildings. Examples are The Pioneer Historical Society of Benford County, Inc , the Louisiana Genealogical and Historical Society, and the Society for the Preservation of New England Antiquities, respectively. A good way to appreciate the breadth of variety among historical societies is to take a look at the list of repositories of primary sources put together by the University of Idaho. It contains links to over 5250 websites which describe the various holdings (manuscripts, archives, rare books, photographs, etc) of different repositories worldwide.
As an example of the emphasis of some genealogists, the huge RootsTech 2016 Conference earlier this year had hundreds of classes and not one of them was directed at learning about historical societies. However, this is not always the case, the upcoming 2016 Federation of Genealogical Societies Conference list of classes includes some specifically directed at historical societies.

Clearly, involvement with and research using the resources of historical societies is a concept that is not acquired by many genealogists until they have a certain degree of research understanding, experience and motivation.

With the resources of the Internet, finding information about an historical society is pretty simple. In many cases, all you need to do is search for a society in the community, county or state where your ancestors lived. For example, I recently traveled through Rutland County, Vermont where some of my ancestors lived and died. Here is what I found online about an historical society in that county:

I would venture to guess that you can find such a society almost anywhere in the world. The Rutland Historical Society makes the following statement on their website:
The Society will investigate your research query upon receipt of a written request. Please include a self-addressed and stamped envelope. Also please share with us as much pertinent information as you may have. Our researchers are all volunteers so we cannot guarantee a quick response. We will charge fifteen cents per page for any pertinent pages copied. The society will do up to an hour of research for a free will donation. If your request requires more than an hour of time we will advise you. In many cases you will be directed to other sources.
Take some time to investigate whether your own research could be aided by connecting with an historical society.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

The Sirens' Call of Names in Genealogical Research

Over the years, I have often been asked is I am related to other Tanners around the country. Very early on, I came to realize that having the surname "Tanner" meant little or nothing about being genealogically related. Notwithstanding my own realization the having the same or similar surname was not decisive in determining relationships, I constantly see articles, blog posts and other comments about the origin of surnames and the meaning of various surnames.

Not too long ago I wrote some posts on patronymics. Almost every culture in the world has some sort of patronymical surname system. There are still countries, such as Iceland, where patronymics are still used. In any place where patronymics are used, or even matronymics, having a surname in common is certainly no indication of relationship. However, surname patterns and concentrations of people with the same or very similar surnames in a particular geographic area can be helpful tools in some areas of genealogical inquiry.

As societies evolved around the world, identification of the individual and the ability to distinguish individuals is strongly associated with societal complexity. The various governments' ability to impose taxes, raise armies and conduct complex business transactions with written documents has driven the need to more positively identify people. In less structured societies, individuals with the same name are usually distinguished by the addition of a descriptive tag such as John the Younger or Peter the Small. In some societies, names change during the different phases of a person's life and take on religious or cultural significance.

Surnames often indicate social standing and cultural differences. In my own experience, as I live within the culture of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I am often asked if I am related to prominent leaders in the Church who have the same surname. I almost all such cases, I actually am related to these people for the simple reason that we share a common progenitor who joined the Church shortly after its organization.

In any given country of the world, you can determine an approximate time period when surnames became predominant. In England, for example, surnames became used in the 11th Century but were not common until well into the 16th Century. In countries such as Denmark and Sweden, patronymics were used commonly used until well into the 19th Century.

For genealogists, all of this means that names are not a reliable basis for establishing relationships and this general rule is even more restrictive when researchers begin to assume that people with the same name are the same person without other substantiating documentation.

Surnames are derived from a variety of sources:

  • Patronymics and Matronymics -- surnames derived from the given name of a parent
  • Occupation -- such as my own surname, Tanner, from the occupation
  • Topographic -- names after landscape features such as hill, lake and valley
  • Descriptive -- such as young, white, strong etc.
In today's society, both given names and surnames are sometimes simply made up or created. We have a tradition in Utah of having very innovative names. Here is a video that you might enjoy showing the variety of Utah names:

I hope that this short video helps you to not put too much confidence in either common surnames for identification or spelling or any other unreliable method of identifying your ancestors.

Friday, July 22, 2016

The Advantages and Limitations of Indexes

Genealogical finding aids are currently a hot topic. Indexing existing records seems to be an obvious way to make information more available, particularly to beginning researchers. But in some cases, indexes hinder rather than assist finding a particular record.

To understand my concern, it is necessary to understand how and why indexes exist. Historically, an index was provided in conjunction with a written manuscript to aid the reader in finding particular information in a long document. For example, as a genealogical researcher, I commonly find indexes or lists of names in parish registers and New England Town Records. The priest or the town clerk spent the time to compile a list of the entries so that he could find the same entries in the future. However, parish registers are a good example of documents where indexes have limited utility.

Creating an index requires the indexer to select specific items within the text to include in the index list. An index differs from a catalog in that a catalog organizes information by subject and may be based on geography, chronologically or in some other fashion. An indexer reviews the entire document and makes a somewhat arbitrary selection of items to include in a usually alphanumeric list with page numbers showing where the terms can be found. Technology now provides an alternative; full text indexing. Documents can be digitized and then a complete "index" of every word becomes available through search programs (engines) and optical character recognition or OCR.

OCR has its limitations. The most significant one for genealogists is the lack of a reliable way to consistently and reliably read handwritten records. Hence the need for indexing. But as researchers we need to always be aware of the limitations of relying solely on indexes to find information. Unfortunately, there is always a background need to bulldoze the information, that is, to look at each entry.

Indexes may have a high level of reliability, but the rely heavily on the accuracy of the original record. For example, if a census enumerator wrote down your ancestor's name phonetically, the indexer will usually add the name the way it was spelled in the original record. Even if you, as a researcher, go back and examine the original record, you may not recognize the entry for your ancestor because it was so badly written in the first instance. Because indexes are derivitive, they add an additional layer of possible inaccuracy. It is always important to look at the original records, if they are available.

One serious mistake of unseasoned researchers is to assume that the index contains all of the information from the original record. This is usually not the case. Most indexes are selective and there may be much more information in the original.

The rule is that the absence of information about an ancestor in an index is not conclusive as to what information there may be in the original documents.

Of course, there are indexes that are the "original" document. For example, a telephone book or city directory is a form of index, but both can be considered as the "original." It is always a good practice to verify the information that is initially found in an index or index-like record with other sources.

None of these comments diminish in any way the importance of indexes as finding aids, but researchers should always be aware of and evaluate the reliability of any document used as a source for genealogical information.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Ancestry reports its 2nd Quarter Financials

Ancestry's second quarter 2016 revenues increased 25% over the same quarter in 2015. If genealogists needed any more proof that genealogy can be a big business then reading the Ancestry report should dispel any doubt. The report also shows that during the same period, added millions of new records. This report dispels any concern about the future of the large, online genealogy companies.

Here are the links to the press release and blog post from Ancestry.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

MyHeritage announces SuperSearch Alerts

What happens when you do a search on and then they add more records? Before now, you would have to do the search over again even if you were not aware that additional records had been added. Now, SuperSearch Alert will automatically notify you when new results are available for your previous searches that did not exist when you did the original search.

Here is a more detailed explanation of the process from the blog post dated July 18, 2016.
MyHeritage's SuperSearch contains a wealth of useful content to explore. Currently home to 6.85 billion historical records, SuperSearch includes MyHeritage family trees, public photos, census records, birth, marriage and death records, family history books and a lot more. We're constantly adding new content to SuperSearch, with 1 million historical records and 2 million family tree profiles added on average every day. So, even if you don't find what you're looking for on SuperSearch, chances are we'll have it for you sooner or later. But how would you know when the records you need (or records you didn't know existed) for the people you are searching for, have been added? We now have the answer! Instead of coming back to repeat the same searches manually, you don't need to do a thing. Instead, we do all the work for you. 
From now on, we will automatically repeat old searches you've made on SuperSearch, in the background, every two months. We detect relevant results that were not available previously. We then send you an email about the new results found, with links to view the records. As with any record on SuperSearch, once you view it, if you consider it relevant, you can easily save it to your family tree (creating a citation pointing to the record) and extract information to the relevant people in your family tree, or add new individuals to your tree. 
SuperSearch Alerts cover every search you've made (when you were logged in to MyHeritage) since SuperSearch was launched in 2012, satisfying every condition you've specified in every search (such as birth years, death years, relatives, places, etc). Searches for extremely common names or searches that yield too many results are automatically excluded from SuperSearch Alerts, because when there are too many results, chances are that the new results are not relevant, and we don't want to waste your time.
There is some time and some concerns as this new program is being implemented. Again quoting from the blog post:
Receiving SuperSearch Alerts is free. Viewing results from some data collections are also free (e.g., Billion Graves, Compilation of Published Sources, Social Security Death Index, etc.), but viewing most records requires a Data subscription. 
SuperSearch Alert emails will be sent to you at most once a week, so they won't clog your mailbox. At the bottom of every SuperSearch Alert email, you'll find the option to turn off this feature entirely, and a link to the new configuration page listing all your previous searches, where you can easily select which ones you'd like us to re-run periodically for you. 
SuperSearch Alerts are being rolled out gradually to our user base, with the first group of 10 million users starting now, to allow us to monitor system load and user satisfaction. If you are not getting them during the next few weeks, don't worry. It probably means your account hasn't been activated yet for SuperSearch Alerts. Please be patient as we roll it out.

Genealogy, Identity Theft and the Electronic Chip Credit Card

I think that the preoccupation of the American public with identity theft is finally on the decline. But I still talk to genealogists who are inordinately preoccupied with such a concern and even fear that somehow their identity will be compromised by putting their genealogy online.

In making this observation, I remember years ago, when I was actively practicing law, we went through a huge wave of black mold cases. For about five or so years I had a constant stream of potential clients claiming damages from some sort of mold infection on their real property. Those claims were based on a huge jury verdict awarded in a mold case in Texas or some other state. Finally, the insurance companies began excluding coverage for mold related claims in all their policy renewals. Almost immediately, the mold claims dried up. In fact, in the last ten years or so of my practice I do not remember ever reviewing a claim for mold damage.

From my perspective, faddish legal issues come and go. Identity theft fears constitute one of those legal fads that is now definitely declining. As I have pointed out quite a few times in past posts, there has been no uniformly accepted definition of identity theft. Over the past few years, legislatures have grappled with the difficulty in defining what is essentially a conglomeration of different legal issues referred to under the umbrella term of "identity theft." The U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics defines identity theft as follows:
For the National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS), the definition of identity theft includes three general types of incidents:
  • unauthorized use or attempted use of an existing account
  • unauthorized use or attempted use of personal information to open a new account
  • misuse of personal information for a fraudulent purpose.
As the Justice Department points out, statistics on identity theft are based on surveys and complaints not criminal prosecutions or convictions. The rise in statistics is from reports not criminal complaints. What is usually not emphasized by the reports is that the vast majority of the so-called identity theft complaints relate to credit card issues. The Victims of Identity Theft, 2014 report clearly states this as follows:
  • About 7% of persons age 16 or older were victims of identity theft in 2014, similar to findings in 2012. „
  • The majority of identity theft victims (86%) experienced the fraudulent use of existing account information, such as credit card or bank account information.
  • The number of elderly victims of identity theft increased from 2.1 million in 2012 to 2.6 million in 2014.
  • About 14% of identity theft victims experienced out-of-pocket losses of $1 or more. Of these victims, about half suffered losses of less than $100.
  • „ Half of identity theft victims who were able to resolve any associated problems did so in a day or less.
It is interesting that in the first statement the statistics show that there is no overall increase in reported instance of identity theft from 2013 through 2014. These reports do not reflect the government mandated use of computer chips in credit cards. By the way, the U.S. is the last developed country in the world to switch to what is known as EMV chips. Here are some of the statistics on the decline of credit card fraud in countries that are using the chips.
Other countries have seen a benefit in adopting EMV technology. In the U.K., counterfeit fraud has fallen 56 percent since the country rolled out EMV cards in 2005, the Aite Group report says. In Australia, counterfeit fraud is down 38 percent. In Canada, the figure is 49 percent.
Where does genealogy fit into all this? The simple answer is that it doesn't. If someone tells you it does, then they are most likely selling something. First of all, no financial data, including social security numbers should be put online in genealogy files. Stupidly, banks still use simple relationship questions as security questions for bank accounts such as asking for your mother's maiden name. 

Now, what is the problem? The main issues include putting unnecessary personal information about living people online and improperly managing credit cards. Your perception of the problem will also change dramatically if you have a perspective about what is already available online about nearly everyone, alive or dead. But to be concerned about putting historic, family history information online due to fears of identity theft is really not an issue.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Where is all the genealogy? Part Six: Special Collections

The National Center for Education Statistics indicates that there were 3026 public and private degree awarding universities and colleges in the United States in 2013, the most recent year for which statistics are available. If you live in the United States, you probably have one or more of these institutions relatively near where you live. But for genealogical purposes, researchers should be very much aware of such institutions in the areas where their ancestors lived. The reason for this is simple. Nearly all of these colleges and universities are going to have libraries and as part of those academic libraries, there are very likely to be sections or departments for "special collections."

Special collections libraries or sections of libraries are the academic equivalent of black holes. They suck in anything that crosses their event horizon. From time to time, I have written about these institutions but I do not see any particular movement among genealogical researchers to utilize these vast collections. You just might want to search the catalogs of the special collections libraries in the areas where your ancestors lived and for a considerable distance around where they lived. Special collections libraries (or parts of libraries) may contain almost anything; books, documents, letters, Bibles, manuscripts, papers of all kinds and classifications. The amount of information you can find may be overwhelming.

Just to give an example I have used before. I found over six feet of documents about my Great-grandfather in the Cline Library at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff, Arizona. But what was interesting about these documents is that they included biographies, letters, journals, diaries and other such items from dozens of other individuals and families that lived in the same area as my ancestor. These documents were not digitized or indexed and to do the research, you would have to read through the entire stack.

This brings up an important issue about genealogical or historical research. There is no free lunch. Genealogical research ultimately becomes research that must be done page by page, entry by entry. Indexes and finding aids are helpful, but not the ultimate answer to finding all the information contained in the records. It is basic procedure that even when you have an index available, the only way to be sure that the indexed document does not contain information about your ancestor is to search it page by page or entry by entry yourself. Even then, you may find yourself going back to the same document multiple times and finding more information you missed the first times you searched.

Special collections libraries are extreme toy valuable resources for this kind of detailed information. There is often no substitute for sitting down with the special collections librarians and asking about the kinds of documents and resources that might be helpful in your research.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Yours, mine and ours: genealogy and ownership

It seems like I regularly run into a situation where a careful, perhaps even meticulous genealogist is expressing frustration with the status of the online family trees. They are mostly upset with either inaccurate (sloppy) entries in "their" portion of the family tree or arbitrary and unsupported changes. This seems particularly true with unified family trees (i.e. wiki-based) such as the Family Tree. These complaints most commonly come from people who exhibit two basic genealogical traits; a sense of ownership of the data they have collected and a sense of superiority that their research is absolutely "correct" and all the other data put online is suspect. I had that experience again today. When this happens, I have learned just to be pleasant and not say anything in response to the complaints about either issue.

But politeness does not keep me from writing about the situation. As I have said and written many times: you do not own your ancestors.

I can approach this from either a legal, a social or a cultural standpoint, or all three. Ownership entitlement is ingrained in most people in the United States by the time they finish kindergarten or even earlier in nursery school. Put a bunch of American two- or three-year-olds in a room with an assortment of toys and soon they will begin to claim ownership. In American history, church members in New England could donate money to the congregation and receive "ownership" of their particular pew. Beginning with the drafting of the United States Constitution, the idea of ownership of intellectual property was codified in the copyright laws. Ownership and entitlement are twin stalwarts of the American cultural scene.

Naturally, when an American genealogists spends his or her time accumulating documents and information about their ancestors, they fall prey to the cultural norm and begin to acquire a sense of ownership. The irony in this situation is that what they are accumulating is historical information that is by its very nature entire communal. Each succeeding generation of research has the potential to geometrically increase the number of equally valid claimants to ownership of that same information. The counter-argument becomes simply, the little red hen syndrome or "I did the work, I own the product."

But the bread baked by the little red hen was not a pedigree of her ancestral line, it was a physical product. For most people I talk to, the idea that by doing the research they have accumulated ownership rights to the data is as certain as a geometric theorem. They fail to realize that all the aurguments supporting such a claim as tantalogical. U.S. Copyright Law recognizes this very situation by excluding copyright claims to ideas, facts and concepts. Quoting from the U.S. Copyright Office website:
Copyright law does not protect ideas, methods, or systems. Copyright protection is therefore not available for ideas or procedures for doing, making, or building things; scientific or technical methods or discoveries; business operations or procedures; mathematical principles; formulas or algorithms; or any other concept, process, or method of operation.
Genealogists should not be in the business of creating or inventing their own pedigrees (although it has been done). Their work is not "original" in the copyright sense of an original creation. Protection does extend to any part of the work that can be considered to be "original" but even if copyright protection is claimed, the claim only applies to the original part of the work. If you would like to dispute this position, just think about what would happen if I did genealogical work on your ancestors and then claimed that I owned the data I had produced and tried to prevent you from discovering your own pedigree without paying me a royalty.

I am not saying that if I did do the research about your ancestors that I had to give you my work for free. What I am saying is that I have no legal method of preventing you from doing the same research and finding out the same information. More importantly, if you redo the work, or not, you can put whatever you want into your "own" pedigree even if we share the same ancestors. Just because I judge your work to be inferior to my own, does not give me possessory rights to the pedigree. If we are working on a unified, community based family tree such as the Family Tree, we each have equal rights to change, correct or modify the information. Just because you believe your information is more accurate than mine, does not give you any superior claim of ownership to the data.

Now, we have to take this whole situation a step further. If I elect to put whatever work I do online in a wiki-based program, then I give up even my claim to require you to do the acquisition work over again. By entering my information into a wiki, I relinquish all claims to ownership, whether I like it or not. Intent when entering the information does not change that reality.

You cannot have it both ways. Either you relinquish your rights or you lose the advantages of having your work shown in the program. Get used to the idea.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

The End of the Journey Review

Probably the most graphic relationship between our trip to the Northeastern United States and Canada and genealogy was the fact that we were lost so many times. We finally bought a paper set of maps of the area to supplement our two GPS units and we still got lost. I guess my main issue with driving around up here is the inability to see anything but trees most of the time. That seems to be my main issue with genealogy right now also. We also find the roads and signs confusing and poorly marked. Another good analogy to genealogy. When we discovered we were lost, we had to spend an inordinate amount of time getting back on the right roads. That is also a good analogy to genealogical research.

What I think is most interesting is that some of the time we didn't even know we were lost. That seems to be the case sort of generally with genealogy also. It take some additional traveling to discover you and working on the wrong family lines.

We, we will soon be back in Utah and be able to see miles and miles of mountains. We will miss our wonderful time in the Northeast.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Freeway Genealogy

During the past week or so, I have had ample time to think about freeways after driving a couple of thousand miles on some of the best and worst in existence. But by nature, I relate almost everything to genealogy and I began to realize that my journeys across the northeastern part of the U.S. and Canada were an almost perfect analogy for the various levels of genealogical research.

I realized that almost all the genealogists I knew were essentially "freeway genealogists." They were only interested in getting results (going to a specific location) and could care less about the scenery. Actually, the scenery on the freeways in the east is a lot like superficial genealogy, mostly trees and little else. Whether I am driving in Canada or New York State or Maine or wherever, if I am on the freeway my view is exactly the same: trees. I started to realize that trees were about all most of the genealogical researchers were interested in. I started to see some dramatic contrasts when we got off of the freeway and drove on U.S. Route 1 and Highway 1 in Canada.

The contrast is about the same with the freeway-type of research and the U.S. Route 1 type of research. Freeway research is superficial and as long as names are produced it is all that matters and the quicker the better. Highway 1 research is vastly different. You have to take it slow and easy and be ready for all kinds of twists and turns. Life on the back roads is full of surprises and the scenery is remarkable. Every turn in the twisting roads brings you another dramatic vista. I had to stop frequently to take photos and to really look at some of the dramatic views of mountains, oceans and plains. The same thing happens when you get off the genealogical freeway and start to look at the details of how, when and what happened to your ancestors. You begin to view their lives and the lives of those around them at the time they lived in an entirely new light. It may take you a lot longer time and you might have to settle for a little less ground covered, but what you do see will produce the memories of a lifetime.

One example. We were visiting Acadia National Park on the Bay of Fundy in Maine. We had driven to the top of Cadilac Mountain and were trying to keep from being blown away by the wind gusts. One of the locals just started talking to us and telling us about how much they loved the Park, but that the best place to go was miles away in another part of the Park called Schoodic Point. He was enthusiastic about the place and we decided to take his advice and drive for another hour or so to get to the place he described. We left the crowded, main part of the Park and soon entered an enchanted and beautiful world of wind and waves and rocks. We were transfixed. We could have stayed there for days. It was one of the most remarkably beautiful places on earth. But for the unsolicited comments made by this anonymous person, we would have missed one of the best experiences of our whole trip.

Now if that isn't like genealogy, I don't know what is. Just as with this beautiful rocky shoreline, I see the beauty and harmony in my searches for my own ancestors and those of others. I try hard to convey this beauty to others, but I think they all want to stay on the freeway and getting off and losing the fast food and in and out convenience of real research seems like too much of a bother. Here is my advice: get off the genealogical freeway and start enjoying the back roads of your own and your ancestors' lives. Come with me to the winding and somewhat slower roads of the back country.

For those who know me well, we did get so far out that we were driving on dirt roads even in the civilized East.

Where is all the genealogy? Part Five: National and State Archives

This is really a good news/bad news situation. Huge amounts of information about individuals and families has accumulated in national and state archives, which I am supposing is good news for genealogists and bad news for those with privacy concerns. But the real difficulty here is the lack of online availability. There are a few shining exceptions in the United States. One of those is the State of Washington. The Washington State Digital Archives has preserved over 180 million documents and over 60 million of those are searchable online. Most of the other states and the U.S. National Archives have not been so diligent.

As I have written a few time before, the really bad news is that the United States National Archives has a vanishingly small number of digitized records compared to the vast billions (trillions) in their collections on paper and microfilm. The National Archives does not bother to measure the quantity of their documents by document or page, they measure by cubic feet. They do have an agreement with Ancestry and FamilySearch to digitize some documents, but the numbers of documents being created each day probably far exceeds any effort to make them available digitally or at all searchable except by examining the records on microfilm or personally researching at each of the Archive locations across the country. If you are fortunate enough to identify a record kept by the government, it is likely that it will cost you some sort of fee to obtain a copy. Some of the valuable government agency records never end up in the Archives. They are maintained in individual government repositories. Some of these are moderately to very available such as Social Security Records, U.S. Maps and Census records, but mostly the location of these records is so fragmented that it takes an extreme effort to penetrate  the archaic organization. Some of the website, such as the website have huge amounts of valuable information but are so complex as to be almost useless.

This suggests another series to me, I should write about digging into government websites. The amount of information online is cumulatively immense, but finding it is a challenge for me and I assume for everyone else.

I could say a lot about the different levels of utility and content of the various state archives. Here is a  link to a list of the various archives and you can investigate them for yourself.

There is only one thing I can say about archives in general, they probably have information about your ancestors, but the challenge is finding it or even realizing that it may be there hidden away.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Latin Legal Terms for Genealogists -- Part Five

In order to adequately research both English law and court decisions and its shared descendant, law and court decisions in the United States of America, it is important to understand the concept of stare decisis literally "to stand by the decision." A good introduction is found in the following:

Burns, Thomas, " The Doctrine of Stare Decisis" (1893). Historical Theses and Dissertations Collection. Paper 270.

The idea of using the decisions made in previous cases to guide judges in making subsequent decisions is completely ingrained in English and American judicial decisions. However, it takes a considerable effort for a law student to begin to understand how this doctrine of stare decisis actually works and most non-lawyers are completely unaware of the process.

Why should a genealogist, particularly one who has no interest in becoming a lawyer or judge or even going to court, understand how the law works in England and the United States? That is an interesting question. It is almost the case that if you have to ask that question then you will not understand or appreciate the importance of the answer. Understanding basic legal principles falls in the same category for genealogists as being able to read hand written documents and documents in languages other than English. Genealogists need a set of research tools that includes these and many other skills. Just as with languages other than the researcher's native language, genealogical research does not require spoken and written proficiency. Both will help, but neither is absolutely necessary. The same principle applies to learning about law, geography, maps, history and every other subject related to genealogical research. 

The decisions made in the English and American courts are based on "the law." The law in both countries is made up of written statutes passed by the legislative bodies and the cumulative decisions of judges in court decisions dating back into antiquity. The collective rulings of previous judges is called legal precedent. If one judge decides a certain case a certain way, then the next judge that has a similar case is "bound by precedent." Generally, this means that a judge has to rule consistently with the previous case decisions (i.e. case law). The judges are given some latitude in interpreting prior court decisions, but in situations where there is an abundance of case law (lots of decisions on similar cases) the courts (judges) must rule consistently. If a judge decides to make a ruling or decision and not follow the rulings in previous cases (precedent) then the case may be appealed to a higher court and ultimately to a state Supreme Court or even the Supreme Court of the United States in some very special cases.

Only certain court's rulings are considered as precedent in deciding future cases. These courts are collectively called "courts of record" meaning they write formal and sometimes extensive explanations for their rulings. Generally lower courts such as local justice courts, municipal courts and state trial courts are courts "not of record." The rulings of these "lower" courts do not become part of the case law used in determining future cases, but the judges who rule in these lower courts are just as bound by stare decisis as any of the other courts. 

The written decisions of the courts of record usually have references to the controlling cases (precedent) used in making their decisions. The process of arguing a case in court usually involves trying to get the judge to agree with the client's position in the case by citing cases that support the client's position. The opposing attorney will try to find cases that support an opposite conclusion. This process of presenting opposing arguments to the court is what is know as an adversarial system of justice. 

Over time, the law evolves very slowly. Judges are inherently conservative in the their rulings. Non-lawyers usually hear about court rulings when the judges make a decision that is innovative or fails to follow precedent. But in "real life" these types of decisions are very rare. If the law is going to change concerning a certain subject, the rulings of the judges usually make small incremental changes rather than dramatically re-writing the law. When a major change is announced, it is usually something most lawyers knew was inevitable based on the history of rulings in that type of case. 

Some genealogists are satisfied if they find one mention of their client in a law case. But usually, one pleading or ruling has involved many other court filings. In the end, you may be surprised to discover how many documents may be created in course of one lawsuit. 

Here are the previous posts in this series.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Where is all the genealogy? Part Four: Major Portals

I talked about portals in a recent blog post, but I think it is important to review portals frequently because they are often ignored.

Of all the portal websites I could write about, probably the least recognized and used by genealogists is the relatively new Digital Public Library of America or Recently, the DPLA and entered into a partnership to make the digitized book collection on available for searches on the DPLA. The DPLA now has over 13.3 million items, all free and all searchable from this one website. That number already includes hundreds of thousands of books and other valuable items even before the items from are added.

One thing that genealogists need to realize and often forget, is that large libraries, including online libraries, by their nature accumulate genealogically valuable items in the form of books, documents and other historically valuable sources. The larger the library, the more likely that the collections include valuable books or documents. The DPLA has grown to the point where it is now a major library. What is more important, all of the items featured are free and free of copyright claims.

Perhaps the largest portal library online is the Australian National Library website, with over a half a billion resources. I searched for "Tanner genealogy" and got almost 1500 completely accessible items. To compare this search with a large paper-based library, the same search in the Brigham Young University Library Catalog produced 94 results. How many of these items are useful? How can you tell without looking?

These are only two examples of valuable library portals. You might want to read a little more about portals. The American Library Association has an online explanation of library portals. See "Library Portals." You might also want to do your own online searching. There are some specialized portals that provide links to maps ( and other subjects. Just remember that genealogical research covers a lot of subjects and confining yourself to purely "genealogical resources" is way too confining.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Genealogy Insights -- More of Looking at Reviews

In my earlier post on this subject, I talked about using as an indicator of popularity in determining the utility of genealogy programs. The main problem with using a metric such as is that the ratings or number of views does not directly reflect the utility of the programs in the same way star rating does on a website such as But even star ratings have their limitations.

We have been traveling the last few days and will continue to travel the next few days. When we look for a hotel, we try to review the star ratings and comments as a criteria for selecting a place to stay. However, it is very important to carefully review the reviews. No matter how good the hotel, invariably, someone will give the place one star and write a terrible review. My experience is that the important factor here is the ratio of good to bad reviews. If there are only one or two "one star" reviews, the reasons for dissatisfaction usually lies with the guest rather than the hotel. Frequently, a really bad review is based on an unreasonable expectation. However, consistent bad reviews are generally accurate.

In fact, we do have a reliable source for genealogy reviews: For quite a few years, this website has been accumulating reviews of hundreds of genealogy programs. In fact, it is a good website to use for discovering additional, helpful genealogy software. The main value of the reviews comes from the accumulation of dozens of different reviewers discussing the same product. The star rating system is cumulative, so the number of stars is a fair estimation of the value that many reviewers assign to a given program.

Any program that has consistently high star ratings with a substantial number of reviews is very likely to be a candidate for consideration. Likewise, if a program has a very low star rating, then you should be aware that there are some serious issues and you may wish to save your time and perhaps your money. Not all of the programs reviewed are commercially purchased programs. Some of the programs are free. But time is money and it is not a good idea to waste your time with any program with low ratings.

What if you disagree? What if you think a program is wonderful and the reviews are all contrary? I suggest writing a more extensive and positive review. Almost without exception, someone with an opposite viewpoint will respond and the interchange then becomes a more valid method of determining value and utility.

Notwithstanding the written reviews, you should always take into account whether or not the program is currently available and supported by the developer. For example, the Personal Ancestral File program gets consistently good reviews and it presently has a 4.69 star rating. However, the program has not been upgraded since 2002 and it is no longer supported by the developer. Also, be aware that older programs such as this may not work with the latest versions of any particular computers systems operating system.

The conclusion is to do your homework. Make sure you read the reviews, but then spend some time researching the program to verify what it will and will not do and then compare the features of the program with your expectations.

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Where is all the genealogy? - Part Three: The Library of Congress

The Library of Congress is the acknowledged "largest library in the world" and has a huge collection of genealogically important records. But it is not, with a few valuable exceptions, the best source of information online for genealogists. The Library itself has "closed stacks." This means that very few items can be viewed except as they are requested and retrieved by Library employees. You can review the holdings of the Library through its online catalog, but otherwise you will need to physically visit the Library. In person access to the Library's vast genealogical collections is through the Local History and Genealogy Reading Room. 

The most important online collection for genealogists is the Chronicling America, Historic American Digital Newspaper Project with over 11 million pages of freely accessible and searchable newspapers from around the United States. I have found this to be a valuable source for information about my own family members. You can search the entire collection or focus on one state or county with an advanced search. There is also a searchable list of most of the newspapers published in America since the 1600s. The list shows where and when each newspaper was published and repositories where copies are available. 

This list of newspapers, called the U.S. Newspapers Directory, 1690 - Present, illustrates the fact that many researchers fail to use the resources that are available to find their ancestors. If you do a search in a specific county, you will likely be surprised at the number of newspapers that were printed during the time your family was living there.

You can also obtain items from the Library of Congress through interlibrary loan. But the borrowed items must be read or used in a local library; they will not be allowed to be checked out.

The Library of Congress also has an extensive online map collection and another extensive collection of photographs. Although not of primary interest to genealogists, the Library as a lot of video and audio files online. You may also benefit from the Preservation section of the Library. They have extensive resources concerning the preservation of all kinds of documents and artifacts. 

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Leaving On a Jet Plane...

Yes, it is that time of year. It is time for traveling around the world and the country. This year, one of my daughters and her family are participating in the famous Hill Cumorah Pageant in New York state. Here is a brief description of the Pageant:
Experience one of the world's great outdoor theatrical productions. Each July, seven evening performances are presented on the beautiful Cumorah hillside next to the Visitors' Center. A beautiful story on an enormous 10 level stage, twelve-tower lighting, state-of-the-art sound system, Hollywood special effects, and a costumed cast of over 650 provide a truly spectacular show.
The Hill Cumorah Pageant takes place here:
The Hill Cumorah is located on Highway 21 between the villages of Palmyra and Manchester, NY, two miles north of Interstate 90, Exit 43. Seating for 9,000. Spanish translation and ASL interpretation provided. Starts at 9:15pm.
We are planning on spending the next two weeks traveling in that area and visiting the locations where many of my own ancestors lived. As usual, I will have little or no Internet contact or time to spend typing away on my computer. Part of the time we will be off the Internet entirely as we like to go places where there aren't that many people or electronics.

If you miss seeing my posts, take some time to watch some of the more than 150 videos on the Brigham Young University YouTube Channel and while you are watching, subscribe to the Channel for notice of the upcoming presentations. You can also read some of my previous 4425 posts.

MyHeritage PedigreeMap -- How you really do genealogical research

As genealogists progress in their efforts to find their ancestors, they go through different stages of learning about historical research. Some are fortunate enough to have the experience and/or education to grasp the concepts of basic research. Most of us had to learn slowly over time. The PedigreeMap developed by is an illustration of the most developed and sophisticated level of historical research.

I suspect that most of the people who look at this "app" will consider it interesting and leave it at that. But those who have been doing research in countries like England, Wales, Scotland, Denmark, Sweden and Norway, may understand that much of the detailed, systematic work they have done in the past has just been automated. There are several other genealogy-oriented, online mapping programs that appear to do the same thing, but nearly all of them are merely informative and lack the essential connection to research. What is that connection?

Let me explain how a detailed genealogical research program should proceed.

After doing a survey and determining what information is known about any particular ancestor, the first and most important step is determining the exact location of an event in the individual's life. Historical genealogical records are strongly associated with the locations of events in a person's life. The ability to differentiate individuals with similar names and vital information depends on the researcher's ability to localize events down to the smallest possible detail. More than any one other factor, geographic determination is essential to accurate genealogical research.

Once an event is localized, the next step in extending genealogical research is the ability to examine corresponding events in the lives of related family members. For example, I have an ancestor born in Farcet, Cambridgeshire, England (formerly Huntingdonshire). How many of my other ancestors were born in the same place? There are several ways I could determine this information. All of them involve some detailed, time-consuming work. At the same time, I would like to know if any of my other families were located in the same area. Why is this important?

In this case, these ancestors lived in the 1700s. Travel was difficult and few people moved far from the location where they were born. Here is a screenshot showing how the PedigreeMap can help to find this information efficiently and quickly.

By clicking on any of the little, colored icons, I can immediately see all those individuals in my family tree that are identified with that particular location. This is a Google map and the distances are shown at the bottom of the map. This entire area is only a few miles across. If someone does not appear on this map or is not related, it is easy to see that they are out of place.

The usefulness of this map depends on the accuracy of my entries in my family tree. If my places are incomplete or inaccurate, the map does not work.

Once I have determined that some of my ancestors came from a small area in England, I can concentrate on doing research in that area. I can use other programs to determine how many people of a certain surname were located in that same area and then focus on connecting the families who are very likely related due to geographic proximity. This is not a certainty. But the smaller the area, the more likely there are relationships.

There are many additional aspects to this level of research, but it is primarily important to focus on the places and this PedigreeMap from is a huge step in analyzing the information I have in my family tree.

If I click on any one of the individuals listed by the program, I can see all their details, including all of the sources I have used for identifying the individual and the places.

More about this process and this program later.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Jay Verkler named interim CEO of Findmypast

Jay Verkler, former CEO of FamilySearch, has been appointed as interim CEO of Findmypast. Many of us remember Jay for the fact that he was the CEO when the RootsTech Conference was first held. I was very pleased to hear that he would be working with

Here is the announcement from Findmypast:

Former CEO of FamilySearch, Jay Verkler, takes over from Annelies van den Belt as interim CEO of Findmypast 
London, Tuesday, July 5th 2016 
Jay Verkler, former CEO of FamilySearch, has been appointed as interim CEO of Findmypast. He takes over from Annelies van den Belt who has stepped down after three years. 
In a decade as CEO of FamilySearch, Jay pioneered the digital transformation of the world’s largest genealogical organisation. He oversaw the shift from vast paper and microfilm record stores to accessible digital archives. He broadened the audience for family history by developing partnerships with genealogy and technology companies, societies and archives across the world. Since leaving FamilySearch, he has been a consultant on strategy, product and technology for many organisations.

Welcoming Jay Verkler, Richard Hall, chairman of Findmypast, said: “I am delighted that Jay is going to head up Findmypast for the next six months. He has the industry knowledge and the entrepreneurial experience to drive the business forward. One of our key markets is the US and Jay has the experience and knowledge to help us to continue to expand Findmypast’s growth in America.” 
Jay Verkler said: “I am excited about the opportunity to lead Findmypast. I have worked with the organisation over the years as a partner and advisor and am excited to work with talented team in a real determination to develop the business. There is great opportunity to build on existing partnerships and to establish new ones across the globe.” 
Mr. Verkler currently advises and consults with executive teams in disciplines ranging from consumer services to enterprise information technologies. 
Verkler recently completed a decade tenure as President and CEO of FamilySearch International, the genealogical effort of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter‐day Saints. During his time as CEO, Mr. Verkler led the organization’s move to digital and online offerings and developed a more advanced and collaborative genealogy industry and community. 
He previously served in executive positions within various Silicon Valley companies including Oracle Corporation, inCommon Inc., TIBCO Software, Vitria Technology, and 
Mr. Verkler studied electrical engineering, computer science and chemistry at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology as well as Japanese and Asian studies at Harvard University. 
About Findmypast 
Findmypast (previously DC Thomson Family History) is a British-owned world leader in online family history. It has an unrivalled record of online innovation in the field and 18 million registered users across its family of online brands, which includes Lives of the First World War, The British Newspaper Archive and Genes Reunited, amongst others. 
Its lead brand, also called Findmypast, is a searchable online archive of over eight billion family history records, ranging from parish records and censuses to migration records, military collections, historical newspapers and lots more. For members around the world, the site is a crucial resource for building family trees and conducting detailed historical research. 
In April 2003, Findmypast was the first online genealogy site to provide access to the complete birth, marriage, and death indexes for England & Wales, winning the Queen’s Award for Innovation. Since that time, the company has digitised records from across the globe, including the 1911 Census and the recently released 1939 Register which they digitised in association with The National Archives.