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

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Case Studies in American Migration: Part One, Moving Away From the Coast


Introduction

In this extensive series, I will be focusing on migration patterns in that part of North America that has become the United States of America. This will be a multipart series with each post featuring a particularly important migration route and its associated geographical, cultural, and historical context.

Minimally identifying our ancestors depends on knowing their names, dates associated with events in their lives, and the exact places where those events happened. We learn most directly about our ancestors by researching the records that were created at or near the time the events in their lives occurred. These records are sometimes referred to as primary sources. Any other records made after the event or made by someone who was not present at the time of the event, are usually considered less reliable and are referred to as secondary sources. For example, a birth record made by someone who witnessed the birth would be considered a primary source. A birthdate on a death record would be a secondary source. However, the reliability of the record can be entirely independent of whether or not the record is a primary or secondary source. The more you know about your ancestors, the more accurate you will become in evaluating the accuracy and consistency of records whether primary or secondary.

As we begin to accumulate ancestral information, we will inevitably discover that some of our ancestors seem to disappear from contemporary records. There are other records that may not mention your ancestors at all that can be valuable to reconstruct events in your ancestors' lives. These records help point you to where records about your family may be found. Knowing the cultural and historical context of your ancestors can help resolve end-of-line or "brick wall" problems that will inevitably arise in the course of doing genealogical research.

With a background in identifying and understanding migration patterns, a genealogical researcher has an important perspective that can provide suggestions about where to look for additional records. Ignoring history and culture is like trying to find a pin on the floor in a dark room.

Migration is a general term used to refer to movements of people from one geographic area to another. The term "immigration" has a political overtone and usually involves a change in national citizenship. It also refers to people moving from one country to another. For example, before the American Revolution and the establishment of the United States of America, British citizens moving from England to the British Colonies were not technically immigrants because they did leave British jurisdiction. But those people who came from the British Isles to America were part of a population migration. As I stated above, I intend to focus on migration within the United States.

So, here I go.

Moving away from the coast 

There were a number of European countries that established settlements in what is now the United States of America. Here is a list of the main countries, the name, date, and current name of the location of their earliest settlements.

  • France settled in Florida (South Carolina) in 1562 but were all killed in 1564 by Spain. 
  • Spain settled St. Augustine, Florida in 1565 but attempted settlements as early as 1526
  • England settled in Jamestown, Virginia in 1607
  • Holland settled in New Amsterdam (New York), New York in 1624
  • Sweden settled in New Sweden, New Jersey in 1638
  • Russia Settled their Three Saints Bay Colony on Kodiak Island, Alaska in 1784
By 1750, here is an illustration of the parts of the North American continent claimed by the European countries. 

By Pinpin - Own work from Image:Nouvelle-France1750.png1)Les Villes françaises du Nouveau Monde : des premiers fondateurs aux ingénieurs du roi, XVIe-XVIIIe siècles / sous la direction de Laurent Vidal et Emilie d'Orgeix /Éditeur: Paris: Somogy 1999.2) Canada-Québec 1534-2000/ Jacques Lacoursière, Jean Provencher et Denis Vaugeois/Éditeur: Sillery (Québec): Septentrion 2000.Map 1 ) (2008) The Forts of Ryan's taint in Northeast America 1600-1763, Osprey Publishing, pp. 6– ISBN: 9781846032554.Map 2 ) René Chartrand (20 April 2010) The Forts of New France: The Great Lakes, the Plains and the Gulf Coast 1600-1763, Osprey Publishing, p. 7 ISBN: 9781846035043., CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3086036
With the exception of the Spanish settlements in Mexico and the Southwest, the original colonial claims and settlements were all located on the coast or associated with major waterways. This population distribution is reflected in the fact that even today a high percentage of the U.S. population lives in counties directly on the shoreline. See "What percentage of the American population lives near the coast?" It wasn't until the mid-1700s that there began to be any movement away from either the coast or the major waterways into the interior such as the Chesapeake Bay. See Wikipedia: "List of North American settlements by year of foundation." See also, "Settlement of the Coastal Plain, 1650-1775."

Migration into the interior of the country did not get started until the 1700s. From the standpoint of genealogy, this is an important concept. As genealogists begin tracing their families across the country, if they arrived before the mid-1700s, they lived along the coastal regions. Some of the earliest settlers were Ulster Scots also referred to as Scotch-Irish. Other settlers included German-speaking people from the Palatinate region of Europe. The earliest movements were into the western parts of Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Maryland. See Wikipedia: Appalachia

To get some idea of the time periods involved in the western movement of settlers here are some dates of the first settlers in some of the second tier states away from the coast.
  • Ohio: "On April 7, 1788, Ebenezer Sproat and a group of American pioneers to the Northwest Territory, led by Rufus Putnam, arrived at the confluence of the Ohio and Muskingum rivers to establish Marietta, Ohio as the first permanent American settlement in the Northwest Territory. Marietta was founded by New Englanders." See Wikipedia: History of Ohio.
  • Kentucky: "1774: Harrodsburg was established as the first permanent settlement in Kentucky. Settlements at Boonesboro, St. Asaph, and Danville soon followed." See Kentucky History Genealogy, FamilySearch Wiki.
  • Tennessee: "The first settlement in Tennessee; that is, the North Holston settlement in the present county of Sullivan, and the South Holston settlement, on the Watauga, in the present county of Washington, were effected between the Treaty of Hard Labor in 1768, and the experimental survey of the Virginia-North Carolina line in 1771, while all the territory so settled was still believed to be a part of Virginia." See "Why the First Settlers of Tennessee were from Virginia."
In future posts, I will be discussing specific migration routes and the patterns that accompany them. 

Search Ellis Island Records for Free


A recent blog post from FamilySearch.org announced that the complete archive of Ellis Island passenger records is now available. Here is the post.

https://www.familysearch.org/blog/en/archive-ellis-island-records/
The free records include the following:
New York Passenger Lists (Castle Garden) 1820–1891 
These passenger lists document over 13 million immigrants and international travelers who arrived in New York City beginning in 1820, when the federal government first required ship captains to submit lists of passengers to customs officials. Among these records are customs passenger lists for those who arrived at Castle Garden, the State of New York’s official immigrant reception facility, during its years of operation (1855–1890). You can search the name index for your ancestors or browse the record images. 
New York Passenger Arrival Lists (Ellis Island) 1892–1924 
This is a searchable index of 25 million names of immigrants and international passengers who arrived at Ellis Island from 1892 to 1924. Once you find a name of interest, you can click through to view individual record images at FamilySearch. If you’re interested in seeing a photo of the actual ship your ancestor travelled on, or learning more about Ellis Island as a historic port of entry into the US, check out the free Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island website. 
New York, New York Passenger and Crew Lists 1925–1957 
Search nearly 29 million indexed names (and over 5 million record images) for these lists of post-Ellis Island-era international arrivals in New York Harbor and at New York airports.
Not sure when your immigrant ancestors arrived? Here’s a tip: If they were alive between 1900 and 1930, look them up in the 1900, 1910, 1920 or 1930 U.S. censuses. There should be a column indicating their year of arrival. Still not sure? Search for their names in all three of the passenger list collections—it’s free.
Search now for your ancestors in passenger arrival lists for 1820–1891, 1892–1924, or 1925–1957. Then share your story! We’d love to hear about your search. #familysearch

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

The Mall, Washington, DC


One of the amazing features of our nation's capital is this huge open space called "The Mall." Somehow, that term became applied to shopping centers, but here in Washington, D.C., this is the background feature to all of the other tourist attractions. The Mall has been the location of some of the largest public gatherings in our history. But on an ordinary day, it is mostly a place for walking and other recreational activities. By the way, it is hard to make a huge lawn covered field into an attractive photo.

See more of my photos on WalkingArizona.

Monday, August 13, 2018

FamilyHistoryExpos is Back with a New Virtual Expo

Attending a Virtual Expo is a way to participate in a genealogy conference without spending the money and time it takes to travel to the conference location. You can participate from the comfort of your own home. Additionally, FamilyHistoryExpos.com can bring you a quality genealogical education experience without incurring those same costs. Here is an explanation about how a Virtual Expo works.
Join Family History Expos and researchers from around the world as we celebrate 15 years of service to the genealogy community! 
We have chosen "Pirates of the Pedigree" as our theme for this amazing event. With the advent of the internet and digital documents, we are surrounded in a virtual sea of opportunity. But too often the ancestor you are seeking is lost in the records. At this Expo, we will share experiences, resources, and techniques that will assist you in discovering which records may hold the clues to locating the correct ancestor from all the rest. 
After attending this event, you will know how to recognize those "Pirates" that would steal your treasured lineage. Let the internet connect family historians from distant lands to tackle the challenges we all face. 
This is a totally online event. Classes will be broadcast. Sponsor and Vendor links allow you to visit their website or special event page quickly. Visit websites, blogs, and social media sites where you can learn about the resources and services available to help you successfully and accurately research your family history. 
Paid registered attendees receive the following with their registration:
  1. Registration gift packet of digital fun and educational items donated by our Sponsors and Vendors
  2. Access to view and print class handouts
  3. Access to view recorded classes after the Expo is over
  4. Eligible to win door prizes
Public viewing of some classes will be available at no cost. Those attending free classes offered without registration will enjoy the slideshow presentation of the presenter only. To view classes at no cost, simply click the link provided in the Agenda (check in early to assure yourself a spot in the broadcast).
You can find out more about the schedule and classes and also register by clicking on this link.

Pirates of the Pedigree.

Sunday, August 12, 2018

American Veterans Disabled for Life Memorial


We found this lovely and peaceful and apparently hardly visited memorial outside of the Mall area of Washington, D.C. There were a few people passing through and one person sleeping on a bench, but otherwise, this lovely and touching place was deserted. I don't recall ever seeing it listed on any of the "places to visit" in Washington, D.C. either. It is the American Veterans Disabled for Life Memorial. The longer we stay in Maryland, the more things we find.

Friday, August 10, 2018

Have you considered donating to The Family History Guide?

https://thefhguide.com/
For the past few of years, my wife and I have been directly involved with The Family History Guide. This is a free website that is a structured educational program that solves the problem of learning how to do genealogy or family history. However, over the years as we have been associated with The Family History Guide, the website has evolved into a major genealogical resource. It is a remarkable program. However, the entire website has been developed and is entirely operated by donated labor. In fact, the entire website and all of its associated presentations and programs depend entirely upon donations. So, it should not be a surprise to learn that we have another organization called The Family History Guide Association that is the fundraising support organization for the The Family History Guide. I happen to be the Chairman of the Board of Directors of The Family History Guide Association. The Family History Guide Association is a 501(c)3 charitable, non-profit organization and donations are tax deductible. 

Our mission is to greatly increase the number of people actively involved in family history worldwide and to make everyone's family history journey easier, more efficient, and more enjoyable. Supporting The Family History Guide is a major way to advance family history and genealogy throughout the world.

With the upcoming RootsTech 2019 Conference, we need to get serious about our fundraising efforts. I recently received the following letter from my associated, Bob Ives who is the Executive Director for The Family History Guide Association. This letter outlines our goals for fundraising just so we can participate in RootsTech 2019.

I would hope that you would give serious consideration to the needs of the organization. If you have any questions, please feel free to make comments to this post or contact us through The Family History Guide Association website. Here is the letter.

Dear Supporters,

Please let me take a few minutes of your time to update you on what has been happening with The Family History Guide and the impact our work is having.  Thanks to your support in the past we have had wonderful success in our mission to make family history easier, more efficient and more enjoyable in over 150 countries around the world.  We do this through our Family History Guide Association which is a 501c3 charitable nonprofit and donations from individuals like you and organizations such as the Ashton Family Foundation and the Larry H. and Gail Miller Family Foundation. 

Our accomplishments include a number programs that are made possible by donors and a staff of over 65 volunteers on 4 continents!  Our programs include:

The Regional Trainer Program (click to see more)

We have over fifty volunteers worldwide who provide their expertise to their local geographic areas in the form of training, presentations and other support to people who want to get started in family history.  These Regional Trainers are on four continents including North America, Europe, Africa and Australia. 

Rootstech (click here)

Each year we reach thousands of people by providing demonstrations and mini-classes in our 600 sq.ft. booth at this show.  Our main presentation last year attracted a standing room only audience of over 800 people and was introduced by international television personality, Troy Dunn!  We have already been accepted to do another main presentation and booth for RootsTech 2019.  Click HERE to see more information.

Support for families, individuals, youth, and children(click here)

The Family History Guide is unique in that it provides over 200 activities focusing on family history.  Nowhere else is there such a focused assortment of focused, non-denominational activities to help strengthen relationships and ties within families.

Focused, step-by-step instruction (click here)

Step-by-step focused training is the hallmark of The Family History Guide.  This is unique to the family history/genealogy industry.  we have collected the best resources available throughout the world and combined them into a best-in-class training program for everyone from beginners to seasoned genealogists.  Indeed, we have put the world of family history research at everyone's fingertips.  Click HERE for a short video explaining our process.

Training for Temple and Family History Consultants and others (click here)

We provide unparalleled, in-depth training for anyone who needs to teach a class in family history.  Our COURSE CATALOG provides dozens of coordinated classes from 15 to 45 minutes in length that anyone can use in virtually any setting.  Our training is fast becoming the standard in the industry.  We are partners with Family Search for training (see here) and are referenced on LDS.org.  We recently became one of the first of the new Registered Solutions Providers for Family Search.

Social media presence and YouTube channel

This year we have produced and released over twenty new videos highlighting specific areas of The Family History Guide.  In addition, we have a major social media presence on 3 Facebook sites, our own YouTube channel and Twitter, Pinterest, and our weekly Blog site.

GuideStar GOLD member(click Here)

We have been recently recognized as a GOLD member by GuideStar the international clearinghouse for non-profits.

Why I am writing to you

This is a critical time for us.  We have an immediate need for funding in several key areas.  Those specific areas include the following:

Programming  - Finish the online tracker feature (see here).  This feature allows a user or group of users to keep track of their progress in The Family History Guide training projects.  It allows an individual (administrator) to create a unique group of users and track their progress using charts and other reports.   To be announced at RootsTech 2019.   Cost $4,000

RootsTech 2019 Booth - We will have the same size booth as last year (600 sqft) although the cost almost doubled for booth space.  See the image below to see a rendering of the planned booth.  Total cost for booth, power, internet, computers, furnishings, and staff is $16,000
Booth Space - $5,800
Computers - $3,500
Internet, power, carpet, furniture, etc. - $6,700

If you or someone you know would be willing to donate toward either of these two projects or to the association, in general, please visit this link DONATE.  If you would prefer to donate directly by check or through a program such as the Fidelity Fund, please contact me directly (coo@thefhguide.com) to make arrangements.

THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR YOUR SUPPORT AND ENCOURAGEMENT IN THE PAST!!

Best wishes,

Bob Ives


Here is the booth layout.






Are Hard Drives on the Way Out?

https://www.intel.com/content/www/us/en/products/docs/memory-storage/solid-state-drives/ruler-form-factor-brief.html
Intel Corporation has introduced its 32 Terabyte SSD called "The Ruler."  Sales of this device are currently being aimed at data centers. Not even the most determined genealogist could load up one of these drives. The new Intel SSD DC P4500 is 12 inches by 1.5 inches, and a third of an inch thick and is currently the world's densest SSD. Theoretically, the manager of a server farm could pack 32 of these devices into a 1U Server rack and have 1 Petabyte of memory in a space that is 6" x 30".

What does this new device mean for genealogists? If you have a computer, you are probably using a hard drive although some of the newest computers come with SSD memory (Solid State Drive). You are probably also familiar with the ubiquitous "flash drive" or "thumb drive." In addition, if you are backing up your data, you might have one or more external hard drives. Most of the higher capacity SSDs are being sold as "internal" hard drives either with new computers or as an upgrade to an existing computer. The cost of high capacity external SSDs is not presently competitive with hard drives in the retail market.

The fact that such a drive exists and is being sold by Intel will begin to dramatically affect the cost of storage media whether it is hard drive storage or SSD. Currently, a 12 Terabyte hard disk drive on Amazon costs about $640 which comes out to about $20 a Terabyte. An 8 Terabyte (TB) hard drive is about $150 or about $18 a Terabyte. However, the initial cost of a hard drive vs. an SSD has to take into account the cost of the operation of the drives. The Intel Ruler requires 1/10th of the power and about 5% of the size of conventional hard disk drives.

Samsung is also in the race for high capacity SSDs. Their next generation Small Form Factor (NGSFF) storage could be configured to have 288 TBs in a 1U Server. Right now, these high capacity SSDs cost into the thousands of dollars each, but with competition, these prices will start to drop quickly.

This is all good news to genealogists and to anyone who has a need for a lot of digital storage capacity.

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Did your ancestor die of the Spanish Flu?

Soldiers from Fort Riley, Kansas, ill with Spanish influenza at a hospital ward at Camp Funston
I began reading a book entitled, "Pale rider: the spanish flu of 1918 and how it changed the world" by Laura Spinney and published in 2018. One statement made in the book caught my attention. The author pointed out that if you were to ask someone today about the most serious catastrophe of the 20th Century, you would probably get a response about World War I or World War II. The Spanish Flu pandemic of 1917-1918 has generally passed from our collective knowledge. But the reality is that the Spanish Flu pandemic infected an estimated 500 million people, about one-third of the population of the entire world and killed 20 to 30 million people, more than the two world wars combined. It also killed about 675,000 Americans, more than the entire Civil War.

It would be unusual that the Spanish Flu pandemic did not affect your ancestral family no matter where they lived in the world. For example, I did a search on FamilySearch.org for records of people who died in 1918 with my surname. I found 217,637 entries. Of course, I could not tell how many of these people died from the flu. So I went to Ancestry.com and did the same type of search. Once again, I got a huge number, this time over 1,196,000 entries. I got even more entries with a search on MyHeritage.com. So, we know a lot of people died, but finding out if they died of Spanish Flu can be quite a challenge.

The main reason for this challenge is that the medical community did not know, in many cases, the exact cause of death and in many other cases, the cause of death is not reported. What is known is that when people disappear from the records in about 1918, there is likely a connection with the pandemic. This is particularly true when you see multiple deaths in the same family in this same time period. These types of events, wars, pandemics, natural disasters, etc., cause discontinuities in family records and in the records of entire communities.

As I have written recently, a lack of historical perspective about the times and places our ancestors lived is a serious impediment to our accuracy and completeness in doing genealogical research. Maybe it is time to take a few history classes or read some books about the history of the places and time where and when your family lived.

Monday, August 6, 2018

What Do You Know About History?


Have you ever wondered how your ancestors lived? What did they wear? What did they eat? Where and how did they work? What did they do when they got together as a family? Photos are helpful, but what about those ancestors that lived before photography was invented?

Unless you happened to be interested in history or took history classes, you are likely to be about average in your level of knowledge of the history of the country where you live. I had a lot of history classes while getting my degrees and have continued with an interest in history by reading a lot of books about different aspects of history. But I would not consider myself to be conversant in the history of some of the countries where my ancestors lived. Over the years as I have focused on doing research in a particular country, I have "read up" on the history. For example, when I started doing research in Ireland, I began reading up on Irish history. This is a never-ending process.

I think a better way to look at the need to know the history of the places you are researching is to ask what happens when you don't know the history. For example, during and after the U.S. Civil War approximately 620,000 soldiers died from combat, accident, starvation, and disease. See https://www.battlefields.org/learn/articles/civil-war-facts. To take this further, about 1,264,000 American soldiers have died in all the wars, this means that about half of all the soldiers in all the wars died in the Civil War. Now, if you had an ancestor that seemed to disappear from the historical record during the time from 1861 to 1865 and was from about 14 years old to about 40 years old, wouldn't it be reasonable to investigate whether or not he ended up fighting and perhaps being killed in the war?

As for Ireland, a good example is the time period between 1845 and 1849. This time period is called the an" Gorta Mór" or Great Hunger. In the U.S. it is referred to as the Irish Potatoe Famine. During the time of the famine, more than a million people died in Ireland and another million people emigrated from Ireland. The total population of the country decreased by 20 to 25%. The total number of Irish immigrants to the United States from 1820 to 1930 was about 4.5 million people. The people who came were mostly those who could not make a living in Ireland. If you have Irish ancestors, you might want to know some of this history. By the way, if you think we have a refugee problem today, think about when all the Irish were coming to America.

Many of the people I have talked to over the years claim to have American Indian ancestors. Do you know anything about the history of Indians in America after the Europeans arrived? Would you know anything about the tribe that your ancestors were supposed to belong to?

What do you know about the history of the state or states where your family lived? Do you know when the first European settlers arrived in that state? Do you know how and when your family came to the state? Because of my Mormon Pioneer ancestors, I can answer all those questions and many more in detail. But I find a lot of people have little or no knowledge about the history of the places where their ancestors lived.

Another example, many of the people I talk to have "German" ancestors. Do you know where your ancestors really came from? I am going to guess that in most cases, they did not come from a place called "Germany."

I could go on and on with examples. What can you do? Go online and look for a book about the history of the country where your ancestors lived. Extend that to the states, counties, and cities. Take some time, which will be well spent, in learning about where they lived and while you are at it, plan a vacation trip to visit all the places.

Sunday, August 5, 2018

The Largest Genealogy Archive?


If you have ever been to a Costco warehouse store, you know about the cultural trait in the United States of "large" and "larger" and "giant." Sometimes, we buy at other stores just so we don't have to have two gallons or five gallons of something we only use from time-to-time. Unfortunately, large size has invaded the larger, online genealogical community. Size is apparently considered a selling point. Especially with the larger online digital websites, size has become an end in itself. Rather than quality or relevancy, size is considered the issue.

My comment on size is that the largest database in the world is not large enough if it doesn't have what you are looking for.

Unfortunately, the units of measurement used by the various programs are not standard or uniform. You will see references to any or all of the following:

  • records
  • profiles
  • documents
  • individuals
  • members
  • paying subscribers
  • collections

You might see other references also. The problem is that none of these terms have fixed definitions. For example, what if I look at a probate file of an accounting of the sale of an estate's assets. There could be dozens of people listed who purchased items from the estate. Are each of these people counted by the database hosting the accounting of that sale? What about a Census record? is one sheet of the U.S. Federal Census a record (usually with about fifty names) or is each person's line in the report a "record?"

For example, Ancestry.com claims the following in its company overview:

  • 20 billion records
  • 80 countries of origin
  • 100 million family trees
  • 11 billion connections

There is another statement that is supposed to help that states, "Ancestry currently manages about 10 petabytes of structured and unstructured data, including billions of records detailing births, marriages, deaths, military service, and immigration. Despite this claim, I frequently do not find what I am looking for on Ancestry.com. Sometimes I do, sometimes I don't. It is a valuable website, but the numbers do not help me find what I am looking for.

How do you compare Ancestry's claim to FamilySearch.org? FamilySearch claims 4+ billion names from all over the world but also claims 4.4 searchable records online and 1.26 billion digital images. MyHeritage.com lists 9.1 billion records in 6,532 collections. How does this compare to the other websites?

There are other websites that are also claiming to have the largest online collections of records. What does this really mean? GenealogyBank.com is a digital newspaper website. It claims over 2 billion genealogy records. What is a genealogy record in a newspaper? Isn't it possible that almost any name mentioned in a newspaper could possibly have genealogical value?

Many of these online websites are extremely valuable to genealogists doing research, but what happens if your family came from Mauritania or Tibet? Where do you go to find records about your family? Do any of the large online billions of records help at all?

I think it might be more productive if the genealogy companies acknowledged that their collections have limitations and gave you an easy way to find out if you should spend any time looking at their collections. This has happened with the FamilySearch.org Catalog, the Ancestry.com card catalog, the Findmypast.com A to Z of record sets and the MyHeritage.com Collection Catalog. But it would be nice if there was a way to quickly tell if the geographic area of your search was even part of their collections.

Saturday, August 4, 2018

Researchers discover how to transmit information at 661 Terabits per second

https://www.nature.com/articles/s41566-018-0205-5#author-information

This article, published on July 2, 2018, in its Abstract makes the claim that the named researchers have been able to send a 661 Terabits of data, equivalent to the more than the total current internet traffic through a single-mode 30-core optical fiber. The content of the article was reviewed by arstechnica.com in an article entitled, "661Tbps through a single optical fiber: The mind boggles."

I am not going to attempt to explain how this is done, but I can suggest that, if this is the case, then the cost and time of transmitting data around the world are about to drop precipitously. 

Augmenting Human Intellect and Genealogy


Artificial intelligence (AI) as applied to computer systems has been the topic of extensive research for many years. It is inevitable that some aspects of genealogy have been and will be affected by AI. However, rather than replacing humans and automating genealogy, most AI research today is aimed at a way of augmenting human activities or intellect. So what are the areas of genealogical research that can be augmented?

To understand what is happening now and what may be effects of AI in the near future, we need to understand what areas of the methodology involved in tracking down one's ancestors and relatives could be enhanced or accelerated by the application of programs utilizing AI. If we examine the basic functions of genealogical research, we can see those areas presently affected by AI and those areas that will be affected.

AI is defined as the study of "intelligent agents": any device that perceives its environment and takes actions that maximize its chance of successfully achieving its goals. Genealogical research involves several distinct functions. These can be characterized as follows:

  • Searching or reading historical documents with the goal of finding information about ancestral relationships
  • Analyzing the information obtained and determining its application to the extension of a relationship structure, i.e. extending a pedigree
  • Recording the information found in a way that includes the exact location where the information was obtained
  • Organizing the information in a way that allows others to understand the relationships discovered
  • Comparing or sharing the information added to the corpus in order to allow others to view and utilize the information obtained
  • Determine if the information is already present (duplicate record detection)
  • Communicating the information in a way that allows others to take advantage of the work without duplicating the search (duplicate work detection)
  • Connecting the information obtained to the existing information in a way that allows continued research
If you think about these and other possible functions of the genealogical research process, you can see that some, if not all of them, have already been measurably affected by intelligent computer programs. There are, however, some gaps that reflect some of the more difficult problems that remain yet unsolved. 

For example, optical character recognition technology allows a computer program to read some digitized text. Then search programs such as the current "record hint" technology provide suggested relationships expressed by the OCR text. These programs replace the need to manually transcribe the text, but some of the record hint technology is still dependent on manual indexing of the records by extracting specifically selected elements. These limitations are imposed by the idiosyncratic nature of the content and arrangement of information in historical documents. The ultimate existing limitation of text recognition is the inability of computer programs to efficiently recognize the content of handwritten historical documents. Although character recognition has made great strides, the parsing of the text within the documents is still an obstacle. This can be done with standardized entries with specifically identified information such as an address on an envelope or entries in a census form but becomes a major challenge with documents that lack formal structure such as letters, obituaries, and other handwritten documents. 

Another example comes from utilizing the current record hint technology. Although with indexed documents, the accuracy of such hints is very high, there is still a significant need for manual review of the hints to assure that they apply to the appropriate individuals. 

Record entry, especially when there is repetitious information can be measurably increased with automated entry suggestions. The danger here is that automatic information is entered when the suggestion is actually inappropriate.

Organizing masses of genealogical data has always been a huge challenge. However, the advent of large, unified, collaborative online family trees has measurably decreased the need for individual storage. 

The other aspects of the genealogical research process such as duplicate detection, communication, watching for changes in individual records and connecting relationships are semi-automated but still subject to improvement. 

Genealogy programs are becoming "smarter" all the time, but there is still a substantial need for individual human intervention and that state of affairs is not likely to change in the near future.

Thursday, August 2, 2018

Apple Stock over $1 Trillion

https://www.bbc.com/news/business-45050213
If you ever need a story about fortunes lost, you can tell mine about owning a lot of Apple stock back when it was down to $6 a share. Unfortunately, we sold the stock. They used to tell about buying land in Phoenix, Arizona on Camelback Road (a wealthy part of town) for $5 an acre, but I think this story beats that one.

A New Rule Added: The Rules of Genealogy Revisited Again



I published the first six Rules of Genealogy back on July 1, 2014. See "Six of the Basic Rules of Genealogy." This short list included the most famous and basic rule of genealogy: "When the baby was born, the mother was there." I added four rules in a post back on August 11, 2017, entitled, "New Rules Added to the old: The Rules of Genealogy Revisited." Summer must be my time for thinking of new rules. You can go back to these two original posts to read about the details of each rule.

Here is a list of those original six rules from 2014:
  • Rule One: When the baby was born, the mother was there.
  • Rule Two: Absence of an obituary or death record does not mean the person is still alive.
  • Rule Three: Every person who ever lived has a unique birth order and a unique set of biological parents.
  • Rule Four: There are always more records.
  • Rule Five: You cannot get blood out of a turnip. 
  • Rule Six: Records move. 
In 2017, I added these four rules:
  • Rule Seven: Water and genealogical information flow downhill
  • Rule Eight: Everything in Genealogy is connected (butterfly)
  • Rule Nine: There are patterns everywhere
  • Rule Ten: Read the fine print
Well, we now have another rule.

Rule Eleven:
Even a perfect fit can be wrong

The application of this rule takes some time. However, my wife and I have both had occasion recently to find instances of the application of this rule. We have found two people with the same name, born in the same year, with same wife's names, who lived in the same small town, and in my case, who died in the same year. Which one was the right ancestor? What this rule illustrates is that you cannot do too much research. It takes a considerable effort to separate people with the same names and other events in their lives and decide which one is the correct person. There is always a danger in grabbing the first name that seems to fit. But even when you find that the person comes from an appropriate location and has appropriate dates, there is still a measure of uncertainty about historical/genealogical research. You might think of this rule as the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle of Genealogy. 

This rule came to me in the middle of the night. I had to get up and write it down so I wouldn't forget it. I suggest that if you don't know the basic rules of genealogy, you are probably floating around in a lake of information without a paddle. 

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Decades-long Mystery Resolved by MyHeritage's CEO Gilad Japhet


A Decades-Long Mystery Finally Put to Rest

I think the introduction to this recently posted MyHeritage video is more than sufficient. Here is what it says about this video on YouTube.com
After countless attempts to locate long-lost family members who disappeared in the former Soviet Union, Rani Markovich always assumed that he would never be able to reunite with his grandfather’s lost family. All this changed when Rani enlisted the help of Founder and CEO of MyHeritage, Gilad Japhet. With Gilad’s help, the Markovitch family’s decades-long mystery was finally put to rest. Read their intriguing story that includes separation, the KGB, the Iron Curtain, and more.  
Watch the emotional family reunion between the two cousins who met for the first time.
I might note that MyHeritage.com currently has 9.1 billion records ready to search for your family.

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Comments on Traditional Genealogical Research


As genealogy, either seriously undertaken or casually pursued, continues to dramatically change, it is important to reflect on whether or not the changes in genealogical methodology occasioned by the claimed technological advances add real value to the process or are only window dressing presented as advances. At the same time, we need to consider the plight of those who cling to traditional methodology and make sure that we are not abandoning much that has a continuing value.

Presently, those who adhere to traditionally oriented genealogical research methodology are decreasing in numbers rather rapidly. 1975 is the date of the introduction of the first personal computers and that date can represent the watershed between the strictly traditional method of doing genealogical research and all the subsequent changes. A quick calculation shows that, as of the date of this post, if you were born in the year personal computers were introduced, you would now be 43 years old. But in reality, if you could push the 1975 year date back at least ten years because those younger than 10 years old in 1975 are not likely to remember a world without personal computers. So the effective watershed date for those who began doing genealogical research before personal computers became available is limited to people who are in their late 50s or early 60s.

Why then do we still have people who distrust and eschew the use of computers in genealogical research? Probably for the same reasons we have a significant number of people who reject modern society in its entirety and still use horses for their major means of transportation.

What are the main features of the "traditional" pre-computer genealogical research? Well, these features are shared by research in almost any topic or subject. Since I did a significant amount of original research prior to 1975 and much more before computers became generally available in the 1980s, I have a personal perspective on the changes. I started doing genealogical research in 1982 and that happened to coincide with my first purchase of a personal computer; an Apple II. Of course, early genealogical research before the introduction of the internet was merely a computerized replication of paper-based genealogical research. The cumulative impact of technology is still being felt and appreciated.

Over the years that I have been publically writing about genealogy as a topic, I have addressed this issue several times, but since technology continues to rapidly evolve and as those who lived before personal computers continue to die off, I feel it is important to understand where technology is taking genealogical research and whether or not we are losing anything in the process.

Let me start with a hypothetical situation. Let's suppose that M was beginning her genealogical research in the pre-computer era. M could start by recording what she personally knew of the names and associated information about her immediate ancestors. Assuming she had contact with some older relatives, she could also write letters asking for further information. If she was acquainted with others interested in genealogy, she could reach out for help and suggestions. She may or may not have decided to record her information in a pedigree and family group record format. Unless she happened to be submitting her research to some sort of organization such as a genealogical society or for publication, her method of recording the information she obtained would be entirely idiosyncratic. Depending on her persistence, over time, her genealogical records consisted of pages of notes, letters and responses, photos, documents and other memorabilia.

Where did she get information about her family before the internet and when she ran out of living family members to question? She had to physically visit libraries and archives and copy out the information she found. However, there are some issues that were going on that are not obvious. M had little or no way to determine if other members of her extended ancestral family were working on the same individuals and families. As a side note at this point, I would mention that I spent more than 15 years doing genealogical research and accumulated a two-foot-high pile of family group records before I decided that I have probably acquired most of what had already been done about my own family. Here we have the core issue of pre-computerized genealogy: the total lack of ability on the part of a researcher to determine if other people had already done the research. In my hypothetical, M could spend her entire life doing genealogical research and find out that much of what she had done was duplicated somewhere else. In effect, it does not matter how meticulous or careful M was in her research, there was always a possibility that she was simply rehashing what someone had already done and likely published. This fact is abundantly illustrated by the huge number of duplicate entries in the current online genealogy family tree programs.

Even if we minimize the impact of the potential for duplication, M's ability to discover information about her family beyond what had been accumulated and shared with her, was extremely limited. It could take years for M to extend her family line a few generations. The next major obstacle was M's ability to determine if the information she had acquired was accurate or not. Since the norm at that time was that researchers worked in total or semi-isolation, it was always possible that she had made a wrong conclusion based on faulty or insufficient documentation and was researching unrelated families. As I reviewed the work that had been done in my own family primarily from the accumulation of family group records in the Salt Lake City, Utah Family History Library, I found and I am still finding inaccurately connected families.

What happened to M's research when she died? In some cases, it was passed down to another interested genealogist. In many cases, it was entirely lost and the subsequent researchers had to start over from scratch. I had the benefit and burden of inheriting a huge amount of family history. I am still working on sorting and recording all of the tens of thousands of pages of information about some of my family lines. At the same time, I am painfully aware that some people have almost no information about their families when they acquire their interest in doing research about their family.

Let me extend my hypothetical situation a little. Let's suppose that M works through all of her research and publishes what she has found in a book. We have many of this type of book available to us today. Because M was the only person actively doing research, the book is mainly based on her opinions and conclusions. Since she had done all the work to compile the information, she saw no need to justify or provide sources for her conclusions. It never occurred to her that anyone would disagree with what she had written. In fact, this isolation allowed M to reproduce her own interpretation of her family history. She could ignore the less attractive aspects of her family history and emphasize the more appealing ones. Because M was the "authority" on her family's history, subsequent researchers simply copied her work and passed it on as true. In a sense, the stories and information in the book became almost scriptural. It became heresy to question M or her conclusions.

There was another aspect of genealogy that arose in this pre-computer time. Because access to original records was severely limited and because genealogical research was hugely time-consuming, people would pay others to research their families. Genealogy as a persuasion became genealogy as a profession. However, the supply and the demand for professional genealogists were extremely limited. The number of "professional" genealogists in the entire world was limited to a few hundred active individuals. These professionals were clustered around the major sources of information such as the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah, the National Archives in Washington, D.C., and other such institutions and archives around the world. Additionally, the professionals, because of the limits on time and availability, became "expert" in doing research in defined geographic areas. We still have significant vestiges of this geographically oriented genealogical research today.

We have a tendency to view "traditional" genealogical research in the same category as we would a piece of fine art or handicraft. We often think of traditional genealogists in the way we view extensive fine handicraft today. We tout the craftsmanship of "traditional" values. The reality is far different. My opinion, much of the work done by traditional genealogists has questionable value. I could give hundreds of examples. The main thrust of the information revolution vanguarded by access to computers and the internet has been to provide us universally with information to verify and correct the work done previously. Some of it is correct and valuable. DNA testing, online family trees, and vastly improved access and communication have all contributed to the reduction in duplication, and wrong conclusions of the past. We still have a huge overburden of traditional research methodology. But that is a topic I have written about in the past many times and will probably write about again.

Just as we would not now go back to riding horses to travel across our country unless we had a specific goal or reason to do so, we are not about to go back to the "traditional" ways of doing research.

Monday, July 30, 2018

Posts from The Family History Guide

http://www.thefhguide.com/blog/overcoming-myths-and-mistakes-in-your-family-history/?utm_source=The+Family+History+Guide+Association+Blog+Main&utm_campaign=6613948444-RSS_EMAIL_CAMPAIGN&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_41be9f9d3a-6613948444-283099673
You may not be aware that The Family History Guide regularly posts to a blog. You can subscribe to the blog by email and learn about all the new features on the website as well as other topics. This featured article by Bob Taylor illustrates a common problem faced by many beginning genealogists; separating fact from fiction when it comes to family stories and traditions.

I might also remind everyone that The Family History Guide is sponsored by a non-profit corporation called The Family History Guide Association. All of the support for The Family History Guide website and other activities comes from volunteer help (like my participation) or from tax-deductible donations from contributors. For example, we have an upcoming RootsTech 2019 Conference and The Family History Guide would like to be there to teach about using the website. The reality is that this takes not only volunteers to attend and teach and staff the booth, but money. Yes, money. Contributing to The Family History Guide Association makes this possible. Take some time to visit The Family History Guide Association website and consider making a donation. I am only writing about this subject because I am convinced that The Family History Guide is part of the solution for helping more people become involved in learning about their family history.

http://www.thefhguide.com/association.html



Sunday, July 29, 2018

FamilySearch Adds 29 Million Netherlands Records

https://media.familysearch.org/familysearch-adds-29-million-netherlands-records/#.W1ySPzPGiAM.facebook
With the addition of 29 million new, free, historical records from the Netherlands, FamilySearch.org now has over 65 million images and indexes from the Netherlands. Quoting from the above press release:
The freely searchable collections are comprised of birth, baptism, marriage, death, church, notarial, army service and passenger list records and population registers. Some of the records date back to 1564. Considering the population of the Netherlands is 17 million people today, the size of these collections makes it highly likely family historians will find the ancestors they’re seeking. 
The breadth of record types now available provide a fantastic opportunity to learn more about a Dutch ancestor’s life. 
There are also 12 free learning courses to help those searching Dutch ancestry and online volunteer indexing projects to make additional Netherlands records freely accessible.
As we have discovered, my wife and I both have some relatives in the distant past from the Netherlands. These records enable us to do research in this area.

Friday, July 27, 2018

What do I need to know to Attend RootsTech 2019?

RootsTech 2019

If you are involved in family history or genealogy at any level, you will find something at a RootsTech Conference of interest and value. The main sponsor of the RootsTech 2019 Conference is FamilySearch, the worldwide genealogical organization sponsored by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. This is by no means a "religiously oriented" conference. It is pure family history and genealogy. However, on the last day of the Conference, members of the Church are invited to attend special sessions directed at their particular interests. RootsTech 2019 will take place on four days, from February 27th to March 2nd, 2019. The Saturday, March 2nd date is designated Family Discovery Day and that is when the members of the Church are most involved. 

RootsTech 2019 takes place in Salt Lake City, Utah in the city's large convention center called the Salt Palace. The Salt Palace is located in the middle of the downtown area of Salt Lake and is literally across the street from a huge shopping mall called the City Creek Center. It is also surrounded by a number of hotels. Some of those hotels have a "special" rate for the duration of the Conference, but those reservations get snatched up fairly quickly. You can see the hotels that may be participating at this link:


Make sure to ask for any specials specifically for the Conference. 

Salt Lake City has an extensive public transportation system with light rail service to and from the airport that also comes quite near many of the hotels that surround the Salt Palace. When we lived in Arizona, we stayed in one of the nearby hotels. But now that we live in Provo, Utah just a few miles to the south, we have tried using the FrontRunner Train that runs from Provo to downtown Salt Lake. We find that not so convenient because the Conference activities last well into the night. We have also stayed with relatives in the Salt Lake Area and driven downtown for the Conference each day. We find parking to be less than ideal but possible. If there is another major event downtown, parking can be at a premium. If you are used to paying for parking in other major cities, you will not be surprised at the cost. 

You do need to realize that Salt Lake City is a major skiing destination. You also need to realize that February/March is near the height of the ski season. This means that the airport is often very crowded and some flights are completely booked. You should make travel plans early. Salt Lake City is also at an elevation of 4200 feet above sea level and parts of the city go much higher on the surrounding mountains. Also, you need to be prepared for inclement weather with snow, ice and freezing temperatures common. Those of us who live there don't notice the altitude or the freezing weather all that much, but it can be a shock if you are coming from a warm climate. 

Salt Lake City is not a big city as big cities go, but it does have big city problems of homelessness, panhandlers and such. You do need to be careful about going into some areas of the city at night and be aware of the usual personal security issues present in larger cities across the U.S. 

Now, Salt Lake City is the genealogist's dream location. The Family History Library, the largest family history library in the world, is within walking distance of the Salt Palace, but you need to know that Salt Lake City blocks are one-eighth of a mile long. The Salt Palace is almost a quarter mile long and a quarter mile wide. You do a lot of walking if you attend RootsTech. Remember there are thousands of people attending the RootsTech Conference and many of them would like to visit the Family History Library. I suggest that if you are serious about doing research during your trip to Salt Lake, that you come early to the Conference or stay for a few days after the Conference is over and spend that time at the Library. 

You should also bear in mind that the Salt Lake City area has three major universities and many other attractions. The Brigham Young University campus is about 45 miles south of Salt Lake City and has the Brigham Young University Family History Library, the second largest family history library in the world. The Salt Palace is also within walking distance of the world famous Temple Square and usually, there is a special concert by the Tabernacle Choir during the conference for Conference attendees. The program for 2019 has yet to be announced so you will see lots of blogs posts from me as the schedule is made known. 

If you have any particular questions about the conference or Salt Lake or come early or stay late and want to have me help you with some research either in Salt Lake or Provo, let me know well in advance so I can calendar my time. During the Conference, I will likely be very busy, but as I always write, please take some time to say hello. 




Australian National Library's 50th Anniversary Celebration

https://www.nla.gov.au/blogs/trove/2018/07/24/troves-treasures-politics
During 2018, the National Library of Australia celebrates the 50th anniversary of its iconic building.

https://www.nla.gov.au/faq/category/library-services
Trove, the Library's digital discovery service, is joining the celebrations with '50 Objects': a tour of 50 of the most interesting and important records in Trove. Every week, for the next ten weeks, we'll be featuring fascinating Trove treasures on our blog, in an ode to digitally accessible Australian content.

https://trove.nla.gov.au/
You may or may not be able to see from this screenshot that the National Library of Australia's online digital collections now include 586,694,966 images. Whenever I mention this tremendous online collection to genealogists, I get a comment about not having Australian ancestors. I happen to have three ancestral lines that have ties to Australia and my ancestors in two of the lines settled in Australia in the 1850s and subsequently, I have perhaps hundreds (thousands?) of Australian cousins.

However, if you have ancestors from Great Britain, Ireland, or even Western Europe, you may very well have some relatives in Australia that share your English, Welsh, Scottish, or Irish heritage.

During the next few weeks, I will be highlighting my Australian ancestors and their descendants. Stay tuned.

Thursday, July 26, 2018

There is a Definite Move towards 12 TB Hard Drives



For some time now, the most cost-effective hard drives have been those with 8 Terabytes of storage capacity. 8 TB hard drives are presently about $149 on Amazon.com. It is hard to imagine using all that capacity unless you are a gamer, collect videos or a professional photographer. Hmm. I forgot to mention dedicated hoarder genealogist who loves to digitize everything and saves ever image found online. But what about 12 TB? Does this huge capacity make sense? 

Huge capacity hard drives do make sense for people who are running large businesses or managing server farms for online storage. 12 TB hard drives are mostly only available at the time of this post as internal hard drives; designed to be put in servers or in storage arrays. Right now, the price of an internal (without a case) hard drive is about $400 or so. 

I have recently posted about the need for backing up the files on your computer and other devices, so I won't go through all that again, but the main issue here is the cost of storage and that has become negligible compared to the cost of replacing or reconstructing lost data. 

What do I use to back up my massive data files (currently about 8+ Terabytes)? I have 3 TB of internal storage on my main hard drive in my computer. That is backed up to a dedicated 8 TB external hard drive by Apple's Time Machine program. The extra files, not on my internal hard drive, are backed up to three separate 8 TB external hard drives, each of which has a copy of all my old files and photos and scans. The entire system, including all of the external hard drives, is also backed up multiple times a day to BackBlaze.com

Will I move to 12 TB drives when I need to replace an existing drive? That will depend on the cost of 12 TB external hard drives and how much data I have accumulated when I have the need.

Findmypast Joins the DNA Lineup

Click to see original

As you can see from the notice above, Findmypast.com has joined the ranks of the other large online genealogical database programs and is now featuring its own DNA test. This one appears to be designed to attract those with ancestors from Britain and Ireland. I am sure as soon as the results start to appear, we will have a number of comments comparing the tests to researched pedigrees.

However, this test seems to make sense for those who have primarily ancestors from this area of the world.

https://www.livingdna.com/
LivingDNA.com is a British company. Quoting from their website:
Living DNA is a collaboration of over 100 world-leading scientists, academic researchers, and genetic experts.  
The team is led by DNA Worldwide Group, a DNA testing company, whose services are used by every court in the UK. The company is run by David Nicholson and Hannah Morden who saw an opportunity to show humanity that we are all made up of all of us, dissolving the concept of race. The chosen laboratory partner of Living DNA in Europe is Eurofins Scientific, the world leader of bio analytical testing with 25.000 staff in 39 countries, delivering secure and clinical grade testing.  
It was launched in 2016 after two years of intensive development but its parent company DNA Worldwide Group has been operating since 2004. 
Actually, having new options for taking DNA tests is a really good idea. Each of the companies will have a different database and will be able to provide information not available from the other companies.

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Genealogy's Star is on Facebook

https://www.facebook.com/Genealogysstar/
For someone who is so wrapped up in social media, I still have a tendency to ignore Facebook. I usually notified by email if someone mentions me or posts to anything I post, but otherwise, I am not in the habit of checking the Facebook news stream other than very occasionally. However, I have had a Facebook page for Genealogy's Star for some time. Unfortunately, the page was somewhat neglected and I hadn't posted anything there for a while. I decided to make an effort to post more frequently.

I started by adding social media links to each of my blogs. I then decided to post the blog links to my Genealogy's Star page. This gives my readers the option of viewing the blog posts from the Facebook page. As usual, you can make comments on Facebook or on the blog posts directly or you can email me directly or call me on the phone or try and find me in person.

Thanks in advance for liking my Facebook page and posts.

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

24% of Computer Users Never Back Up Their Data

https://www.backblaze.com/blog/computer-backup-awareness-in-2018/?utm_source=Email&utm_medium=Newsletter-B1&utm_content=computerbackupmonth2018-b&utm_campaign=Newsletter-20180710
According to a study from the Harris Poll commissioned by BackBlaze.com, 24% of computer users never back up their data. Hopefully, none of this percentage are genealogists. What is more disturbing, only about 6% of the computer users back up their data on a daily basis.

Personally, I have two complete backups daily; one to Backblaze and another to an external hard drive using TimeMachine. During the past few years, I have had to restore my entire system due to a major internal hard drive failure. For me, this clearly shows the need for consistency in backing up my data.

There are a number of online data storage companies that provide backup services. These include offerings from Apple, Microsoft, and Amazon, but these services are not comprehensive, i.e. they do not include your operating system and all your programs. When my main hard drive crashed, I used the TimeMachine backup to restore my files, but even with TimeMachine, the process took many hours of time to load all the information and return to the point when the drive went bad. I cannot imagine trying to restore all the Terabytes of information I have without a comprehensive backup.

At the very least, go out an buy an external drive and back up your important files. The cost of a 8 Terabyte hard drive has dropped to about $149 on Amazon.com. How many hours of work would you have to do if your system crashed, was destroyed in a catastrophe, or was stolen?

If you need help getting started with backing up your data, there are many other genealogists who, I am sure, would be willing to help. Get busy today and save yourself some major grief.

Another Win for Reclaim the Records: The New Jersey Death Index

https://www.newjerseydeathindex.com/
Another stunning victory for Reclaim the Records. Here is the announcement from a recent email:
The New Jersey State Department of Health actually responded to our attorney's request in record time, and without a fight. We're guessing that they probably looked her up online and realized we'd hired the most badass OPRA attorney in the state, and then wisely decided not to stonewall or ignore us. 
This was a far cry from their attitude a year ago when genealogist Alec Ferretti tried to get a copy of the very same death index from the New Jersey Department of Health on his own. Oh no, said an attorney for the state to Alec, we can't just give you a copy of the death index! Why, we have rules about mortality data, and privacy! So very many rules! 
Well, this is why Reclaim The Records is constantly fundraising so that we can hire attorneys — because while the various state Freedom of Information laws are supposed to treat all citizens fairly, in practice it seems that the citizens with attorneys get treated just a little better. 
So, we drafted a new OPRA request, and our attorney sent it out under her name, and this time the state didn't fight us. Funny how that works, right? 
Anyway, the New Jersey Department of Health sent us every death index record they had, delivered as files on a USB stick. But it turns out that even the state Department of Health, who are legally required to keep these records, don't actually have all of them anymore. Even though that's, like, their job. 
We were able to get all of the New Jersey death index records for about half of 1920-1924, all of 1925-1929, and then from 1949 to 2017! The files prior to 2001 are available in PDF format, each of them scanned images of typeset pages and old dot-matrix printouts. And the newer files from 2001-2017 are in two text spreadsheet (.CSV) files exported from the state's own databases, and are text-searchable immediately. 
But come on, who wants to sit and tediously search through spreadsheets? Nah, let's do something better with all that data. 
Introducing www.NewJerseyDeathIndex.com 
Your one-stop shop for everything you ever wanted to know about the New Jersey Death Index, with a searchable database of over 1.2 million records for 2001-2017 and direct links to over 500,000 digital images for the not-yet-transcribed 1901-2000 data. It's all there and it's all free, free, free!
What can I say more than that?

Monday, July 23, 2018

Registration Now Open for MyHeritage'a International User Conference

You’re Invited to MyHeritage’s International User Conference!
Registration is now open to anyone, from anywhere in the world, who would like to learn more about MyHeritage – including subscribers, DNA customers, those with free basic accounts, and those who haven’t used MyHeritage yet but would like to find out more. The MyHeritage LIVE Conference will take place on the weekend of 2–4 November 2018 in Oslo, Norway.

For more information about the Conference see the MyHeritage.com blog post linked here:

You’re Invited to MyHeritage’s International User Conference!