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

Monday, October 15, 2018

First Ever Virtual Online International Genealogy Conference

Family History Expos' Pirates of the Pedigree is the first virtual, online, international genealogy conference and it can be watched and enjoyed from home for free. If you have been to a local genealogy conference recently, you may have had a few vendor companies attending your event. The Family History Expos event has over 70 vendors from around the world including many genealogy societies and major online genealogy companies such as You can visit all these vendors and save your back and feet. You can chat directly with many of the vendors and connect with the rest through email.

The event starts today, October 15, 2018, and will run through Saturday October 20, 2018. See this link to find out more and attend this first ever event.

Here is the video and basic blurb: proudly presents PIRATES OF THE PEDIGREE, the 2018 International Virtual Family History Expo this week 15-20 October 2018. It’s free and easy to watch online.

It’s free to watch, but to view the recording and the handouts, register at‬ 

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Looking for a Recipe for Genealogy?

Julia Child's Kitchen at the Smithsonian American History Museum
If you have ever eaten something that you liked a lot, you may have thought about getting the recipe. Recipe and food websites are some of the most popular on the internet. Too bad we don't have a recipe for genealogy that would show us step by step how to make well-made family trees. Wait a minute. We do have a recipe for genealogy. It is called The Family History Guide. It is a well organized, step-by-step way to become extremely proficient in doing genealogical research and have your own well-made family tree.

If you can follow the instruction to make a simple meal, you already have all the skills you need to get started becoming a great family historian. The instructions are all on the free, organized, sequentially organized website called The Family History Guide.

The Family History Guide takes the complication of genealogical tasks and breaks them down into pleasant bite-sized chunks of information that will have you progressing along to mastery. Your learning experience will be aided by thousands of instructional documents and videos. You can do all of this for free.

Saturday, October 13, 2018

Looking Beyond Genealogy Websites

Because of the huge number of resources available on four or five of the largest genealogy websites, we have a tendency to focus primarily on those resources sometimes to the exclusion of other valuable genealogical records. Perhaps, we need to step back a bit and take a longer view of the genealogical research process and adjust our research habits and methodologies to the reality of document and record availability.

Let me start with a hypothetical situation. Let's suppose that I needed to do some research in North Carolina, United States for an ancestor. I could begin my research by "touching the bases" and checking for the ancestor's name etc. in each of the big online database programs. Because I touched all four or five bases does that mean I have now made a "home run" and can retire from the field? Not at all. What do I do next?

Any search we do online with websites assumes that we have accurate and complete search criteria. This means that we know the variations in the name of our ancestor and all the places where that ancestor lived. Let me give an example. Suppose I am looking for this ancestor:

Cornelius Dollarhide, b. 1746 in North Carolina, United States, d. February 1838 in unknown.

Hmm. Where would I begin to look for this person? You say the answer is obvious, you look in North Carolina. I say, maybe and maybe not. Neither the birth nor the death dates are exact and neither of the dates is associated with a specific location. One thing I did discover with my search is that there are a number of men named Cornelius Dollarhide or with variations of that name who lived about the same time in North Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, Kentucky, and even Maryland. Which of all of those potential candidates is my target person? The main issue turned out to be between a Cornelius in Kentucky and one in Tennessee.

I began the process of expanding my research by looking in records outside of those readily searchable on the main large genealogy websites. I found my first breakthrough on a website called, "The American Revolution in North Carolina." To understand why finding a record of Cornelius in this website was important, we have to step back and look at other details. First of all, this family's verified family line comes from Mississippi. So we need to find out how they got there. It is also essential that we look at the dates and places to determine the jurisdictions of the places at the time of the events. For example, Mississippi did not become a state until December 10, 1817. Kentucky did not become a state until June 1, 1792. Tennessee was made a state on June 1, 1796. Why do these dates matter? When doing genealogical research we look for records created at or near the time of the event in the jurisdiction of the time of the event. In this family, the Cornelius' son, Thomas Jefferson Dollahite said he was born in Tennessee in every census from 1850 to 1880. Since Tennessee became a state in 1796 and the son was born in 1814, he could have been born in Tennessee. It follows that if we find the son's father is Cornelius in Tennessee, then we have good indications that we are looking at Tennessee as the place where this family lived rather than Kentucky.

At this point, I still need more information to conclude that the family in Tennessee is the same as the family in North Carolina notwithstanding the fact that Tennessee was originally a part of North Carolina. I found additional helpful information in the following book available on Google Books.

Hale, Will T. 1913. A history of Tennessee and Tennesseans: the leaders and representative men in commerce, industry, and modern activities. Chicago: Lewis Pub. Co.

In that book, it states that the Dollahite (Dollarhide) family came from North Carolina and were early settlers of Henry County, Tennessee.

As I continue to do research using a variety of sources, each new piece of information will help me to be more and more accurate. The cumulative sum of the information I find will eventually be enough to conclude that the family came from North Carolina.

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Social Media is not Data Storage: Google to Shut Down Google+

During the past couple of years, many people, including genealogists, have been transitioning their blogs to social media such as Facebook etc. They have also used social media websites for "genealogy" storing photos and documents online. The recent announcement made by Google that it will be "sunsetting consumer Google+" highlights the dependence all of the users of social networking websites have on the continuation of what is essentially a business to make money. None of the online social networking websites is "permanent." They are all totally dependent on the whims and goals of those who own and run them.

At the very least, if you are using a social networking website to "store" your photos or other content, you should backup all of your data to another storage media constantly and regularly. When I say "another storage media," I do not mean another social networking website. I mean your computer's storage. Any data that you wish to preserve should also be backed up to hard drives, flash drives, and online data storage.

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Digital Strategy at the Library of Congress

Apparently, the Library of Congress is finally beginning a comprehensive plan to digitize some of their vast collections of records. As the claimed largest library in the world, they are certainly not the leader in the number and value of their online offerings. As genealogists, the recent history of the Library of Congress is far from promising. On November 25, 2013, the Library of Congress closed its Local History and Genealogy Reading Room and moved the reference collection into the "stacks." Access to this traditional genealogical resource is now in the Main Reading room. From my own experience, without guidance, a first-time user would not be able to find the books and other resources.

There is also an inherent contradiction in the current efforts of the Library of Congress due to the fact that they are also the agency responsible for the controversial access policies inherent in the United States Copyright Law because the Copyright Office is an integral part of the Library. Because of Congressional action, use and access to many valuable research materials have been overwhelmingly restricted. It does seem unlikely that the governmental agency most responsible for "protecting" and limiting access to intellectual resources should become the leader in making those same resources available.

Policies and budgetary constraints at both the Library of Congress and the National Archives have severely limited the number and availability of digitized records from both institutions. It would be a huge change if this present plan includes real changes in the number and availability to access items in both institutions collections.

It will be interesting to see what will happen, although I do not expect any significant changes during what is left of my lifetime. As a final comment, I would suggest that the Internet Archive or may become the largest library in the world considering its growth during the past few months and years assuming they catch up with the National Library of Australia.

Sunday, October 7, 2018

Beware of Bogus Facebook Friend Requests

I have seen a rise again in bogus Facebook friend requests. When you receive a friend request, you can certainly decline and delete the request. There is no obligation at all to accept any requests. However, you might get a request from someone you know or who may be part of your "interest group." In some cases, you may recognize the person and think, "don't I already have them as a friend?" In many cases, the answer is yes.

What is happening is that Facebook parasites are creating or cloning fake copies of existing Facebook people and then sending out friend requests to get huge numbers of friends. They can then use the bogus friend to send out spam posts.  The easiest solution to this problem is to check any new friend requests against your existing friends. Simply use the name of the person on the friend request and search your list of friends. If you find that you already have the person as a friend then delete the duplicate request.

The person who has been duplicated does not know about and cannot control the duplication. This is a serious bug in the Facebook program and probably results in millions of bogus "people" on the program.

Other bogus friend requests appear to be real people. You can detect that they are bogus by the fact that their photo is usually a woman and the accompanying photos are suggestive. These fake requests are almost always from undesirable or pornographic websites. One other way to detect these fake friend requests is that they usually have a very small number of friends. Think about it, why would someone you do not know send you a friend request as one of their first friends?

This is a major problem with Facebook and could ultimately ruin the entire program.

Don't respond to any request in Facebook that asks you to click on any link. Here is that type of bogus request that came through Messenger:

I suppose that should Facebook become unusable, we can all move to something else.

Saturday, October 6, 2018

Looking at Genealogy as Information

Back in 1948, Claude E. Shannon published a groundbreaking paper entitled, "A Mathematical Theory of Communication." This paper is viewed as the foundation for the development of electronic computers and the transmission of information over electronic circuits. However, there are many of the concepts in that first paper and in the subsequent development of information theory that relate directly to the creation of an online family tree, particularly of the type implemented on the website known as the "Family Tree." The concepts of the general theory of the transmission of information can be applied to genealogy by analogy.

Here is a schematic diagram of a general communication system:
If we substitute genealogical terminology, the analogy becomes obvious.
If we view genealogy as a system with information sources as the input and accurate family trees as the output, then we should begin focusing on reducing the noise or unsupported information and increasing the quality of the signal or enhancing the level of support for the conclusions made by entering information in our individual records. What is the underlying principle upon which we can "tune" our genealogical information stream? The one tuning principle is adherence to a strict consideration of the location of each event recorded. It is certainly true that people move around, but the main challenge of genealogical research is attaching the events in a person's life to very specific geographical locations. The benefit of focusing on the location of the events is evident in the reduction of unsupported information. Additionally, we can conclude that any information that is unsupported by researched sources is no more than noise.

Looking at genealogy in this way emphasizes the importance of careful and documented information. This goes back to the early saying about computer programming: garbage in -- garbage out. Here is a good example.

Pirates of the Pedigree

Here is a press release from Family History Expos' President Holly Hansen about the upcoming virtual conference called "Pirates of the Pedigree." I will be presenting on Saturday, at 8:00 am, MDT.
October is a wonderful month, especially after the typically sultry weeks of late summer. Known for its brilliantly colored fall leaves and the holidays of Columbus Day and Halloween, this October brings Pirates of the Pedigree, a first-of-its-kind, world-wide event for all family historians. 
Beginning on Monday, October 15, a full week filled with 58 classes will be broadcast over the internet. Holly T. Hansen, president of the company, has gathered an outstanding group of presenters to teach in their area of expertise. 
As if the classes weren’t enough to entice you to participate, check out the wonderful Sponsors and Vendors. What an impressive collection of businesses focused on serving the needs of genealogists! 
We’re gearing up for a fun week, with some activities preceding the event. The first one is being announced with this notice. Play along! 
Registration is still open. At $99.00 for the entire event, each class costs under $2.00! In addition, you will receive the handouts and extended access to watch the class presentation videos over and over. The extended access will be especially helpful if the original broadcast is at a time that is inconvenient for you. 
A selected number of classes will be made available at no charge. However, handouts and extended access will not be included without a registration.  
Join us for this groundbreaking event in the world of family history. Visit us at to get the full panoramic picture of Pirates of the Pedigree.

Thursday, October 4, 2018

Don't Forget to Look at Probate Inventories, Accountings and Sales

An example of a probate inventory and valuation
For hundreds and in some cases, thousands of years, the transfer of a person's property after death has been the subject of legal or governmental action. These procedures imposed at death are collectively referred to as probate actions and almost every country of the world has developed some form of this structured transfer of property. Our system of probate in the United States is primarily derived from English law. Because probate actions involve the transfer of interests in personal and real property, there are a huge number of records of these transactions. None of these records were kept for the purpose of benefitting genealogists or genealogical research. Most of the time, the interest of the community in handling probate matters was concerned with taxes imposed on the transfer of the decedent's interest in the property.

For the past month's, my wife and I have been serving a Senior Mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as Record Preservation Specialists for FamilySearch. We have been working in the Maryland State Archives helping to digitize probate records. During our work of digitizing these records, we have been impressed by their immense value for genealogical research. Unfortunately, most researchers who even know to use probate records consider wills to be the chief records and the only ones of value. I don't want to understate the value of wills, but the entire probate process includes a whole series of valuable records. Some of the valuable types of records usually classified as probate records include the following:
  • Wills
  • Estate inventories and accountings
  • Reports of sales
  • Guardianships
  • Indentures
and here in a former slave state, Certificates of Freedom. In addition, there are all the Court's procedural documents, signatures, and the other associated documents that also contain valuable information. The inventories and accounts of sale are some of the most interesting documents. Here in Maryland, and elsewhere, they list all of the names of those who purchase items from the estate sale. These lists often include the names of all of the family members living in the general area of the location of the deceased's property. These lists also indicate the economic level of the deceased and provide an insight into the types of property owned. In short, they are not only helpful for research, but they are also fascinating. 

Monday, October 1, 2018

Expanded Commentary on The Rules of Genealogy: Rule One

I have been referring to the Rules of Genealogy for some time now and I thought it was about time to produce an expanded commentary on each of the existing eleven rules and who knows, I may discover another rule before I am finished with this commentary. Here I go with Rule One.

Rule One: When the baby was born, the mother was there.

This is a surprisingly simply stated rule that has a complex background and application. Rule One has its origin in the almost universal ignorance of history and geography of the practitioners of genealogy. It is also my experience that even those who know both the history and geography consistently make errors based on their failure to apply their own knowledge. It is also interesting that when someone does not know something, they are usually unaware of their lack of knowledge. My comments are not intended to apply to those few genealogists who have an extensive background in history and/or geography and particularly political history. I also do not exclude myself from this category when I do research in an area of the world with which I am unfamiliar.

The crux of this rule is the common practice of identifying people by name and date and ignoring the location of events in their lives. Genealogical research should always (ALWAYS) begin with an identification of the exact location of an event in an ancestor or relative's life. Even though I write about this frequently, I always have the impression that I am trying to wear away a glass wall as amply illustrated by the November 28, 2015 episode of Dr. Who entitled, "Heaven Sent." Dr. Who's wall is made of Azbantium, a mineral 400 times harder than diamond.

Well, just like Dr. Who, I will keep pounding on the wall until I stop writing because of whatever cause.

Unless you happen to believe in the multi-universe theory, everything that happens in our particular timeline is associated with a specific geographic location on this earth. In order for an event to become discoverable through historical/genealogical research, some record has to be made of the event beginning at the time the event occurs. However, let's assume that the event is not immediately reduced to a physical record as can happen with oral histories or recording memories. We can assume, and usually do, that the longer the time between the event and the physical recording of the event, the greater possibility exists that the event is not memorialized accurately. There are a number of different ways that historians and genealogists have expressed these phenomena such as using the terms "primary sources" and "secondary sources."

Using the birth of a baby as the basis of the rule comes from the physical fact that the mother of the baby is always present at the birth. The rule refers to the common issue of finding that children listed with a particular set of parents were born in different places making it highly unlikely that they are actually the children of the mother listed in the family. There is also a reference to the fact that the mother has to be alive when the baby is born or die at about the same time of the birth. The corollary to this rule is that the father does not have to be present when the baby is born and so locating events in a mother's life are inherently more reliable than the location of events in a father's life.

This rule is the first rule of genealogical research because I usually have to point out this fact and repeat the rule on a very regular basis when I am doing research with or for another person. I could examine any extended family tree such as the Family Tree or any other such compilation of user-submitted genealogy and find multiple instances of the violation of this rule in a matter of minutes. I don't usually find too many people who want to take me up on this challenge.