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

Saturday, November 9, 2019

An Update on the Rules of Genealogy


An Update on the Rules of Genealogy

You may or may not have read the blog posts but now you can view the video with all twelve of the Rules of Genealogy. Just in case you need a list, here is the latest list.
  • 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. 
  • 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
  • Rule Eleven: Even a perfect fit can be wrong
  • Rule Twelve: The end is always there
You never know, there might be another rule somewhere out there in the genealogical universe waiting to be discovered. 

How Good are Genealogical Search Engines?

Every time you look for information online whether from Google or from a dedicated genealogical database program, you are using a search engine. The formal definition of a search engine is a program that searches for and identifies items in a database that correspond to keywords or characters specified by the user, used especially for finding particular sites on the World Wide Web. See Google.com. The application of the term, "search engine" has expanded over the years to include programs that search within specific databases that are open to searches on the World Wide Web. Very few people today make a distinction between the use of the general term "internet" and that part of the entire internet defined as the World Wide Web. In fact, use of the term "World Wide Web" has fallen into disuse outside of the acronym "www" used in a Uniform Resource Locator or URL, i.e. and address of a page (website) on the World Wide Web.

As a genealogical researcher, in order to do your research, you have two options: use a database program with a searchable index to the content of the digital images of historical documents or search the original documents word by word yourself either from paper or digital copies. If the database (website) you are searching supports user searches, your search is made by using a dedicated search engine.

The indexes that are the basis of a search engine's capabilities are either compiled manually by employees, sub-contractors, or volunteers or by programs that compile indexes from documents that have been subjected to optical character recognition. Presently, there are no computer programs that can efficiently extract information from historical hand-written documents although progress is rapidly being made towards this goal.

Obtaining results from using an online search engine is dependent on both the accuracy of the search engine's algorithms and the searching skills of the researcher. Algorithms An algorithm is a process or set of rules to be followed in calculations or other problem-solving operations, especially by a computer. Because the results obtained from using any particular search engine is partially dependent on the searching skills of the researcher, improvement in obtaining useful results comes mainly from the increased skill of the researcher.

One of the most common criticisms of search engines is that they give you too much information. My standard search for comparison of search engines over the years has been the name of my Great-grandfather, Henry Martin Tanner. Using the name of an ancestor to compare search engines is entirely unfair because none of the online genealogical databases have the same records. Because most of the records for Henry Martin Tanner are found in Arizona, you would expect the best results from a search that emphasized records from Arizona. But if you are doing general searches online, using my Great-grandfather's name is a really good idea because I already know about many of the records I am going to find online for him.

I can quickly dispose of the test between Google and some of the other general, online search engines because, over the years, none of the other files have even come close in the depth and number of results of a comparison. For example, here is a quick comparison between Google and Microsoft's Bing search engine. First Google.


I can narrow down the search a lot by putting his name in quotation marks.


If I added some additional terms, I could come up with more or fewer results, but they would all be pertinent to the search. All of the other search engines work in about the same way. Some have more specific and complicated filtering systems but there is a law of diminishing returns where designing or programming an initial search becomes more time consuming than making multiple searches. Using multiple searches, I can start with a basic term such as a name and then add modifiers such as places, dates, etc. and generally find what I am looking for or not in few seconds.

This is where learning how to do searches comes into play. The more you search online, the more you are likely to learn what terms are important to find your target item. I usually search with Google and can find websites and other information in less time than it would take me to look up the address (URL) unless I happened to know it.

The SuperSearch™ search engine developed by MyHeritage.com is an example of a superior program but it works best when the program itself does the searches rather than the user initiating a search. The reason for this is that the automated Record Match searches look at more of the data than the user will commonly add as search terms. The search engines rely on an automated index. In the case of general search engines such as Google, the index is created by virtual robots called web crawlers or spiders that visit all of the websites and create an index entry for each. Most of the genealogy database websites rely on manual or semiautomatic indexing. In most cases, the accuracy of the searches is dependent on the accuracy of the indexers.

Overall, the genealogical search engines on most of the larger websites are very accurate with some exceptions. The most common problem is that a search cannot find a record known by the user to be in the database. This usually happens when the search term, the name, is very common. The accuracy of all search engines increases as additional search terms are added but there is always a point at which the search engine will not find a match for all of the terms added.



Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Freedom began with Jenny Slew, A History of the beginning of the end of legal slavery in America: Part One

The U.S. National Archives. “John Whipple House - Ipswich, Massachusetts.” Image, January 1, 1935. Public Domain https://nara.getarchive.net/media/john-whipple-house-ipswich-massachusetts-5d4b1f.
In 1762, Ipswich, Massachusetts purchased a clock for the fourth First Church. Quoting from the following article,

Ipswich, Historic. “The First Church Clock.” Historic Ipswich (blog), August 18, 2017. https://historicipswich.org/2017/08/18/the-first-church-clock/. Viewed 5 November 2019
The First Church (uppercase C: the institution) built its first church (lowercase c: the building) in 1634, the year that Ipswich was founded. The church stood on the highest point in town and was the town’s first public building – besides being a house of worship, it also served as a meeting house and even as a fortress guarding against French or Indian attacks. 
This first church lasted only a dozen years. In 1646, the Church decided it needed a better church, so it built the second church — which lasted all of 50 years. Then it, too, was torn down to make way for the third First Church that, in 1749, was replaced by the fourth First Church (all this seems weird to me: I grew up in England where churches were built of stone and were expected to last for eternity. In Ipswich, England, by way of contrast, the parish church was built in the 1350s and is still going strong.)
1762 was also the year that a free woman, Jenny Slew, the daughter of a white woman and an enslaved black man was kidnapped from her home in Ipswich and forced into servitude by a local farmer, John Whipple, Jr. In 1766, Jenny Slew brought a lawsuit in the Massachusetts courts for her freedom and for damages. Quoting from the following book:

Moore, George Henry. Notes on the History of Slavery in Massachusetts. New York, D. Appleton & co., 1866. http://archive.org/details/notesonhistoryof00mo.
The earliest of these cases in Massachusetts, of which we have any knowledge, is noticed in the Diary of John Adams. It was in the Superior Court at Salem, in 1766. Under date of Wednesday, November 5th, he fays: "Attended Court; heard the trial of an action of trespass, brought by a mulatto woman, for damaged, for restraining her of her liberty. This is called suing for liberty ; the first action that ever I knew of the sort, though I have heard there have been many." Works, 11., 200. [spelling and orthography regularized]
Here is the complete citation to the John Adams quote:

Adams, John, and Charles Francis Adams. The Works of John Adams, Second President of the United States: Diary, with Passages from an Autobiography. Notes of Debates in the Continental Congress, in 1775 and 1776. Autobiography. Little, Brown, 1865, page 200.

We do not usually associate New England with slavery, but from some of the earliest settlements in America, there were enslaved people of African origin. This series will focus on the historical origins of slavery in America from a legal perspective. You may well ask, what does this have to do with genealogy? Actually everything. If we understand that prior to emancipation in the United States slaves were property, then we can see how understanding the legal status and legal history of the enslaved people will help us to push back the curtain of history and gain an insight into where we might find additional records about the enslaved African population. I am going to write this series from the legal perspective and at the same time point out how and where records may be located from the earliest times.

So, I will have to take a major step back in time before I return to the complete story of Jenny Slew and the court battles that have continued to the present time.

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

Getting Started with MyHeritage Using MyHeritage and The Family History Guide and other Resources

https://thefhguide.com/project-1-welcome-mh.html
The Family History Guide, a free, sequenced, and structured learning website, includes detailed instructions about getting started using MyHeritage.com. The instructions are also linked to articles and videos that support the step-by-step instructions. The Family History Guide is supported by The Family History Guide Association, a 501 (c) 3 charitable corporation through donations that are tax-deductible in the United States. The mission of The Family History Guide 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."

The MyHeritage.com website has its own extensive Help Center from a link on the upper right-hand corner of each website page.

https://www.myheritage.com/help-center/en
In addition, MyHeritage has a new Education Center at Education.MyHeritage.com.

https://education.myheritage.com/
Both MyHeritage and The Family History Guide have extensive YouTube Channels of helpful videos. Here is the YouTube Channel for MyHeritage.

https://www.youtube.com/user/MyHeritageLtd
Here is The Family History Guide YouTube Channel.

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCSdEueFFI669fDBwILOCDvw
Between the two YouTube Channels, there are almost 400 videos. All of these resources have been developed over the past few years and some, like the Education.MyHeritage.com website, are relatively new. All of these resources are complemented by other videos and articles. You can see the links to some of these articles in the MyHeritage Learning Path of The Family History Guide. If you search further, for example, you will find seven more videos about MyHeritage that I have done for the Brigham Young University Family History Library YouTube Channel.

The Family History Guide website also provides a system for those who become proficient in the resources of the website to become Certified Trainers and there is a rapidly growing network of these Trainers, presently in the United States, but also expanding into other countries as well.

The combination of all of these resources provide extensive help and instructional support to all of the present users of MyHeritage and also to future users. All of the resources I have mentioned in this post are also steadily growing and expanding with new documents and videos being constantly added.

Monday, November 4, 2019

New York Geographic Birth Index from Reclaim the Records

https://www.reclaimtherecords.org/records-request/18/
From the Reclaim the Records website:
Hey, remember how the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene illegally removed the NYC birth index books and microfilms (public records!) from the the New York Public Library stacks a while back? How they broke the state Freedom of Information law, by “retroactively classifying” public records? 
Well. It seems that they forgot about the other NYC birth index. 
Introducing the New York City Geographic Birth Index! It’s all the same info as the other “regular” citywide birth index, but this one is sorted by street address, rather than alphabetically. These 96 microfilms, brand new copies freshly made from the vault originals, have been shipped out to Salt Lake City for digital scanning, thanks to the generosity of the kind folks at FamilySearch. We’re expecting to receive the digital files back some time in the summer of 2018. It will eventually all be uploaded, indexed, and turned into a text-searchable database, going online as open data, for free, forever. 
Now, this version of the NYC birth index does lack the column showing the first five letters of the mothers’ maiden names, unlike the other data set. And these microfilms go from the late 19th century only through the early 1920’s, or in the case of one microfilm 1944-ish, so it’s not quite as far into the twentieth century as the other data set. But still!
Now, this collection is online on Archive.org.

https://archive.org/details/NYC_Geographical_Birth_Index_-_Manhattan_-_1890-1894_b/page/n3

Archive.org does not get mentioned often as a genealogical record source, but you really need to be aware of the huge number of records on this website.

Saturday, November 2, 2019

Did you know DNA profiles can be faked?



A recent article in the journal FSI Genetics (Forensic Science International Genetics) entitled, "Authentication of forensic DNA samples" points out the following:
Over the past twenty years, DNA analysis has revolutionized forensic science, and has become a dominant tool in law enforcement. Today, DNA evidence is key to the conviction or exoneration of suspects of various types of crime, from theft to rape and murder. However, the disturbing possibility that DNA evidence can be faked has been overlooked. It turns out that standard molecular biology techniques such as PCR, molecular cloning, and recently developed whole genome amplification (WGA), enable anyone with basic equipment and know-how to produce practically unlimited amounts of in vitro synthesized (artificial) DNA with any desired genetic profile. This artificial DNA can then be applied to surfaces of objects or incorporated into genuine human tissues and planted in crime scenes. Here we show that the current forensic procedure fails to distinguish between such samples of blood, saliva, and touched surfaces with artificial DNA, and corresponding samples with in vivo generated (natural) DNA. Furthermore, genotyping of both artificial and natural samples with Profiler Plus® yielded full profiles with no anomalies. See Authentication of forensic DNA samples, Frumkin, Dan et al. Forensic Science International: Genetics, Volume 4, Issue 2, 95 - 103
These findings raise a serious issue as to the reliability of DNA testing procedures and the actual use of the DNA collection. For genealogists, the crucial fact is that if someone has access to DNA profile in a database, that person could construct a sample of DNA that matched the profile without obtaining a sample from that person. See the New York Times article, "DNA Evidence Can Be Fabricated, Scientists Show."

It is not too farfetched to imagine a scenario where someone obtains the DNA testing results from a wealthy DNA contributor and tries to prove a relationship for monetary gain. Another scenario could be a criminal who changes his own DNA test sample to avoid capture.

What is far simpler and not easily detectable is for the person submitting a DNA sample to misrepresent his or her identity. The chain of custody of a DNA testing sample for genealogical DNA testing is practically non-existent. There are really no validation procedures that can assure us that the sample submitted comes from the person signing or submitting the sample. Although genealogical DNA testing is considered to highly reliable, there are a few cracks in the facade of invincibility.

Friday, November 1, 2019

Old iPads and iPhones to lose internet connections

https://www.cnn.com/2019/10/30/tech/old-apple-product-update-trnd/index.html
Quoting from the CNN article entitled, "Apple warns some iPhone users: Update your phone or lose internet:"
Apple is warning owners of older iPhones and iPads that if they don't update their devices to the latest iOS software by Sunday, they won't be able to connect to the internet. 
IPhone and iPad products from 2012 and earlier will need the update before midnight UTC on November 3 in order to maintain accurate GPS location and continue using the App Store, iCloud, email and web browsing, according to Apple.
The GPS rollover issue is caused by the fact that the entire GPS system uses a ten-bit parameter to count weeks. When the count gets to 1,024, the system "rolls over." Apparently, this roll-over will prevent the older Apple devices from connecting to the internet. You will need to update the older apple devices as follows:

  • iOS 10.3.4: iPhone 5 and iPad (4th generation) Wi-Fi + Cellular
  • iOS 9.3.6: iPhone 4s, iPad mini (1st generation) Wi-Fi + Cellular, iPad 2 Wi-Fi + Cellular (CDMA models only), iPad (3rd generation) Wi-Fi + Cellular

You can find the iOS software version used by your device by going to the Settings app and then opening the General section and looking further in the About subsection. If you do not update your device before Sunday, you will have to go through a much more complicated procedure. On the other hand, if your device continues to work, you didn't have the problem.

This issue points out the need to take the time to upgrade your devices. 

Thursday, October 31, 2019

Ancestry adds Large Online Archive of Obituaries

https://www.ancestry.com/corporate/newsroom/press-releases/ancestry%C2%AE-debuts-world%E2%80%99s-largest-digital-archive-searchable-online?mc_cid=bbaa9e5d35&mc_eid=2d1c516672
Ancestry.com recently added a large digital archive of searchable online obituaries. Here is the announcement from the corporation's press release:
LEHI, Utah and SAN FRANCISCO, California, Monday, October 28, 2019 - Today, Ancestry®, the global leader in family history and consumer genomics, is releasing the new Newspapers.com Obituary Collection and announcing an upgrade to its U.S. Obituary Collection, adding to what is now the world’s largest, searchable digital archive of over 262 million worldwide obituaries and death announcements, containing almost 1 billion searchable family members. 
Obituaries are one of the most comprehensive records available about an ancestor. An obituary can act like a ‘starter kit’ for family history -- it can include places of birth, marriage, occupation, residence, and family members, and may even suggest burial site location. One-third of Americans are unable to name all four of their grandparents,* but obituaries offer one of the easiest ways to understand recent family history and launch a journey of personal discovery.
The press release goes on to explain how users can get access to this huge collection:
New Newspapers.com Obituary Collection: Newspapers.com is the largest online newspaper archive, with over 525+ million pages of historical newspapers, including obituaries, from thousands of printed newspapers across the United States and beyond. Ancestry leveraged powerful, new artificial intelligence algorithms to locate the obituaries found within these Newspapers.com pages and extract key facts including names of the deceased and family members, relationships, important dates, and locations. This indexed collection includes facts from nearly 200 million Newspapers.com obituaries and the extracted information is available to all Ancestry subscribers. 
This new searchable collection is available on Ancestry to all subscribers and the original obituary images are hosted on Newspapers.com. Members with an Ancestry All Access or Newspapers.com Basic subscription have a 1-click option to view the full obituary on Newspapers.com. Some images may require a Publisher Extra subscription as certain newspapers require additional licenses to view their content.

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Should You Attend RootsTech 2020 in Salt Lake City?

https://www.rootstech.org/salt-lake
The easiest answer to the question in the title of this post is yes, especially if you are reading this blog post. One major benefit of attending RootsTech 2020 in Salt Lake City, Utah from February 26th to the 29th is the sense of community that the Conference creates and has maintained now for going on ten years. Genealogy or family history has a tendency to be very personal and a solitary pursuit. Attending a large conference, such as RootsTech 2020, will help you put your interest in family history and genealogy in perspective with the number of other people who are interested from around the world. Even attending the Conference for one day will be beneficial but if you do attend for one day you may feel cheated of the entire experience.

The main area for this interaction is the Exhibit floor. It is important to attend the classes but if you skip the Exhibit floor you will likely miss that main area for building and renewing relationships. I always look forward to my time on the Exhibit floor when I get to renew old friendships and make a few new ones.

It is time now to register and to make reservations for accommodations. Here is the link: https://www.rootstech.org/salt-lake

Monday, October 28, 2019

What it takes to write my blog posts


I recently got a word count of the words I had written in the last week. I was busy with other pressing matters and wrote far less than usual but ended up writing just over 54,000 words. In a normal week, the total runs between 60,000 and 70,000. By the way, that is the average word count for a novel in the United States. Since 8 October 2017, I have written more than 1, 522,486 words but my word counter doesn't count all the words I write. At that rate, I could have written at least 25 novels and made some money (perhaps) instead of promoting genealogy day and night!!!

Hmm. Cumulatively, with the three blogs, I have written 11,834 blog posts on a huge number of different topics from butterflies to research in Chinese genealogy.

Many people I talk to wonder how I can continue to write so much. Actually, I have no idea how I do it. I know there are other bloggers that write as much or more than I do. If I get "writer's block" it is only because I am too tired to write. If I stop and take a nap or go to bed and wake up the next day, I always have several topics to write about. Oh, I almost forgot that I have contributed to about 25 published books over the past few years and written in my journal and written thousands of emails and letters.

Where does all this come from? Well, the answer is quite simple. I read. I listen. I absorb. There are plenty of things I could write about such as politics, law, travel, geology, history, and so forth. But, so far, the only topics that can keep me going day after day is genealogy and photography. But, I do write about some other things from time to time.

Do I have any suggestions for a budding writer? Yes. Write. That's it. Just sit down at a comfortable desk with a big-screen computer and start writing about whatever comes to mind. Just write and write and write some more. Eventually, like the infinite number of monkeys on an infinite number of typewriters (computers?) you might turn up with something great or maybe good. It also helps to use good grammar and to write clearly. As Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote: “That which we persist in doing becomes easier, not that the nature of the task has changed, but our ability to do has increased.”

Now did Ralph Waldo Emerson really write that? See, now I have thought of a new topic to write about. As a matter of fact, I spent quite a while looking for the origin of the quote and did a word search in each of the volumes of the Complete Works of Ralph Waldo Emerson and could not find one place that identified the actual origin other than attribution to Emerson. There is something for you to write about.

Saturday, October 26, 2019

Photography Basics for Genealogists: Part Two: Digital vs. Analog

Robert James Wallace - Plate VII from "The Silver 'Grain' in Photography" by Robert James Wallace, The Astrophysical Journal, Vol. XX, No. 2, Sept. 1904, pp. 113–122, Chicago. As reproduced by Google Book Search.
We live in an analog world. The term "analog" is defined as relating to or using signals or information represented by a continuously variable physical quantity such as spatial position, voltage, etc. Historically, photographs were made on light-sensitive film. The images on photographic film are created by the chemical process of light interacting with silver halide crystals. See "Film Processing Chemistry, How Does It Work?" for an example. Even though we may not realize it, film photos and the paper prints made from all have a "grain." The size of the individual silver halide crystals determines the "resolution" of the photograph.

The difference between film images and digital images (i.e. analog and digital) is somewhat artificially maintained. A digital image is made when a light-sensitive "sensor" made up of an array of electronic devices that capture photons (light) and convert the light into electronic signals instead of silver halide crystals. See Wikipedia: Image sensor. The main difference between the two processes involves the fact that once the light is converted to an electronic signal, the resultant information can be transmitted, stored, retrieved, and viewed by reconstituting the electronic signal in a display or with some type of printing mechanism.

The graininess or RMS granularity of photographic film is "a numerical quantification of film-grain noise, equal to the root-mean-square (rms) fluctuations in optical density, measured with a microdensitometer with a 0.048 mm (48-micrometre) diameter circular aperture, on a film area that has been exposed and normally developed to a mean." See Wikipedia: Film grain. Translated into English, that means that photographic films vary in the amount of film density and therefore some films are grainier than others.  Here is an image from the same Wikipedia article that shows a grainy image.

By RX-Guru - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=4760480
You can get similar issues with digital images because of the limitation of the number and size of the sensors. With digital images, the problem is usually called "pixelation." That is to say that the grainy digital images are usually overlooked because most everyone knows that there is a pixelation limit that appears during the magnification of a digital image. Since the size of the grains in photographic film varies with the film's sensitivity, the more sensitive the film is the larger the grains. There is a rough correlation between the sensitivity or speed of the film and its graininess. Film sensitivity or speed is measured by a scale referred to as the film's ISO (International Standards Organization) number (previously ASA and DIN numbers). A slow film, i.e. ISO 100, is less grainy than a fast film, i.e. ISO 800. A popular slow film was Kodak's Kodachrome and a popular fast film was Kodak's Tri-X Pan.

On the other hand, digital noise or apparent graininess is always related directly to the size of a pixel, regardless of the ISO setting.

If you would like to know how the detail of photographic and digital images compare, you should read this short article, "Film Resolution (Pixel Count)." This article points out that a 35mm film image is the rough equivalent of 175 MegaPixel (MP) digital image. However, actual practice will also be affected by the quality of the camera lens, lighting conditions, the sharpness of the camera's focus and a long list of other factors. Right now, the highest resolution digital consumer camera is the 100 MP Hasselblad H5D-100C camera going for around $33,000.00 for the camera body only.

So why is it so important to digitize photographic images? The answer lies in the issue of the individual nature of photographic analog images. Simply put, each photo is a unique original and loss of the original (negative or positive) is permanent and irreplaceable. However, digital images can be copied instantly and every copy is exactly like the original including any defects.

There is also an important limiting factor about all image resolution digital or analog: the resolution of the human eye which most sources put at about 300 dpi (dots per inch). To reproduce what your eye can see in your total field of view, you would need about 576 MP resolution. But when viewing a photograph that would drop to between 5 and 15 MPs, well within the range of the average smartphone camera or a less expensive digital prosumer camera. See "How Many Megapixels Is the Human Eye?"

The uniqueness of a single photograph has driven a commercial market for art prints of original photographs. Digital images are sold on websites with millions of other photos.

Next: More about Digital vs. Analog


For the previous post, see

Part One: https://genealogysstar.blogspot.com/2019/10/photography-basics-for-genealogists.html




Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Ancestry Updates Your Ethnicity Estimate


Here is my most recent DNA Ethnicity Estimate from Ancestry.com. Here is the announcement of the new results which arrived by email:
In this update, we’ve more than doubled the size of our reference panel, including more people from different parts of the world. This has helped us to refine your ethnicity estimates, adding more specific regions and reclassifying a few others. 
In addition, your communities have been updated. These communities are based on the patented Ancestry Genetic Communities™ technology, an innovation that identifies places and populations where your ancestors may have lived more recently. Historical researchers and writers then put together what life might have been like for your ancestors over time. 
This exciting update is provided at no cost to you. We’re committed to being at the forefront of the rapidly changing field of DNA research, so you can expect even more improvements like this in the future.
Here is the original estimate from May 2017.


The results of my first test had me at 55% Great Britain, 29% Scandinavian, 11% Iberian, and 5% Irish. Well, after a few changes, the current estimate (at the beginning of this post) has me with 74% England, Wales, and Northwestern Europe, with 13% Norway and 13% Ireland and Scotland. Note the last sentence in the quote above: "...you can expect even more improvements like this in the future." The new report also states that my family was likely from North Jutland and Hjorring in Denmark. Now, the fact that my family was from Denmark is no surprise since I have for lines in my family tree on Ancestry.com that show Danish ancestors from North Jutland and Hjorring. It is nice to know that Ancestry can read the entries in my family tree. But in their analysis, they seemed to have missed my direct line ancestors from the Overson, Andersen, Jensen, Nielsen, Pederson, and Christensen families. So far, I have yet to find one relative from Norway. I have my extensive family tree on MyHeritage.com and there is not one person in my family tree from Norway. Perhaps, some of them migrated from Norway to Denmark?

I have to admit that I am not yet convinced that the data that is presently available about ethnicity is sufficiently accurate that a future test would not show that I really had ancestors from Denmark and not from Norway. By the way, my wife has two ancestors from Norway; one in the 17th Century and one in the 18th Century and if we believe some of the entries in our family trees, we are distantly related. I may yet find Norwegian ancestors. Oh,  I almost forgot. What happened to my Iberian ancestors?


Watch RootsTech 2019 London Virtually


Quoting from an email from the RootsTech team:
Beginning on October 24th, 2019, you can stream a select number of sessions (including the keynote sessions) live and for free on the RootsTech homepage (rootstech.org). You can see the full list of streaming classes here: RootsTech London Free Livestream Schedule
If you want even more great family history content, you can purchase the RootsTech London virtual pass for only £49 (roughly $60). It will give you access to 20 recorded sessions from the London conference. These recordings will be available to view on demand 10–15 days after RootsTech concludes. 
These are two great options to help you increase your genealogy expertise, discover new methods, and be inspired by some of the best in the business.
Here is a time converter program you can use to find your time zone's schedule:  https://www.thetimezoneconverter.com/.

Monday, October 21, 2019

Expanded Commentary on the Rules of Genealogy: Rule Twelve


I have slowly been going back to the list of the Rules of Genealogy and writing about each individual rule. There are presently 12 Rules. Here is the current list from my blog post of 19 July 2019.
  • 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. 
  • 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
  • Rule Eleven: Even a perfect fit can be wrong
  • Rule Twelve: The end is always there
In this post, I am expanding on Rule Twelve: The end is always there.

I had an interesting telephone call about the FamilySearch.org Family Tree. Someone had found a line that apparently went back more than a thousand years into the dim historical past and wanted to know if the line could be accurate. I indicated that my experience was that these lines ended with the last entry accurately supported by a source citation to an identifiable historic record. Rule Twelve is really the simplest rule of all of the rules in the list above. It would also seem to contradict Rule Four but these two rules are really talking about different aspects of what we call genealogical research. Rule Twelve addresses the historical reality that any particular family line will always come to a point where the existing records are either no longer available or no longer accurate. Rule Four is focused on the fact that no one individual can possibly find or search all the records available for all of his or her family lines. 

The earliest written records date from about 3000 BCE (Before the Common Era). But records about nearly all the families from Europe end in about 900 AD. These are the real, very practical ends of genealogical, source-supported research. Ancestral lines going further back in time cannot be accurately connected to anyone living today. But Rule Twelve addresses a more recent end to all current ancestral lines: they all end at some point and further research is certainly a waste of time and effort. The trick is knowing when that point has been reached. 

As I have written and taught on numerous occasions, after examining thousands of ancestral lines for thousands of people, I have yet to find one that does not end. In every such case, the source records simply run out. Here is an example from the FamilySearch.org Family Tree.


Ann Pross is entered as being born in 1722 and dying in 1694. Hmm. She died 28 years before she was born. Here is here detail page.


Despite this obviously wrong information, her parents are listed as Robert Press born in 1695, one year after his daughter was born and his wife, Mrs. Robert Press, born in 1700, six years after her daughter died. However, Ann Pross is listed with one source which is not a birth record, but a death record. This also means that she died before her husband was born and before any of her children were born.  Of course, there are no sources listed for either of her parents. 

This line actually ends with William Parkinson, one of the listed children, who was born in about 1744 although there is no birth record for him. There are three sources: a marriage record and two burial records. 

This is what is meant by Rule Twelve. The end is always there and I might add if you look and use some common good sense. 

Sunday, October 20, 2019

Expanded Commentary on the Rules of Genealogy: Rule Eleven


I have slowly been going back to the list of the Rules of Genealogy and writing about each individual rule. There are presently 12 Rules. Here is the current list from my blog post of 19 July 2019.
  • 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. 
  • 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
  • Rule Eleven: Even a perfect fit can be wrong
  • Rule Twelve: The end is always there
In this post, I am expanding on Rule Eleven: Even a perfect fit can be wrong

This past week, I once again was faced with this rule. I found two families where the fathers both had the same name, the wives both had the same name and they both had a child with the same name. To add insult to injury every search I did came up with both families and the fathers were both born in the same town. Other examples can easily be found by searching for any fairly common name in any particular country. Using FindMyPast.com, I can search all of their millions of records for a name like Samuel Parkinson, which does not seem to be so common. But the search shows almost 8,000 men with that name. Really common names such as John Smith come up with over 3.3 million men.

Rule Eleven addresses this issue that even if you end up finding a match for most or all of the names of the members of the family, the match might be wrong because the places do not match or because the dates are off or other details show that the conclusion that there is a match is wrong. One way of stating this rule could be that the more common the name, the more likely that the results of a database search will be difficult to interpret and guesses that two individuals are the same will more likely be wrong.

All of this comes about from "name matching." There is probably no completely foolproof way to avoid some same name mistakes, but careful research with a marked emphasis on the places instead of the names will help to avoid all but the really sticky problems. In my first example above, I was finally able to separate the two families by doing additional research and finding different places for similar events such as two different death places. Maybe we should remember this old Zen parable.
Once upon a time there was an old farmer who had worked his crops for many years. One day his horse ran away. Upon hearing the news, his neighbors came to visit. “Such bad luck,” they said sympathetically.
“Maybe,” the farmer replied.
The next morning the horse returned, bringing with it three other wild horses. “How wonderful,” the neighbors exclaimed.
“Maybe,” replied the old man.
The following day, his son tried to ride one of the untamed horses, was thrown, and broke his leg. The neighbors again came to offer their sympathy on his misfortune.
“Maybe,” answered the farmer.
The day after, military officials came to the village to draft young men into the army. Seeing that the son’s leg was broken, they passed him by. The neighbors congratulated the farmer on how well things had turned out.
“Maybe,” said the farmer.
--Zen Parable See http://www.awakin.org/read/view.php?tid=1011
Maybe we need to be more retrospective about our research and a lot more careful.  

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Photography Basics for Genealogists: Part One: Orientation


Genealogists accumulate a lot of photos and those who travel and do onsite research end up taking a lot of photographs also. We also accumulate a lot of photos from our family activities. This new series is going to discuss all of the aspects of photography from cameras and lenses to the planning and making of the photograph itself and on to the preservation and display of photo collections. I am going to start out with an example of what can happen to make a poor quality image.


What is wrong with this image? Here is a list of some of the obvious problems:
  • Out of focus
  • Not level or tipped at an angle
  • Underexposed
  • No identifiable objective
  • Bands of light probably from light leaking into the camera
  • There are double images indicating camera movement
How much of this was due to the camera? the lens? the photographer? the subject matter? the choice of the subject matter? or all of these issues? Well, from other photos by the same photographer, I know that she can take adequate photos with none of the same problems. But I also know that she was prone to taking photos where the image was not level. This photo could have been of an identifiable subject, but the lack of focus simply makes the photo unusable. 

It is not unusual to find yourself in a "once-in-a-lifetime" event or situation. Weddings, births, funerals, birthdays, and many other family events will never occur again and it can be heartbreaking to learn that most (or almost all) of the photos of the event did not turn out well. It is also not unusual for people to spend a considerable amount of money hiring "professional" photographers for wedding events. Historically, these special events photos may be the only ones that ever got taken since cameras were rare and film and development costs were expensive luxuries.

Today, cameras are owned and used by a majority of the people in the world. All of the world's smartphones and most of the world's mobile phones have a built-in camera and current statistics indicate that there are more than a billion more mobile connections than there people on the earth. To be more exact, there are 3.3 billion smartphone users in the world today, or 35.13% of the world population and 5.13 billion people have mobile devices or 66.53% of the people in the world. Not everyone has a phone or other device, but many people have more than one so there are more connections than there are people. See "How many people have phones in the world?" 

As part of this series, I will be including some of the history of photography and how to recognize the different kinds of historic photographic processes. Except for the historical perspective, I will primarily be writing about using the present equipment, such as smartphones, for taking photos and archiving records and artifacts. There may end up being some overlap with my ongoing series on digital preservation,

I think I should end today's post with a really good photograph from the same photographer who took my bad example above.


This is a photo of my Grandfather Leroy Parkinson Tanner and his bride my grandmother, Eva Margaret Overson.

Storm over the Salt Flats, Utah


There are a few places in the world where the sky dominates your view. The Salt Flats in the Western Desert of Utah is one of those places. I live on the side of a mountain and, of course, the mountains dominate any view I have from my house. But, from time to time, I like to visit those places where you can see the real majesty of the sky. In this image, there is not a single tree or plant to detract from the sky. I contrast this with the view out my office window at the forest on the side of the bench where I can only see the trees. Try to find a view like this where you live where you cannot see one plant growing and I don't mean inside in a closet.

Saturday, October 12, 2019

Cactus and Succulants


Moving from the low desert to the mountains, one thing I miss is the cactus. Technically, cactus, particularly opuntia can grow all the way north to Canada, but the real cactus areas are warmer and drier or cooler and wetter or cool and dry or warm and wet or... you get the idea. Cactus originated in the Americas and only one species is found in Africa (probably an import). It is interesting to watch movies made about ancient times in the Middle East or Mediterranean areas and see cactus growing. All of the cactus in Europe and the Middle East are imports. 

Friday, October 11, 2019

Expanded Commentary on the Rules of Genealogy: Rule Ten


I have slowly been going back to the list of the Rules of Genealogy and writing about each individual rule. There are presently 12 Rules. Here is the current list from my blog post of 19 July 2019.
  • 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. 
  • 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
  • Rule Eleven: Even a perfect fit can be wrong
  • Rule Twelve: The end is always there
In this post, I am expanding on Rule Ten: Read the fine print

As an attorney for about 39 years, I know quite a bit about fine print. The phrase "read the fine print" from The Free Dictionary means:
To make oneself aware of the specific terms, conditions, restrictions, limitations, etc., of an agreement, contract, or other document, which are often printed in very small type and thus easy to miss.
However, the phrase has been generalized into a statement about looking for details. Where is the fine print in genealogical research? The fine print is in all those documents you don't read and review carefully. Some of those documents, such as probate files, are potential goldmines of information about families, others such as census records may look rather ordinary and even mundane, but both types of records can provide valuable insight into how, when, and where your ancestors lived.  Of course, as with my example of reading a probate file, we are all faced with documents that contain specialized language or even documents in a language we do not read or speak.

Here is an example of how one letter can change the meaning of an entire document. Let's suppose that in reading a document in Spanish you run across the given name "Julia." In another place, you find a reference to a very similar name spelled "Julio." Are these two names the same? Is there possibly a spelling error? The answer in Spanish is simple. Julia is the feminine form of the name and Julio is the masculine form of the name.  They are probably references to two different people. This is what I mean by reading the fine print. We need to read and study the documents so that we avoid glossing over the details that may make all the difference in the ultimate meaning of the document.

Granted, my example implies that you might have to learn how to read some Spanish. Yes, that is exactly what the Rule means. You have to gain enough knowledge about the history, the language, and the specialized terminology or jargon of the documents to understand and correctly interpret the details. To do this, you may have to live with dictionaries and other reference materials. Personally, I use Google to quickly verify the meaning of any term I do not understand completely but in some cases, I have to dig deeper to find the meaning of obscure or archaic terms.

Fortunately, there are extensive reference books online such as Black's Law Dictionary and other similar treatises that will help you sort out complex legal documents and other specialized complex documents. The good news is you do not have to become a lawyer or other type of professional to do genealogy but you do have to learn a lot about law and other topics to do an adequate job of reading old or complex documents.

Do not ignore any term or reference that you do not completely understand. This is what is meant by reading the fine print. 

Thursday, October 10, 2019

Apple OS X Update Knocks Out Several Genealogy Programs


The new Apple macOS Catalina operating system is apparently a major upgrade and will disable and/or require upgrades from several popular genealogy programs including RootsMagic, Ancestral Quest, and Family Tree Builder. Since I am a really early adopter, I usually upgrade when the new systems become available. I immediately noticed about a dozen programs on my iMac that will no longer work. Most of these programs were utilities that I can simply dump in the trash. But some, are programs I will need to upgrade if I wish to use them again.

As in the past, the developers may or may not decide to upgrade their programs. If you a using any of these programs and you want to continue using these programs DO NOT UPGRADE YOUR SYSTEM until you see if the program will be upgraded to the operating system. Each new operating system upgrade reflects new hardware technological advances. Yes, your computer is now one more operating system obsolete. Because I have been involved in this process since about 1982, I am used to buying a new computer every few years (or even sooner). I am also used to having my programs stop working. But it is like leaves that fall in the Autumn. You may hate to rake leaves, but if you live where the trees drop their leaves, you have to rake leaves. By the way, even when we lived in Mesa, Arizona, we had to rake leaves.

You can rant, tear your hair, scream, curse the world, or whatever you want to do but technology will continue to require upgrades and your programs will eventually stop working as you upgrade. People who develop software programs (including apps) buy into this upgrade world. In the past, the developers would decide they didn't want to support Apple so they would stop upgrading their programs. From a genealogical standpoint, this happened when Personal Ancestral File for the Mac was discontinued and it continues to happen with other programs that still run on some older PCs but were never released for the Apple computers.

It is pretty simple to find out that your program needs to be upgraded. All you have to do is click on it and if it comes up with a message that says it needs to be upgraded, it needs to be upgraded. If your computer is not compatible with the new operating system when you try to upgrade an error message will say that your computer is not compatible. Hmm. You could just keep using your old computer and your old programs but eventually, that will come around to bite you and you will lose your data. You might as well adopt my philosophy: life is tough and then you die. From time to time, I still get people bringing me floppy disks with all their old genealogy data and I can no longer help them.

If you have any questions about a particular program, call the developer is they are still answering their phone.


Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Logins and Passwords -- The bane of genealogists


I recently spent another session ostensibly teaching genealogy skills and ending up using almost the whole time helping people who had trouble with their logins and passwords. In one case, we had to abandon using the person's computer entirely because the programs we needed were double pass-protected and the person could not access her email account.

Granted, passwords and logins play an important part in computer security and those users with some degree of experience have either a password organization program or some other method of managing their passwords. However, less experienced or casual users seldom think through the process of getting on to their various devices and rely on the device remembering all of the logins and passwords via Google or some other program. They are immediately stopped when they bring their device to a library or other location. The problems I encountered were due to both forgetting a login and password and needing to respond to a two-stage pass-protection that sent a key to an email account that wasn't available. None of these problems were earth-shatteringly difficult, but they did stop the person from receiving the help they needed with their genealogical database programs.

I am also finding that some people give up trying to do anything with genealogy because they can't get into their machines. I have to admit that my own list of passwords finally got out of hand and I needed to restructure the way I kept my accounts but they are back under control and less annoying.

The news regularly tells of some large organizations being hacked and millions of passwords being compromised. Because of this, some organizations require a regular change of passwords. Of course, this challenges the memories of some of us and we have to adapt by using a pattern of passwords. It is also surprising how few people avail themselves of a piece of paper and a pencil or a printer to keep a list of passwords. This form of keeping track of information has been around a long time and is obviously impervious to online attacks. I use the paper method, but I also keep the information in my own private code so that a casual look at the paper will not give anyone the complete password. I also change some passwords frequently.

What about commercial password protection programs? Well, you still have to remember your password to the password program and you still have to manage the list as passwords are updated but, for some, it is a good solution. If a patron at the Brigham Young University Family History Library cannot remember his or her password to a commonly used website such as FamilySearch.org, then I know something about the patron's level of involvement with family history online. However, this insight isn't conclusive since they may work only on their home computer and all the passwords are kept in the computer's memory and not the patron's memory.

One way to help remember passwords is to use a passphrase. That is a sentence about something you like or do. Unfortunately, passphrases are not popular because they can easily exceed the number of characters allowed by the particular website but they are helpful for some people.

My most common rule is that when you first enter your password, write it down and remember to be aware of your passwords before you come to the Library for help with your genealogy.

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Expanded Commentary on the Rules of Genealogy: Rule Nine


I have slowly been going back to the list of the Rules of Genealogy and writing about each individual rule. There are presently 12 Rules. Here is the current list from my blog post of 19 July 2019.
  • 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. 
  • 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
  • Rule Eleven: Even a perfect fit can be wrong
  • Rule Twelve: The end is always there
In this post, I am expanding on Rule Nine: There are patterns everywhere.


Rule Nine may very well be fundamentally the most important of all twelve of the rules. Each family in a family tree with all of its associated documents and information makes a pattern. Documents in an archive or library make a pattern. History is full of patterns. I first began to appreciate these patterns when I worked as a Bibliographer in the University of Utah Library many years ago. During my breaks, I decided to "walk" all the shelves in the library. I started on the top floor and ended up in the lowest basement and looked at every book on every shelf. Coupled with all the work I did in the old paper-based 3" by 5" card catalog, I gained a perspective of the overall organization and patterns of that library. It turns out that the same patterns exist in almost all record collections around the world. I soon began to see that everything else fits into a pattern.

Now we have the vast library of the internet. Guess what? More patterns. When you start looking at everything around you as falling into patterns, it makes learning about the world a lot more organized and easily understood. Unfortunately, there are a lot of people that never see the patterns. In fact, there are pattern breakers. Some pattern breakers are just ignorant others are intentional.

What is a family pattern? Every family unit has a unique pattern made up of cultural, social, religious, biological, economic, and traditional components. Each family blends, like puzzle pieces into the overall pattern of the historic family. Genealogy is essentially the task of fitting each individual into his or her family pattern. Genealogists generally think of families as collections of individuals. I often see this astigmatic view as researchers search for an individual or worse, search over and over again for a specific record such as a marriage, birth, or death record. By focusing on the detail, the researcher loses the perspective of the pattern of the family.

By stepping back and viewing the overall pattern, including the location of each event, you can begin to recognize the place each individual occupies in the family pattern. The identity of a missing piece of the pattern may be contained in adjoining pieces. Even if a particular piece turns up to have been lost or destroyed, the pattern is not broken until there are so many broken and missing pieces that the pattern is no longer discernable.

Those who do not see the patterns never get involved in the process of genealogical research. They are like people who go to an art museum and never look at the paintings or other artwork. 

Sunday, October 6, 2019

Expanded Commentary on the Rules of Genealogy: Rule Eight

I have slowly been going back to the list of the Rules of Genealogy and writing about each individual rule. There are presently 12 Rules. Here is the current list from my blog post of 19 July 2019.
  • 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. 
  • 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
  • Rule Eleven: Even a perfect fit can be wrong
  • Rule Twelve: The end is always there
In this post, I am expanding on Rule Eight: Everything in Genealogy is Connected (butterfly)

We seldom think of genealogy as a process but the image above could have as easily been applied to genealogy as to manufacturing or computer programming. It is also intentional that the symbol for infinity is an eight on its side. Genealogical research is never finished.

You have probably heard of the Butterfly Effect. The flapping of a butterflies wings in one part of the world can cause a hurricane or typhoon in another part of the world. The idea with genealogy is that everyone on the earth is actually related to everyone else. I realize that there are differing views on the subject of the interrelatedness of all of the people on the earth, but the more we hear about deep DNA studies the more likely it seems that we are all related and that everyone has a unique place in the human family tree. For starts, how about this Wikipedia article: "Mitochondrial Eve."

But Rule Eight does not need to rely on speculative DNA testing or controversial religious beliefs, the simple way this Rule works is that we all live in the history of the world. We can trace our own ancestry back and connect through common events with everyone else who ever lived. Rather than DNA, this Rule deals with the idea of Six Degrees of Relation or the fact that all the people in the world are six, or fewer, social connections away from each other.

This Rule has even more implications than those pointing to universal relationships. It also implies that every kind of record has an interconnected relationship with every other record. All categories of records, from census records to vital records and every other category imaginable are all interrelated. This fact is further supported by Rule Four. The first requirement spoken of in the Genealogical Proof Standard is a "reasonably exhaustive research." See the following for an explanation: "Ten-Minute Methodology: “Reasonably Exhaustive”—How Do We Know We’re There?" However, Rule Eight goes well beyond this methodology. Rule Eight includes records that are unreasonably difficult to find. Rule Eight implies that genealogical research is never done. Of course, this point of view is not just difficult for many people to accept it is basically discouraging and in many cases, terrifying.

When we begin to understand that there is no practical end to the records that might be discovered, we also understand that when we discontinue research for any reason, there is always more that could have been done. The "reasonable" standard talked about by those who adhere to the Genealogical Proof Standard, is really just an objective excuse to find a place to stop doing research. I do agree that we must all stop sometime but when we do, we need to realize that we may have a "reasonable" reason for stopping but we have not explored all of the possible relationships, records, or other connections that are theoretically possible. 

Friday, October 4, 2019

Expanded Commentary on the Rules of Genealogy: Rule Seven

I have slowly been going back to the list of the Rules of Genealogy and writing about each individual rule. There are presently 12 Rules. Here is the current list from my blog post of 19 July 2019.
  • 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. 
  • 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
  • Rule Eleven: Even a perfect fit can be wrong
  • Rule Twelve: The end is always there
In this post, I am expanding on Rule Seven: Water and genealogical information flow downhill

To begin, I need to quote from "New Rules Added to the Old: The Rules of Genealogy Revisited" even though this is a repetition.
This is one of the most obvious of this small collection of rules but also the most difficult to understand. However, this rule was not codified until it was introduced by Claude E. Shannon in his paper written in 1948 called, "A Mathematical Theory of Communication." The concept is that of "Information Entropy." Here is a definition from the Wikipedia article, "Entropy (information theory)." 
Generally, entropy refers to disorder or uncertainty. Shannon entropy was introduced by Claude E. Shannon in his 1948 paper "A Mathematical Theory of Communication". Shannon entropy provides an absolute limit on the best possible average length of lossless encoding or compression of an information source. 
Entropy is a lack of order or predictability and includes a gradual decline into disorder. How does this apply to genealogy? The answer is relatively simple. As all of the events in our lives occur, only certain events are recorded and become "history." Genealogical research is basically the process of discovering, evaluating and re-recording those recorded historical events. However, over time, historical records tend to be lost, i.e. the historical record gradually declines into a state of disorder. At some point, all of the information about a person or event disappears from discoverable historical records. Occasionally, re-recording of the historical information preserves portions well beyond the average, but for most individuals records of their lives cease to exist after a certain period of time. Hence, like water, genealogical information disappears into disorder over time.
If I were going to summarize this principle as it applies to genealogy with a short statement, I would say the following:

Genealogical information and records tend to disappear over time.

Why didn't I just say that for Rule Seven and forget all that stuff about water and hills? Because the idea of the Rules is that I am trying to capture visual images that will remind you of the rule. Very few genealogists or would-be genealogists have a strong background in the history of the areas where their ancestors lived. Some genealogists are familiar with the fire and government neglect that occasioned the loss of the 1890 United States Federal Census or the huge fire that destroyed the 1973 National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis, Missouri but they are not as knowledgeable about other major record loss events such as the 30 June 1922 fire that destroyed the Public Records Office in Dublin, Ireland. See "All Irish genealogical records were destroyed in the 1922 fire': Myth or fact?" What is more important is the realization that less spectacular record loss occurs almost every day around the world.

The availability of historical/genealogical records decreases as you go back in time. For example, before the invention of the movable type printing press in about 1440, from between 500 AD and 1500 AD, only about 17,000 manuscripts were produced in Western Europe. See "Production of Manuscripts and Books from 500 to 1800," Max Roser (2019) - "Books". Published online at OurWorldInData.org. Retrieved from: 'https://ourworldindata.org/books' [Online Resource]. See also my post entitled, "What are the sources before 1550 A.D.?"

Granted, there are records for some individuals that go back much further particularly if your ancestors came from China or other countries with family books almost all genealogical pedigrees of European extraction become speculative in the mid to early 1500s. Most genealogists will be lucky to find records of any of their family lines that date back into the 1500s. Hence, this rule.