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

Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Clarification on new versions of GEDCOM
I apologize, my last post on the GEDCOM update was not as accurate as it could have been. See this web page. See

The update I discussed in the previous was, NOT the one made by on November 15, 2019 but was made by the following people:
The changes to the GEDCOM standard published by are contained in the publication shown above, see

Again, sorry about any confusion my earlier post may have created.

What about using standard place names for genealogy?

I recently got the following comment from a reader.
Have you done a blog on how to record places? I know to use the original name of the place where the event took place but have lots of question. 
How do I record places in the us before it became the U.S? British Colonies or how? What date do I use for the establishing of the U.S. How about during the Civil War do you use Confederate States?
This topic comes up regularly as I am helping people learn how to do genealogical research. Also, it has been some time since I addressed this topic and so I decided it would be a good time to see if there is anything new concerning place names in the greater genealogical community.  There is still a certain amount of controversy over the use of place names at the time of this blog post. Various online programs use different "standard" names for the same places. For example, automatically suggests the designation "United States" for the United States of America. On the other hand, automatically corrects the designation to "USA." Both are reasonably correct but they also illustrate the fact that there is no central clearinghouse in the greater genealogy community that could resolve these types of differences. It seems that this controversial topic hovers in the background but never gets completely resolved.

The existence of a controversy raises a more serious issue: is there a need for standard place names at all? My last comments on this issue were made in a blog post entitled, "Back to the Issue of Genealogical Standardization of Place Names." Here is a quote from that blog post that illustrates both the problem and the reason for standardization in the first place.
So why standardization? Because the identity of these political variations in the way that specific geographic locations were named generally identifies the place to start looking for records. For example, an individual farm has a specific geographic (GPS) location on the face of the earth. But over time, that same farm could have been in a number of different political entities. County boundaries could have changed and state boundaries could've changed. Those changes affect the places where records could have been created and presently could be found. So what do we do with this:
  • 1284 Wales and England under the name of England
  • 1536 Wales and England under the name of Kingdom of England
  • 1603 Wales, England, and Scotland under the name of Great Britain
  • 1707 Wales, England, and Scotland under the name of Kingdom of Great Britain
  • 1801 Wales, England, Scotland, and Ireland under the name of United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland
  • 1922 Wales, England, Scotland, and Northern Ireland under the name of United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
In this case, obviously, if a location was in either Wales or England, the name used to designate the political entity is fairly irrelevant. But if a person lived in Scotland or Ireland or Northern Ireland to name changes reflect jurisdictional changes where the records may have been kept. Unfortunately, the changes in the names as illustrated above also come with a log of political baggage. People can become offended if the wrong political designation is used.
The idea that identifying the physical location of genealogically and historically significant records is somehow tied to the way the records are named is a crucial concept in the process of doing research. There are several main issues going on here at the same time when we start to search for a specific genealogically or historically important record if we want to avoid the need to make broad blanket searches through a huge number of unindexed and uncataloged records. We need to know both the time and the place where the record was created and we need to know the jurisdiction where the record might have been preserved. Here is another quote from my previous post that illustrates this point.
There are a significant number of people who assume that if a person were born in Arizona then Arizona should be used as the designation even if the person was born in 1890 when Arizona did not exist as a state. They think that the distinction between Arizona and Arizona Territory is trivial and inconsequential. But here's the question. Where are the early Arizona records currently available? That may seem like a simple question but the answer is more complicated than you might think. Here is another list of dates:
  • The 1700s to 1848 Arizona was part of Mexico
  • 1848 to 1853 the part of Arizona north of Gila River was part of New Mexico Territory
  • 1853 to 1863 the southern part of Arizona was added by the Gadsden Purchase from Mexico
  • 1863 to 1912 all of Arizona was Arizona Territory
  • 1912 to present all of Arizona is the State of Arizona
There are several factors. First, there is the issue of the exact geographic location. Second, there is the issue of the time period under consideration. Third, there is the issue of the governmental agency administering the geographic area during the time period involved. Fourth, there is a historical question of where any records kept during the time of the event may have been created and where they are presently located. Fifth there is the identity of the person involved in the research.
Of course, simply knowing that the jurisdiction of a place changed over time does not necessarily help you find the records but it does give you a place to start.

Both library and archive catalogs and computerized indexes give you an illusion of being able to locate records more efficiently but as you learn about both systems you soon discover that the results they provide are illusory and sporadic. OK, so going back to the questions asked at the beginning of this post, let's see if there are any answers.

Restated, the first question asks how do I record pre-1776 designations for records that were created in areas currently designated as part of the United States of America? The real question is if there were records created before 1776 in America, where would they be located presently if they exist? The answer to this question depends on the particular location and time period. For example, my ancestors arrived in what is now Utah when this part of the country was part of Mexico. Are there any Mexican records of my ancestors? The answer to that specific question is no but another similar question might have a different answer. I can illustrate the issue with another question: where would I find records of my ancestors who lived in the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1650? Would the records be in Massachusetts or England? This is a real question. Do you happen to know where the records kept by the Massachusetts Bay Colony which was in existence between 1628 - 1686 are presently located? Would you find the records if you looked only in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, which, by the way, is the correct and present name of the state? If you want to know about the Massachusetts Bay Colony Genealogy see the following in the Research Wiki:

The current designation for the British Colonies in America from is "British Colonial America." Very few people really like this designation because of the simple fact that no such designation existed during the colonial era. Have you got a better term? I don't.

What about the date for establishing the United States? By convention, I commonly use 1776. But practically speaking, you could choose 1788, the year the U.S. Constitution was finally ratified. Between 1776 and 1788 you may have to search for records in several different places.

Where are the Confederate records? Scattered all over, I am afraid. Yes, you need to designate the place as the Confederacy during the period of 1861 to 1865 because they are separately cataloged, indexed, and preserved. You also need to be aware as to when each of the Confederate States entered and left the Confederacy. Most of the records are in the U.S. War Department Collection of Confederate Records in the National Archives. See

How you designate the location of an event in a person's life really does matter and yes, the general rule is that the places should be named as they existed at the time of the event. But as you can see from this short post, there are a number of nuances that can affect the best designation.

Monday, December 30, 2019

New GEDCOM Version 5.5.5 Released
I am a little late in posting about this interesting release but it is about time to comment on it anyway. As the above website points out, a new version of the GEDCOM standard was released on October 2, 2019. This is GEDCOM 5.5.5. The last revision to the GEDCOM standard took place with the release of GEDCOM 5.5.1 back on October 2, 1999, just over twenty short years ago. Here is a short quote from the website that defines what GEDCOM is if you didn't know or forgot.
GEDCOM (ɡɛdkɒm) is the standard for genealogical data. GEDCOM is a file format for exchanging genealogical data between different systems. GEDCOM allows you to export your genealogy data from one application, and then import it into another. GEDCOM is a de facto standard, supported by practically every genealogy application.
As a user, you should make sure the genealogy software you use supports GEDCOM, so you can transfer your data from one application to another.
The GEDCOM specification is the technical documentation for the file format. The GEDCOM Specification tells developers the details of the file format, how to read and write GEDCOM files. 
This website is the official home of the GEDCOM specification. It offers a FAQ, a GEDCOM version overview, of course the GEDCOM specification itself. This is complemented with some GEDCOM samples and links to third-party GEDCOM validators.
Here is a further quote about the meaning of GEDCOM from the website.
What is GEDCOM? 
GEDCOM is a file format for genealogical data. GEDCOM is supported by practically every genealogy application. This allows you to export data from one genealogy application and import it into another. 
Why is it called GEDCOM? 
GEDCOM is originally an acronym for genealogical Data communication. That name is a misnomer, as GEDCOM neither is nor contains any communication protocol. GEDCOM is just a file format.
The name is kept because it is firmly established.
Even if you are familiar with the GEDCOM file structure at least in using it to store or transmit genealogical data from one program or website to another, you may not be familiar with the file structure itself. Here is an example of part of a GEDCOM file.

2 VERS 5.5.5
3 VERS 5.5.5
2 NAME GEDCOM Specification
2 VERS 5.5.5
1 DATE 2 Oct 2019
2 TIME 0:00:00
1 FILE 555Sample.ged
1 LANG English
1 SUBM @U1@
0 @U1@ SUBM
1 NAME Reldon Poulson
2 ADR1 1900 43rd Street West
2 CITY Billings
2 STAE Montana
2 POST 68051
2 CTRY United States of America
1 PHON +1 (406) 555-1232
0 @I1@ INDI
1 NAME Robert Eugene /Williams/
2 SURN Williams
2 GIVN Robert Eugene
2 DATE 2 Oct 1822
2 PLAC Weston, Madison, Connecticut, United States of America
2 SOUR @S1@
3 PAGE Sec. 2, p. 45
2 DATE 14 Apr 1905
2 PLAC Stamford, Fairfield, Connecticut, United States of America
2 PLAC Spring Hill Cemetery, Stamford, Fairfield, Connecticut, United States of America
1 FAMS @F1@
1 FAMS @F2@
2 DATE from 1900 to 1905
0 @I2@ INDI
1 NAME Mary Ann /Wilson/
2 SURN Wilson
2 GIVN Mary Ann
2 DATE BEF 1828
2 PLAC Connecticut, United States of America
1 FAMS @F1@
0 @I3@ INDI
1 NAME Joe /Williams/
2 SURN Williams
2 GIVN Joe

Of course, the file goes on and on. A GEDCOM file can be viewed, edited, and corrected using a word processing program or text editor.

Here is a link to a description of each of the versions of GEDCOM:

Here is another important statement from that same page.
FamilySearch created and published several other specifications. The names of these specifications suggest that these may be newer versions of GEDCOM, but they are not. GEDXML, GEDCOM XML and GEDCOM X are not versions of GEDCOM, but GEDCOM alternatives.
It is entirely up to the developers of the various genealogical database or family tree programs or websites to make their products more or less compatible with the GEDCOM standard. Some programs provide a way to download your data from their program in the GEDCOM format. Other developers do not adhere to the standard.

It is quite surprising that there is a new version of the GEDCOM standard after so many years. 

New Year = New Intel Chipset

This is NOT the new Intel Chipset it is only an example
Quoting from the tom'sHardware website article entitled, "Comet Lake to Allegedly Feature 10 Cores With up to 5.3GHz Thermal Velocity Boost."
A new flood of leaks has flowed onto the net, so it increasingly looks like Intel will launch its 10th-Gen Core CPUs for the desktop, codenamed Comet Lake, at CES in early January. Most notably, according to the latest leaked information, the i9-10900K will feature 10-cores with a maximum “velocity boost” of 5.3GHz. The new chips should also mark the debut of the new 400-Series chipset.
Those of us who are aware of such things realize that a new chipset means a new round of upgraded computers not just from Intel but from all of the computer chip manufacturers. Usually, a new chipset also means upgrades to computer operating systems to take advantage of the new features or capabilities of the new chipsets. Inevitably, it also means my own computers are now another new chipset older than they were before the introduction.

Genealogists who actually use computers are probably the least innovative and most conservative such people in the world. Last night I had a long discussion with a friend in Canada who is trying to help a genealogist who wants to finally move his or her Personal Ancestral File data to another program. Unfortunately, my friend did not know if this person still had the data on floppy disks or if the files were accessible at all because they were on a computer running Windows XP or an older operating system. When I help genealogists with their files, it is not unusual to find them on a computer running Windows NT. By the way, Windows XP reached the end of its life cycle on April 9, 2019. Microsoft ended support for Windows NT back on June 30, 2002, and then extended support to June 30, 2004.

Recently, Apple updated its operating system without announcing a major chipset upgrade. However, the upgrade called Apple OS X Catalina or Version 10.15.2 (on my iMac), moved the operating system from being based on a 32-bit processor to the resident 64-bit processor. Previously, the system was compatible with the older 32-bit systems. This change essentially made almost all of the stand-alone genealogy programs on my computer inoperable until they were upgraded. As of the date of this post, some of those programs still have not been upgraded and I can no longer use them on my iMac.

This upgrading and technological changing process is real and not going to stop. Computers are not like toasters that you buy and keep using until they break down. They are also not like cars that you can keep driving as long as you can keep them running. Computers are part of a complex system of operating systems, the internet, user software, and other components all of which are driven by changes in the underlying technology of the computer chips that run the computers.

Those who wish to travel on this technological stream need a boat that will float and unfortunately, those boats will keep changing at least every year or so or sooner.

Saturday, December 28, 2019

The End of the Decade: 2019 in review

2019 completes my eleventh year of blogging on Genealogy's Star. My first post was on November 11, 2008. This is post number 5,660. If I count my blog posts for all three blogs, Genealogy's Star, Rejoice, and be exceeding glad... and Walking Arizona, I have 8,046 posts. I don't have a number, but that number includes millions of words. Right now, the three blogs, have all-time views of 6,453,166 on Blogger. That number does not include all the views on other social media websites where I don't have cumulative numbers but the number of monthly views on all of my social media sites is running into the tens of thousands a month.

During the past eleven years, I have seen genealogy blogging wax and wane in popularity. Blogging has moved from being a personal venue into an almost exclusively commercial advertising venue. My impression is that blog posts are lost in the overall flood of online information. My most popular venue presently is but I am sure that coupled with smartphone cameras is on its way to kill off almost all of the personal blogs.

During 2019, I have decided to focus more on interpersonal teaching and mentoring rather than spending all my time writing, teaching classes, and doing presentations. I am sure that during the year to come, I will focus more on teaching individuals than doing classes and presentations. I still have a huge pile of genealogy papers to organize and I think it is about time I spend some significant time putting that pile in order.

Last year was noteworthy in the experiences we had together with our first trips to Europe and presenting at the MyHeritage LIVE Conference in Amsterdam, the Netherlands.

I am sure that 2020 will be a challenging and interesting year and I am looking forward to everything that is going to happen.

Friday, December 27, 2019

Reclaim the Records obtains the Nebraska Death Index (1904 - 1968)

A nice end-of-year gift from Reclaim the Records. Here is the announcement:
Greetings from Reclaim The Records! We're your favorite little non-profit organization that picks fights with government agencies, archives, and libraries for better public access to genealogical records and historical materials. And we're back in your mailbox today to announce that we recently won and just released more free records, this time from the Midwest. 
Introducing the first-ever publication of the Nebraska Death Index, now online for free public use at the artfully-named!
The story about how the records were obtained is quite long, so here is the link to the entire explanation.

It is interesting to read about how and why these records have been kept behind paywalls for so long. This post also tells how the documents have been made available for free.

Thursday, December 26, 2019

MyHeritage Publishes 8.5 Million Germany Hesse Records has just published two historical record collections from Germany: the Hesse Birth Index (1874–1911) and Hesse Marriage Index (1849–1931). These collections, totaling 8.5 million historical records, are now indexed and searchable on

The German Collections alone on now contain over 174.9 million records that are completely indexed and searchable. Here's an example from the Germany, Hesse Marriage Index, 1849-1931.

RootsTech 2020 Mobile App Now Available

The Mobile App for RootsTech 2020 is now available for your smartphone from the Apple App Store or Google Play. The App is still being populated. One of the best features in the past was the map of the Salt Palace. This is especially useful if you are attending for the first time. Another useful feature is a list of all the Speakers with bios. There is also a schedule for each day and you can customize your own schedule.

Check it out.

Monday, December 23, 2019

Can you prove a genealogical connection to Royalty?

To genealogists, the alure of a royal ancestral line is persistent and pervasive, especially in the United States. There are currently 26 monarchies in the world and they rule or reign over 43 countries. See "Meet the world’s other 25 royal families." The idea that you could be descended from one of these families is an "age-old fantasy." But modern statistical analysis coupled with genealogical DNA testing suggests that if you are descended from Europeans, you definitely have royal lineage because all Europeans are related and have a common ancestor. This conclusion is supported by a study done by Joseph T.  Chang of Yale University. Here is the citation to that study.

Adv. Appl. Prob. 31 1002-1026 (1999

This paper is complex but supports the idea of the existence of a common European ancestor. You can read a less complicated explanation in an article from The Guardian entitled, "Are you descended from royalty? Six things to consider." Despite the suggestions of this article, my own personal experience in examining thousands of pedigrees indicates that the chances of accurately constructing such a pedigree are vanishingly small.

Here we get into an important issue: royalty vs. nobility. Royalty is limited to kings and queens and their heirs. All other relationships are termed "nobility" and there are many more noble families than there are royal families. For those people living in the United States whose ancestors go back to the early immigrants, as is mentioned in The Guardian article, some of us living in the United States can trace our lineage back to "gateway ancestors" or early colonial immigrants with documented lineage to royal lines. This article on has a fairly comprehensive list of the gateway ancestors' books and publications.

geni_family_tree. “New England Gateway Ancestors of Proven Royal Descent Genealogy Project.” Accessed December 23, 2019.

The conclusion of this article referring to the list of books and periodicals is interesting and I quote, "If your immigrant ancestor isn’t on at least one of these lists chances are any royal ancestry you found for him or her on the Internet is bogus."

There is always someone claiming to be an exception to the rule and either writing to me or talking to me about how they have proved a connection to a king or queen or more. I don't claim that this is impossible because kings and queens had children but I do find that the incidence of careful and fully documented research back to a royal line is quite difficult and very rare. I am always reminded of one of my own family lines where there is a cherished tradition that one of my great-grandmothers was related to England's Queen Victoria simply because she has a physical resemblance. However, extensive research has failed to show any connection and they were about the same age.

Saturday, December 21, 2019

How to take better photos for genealogy: Part Six More about cameras

To start out with this post, you may want to view my recent webinar for the Brigham Young University Family History Library YouTube Channel entitled "How to Take Better Photos for Genealogy."

When you find an old family photograph, it is interesting to think about the type of camera that was used to make the photo and what it took to get the photograph developed and printed.

The standard camera for a professional studio or commercial photographer up until the latter part of the 20th Century was a large format view camera such as this Deardorff Studio camera from about 1929.

Here is a description of the camera from the Deardorff Historical Website.
Some specs. Maximum Lenth 72 inches with all 3 sets of bellows.
                    Maximum height, The tallest stand was a 20 footer !! Most were 15 feet tall.
                     The tubes hold lead weights to counter the weight of the camera
                     The platform that the camera sits on can rotate 360 degrees around!
                     Total weight, 850 lbs (20 footer)
This type of camera is classified as a large-format camera and had a film holder that held a flat piece of film which was 4 inches by 5 inches or larger. At about the same time, consumer-level cameras in the medium format range were smaller than 4" x 5" but larger than 24mm x 36mm.  The smaller film size is usually called 35mm film and came in rolls.  Here is a photo of some examples of medium format cameras. This photo shows a Hasselblad 500C/M (~1958) Yashica Mat 124 (1968) RolleiCord IV (1954).

By B4silio - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,
The earliest roll film for consumer-level cameras was produced by Kodak in 1912 is called 127 film and was 46mm wide. The photographs produced were either 4 inches x 4 inches or 4 inches x 6 inches. There were 16, 12, or 8 images per roll of film depending on the size of the image. Here is a common Kodak Brownie camera.

Kodak SIX_20 'BROWNIE' E
Here is a newer model Brownie camera.

Kodak Brownie Holiday Flash Camera1954 – 1962
If you were a photographer using a medium format or larger camera, you might have to spend as much as $2.00 or more for each photo back in the 1950s. The current price of a roll of 35mm film with 24 exposures is about $25 or $1 for each photo. Here is an ad on Amazon.

It presently costs about $5 to get one roll of film developed and scanned at Walmart and Costco.

Now, when you think of the cost of the cameras, the cost of the film,  the cost of developing the film, and the time it took to do all this, it is a wonder that we have any photos of our ancestors at all.

Part One:
Part Two:
Part Three:
Part Four:
Part Five:

To see some of my images go to Walking Arizona or

Friday, December 20, 2019

Dallas Cowboys' Emmitt Smith to Keynote RootsTech 2020
Quoting from the FamilySearch Blog article entitled, "Dallas Cowboys' Emmitt Smith to Keynote RootsTech 2020."
RootsTech 2020 is delighted to announce that Emmitt Smith, NFL all-time leading rusher and three-time Superbowl champion with the Dallas Cowboys, will be the RootsTech keynote speaker on Saturday, February 29, 2020 in Salt Lake City, Utah. Football fans will love his personal stories, big smile, and contagious zeal for life. Learn more at 
Emmitt Smith played for the Dallas Cowboys (1990–2002) and the Arizona Cardinals (2003–2004). During his 15-season career, he became the NFL’s all-time leading rusher, with 18,355 yards, and he still holds the record for the most career touchdowns (164). Smith is the only running back to ever win a Super Bowl championship, the NFL Most Valuable Player award, the NFL rushing crown, and the Super Bowl Most Valuable Player award—all in the same season (1993). 
As a rusher, Smith was known for running “north and south” and making yardage when the opportunity to do so was not apparent. He was also a triple threat with his ability to block and catch. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2010, and is the author of Game On, which outlines the principles that helped him succeed both inside and outside of professional football. 
Americans fell in love with Smith all over again as he showed his softer side as a contestant on ABC’s Dancing with the Stars. He was called the “king of effortless cool” as he waltzed and sambaed across the dance floor and eventually was crowned the Season 3 champion. 
Smith has had amazing personal family history discoveries, some of which were depicted with him as a guest on the popular reality TV series Who Do You Think You Are?. Like many, he wanted to make ancestral connections and hopefully learn where he inherited his drive, determination, and passion. His incredible journey took him to several states and across the ocean to Africa, where he has been able to fill in missing links in his family’s past. He now feels that he has found what he was seeking and that he’s different—stronger—after learning more about the ancestral shoulders he stands on. 
Today, Smith lives in Dallas, Texas, with his wife and 5 children. He owns several successful businesses in real estate, construction, and technology. He and his wife founded Pat and Emmitt Smith Charities to provide unique experiences and educational opportunities to underserved youth. 
RootsTech director, Jen Allen, is elated to welcome Emmitt Smith to the RootsTech family. “Emmitt is a passionate individual and one of the best examples of determination and grit—two traits that are often found in many of our ancestral stories, including Emmitt’s,” said Allen. “Besides all of his accolades and accomplishments, he is a really good person. He loves his family and is deeply grounded in simply being good. We can’t wait to feel his enthusiasm on the RootsTech stage.” 
Attend RootsTech 2020, February 26 to 29, to learn more about Emmitt Smith’s incredible journey, discover your roots, make family connections, and catch the spirit of belonging to generations of your family. Learn more at

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Royalty is back in the genealogy promotion arena

Back in the 1800s unscrupulous genealogical hacks advertised finding connections for U.S. clients to royal lines in the British Islands. See "Genealogy as a Fraud." (Sorry about the broken link in that post. Here is the updated link: The most complete discussion of this huge problem is in the following book.

Weil, François. Family Trees: A History of Genealogy in America. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 2013.

Before spending you money or your time on a quest for royal lineage, you should carefully read the info/advertisement post from entitled "Do You Come From Royal Blood? Your Last Name May Tell You." A superficial reading of this article would seem to indicate that you could establish your link to royalty simply by looking for people with similar surnames. However, name searches absent knowledgeable research are unlikely to establish parentage or a valid relationship. Interestingly, the Ancestry post actually discourages searching for a surname connection despite the come-on in the title.

The Ancestry post mentions the following six surnames as "aristocratic": Atthill, Bunduck, Balfour, Bramston, Cheslyn, and Conyngham. What the post fails to mention is that there are perhaps 45,000 different surnames in England alone as posted by Ancestry in another blog post entitled: "What does your surname say about you?" Using the program, I searched each of those six surnames to see their frequency in's vast collections of records from England and the United Kingdom. I did a global search of all the records and then searched for the same names in the United States and Canada. Here are the results of my search:

  • Atthill U.K 2,642 U.S. and Canada 110
  • Bunduck U.K. 240 U.S. and Canada 14
  • Balfour U.K. 212,990 U.S. and Canada 22,250
  • Bramston U.K.  6,399 U.S. and Canada 226
  • Cheslyn U.K. 1,917 U.S. and Canada 256
  • Conyngham U.K. 4,973 U.S. and Canada 1,707
Let me give you a little bit of perspective about this extraordinarily small numbers. Here are the results using the same search for Tanners and Smiths.

Tanner U.K. 428,068 U.S. and Canada 283,601

Smith U.K. 22,364,774 U.S. and Canada 15,577,482

What are the chances you are related to any of the aristocratic named individuals? Immeasurably small. Starting out with a search based on finding a royal line and then trying to connect to it is a really bad idea.

Ancestry isn't the only one trying to cash in from connecting people to royalty. Here is a recent post from, "Are You Related to British Royalty?" Here is a quote from that post:
If you have British ancestors, there’s a chance that you could have royalty somewhere in your bloodline. Dive into your family tree, and you may find proof of what you’ve always known deep down—you are royalty!
By the way, if you have always known deep down that you are royalty, I would like a ride in your Ferrari. Attracting customers with a promise or implied promise that you are related to royalty is one of the oldest scams in genealogy. However, royalty did have children and some people are related but you need to do careful, documented research whatever your ultimate goal or reason for researching your ancestry.

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

Ancestral Quest 16 Released and Shipping

With all the advertising for online family tree programs, there are still those who prefer to do their research using a computer-based program especially of that program will synchronize your information with the Family Tree. One of the main advantages of Ancestral Quest just got better. Quoting from the Press Release above:
Improved Syncing with FamilySearch Family Tree 
Ancestral Quest 16 makes some improvements in its syncing with FamilySearch Family Tree, intended to make syncing more natural and to better fit into the flow of data exchange between two systems. 
Improved Handling of FamilySearch Sources For nearly a decade, Ancestral Quest has allowed users to download sources from FamilySearch Family Tree directly into the user's personal family tree. FamilySearch sources are formatted as freeform citations in a way that works well for some users but doesn't fit well into the sourcing scheme used by many other users of Ancestral Quest. To overcome this, AQ 16 provides a new option to convert FamilySearch sources into traditional AQ sources during the import process, as well as converting previously imported sources later. For example, if there are 10 members of a family, and all are listed on the 1920 census, then FamilySearch creates 10 different source citations, and if you import them without this new feature, you will end up with 10 source records of the same census record in your list of Sources. If you take advantage of this new optional feature, you can create just one source for the 1920 census, and attach all FamilySearch citations to this single source. This feature is explained in more detail and demonstrated in this video: Advanced Handling of FamilySearch Sources
Advanced Syncing When exchanging events/facts between a personal family database and FamilySearch, there is a new "Advanced Options" button, which allows users to transfer just the date or just the place for an event. Users also have the option of editing the name of the place before transferring it.
You can read the entire Press Release here.  Ancestral Quest is available in a downloadable version for $34.95 or on a CD ROM for $39.95. You can download an upgrade from a previous version for $24.05 or upgrade from a CD for $29.95. Ancestral Quest for Mac is $44.95.

Ancestral Quest supports a number of languages although it comes originally in English and the other languages are downloadable. Ancestral Quest is usually rated high among all genealogy programs by

Saturday, December 14, 2019

My RootsTech 2020 Survival Guide

The very first thing I learned after my initial visit to RootsTech 2011 was to wear very comfortable walking shoes. The Salt Palace in Salt Lake City, Utah is nowhere near the largest convention centers in the world, but it is still sizable enough to engender a lot of walking. In addition, it is located in a rather large walking city and depending on where you end up staying or parking, you will have quite a long walk just to get into the Salt Palace Convention Center.

Of course, some of my suggestions about attending the RootsTech Conference are the same as the ones I wrote about in previous years but the all bear repeating.

Another thing I already knew was that the elevation of Salt Lake City is just over 4000 feet above sea level. Parts of the city are well over 5000 feet. The RootsTech 2020 Conference is also being held in the middle of the Winter from February 26th to the 29th. The altitude can bother some people but the weather can stop the entire city. The average temperatures of Salt Lake City are a high of 45 degrees and a low of 31 degrees. The average can be misleading. The hottest February temperature recorded is 60 degrees and the lowest temperature recorded is -14.1 degrees on February 7, 1989. The lesson from this is to dress in layers and expect extremes.

Don't miss the keynotes. Although the people featured may not be familiar to you, you will find all of them to be extraordinary. A lot of the people who attend RootsTech come for a wide variety of classes but I would suggest that you spend what time you can in the Exhibit Hall. I will be in the Exhibit Hall most of my time at RootsTech either helping with The Family History Guide, presenting at the MyHeritage booth, talking to people in the Media area for Ambassadors, or visiting with the exhibitors and people in the Exhibit Hall.  By the way, the Exhibit Hall has a lot of seating if you just need a rest.

Find a way to carry what you need for the day. I use a shoulder bag or a backpack. My latest shoulder bag is extremely comfortable to carry and so I can have my computer and accessories plus whatever else I decide I need for the day.

Parking is a challenge. There is some parking underneath the Salt Palace Convention Center but the cost of parking all day can be a consideration. One option is to find free parking next to a TRAX light rail station and take the TRAX to the area of the Salt Palace, however, this means more walking.

Food is always a consideration especially if you have a chaotic meal schedule like mine. The concessions at the Salt Palace are quite good but there may be a wait during the lunch hour and if you are late (like I am sometimes) they may close down or run out of food. Sometimes a place to eat is also at a premium. There are a lot of restaurants within walking distance of the Salt Palace but this does mean more walking. We usually end up eating at the food court at the City Creek Shopping Mall. It is a couple of blocks away but has a good variety of faster food restaurants.

Driving in the Salt Lake Valley and in Utah Valley is an experience. The freeways are regularly stalled due to accidents and slowdowns from the volume of traffic. One thing to be aware of this year on the freeways is that the Highway Patrol has initiated a zero-tolerance for speeders. You can get a ticket for driving one mile per hour over the speed limit. The Salt Lake Valley and Utah Valley to the south may be the US Center for red-light runners. You need to be overly cautious when your light turns green to make sure that the cars coming from right and left have actually stopped before going through the intersection. We have seen multiple red-light violations in one day. One time we saw five cars go through the same red light. Stay safe. Don't assume cars will stop.

You can always rest in the Exhibit Hall so make sure you come by to say hello to both Ann and me.

Thursday, December 12, 2019

Online Genealogy Resources Continue to Increase
Of course, the large online genealogy family tree programs continue to add content, but perhaps you are not as tuned in to the fact that many genealogically valuable records are being regularly added to what most would not consider to be "genealogy oriented" websites. This category includes websites such as, the Digital Public Library of America or and many others.

As you can see from the image above, the Digital Public Library of America (DPLA) has well over 36 million images. Recently, the DPLA announced a partnership with the Wikimedia Foundation. Here is part of the announcement.
In an effort to make artifacts from cultural heritage institutions more accessible to all, Digital Public Library of America (DPLA), the national aggregator of digital heritage collections, and the Wikimedia Foundation, the nonprofit that operates Wikipedia and other free knowledge projects, are collaborating to incorporate DPLA’s cultural artifacts into Wikipedia and other Wikimedia projects. Funded by a generous grant from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, this collaboration will expand the availability of artifacts such as books, maps, government documents, photos, and more from U.S. cultural heritage institutions across the web. 
“If you’re in the business of democratizing knowledge, there’s no better partner than Wikimedia,” said John Bracken, DPLA’s executive director. “As a result of this collaboration, many of the artifacts carefully contributed by our cultural heritage partners across the country and aggregated at will be seen by millions of people online, which will help to ensure that the story of our nation can be told and retold for generations to come.”  
One of the first collections that will be integrated into Wikimedia projects will be from DPLA’s Pivotal Ventures-funded Black Women and the Suffrage Movement collection—a series of photos, manuscripts, historical documents and more highlighting black women and their contributions to the Suffrage Movement. These artifacts will be uploaded to Wikimedia Commons, the freely-licensed repository of images, videos, and more. Making these items broadly available on Wikimedia sites will amplify the stories of black suffragists, who are all too often left out of the national narrative on women’s suffrage. 
Perhaps it would be helpful to know that the DPLA also has a specifically targeted genealogy area on their website.

This is one website you may wish to explore and add to your list of must-search places on the internet.

Now, there is also another website to search and that is the Wikimedia website. It is part of the overall umbrella of Wikipedia related websites.
Sorry to give you more places to learn about and look. :-)

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

MyHeritage LIVE Conference in Tel Aviv Israel

MyHeritage LIVE 2020 Tel Aviv
Quoting from the blog post:
Following the success of MyHeritage LIVE 2018 and 2019, we’re delighted to announce that MyHeritage LIVE, our annual user conference, will take place in Tel Aviv on October 25–26, 2020. As one of the most celebrated genealogy events of the year, MyHeritage LIVE brings together family history enthusiasts, top international experts, and MyHeritage staff for two days of fascinating lectures covering the latest topics in genealogy and DNA. Each year, hundreds of MyHeritage users from around the world attend.

Register now on the MyHeritage LIVE 2020 website to secure early bird pricing of $100 per ticket.
The details of the Conference are as follows:
MyHeritage LIVE 2020 will take place on October 25–26, 2020 at the Hilton Tel Aviv. Set in landscaped Independence Park, this upscale hotel is a short 8-minute walk from the Mediterranean beachfront and just 5 km from the Tel Aviv-Savidor Center train station. 
If you haven’t visited Tel Aviv yet, now is your chance to experience a beautiful, vibrant city that’s known as a “city that never sleeps,” making it a perfect fit for night owl genealogists who toil late into the night to work on their research. Explore the past and experience new cultures in a truly unique country steeped in ancient history. 
In addition to a plenary session from MyHeritage Founder and CEO Gilad Japhet, there will be multiple lectures, panels and workshops covering genealogy and DNA, as well as sessions from local speakers covering Israeli resources and Jewish genealogy. 
We’ve lined up an excellent array of international speakers for the event including Roberta Estes, Thomas MacEntee, Dick Eastman, Diahan Southard, and Lisa Louise Cooke. Joining them from Israel will be Garri Regev and Rony Golan along with others to be announced soon. From the MyHeritage team, you will hear from Gilad Japhet, Founder and CEO; Maya Lerner, VP Product; Schelly Talalay Dardashti, U.S. Genealogy Advisor; Michael Mansfield, Director of Content Operations; Daniel Horowitz, Genealogy Expert; and more. 
Conference tickets include access to lectures, workshops, coffee breaks, lunches, and the MyHeritage party, all of which you don’t want to miss!

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Vergen purchases GEDMatch

GEDmatch, the online genetic genealogy website has been sold to Verogen. Quoting from the above article,
Brett Williams, Verogen’s CEO, said in a statement that a new version of the existing site will focus on solving crimes, “not just connecting family members via their DNA.” 
“Never before have we as a society had the opportunity to serve as a molecular eyewitness, enabling law enforcement to solve violent crimes efficiently and with certainty,” Williams said.
The article went on to note the following:
GEDmatch users logging in after Monday are now required to accept the site’s updated terms and conditions. These terms include updating users of Verogen’s purchase, and also giving them the option of deleting their data from the site entirely, the statement outlines.

The official statement from Verogen identifies the company as follows:
Verogen. Inc. is an independent forensic genomics company that tailors next-generation sequencing solutions for forensic laboratories. Based in San Diego, California, the company is advancing science to unlock the true potential of forensic genomics.
I am certain that we will see some of the same major moves in the future from almost all of the genealogical DNA hosting companies. Consolidation is almost inevitable since the advantage of one company over another comes from the size of its DNA database. 

How to take better photos for genealogy: Part Five: Cameras

There have been some major shifts in photographic technology during the past few years. Of course, the major transition was from film-based cameras to digital cameras. The first digital camera was invented by Steven Sasson in 1975 while he was working at Eastman Kodak. Unfortunately, the first digital image was not saved. See "The Worlds First Digital Camera, Introduced by the Man Who Invented It." The first digital camera weighed about 8 pounds and created a .01 MP (Megapixel) image. The images were stored on a cassette tape.

Trying to even review the number of models of digital cameras available today can be overwhelming. However, cameras do fall into a number of general categories. Here are some of the most commonly used categories based on the skill or sophistication of the user:
  • Smartphone cameras
  • Point-and-shoot cameras
  • Prosumer cameras
  • Professional cameras
Another way to classify cameras is by the technology. Here is a list of some of the different general types of cameras by the technology used:
  • Smartphone cameras
  • Point-and-shoot cameras
  • DSLR or Digital Single Lens Reflex Cameras
  • Mirrorless Cameras
Another distinction is between cameras with an integral or fixed lens and cameras that have interchangeable lens systems. You will immediately note that there is an overlap between the different types of classifications. 

It is important to know, as is commonly repeated, that the best camera is the one you have when you need to take a photograph

What is happening today is that the quality of the images being produced by all types of cameras is increasing dramatically and the difference in the quality of the photographs being produced is collapsing in that almost any newer camera will take a very adequate looking photograph. Essentially, all newer cameras are computers as well as cameras. 

Now I need to start with some fundamental concepts. First of all, all photographic images on all of the types of cameras depend on the quality of the camera's lens. But the latest camera technology is using software to "correct and enhance" the images from the camera so that it is becoming more and more difficult to tell the difference between an image made with a high-end and expensive camera using a very expensive lens and the image made from some smartphone cameras. Subsequently, the market for high-end DSLR camera systems is crashing and very high-quality cameras are becoming less expensive. Of course, the die-hard professional photographer will still insist that really good photography requires a really good (read expensive) lens system and camera, but for those who do not aspire to become professionals, high quality can be obtained at a reasonable price. 

To give you an idea of the difference, you can buy any number of very high-resolution cameras for well under $1000.00. For example, a new Canon - EOS M50 Mirrorless Camera with EF-M 15-45mm f/3.5-6.3 IS STM Zoom Lens with a 24.1 APS-C CMOS sensor is currently selling for $599.99. 

If you are the type of person who reads reviews before purchasing anything, then you will be overwhelmed with reviews about the different camera types available. To add even more complexity to the subject, there are thousands of lens options for all of these different cameras and every lens has its own set of reviews. There are thousands of reviews that compare different models of cameras and lens combinations to each other and other reviews that insist that a certain level of camera and absolutely essential to being a "good" photographer.

But the camera does not make the photographer. One of the newest photographic controversies is raging over the quality of images from Apple's new iPhone 11 Pro and any number of high-end DSLR or Mirrorless cameras. Here is one recent example: "Photo battle between an iPhone 11 Pro and a $7,500 DSLR might surprise you." The difference today is being called "computational photography." I might mention that I opted for a new iPhone 11 Pro rather than purchasing a newer DSLR or equivalent camera and if you take a look at the photos on you might have to try and guess which ones are taken with smartphone and opposed to my currently two other cameras; a Sony and Canon.

So what is the answer for a genealogist? If you have a newer camera, say no more than 2 or 3 years old, you probably have all that you really need to take acceptable photos. If you are trying to "make do" with an old, inexpensive camera, you might want to think about upgrading. If you are going retro and insist on using a film camera, there is not much I can do to help you. If you have a huge pile of photographs and need to digitize them, I suggest investing in a good flatbed scanner rather than a camera. If you don't want to upgrade your smartphone, you might consider any one of the below $500 range Canon, Nikon, Sony, Samsung, or Panasonic cameras available.

Stay tuned for more on cameras.

See the previous posts here:

Part One:
Part Two:
Part Three:
Part Four:

To see some of my images go to Walking Arizona or

Saturday, December 7, 2019

Reclaim the Records: The Mississippi Death Index goes online, for free!

I got the following email notice from Reclaim the Records:
Hello again from Reclaim The Records! We are pleased to announce that for today's 'Giving Tuesday' quasi-holiday, we have decided to give y'all a new treat. 
Introducing the first-ever freely-available publication, online or otherwise, of the Mississippi Statewide Death Index! This record set covers deaths in the state of Mississippi from about November 1912 (although a few counties were slow to join in) through 1943. This record set was originally compiled by the Works Project Administration (WPA), as part of their incredibly important Historical Records Survey group.

Up until, oh, right now, the only place anyone could see or use this index was by visiting the Mississippi Department of Archives and History in Jackson, Mississippi in person, then tediously cranking through the faded and scratched microfilm rolls, or shuffling around microfiche sheets for some of the years. But now it's all scanned and online and free to use from your own home, without restrictions or copyrights, forever! 
And we at Reclaim The Records couldn't have done this without teamwork: a dedicated genealogist who knew about the records and about his rights and reached out to us for help; two generous genealogy non-profits that helped us digitize and host these new materials; and a pool of awesome supporters and donors that enabled our work on this project. (This is you!)
The records are on one of my favorite websites, or The Internet Archive. Here is a screenshot and a link.

Thursday, December 5, 2019

The Top 10 Genealogical Opportunities of 2019

Looking back over the year 2019, I thought I would post my choices for the 10 best genealogical opportunities of this year. I didn't put them in any order but I did spend some time in serious thought considering what I should list. Here I go with the list but not in any particular order:

1. The continued growth and usefulness of the Ordinances Ready app.

Granted, this program is only available to certain members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints but the benefits of this program or app extend well beyond its primary purpose. If effect, the program finds areas in the FamilySearch Family Tree that need research and cleaning up. I am sure this was not the original intent of the program or app, but it turns out to be a highly efficiently was to find those areas of the Family Tree needing attention. This benefits all the users of the Family Tree. Like many tools, their ultimate usage goes beyond their original design.

I put this choice first because overall the app has had the biggest impact on the way I approach my constant research in all my family lines.

2. RootsTech Salt Lake City 2019 and RootsTech London 2019.

I loved being back in person at RootsTech 2019 in Salt Lake City, Utah. Extending the reach of RootsTech to London seemed like a gamble. One of the most prominent England-based conferences, Who Do You Think You Are Live, had closed its doors in 2017. The attendance at the Who Do You Think You Are Live Conference was about 15,000 people and my guess is that the numbers were just not enough to cover the cost of the venue. However, with FamilySearch as the main sponsor, the RootsTech London 2019 is off to a good start with a total attendance of 9,727. See "RootsTech London 2019 in Review." Personally, I am looking forward to attending RootsTech Salt Lake City 2020 in just a few short weeks.

3. The new developments and features added to the website including, but not limited to, the new Health feature and other new features and updates to the website. 

One of the big media attractions in the commercial world is the annual Apple product announcements, usually in the Fall of each year. For genealogists who are aware of what is going on in the area of technology and product development, one highlight of the RootsTech Conference in Salt Lake City, Utah has been the announcements made by In the last two years, the announcements at RootsTech have been supplemented by the MyHeritage LIVE Conferences held first in Oslo, Norway and this year, 2019, in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. You can read a recap here: "MyHeritage LIVE 2019 Recap." The MyHeritage LIVE 2020 Conference will be held in Israel.

4. The impressive number of original source documents digitized during the year. 

I have yet to find a way to calculate the total number of genealogically important documents that have been digitized so far in 2019, but the number is likely in the billions of records. Although the number of paper records is also growing, digital records are appearing online in millions each week. For example, the records available on one website,, regularly increase by 100 million and is presently over 10.2 billion. Numbers aren't everything, but having so many records available online has certainly decreased my personal need to travel to libraries and archives and to view microfilm.

5.  The tremendous increase in online genealogical classes, webinars, and conference presentations. 

Some of the major conferences, such as the MyHeritage LIVE 2019 Conference in Amsterdam, the Netherlands and RootsTech 2019 in Salt Lake City, Utah have expanded their attendance by making all or part of their conferences available online. In the case of MyHeritage, all of the MyHeritage LIVE 2019 presentations are free online on the website. Another example is the Brigham Young University Family History Library's YouTube Channel. There are currently 472 free videos on a multitude of subjects available. This list could go on and on. All you have to do is do an online search for genealogy and videos or presentations.

6. The increase in genealogical research opportunities in non-genealogy specific websites. 

A leader among the websites that are accumulating a huge number of genealogically important digitized documents that are not specifically identified as "genealogy" is the Internet Archive or with over 22 million free digitized books and publications plus millions of other items. There is literally more than any one person could comprehend with all of the online resources.

7. The advances in electronic technology that facilitates genealogical research.

Having all of the digital information online is not much use to a person who is technologically challenged. I got into a conversation with a friend the other day about a lost check he had written. I suggested he get online and see if the check had cleared his bank. He replies that he did not know how to do that and in any event did not have a computer that he could use to get online. OK, so ignoring or failing to utilize the online genealogical resources is not an excuse. Don't complain to me, as some have recently to me when you are not willing to do the online work to find all these resources.

8. Free online classes from local public libraries.

I have been relearning doing online videos, particularly for The Family History Guide and a few of my own. I have been discovering the huge number of free online classes for learning the new software such as Adobe Premiere Pro and other such complicated programs available from my local public library. These online classes are high-level learning opportunities for anyone who wants to spend the time to learn. Also, don't forget the flood of information about genealogy and almost any other subject on

9. The insight obtained from DNA tests.

As genealogists, we cannot ignore DNA tests. Putting aside all the privacy concerns and related issues, genealogical DNA testing is opening up a whole new avenue for accurate and verifiable discoveries. As I pointed out, there are a large number of basic to advanced classes online and many of those are about DNA and genealogy.

10. Last, but by no means, the least, is The Family History Guide itself. 

The Family History Guide has been evolving steadily over the past year. Bob Taylor, one of the principal innovators keeps a running list of all the changes to the website. You can see the list of all the changes on the website at The list is impressive. If you don't do anything else this next year, make a resolution to read and study The Family History Guide and your own genealogical knowledge will measurably increase.

Looking forward to all the opportunities of 2020.