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

Friday, May 31, 2019

Getting the Rest of the Gold out of the Google Goldmine for Genealogists Part Seven
  • Google Help
  • Google Search
  • Google Newspapers Archive
  • Google Drive
  • Google Docs including Sheets, Slides, Forms, Draw and more
  • Google Keep
  • Google Trips
  • Chrome Web Store
  • Chrome Extensions
Overwhelming is a word that applies to most of my interaction with the internet. I am always finding more resources and spending time learning about new programs and new websites. If you have an Apple device, you are probably familiar with the Apple App Store with its about 1.8 million apps. If you are an Android user, you are likely familiar with Google Play and its more than 2.1 million apps. Of course, some apps work on both formats and so the numbers actually overlap but there are still millions of options. It is inconceivable that anyone could know about even a measurable percentage of all these possible apps. Of course, as genealogists, we can skip over games and a lot of other categories, but that still leaves a huge number of options. 

OK, So I decided to ignore both app stores and focus on Chrome extensions from the Chrome Web Store.  However, you should also know that the Chrome Web Store has themes for Chrome. Oh, but you don't use Chrome. Well, that puts you into a rather small minority. Chrome usage continues to increase and the latest statistics at the time of this post showed Chrome with 62.8% of the total world market for browsers with Safari as a distant second with 15.83% and with Firefox at 4.86% and the rest below 4%. See "Browser Market Share Worldwide." You will get different numbers from different websites but the ranking is about the same. 

You may simply use the browser that came with your computer. So, if you bought a PC computer recently, you might be using Microsoft Edge and if you bought an Apple computer, you may be using Safari, but the issue goes not just to the browser, but also to the search engine. Over the past few years, I have been consistently comparing search engines using some common genealogical searches. Google's search engine was and is so much better than any of the others that there was really no contest. 

Yes, there are some Safari extensions, but the ones I find most useful for genealogy are primarily and exclusively for Chrome. The useful extensions are one reason to consider Chrome and why it is so widely used. 

Here are a few of the extensions I use frequently for purposes related to genealogy. I am ranking them in the order that I use them. 

#1 Zotero

Zotero is a free stand-alone, open source project that helps you collect, organize, cite, and share research. It is most valuable to me because it works as a Chrome extension. With this extension and the program on my computer, I can create bibliographies, annotate documents and organize my own book collection. You need to investigate this product if you have anything to do with research or writing. Here is the link:

I have a love/hate relationship with Grammarly. It works as a Chrome extension, but also works with other software products. It has a free component but also has a subscription component. I like it because it corrects my grammar sort of. It is most useful in making my use of comas consistent. I dislike it because it is so limited in its word structure that it gives error messages when the grammar is perfectly acceptable. It is also a good spelling checker. The worst conflict comes from my use of collective nouns and their interaction with number. (In the preceding sentence, the word "number" is used as a collective noun referring to the concept of "number" i.e. singular, plural etc. I could make the error message go away by changing my wording, but I usually just ignore the error message.) But all in all, it is helpful. 

Whenever I think my computer has slowed down, I run a speed test to see if I am just getting anxious or if there is really a problem. Mostly it is anxiety. 

I agree, I am getting a lit bit far out of the idea of genealogy, but I save my blog posts to my genealogy album on Pinterest. 

Technically a browser app which is different than an extension, but it works just the same. It loads into your browser and captures citations from different websites. RecordSeek automatically creates an MLA format source citation for you, so you get the benefit of an official citation, without the frustration. If you aren't using this extension, you should be. 

I suggest you look around and see if there are any extensions you might like. You never know until you look. 

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Getting the Rest of the Gold out of the Google Goldmine for Genealogists Part Six\
  • Google Help
  • Google Search
  • Google Newspapers Archive
  • Google Drive
  • Google Docs including Sheets, Slides, Forms, Draw and more
  • Google Keep
  • Google Trips
  • Chrome Web Store
  • Chrome Extensions
There are so many online apps and programs that it is impossible to even become aware of all of them. In some categories of programs, there are dozens or hundreds of near duplicates. I often learn about an interesting program and try it out for a time and then never seem to get back to using it again. Really useful programs need to fit into your lifestyle and justify the time it takes to learn a new program. Obviously, there are many people who learn a few programs and then never move on or learn new ones. My purpose in adding these Google programs to my previous list of golden Google programs is to let you know that there are options and encourage all of us to look for better and more accommodating ways to do our genealogical work. 

Google Keep plays a role as a program for taking notes, creating task lists, and creating reminders. You can get a quick overview of the program from the "Keep cheat sheet." The advantage of using a program like this is that it synchronizes across all your devices. As with any new app, it helps to view a video or read the instructions. Here is a link to one of the many videos about Keep.

The second app in this particular post is Google Trips. We have several trips planned and found out how useful Google Trips can be. Basically, it keeps reservations and itinerary and is set up to work offline if needed. It also works with your Google Gmail account to give you valuable notifications. Using Google Keep and the Google Trips app together will add a significant amount of organization to a genealogy research trip, a business trip, or even a family vacation.
Google Trips works only on iPhones and Android phones. As is almost always the case, there are several YouTube videos that introduce the program. Here is one of them.

Introducing Google Trips

Stay tuned for the last segment in this series.

See the other posts in this series:

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Getting the Rest of the Gold out of the Google Goldmine for Genealogists Part Five
  • Google Help
  • Google Search
  • Google Newspapers Archive
  • Google Drive
  • Google Docs including Sheets, Slides, Forms, Draw and more
  • Google Keep
  • Google Trips
  • Chrome Web Store
  • Chrome Extensions
Genealogists have a significant challenge in transitioning from paper to digital records. We only have to consider the tremendous effort that has gone through over the past few years to digitize its 2.4 million rolls of microfilm to see that the process is ongoing and far from complete. All of us also find ourselves somewhere along the transitional process from paper to digital. A significant number of genealogists still reject the majority of genealogists still reject the transition altogether.

Part of my idea in focusing on Google and its online programs and apps is to show the advantages of using digital methodology over paper-based systems. Because, for the most part, the programs I highlight are "free" in the sense that they have no additional charges other than the standard costs of obtaining online digital access, I can suggest them without feeling that I am trying to convince genealogists to spend money which is an even more difficult issue to confront than the transition from paper to digital.

The highlighted apps or programs in the list above are crucial but not unique to a transition away from an entirely paper-based system. Apple has a set of similar programs that come pre-loaded on Apple's computers and devices. Microsoft has another similar set of programs that are tied to an online subscription. There are also free open source sets of the same programs that can be downloaded to your computer. However, if you investigate each of these systems, you will see that they all, including Google, have "hidden" costs usually based on the amount of usage and online storage you want to utilize. Since I am currently in the process of replacing an external hard drive that is failing, I am painfully aware of the time and cost of moving Terabytes of information around on my current high-speed computer system. Ultimately, all of these programs make money by selling online storage capacity unless they do not offer storage as part of the package such as LibreOffice.

Google system revolves around the Google Drive program. Google Drive is an online data storage system that provides 15 GB of "free" storage. Google Photos is handled differently than the document programs. To see the options for Google Photos, look at this link:

Google Drive is directly connected to the suite of programs that are usually referred to as "Google Docs." If you have a Google account, i.e. a Gmail account or have signed in to Chrome, you automatically already have Google Drive and Google Docs accounts. All you have to do is log in with your account. Any documents you create in any of the Google Docs programs are automatically stored in your Google Drive account. You can find a huge number of videos about Google Drive and Google Docs on You can also start by looking at Google Help.
Google Docs includes the following basic apps or programs but the connections between other programs is extensive and there are more programs that can be added.
  • Google Docs is also a word processing program. It is not a complete substitute for an extensive program such as Microsoft Word, but it has sufficient features for most of the day to day word processing needs. 
  • Google Sheets is a spreadsheet program. When you start comparing these programs to other spreadsheets such as Microsoft's Excel, depending on your level of expertise and needs, you might not think much of the program. But if your needs are modest and you don't need extensive programming functions, the Sheets program works well. 
  • Google Slides is the presentation program. Some presenters like it because it is easy to access and free. Again, it is not fair to compare it to Microsoft's PowerPoint. There is a reason why people pay a significant subscription price for these other programs. 
  • Google Forms is a useful alternative to other forms programs and the fact that it is integrated into Google Drive and the other programs is helpful. 
The suite of programs also includes some that are not commonly listed such as Google Drawings. There are also programs such as Google Sketchup, Google Sketchpad, Google Doodle, and Google IO. I don't use any of these specifically for genealogical purposes but it always helps to know that they are there. 

Let me give some examples of how I use these programs. 

Many genealogists use Research Logs. I don't do paper, so I use Google Docs for my research logs. This is an advantage because as I add research information it is instantly available on all my devices; iPhone, iPads, laptop computers, and any desktop computer I happen to be using at a library or the home of a relative. The information I keep includes the regular items you would want to know about the status of an individual research project. 

I use Google Drive to move documents from my iPhone to my desktop computer. I can take a photo of a document in a library (if allowed) and immediately make it available to my computer at home or my laptop or whatever. 

I use Sheets to organize trips. We can share the individual sheets with family members and coordinate complex trips, family reunions, and other events. 

Since I can export a Google Doc to Microsoft Word, I do the majority of my initial writing outside of blogs in Docs. I even compose email messages and letters in Docs so that I have a ready reference for those emails and letters that are part of my genealogical research. 

This list could go on and on. Once you begin to use Google Docs or some other online-based system, you will probably wonder how you ever go anything done on paper. 

See the other posts in this series:

Monday, May 27, 2019

Exploring Genealogy Series #11 Exploring

Exploring Genealogy Series #11 Exploring MyHeritage com

This is #11 in the Exploring Genealogy Series. In this particular segment, I am exploring the website. In the previous video, #10, I provided an introduction to the website and this episode continues that exploration.

This series is intended to cover apps, websites, and other resources used by genealogists. In my blog posts, I am posting some of the videos on this blog, Genealogy's Star and some videos on my other blog, Rejoice, and be exceeding glad...

My Exploring Genealogy Series is hosted on my YouTube Channel. Here is the link to the Channel.
Please take a moment to subscribe. You can find the YouTube channel by searching for my name as follows: "james tanner" Channel.  You will have to pick out my name from the other people with the same name.

Getting the Rest of the Gold out of the Google Goldmine for Genealogists Part Four
  • Google Help
  • Google Search
  • Google Newspapers Archive
  • Google Drive
  • Google Docs including Sheets, Slides, Forms, Draw and more
  • Google Keep
  • Google Trips
  • Chrome Web Store
  • Chrome Extensions
If you have read the previous installments of this series, you will realize that the list above indicates the particular Google apps or programs that I am highlighting and that this post refers to the Google Newspapers Archive.

Google started out to create a major digital newspaper archive, but apparently, the objective of the collection has changed. Previously, the collection had a very robust search capability, but now it is mainly a list of newspapers with a simple search field. It is now mainly focused on current news. But fortunately for genealogists, the free searchable collection of newspapers from around the world is still online. The holdings are spotty and incomplete but still useful. Clicking on a single entry gives you an overview of what Google has in that particular collection.
You can search the entire collection or focus in on reading separate issues. There is not a lot more to say, but it is useful to know that it is free and exists.

See the other posts in this series:

Sunday, May 26, 2019

Finders Keepers?

Did the pot hunters that raided the ancient abandoned cities of the native population of America own the things they acquired? Does this question have anything to do with genealogical research? Do you automatically "own" the information and documents you discover as a genealogical researcher (or genealogical pot hunter)?

One of the largest such archeologically valuable abandoned townsites in Arizona lies approximately at the corner of Stapely and McKellips and is buried under shopping centers and office buildings and some current-day homes. Now, did those "pot hunters" who took the artifacts and pottery from that historical homesite "own" the things they spent time in the hot sun digging out of the ground?

Why would you think that your genealogical research efforts digging into old records would produce something you "owned?"

Ownership is a complex cultural phenomenon. The fact that our society has chosen to "protect" the interests of some types of work product through copyright does not confer on everyone the right of ownership to information that is publically available. Why do genealogists who have searched historical records somehow believe that the search process conveys ownership? Here is a recent redacted comment that illustrates the issue.
I have always said I do not own my ancestors, I own my research time, effort and findings should I, myself, do the finding. I do not own public, government, church, etc documents I find. That said, when I have done the research and written it up with the inclusion of personal photos, documentations and my research, then it is my work and should be protected from at least being reprinted or sold without my permission. Which is why I do not put it out on any public or paid for site. I share with family and other researchers when asked, but I ask that they not publicly share what I have done but use what I have for their own research plan.
Has anyone every monetarily benefitted from their "genealogical research?" Laying that issue aside for a moment, if this person has a work product that is his or her own creation, then the issue of reprinting and selling is covered by our very expansive and inclusive copyright laws. Not only should the work be protected, it is protected. But the commentator does not appear to have any interest in publishing the work and therefore, all of it is likely to be lost as soon as this person dies.

The early "pioneers" in the Salt River Valley of Arizona were struggling to survive. They had only a passing interest in the ruins of an advanced civilization that lay all around them baking under the hot sun of the desert. When they found pottery or other artifacts, they often displayed those items on fireplace mantels and shelves. They certainly claimed ownership of those artifacts. Today, removing such an artifact from its surroundings is a Federal crime. In 1906, President Theodore Roosevelt signed the Antiquities Act into law. See "American Antiquities Act of 1906." What the "pot hunters" did is now called looting and vandalism and is a Federal Crime.

Today, we have genealogical pot hunters who believe that what they find in the public domain somehow becomes their property and that anyone's efforts to copy what they find is stealing. Some years ago, my father helped pay for the printing of a history of the John Tanner family. Here is the book:

Tanner, George S. John Tanner and His Family: A History-Biography of John Tanner of Lake George, New York, Born August 15, 1778, Hopkinton, Rhode Island, Died April 13, 1850, at South Cottonwood, Utah. Salt Lake City: John Tanner Family Association., 1974.

I am sure that the cost of printing the books was considerable. However, I still have two boxes of the books in my basement even despite the fact that John Tanner has tens of thousands of descendants. Personal collections of genealogy only have any real value when shared as widely as possible. Limiting who and which of your relatives have the "privilege" of looking at your research guarantees that it will be lost. All of the same information that is in the printed books in my basement is now freely available online on and other websites. Do I now own the books? What difference does that make when all of the information in these books is freely available? Isn't that really the fundamental reason for doing genealogy; so your family will benefit and learn from their ancestors? If you do not share without someone asking, how will they know to ask?

Saturday, May 25, 2019

American Ancestors Expands Its Online Family Tree American AncesTREES

The New England Historic Genealogical Society website American Ancestors implemented an online family tree feature some time ago. For those of us that have ancestors from New England, the addition of another online family tree program with record hints from the Society's records seems like a really good idea. However, when I logged in with my "free" FamilySearch Partner Account and uploaded part of my family tree, I get the following notice:
This tree is Locked
We're sorry - your tree has been locked. You have 6.0 gigabytes of media in your trees, which is more than the maximum allowed media storage for this plan. To unlock your tree, either remove some of the media from your trees, or upgrade to a PRO plan by clicking on your user name in the upper-right corner, then on Account.
Obviously, as an active genealogist with ancestors from New England and some who came on the Mayflower, I will have an extensive family tree. Interestingly, I have my complete file in the program and it takes only 10.9 MB, far less than the 6 GB mentioned in the notice. It is likely that the difference is in media items since by American Ancestors family tree came from However, I only have about 190 people in American Ancestors family tree and I have 5883 people in my file. Of course, I have no idea how many people I have in my part of the Family Tree, probably hundreds of thousands.

I guess before I can comment on the new hint sources from American Ancestors, I will have to think about "upgrading" my subscription to a "real" account.

Friday, May 24, 2019

Getting the Rest of the Gold out of the Google Goldmine for Genealogists Part Three
  • Google Help
  • Google Search
  • Google Newspapers Archive
  • Google Drive
  • Google Docs including Sheets, Slides, Forms, Draw and more
  • Google Keep
  • Google Trips
  • Chrome Web Store
  • Chrome Extensions
You may think that Google Search is something that you just use to find something, but the program is really more complicated and sophisticated than merely answering simple questions. When I am helping people with their family history questions, I often get a comment asking, "How did you find that?" The answer to that question involves quite a bit of explanation which I usually avoid discussing. 

The first step in understanding how Google Search works is to do a lot of searches. On most days when I am working on my computer online, I do hundreds of searches. I may also modify a single search is a variety of ways. I wrote about this process in detail back in 2017. Here are the posts:

If you go back and read these four posts, you will have a lot of good examples of how to think about searches. 

The most important things to understand about searching are the following:

#1 Using Google Search is a learned skill and an art and mastery requires extensive practice. 

In short, you have to do a lot of searches before you begin to get better at finding things. 

#2 You have to assume that what you are looking for is out there somewhere

When your search does not return the information you want, you have to assume that the reason is that you didn't use the correct search terms. You have re-word your search and do it over and then repeat that process over and over again. 

#3 Using Boolean algebraic symbols and other fancy "search tools" is generally a waste of time. 

I can do a dozen searches with variations before anyone can design a custom search using "search tricks." Also, I can't remember all the search tricks and I would waste even more time looking for search tricks. There are a few very basic things you do need to know. For example, putting a phrase in quotes tells Google you are looking for exactly that string of characters and not all the iterations of the string. Another example is that + is assumed by Google Search so you don't have to use it at all. Also, I find that using a minus sign, -, is mostly a waste of time. 

#4 Every search you do gives you information you can use in subsequent searches. 

If you don't find what you are looking for, you now know that the search you did was not productive. This means you have to try again with some different or additional tools. For example, if you are looking for a specific person using his or her "specific" name and you do not find anything, you now know that if that person is somewhere to be found, you will have to vary the name or add additional information. To get an example of this, try searching for your own name and see if you can find yourself on the internet. Then try adding other descriptive terms such as places, occupations, etc. To start, put your complete name in quotes and then vary the content of the quotes. 

#5 Do the same searches over and over.

Guess what? Google will give you different information every time you do a search even if you do the same search over again. Google limits the time spent on doing any search, so repeating the search will usually bring up a different set of responses. 

There is a lot more to learn about searching online but if I were to give you more rules, they wouldn't mean anything to you unless you started searching intensively for an extended period of time. Just remember, the quote attributed to Ralph Waldo Emerson:
That which we persist in doing becomes easier, not that the nature of the task has changed, but our ability to do has increased.
Oh, by the way, Google has an extensive online explanation about how and why their search engine works. You can search for "Google Search" to begin to read everything there is to learn.

Stay tuned for the next installment from the list at the beginning of this post. 

See the other posts in this series:

Thursday, May 23, 2019

FamilySearch Online for Twenty Years

I went back in my Journal to 1999 to see if I made any mention of the FamilySearch website, but apparently, I was too busy with a new job, family, and my church activities to pay much attention to what was going on online. The first records on were mainly the Ancestral File, the International Genealogical Index. I remember when FamilySearch set up the FamilySearch Record Search Pilot Site, the first site with digitized records from the microfilm digitization project back in 2008. The website was consolidated in 2010 with the old program which was introduced beginning in 2007 and was fully available in November of 2009. The FamilySearch Family Tree was added in 2013. Once the website and the microfilm digitization project got moving, billions of records have been digitized and in 2017 FamilySearch discontinued the international and national distribution of physical copies of the microfilmed records. In May of 2018, FamilySearch added the 2 billionth image to See "FamilySearch Adds 2 Billionth Image of Genealogy Records." There are an estimated 7.01 billion searchable names in the Historical Record Collections.

Here is the content of the latest announcement from an email sent to me:
Salt Lake City, Utah, (23 May 2019)-- Twenty years ago, global nonprofit FamilySearch launched an innovative new website, a free internet genealogy service. Two decades later, FamilySearch is a leader in the rising tide of popular ancestry-related services online. During that time, FamilySearch has expanded and evolved its free mix of online offerings, holding true to its purpose to provide economical access to the world’s genealogical records and create fun family history discoveries for everyone. (Find and share this news release online in the FamilySearch Newsroom). 
On May 24, 1999, took the online genealogy world by storm, offering free access to hundreds of millions of historical records online—a treasure for those seeking to make family history connections. For perspective, online broadcast news, e-trading, and downloadable music services were the rage at the time. Google, ranked 93rd of top websites, was still an up-and-coming service that was attempting to redefine the role of a search engine by indexing the web to make results junk free and more consumer relevant. 
At, searching historical records for new discoveries continues to be a big interest for site visitors. Millions of new customers grace its portal each year, looking for new family connections. And for good reason. The site now boasts over 7 billion searchable names and over 3 billion searchable images of historical records. And it adds more than 300 million new historical records and images yearly from archives worldwide. 
The website has expanded its free offerings since its grand opening two decades ago. Patrons have added 1.4 billion ancestors to the site's robust, collaborative family tree. And the tree is integrated with two powerful mobile apps. You can preserve family photos and create audio files that help tell your family’s stories. The website also features an impressive inventory of very useful help services, like how to make sense of DNA test results, and it’s all still free. 
Randy Bryson, now retired, was a FamilySearch IT director when the site was launched in 1999. He fondly recalls the big day. He said that the site was so wildly successful that it constituted 10 percent of all internet traffic at the time and was a top 10 website based on the amount of data it was hosting (20 terabytes). “Traffic on the site was so extreme at the time of the launch that we had to limit user access to 30 minutes at a time,” said Bryson. “The amazing thing was that people didn’t go away. When they were timed out, they would just log right back in to finish their search.” 
Today the site is nimble and quick. Bryson said he was moved by the amazing gratitude of the site’s users. “It was very overwhelming, emotional, and gratifying” to see people able to easily access records of their ancestors conveniently online from their homes. 
Steve Rockwood, FamilySearch CEO, is not surprised by the continued popularity of the website. He said, “When individuals discover more about their family history or make new family connections, it changes them. They see and treat each other differently.” Rockwood said that future services under development on the website will create more of these fun discovery experiences worldwide for site visitors. continues to enjoy impressive growth today, adding over 50,000 new subscribers weekly and hundreds of millions of new family photos, documents, stories, and historical records yearly from contributors and archives around the world. 
See what has changed and make new family connections in your family tree for free at

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Memorial Day: MyHeritage Gives Free Access to Military Records

Memorial Day: Free Access to Military Records
Quoting from a blog post entitled, "Memorial Day: Free Access to Military Records."
Next week marks Memorial Day in the U.S., a day to honor fallen soldiers who served in the U.S. Armed Forces. 
Memorial Day has many traditions, including spending time with family and sharing memories of relatives who served in the military. Do you have relatives who served their country? Have you discovered new information about their military history? 
To help you learn more about your heroic ancestors and the sacrifices they made in service of their country, we’re offering free access to all of our military records in SuperSearch™, over 47 million records. The collections can be searched for FREE from May 22–28, 2019. 
Search our military records for free at for fascinating new information about your ancestors and relatives who served in the military. Let us know what you discover.

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Gravestone Cleaning Kits from BillionGraves

Here is an email from about gravestone cleaning kits. We get involved in cleaning gravestones from time to time and I appreciate both the idea and the method.
Gravestone cleaning can turn back the wheels of time to make your ancestor’s final resting place nearly as beautiful as the day their family members gathered there to wish them farewell. 
Time has been hard on gravestones that were originally considered nearly permanent. Weathering, erosion, neglect, and vandalism have all taken their toll.
BillionGraves has recently partnered with the gravestone preservation company Save Your Stones to provide you with the best tools for cleaning your family headstones. Cleaners used on gravestones should be the gentlest possible choice to get the job done. D/2 is a gentle biocide and very effective for headstones covered in biological growth – lichen, moss, fungi, algae, and plants. 
 D/2 Biological Solution was designed by conservators for conservators. It was successfully tested in a 6-year study. Finally, it was recognized as the official cleaner of the Department of Veteran Affairs National Cemetery Administration and specified to be used on U.S. military gravestones. 
We’re excited to announce that BillionGraves now has gravestone cleaning kits and D/2 available for you to purchase! 
The D/2 comes in a quart spray bottle, easy to use and enough to clean 12 medium size headstones! These kits contain all of the tools you need to safely and carefully clean all types of gravestones: D/2 Biological Solution, soft-bristled brushes, inscription picks and more.

Monday, May 20, 2019

Getting the Rest of the Gold out of the Google Goldmine for Genealogists Part Two

  • Google Help
  • Google Search
  • Google Newspapers Archive
  • Google Drive
  • Google Docs including Sheets, Slides, Forms, Draw and more
  • Google Keep
  • Google Trips
  • Chrome Web Store
  • Chrome Extensions
It is time to start looking at the rest of the gold in the Google Goldmine starting with Google Help. The first impression you get from Google Help is the extensive number of "apps" available from Google. Not all of these are "free" the business apps are usually only available if you subscribe to Google's G Suite. But some of the apps in G Suite are still available for free to non-business users. Some of the apps are also restricted to certain operating systems or browsers. The list above is a selection of the apps that I find useful in working with writing and research and which can be used to your advantage for genealogical research. I will post the list at the beginning of each of my blog posts in this series and highlight in bold the ones in the post you are looking at.

Let me start with a hypothetical situation. Let's suppose that you are driving a car or truck on a long trip across the United States (or some other location in the world). What do you need to make your trip successful? How many of the things that you need for your trip are actually carried with you in your car or truck? How many will you have to purchase along the way? How many of the things you are carrying are things that you usually need all the time? How many of the things are specific for a trip across the United States? How many are specific to this particular trip?

I could keep asking more questions indefinitely since that is what I did for a living for many years. What is the point? Well, when we think of what we need to do genealogical research, we generally start thinking about websites or libraries or whatever. But in reality, we need a lot more than just those things that are directly related to genealogical research. For example, going back to my hypothetical journey across the country, you might need a car jack to help to replace a flat tire. If you were like me and you were to drive where I often drive, you would have had several flat tires over the years. Oh, and of course, a spare tire (or two).

In this same way, there are tools and such that will help us on our genealogical research journey that might not be obvious or something you would normally think about.

Google Help will link you to all of their named apps and websites, including all those listed above although some are not directly linked but require you to start clicking on other websites that appear when you click on a link to an app.

NOTE: You should be careful when looking at any of the listed apps to make sure that the app or website is still actively supported by Google. For example, the list on Google Help includes a link to Picassa, a program that has been discontinued for some years but may still be on some computers.

By the way, Google Help is not the most helpful place or the only place to get help about Google and Google products. But it is a good place to start. Let me give you an example of what I mean by this statement.

Back to my hypothetical situations. Let's suppose that you are working with Google Docs and you have a question about that app or program. Here is a Google Docs screen:

Where do you go for help? You click on the icon in the upper left-hand corner of the screen on what is commonly called a "hamburger icon." (Question: does this icon look like a hamburger to you?)

Hmm. So what do you get when you click on this icon?

You get a pull-down menu with a link to "Help & Feedback."

Here is what you get from the link:

Eventually, if you keep clicking or typing in questions, you might get an answer. But if you click on the "Browse all Articles" option you go directly to Google Help for Docs. Like this:

Further clicking gets you this?

Now you have a chance to get an answer to your question. But what would I suggest? I suggest entering a short explanation of your question into a regular Google Search, like this:

Sometimes it is helpful to use other Google tools to help with some of the apps and tools. Now if you find yourself with a question about how to find something on Google, just try asking it in the question bar. Also, note the small microphone (mic) image. You can click on that and just ask your question.

Stay tuned for more Google Gold.

See the first post in this series:

Introducing the MyHeritage DNA Health + Ancestry Test

Introducing the MyHeritage DNA Health + Ancestry Test

It is probably inevitable that the large online genealogy companies such as would see the advantage of providing additional information from their large DNA testing databases. Here is an announcement from about the new health-related DNA services being added to their DNA tests. Quoting from a blog post entitled, "Introducing the MyHeritage DNA Health + Ancestry Test."
We’re excited to announce the launch of the MyHeritage DNA Health + Ancestry test, which offers new dimensions of genetic insight to enrich your life, enlighten you about your health, and help you make informed lifestyle choices. As a major expansion of our DNA product line, the MyHeritage DNA Health + Ancestry test includes dozens of personalized and easy-to-understand health reports. It also includes all of the features of the current MyHeritage DNA test (to be referred to from now on as the MyHeritage DNA Ancestry-Only test), including matching to relatives based on shared DNA, ethnicity estimates, a chromosome browser, and others. 
With the new Health + Ancestry test, you’ll learn how your genes can affect your health. Your results include reports for conditions caused by single genes, such as hereditary breast cancer, late-onset Alzheimer’s disease, and late-onset Parkinson’s disease; conditions caused by multiple variants, such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and female breast cancer; and carrier status reports on conditions that can be passed down from a couple to their children, such as Tay-Sachs disease and cystic fibrosis. Altogether, the MyHeritage DNA Health + Ancestry test covers one of the most extensive ranges of conditions offered by an at-home DNA test, and we are working on adding many more conditions immediately following the launch and going forward. 
To order your kit, visit the MyHeritage DNA website. You’ll be able to choose between the Ancestry-Only kit and the new Health + Ancestry kit.
 Click on the link to the image below for more information.

Sunday, May 19, 2019

The History of the Development of Genealogical DNA: Part Seven: The Complete Genome

A draft genome of the wheat rust pathogen ...
As the tools of scientific investigation became more and more sophisticated and exact, those people involved in investigating the internal structure of living cells were able to discern smaller and smaller discrete cell structures. Once the technology had advanced to the point that the internal structure of cells was discovered, the scientific community began trying to understand the relationship between the physical structure of the cell and the processes that were taking place within the cells.

The genome is the complete set of genes or genetic material present in a cell or organism. Technically, a genome is the haploid set of chromosomes in a gamete or microorganism or in each cell of a multicellular organism. In a real sense, the genome is the set of instructions necessary to create an organism. The genome was made up of genes. Genes are a distinct sequence of nucleotides forming part of a chromosome, the order of which determines the order of monomers in a polypeptide or nucleic acid molecule which a cell (or virus) may synthesize. Genes are made up of strings of deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) with the exception of some viruses that are made up of ribonucleic acid (RNA). The DNA molecule is composed of two chains of nucleotides in the form of a double helix.

OK, that said, the major issue is identifying the identity and function of the components of the code. Detecting the order and arrangement of the nucleotides was a highly technical process. I have found a good short description of the discovery process in an article from the National Institute of Health, U.S. National Library of Medicine entitled, "The sequence of sequencers: The history of sequencing DNA" by James M. Heather and Benjamin Chain. Here is a quote of the abstract of the article,
Determining the order of nucleic acid residues in biological samples is an integral component of a wide variety of research applications. Over the last fifty years large numbers of researchers have applied themselves to the production of techniques and technologies to facilitate this feat, sequencing DNA and RNA molecules. This time-scale has witnessed tremendous changes, moving from sequencing short oligonucleotides to millions of bases, from struggling towards the deduction of the coding sequence of a single gene to rapid and widely available whole genome sequencing. This article traverses those years, iterating through the different generations of sequencing technology, highlighting some of the key discoveries, researchers, and sequences along the way.
Heather, James M, and Benjamin Chain. “The sequence of sequencers: The history of sequencing DNA.Genomics vol. 107,1 (2016): 1-8. doi:10.1016/j.ygeno.2015.11.003

The concept that was necessary for DNA testing to become useful to genealogists takes essentially the same path as that of using DNA testing or matching to determine who committed a crime. To thoroughly understand genealogical DNA testing it is really necessary to go back in history and learn about the ways the criminal investigation system has relied upon to identify criminals. This study is called forensic science. Why is forensic science pertinent to genealogical DNA testing? Both rely on physical evidence to establish relationships and are used to identify individuals.

Going back in history, we find that as early as 221 to 206 BC the Chinese used handprints for burglary investigations. Jumping forward, there is a book from the 14th Century about using fingerprints for identification called "Jaamehol-Tawarikh" attributed to Khajeh Rashiduddin Fazlollah Hamadani (1247-1318). See Wikipedia: Rashid-al-Din Hamadani.

The first modern use of fingerprints for forensic identification was suggested in about 1863 by a French professor, Paul-Jean Coulier. In the United States, American microscopist Thomas Taylor proposed that finger and palm prints left on any object might be used to solve crimes in an article published in the July 1877 issue of The American Journal of Microscopy and Popular Science. See "The History of Fingerprints." The first fingerprint files were created by an Argentine Police Official named Juan Vucetich in 1891. Based on Vucetich's ideas, an Argentine inspector, Eduardo Alvarez, made the first criminal fingerprint identification in 1892 by identifying Francisca Rojas, who had murdered her two sons but denied that she was responsible for the deaths and was identified by a bloody print on a door. See "A case for the Fingerprints Department."

Sir Francis Galton, a half-cousin of Charles Darwin, and a pioneer in eugenics published the following book, usually mentioned as the first on fingerprints.

Galton, Francis, and R. G. Poole Lansdown. 1892. Finger prints. London: Macmillan.

The first criminal trial in the United States that went to an appeal on the issue of using fingerprints as evidence was the People v. Jennings, 252 Ill. 534, 96 N.E. 1077 (1911). See also, "Admissibility of Fingerprint Evidence and Constitutional Objections to Fingerprinting Raised in Criminal and Civil Cases." Here is the citation to that same article:

Andre A. Moenssens, Admissibility of Fingerprint Evidence and Constitutional Objections to Fingerprinting Raised in Criminal and Civil Cases, 40 Chi.-Kent L. Rev. 85 (1963).
Available at:

The main issues regarding the use of fingerprint evidence were laid down in the case of the People v. Roach, 215 N.Y. 592, 109 N.E. 618 (1915) where the court held that fingerprint evidence,
when competent, relevant, and material, is admissible to prove the identity of the accused.

In order for DNA testing to take the same path as fingerprints, it was necessary to establish the unique nature of DNA and develop forensic procedures that would stand the rigors of cross-examination in a court of law.

I do not intend to write an exhaustive history of the use of DNA in criminal prosecutions. There are possibly hundreds of articles, books and other publications about the subject. Here is a selected list of books about the forensic use of DNA tests out of thousands available.

Abbondante, Serena Felicia, Australian Federal Police, Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation, and University of Canberra. “The Effect of Radioactive Materials on Forensic DNA Evidence: Procedures and Interpretation,” 2009.

American Bar Association, and Criminal Justice Standards Committee. ABA Standards for Criminal Justice: DNA Evidence. Washington, D.C.: American Bar Association, 2007.

Balding, David J, and Christopher D Steele. Weight-of-Evidence for Forensic DNA Profiles. New York, NY: John Wiley & Sons, 2015.

Buckleton, John S. Forensic DNA Evidence Methods and Interpretation. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press, 2004.

Buckleton, John S, Jo-Anne Bright, and Duncan Taylor. “Forensic DNA Evidence Interpretation,” 2016.

———. Forensic DNA Evidence Interpretation. Boca Raton: Chapman & Hall/CRC Press, 2018.

Butler, John M. Forensic DNA Typing: Biology, Technology, and Genetics of STR Markers. Amsterdam; Boston: Elsevier Academic Press, 2005.

Butler, John M, and John M Butler. Fundamentals of Forensic DNA Typing. Amsterdam; Boston: Academic Press/Elsevier, 2010.

Campbell, Andrea. Forensic Science: Evidence, Clues, and Investigation. Philadelphia: Chelsea House Publishers, 2000.

Canada, and Criminal and Social Policy Sector. Obtaining and banking DNA forensic evidence: consultation paper. Ottawa: Dept. of Justice Canada, 1994. Forensic DNA examiner, FBI, 2016.;3924217.

Clarke, George. Justice and Science: Trials and Triumphs of DNA Evidence. New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press, 2009.

Cooper, Christopher. Forensic Science. New York, N.Y.: DK Publishing, 2008.

Elkins, Kelly M. Forensic DNA Biology: A Laboratory Manual. Kidlington, Oxford; Waltham, MA: Academic Press, 2013.

Exonerated by DNA: Issues and Case Profiles in the Use of Exculpatory DNA Evidence, 2015.

Farley, Mark A, and James J Harrington. Forensic DNA Technology. Chelsea, Mich.: Lewis Publishers, 1991.

Goddard, Lowell, Margaret Lawton, New Zealand Law Society, and Bank of New Zealand. DNA Evidence. Wellington, N.Z.: The Society, 1992.

Grace, Victoria, Annabel Ahuriri-Driscoll, Gerald Midgley, and Johanna Veth. Forensic DNA Evidence on Trial: Science and Uncertainty in the Courtroom. Arizona: Emergent Publications, 2011.

Hindmarsh, R. A, and Barbara Prainsack. Genetic Suspects: Global Governance of Forensic DNA Profiling and Databasing. Cambridge; New York: Cambridge University Press, 2010.

Jamieson, Allan, and Scott Bader. A Guide to Forensic DNA Profiling, 2016.

Jennings, Cecilia. DNA Evidence: The Proof Is in the Genes, 2018.

Kobilinsky, Lawrence F, Thomas F Liotti, and Jamel Oeser-Sweat. DNA: Forensic and Legal Applications. Hoboken, N.J: Wiley-Interscience, 2005.

Levine, Louis. Attorney’s Guide to Forensic DNA Evidence. New York? L. Levine, 2004.

Marzilli, Alan. DNA Evidence. New York: Chelsea House, 2012.

Nardo, Don. DNA Evidence. Detroit: Lucent Books, 2008.

National Institute of Justice (U.S.). Report to the Attorney General on Delays in Forensic DNA Analysis. Washington, DC: U.S. Dept. of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, National Institute of Justice, 2003.

National Research Council (U.S.). The Evaluation of Forensic DNA Evidence: Prepublication Copy. Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press, 1996.

National Research Council (U.S.), Committee on DNA Forensic Science: an Update, Norman Grossblatt, National Research Council (U.S.), Commission on DNA Forensic Science: an Update, and National Research Council (U.S.). The Evaluation of Forensic DNA Evidence. Washington: National Academy Press, 1996.

National Research Council (U.S.), Committee on DNA Forensic Science: an Update, National Research Council (U.S.), and Commission on DNA Forensic Science: an Update. The Evaluation of Forensic DNA Evidence. Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press, 1998.

Newton, David E. DNA Evidence and Forensic Science. New York: Facts On File, 2008.

Pfefferli, Peter, TotalBoox, and TBX. Forensic Evidence Field Guide. Elsevier Science, 2015.

Rudin, Norah, and Keith Inman. An Introduction to Forensic DNA Analysis. Boca Raton, Fla.: CRC Press, 2002.

Sallavaci, Oriola. The Impact of Scientific Evidence on the Criminal Trial: The Case of DNA Evidence, 2014.

Semikhodskii, Andrei. Dealing with DNA Evidence a Legal Guide. New York: Routledge-Cavendish, 2007.

Shelton, Donald E. Forensic Science Evidence: Can the Law Keep up with Science? El Paso: LFB Scholarly Pub. LLC, 2012.

Shewale, Jaiprakash G, and Ray H Liu. Forensic DNA Analysis: Current Practices and Emerging Technologies. Boca Raton: CRC Press, Taylor & Francis Group, 2014.

The Evaluation of Forensic DNA Evidence. Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press, 1996.

United States, Congress, Senate, Committee on the Judiciary, and Subcommittee on Crime and Drugs. Justice for Sexual Assault Victims: Using DNA Evidence to Combat Crime : Hearing before the Subcommittee on Crime and Drugs of the Committee on the Judiciary, United States Senate, One Hundred Seventh Congress, Second Session, May 14, 2002. Washington: U.S. G.P.O. : For sale by the Supt. of Docs., U.S. G.P.O. [Congressional Sales Office, 2003.

United States, Department of Justice, President’s DNA Initiative (U.S.), National Institute of Justice (U.S.), United States, and Office of Justice Programs. Principles of Forensic DNA for Officers of the Court, 2006.

Wyatt, S. K, Justice Institute of British Columbia, British Columbia, Training Ministry of Advanced Education and Technology, and Transfer and Technology Centre for Curriculum. Forensic DNA Evidence: Investigative Procedures for Law Enforcement. Victoria, B.C.: The Ministry, 2001.

Stay tuned, still more to come

See these previous posts:

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