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

Saturday, August 31, 2019

RootsTech 2020 is Coming and it is time to start preparing

https://www.rootstech.org/salt-lake
Five hotels in the downtown area of Salt Lake City, Utah are already taking reservations for rooms during RootsTech 2020, February 26th to the 29th, at the Salt Palace. Here is the link to the information about the five contracted hotels: https://www.rootstech.org/hotels?et_cid=1484000&et_rid=129929020&linkid=listofhotels&cid=em-rt-9046

Registration for RootsTech will open on September 18, 2019. Register early so that you can take advantage of exclusive early bird pricing.

You might want to check out the routes of the TRAX Light Rail system. In the downtown area, you can ride the TRAX for free and the cost from further away from the downtown area is nominal. If you are driving, there is limited parking available in the Salt Palace parking lot and other lots nearby. The charges for parking vary with the distance from the downtown area. Parking at the TRAX stations outside of the downtown area is free. For information on the TRAX routes and schedule see the following website: https://www.rideuta.com/Rider-Tools/Schedules-and-Maps If you choose a hotel on the TRAX route, you can ride to stops within and block or so of the Salt Palace. Some of the local hotels also provide shuttle service.

We have ridden the FrontRunner train from Provo to Salt Lake for RootsTech and also used the TRAX. The past few years, we have stayed with relatives. My wife and I will both be at RootsTech helping with The Family History Guide and other exhibitors. I will keep you posted about my presentations as soon as plans are announced for activities at the Conference. 

Sunday, August 25, 2019

The Ultimate Digital Preservation Guide, Part Eleven: Focus, Focus, Focus


While working in the Maryland State Archives digitizing probate records for FamilySearch, we became acutely aware of the need to have the images properly focused. The software we used to digitize the records automatically gave a warning signal on the computer processing the images when the images were out of focus. Essentially, even with taking thousands of images, we had to be aware of the focus for every image.

Unfortunately, if you are using your own camera to copy documents for preservation, you will not have a program that will tell you that your images are out of focus. The only remedy is to review your images before you move on in your next project. Obviously, now that we have returned to our home in Utah, we will not have the opportunity to go back and retake images in Annapolis, Maryland. This can also happen with individuals when they take photos in cemeteries or other locations where returning to retake an out of focus image might not be possible.

The title of this post says, "Focus, Focus, Focus." This means focus on the need for preservation. Focus on the act of preservation and focus on reviewing and immediately correcting any errors in making the digital images. The three most common problems when making a photograph are out of focus images, movement of the camera, and having the camera tilted at the wrong angle cutting off part of the intended image. Adobe Photoshop or some other photo editing program cannot resolve these particular image issues. No matter how careful you are, you will always have a small percentage of your photos that fall into one of these categories. It is tragic when the exact information you are trying to preserve is lost to poor camera practices.

A camera is essentially a box with a light-sensitive device and a way to save an image. Historically, various types of light-sensitive film, usually based on silver nitrate or similar chemicals were used to record the image. Today, photographs are made with electronic sensors. You can read a good introduction to digital camera sensors here: "Demystifying digital camera sensors once and for all."
The quality of the images captured by any particular camera depends primarily on the quality of the lens system. You can make a photographic image without a lens using light-sensitive film and a pinhole camera. See "Build Your Own Pinhole Camera." Once you see how simple a camera can actually be, you start to understand that there is a lot more to making good photographs than simply buying or making a camera.

Currently, the advertisements for cameras focus on the number of Megapixels and the other electronic add-ons such as image stabilization. Think about it, to repeat, the quality of the image depends primarily on the quality of the lens. The lens is the light gathering part of the camera. The light to form an image has to pass through the lens on its way to the sensor. No matter how high your Megapixel count, if your lens is poor, your photographs will be of poor quality. The major camera manufacturers recognize this fact and sell up to three levels of lens quality. For example, you can buy an inexpensive Canon 50mm lens for under $50 but the top-level quality 50mm L system lens from Canon is around $1,400. In this case, you are not just paying for a fancy name, you are actually getting a higher quality lens. You can buy a number of good quality third party 50mm lenses for less than the price of the Canon L-series lenses, but the cheaper lenses simply lack the quality of the more expensive products.

So what is focus? A camera is in focus when the image is as sharp as it possible on the film or sensor. The factors that affect focus include the quality of the lens, the movement of the camera, the physical distance (adjustable) of the lens from the sensor and the degree of resolution of the sensor or film.

Most cameras sold today have an automatic focus function. When the camera is set on "auto-focus" The camera takes over the task of focusing on the subject. The fact is that a less expensive camera will usually have a very limited auto-focus function. If you rely completely on the auto-focus function and do not check your photos, you will likely end up with a significant percentage of out-of-focus images. More expensive cameras have more sophisticated auto-focus functions that work a higher percentage of the time but there are always conditions when the auto-focus does not work and the image is out-of-focus.

If you are taking photos of documents or a series of other items, you should put your camera on a stand or a fixed tripod so that the distance from the object (document) to the sensor does not change for every photo. If you are trying to shoot photos by holding the camera, you should try to stay as near as possible to the same distance for every photo. But with hand-held photos, you are very likely to have camera movement that will also cause some or all of the photos to be unusable.

The amount of light needed by the camera to make an image depends, in part, on the size of the lens. The size of a lens or its light gathering ability is usually expressed by an "f-stop" number. The smaller the number the more light it gathers. Lenses with low f-stop numbers are considered to be "faster" than smaller lenses, that is, that they can gather more light at faster shutter speeds. For example, an f1.8 is faster than one with an f-stop of f2.8. The second factor determining how much light reaches the sensor is the speed of the shutter. The shutter opens and closes when you push the button to take a photo. With some cameras, you can also connect the camera to a computer and click the shutter with software controlling the camera. Obviously, the faster the shutter speed, the less light reaches the sensor. On some cameras, the shutter speed is adjusted automatically along with the f-stop. Some cameras allow the operator to manually adjust all of the functions of the camera or allow the camera's program to make those adjustments.

All camera lenses focus only at a certain distance range from the sensor called the depth of field. The size of the depth of field varies with the f-stop. Low f-stop numbers have a very narrow or limited depth of field or focus. At any given f-stop, there will be a part of the image that is out-of-focus either because it is too close to the sensor or too far away. Most camera lenses will focus on "infinity" and everything past a certain distance from the sensor (sometimes inches and sometimes feet or even yards) will be "in focus." However, when you are using a camera to photograph documents or artifacts you need to make sure that the object being imaged is at the right distance from the lens that the entire object is in focus. This is not really much of an issue with flat paper but books and other three dimensional objects may be partially out of focus. There are now some cameras that will take a series of photos at different focal lengths and put them all together into a completely focused image, but this function is still not generally available. See "Extended Depth of Field Camera."

Learning how to set the f-stop and what shutter speed to use with different lenses is part of the complicated art of making good photos. However, unless the photo is ruined by one of the focus/movement issues, almost all the other issues can be corrected using a program such as Adobe Photoshop.

Part One: https://genealogysstar.blogspot.com/2019/06/the-ultimate-digital-preservation-guide.html
Part Two: https://genealogysstar.blogspot.com/2019/06/the-ultimate-digital-preservation-guide_10.html
Part Three: https://genealogysstar.blogspot.com/2019/06/the-ultimate-digital-preservation-guide_14.html
Part Four: https://genealogysstar.blogspot.com/2019/07/the-ultimate-digital-preservation-guide.html
Part Five: https://genealogysstar.blogspot.com/2019/07/the-ultimate-digital-preservation-guide_10.html
Part Six: https://genealogysstar.blogspot.com/2019/07/the-ultimate-digital-preservation-guide_25.html
Part Seven: https://genealogysstar.blogspot.com/2019/07/the-ultimate-digital-preservation-guide_29.html
Part Eight: https://genealogysstar.blogspot.com/2019/08/the-ultimate-digital-preservation-guide.html
Part Nine: https://genealogysstar.blogspot.com/2019/08/the-ultimate-digital-preservation-guide_13.html
Part Ten: https://genealogysstar.blogspot.com/2019/08/the-ultimate-digital-preservation-guide_16.html

Saturday, August 24, 2019

FGS and NGS to Merge

https://www.ngsgenealogy.org/
In an announcement dated August 21, 2019, the boards of the National Genealogical Society (NGS) and the Federation of Genealogical Societies (FGS) announced that the two organization will merge. Here is the press release from the FGS:
In a historic move, the boards of the National Genealogical Society (NGS) and the Federation of Genealogical Societies (FGS) announced today their intent to merge. The two organizations, both non-profit leaders in the dynamic genealogy industry, will form one consolidated group that will continue to operate as the National Genealogical Society. Both boards approved a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) earlier this week, and jointly announced the news at the Opening Session of the FGS Family History Conference in Washington, D.C. this morning.

Leaders of both organizations believe this merger will serve the genealogy community by improving support of both individual members and societies in the pursuit of genealogical excellence.

The organizational structure of NGS will be modified to increase functions that support genealogical societies and family organizations. Digitization projects of genealogical importance such as the War of 1812 pensions will continue. The two organizations will continue to operate independently while all details of the merger are completed, no later than October 1, 2020.

Faye Stallings, President of FGS, said: “We are excited about this opportunity to combine with a premier organization that has been in operation since 1903. This will allow for improved and expanded services to help support societies.” Ben Spratling, President of the NGS, commented, “We look forward to continuing the strong legacy of FGS as a ‘gathering point’ for family historians and societies all across the nation.”

About FGS
FGS was founded in 1976 and empowers the genealogical and family history community, especially its societies and organizations, by advocating for the preservation of records and providing resources that enable genealogical organizations to succeed in pursuing their missions. FGS launched the Preserve the Pensions project in 2010 and raised more than $3 million to digitize and make freely available the pension files from the War of 1812. Fundraising was completed for that project in 2016 and the digitization continues. FGS was also the driving force behind the Civil War Soldiers and Sailors project alongside the National Parks Service. To learn more visit fgs.org.
Technology and the economy are challenging the traditional formulas for a national society regardless of the subject of the organization. Genealogical societies are not immune to these major shifts in the way people obtain information and organize. See "Association Meetings." One important development is the general availability of online webinars and the introduction of online or virtual conferences.

Sunday, August 18, 2019

Traveling and offline


My wife and I are talking some time to travel at the end of summer. We will be off and online and not getting much published for a while. Watch WalkingArizona.blogspot.com for photo updates.

Friday, August 16, 2019

The Ultimate Digital Preservation Guide, Part Ten: The Importance of Image Quality


When faced with a pile of old photos, the genealogist must make some important decisions. Of course, there is always the challenge of identifying the people and places represented in the photos, but sometimes we are faced with just really poor quality photos. Here is one example.


With the digital photographic manipulation tools, we have available today, this photo could be improved but the problems with focus, lighting, and exposure are not particularly correctable. In addition, this particular image is a generational copy of the original and much of the detail of the photo has already been lost. Here is a quick edit of the photo for comparison.


When taking a photo or when preserving one through using either a scanner or a camera the most important issue is making sure the images are focused. This image has a soft focus and further manipulation will cause some parts of the photo to look improved but others to look worse.


Manipulating or enhancing photos creates a whole list of ethical and historical issues. Whenever you elect to "fix" an old historically important photo, be sure and keep an unmodified copy of the original. When I manipulated this image, if I had spent more time, you probably could not easily tell that the image had been altered. The danger here is when the altered image replaces the original as the historical reality. You might dismiss the original as "damaged" but do you really know that the image was damaged and that the part of the image I removed do not add important information? One thing removed was a piece of an iron support, probably used by the photographer to help the person hold still.


Should something like this support be removed to "improve" the appearance of the original? This is a real question that needs to be answered by the person doing the "preservation."

After numerous discussions with genealogists who insist on improving the photos, I realize that my efforts to preserve the originals are being largely ignored. Here is an example of a series of photos that show what happens as people improve on the originals. By the way, can you tell which one is an accurate copy of the "original?"









All of these copies are duplicates uploaded to the FamilySearch Memories App. It would be nice to have the original photograph so that a better copy could be made.

Stay tuned for more of this rather endless series.

Here are the previous posts in this series:

Part One: https://genealogysstar.blogspot.com/2019/06/the-ultimate-digital-preservation-guide.html
Part Two: https://genealogysstar.blogspot.com/2019/06/the-ultimate-digital-preservation-guide_10.html
Part Three: https://genealogysstar.blogspot.com/2019/06/the-ultimate-digital-preservation-guide_14.html
Part Four: https://genealogysstar.blogspot.com/2019/07/the-ultimate-digital-preservation-guide.html
Part Five: https://genealogysstar.blogspot.com/2019/07/the-ultimate-digital-preservation-guide_10.html
Part Six: https://genealogysstar.blogspot.com/2019/07/the-ultimate-digital-preservation-guide_25.html
Part Seven: https://genealogysstar.blogspot.com/2019/07/the-ultimate-digital-preservation-guide_29.html
Part Eight: https://genealogysstar.blogspot.com/2019/08/the-ultimate-digital-preservation-guide.html
Part Nine: https://genealogysstar.blogspot.com/2019/08/the-ultimate-digital-preservation-guide_13.html

Thursday, August 15, 2019

Expanded Commentary on the Rules of Genealogy: Rule Four


I published the first six Rules of Genealogy back on July 1, 2014. See "Six of the Basic Rules of Genealogy." This short list included the most famous and basic rule of genealogy: "When the baby was born, the mother was there." I added four rules in a post back on August 11, 2017, entitled, "New Rules Added to the old: The Rules of Genealogy Revisited." One more Rule was added to the list on August 2, 2018, in a post entitled, "A New Rule Added: The Rules of Genealogy Revisited Again." Again, on May 25, 2019, I added Rule Number Twelve in a blog post entitled, "What is "Your" Family Tree? A New Addition to the Basic Rules of Genealogy."You can go back to these original posts to see my original comments and the entire list of Rules. 

In this series, I am reviewing each of the Rules and expanding on the reasoning and background of each.

Rule Four: There are always more records

This is the one rule that you could argue about for hours if you were inclined to so so. So many genealogists claim that they have reached a "brick wall" and that there are no more records for their particular ancestor. What this really means is that is all the records that this particular genealogist has searched. Before I go too far with this commentary, I need to point out that there really are people who cannot be found in the records that do exist such as people who lived in extreme poverty and people who intentionally dropped out of the society where they lived. It is important to distinguish between individuals who are left out of records or managed to avoid being recorded from the concept of somehow the records are not available.

Let me explain what I mean with an example from the U.S. Federal Census. There are a multitude of reasons why any particular individual may not be found in a given Census record. There are also a multitude of other records that may contain information about that missing individual. The idea that there are always more records refers to the fact that it is highly unlikely that any individual researcher will have the time and resources to look through ALL of the records that exist and may contain information about a particular individual. For example, when was the last time you researched utility records or irrigation records? How many times have you looked at local parking violation records? Have you ever searched farm coop records or government subsidy allotment records?

One of the common complaints is that the county courthouse burned. The real question is what kinds of records survived the fire? Were all the local church records burned? If you want an extensive discussion on burned counties, see "Burned Counties Research."

In my experience, most researchers look at less than a dozen different types of records. Rule Four points out that superficial research is far from complete. Here is another example.

Herber, Mark D, and Society of Genealogists (Great Britain). Ancestral Trails: The Complete Guide to British Genealogy and Family History. Baltimore, Md.: Genealogical Pub. Co., Inc, 1998.

There is a second edition, see the following:

Herber, Mark D. 2008. Ancestral trails: the complete guide to British genealogy and family history. Stroud, Gloucestershire [England]: History Press.

This book has 873 pages listing and explaining hundreds of different types of British records. Most of these records are probably unknown to all but the most expert and dedicated British genealogists.

One of the best places to begin to see how many records there are in the world is to look at the FamilySearch.org Research Wiki. There are currently 90,418 articles listing records from all over the world.

Rule Four is more of a challenge than it is an absolute statement about the availability of records.

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

The Ultimate Digital Preservation Guide, Part Nine: More about file formats


For most of the history of photography and document reproduction, it has been a basic tenet that no copy can be any better than the original and copies of copies always degraded in quality. When digital images came along, all that changed. Theoretically, some digital images can be copied an infinite number of times without any degradation. However, this can only happen when the digital image is entirely reproduced. Many of today's digital image file formats are "lossy." That means that when the file is saved the saved copy has discarded some of the information (detail) of the original image. The most common of these lossy file formats is the ubiquitous JPEG file (.jpg, .jpeg, etc.).

At this point, it is important to realize that there are hundreds of different digital image file formats out there. If you find an image cannot be opened in some strange file format, I suggest doing a Google search on the applications that support that particular file extension. I will only be able to discuss some of the more commonly used file formats. You can usually tell the type of file format from the file extension (the letters after the file name following a dot or period). You can find a fairly complete list of file extensions in Wikipedia: List of filename extensions.

The reason that JPEG or JPG files lose information or detail is that the original file is compressed and the compression process discards some information. Now, if you use a camera or scanner and save the file in JPEG or JPG format, you will get most of the information from the device. It mostly when the original digital image is copied or edited that the image loses additional information. Some cameras and a few scanners will allow you to save images as RAW images. This file format preserves all of the original information from the device. When you edit a RAW image, you can save your changes in many other formats and the original RAW image is not altered. The RAW image is not so much a file format as it is a complete dump of all the information gathered by the camera or scanner's sensor.

An alternative to saving images as .jpeg or .jpg files is to use the .tiff or .tff format. TIFF (Tagged Image File Format) is a file compression format that does not lose any information; it is a lossless file format. Files saved from the digital devices in this particular format are much larger in size than JPEG and RAW files, but few cameras have the ability to create images in the TIFF format. There are a very large number of other file formats out there in common use. Here are a few more:

  • HEIC - currently used by newer Apple iPhone operating systems. Here is a link to an article entitled, "HEIC JPG Comparison: What’s the Difference between HEIC vs JPG?"
  • PNG - "A PNG file is an image file stored in the Portable Network Graphic (PNG) format. It contains a bitmap of indexed colors and uses lossless compression, similar to a .GIF file but without copyright limitations. PNG files are commonly used to store graphics for web images." See fileinfo.com
  • .GIF Again quoting FileInfo.com: A GIF file is an image file often used for web graphics. It may contain up to 256 indexed colors with a color palette that may be a predefined set of colors or may be adapted to the colors in the image. GIF files are saved in a lossless format, meaning the clarity of the image is not compromised with GIF compression.

The scanning software that comes with your scanner may or may not have the ability to save files in all the different file formats

In the past, the file size was a huge issue. Most of the commonly used file formats such as JPEG and TIFF were either used or not used when memory storage was limited. Presently, file size is not as much of an issue. If your computer is old and you do not have external storage, you may still have some concerns about file size but even if that is the case, you can purchase sufficient external storage for a very reasonable price. See The Ultimate Digital Preservation Guide, Part Eight -- Technological Challenges: Scanners. If you have the option, store your images as RAW images. If not, then use TIFF. In event you have neither, JPEG will do. One more option is storing the images in PDF format. This is acceptable to the Library of Congress and is another alternative. Technically, PDF files are not an image format, but images can be stored as PDF files.

Here are the previous posts in this series:

Part One: https://genealogysstar.blogspot.com/2019/06/the-ultimate-digital-preservation-guide.html
Part Two: https://genealogysstar.blogspot.com/2019/06/the-ultimate-digital-preservation-guide_10.html
Part Three: https://genealogysstar.blogspot.com/2019/06/the-ultimate-digital-preservation-guide_14.html
Part Four: https://genealogysstar.blogspot.com/2019/07/the-ultimate-digital-preservation-guide.html
Part Five: https://genealogysstar.blogspot.com/2019/07/the-ultimate-digital-preservation-guide_10.html
Part Six: https://genealogysstar.blogspot.com/2019/07/the-ultimate-digital-preservation-guide_25.html
Part Seven: https://genealogysstar.blogspot.com/2019/07/the-ultimate-digital-preservation-guide_29.html
Part Eight: https://genealogysstar.blogspot.com/2019/08/the-ultimate-digital-preservation-guide.html

Saturday, August 10, 2019

The Ultimate Digital Preservation Guide, Part Eight -- Technological Challenges: Scanners

If you are at all serious about digitizing a significant quantity of records, you need to have access to a scanner. In modern commerce, there are still vestiges of paper records but nearly all of my interaction with the outside commercial world is now on the internet in digital formats. For example, I have been involved in purchasing and selling real estate. Depending on the state in the United States, I can do the entire transaction online except for the physical property examination but in some states, the process is still very paper-oriented.

How does this translate to genealogy? Obviously, many of the records we now search are online in digital format. Some of those records are even indexed. As more records are digitized we will have less and less need to refer to paper records. Do not misunderstand my comment. It will be a really cold day in Phoenix, Arizona before all the paper records are digitized, but for some countries and during some time periods, the basic records are generally available online.

Unfortunately, that huge number of online digitized records does not help those of us with our own pile of paper. But, we should be aware that if our personal records are photocopies of records that are now online, it will not be our responsibility to assure that these records are digitally preserved. Those records that are truly personal such as journals, photographs, certificates, letters, and other similar documents are our responsibility to digitize and preserve.

Even within the past week or two, I have had another question come up about how and what to digitize. In this case, the person wanted to get rid of the clutter and open up space in their house. As long as we and others view the products of genealogical research as clutter or trash, we will continue to lose a huge amount of valuable genealogical information every year.

The main objective of this series is to motivate and assist those with paper collections of documents and records to share those with the greater genealogical community through digitization. Right now a huge number of documents and photographs are being uploaded to the FamilySearch.org Memories section but these contributions are only a small part of the paper out there in the world.

Scanners, photocopiers, and digital cameras have light-sensitive electronic sensors or photosensitive elements although the actual process is different for each class of machines. All three convert light rays into electronic signals that can then be printed or stored. Scanners and photocopiers shine a bright light on the documents being scanned and then use a photosensor to copy a reflected image of the document. Digital camera sensors create the image directly from light entering the lens of the camera. Many scanners available today are multifunctional and work as scanners, photocopiers or printers, and FAX machines although the fax function is rapidly disappearing with the ability to send digital images by email.

Here is a generalized diagram of how the most common flatbed scanner works.

By Scanner_a_plat_fonctionnement.png: User:Jean-noderivative work: Pluke (talk) - Scanner_a_plat_fonctionnement.png, FAL, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=17009063
All other types of scanners follow the same general pattern. Rather than rewrite many of my previous blog posts, here is a list of the ones most pertinent to this issue.
Flatbed scanners are inexpensive. An Epson Perfection V39 Color Photo & Document Scanner with scan-to-cloud & 4800 optical resolution is presently about $70 on Smile.Amazon.com (you can designate The Family History Guide as you selected charity) and there are others that range up to $300 that have larger scanning surfaces or can also scan film slides. Scanners that automatically scan multiple pages with a sheet feeder and/or scan photos automatically can run into the thousands of dollars.

Some Family History Centers and libraries, such as the Brigham Young University Family History Library have scanners available for free public use.

If you read some of the posts linked above you will understand that using a very high level of resolution, such as the Epson's 4800 optical resolution, does little to enhance the final photo. The Library of Congress, Preservation Directorate recommends 300 or 400 dpi.

The scanner will either be connected to a computer or have its own USB connection and all your images can be stored on a flash drive or hard drive.

Here are the previous posts in this series:

Part One: https://genealogysstar.blogspot.com/2019/06/the-ultimate-digital-preservation-guide.html
Part Two: https://genealogysstar.blogspot.com/2019/06/the-ultimate-digital-preservation-guide_10.html
Part Three: https://genealogysstar.blogspot.com/2019/06/the-ultimate-digital-preservation-guide_14.html
Part Four: https://genealogysstar.blogspot.com/2019/07/the-ultimate-digital-preservation-guide.html
Part Five: https://genealogysstar.blogspot.com/2019/07/the-ultimate-digital-preservation-guide_10.html
Part Six: https://genealogysstar.blogspot.com/2019/07/the-ultimate-digital-preservation-guide_25.html
Part Seven: https://genealogysstar.blogspot.com/2019/07/the-ultimate-digital-preservation-guide_29.html

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

Technology Changing Rapidly for Cameras and Hard Drives

https://www.digitalcameraworld.com/news/is-this-the-end-of-nikon-as-we-know-it-fiscal-report-shows-71-drop-in-earnings
In a major technological shift, stand-alone digital camera sales are dramatically falling. Over the past year, according to an article on Fstoppers.com entitled "Worldwide Camera Sales Take Another Tumble,"
CIPA, the Camera and Imaging Products Association, which tracks global camera and lens sales by major manufacturers, has released their report for June 2019, and it shows another significant drop in sales as compared to past years. 
More specifically, the report shows that as compared to June of last year, camera and lens sales are down across the board by large amounts, with DSLRs dropping by 37% (in shipped units) and mirrorless cameras by 14%. 
This dramatic drop is being attributed to the widespread move to using the cameras incorporated in smartphones. Meanwhile, the competition among smartphone manufacturers continues to drive advances in the quality and features of the images produced by smartphones with the soon-to-be-released iPhone 11 incorporating a triple rear camera system. To illustrate this shift in usage, here are three photos: one taken with my iPhone 8 Plus, one from my 20 MP Sony HX400V, and my Canon 5D Mark II Full Frame with a 21.1 MP sensor. 

Image #1 with my iPhone:


Image #2, a similar photo taken with my Sony:


Image #3 taken with my Canon:


Of course, the subject matter differs but in this context, viewed on a computer screen, there is no significant difference for the viewer. A professional photographer would find some significant differences, but the average viewer would not see those differences as justifying spending up to $6000 for a DSLR camera body. I did not choose these examples because I thought they were the best photos I had taken, but because they are average. 

When the newest round of smartphones hit the market, I am guessing that the sale of stand-alone digital cameras will also drop. For genealogists, this means that the camera you need for doing research is probably your phone. 

Meanwhile, the competition between Solid State Devices (SSD) for storage (think flash drives or thumb drives) and traditional spinning media drives commonly called hard drives has continued to force the creation of larger and larger capacity hard drives while prices for flash drives continually drop with a 500 GB external SSD for well under $100. The price of a 128 GB flash drive has dropped to just over $20. Meanwhile, the Seagate 8TB hard drive has dropped in price to $140 and the prices on 10TB and even 12TB hard drives continue to drop. Most of the new computers are being shipped with internal SSD drives. 

The drop in memory storage costs directly affects the ability of genealogists to store more of their digitized files for less money. With memory costs falling, the large online genealogical database companies can expand their online collections for far less cost. 

Monday, August 5, 2019

Ancestry® Unveils Two Unique Holocaust Record Collections

https://mailchi.mp/9f91d50d6f8d/ancestry-press-release-ancestry-surpasses-15-million-members-in-its-dna-network-powering-unparalleled-connections-and-insights-781389?e=2d1c516672
Ancestry.com made the following recent announcement:
As those who joined our call last week heard, these new records will be accessible globally to the public – members and non- members alike – on https://www.ancestry.com/alwaysremember on a permanent basis. 
Copies of these records will also be donated to Arolsen Archives and to the 11-nation International Commission of digital copy holders of the archives including Yad Vashem in Israel and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., to post on their website as well.  We plan to continue digitizing documents from the Arolsen Archives into our database in 2020.

Saturday, August 3, 2019

The History of the Development of Genealogical DNA: Part Twelve: What do I do with my DNA Data?



Before continuing with additional history and analysis, I decided to address some of the current issues involving genealogical DNA testing. So here it goes.

Unless you are totally surprised by the results of your DNA test, you may simply end up ignoring the results after a while. The main question is what are we all supposed to do with this additional information? The answer to this question depends entirely on your involvement with genealogical research and whether or not you have a family tree associated with the DNA test you took.

If you have no involvement in the genealogical research process and either do not have a family tree on one of the DNA websites or only have a very few names in your family tree (less than 25), then you will probably only get some entertainment value from the ethnicity estimates and little else. For the dedicated genealogist, DNA testing is another tool to assist in identifying relationships when used in conjunction with carefully documented genealogical research.

For example, the closest match out of 8,548 matches from my MyHeritage.com DNA test results is a person who has 9% shared DNA at 639.3 cM (centiMorgans) In case you don't know, here is a definition of centiMorgans from the International Society of Genetic Genealogy Wiki (ISOGG).
In genetic genealogy, a centiMorgan (cM) or map unit (m.u.) is a unit of recombinant frequency which is used to measure genetic distance. It is often used to imply distance along a chromosome, and takes into account how often recombination occurs in a region. A region with few cMs undergoes relatively less recombination. The number of base pairs to which it corresponds varies widely across the genome (different regions of a chromosome have different propensities towards crossover). One centiMorgan corresponds to about 1 million base pairs in humans on average. The centiMorgan is equal to a 1% chance that a marker at one genetic locus on a chromosome will be separated from a marker at a second locus due to crossing over in a single generation. 
The genetic genealogy testing companies 23andMe, AncestryDNA, Family Tree DNA and MyHeritage DNA use centiMorgans to denote the size of matching DNA segments in autosomal DNA tests. Segments which share a large number of centiMorgans in common are more likely to be of significance and to indicate a common ancestor within a genealogical timeframe.
I share on 3.0% DNA or 210.0 cM with the next closest relative in the MyHeritage.com test results. From a very simplified standpoint, the higher you centiMorgan count with any one person, the likely your relationship. From my DNA test with Ancestry.com, I have one sibling who has also taken the test and our match is 2,673 cM shared across 65 segments. This level of correspondence almost certainly assures me that we are siblings.

In the case of the near relative from MyHeritage, that person's lack of a family tree on the website means that I have to contact that person directly to determine the relationship. This could be as easy as sending an email or making a telephone call or be extremely difficult because the person refuses contact.

Among genealogists, using centiMorgans as a guide is a common way to judge the degree of relationship. However, as you can see from my two examples, the numbers are less useful if there is no way to determine the exact relationship through traditional research methods. In order to bypass the difficulty of contacting a completely unknown person, some genealogists recruit target individuals to determine possible DNA test results connections. This tactic may or may not be possible depending on the degree of cooperation among family members. There are family organizations that at requesting and analyzing DNA information from many people and using that information construct family trees.

OK, so now I am back to some of the history. Stay tuned.

See these previous posts:

Part One: https://genealogysstar.blogspot.com/2019/04/the-history-of-development-of.html
Part Two: https://genealogysstar.blogspot.com/2019/05/the-history-of-development-of.html
Part Three: https://genealogysstar.blogspot.com/2019/05/the-history-of-development-of_5.html
Part Four: https://genealogysstar.blogspot.com/2019/05/the-history-of-development-of_7.html
Part Five: https://genealogysstar.blogspot.com/2019/05/the-history-of-development-of_10.html
Part Six:  https://genealogysstar.blogspot.com/2019/05/the-history-of-development-of_14.html
Part Seven: https://genealogysstar.blogspot.com/2019/05/the-history-of-development-of_19.html
Part Eight: https://genealogysstar.blogspot.com/2019/06/the-history-of-development-of.html
Part Nine: https://genealogysstar.blogspot.com/2019/06/the-history-of-development-of_11.html
Part Ten: https://genealogysstar.blogspot.com/2019/06/the-history-of-development-of_16.html
Part Eleven: https://genealogysstar.blogspot.com/2019/07/the-history-of-development-of.html