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

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Using Zoom for Genealogy
The current pandemic social distancing has resulted in the cancellation of genealogy conferences, society meetings, Family History Center operation, and many other interruptions in the normal availability of socialization and training. We have been laid off from the Brigham Young University Family History Library now for a couple of weeks and almost all my presentations have been canceled. However, the recent popularity of the video conferencing program has had an impact on the availability of meeting online. We have had the opportunity to meet family members regularly online using Zoom and we have conducted business meetings online and I have just done a webinar for the BYU Family History Library using Zoom. See the following:

Locate Your Ancestors' Graves Online

The basic program is free and it is free for participants in a meeting. The free version of Zoom will allow the person originating the meeting or conference (the host) to have up to 100 people at a time online. You can also have an unlimited number of meetings but the duration of the meetings is limited to 40 minutes. You can see the other limitations and the features of the paid versions here on Zoom Meeting Plans for Your Business.

I watched a couple of online video tutorials about the program including an extensive one from my local public library. With this introduction and a little back-and-forth tinkering, I was able to successfully host a number of meetings.

Now, what about genealogy? I am used to spending many hours a week helping patrons in the BYU Family History Library and I can see that Zoom could provide that same support on a one-by-one basis or even in a class session. With my Pro version of Zoom, I can see up to 49 people on the screen at one time and host up to 100. This would easily cover most of the support situations I normally have at the Library.

Basically, the host sets up a meeting time and sends out an invitation that has a login and a password. You can hold a meeting without a password, but that has an element of risk that someone not intended will disrupt the meeting. The host goes online at the specified time and attendees log on and attend the meeting using their computer or smartphone. There are simple controls for muting people and attendees do not have to participate by video.

I am not begging for things to do, but I do miss presenting and helping patrons. I have been contacted recently about presenting a class via video conferencing and I am really at a loss to understand why every organization from the Libraries to Societies to Family History Centers aren't taking advantage of the availability of this free service. The most complicated part of the whole process is setting a time and contacting the potential participants which you would need to do anyway with an in-person meeting.

Time to get going folks. We need to stop being obsessed with the virus and get on with our genealogy. If you don't know how to contact me already, you can leave a comment with your email address. I will not publish your email address online unless you specifically instruct me to do so.

Just another observation, there are a number of other programs that work for large groups, for general broadcast, and have different features but right now Zoom is capturing the market.

Monday, March 30, 2020

The Family History Guide and Goldie May: A New Partnership

Here is a quote from The Family History Guide blog post entitled, "A New Partnership: The Family History Guide and Goldie May."
Last week we featured an article written by James Tanner about the new Goldie May research assistant. It’s a powerful and user-friendly Chrome extension that helps you track your research progress on FamilySearch. This week we are excited to announce that Goldie May has been selected as an Authorized Training Partner for The Family History Guide Association. 
What This Means 
Here’s a summary of important points for the partnership between Goldie May and The Family History Guide Association:
  • The Goldie May website now has our logo in the lower-left corner, next to the FamilySearch logo.
  • The Goldie May extension provides links to The Family History Guide, including the page for the United States Census, U.S. county links, etc.
  • The Family History Guide now has a link to a Goldie May “About” page in the FamilySearch menu, just below “Knowledgebase”.
  • The Family History Guide also includes links to Goldie May in its Topics and Site Map pages.
  • In the future, A Goal with Choices and Steps will be added to the About page, providing more detailed instruction on using Goldie May.
We think you’ll love the new Goldie May extension and what it can do for your family history research. Stay tuned for great new additions!
Here is a link to an extensive explanation about the new app from The Family Locket blog post entitled, "How to Research Like a Pro with Goldie May."

Here is a screenshot of the menu item linking to the Goldie May app on The Family History Guide website.

Stay tuned for all the new additions to The Family History Guide that are on the way.

Genealogical Research: Searching for Certificates

Legal certificates have been used by governments to validate important events since antiquity. Whether official or unofficial, certificates are one of the documents that beginning genealogists think of when asked if they have any family records. However, even advanced researchers can benefit from finding a certificate. Unfortunately, some types of certificates that are common today are very recent innovations. For example, the Utah Death Certificate shown above is dated 1917. When did Utah begin keeping death records and when were the earliest death certificates issued? The answers to these questions will ultimately determine whether or not such a document even exists. In Utah, death records were kept starting in 1848 in Salt Lake City, Utah. Such records were kept in Logan in 1863 and in Ogden in 1890 but statewide death registration only began in 1905. In other states, statewide death records did not begin until well into the 1900s. These timeframes can also apply to birth and marriage records.

Currently finding certificates of vital records is relatively easily done online but obtaining a copy may be limited by local laws and regulations. If the certificate was created more recently, it is probable that there is a cost involved in obtaining a copy.

Certificates are not limited simply to vital records. Many other private and public organizations and government agencies award or provide certificates. Some of these are also periodic. Although it may seem that the information is limited, the importance of certificates extends to identifying a particular organization with which the individual was affiliated and also identifying a specific geographic location where the person resided. This information is invaluable in identifying the individual. Here is an example of a school certificate.

The important information on this certificate includes the place of its origin, the name of the school, the date the certificate was awarded, and the names of the people signing the document. In this case,  the principal of the school happens to be Harold Morgan's stepfather. This certificate also happens to be about 14 x 18 inches in size.

Here is an example of a certificate that does not have the word certificate on it.

The amount of information on this certificate goes well beyond just the name, date, and place usually associated with a certificate. The idea of a certificate is that the document itself can be used to establish some fact about the person involved. Here, for example, the certificate is "proof" of an honorable discharge from the United States Army. This fact would be important in applying for any available veteran's benefits.

If you spend some time thinking about the implications of any certificates you can find you can probably think of a number of other types of records that might be available about the person named.

The question arises almost automatically, where do you go to find certificates? My examples come from records and documents that were "handed down" to me from my family. This is an obvious source but you may find mention of an award or presentation in a newspaper account or a reference in a letter. It is also possible that you can find the documents online in some collections. For example, in the United States, Draft Registration certificates are commonly digitized and available online.

When a person dies, it is common for most of their "personal effects" to be disposed of in one way or another. Genealogists should be painfully aware that this loss of information about the person is invaluable and that an effort should be made to preserve as much of the historical information as is possible especially the certificates and awards.

Sunday, March 29, 2020

Updated MacOS Version of Ancestral Quest now available

Some of the genealogy programs that were put out of commission by Apple's upgrade of the macOS Catalina operating system and dropping support for 32-bit programs are now starting to return. Incline Software's Ancestral Quest is back in operation on Apple computers running the Catalina operating system with the latest revisions. I was asked to run a BETA test but before I could do more than load the program, the final version was released.

One thing that was evident immediately is that running on my iMac in 64-bit operation the program is blindingly fast. I have never seen a genealogy program run so fast ever. I am sure that the speed is due to the program and my particular computer but I am also sure that you will see some increase in the speed if your computer supports a 64-bit environment.

Here is a screenshot of Incline Software's website.
Version 16 has been out for some time but includes some upgraded functions not previously available such as a Descendancy View.

Here is a link to a list of all the advanced features:

One of the features I think is very helpful and would be useful in any program is the program's advanced syncing feature with FamilySearch. Here is the explanation from the website:
FamilySearch Advanced Syncing - Premium Feature*
As you sync data (both individuals, families, and specific events/facts), some screens have been redesigned to be more intuitive.
When exchanging events/facts between your file and FamilySearch, you'll notice the “Advanced Options” button (with a small down-arrow) next to the main checkmark. This Advanced Options button allows you to transfer just the date or just the place for an event. You will also have the option of editing the name of the place before transferring it.
*Premium Features are those which require the purchase of an Ancestral Quest 16 Registration Key. The other AQ 16 features listed above are ‘free’ within Ancestral Quest Basics and do not require a purchase.

Ancestral Quest has always been a serious contender in the genealogy software world. 

Saturday, March 28, 2020

Virtual Tours of the World

Public Domain,
We ended up canceling another visit to Europe this year because of the Coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic. This started me thinking about all the virtual tours online. One of my favorites is the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam but the list could go on and on to include hundreds of other museums and interesting locations around the world. Google Arts and Culture has a huge collection of "Street View" tours of famous locations. Here is a link to the Google Street View Tour of Stonehenge in England.

I could list dozens of these opportunities but it is easier to just do a search for virtual tours with the subject. For example, if I search for virtual tours in Europe, I get thousands of results from castles to museums to entire cities. The Rijksmuseum has virtual tours and over 700,000 high-resolution images of objects including Rembrandt paintings.

Of course, you aren't limited to Europe. You can tour places such as Angkor Wat in 360-degree images. Right now, all of these places and museums are likely closed to the public because of the pandemic but you can visit them online for free. Here is the Louvre.
You can even take a virtual tour of the Grand Canyon and virtually hike down the Bright Angel Trail to the bottom of the Canyon. See the following video.

Explore the Grand Canyon with Google Maps

There is really no end to the ways you can discover the world online.

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

How does The Family History Guide work with homeschooling?

The Family History Guide is a free, structured, and sequenced website dedicated to teaching about genealogy/family history. What this means from a practical standpoint is that every section of The Family History Guide is set up to be used either for self-instruction or for teaching. Let me give you an example. Suppose you wanted to learn about DNA testing. You could go to the Learning Paths at the top of each page and choose an associated topic. Here is a screenshot showing you exactly what I mean.

This is part of the Learning Paths menu bar and I have clicked on the topic of FamilySearch. Looking down the list, I can see Project 8 on DNA. We can see that the Learning Paths are divided into manageable sections called "Projects." Here is what we see when I click on Project #8 on DNA.

If I am either a student or a teacher, I can now look at the page for Project 8: DNA and see that there is a list of individual Goals that further divides the Project into manageable sections. These Goals give the student or the teacher the option of deciding whether or not they or their students already know the information contained in the Goal or not. If the student or teacher's students do not know the information, learning and teaching can begin from a further subdivision into Choices.

One of the concerns of modern education is referred to as "level-appropriate" or "developmentally appropriate" learning. Genealogy and Family History are, by their nature, somewhat complex and difficult subjects. However, an educational curriculum should not be aimed at the lowest and easiest level of learning. A school system that is mandated from a national level must take into account a broad spectrum of abilities. However, the smaller the class size, i.e. a family, can more appropriately determine the level of learning for each child. For example, in my own family, now that one of my grandsons who would be attending the fifth grade were the schools operating, is having the opportunity to learn pre-algebra because his parents recognize that he can understand and adsorb that level of information.

The Family History Guide provides thousands of linked resources supporting goals on a variety of subjects. As a parent conducting homeschooling, you can pick and choose from a huge variety of subjects and tailor the subjects to the level your child needs. Granted, the subjects deal with family history but you need to understand that "family history" is history and discovering your own family history is a necessary part of a balanced cultural and social outlook on your life. To expand this core knowledge about the tools needed to do family history research, The Family History Guide also presents a major geographic-based set of instructions and links that help everyone learn about the countries of the world.
 What about accountability? The Family History Guide also contains a sophisticated and extensive individual and student-oriented tracking system to measure progress in learning the information contained in the program. This tracking can be done and maintained online or on paper. This is the only part of the program that requires a login and password for each participant.
From this standpoint, The Family History Guide is a model of a complete, self-contained learning environment designed in a way that can be used at a variety of levels. Of course, we did not forget the need for fun and engaging activities. There are hundreds of family, individual, youth, and kids activities on the website.
I can assure you that the information in The Family History Guide is kept up-to-date as far as it is possible for a volunteer-run, non-profit, charitable organization to possibly manage. I can also assure you that the organization and structure of the website represent the best possible learning environment available today.

If you are an individual or teacher (parent) and you need a free, state-of-the-art learning experience with the potential of enhancing your life through involvement with your own or your students' family history, The Family History Guide is exactly what you are looking for.

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Where to find medieval manuscripts

La Bibliothèque virtuelle des manuscrits médiévaux

It turns out that there are hundreds of websites, mostly in Europe, with digital collections of Medieval Manuscripts. There are also quite a few websites with lists with links or directories with links to these hundreds of digital image websites. Here are a few of the websites with links.

Here are a few more:

“A Beginner’s Guide to Medieval Manuscripts.” Accessed March 24, 2020.
“A Mammoth List of Digitised Manuscripts Hyperlinks - Medieval Manuscripts Blog.” Accessed March 24, 2020.
Burchsted, Fred. “Research Guides: Library Research Guide for Finding Manuscripts and Archival Collections: Medieval.” Accessed March 24, 2020.
“Documentary_history3.Pdf.” Accessed March 21, 2020.
“Fancy a Giant List of Digitised Manuscript Hyperlinks? - Medieval Manuscripts Blog.” Accessed March 24, 2020.
Free Library of Philadelphia. “Medieval Manuscripts.” Accessed March 24, 2020.
Taubenberger, Jeffery K., and David M. Morens. “1918 Influenza: The Mother of All Pandemics - Volume 12, Number 1—January 2006 - Emerging Infectious Diseases Journal - CDC.” Accessed March 4, 2020.

I could probably go on with this list for a whole day of clicking. The trick here is that few of these are transcribed, searchable. and/or indexed. The term "medieval manuscripts" refers to any hand-made book from the Middle Ages (usually from 1100 to 1453 but can be from the 400s to about 1500). There is no real way to determine how many of these medieval manuscripts exist because many are in private collections and unavailable to the public. One example; the Vatican Library has an ongoing digitization project and this collection includes almost 20,000 manuscripts. See

There are also a huge number of incunabulum or printed books before 1501. There are about 26,550 known incunabula titles all over the world.  See Wikipedia: Incunable

Free and unlimited access to MyHeritage In Color™: A Limited Time Offer

I presently have over 8,000 images on The vast majority of these are in black and white. You can see from this one example above how much impact the colorization process can add to your own photos. For about the next month, MyHeritage has opened up MyHeritage In Color™for free use to colorize an unlimited number of photos even if you don't have a subscription to the website. Of course, when you see the benefits of a subscription, you will probably want to subscribe. Here is the announcement that I received by email.
Here at MyHeritage, we want to do our part to help the genealogy community keep busy and even have some fun during these challenging times. That’s why we’re giving all users free and unlimited access to MyHeritage In Color™, our new feature that automatically colorizes black and white photos, for an entire month. Ordinarily only 10 photos can be colorized by users who do not have a Complete plan, but now, you can colorize as many photos as you’d like for free.
Like many others around the world, I am in "social distancing" and staying almost exclusively at home. Here is a further comment from MyHeritage:
Colorizing photos is the perfect activity for those of us isolated at home. It gives us an opportunity to look again at our old family photos, bring them back to life, and reminisce. The results can be shared online with the whole family, which will delight your relatives and evoke warm memories. We invite you to pull out your family photo albums today and join in the fun. 
Try it now.

There is also an added incentive for colorizing your own photos. Here is a little more explanation about what is going on.
Over the coming month, anyone who shares their colorized photos on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram with the hashtag #ColorBeatsCoronavirusBlues and tags @MyHeritage will enter a weekly draw. Each week we’ll select one lucky winner who will receive a free MyHeritage Complete subscription. They’ll enjoy free access to all content and features on MyHeritage including 12 billion historical records, Smart Matches™, Record Matches, Instant Discoveries™, and much more. 
Enjoy MyHeritage In Color™ for free until April 22, 2020.

Monday, March 23, 2020

Reflections on Genealogy in the year of the Pandemic 2020

As I have observed a number of times in the past, genealogy is a solitary pursuit. Social distancing is a catchphrase that has been coined to describe what many genealogists have been practicing for years. The main effect of the current pandemic on my personal lifestyle is that what little interpersonal social contact I had before has now been decreased to almost zero. For example, I have been asked hundreds of times if I ever sleep. Well, here I am again in the middle of the night typing away. I think genealogists must have a lot in common with prolific writers and if you are both a writer and a genealogist, you are probably somewhat like me and don't really care about the time of day. If you are awake and not sick, you write or do genealogy or both.

As pandemics go, this one has the potential to at least go down in history, if only for the reason that it is having such a tremendous social and economic effect. Most of the really large pandemic situations in our human history have probably gone unrecorded and ignored by historians simply due to a lack of records. Does that sound like a genealogically familiar theme? When was the last time you ran out of records to answer a genealogical question? But this particular pandemic has the potential to affect you personally even if you never get sick or die. For instance, you may lose your job.

In the seventh grade, everyone in my class had to learn a poem called "If" by Rudyard Kipling. Here is one short quote from the longer poem.
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
    With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run, 
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,   
I have long since decided that most of what is expressed in that poem is hogwash, but some of the attitudes do spill over into sitting all day (and night) at a computer and writing or doing research.

Of course, the advantage that I gained by moving to Provo, Utah and living close to the Brigham Young University Library including the Family History Library and also living reasonably close to the Salt Lake City, Utah Family History Library has mostly evaporated with the closing of both institutions, I still have high-speed internet from Google Fiber and a fast computer and I can still do a lot of research.

By the way, if the graph at the beginning of this post doesn't catch your attention, you need to think about the idea of exponential growth. There is an ancient story that goes along with this called "The Rice and the Chessboard." This short story illustrates exactly what happens when a quantity is involved in an exponential growth curve. Here is a link to one version of the story from a blog post that is nicely illustrated. What is important to understand about exponential growth is that in real-life instances, the growth is not perfectly regular like the progression in the number of rice grains. You can see that the graph above has some anomalies. It is not a perfect curve. Another version of the same graph when plotted as a curve looks more regular. Here is another view from the Johns Hopkins Map that is a little more regular.
Is there some part of genealogy that looks like this curve? Yes, of course. There is a graph in a blog post from Blaine Bettinger, The Genetic Genealogist in a post entitled, "How Much of Your Family Tree Do You Know? And Why Does That Matter?" that looks a lot like the one from Johns Hopkins University. The similarity comes from the increase in the quantity measured over an increase in time (or some other measurement). In other words, anytime something changes over time in an increasingly larger amount, there is a way to show that increase with a curve. The math really gets more complicated than that rather quickly but that is the general idea. By the way, most of the efforts by different countries to counter the effects of the pandemic focus on trying to flatten the curve because the curve will always ultimately lead to 100% saturation of any population meaning that 100% of the population, give or take a few outliers, will get the virus.

Why is this a concern of genealogy other than the historical impact the pandemic will have on the availability of records about individuals in the future? Well, we all live with our own ancestral exponential curve and we can only deal with it by ignoring it. Literally. We have to ignore the fact that the number of our direct line ancestors theoretically doubles every generation or we will go crazy trying to work on all those lines.

Fortunately, there is a very important principle involved that decreases the actual potential number of ancestors any one person can possibly have. That principle is called "pedigree collapse." This simply means that your ancestors, out of necessity, married their cousins and so the theoretical number of ancestors is not infinite by collapses into reverse over time and the actual extended curve looks more like a bell curve than an exponential curve. Actually, the curve is called a Directed Acyclic Graph.

Eventually, the Coronavirus will run its course and the graph will level off and then decline as there are fewer and fewer people who are either immune or dead. But it is quite interesting that working on genealogy is something like managing a pandemic.

Saturday, March 21, 2020

Is there genealogical information in Medieval Manuscripts

Heures de Notre-Dame,  Bruges, about 1470
I have been fielding a lot of issues and questions lately about research into the Middle Ages. A quick example of how this subject can come up for genealogists is to think about the early immigrants to the American continents from Europe. For example, the first settlers in Jamestown, as part of the Virginia Company, arrived on May 14, 1607. The birth dates of the original 104 Jamestown Settlement Colony settlers and others who show up primarily in land records in the early 1600s are entirely missing even after 400 years of records and research. Likewise, the details of the early lives of the passengers of the Mayflower who arrived in 1620 are equally elusive. See the following:

McCartney, Martha W. 2000. Documentary history of Jamestown Island. Williamsburg, Va: [Colonial Williamsburg Foundation].

General Society of Mayflower Descendants, Mayflower families through five generations, Various authors and publication dates, usually known as the "Silver Books."

The Medieval Ages or Middle Ages are generally considered to be from about 1000 A.D. to around the end of the 15th Century. For a ballpark figure, I usually use 1550 A.D. as a general cut off date. For example, the earliest consistent parish registers in England begin in 1538 with the mandate from Henry VIII. So, if you think about it, almost all of the Jamestown settlers and most of the Mayflower passengers were born in the 1500s. It is no wonder that extending genealogical lines from America to Europe gets progressively more difficult as you go back in the past.

One reason for the change from the Medieval Age to the Renaissance was the invention of movable type by Johann Gutenberg and the publication of the first book in 1455. Notwithstanding these historical considerations and the paucity of records about individuals before 1500, many of the online pedigrees contain lines extending into the early 1500s and before. If you go into a website such as, you can easily find such pedigrees. Here is one example from my own lines.

It is also interesting that many of these people have no supporting sources listed. Where records are cited, they usually come from wills. Here is another line from the Family Tree that eventually goes back to 1175 with gaps where there are no sources listed.

I am quite certain that most of the complaints about changes to the Family Tree and about the battles being fought over the identity of certain ancestors deal mainly with people born before 1800 and increases with people born in the 1700s and the 1600s and continues to increase further back in time.

What if you wanted to get involved in researching names back into the 1500s and before? What would you need to know and what documents could you use to find information about any particular family line? Of course, the answer to this question can only be answered with specific examples. The existence of genealogical records for any family line depends on the time period involved and the availability of records. For example, you can go back much further in time in Spain than you can in Sweden. The oldest Swedish church record is a death record of 1608 – 1615 from the parish of Helga Trefaldighet in Uppsala diocese. See Sweden Church Records. The oldest records in Spain go back to the early 1300s. See "Legacy Tree Onsite: A Guide to Spanish Genealogy & Family History Resources."

The National Archives in Kew, Richmond, Surrey, England has published a helpful guide entitled, "How to look for records of Medieval and early modern family history." It is published under the Open Government Licence for public sector information. I recommend reviewing this short document before you decided to get involved with Medieval records. Here is a quote from a section entitled, "Reading medieval records."
Medieval records are generally much more difficult to use than those from the 16th century and later. 
Note that: 
  • they are usually in a highly abbreviated form of Latin
  • the use of English starts to become more common in informal documents in the late 15th century, but Latin was used in formal records until 1733 (except during the Interregnum)
  • the handwriting and letter forms are very different from those of the present day alphabet
  • the terminology and contemporary meanings of words may be difficult to understand
Use our tutorials on Reading old documents to help you decipher the records. Alternatively you may wish to consult published sources for further guidance. We will not translate or read documents on your behalf.
The first step in this process is to learn to read medieval Latin. Next, you need to learn to read the old handwriting involved.  By the way, the difficulty in reading the handwriting involved in old records begins in the 1800s so you may need to work back slowly. Interestingly, almost all the controversy I encounter about pedigree lines as reflected in the Family Tree does not involve the interpretation of old documents, usually, the controversy comes from records inherited or copied from a book.

Oh, I think it is also important to understand that the amount of genealogically significant information available about anyone who was neither rich nor influential virtually disappears in the 1500s. When I am asked about disputes where there are people who have a "title" i.e. nobility, I automatically suspect that the information has little foundation or is entirely fabricated. I seldom turn out to be wrong. If you want to discuss this particular topic with me then before you start telling me about how reliable your grandmother or aunt was, I suggest you read the following book entirely from cover to cover.

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

I guarantee that if you read this book, you will be a lot more skeptical about the accuracy of your inherited or "book-based" genealogy than you are now.

Now, to answer the question in the title of this post. Yes, there is genealogical information in Medieval Manuscripts but before you start relying on pedigrees that go back into the 1700s and beyond, I suggest you spend a considerable amount of time learning the history of the places you intend to research and then working back from a well-supported position on a pedigree in the mid to late 1800s and carefully documenting every generational step backward in time. As I have done this on many of my own lines, I have always been stopped in the 1700s with only a few rare exceptions going back to the 1600s.

If you are an expert in Medieval Records, I would like to have the privilege of meeting you and talking to you some time. 

Friday, March 20, 2020

Will Family History Survive Social Distancing?

With the closure of universities, Family History Centers, archives, and other repositories, and not to forget the impact of social distancing, as genealogists, some of us are wondering how we do our work? Of course, we can do a lot online, but some of us were mainly involved in helping other genealogists. I guess my question is do these genealogists who need help realize that we can still provide direct, individual help online?

There are presently a number of free programs that allow one-on-one or group video and audio support capabilities. Some of the programs you can use for these video calls include the following:

  • Zoom
  • Skype
  • Google Hangouts Meet
  • Free Conference Call
  • Microsoft Teams

The more I look online, the more options I find.

Here is the concept. You are sitting at your computer frustrated because you need help. Normally, you would go to your local Family History Center for help. You live somewhere that is encouraging (or ordering) people to remain in their homes. What do you do? You call one of these people who would normally help you and get online with one of these meeting programs and work through the problems.

What are the difficulties? You need a fairly robust and fast network connection. You need the technical expertise to connect and share your screen. You need to realize that you can get help to connect and help to answer genealogical questions.

In my situation, I have been "on-call" at the BYU Family History Library in  Provo, Utah now for many years. It is common for me to receive a call and have someone at the Library who needs help. Sometimes I can answer the questions on the telephone but many times, I get in my car and a few minutes later I am in the Library helping someone with a problem. I can do the same thing online and all of you out there who normally help people in a Library or Family History Center can also do the same thing.

Let's get to work helping people during this social distancing time in our lives.

If you need help: Call me. Text me. Contact me through Facebook. Send me an email. Make a comment on one of my blogs. Write me a letter. Whatever. I will just keep working and writing otherwise. If I don't know the answer, I will try to send you to someone who does.

Thursday, March 19, 2020

Social Distancing and The Family History Guide

We have heard a lot lately about social distancing. Over the past two weeks, my very busy calendar became completely empty. However, I realized that I was already pretty well socially distant and the only real adjustments I had to make was in filling up the empty spots with choices from the huge list of "projects" that I had been postponing. One thing I have been doing all along is working on The Family History Guide website. This era of social distancing freed up more time to spend on the website as well as initiating clean up projects and other usually non-essential activities.

One thing that I try to do and will do more of is to take time to learn. One way I do that is to choose blog post topics that require research. I suggest that you take a close look at all the information and activities in The Family History Guide. I don't consider this time of social distancing to be a vacation. It is really an opportunity to do a lot of things that were falling through the cracks while I was so busy with classes and presentations. For example, we have been spending about 12 to 20 hours a week involved with the BYU Family History Library. Now that the library is closed indefinitely, we have almost two full days of time just from that one commitment.

As you look through The Family History Guide, you will find a lot of suggestions that will suggest activities that will involve you more in genealogy. You will likely see a lot more writing coming from me as time goes on. If you have any topics you would like me to cover, let me know by email, comments on the blogs, Facebook, or whatever. You can always call me on the phone and talk. (How retro!)

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Goldie May, your research assistant to learning about the website
Goldie May is a free, new, innovative Chrome extension that guides users through basic genealogical research. You may or may not be acquainted with Chrome extensions but they are extremely useful and I have some I use every day as I work on my computer. Most of the Chrome extensions are free and are available from the Chrome Web Store.

Once you install the extension you activate it by clicking on the icon in the Chrome menu at the top of the browser page. If you need help with this, see the following:

How To Install and Remove Google Chrome Extensions - Google Chrome Tutorial

Here is a link to a short, but complete, explanation of the Goldie May Chrome Extension.

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

The Family History Guide and Home Schooling

After living through the effects of last week's announcements about the Coronavirus COVID-19 and the fact that many schools across the United States are now temporarily closed, it seems to me to be a natural extension of the school closures, to look at that segment of our population that is involved in homeschooling. The latest statistics indicate that there are presently an estimated 2.5 million homeschool students in grades K-12 in the United States. It is likely that many millions more will get their first taste of homeschooling due to the potential virus closures. From what I have already heard about online, I suspect that most of the new "homeschool parents" are far from prepared for the experience.

Of course, after our recent experience at RootsTech 2020 in Salt Lake City, Utah, the entire The Family History Guide staff of volunteers were able to see first-hand how a free, educationally structured and sequenced program can fit perfectly into the homeschool environment. At the RootsTech Conference, we did over 1000 demos of the website and found hundreds of others at the conference who were already using the website to learn about and teach genealogy in formal and informal settings. The most interaction we had was with the Activities section of The Family History Guide using programs developed by the Family History Technology Lab of the Computer Department at Brigham Young University.

The entire website of The Family History Guide is structured to act as the basis for individual or group classes. Every section can easily be used as an individual or group lesson plan or as a supplement to a lesson plan. The Tracker system of The Family History Guide website also enables the classes to be monitored and graded.

If you are homeschooling or know someone who is, you need to look at The Family History Guide as a way to help your home students gain an insight into their historical and cultural past. As a side benefit, the homeschool students can use the website to learn about DNA, individual countries around the world, and technology.

Take a minute to review the website and watch the Overview Video and you will see how useful and beneficial this wonderful website can be.

Monday, March 16, 2020

What is the Difference Between Digital Images and Indexed Records?

Every week I get an email from FamilySearch showing a list of "New Free Historical Records on FamilySearch." It occurred to me that the column under "Digital Images" almost always listed a string of "0s" (zeros). So what is this weekly list all about?

Some time ago, this list used to included a lot of "Digital Images" but today, few of the entries include digital images. Does this mean that FamilySearch is no longer adding digital images? No, this is not the case. The new digital image collections are still be added to the website but they are not listed in this list of new images. All of the new images and any indexed images included in the email are being listed in the Catalog.

So, what is on this list?

This list shows how many new indexed images have been added to the Historical Record Collections. Yes, these same collections are listed in the Catalog but they are now searchable because they have been indexed.

You need to note some of the entries on the list:

You will notice that there is a difference between the number of digital images and the number of indexed records. This simply means that the record has not been entirely indexed so even if you search for a name, you have not searched the entire collection of records.

What about the entries with zeros? These entries indicate that the number indexed is for existing records and that no new records have been added, i.e. "Added indexed records to an existing collection."

As I have written about previously, you need to click on the name of the record to see the total number of images and compare that number with the total number of indexed records to see what percentage of the records have been indexed. It is not unusual for this number to be less than the total number of records.

Sunday, March 15, 2020

RootsTech London 2020 another victim of the Coronavirus

RootsTech London previously scheduled for November 2020 will be postponed until the Fall of 2021. See "RootsTech London Postponed to Fall of 2021." As FamilySearch notes, "The health and safety of all RootsTech London attendees, exhibitors, and speakers is the highest priority of FamilySearch International." Refunds will be given to all those who may have already registered.

Saturday, March 14, 2020

The Impact of Coronavirus COVID-19 on the Genealogical Community: March 14, 2020

As of the date of this post, the Coronavirus COVID-19 is now affecting 49 of the 50 U.S. States. Its worldwide impact is also dramatically affecting the genealogical community. Because of the demographic for those people most at risk from the Coronavirus and those who are most likely to be involved in genealogical activities coincide and the fact that I am squarely in both demographics, I have decided to write a series of posts about my own and my family's experiences with the pandemic. See Comments on the Contemporary. But I am also going to comment on genealogically specific impacts here on Genealogy's Star.

This past week has had an overwhelming number of news announcements that will directly affect genealogists. Here are most of the ones I am aware of.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints announced the closure of all public buildings on or around the world-famous Temple Square in Salt Lake City, Utah. See "Coronavirus: 10 church-owned buildings in and around Salt Lake’s Temple Square are closed ‘until further notice’." This closure includes the Salt Lake City, Utah Family History Library, a destination spot for genealogical researchers from all over the world. Here is the announcement from FamilySearch.
NOTICE: Temporary Family History Library Closure
Out of concern for the health and safety of our guests, volunteers, and staff, the Family History Library in Salt Lake City will temporarily close starting at 5:00 p.m. on Friday, March 13, 2020 until further notice. This closure is to support preventive efforts to control the spread of COVID-19. 
Regional FamilySearch centers and libraries have been asked to consider the direction of their local and government leaders, and then make informed decisions about temporary closures. If you plan to visit a FamilySearch center soon, please call ahead to ensure it is open at the regular times. (Included at the bottom of this post is a list of centers that are currently closed.) 
We appreciate your understanding and encourage you to use the vast genealogical resources available at to continue your family discoveries. During the time the Family History Library is closed, personal assistance will continue to be provided online through FamilySearch Community (see video) and Family History Library Classes and Webinars. 
We sincerely apologize for any inconvenience this closure may cause. For the latest Family History Library status updates, please refer to the FamilySearch newsroom. 
David E. Rencher
Director of the Family History Library
At about the same time, all of the volunteer missionaries were also sent home until further notice from the Brigham Young University, Family History Library, the second-largest family history library in the world. As the notice indicates, many, if not most, of the local Family History Centers around the world may also be impacted and closed for an indefinite time. Note, that if you plan to visit a Family History Center, please call ahead to ensure it is open at all. Note that many of the regional FamilySearch Centers such as those in Riverton, Utah and St. George, Utah are also closed.

The closure of the BYU Family History Library directly impacted both my wife and me. We are essentially out of a job for the duration of the emergency. But, of course, I am still online all day, every day, and if you need help, you can email or contact me through any of the social networking sites.

Many other major libraries and a lot of smaller ones, especially those associated with colleges and universities, may also be affected.

For those who are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the Church has also partially closed all the temples around the world. See this article for a list of all the closures: "Updates on How COVID-19 Is Impacting Saints Worldwide."

Friday, March 13, 2020

Online Help for Locating Cemeteries and Graves

Miner Kilbourne Kellogg, born Manlius Square, NY 1814-died Toledo, OH 1889 Public Domain Smithsonian American Art Museum and its Renwick Gallery
Using maps, books, and online websites, you can locate many of the cemeteries both public and private around the world. Here is a short list of some of the websites and other resources that are available. Remember, you can always do a Google search for the word "cemetery" associated with the place name. For example, "Cemetery, Provo, Utah" brought up this response.

You can use the resources in the Research Wiki to get started.
There are three big online cemetery/grave locator websites. Here are the three;,, and
You can use these three websites to find millions of graves around the world. is the oldest and best known. identifies and locates the actual grave by GPS coordinates and has helpful mapping features. has extensive listings and some special collections of interest to genealogists and others.

There are hundreds of other online resources including some specialized websites such as the American Battle Monuments Commission where more than 200,000 Americans who died in WWI or WWII are honored.
In addition to this website, there is the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, National Cemetery Administration with more military burials.
Although the is not specifically a cemetery website, it contains a lot of burial records and locations. This website illustrates the fact that you can find helpful information in a lot of different locations.
General location search websites can also be of assistance. is a good example of this type of program.

Returning to cemetery websites, there are lots of smaller websites that have significant record sets such as Names in Stone.
One crowd-sourcing series of websites is The This is a very old and very useful website for all kinds of valuable genealogical information. If you are not acquainted with all of the websites in this blog post, you should be. Most very experienced genealogists will recognize these websites.

Here is a website that is part of the USGenWeb Project. It is the Tombstone Transcription Project.
There are other specialized websites for a particular purpose. The next website is a good example. It is the African American Cemeteries Online.
The idea here is that cemetery and grave marker records are very diverse and can be found in almost any location but there are a huge number of these records online.