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

Tuesday, September 29, 2020

No longer silent or boomers, we are now the "Disposable Generation"

I live in Utah. Specifically, I live in Utah Valley. Here is a graph of the latest resurgence of the COVID-19 pandemic here in Utah.

You might notice the substantial increase in the Daily New Cases. Apparently, this increase is of little concern to either the residents of Utah (with some notable exceptions) or the state or county governments. Even though stiff measures were imposed during the runup of the COVID-19 virus in May, June, and July which resulted in a decrease into August. Those in charge of the governments and the general population decided that their interests in having children go back to school and the economy was far more important than the lives of hundreds and perhaps thousands of older Utah residents. Also, the state did not want to antagonize the vocal minority of people who opposed wearing masks. Hence, there is no need for a statewide mandate for wearing masks because the virus is only going to infect people who live in the areas where there are current cases.

The results of this were apparent when I made an extremely short visit to a local Walmart in Vernal, a small community in eastern Utah. Less than half of the people in the store were wearing masks and almost all of those who were wearing masks were Walmart employees. The situation in Utah Valley is about the same. Even though there is a local mandate for wearing masks, I still see huge groups of younger people with almost no masks evident.

Why is this? Even if you discount the fact that a significant number of people who claim to be "conservatives" are adamantly opposed to masks based on claims of freedom, liberty, and constitutional rights, there is also the factor that the "virus only makes old people sick and only old people die from the virus." In short, we have our rights and we don't care if old people die. 

Even though the graph above clearly shows the effect of mandated social distancing, limits on the size of gatherings, and masks, there is still not enough social consciousness in Utah Valley and elsewhere that might have prevented the huge increase in Daily New Cases in September and on into October. 

What does this mean for old folks like me and my wife? If means that we are now marginalized to the point of risking our lives to go out into public gatherings. There does not seem to be any point in the increase in the rate of infection that will trigger either the government entities or the general population that will trigger any reasonable or effective response. 

Old people may die more readily from the virus but young people are effective carriers and constitute a pool of infection that is easily passed on to old people. In a recent New York Times article entitled, "Utah Covid Map and Case Count," the 14-day change in the cases was a 107% increase. 

Now some comments about the case count. The case count is really a meaningless number. The real number is the percentage of positive cases regardless of the number of tests. Let's say they do 100 tests. Right now, the rolling 7-day average of positive cases in Utah is 13.7%. If you do 100 tests with that rate you will have about 13-14 positive tests. If you do 1000 tests, you will have 130-140 positive tests. If you think about it, at the local Brigham Young University, where there have been over 1000 positive tests so far this semester, if you did a test to all 43,000 people at the university, you would probably have over 5,891 positive tests. So, the inescapable conclusion is that the number of new cases is politically controlled by adjusting the number of tests. The number of new cases is also politically controlled when none of the known methods of control are abandoned. 

Right now, 8 out of 10 deaths reported in the U.S. have been in adults 65 years old and older. We have become the Disposable Generation.

MyHeritage Expands its Theory of Family Relativity


MyHeritage's Theory of Family Relativity™uses all of the huge resources of and the FamilySearch Family Tree to provide those with a DNA test on the MyHeritage website with remarkably accurate DNA matches and then calculates up to five different paths back to a common ancestor. In short, the Theory of Family Relativity™ harnesses the billions of family tree profiles and historical records on MyHeritage to suggest relationship paths between you and your DNA Matches, potentially saving you dozens of hours of research. 

MyHeritage recently announced that the data for the Theory of Family Relativity™has been refreshed. Quoting from a recent email:

This update has added millions of new and improved theories that explain how you and your DNA Matches might be related, and can enlighten you about family relationships that may have been complete mysteries until now. Please take a moment to share this exciting update with your audiences.

Since the last update, the number of theories on MyHeritage has grown by 64%, from 20,330,031 to 33,373,070! The number of MyHeritage users who now have at least one Theory of Family Relativity™ for their DNA Matches has increased by 28%. 

The Theory of Family Relativity™

For more information about this update, see the MyHeritage blog post, "Update to Theory of Family Relativity™".

Monday, September 28, 2020

The Brick Wall Conundrum: Is there or is there not a "Brick Wall?"


It seems like I can never write or talk enough about genealogical brick walls. The main reason for this is that no matter how much time you spend on doing genealogical research you will always come to the end of every one of your ancestral lines. In fact, the more research you do, the more lines you have and therefore the more end of line situations you create for yourself. The "castle in the sky" illusion is that you think that your "end of lines" extend a lot further into the past than is actually the case. 

Genealogical research is essentially historical research. Starting with your own parents, the historical questions are whether or not you have valid, defensible, reliable, historical sources connecting you to your parents? Realistically, some people do and some people don't. With the development of DNA testing, I continue to hear about people who are discovering that they are not related to the people who they have always assumed were their parents or other relatives. No matter how much genealogical research you have done in your lifetime, if you take a DNA test and find out that you are not related to your parents, you have the option of starting all over again on a genetically related line of inquiry. 

If you think about this fact, you will realize that this is the case in every generation. How do you know your two grandfathers are really your grandfathers? And on and on and on. What this establishes is the basic unreliability factor of historical research. Now, let's take a step back. What if you don't know who your parents were? What if you are a foundling, abandoned on the doorstep of a church or police station or whatever? In today's world, through DNA testing, you have a reasonably good shot at finding your biological parents. But the present limitations of DNA testing and your ability to find relatives to involve in testing will limit your ability to use DNA back more than a few generations. You will soon be back to doing genealogical/historical research, that is, relying on documentary evidence. 

Unfortunately, there is a fairly large percentage of the people who try to do their "genealogy" who do not know how to do genealogical/historical research. As a side note, those who do know how to do research get extremely frustrated with those who don't. In addition, there are a few people who are not satisfied with their verified history and make up their own version. This is nothing new and unverified, traditional, histories are rampant in our genealogical past. More castles in the sky. 

There are a huge number of possible reasons for a brick wall or end-of-line. The important thing is to do enough research to recognize the difference between the two possibilities. An end-of-line means that valid, defensible, reliable, historical sources for further genealogical information are missing. This can occur anytime in the past although DNA testing coupled with an extensive, documented family tree has made recent end-of-line situations less common. A claim of a brick wall is most commonly an excuse for a failure to do the research necessary to find the pertinent documents. I have talked to people who claim to have a "brick wall" before they have done any research at all. Others, claim brick walls after looking at census records and searching for vital records, even when these sources have the information they need. 

Let's reserve the term "brick wall" for those situations when extensive research over a long period of time has failed to find any valid, defensible, reliable, historical sources. Let's also admit that there is an end-of-line when no further valid, defensible, reliable, historical sources exist. 

If you think your ancestor or relative is a "brick wall" it is time to start learning and stop complaining. Stop. Take the time that is necessary to learn about the record sources for the time and place where the supposed brick wall ancestor or relative lived. Go back through every source for every person leading up to the assumed brick wall and make sure you haven't gotten off on the wrong track or that you aren't looking in the wrong place or have the wrong name. Admit you need help.

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Learning about what you don't find with a Google Search


Google searches give the impression that they are omnipotent but if you understand how information is stored and the amount of information that is still on paper and not visible to Google at all, you realize that there are other ways to find information that don't involve using Google. 

Let's suppose that you are looking for the history of Apache County, Arizona. You would like to find the background history of a relative who lived in that county. So, you do a search on Google for "history apache county arizona." Hmm. You get over 39 million results in .68 seconds. Now what? Well, none of the websites that come up are going to have enough detail to provide more than a few paragraphs of general information and most of those websites are going to loaded with advertising. 

You might try being a little more specific. How about looking for "history "apache county" arizona books." Well, now you come up with about 288,000 results and most of the responses are to books for sale on What you really would like is a good book about the history of Apache County with a lot of detail. What is missing from Google? 

Google essentially uses variations of a string search, that is, it searches text on websites, indexes results of the searches, and then prioritizes the results in ways that maximize its advertising revenue. The key here is in what Google can search. So, back to your search for a book about the history of Apache County, Arizona. Where is that book? Can Google find the book? If the book has been mentioned or cited or included in text that is online and searchable by Google, then yes, a Google Search could find the book. But if the book has never been digitized and is not online and is sitting on a library shelf somewhere in the world, Google will not likely find it. Why is that?

Libraries traditionally use some sort of cataloging system to identify and locate their collections. See Wikipedia: Library classification. Most library catalogs have been moved online but they are not necessarily searchable by Google. However, there is an alternative. Hundreds of thousands of libraries use a common system for sharing their catalogs. It is called and the website where its master catalog is located is called has over 2 billion catalog entries. If you are trying to physically find a book, you are wasting your time using Google. You should be searching on \

Here is my search on for a book on the history of Apache County, Arizona. 

The first book found is a candidate. Here is the citation generated by

Apache County Centennial Committee. 1979. Apache County, Arizona: centennial, 1879-1979. [Saint Johns, Ariz.?]: [publisher not identified].

Using, I can see whether or not a library near me has a copy of this book. Unfortunately, the nearest copy is in Apache County. But what is more important, I can search to see if this book is available online using Google. I could also use Interlibrary Loan to see if I could get a copy from one of the libraries listed on (I happen to have a copy of that book on my own shelf). 

Before doing all that, you can use to find another book that might work. But now, you are working with a catalog not a Google Search, so you need to think like a library. If you know about the history of that part of Arizona, you will know that the main route for colonization and settlement was along the Little Colorado River. Here are the results of a search for "settlement little colorado river."

Here are the books I found. Essentially, the history of the settlement of the Little Colorado River Valley was the same as the history of Apache County. 

  • Peterson, Charles S. Take up Your Mission; Mormon Colonizing along the Little Colorado River, 1870-1900. Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 1973.
  • Porter, Rulon E. History of Mormon Settlements, Little Colorado River Valley, 1969.
  • ———. Mormon Colonization of the Little Colorado River Valley. Salt Lake City, Utah: Filmed by the Genealogical Society of Utah, 1999.
  • ———. Mormon Settlement of the Little Colorado River Valley, 1949.
Now, you should look at what I found. One of those books was filmed by the Genealogical Society of Utah or now known as FamilySearch. You can now look at the over 400,000 digital books on the website. Here is what I found.

The entire book has been digitized and is available for free on Then, I did a search on for "Apache County" history. I got 1233 results including handwritten manuscripts and other valuable research documents. 

The moral of this post is that Google is not omnipotent. It is merely a tool that has to be used in conjunction with other tools. In addition, it helps if you know something about the topic you are searching for. Neither Google nor WorldCat are going to supply you with the search terms you need to use. 

Monday, September 21, 2020

Who were the Pilgrims?

Bow of the Mayflower II

Who were the Pilgrims? The term "Pilgrims" is applied generally to all of the people who sailed on the English ship named the Mayflower and who arrived in the Massacusetts Bay on November 11, 1620, 400 years ago this year (2020). The Pilgrim story as it has evolved in the United States claims that the "Pilgrims" came to America to avoid religious persecution and the tradition lumps all of the passengers and crew in this one category. There were four general categories of people on the Mayflower:
  • Separatitsts
  • Non-Separatists
  • Indentured Servants
  • Contracted Mayflower Sailors
There were 32 sailors who were the crew of the ship. The sailors had contracted to stay a year after arriving. However, because of the late arrival and because of the lack of adequate maps and directions, the whole expedition was originally supposed to be going to the Virginia Colony with the intent of settling near what is now New York City. See Who were the Pilgrims? 

The religious segment of the are called Separatists. They began their existence near Scrooby, Nottinghamshire, England where they suffered persecution from the English government and the Church of England. The eventually moved to the Netherlands (Holland) where they stayed for about 12 years. Some of the Separatists had children born in the Netherlands.  My direct-line Ancestor, Francis Cooke had his first five children in Holland. The move to America was likely made for economic and cultural reasons. My question would be, why did they move back into an English colony if they were worried about religious freedom?

Now, the Non-Separists. Here is a quote from the FamilySearch blog article, "Mayflower Passenger List and Other Mayflower Passenger Facts."
The “strangers,” as they are sometimes called, included English families and individuals who were recruited by London merchants to help establish the Colony of Virginia. These individuals outnumbered the group of Separatists. 

I can imagine that this group was not overjoyed to find out they had landed outside of the Viginia Colony. Some accounts explain what happed as does this one from's article, "Did the Pilgrims intend to land at Plymouth?"

During their years in exile in Holland, the Pilgrims had heard favorable reports of the lands around present-day New York City visited by Henry Hudson on his Dutch-sponsored voyage in 1609. They sailed from England with a royal patent to settle the region, which skirted the 41st latitude and marked the northernmost point of land chartered by the Virginia Company of London. Since the Pilgrims lacked royal authority to settle in New England, however, some Mayflower passengers threatened to abandon the colony. To ensure the colonists continued to respect the rule of law, 41 of the men aboard the ship signed the Mayflower Compact, which outlined the governing principles of the Plymouth Colony.

Hmm. The Separatists were coming from Holland to a place that would shortly be claimed by the Dutch but the majority of the passengers were contracted with the Viginia Colony. I am guessing there was a lot more going on than the simple story that these people came to America for religious freedom. Could the English merchants have been trying to beat the Dutch to New York? 

Twenty of the 104 passengers (or 102 depending where you get your information) were indentured servants. Obviously, this group did not come to America either voluntarily or for religious reasons. The Plymouth Colony Archive Project article, "Servants and Masters in the Plymouth Colony" has this explanation. 

The success of Plymouth Colony depended on hard work and cheap labor. For the Colonists in Plymouth, cheap labor came in the form of indentured servants. Twenty of the 104 Pilgrims to arrive on the Mayflower were servants (Stratton 1986: 179). Within the first year of the settlement twelve of these servants had died. In addition to the servants who died, almost half of the non-indentured population perished during the first year in Massachusetts. By the spring of 1621, the surviving Colonists were faced with the daunting task of designing and building a stable, long-lasting Colony.

You may want to read the entire article as it also explains the existence of slavery in the colony. 

The last group of people were the contracted Mayflower sailors. Only a very few of the crew of the Mayflower can be identified from contemporary records. Caleb Johnson's website lists only 13 identified sailors which include the famous, John Alden, who was a cooper or barrel-maker. Only three of the sailors, including John Alden, survived the first winter. 

Given this makeup of the passengers and crew of the Mayflower, I assume that the story of what happened was far more complicated than the simple history of America's First Thanksgiving. 

By the way, when they arrived, they found a country whose inhabitants had been decimated by a huge European disease epidemic. That is probably the main reason that the Eurpean colonists were not summarily killed or pushed back into the ocean. As it was, only about 30 of the Separatists survived the first year but by then, they were the majority, and William Bradford, a Separatist, wrote the history. 

Sunday, September 20, 2020

Comments on social networking posts

Between comments from Protestant Church members worrying about my salvation and lack of a belief in Christ because I am a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and my conservative friends passing along the latest conspiracy theory or chain-letter sob story, even looking at social networking programs has become somewhat of a chore. The only thing that keeps me looking is to see which of my friends and acquaintances have died recently and to keep up with those of my children who still post. I almost never post anything about me or my personal life on social networking. The only exceptions are photos that I post to Instagram to a very small audience. 

I have a substantial social networking presence despite my antipathy to social networking because of my blogs. I hardly ever get substantial comments on any of my blogs no matter what I write. Genealogy is hardly a controversial subject and neither is my photography. Some of the people I know get long comments that are really tirades on one subject or another. Sometimes when I pass along a post by one of my friends or family members, I get comments calling me a Marxist and claiming that the post is FAKE NEWS always in capital letters. 

Ernest Agyemang Yeboah once said, "We fail to say the right words because we choose to say the wrong words! We choose to say the wrong words because we fail to think about the right words!” Presently, I am caught between the urge to speak my mind and a concern that I would alienate a substantial portion of my friends from the past. I am becoming more and more circumspect in my comments and if I make any at all although I get disgusted with the drivel that gets posted online. 

Here is one example. I live in a smaller town in Utah. I am older and have a medical history that would make catching the COVID-19 virus life-threatening. The people who surround me are either convinced that the whole "virus thing" is a hoax or that wearing a mask is a violation of their "fundamental constitutional rights." Here is a chart showing the progress of the virus here in Utah.

We are basically isolated in our home because the people of Utah do not believe there is a problem with over 200,000 people dying in the United States from the COVID-19 virus (as of the date of this post, the number was 203,880). Unbelievably, the government of Utah, six months into a pandemic is still debating back and forth about an appropriate response. In my opinion, this indecision is caused by the huge percentage of the population, including the government people, who do not yet view the pandemic as a public health issue and still think it is a political issue.

I was a trial attorney in Arizona for almost forty years. I have spent most of my life listening to clients and evaluating evidence for lawsuits. I am very familiar with outrageous claims, emotional rants, diatribes, claims that rights have been violated, and all of the other impedimenta of the law. I have handled cases involving hurt feelings and cases involving matters of life and death. In all those years, I cannot say I have ever run across a claim so lacking in any logical or legal support than that someone has a legal right to put my life in danger by failing to wear a cloth facemask. I have extensively read the arguments on both sides of the face mask issue. I do not believe, after years of teaching and arguing cases involving constitutional law that there is anything about the public health practices of isolating actively contagious people or requiring them to wear a face-covering that violates any basic right and certainly nothing in the Constitutional Law of the United States of America. Wearing or not wearing a mask is not a political issue or a political statement. It is a dangerous intrusion on my basic human rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. 

Objections to the wearing a mask usually involve using words such as those quoted in an article entitled, "The Constitution doesn’t have a problem with mask mandates." Here is a quote that expresses what those who claim wearing masks violate their rights usually say:

Mandatory masks violate the First Amendment right to speech, assembly, and especially association and mandatory masks violate a person’s constitutional right to liberty and to make decisions about their own health and bodily integrity.

There is an old legal saying that your right ends where mine begins. Wearing a mask does not limit my freedom of expression. Wearing a mask does not restrict my liberty in any way. The evidence that face masks limit the spread of contagious diseases is overwhelming. Your decision to spread a communicable disease does not rise to the level of a right to liberty. Online, I was able to find 516 Federal Court cases involving the term "face mask." Many of these cases involved facts that did not have anything to do with rights, they were cases where a plaintiff was alleging damage due to an employer refusing to allow the plaintiff to wear a protective facemask in dangerous situations such as welding, and other activities involving potential harm. Another large number of cases had to do with inmates in prison who were ill and required to wear protective masks even when they were not contagious. 

However, the issue of face masks during COVID-19 pandemic has come up in the Federal Court system. The case of United States of America v. Vincent J. Trimarco, Jr. Defendant. 17-CR-583 (JMA) (E.D.N.Y. Sep. 1, 2020). Has some particularly interesting language. The issue of the jury and the defendant wearing face masks was raised as an issue concerning the postponement of the trial. A number of specific constitutional rights were raised concerning the wearing of facemasks and the Court denied all of the defendant's arguments. Here is a summarizing quote from the opinion:

The Court recognizes that proceeding with a trial during an unprecedented global pandemic presents numerous costs, inconveniences, and logistical challenges for all parties involved. Nonetheless, in recent months, the state of New York and the Long Island region, in particular, have experienced significant and sustained improvements in the number of COVID-19 transmissions, hospitalizations, and deaths. Life has slowly begun to approach a return to normalcy in many ways. Just as many businesses have restored their operations while adopting various safety measures, so too must the Court. This encouraging trend has created "a window of opportunity for holding a public trial . . . and it is not clear how long those conditions will maintain." Id. at *2. Public health experts have warned about the possibility of a "second wave" of potential infections in areas where virus conditions have improved. Before that fear materializes, the Court should not squander the opportunity to conduct a trial while utilizing all of the health and safety precautions at its disposal. 

The health and safety precautions mentioned in the case include wearing a face mask. Politicizing a public health issue and endangering my life overcomes my reticence in writing online and posting to social media. This is not a political issue. It is a matter of my own health and safety. Within a few short days, the death toll from the COVID-19 virus will rise dramatically in Utah. I do not want to be one of those who die. 

If you think that your rights are being violated by a public health measure, why don't you stop taking baths during our extreme drought in Utah? Why not stop washing your hands or cleaning your house? Why not stop preparing and cooking your food properly? Stop going to the doctor for your illnesses and abandon every other healthy practice? I realize that because I am old you do not care if I die but I can assure you I do and I can still write. So if you decided to post a comment to this post, be aware that I will respond. Also, if you decided to rant about FAKE NEWS and cite bogus studies about how face masks are harmful, I will respond with research. This is not a political statement, it is a matter of my life and my death.

Thursday, September 17, 2020

Resources for the Mayflower Passengers and Their Descendants


2020 is the 400th Anniversary of the landing of the passengers of the Mayflower. Here is a very short summary of the voyage from Wikipedia: Mayflower.

Mayflower was an English ship that transported the first English Puritans, known today as the Pilgrims, from England to the New World in 1620. After a grueling 10 weeks at sea, the Mayflower, with 102 passengers and a crew of about 30, reached America, dropping anchor near the tip of Cape Cod on November 11, 1620.
Mayflower Passenger List

It is estimated that as many as 35 million people living today have ancestors from the above list. Digital copies of some of the original documents about the Mayflower passengers are available online from the State Library of Massachusetts. See 

The main genealogical source for researching a connection to one or more of the Mayflower passengers is a series of books called the "Silver Books" from the General Society of Mayflower Descendants. The name of the books comes from their silver colored covers. Here is the real name of the Silver Books is the Mayflower Families Through Five Generations. The entire series is being digitized and indexed through a partnership between the New England Historic Genealogical Society (NEHGS) and the General Society of Mayflower Descendants. See Here is a quote from that link describing the vast database. 

NEHGS will post images from the “Silver Books” for all fifth-generation descendants with a complete index including: birth, marriage, death, and deeds for these descendants, their spouses, and children on NEHGS will also create indexes on content within the first fifty years of issues of the Mayflower Quarterly (1935 through 1984) for all article titles and names included in that publication and post images on

This database will involve 31 volumes of the “Silver Books” comprising about 11,800 relevant pages. Our preliminary calculations indicate that the index will have about 7,750 fifth generation descendants, along with their spouses and children. The actual record count will not be known until the indexing is completed, but more than 150,000 birth, marriage, death, and deed records in total are estimated.

Before you even dream of being a descendant of one of the Mayflower passengers, I would suggest that you become very familiar with the basic resources about the passengers and their descendants. The basic NEHGS resources are on their website Before you waste your time looking elsewhere, I would suggest obtaining a subscription to that website. Some of the basic databases on the website that are invaluable for research in addition to the Silver Books include the following:

  • The Mayflower Descendant: A Journal of Pilgrim Genealogy & History
  • The Great Migration Begins: Immigrants to New England 1620—1633 series
  • Plymouth Church Records 1620-1859
  • Barnstable, MA Probate Records 1685-1789
I might also caution you that many of the online family trees, including the Family Tree are woefully inaccurate when it comes to documenting the Mayflower passengers and their descendants. Before you even begin to rely on the entries in online family trees, you need to be very familiar with the Silver Books and the other readily available online resources. Recently, FamilySearch made all the passengers "read-only" and this has stopped the stream of unsupported changes to these individuals for a while but not all the information on every passenger is correct despite the read-only status. 

Here are a few more websites that you should be very familiar with before you jump to the conclusion that you had an ancestor on the Mayflower. 

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Legacy Family Tree Webinars Celebrates 10th Anniversary

As I remember, I was in attendance at either the first broadcast webinar or one very close to the first. I do remember a discussion with Geoff Rasmussen about the "new" technology. That now seems like a really long time ago especially since being online with webinars is now an integral part of my ongoing life. I have no exact idea how many I have done but it is probably somewhere over 200 best guess. Some of them have not been recorded but most of them are on the Brigham Young University Family History Library YouTube Channel. I have also done a couple for Legacy Family Tree and also a few for MyHeritage

In celebration of the Anniversary, Legacy Family Tree is unlocking the top webinar from each year and making them free for 10 days. Visit to watch.

There will also be discounts for new webinar memberships. 

Monday, September 14, 2020

What do you need to know to do genealogical research?


I found this interesting quote from the following book:

Fudge, George H, and Frank Smith. LDS Genealogist’s Handbook: Modern Procedures and Systems,. Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1972, Page 121. 

Intelligent research cannot be conducted without some knowledge of the economic, social, religious, and historical background of the country whose records are being searched. For instance, events in these categories affect the movement of people and the direction of that movement. The keeping of records was affected by wars and by the formation of new religious sects.

There have been promotions by genealogical companies in the past few years that have maintained that you don't have to be a genealogist to do family history. Well, one problem with this statement is that by definition, if you are involved in family history, you are a genealogist. The definition of a genealogist is so vague as to include all possible levels of involvement in family history. Here is the most common definition found on the internet in a number of websites:

A genealogist is "a person who traces or studies the descent of persons or families."

Perhaps we can find another more restrictive definition that will support the idea that doing family history does not involve genealogy? Here is a common definition of "genealogy" from the website:

Genealogy, the study of family origins and history. Genealogists compile lists of ancestors, which they arrange in pedigree charts or other written forms. The word genealogy comes from two Greek words—one meaning “race” or “family” and the other “theory” or “science.” Thus is derived “to trace ancestry,” the science of studying family history. The term pedigree comes from the Latin pes (“foot”) and grus (“crane”) and is derived from a sign resembling a crane’s foot, used to indicate lines of descent in early west European genealogies. 

As I have written in the past, the term "family history" was coined to avoid using the word "genealogy" to avoid all those people out there who are allergic to genealogy. 

I certainly agree with the first quote above about the need to know a lot about everything to do an adequate job of genealogical research. I frequently find that I have to do research about my research to understand what my research has found. Just today, I tried to answer what I thought was a simple question and ended up spending a great deal of time researching online and never did get the original question answered. 

I guess the real message that genealogists need to convey is that genealogy is a really hard, complex pursuit, and doing genealogical research is not easy. One of the possible reasons why genealogy is not a generally accepted academic subject is that is so broad and so difficult only a handful of people can possibly master it and even then there are very few paying jobs available for "professionals." 

The best answer to the question in the title of this post is that you need to know how to do research; real difficult research in libraries, archives, online, and sometimes standing in a cemetery. 

Saturday, September 12, 2020

How do genealogically significant records get preserved? Part One


Let's suppose that your great-grandfather wrote a journal during his lifetime and you are the member of the family that ends up with the journal. You might have a couple of concerns: how do you preserve the document and what can you do to make the journal available to others in your family? Obviously, this hypothetical example applies to more than just an individual with an ancestor's journal, it also applies to a library or archive with original historical records. The process whereby a historical document or record is made available online is somewhat complicated. Here is a list of the steps necessary to transform a paper-based document into an online digital copy. 

  • Physical preservation
  • Curation
  • Housing or storage
  • Cataloging
  • Indexing
  • Publication
  • Maintenance
Even if you are an individual with only one genealogically significant document or record as contrasted to a huge archive or repository, everyone has to go through the same steps. I will examine these steps one-by-one and perhaps you will begin to understand what it takes to assure that valuable information will not be lost.


Inevitably, unless steps are taken to preserve a physical object, the object will eventually be lost. This process is inevitable. In physics, this process of decay and disorder is called entropy. How you preserve a historical artifact depends on the artifact's composition. I am going to use the term "artifact" to represent any genealogically (historically) significant object including documents and records. Simply put, if you want to preserve a book the process is different from that necessary to preserve a quilt. In addition, preserving an artifact really only changes the method of preservation. For example, let's suppose that we want to preserve the journal I mentioned above. Today, the obvious response would be to digitize the journal. But then, all you have really done is change the challenge of preserving a paper document into the equally difficult challenge of preserving a digital document. In short, the process does not end with the physical preservation of the artifact. The preservation includes all of the steps I outlined above.

To address the first step, you might want to refer to the Library of Congress's Preservation Directorate. This website contains specific instructions about the physical preservation of the following types of artifacts and links to how to preserve many others:

  • Books
  • Paper
  • Photographs
  • Scrapbooks and Albums
  • Newspapers
  • Comic Books
  • Audio-Visual: Grooved Media, Magnetic Tape, and Optical Discs
  • Audio-Visual: Motion Picture Film
  • Asian Bindings
  • Other objects: Video on making a custom storage box for objects
  • Preservation Housing for Large Fragile Objects [PPTX, 12 MB]

The information on this website is constantly being updated. Preservation is not just putting the item in a cardboard box and forgetting about it. You need to be aware of the need to do something more. One thing you can do with a journal is to donate it to a historical society, museum, or archive. 

Digital images of the artifact are one way of preserving the information it contains. However, without continuing down the steps in the list above, digitization does nothing more than create another artifact that needs to go through the entire process. 


Curation is the action or process of selecting, organizing, and looking after the items in a collection or exhibition. Once you have done what is necessary to preserve an artifact, you need to take the next steps. But even assuming that you organize and look after the items, this does not mean that the artifact will ultimately be preserved. Everyone dies. Preservation will be passed on to your heirs or assigns. That brings up the next item on the list. 

Housing or storage

Your basement, attic, or garage are only temporary storage areas. Curation of the artifact needs to move on to a permanent storage place. Permanent in this context means institutional. Finding an institution, archive, library, historical society, or other organization that will take over curation can be the most difficult challenge. Even though you or your family might put a huge emotional value on the artifact does not mean that an institution is going to spend its hard-earned funds to preserve it. You need to be realistic and view your artifact in its historical context. All I can suggest is that you start contacting every institution, library, archive, historical society, or any other similar organization ask. 


A collection can be organized but not cataloged. Archives and other organizations that help preserve artifacts must catalog their collections so they know what they have and how they can locate any given artifact in their overall collections. Digitizing the artifact does not solve the problem. Digitizing just changes the format of the preservation efforts and makes storage less expensive. Don't think that once an artifact (such as the journal above) is digitized that the original can be thrown away. The artifact itself is genealogically significant and must be preserved if at all possible. This is the main reason why finding an institution to take over this part of the preservation process is vital.


A catalog is helpful in locating a specific artifact but does not tell you much about the significance of the item. This is especially true with documents and records. Indexes open up the possibility that the item will be useful for research by people who do not understand catalogs and how to search documents and records page by page. If you keep an important artifact in your family, it is very likely that it will not be available generally to the genealogical research community. If the artifact moves to an institution dedicated to preservation, and the item is digitized, cataloged, and indexed, it is then possible that the general community may find a way to gain access to the artifact. 


Even if you or an institution takes all the steps to this point in the preservation process and fails to make the digital record. Some genealogists get to this step after having done all the work to preserve their genealogically significant artifact (records) and fail to make them publically available. They have just moved back up the list. 


Even with digital copies of artifacts, you still have to maintain digital copies. This is part one of a series and will continue as I do some research. Stay tuned. 

Thursday, September 10, 2020

A Deeper Look at began as a family history product sold on CDs in 1997 and has expanded online to include 3 million paying subscribers and 18+ million people DNA tested. The website claims the world's largest collection of family history records with over 27 billion records online. 

The website is uniquely valuable to research genealogists who happen to be doing research in the countries where the website has records. Superficially, anyone who was interested in their family history and who had ancestors and relatives in the countries where has records will likely connect with either ancestors or relatives by creating a family tree on the website supplemented by an Ancestry DNA test. For many people in the United States and Western Europe, green leaf record hints and DNA matches will help to relatively quickly build a family tree back a number of generations. However, despite its beginning family historian orientation, the website is also extremely useful for advanced researchers. 

I would like to present two examples of how this process might work to help you resolve mysteries and extend your family tree using the tools provided by the website. 

My first example involves solving the identity of one of my Great-grandfathers who was known as Marinus Christensen. He was born in Torslev, Hjorring, Denmark in 1863. A notation in a book authored by the wife of one of his nephews indicated that he was "adopted." Extensive research turned up another notation of adoption in a church record. However, his real status was a mystery. Off and on during my almost 40 years of research, I would check to see if there were any records that might reveal his identity. Finally, one of my daughters found a baby born out-of-wedlock very close to where Marinus lived and also named "Marinus." We guessed that this might be the long-sought record showing his actual parents and birth date.  

Fairly recently, introduced a new DNA program called ThruLines™. Marinus Christensen showed up with 13 of my DNA matches. Interestingly, all of these matches were Christensen and therefore his descendants. Upon noticing this fact, I checked to see if his sister had any descendant DNA matches. I found that the ThruLines™program has found 43 matches for Marinus's sister, Mary Kjerstine Christensen Overson. Interestingly, her descendants who are my DNA matches show a completely different set of matches that are all Oversons and none of them overlap as Christensens. So Marinus was not related to his "sister" and was almost certainly adopted. Obviously, the two families had different surnames because of Mary Kjersine's marriage, but they always considered themselves to be "cousins." Well, they still are cousins but not just related by DNA. This example shows how research, a family tree on, and a DNA test can be used by the ThruLines™program to help resolve a family mystery.

My second example is a lot more complicated. It involves a more distant ancestor, Thomas Brownell, b. 1615, d. 1665. When I began this example, he had 39 Ancestry Hints. As I examined the hints, I found some very interesting documents. I also found a few things I would absolutely ignore. As is the case with a lot of people I have in my family tree, the information is incomplete and sometimes inaccurate. The reason for this is that in my initial survey which I started almost 40 years ago, I entered the information as I found it at that time, long before computers and the internet. Since I have been working back systematically, at the level of Thomas Brownell, my 9th great-grandfather, where I have over 2000 potential grandparents, I am only just now even looking at some of these people. 

What I quickly determined was that the information I had in my family tree was woefully out of date. This is an important point. Whichever of the many genealogy programs you use for your main program, you have to realize that when using other family tree programs or websites, you need to make sure that they have the same information you have maintained in your primary family tree. So before I got going any further with the 39 record hints, I spent a few minutes bringing this particular person up to date. After the update, I have Thomas Brownell, b. 1608, d. 1664. Quite a change. Now to go through all the record hints and see if they make sense or change any of the updated information. With 39 record hints, this takes some time but is still valuable. 

It turns out that one of my distant relatives did a huge amount of research about this particular family which saves me a lot of time. I can now save the record hints to my ancestor and may be able to work further back in time. But this one entry did not save me the time of updating my files about this person. Because of the many people using Ancestry, occasionally I receive a benefit from all the work that others have done. Look deeper and maybe you will also benefit from the work of your relatives. 

Tuesday, September 8, 2020

Using the Internet Like a Pro: Genealogists Have No Idea What’s Out There


Using the Internet Like a Pro: Genealogists Have No Idea What’s Out There

One of my most recent videos raised a question. The video reviews a number of hugely valuable websites for genealogists that do not all fall into the category of genealogy websites. The question involved obtaining a list of the websites on the video that did not involve stopping the video every few minutes to write down a URL or name. Because I was asked the question, I decided to make a list of the websites mentioned in the video and add a few more for good measure. Here is the list. You may still want to view the website so you can see why I use all these additional resources. 



• Reclaim the Records https://www.reclaimtherecords

• Digital Public Library of America

• Hathi Trust Digital Library

• Google Books

• Trove


• Foundation for East European Family History Studies

• The USGenWeb Project

• GenWiki (German Genealogy)

• Cyndi’s List

• RootsWeb

• Library of Congress, Chronicling America

• New York Public Library Online Collections

• Smithsonian Libraries Digital Library

• Open Education Database, 250+ Killer Digital Libraries and Archives

• The Family History Guide


• Billion Graves


• Statue of Liberty & Ellis Island

• Digital Library on American Slavery

• Old Maps Online

• Board on Geographic Names

• The Freedmen’s Bureau Records

• FreeBMD

• Castle Garden

• Open Library

Saturday, September 5, 2020

Look for Genealogy Channels on YouTube

Google's is a goto place for information and explanations about almost every possible subject. I have used YouTube videos for everything from installing an air filter in my car to learning specific software programs. What you may not realize is that there are thousands of videos about a multitude of genealogically related topics. 

YouTube is divided up into "Channels." Anyone who wants to take the time can create their own channel and start uploading videos. Here is a link to a video with 2,265,295 views (as of the date of this post) about how to create a YouTube Channel. 

How To Create A YouTube Channel! (2020 Beginner’s Guide)

You can search YouTube by clicking in the search field at the top of each YouTube page. You can see the search field marked by a magnifying glass icon in the image above of The Family History Guide YouTube Channel page. Very few genealogy-related YouTube Channel pages get millions of views. The most popular channels are sponsored by the large online genealogy database/family tree websites such as the following:

You can subscribe to a channel and get notices from YouTube whenever a new video is posted to that channel. Of course, my wife and I have been posting videos to YouTube for years as volunteer missionaries at the Brigham Young University Family History Library. Here is the BYU Family History Library YouTube Channel

Currently, there are YouTube videos with over six billion (yes, you read that right) views. Most of the really popular videos are music related with a few kid's videos thrown in. The most popular genealogy-related video on YouTube might be one by called Descendants of Honor with 6.9 million views. This video is less than a minute long. But the number of views often reflects the amount of advertising the sponsor invested in promoting the video. The most viewed video on the BYU Family History Library YouTube Channel has 57 thousand views which is more in line with the popularity of genealogy videos in general but it is about an hour long. A RootsTech video entitled Connect. Belong. RootsTech 2018 has 664 thousand views for comparison. That video is also short at less than two minutes. 

Another way of determining the popularity of a particular channel is the number of subscribers. Again, has about 145,000 subscribers. 

There are really too many channels and individual videos to list in a blog post. You will need to explore what is there by searching

Friday, September 4, 2020

Why are the so many duplicates in online family trees?


The most obvious reason for duplicates in the vast number of online family trees is that every one of my online relatives with a family tree has duplicated some part of my own family tree and the family tree of every other relative. In addition, I probably have somewhere around a dozen copies of all or part of my own family tree on various websites. It would be wonderful if all of those relatives' trees were documented and accurate and I guess I could say the same thing about all the family trees I have on various websites. Some of those must be woefully out of date. 

The real issue is whether or not there is one reliable reference for all of the information on the various family trees? I keep two or three of my own family trees up to date by focusing on two or three websites. Some researchers elect to try to use a desktop program and keep it up to date. I am always moving around from computer to computer and trying to maintain a desktop program is just not practical but I do keep a backup copy of my family tree on a local desktop program. 

Is there a practical way to avoid all this duplication? There are several collaborative, unified family tree websites. These websites include the Family Tree,, and Both the Family Tree and are free websites. has a free basic account but it also has a Geni Pro version that is currently $119.40 a year. The advantage of these collaborative websites is that the users all see the same information and duplication is decreased to the extent that the users actually collaborate and do not ignore the need for genealogically accurate entries. 

Duplication is a problem with individual entries in a family tree when there is more than one copy of the same person. Additionally, having separate family trees automatically duplicates all the entries between related researchers as soon as they enter the same person. For example. my Great-grandfather Henry Martin Tanner has tens of thousands of descendants. If those descendants decide to create their own individual family tree, they will be duplicating both the person and the research effort every time they enter a person who appears on another relative's family tree. Potentially, there are tens of thousands of copies of Henry Martin Tanner sitting out there on every one of my relative's individual family trees. 

Now, the FamilySearch Family Tree is a special case. It was seeded with millions of names that had been accumulated over more than a hundred years of research. Unfortunately, this process included the duplicates from a huge number of entries for the same individuals. For example, my Great-grandfather Henry Martin Tanner ended up with well over 800 copies. These collaborative websites have developed a way to "merge" two duplicate entries into one surviving individual. The process of "cleaning up the entries" is ongoing and will continue as long as contributors continue to enter duplicate individuals without rigorously verifying that the same individuals are not already resident in the online family tree. In the case of the FamilySearch Family Tree, the duplicates were there from the time when the data was uploaded, first to a website called and later when the same information was used to create the FamilySearch Family Tree. I spend a considerable amount of my time merging duplicates on the Family Tree. 

Duplicates are inevitable given the number of online family trees and the fact that relatively few people focus on using one or more of the collaborative online family trees. Whenever I write about this subject, I always receive comments from people who have a problem with the entire concept of a collaborative family tree but as long as this antipathy exists, there will always be a duplicate challenge. 

Thursday, September 3, 2020

The future evolution of webinars and online virtual conventions

Conventions, fairs, carnivals, convocations, assemblies, and every other kind of large meetings have always been part of the human experience. The main benefits from large scale assemblies come from shared experiences and what we now call "networking." Obviously, the emphasis of these gatherings has been from the purely social or religious to the purely commercial with a mixture of both ends of the spectrum in between the two extremes. As the pursuit of genealogy became popularized the first organized genealogy organization is the New England Historic Genealogical Society founded in 1845. The National Genealogical Society was founded in 1915. Sometime between these dates, it was likely that the first genealogy conferences of members and other interested people were held. 

It is estimated that there are over 30,000 conferences held each year around the world. There is a website that tries to keep track of all the genealogy conferences. It is called and it lists a lot of conferences. As I reviewed the list of upcoming conferences, I noted that the pandemic has taken its toll. Almost every conference listed had either changed from in-person to virtual or been canceled for this year. Of course, this includes the upcoming RootsTech Connect conference. Which will be held virtually from the 25 to the 27th of February in 2021. 

The virtualization of all these conferences opens a question about the long-term effects of what would seem to be a temporary situation. Think of all the huge convention centers and hotels that will be affected by the closing down of conferences all around the world. 

In the case of RootsTech, over 17,000 people signed up for the free virtual conference in the first 24 hours after its announcement. I expect that the number of virtual attendees will vastly eclipse any of the total numbers of in-person attendance. So, the question is if this upcoming conference has a huge attendance, why would they go back to the expense, etc. of a live, in-person conference? 

I spend hours each week online virtually talking to people making presentations, teaching classes, or attending meetings. I save a huge amount of time that I previously spent traveling and getting ready to travel. The main problem before the pandemic was that very few people were familiar with or comfortable with talking and meeting online. That barrier has now, to some extent, disappeared. I talk to people who are using a smartphone, a tablet, or sitting at a desktop computer. Once you get over the novelty of the situation, you can almost ignore the interface. We have been able to meet as family groups which never took place before the pandemic. 

Granted, I have been teaching webinars for years. I have also been teaching in-person classes for most of my life starting with substitute teaching during my years at the University of Utah now almost fifty years ago. There is an interesting comparison between my webinars and my live classes. I am guessing one of the largest in-person classes I taught was one year at RootsTech with over 3000 people in the conference hall. However, this number is less than impressive when one of my webinars has now been viewed over 57,000 times and one recent Facebook Live broadcast for had over 17,000 views almost immediately and now has over 21,400 views as of the date of this post. 

My question is this. Which is more productive of my time? Teaching 1 to 30 or so people in a live class or presenting the same class online to thousands of people with residual viewings into the tens of thousands. 

Now let's expand that to the present virtual genealogy conferences. If the idea of having a conference such as RootsTech is to reach as many people as possible, doesn't it seem logical to have a virtual conference rather than going to the huge expense of an in-person conference? Are there enough additional benefits from meeting in person to make it worth the time and expense? Think of Amazon selling food. Think of Walmart delivering food. Think of the time and expense. Hmm. 

Tuesday, September 1, 2020

FamilySearch Announces RootsTech Connect 2021: A Free Global Virtual Event


FamilySearch Announces RootsTech Connect 2021: A Free Global Virtual Event

Quoting from the FamilySearch press release:
FamilySearch is thrilled to announce that the RootsTech 2021conference previously planned for February 3–6, 2021, in Salt Lake City, Utah, will now be held on February 25–27, 2021, as a free, virtual event online. RootsTech Connect 2021 will enable attendees to participate from around the world and will feature inspiring keynote speakers, dozens of classes in multiple languages, and a virtual marketplace. Reserve your place today for free at

“The pandemic is giving us the opportunity to bring RootsTech to a broader audience worldwide,” said Steve Rockwood, FamilySearch International CEO. “A virtual event also allows us to expand our planning to truly make this a global celebration of family and connection.” 

RootsTech Connect 2021 will be global in scope while offering many experiences that attendees have come to know and love from RootsTech events—including inspirational keynote speakers, dozens of classes to choose from, and an expo hall.  

Throughout the three-day online event, attendees will have the ability to interact with presenters, exhibitors, and other attendees through live chat and question and answer sessions. 

“Classes will be taught in many languages, and presenters will teach from a number of international locations,” said Rockwood. “We will celebrate cultures and traditions from around the world, with activities that the audience can participate in from home—such as homeland cooking demonstrations, storytelling, and music performances. This is one virtual event you won’t want to miss.” 

RootsTech Connect 2021 will offer a combination of both livestream and on-demand content to accommodate differences in time zone for participants. In addition, sessions will be available to view on-demand after the event concludes. 

Rockwood says that FamilySearch is looking forward to the opportunity to deliver the signature RootsTech experience and helping tens of thousands of participants worldwide to discover, gather, and connect their family story.  

RootsTech hopes to gather in-person again in the future but anticipates the RootsTech Connect virtual opportunity will become a regular addition to the event. 

Register for free at

This will be a very interesting experience. The times they are a changin'...