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

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'...