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

Sunday, June 13, 2021

An Amazing Photo Repair from MyHeritage


This lovely photograph of my Grandmother and my Great-uncle has always been a challenge for me. I spent hours using Adobe Photoshop "repairing" the torn part of the photo. I hesitate to show my repair because it was not at all acceptable. Now, here comes the Repair feature from This is the repair that took all of about 15 seconds. 

Granted, you might not have such fabulous results from your own photo, but considering the time I have spent trying to do the repair on my own. This is almost unbelievable. Also, the other issues with photo were also corrected. I doubt that the original photo was as good as this repaired one. Now, this is not the end of the project. Here is the same repaired photo after applies the enhancement option. 

Next, I could add colorization. 

All this from a badly torn photo. What do you think?

Friday, June 11, 2021

Find more information about the new FamilySearch GEDCOM Version 7.0

The new website,, is the place to go for up-to-date information about FamilySearch GEDCOM Version 7.0. The reality of introducing a new GEDCOM Standard is that it will take time for the developers of genealogical software and websites to implement the new standard. Meanwhile, the original versions of GEDCOM will still be usable and valid. You can see a comparison of the current Version 7.0 and previous versions on the GEDCOM Specifications page of the website. 

By the way, GEDCOM has nothing to do with the content of any genealogy file from any file format. It is merely a standard way for programs and websites to communicate and GEDCOM certainly has no part in whether or not the data is valid, accurate, or even real. Whatever the content of the original data file, GEDCOM is the way that the content can be transferred from one file or website format to another file or website format. As an example of the current usage. If I have a family tree on and I want to download the content of my file, I can search's website and see and article entitled, "Uploading and Downloading Trees." This article has the instructions for both uploading an existing GEDCOM file and downloading one. Other websites and programs have similar provisions. 

The main reason for creating a new GEDCOM version is that when I do download or upload my genealogical data from one website or program to another, I may lose valuable information if the two programs don't match. For example, one program may have a field for Godparents or baptismal witnesses. If the target program or website does not have these fields, there is no place for the data transfer to occur. However, GEDCOM should provide a place to accommodate these transfers. In effect, by providing a standard for transferring all of the different types of data, the GEDCOM Standard can influence the developers of genealogical websites or programs to provide fields for an expanding and more complete set of specific name, date, and location fields as well as make sure such information is not lost in a transfer. 

Wednesday, June 9, 2021

Missionaries return to the Brigham Young University Family History Library


The Brigham Young University Family History Library, (BYU) the second largest family history library in the world, is reopening with its staff of missionaries and volunteers on June 21st, 2021. During the pandemic, the missionary/volunteers at the library have been working entirely online. For some time now, the library has been open to students and staff of the university, but the general public has remained excluded. The reopening of the library will have the missionary/volunteer support available Monday through Friday from 10:00 am until 8:00 pm. These hours will be expanded as new missionaries and volunteers are added. 

The missionary/volunteer staff of the library is composed both of official Church Service Missionaries of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and other individuals who serve as volunteers. Because the Family History Library is part of the Harold B. Lee Library of Brigham Young University, there is also a professional staff and student employees to help in the Library during the time it is open. The Harold B. Lee Library is usually open from 7:00 am until midnight Monday through Friday. The schedule of the Library changes with the academic calendar, holidays, and at other times during the year. Here is the link to the Library schedule:

The missionaries and volunteers at the BYU Family History Library are going to continue with their online support effort allowing people from all over the world to directly contact and receive support. Here is the BYU Family History Library's web page where you can get updated information about the Library's services. 

 You can see the link for live help in the upper right-hand corner of the page. 

The Salt Lake City Family History Library is Reopening Soon

Quoting from a blog post

Starting July 6, 2021, the Family History Library will begin a phased reopening, with limited hours from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., Monday through Friday. Hours will be expanded from there, so be sure to check the Family History Library web page for the most current opening status and visitor information.

The expanded new web page for the Family History Library is located on the Website. See

Please read the entire blog post for the changes made during the closure. I will be visiting the Salt Lake City Family History LIbrary as soon as I am able after the opening. I am glad to hear they are adding more books. 

Tuesday, June 8, 2021

Why there is a GEDCOM Standard and why we need a new Version 7.0

Yes, you guessed it, more history

Note: You may want to go back and read my first post about the release of FamilySearch GEDCOM Version 7.0 (hereinafter GEDCOM Version 7.0) entitled, “Introducing FamilySearch GEDCOM Version 7.0 a long-awaited upgrade.” It may help you have a better understanding about this post. 

The first rudimentary desktop or personal computers were “invented” (more correctly assembled) beginning in 1974 with the Altair 8800 which is usually acknowledged to have been the first commercially successful personal computer, see “IT History Society.”  In 1976, Apple Computer (now Apple) released the first Apple 1 desktop computer. Genealogists were some of the earliest “power” users of desktop computers, but it took some time before the first desktop computers had enough memory and storage to support sophisticated genealogy software. The IBM Personal Computer or PC debuted in 1981. In 1984, Apple released the first Macintosh computer.  One of the earliest genealogy software programs was Ancestral Quest. Ancestral Quest went on to become the basis for the Windows versions of Personal Ancestral File released by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in 1984. The first Macintosh version of Personal Ancestral File was released in 1987. The competition began revolving around two operating systems when Microsoft released Windows 1.0 in 1985.

Now there was a problem that developed concurrently with this rapid development in computer technology. There were two main competing operating systems and yet no practical way to connect two computers together or exchange genealogical data between the competing systems. It became apparent almost immediately with the development of more sophisticated genealogy software that there needed to be a way to transfer the data from one computer to another, i.e., from one desktop computer to another and from one operating system to another such as from DOS/Windows to the Apple OS. In 1984, the Church released the first version of GEDCOM or GEnealogical Data Communication. From 1984 to 1996 different versions of the GEDCOM Standard paralleled the technological advances in computers. 

Fast forward to the present. The world of computers has become unimaginably more complicated that it was back in the 1980s, but we are still faced with the same basic problem: moving genealogical data from one operating system to another and from on software program to another. 

GEDCOM is not a program. It is a standard. What this means is that programmers who follow this standard or at least adapt their program or website to take advantage of this standard allow their users to share and exchange data with other programs or websites. The standard is a specification of the programming that will allow this interchange. 

Here is a quote from the FamilySearch GEDCOM website, explaining this concept in more detail. 

FamilySearch GEDCOM is relevant to create a personal private backup of family tree information, maintaining local ownership and control. A FamilySearch GEDCOM file is a UTF-8 text file containing genealogical information about individuals, and also meta data linking these records together. The standard file extension used is a suffix “.ged” to indicate the file has been formatted using the FamilySearch GEDCOM specification. Hundreds of software products support the reading and writing of GEDCOM files. Individuals continue to share their files for collaboration, reports, charts, special analysis, and other innovative purposes. The FamilySearch GEDCOM file format allows users to preserve, collaborate, import, and export with different applications while maintaining control of the original copy. FamilySearch GEDCOM version 7.0 is the most recent update to GEDCOM.

What was the basic challenge of GEDCOM in 1996?

In March 1989, Sir Tim Berners-Lee laid out his vision for what would become the- web in a document called “Information Management: A Proposal”. In 1995, commercial use of the existing network between computer became unrestricted and essentially, the internet was born. With the advent of an open internet, (See Wikipedia: History of the internet) the World Wide Web exploded. Programmers had too much to do to worry about any limitations in the GEDCOM Standard and in any event, the GEDCOM Standard had advanced to the point that it was serviceable given the technology then available.

As time passed, the internet became more and more complex. Genealogy software began incorporating the ability to attach and store photos and digital documents to individual entries. In May of 1999, The Genealogical Society of Utah, the predecessor of FamilySearch, opened the website to the public. For those of us living through all this hyper-speed technological change, it became difficult to even begin to understand all of the products and devices that were being developed. 

Meanwhile, we started digitizing nearly everything having to do with the storage and use of genealogical records.

Scanning technology predates computers by many years. Scanners come from the wirephotos that were invented beginning in 1913 but scanning only really became possible for personal use in the 1970s and the first 300 dpi scanner was introduced by Microtek in 1985. Digital images took up a lot of computer storage space so sharing digital images only became possible when computer technology and memory storage technology became and practical reality for individual desktop computers. 

The challenge for GEDCOM was that as digital images were added to genealogy software, because of the limitations on data storage, it took some time for the technology to develop that would allow the transfer and store a large number of images. Meanwhile, the programmers and developers were trying to work out the details of storing billions of photos online. 

What happened to enable the development of the GEDCOM Standard 7.0

With all the tremendous technological changes, the basic issues were quite simple to understand; storage capacity, speed, and the cost of both. Where are we today compared to where we were in the past?

I am far from typical, of course, but whether you are technology-challenged or a power user, the technology is still available. Let’s see about some of the prices. 

In 1976 when the Apple I was introduced it cost $667. Adjusted for inflation, today it would cost $3,066.35. When I bought an Apple II computer in 1977, it cost $1,298 which comes out to $5,602.86 which is much more than I spent for a new 10-core iMac this past year. One more example, the Apple Macintosh was introduced in 1984 for a price of $2,495. Adjusted for inflation, that is the equivalent of $6,281.49. See U.S. Inflation Calculator.

I think the best illustration of the change involves a single digital photo. Back in 1981 a gigabyte of storage cost about $500,000. See “Hard Drive Cost Per Gigabyte.” I now routinely by 8 Terabyte hard drives that are now selling for under $200 or about $25 for a terabyte or 1000 gigabytes of storage. So, my actual cost of storing a gigabyte is $25 divided by 1000 or about $.03 per gigabyte. Oh, by the way, a 3.5” floppy disk could store 1.44 megabytes which is actually less than the memory size of one of my digital photos. 

The other main issue speed. Again, I am not anywhere near the average but here in Provo, Utah we have Google Fiber Internet and I have a very high-speed connection. 

Anyway, the issues are clear. It is now time to update the GEDCOM Standard to Version 7.0 with GEDZip and begin to take advantage of the high storage capacity and high speed and a relatively much lower cost for both. 

What will the GEDCOM Standard Version 7.0 do?

For the average genealogist using a relatively recently upgraded computer, the new GEDCOM Version 7.0 will only be available as the genealogy software companies and websites implement its use to enable the genealogists to use it.  First, it is a standard. That means that developers and programmers must decide to incorporate the standard in their software so that genealogists can exchange copies of the documents and images attached or reference in the software or websites they are using. 

Right now, if you were to subscribe to one of the major online genealogy family tree/database websites such as, you would be able to upload your basic genealogical data from your desktop software program using GEDCOM but that would not include any of your digital images including photos. You could upload your photos one by one, but then you would have to tag or attach them individually to your new family tree. 

The idea behind updating the GEDCOM Standard to Version 7.0 and adding the ability to support external images using GEDZip, a file compaction program, is that a genealogist can upload or exchange files that include all those records, documents, and photos already attached and with copies included. 

What else do I need to say? 

Actually, I need to say a lot and I will keep writing. Look for additional blog posts as the GEDCOM Standard 7.0 with GEDZip.

FamilySearch GEDCOM 7.0 is copyrighted.

© 1987, 1989, 1992, 1993, 1995, 1999, 2019, and 2021 by Intellectual Reserve, Inc. All rights reserved. A service provided by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

General information can be found at

Helpful Sources

General Info:

Technical Specs, Tools and Guides:

Community:  GEDCOM General Google Group and GitHub Public GEDCOM Repository


Monday, June 7, 2021

Introducing FamilySearch GEDCOM Version 7.0 a long-awaited upgrade


Some introductory comments

Before I get into the great news about the release of FamilySearch GEDCOM Versions 7.0 hereinafter “GEDCOM”, I need to give some personal and general history to put the new Version 7.0 into perspective. Also, I should mention right here at the beginning of this post the word GEDCOM is an acronym for GEnealogical Data Communication. GEDCOM is also the name of a standard programming specification usually referred to as the “GEDCOM Standard or GEDCOM” created by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and FamilySearch as the specifications of a file standard used for exchanging genealogical data between different desktop genealogical family tree software and websites. The GEDCOM Standard Specifications are designed to be used by programmers when modifying their own programs and websites to share information between different genealogy software and websites.

Official Release Statement from FamilySearch received via email
FamilySearch International is pleased to announce the release of FamilySearch GEDCOM 7.0 (Genealogical Data Communications). The latest version allows zip packaging capabilities for photos and files with genealogical information, plus new tools, and a public GitHub repository for ongoing maintenance. Technical information, specifications, tools, and guides can be found at

At RootsTech 2020, FamilySearch launched an effort to create a new version of GEDCOM based on the 5.5.1 version that would include: 1) new expressivity, flexibility, and compatibility; 2) zip packaging of associated images and other files with the related GEDCOM file; and 3) public access using a GitHub repository. Many industry software providers and key influencers participated, and the initiative concluded May 15, 2021, with the completion of this comprehensive effort.

FamilySearch GEDCOM 7.0 is the outcome of those efforts and includes the following new enhancements:

Zip packaging capabilities for photos and files have been added.
Notes have been expanded for more versatile use and styling of text.
Tools, sample files, sample code, and self-testing guides are included.
The GEDCOM specification and any code available from FamilySearch based on the specification is subject to the terms and conditions of the Apache License, Version 2.0.
Ambiguities in the GEDCOM Version 5.5.1 specification have been removed.
A public GitHub repository generates maintenance requests and on-going discussions about future features.

Users of FamilySearch GEDCOM 7.0 will be able to import files from older GEDCOM versions. However, users of older versions of GEDCOM will not be able to import from FamilySearch GEDCOM 7.0.
Why am I involved with GEDCOM?

Beginning in 1982, I was the owner and operator of an Apple dealership in Mesa, Arizona. We sold a variety of computer models from different manufacturers, not just Apple. About that same time, I began my continuing interest in genealogical research. As a result of that interest, I became aware of the GEDCOM Standard shortly after Personal Ancestral File (PAF) 2.0 was released in April of 1986. At that time, the GEDCOM Standard had been available since 1984. Another version of GEDCOM for PAF 2.1 was released in February 1987. PAF 2.1 was also released for the Macintosh in 1987 with supported and early specification of GEDCOM 4.0. 

At the store, we soon realized that there was a need for help in transferring genealogy files between different computers. Due to our store’s combined expertise with the new home or personal computers and my interest in genealogy, my staff and I started learning how to use GEDCOM to transfer data between Apple computers and DOS computers such as the IBM PC and providing that expertise as a service to anyone who needed a file transfer. Because our store was only a few blocks away from the Mesa, Arizona Temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and also the Mesa Family History Center, there was a significant demand for our transfer services through word-of-mouth referrals. 

As results of this perceived need for help with file transfers, on a trip to Salt Lake City in about 1987, I went to the Church Office Building and found the department that was working on the GEDCOM Standard and obtained a printed copy of the GEDCOM Standard Specifications. Using the information from the Specifications, we were able to more successfully transfer information between the different operating systems and software programs using floppy disks and began doing so for anyone who needed help. This continued for many years until I went back to practicing law about 1998. However, because I still owned both Apple and PC computers, I continued to transfer data for anyone who needed help until the technology obviated the need. Remarkably, it has only been very recently that the need to extract a GEDCOM file from a floppy disk became very rare even through floppy disk storage was discontinued years ago. Obviously, the transfer process moved from floppy disks to hard disks and ultimately, online. 

Because of all this early experience and continued interest in GEDCOM and transferring files between different operating systems and computers, over the years, I have been actively involved in promoting computer data standards. About two years ago, I began working with a FamilySearch Committee on drafting an updated GEDCOM Standard. 

That brings me to the present. The GEDCOM Standard Specifications were last updated in 1996 with the introduction of Version 5.5. Now, after a lot of work by a lot of people we have a NEW version: GEDCOM Version 7.0. 

First, if you are wondering what all this means, here is my short description of the GEDCOM Standard

As my history above illustrates, different genealogy programs or websites have different file formats for storing data. If you are using one genealogy software program or website and you want to share your information (data) with someone who is using a different software program or website, you have a challenge. Unless you want to print out your data and let the other person manually enter the information into their own software program or website, you need a way to electronically transfer the data. The GEDCOM Standard was developed to help solve that problem. If the software program you are using supports the GEDCOM Standard, you can create a GEDCOM file and if the other person also has a software program that supports the GEDCOM Standard, they can upload the file data into their own software program or file. The key here is that most of the genealogy programs or websites available today support the GEDCOM Standard and can exchange data. Unless you are a computer programmer, what you need to know is that by downloading a GEDCOM file, anyone with a GEDCOM compatible software program or website can upload your information. 

Why did we wait so long to come up with a new version?

I don’t really know all of the answers to this question, but I do know that computer technology had to finally have the capacity and ease of use to transfer files containing media components such as photos and digitized documents, before it was practical to update the GEDCOM Standard. I also know that because of the internet, programmers were more focuses on making connections directly between websites than in upgrading the GEDCOM Standard which had been serviceable for many years. 

Why is GEDCOM referred to as a GEDCOM Standard?

In order to communicate between different websites and software programs it was first necessary to establish a common set of software programming standards that could be adopted by all the different software programs and websites. The GEDCOM Standard is a cooperative effort by developers and programmers to establish this common way of organizing the data for genealogy software that allows their data to be consistent with the GEDCOM Standard Specifications. 

What does this mean to the average user of genealogy software or websites?

With the introduction of GEDCOM Version 7.0 release candidate, the standard will now support the inclusion of media using a NEW utility called GEDZip. Previously, the older versions of the GEDCOM Standard did not have the ability to include, maintain, store, and share media files. With addition of the GEDZip utility, you can now link media from the Internet as well as from local files and include them with your GEDCOM Standard data files. What most users need to know is that more of their data will be able to be transferred from program to program and website to website, including their document images, photos, and other media items. 

Other valuable new features

In addition, there have been other standards added to the original 5.5 version of GEDCOM to include the new features. Some of these features are technical in nature. Here is a short explanation, in somewhat technical terms of the new features. 

New features add new semantic power to GEDCOM, allowing GEDCOM Version 7.0 release candidate to represent concepts Version 5.5 could not represent. All dates now have date phrases, including date ranges and periods. Identifier RIN, RFN, and AFN have been combined into a new EXID, which can now also be used to link to external databases and websites. All text payloads may contain line breaks. LANG payloads are now language tags. Many other positive changes can be reviewed in the ChangeLog in the main public repository.

Why am I involved in all this?

You may wonder why a retired trial attorney and business owner, who has a limited knowledge of programming, is involved and has been involved in the development of the GEDCOM Standard. That is a pretty good question, and my answer is partially why I included a short history about my involvement with GEDCOM. In addition to my legal background, I also have a B.S. Degree in Spanish and an M.A. Degree in Linguistics. I am also a professional photographer. I have been involved in genealogical research for more than 40 years. My role in the development was to provide information about historical use of the program and also to address issues concerning the concepts and impact of the program’s concepts on the genealogical community. I was a member of the final Steering Committee preparing for the release of the update. 

What does the average genealogy computer user need to do now?

Not much if anything. I you have ever used a genealogy program before and created a GEDCOM file, one of the committee members, Luther A. Tychonievich, an Assistant Professor in Computer Science at the University of Virginia, has written a GEDCOM Translate program that will update the existing Version 5.5 GEDCOM files to the new version 7.0 release candidate.

In the future, you may sooner or later run into the need to create a GEDCOM file and it is possible that the program you are backing up will use GEDCOM Version 7.0. That will not make any visible difference to you when you follow the instructions from your genealogy program to create the GEDCOM file. Existing GEDCOM Files will also be able to be updated. 

That is enough for now. Look for more announcements, online support, classes, and presentations about GEDCOM Version 7.0 and GEDZip soon. I will be writing a lot more about GEDCOM Version 7.0 with GEDZip in the very near future.

FamilySearch GEDCOM 7.0 is copyrighted.

© 1987, 1989, 1992, 1993, 1995, 1999, 2019, and 2021 by Intellectual Reserve, Inc. All rights reserved. A service provided by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

General information can be found at

Helpful Sources


Technical Specs, Tools and
Community:  GEDCOM General Google Group and GitHub Public GEDCOM Repository

Wednesday, May 26, 2021

Introducing Photo Repair on MyHeritage: Fix your scratched or damaged photos


Please see Introducing Photo Repair: New Feature to Automagically Fix Scratched and Damaged Photos

On top of being able to Colorize, Enhance, and Animate photos, now MyHeritage has added the ability to repair some types of damaged photos. Here is an example from one of my damaged photos. 

You can see the large scratch across the photo. Here is a comparison showing the repair on the right. 

Only photos that are detected to need repairs will show up in the menu as needing repairs. Some of the defects of the original can not be repaired but here is an example of a photo that has gone through the extensive repair option including enhancement and colorization. Here is the original and the final version.

Just to get this far would take me hours in Adobe Photoshop without the colorization. I could probably still use Photoshop to remove the artifact on her face but it would take a lot of work. 

Here is some important information from the blog post linked above.

Photo Repair is extremely easy to use. Simply upload a scratched or damaged photo to MyHeritage, and if we detect damage, we will suggest that you apply Photo Repair by displaying a Repair button. If you choose to use it, with a single click, the scratches and damage in the photo will disappear like magic!

The technology for Photo Repair was licensed exclusively by MyHeritage from DeOldify, created by deep learning experts Jason Antic and Dana Kelley. Photo Repair is one of several technologies that have been licensed from DeOldify and integrated into MyHeritage’s photo tools.

All MyHeritage users can use Photo Repair for free with several photos. Repairing additional photos requires a Complete subscription. Learn more about our various subscription plans here.

I will be writing more about this feature and how it works in the near future. I just got the notice and this is my first view of the feature. 

Monday, May 24, 2021

What are the locations of events in your ancestors' lives?


The most important element in accurate genealogical research is determining an accurate and specific location for an event in an ancestor's life. Here is an example of a place that is not specific enough to be useful for research copied from the Family Tree. This entry is from a person named John Smithers who was supposedly born about 1680. 

The reason why this not a lot of help is illustrated by a quick search using the website. Using the information in this entry, I got the following response to a search.

This response indicates that there are 1,412 records about a person with this name in England during 1680 plus or minus 2 years. This is within a radius of 5 miles which is meaningless because no more specific location is available other than the entire country of England. One interesting thing about this entry is that John Smithers (abt 1680) has 11 listed sources. 

He also has six listed children. 

The first question to ask in this situation is where were each of the children born? Here is the list of their birthplaces.

John Smithers
Birth 1709
Saint Botolph's Church Aldgate, London, England, United Kingdom
19 January 1709
Saint Botolph without Aldgate, London, England, United Kingdom

Jane Smithies
Christening 21 DEC 1710
St. Mary Whitechapel,Stepney,London,England

Rebecca Smith
3 February 1711
St Andrew Holborn Above the Bars with St George the Martyr, Holborn, London, England, United Kingdom

Sarah Smither
Christening 03 FEB 1711
St. Mary Whitechapel,Stepney,London,England

Anne Smithy
Christening 14 OCT 1711
St. Mary Whitechapel,Stepney,London,England

William Smithys
Christening 27 JUN 1714
St. Mary Whitechapel,Stepney,London,England

Some immediate observations. There has been little or no work done on this particular family for while due to the fact that almost none of the entries has a standardized date or place. Notice that all the surnames are spelled differently. Three of the people listed were christened in the same year with two of them in the same place less than 9 months apart. The one entry that has a birthdate does not have a source that shows a birthdate. There are three different places listed for each of the six entries. More than six of the sources were added from older records by "FamilySearch."

Do the places make sense? Here is a map of downtown London showing each of the three locations.

Two locations are less than a block apart. The third location is well outside the neighborhood where this family would have lived. This is also the one entry with the surname Smith and one of the three supposedly christened in 1711. 

Hmm. There are also three possible duplicates for the father John Smithers. The name John Smith (with variations) is close to being the most common name in England. Back to, there are well over 16,000 records for people with the name John Smith born in London, England about 1680 with over 13,000 with records in Whitechapel. 

These are the types of questions that need to be asked every time you begin an inquiry. Here, it is clear that a lot of research needs to be done beginning two generations more recent in time. I might make it this far if I live long enough. 

Friday, May 21, 2021

What is in a name? Taking Your Genealogical Research to a Higher Level


My Great-great-grandfather's name was David Thomas b. 1820, d. 1888. He was born in Wales. Sometime, probably after he died, he "acquired" a middle name and became "David Nathan Thomas." Here is a photo of his grave marker with his name as "David N. Thomas." However, every record we have found that was made during his lifetime and after, including his probate record, has his name as David Thomas without a middle name. The mysterious Nathan shows up only in the grave marker and in and other family records that have copied the Nathan middle name. Efforts to eradicate the middle name have proved fruitless. 

For a long time, we searched for his parents in Wales. I assumed that his middle name could have been his mother's maiden name. When his birth record was finally located, it turned out his mother's name was Sarah Morris. No one has been able to explain where the name "Nathan" came from. Because of this unsupported addition, years of genealogical research were wasted on looking for someone with that name. 

Here is an example of a name entry form on the website.

What if the only reason why David Thomas had a middle name was because someone assumed he needed one? When some men entered the United States Army, they were asked for their middle name. If they did not have a middle name, the acronym "NMN" was inserted in their record. This new acronymic middle name shows up from time to time in online family trees as the "middle name" of someone who did not have one. 

The RULE is and always should be: Record the name exactly how it appears on the record. But what if the name appears in more than one form? Then record all of the names and use the one on earliest record that appears to be supplied by the person or by someone who should know the person's name. You should always avoid the urge to add a junior (Jr.) or senior (Sr.) designation if they do not appear in the record. This is the case because these designations do not always refer to a father and son relationship but may merely exist because of two people with the same name in the same place. 

Just as a matter of interest,, the British genealogy website has over 21,000 records with the name "David Thomas" in Wales born about the same time as my relative, and after looking through the entries I was never able to find one with a middle name. How did we end up finding this particular family? We used a combination of looking for patterns with other relatives (cluster research) and finding an exact place to begin looking. Another search on for my own name, James Tanner, shows almost 50,000 records for people with my name. 

You can't assume that your ancestor had a unique name. We essentially "made up" a compound given name for one of our daughters but a search online indicates that the name, although uncommon, comes from India and other places and is not unique. It is really hard to have a unique name unless you try something long and descriptive. 

It is interesting also that a Google Search for the name "David Nathan Thomas" only comes up with only a very few responses. There is a David Nathan Thomas born in Pennsylvania with a son and a grandson with the same name. 

In this post, I have primarily focused on English language names. If I were to branch out and start analyzing names as they are used and as they appear in other languages, then entire issue becomes extremely more complicated. I am certain that many of the dead end or brick wall situations encountered by genealogists are based on names that have not be recorded accurately or have been indexed incorrectly. This is not just a simple matter of transcribing names incorrectly or incompletely, it is also a reflection on the basic assumptions we make based on Western European (English) genealogical forms and categories. You can see this in the form shown above where the instructions ask for a "First and Middle" name and give space for only a "Last Name." In addition, the Ancestry form has omitted a prefix or a title. 

I guess once I get started on this topic, I will have to keep going. This could be a pretty good book-length topic.

Another fatal blow to blogs and blog posting from Google


I have been receiving notices from Google lately that read like this:

Here is what the text says.

FollowByEmail widget (Feedburner) is going away

You are receiving this information because your blog uses the FollowByEmail widget (Feedburner).

Recently, the Feedburner team released a system update announcement , that the email subscription service will be discontinued in July 2021.

After July 2021, your feed will still continue to work, but the automated emails to your subscribers will no longer be supported. If you’d like to continue sending emails, you can download your subscriber contacts. Learn how

The solution offered is not a real solution. Essentially, unless the blogger wants to enter all the email contacts into another commercial email program and take the time to send out the blog manually by email, bloggers will be cut off of a major portion of their followers. It is clear that blogging is now blasé and the effort of reading a blog post as opposed to a meme is now too great to be profitable to Google. 

As a long haul blogger, I will have to re-evaluate my future blogging activity. Perhaps it is truly time to retire?


Wednesday, May 19, 2021

New Records from Fiae from the French Caribbean, France, and the Netherlands is one of the large online genealogical record websites that emphasizes records in France. It is also a Partner website. Quoting from the website,

Created by Toussaint Roze in 1994, FILAE has developed, over the years, a unique expertise in the development of innovative technologies to facilitate public access to its roots for everyone.

Thanks to the legal advances in opendata and in the reuse of public archives, the firm launched in December 2016, a revolutionary new offer :

Based on a bigdata platform coupled with algorithms constantly improved thanks to "machine learning", this service allows users to easily build their family tree from digitalized archives, transcribed and indexed in a unique search engine.

The website has over 7 million users and millions upon millions of useful genealogical records. You may wish to spend some time looking at the website if you are not already familiar with its contents. 


Tuesday, May 18, 2021

Can you acquire any additional rights beyond copyright to your own work?


I recently ran across the following copyright notice attached to a document that purported to be a summary of historical information:

© 2002 -- All Rights Reserved

Do not copy or extract data or photos, except for use in your personal research.

TERMS OF USE  You may view, download, and print material from this site only for your personal, noncommercial use. You may not post material from this site on another web site or on a computer network without express written permission. You may not transmit or distribute material from this site to others. You may not use this site or information found at this site (including the names and addresses of those who submitted information) for selling or promoting products or services, soliciting clients, or any other commercial purpose. Data herein found is not in the public domain for resell. Data is copyrighted, all rights reserved.

The word "data" is defined as facts and statistics collected together for reference or analysis. First of all, you can't copyright data. The person who created the work with this claim attached did not create the information contained in the document. In fact, much of the information was "common knowledge" and could have been obtained from a multitude of sources. Quoting from, the website of the United States Copyright Office's statement answering the question, "What Does Copyright Protect?"

How do I protect my idea?

Copyright does not protect ideas, concepts, systems, or methods of doing something. You may express your ideas in writing or drawings and claim copyright in your description, but be aware that copyright will not protect the idea itself as revealed in your written or artistic work.

What if I were to use a short quote from the document with the long claim attached? This gets into an area of the law called the Fair Use Doctrine. Here is another quote from the website about fair use. 
Fair use is a legal doctrine that promotes freedom of expression by permitting the unlicensed use of copyright-protected works in certain circumstances. Section 107 of the Copyright Act provides the statutory framework for determining whether something is a fair use and identifies certain types of uses—such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research—as examples of activities that may qualify as fair use. 

Ultimately, what is or what is not "fair use" is decided by a U.S. Federal District Court after litigation on a claim for copyright infringement. Of course, copyright law also varies, sometimes considerably, from country to country. Most of the countries of the world are signatories to the Berne Convention adopted in 1886 and finally signed by the United States in 1988 and ratified and made into law in 1989. See For even more information see the World Intellectual Property Organization

Intellectual property law is by no means the most complicated of the various areas of the law in the United States of America. It is not nearly as complicated as immigration law or tax law, for example, but it is one of the least predictable areas of the law. 

Let's suppose that I ignored the copyright provision set forth above and quoted a portion of the article or work in a blog post. What could the person claiming the extensive copyright coverage claim? Now we get to the real issue of all copyright violation claims. Does the person claiming copyright protection need to be harmed by the copying? No, not really. The copyright law provides for some statutory relief. Here is a short, simplistic, description of what is needed to make a copyright claim from a website called BonaLaw, Antitrust and Competition.  

The plaintiff in a copyright infringement lawsuit has the burden of proving two elements: that they own a copyright, and that the defendant infringed it.

The article goes on with a much longer qualification of the elements of a copyright infringement claim. One thing left out of this explanation is the substantial monetary cost of bringing and sustaining such a claim. Also, unless there some substantial harm is done by the copy that can be demonstrated and if only a small portion of the work was used, it will be very difficult to maintain an infringement action. 

Getting back to the quote at the beginning of this post, why does this claim go far beyond legal copyright protection in the United States? Why does the person, who is apparently interested in genealogy, stand to gain from making such a broad and partially unenforceable claim? Nothing. Since technically no one can refer to or make the article or work known in a review or even a reference, the work is essentially useless.

What if, someone copied the entire article, made a few changes, and then published it under their own name on the internet? How would the person making the claim discover the republication? You might note that that last notice of copyright was made in 2002, now almost twenty years ago. Is the originator of this work still combing the internet for pirate copies of the original document? I could go on with a lot of additional, similar questions about maintaining a copyright claim on an educational or instructional document but I would become quite repetitious. 

What about the claim I have on this post? Yes, under the provisions of the Berne Convention, this post is copyright protected. The practical reality is that I now have well over 12,000 blog posts out on the Internet and I cannot possibly police every such blog post. From a practical standpoint, when asked, I usually refer to some level of the Creative Commons Attribution

It is not all in the name: the challenge of naming practices and traditions


The traditional Western European genealogical representation of a person's name is adequately illustrated by this example from the website. 

Here is an example of a name from the Netherlands in the 18th century as recorded in the website: Isaac Eizik Marcus Mordechai de Vries. What is not recorded is the fact that most Jews did not have family names in the Netherlands before 1811. See "Jewish Genealogical research in the Netherlands, Compiled by Reinier Bobbe z”l, Jan Sanberg, Ury Link, Moshe Mossel and Ben Noach." What would appear to be a surname, "de Vries," is simply a designation of the family's origin. "De Vries" as explained in a Wikipedia article has the following meaning:
De Vries is one of the most common Dutch surnames. It indicates a geographical origin: "Vriesland" is an old spelling of the Dutch province of Friesland (Frisia). Hence, "de Vries" means "the Frisian". The name has been modified to "DeVries", "deVries", or "Devries" in other countries.
Variant form(s): DeVries, Devries, Vries
Language(s): Dutch
Region of origin: Netherlands
Meaning: The Frisian

Additional spellings of the name also include DeFries, DeFriez, and De Friez. Some of these variations are recorded for members of the same family. Again quoting from the article above on Jewish research,

A Jewish male child is traditionally named after his grandfather, apart from a few exceptions, so from the name “XXXX son of YYYY” the names of both grandfather (XXXX) and father (YYYY) can usually be deduced.

A Jewish female child is likewise named after her grandmother, and the same rules apply.

In the text on gravestones the name of the mother is usually mentioned as well (“XXXX born from ZZZZ” or: “the name of his/her mother is ZZZZ”). Posthumous children on the other hand are named after the father who recently passed away.

Among Sephardim, as is customary among non-Jews, children are often named after the father while he is still alive.

While civil names do not often give a good indication for establishing family relationships, the Hebrew names often give more support for the reconstruction of family ties, taking regional distinctions into account.

Please refer to the article for additional important details regarding the naming practices. 

It is extremely important to genealogical research to note that the name entry form at the beginning of this post makes no allowances for any of the important information concerning the names in the examples I have given so far. Another important statement from the article is that civil names do not often give a good indication for establishing family relationships. 

If you had Jewish ancestors in the Netherlands in the 18th Century and before, how would you enter the names of your ancestors in order to avoid losing all the information that could be contained in the names themselves?

In this post, I am focusing on Western European names. But as an aside, I might mention Shoshone or Shoshoni naming practices used well into the 19th Century. Here is one example of an academic article on Shoshoni naming practices. 

Chamberlin, Ralph V. 1913. Place and Personal Names of the Gosiute Indians of Utah. Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society 52,208.1-20. See also Shoshoni Dictionary

Here is a quote from the article from the section where individual names are discussed. 

Among the Gosiute many personal names are given in reference to some feature of the physical appearance. Thus, a boy with conspicuous ears that stand out from the head is named K?m'o-r?p, meaning, in effect, " Rabbit ears " or " he with rabbit ears." Another young man who has a spinal curvature is called in full ' I'ca-gwaim-no-dsup, " Person whose back appears broken " ; a girl with a considerable growth of hair on her upper lip goes under the name M?'ts?mp, from mo'tsu, muts, meaning moustache; a boy who is tall is Nan'nan-tci, from mchna'hna, to grow up, grow up high, and a tall woman is similarly called Na' See Stable URL:

Are these given names or surnames. In any event, they do not covey any form of family relationship and should not be considered to be surnames. 

The Spanish language is variously ranked as the second or third most spoken language in the world. See "Top 10 Languages By Number Of Native Speakers" for an example.  Spanish language names constitute a major challenge to the most commonly genealogically represented naming patterns illustrated by the FamilySearch example above. 

Of course, there are exceptions to this rule. Now think about this, if an English speaking person from the United States who had no knowledge of any of the above naming practices was to be asked to index or enter any one of the names from these three examples what are the chances that the name would be entered correctly and further, what is the chance that all the additional information about the name and the naming practices would be lost?

Additionally, in the case of Shoshoni names, which method of phonetic representation would be appropriately used? If you don't understand this question, then this is yet another issue in indexing and entering names. Here is a short explanation from Wikipedia: Spanish naming customs:

Spanish naming customs are historical traditions that are practised in Spain for naming children. According to these customs, a person's name consists of a given name (simple or composite) followed by two surnames. Historically, the first surname was the father's first surname, and the second the mother's first surname. In recent years, the order of the surnames in a family is decided when registering the first child, but the traditional order is still usually chosen

Here is a further quote from Wikipedia that gives some insight into the difficulty of generalizing naming patterns.

Patrilineal surname transmission was not always the norm in Spanish-speaking societies. Prior to the mid-eighteenth century, when the current paternal-maternal surname combination norm was adopted, Hispanophone societies often practiced matrilineal surname transmission, giving children the maternal surname and occasionally giving children a grandparent's surname (borne by neither parent) for prestige – being perceived as gentry – and profit, flattering the matriarch or the patriarch in hope of inheriting land. Spanish naming customs include the orthographic option of conjoining the surnames with the conjunction particle y, or e before a name starting with 'I', 'Hi' or 'Y', (both meaning "and") (e.g., José Ortega y Gasset, Tomás Portillo y Blanco, or Eduardo Dato e Iradier), following an antiquated aristocratic usage. 

I have had the topic of this post on a list on a note on my desk for some time now. But it moved to the top for a variety of reasons including the fact that I have been providing support to the Brigham Young University Family History Library and the Salt Lake City Family History Library for the past few months helping with online patron support. See Family History Library in Salt Lake City. My support has been, almost exclusively conducted in Spanish, concerning ancestral lines in Italy, Spain, and Latin America. Since the entry form for English speakers is not helpful for Spanish speakers, FamilySearch has made available a Spanish language version of the website. Here is the same form from the Spanish version. 

This is simply a translation from the English form with two small differences; the surname designation is plural rather than singular and there is a statement that says, "If the person is a woman, use her maiden name." This implies that only the woman's maiden name should be used but there is only one blank space when there are usually two surnames. 

It is also important to note that not all the Spanish-speaking countries adhere to this traditional naming pattern to the same extent. 

I will have a lot more to say on this subject. The main question is when will the dominant Western European genealogical forms begin to reflect the fact that even Western European naming patterns do not conform to a standard two-part entry system?

Monday, May 17, 2021

4th Annual Conference of the Sons & Daughters of the United States Middle Passage


Here is an announcement I received by email. I am registered for the Conference and looking forward to attending all of the sessions that I am able to attend. Here is the link to the Conference webpage.
Trenton, New Jersey - May 12, 2021. We are pleased to announce that the 2021 Annual Sons
& Daughters of the United States Middle Passage (SDUSMP) Awards Ceremony and
Conference will take place virtually on Friday, May 21, 2021, and Saturday, May 22, 2021.
Both events are free and open to the public. The conference is a celebration of the lives of the
estimated 10 million individuals who were enslaved in the United States and early colonial
English America. Without them, African-Americans and their descendants would not exist,
and our country would be unrecognizable. They endured the horrors and brutality of
American slavery, and we must never forget them.

The awards banquet will highlight twelve individuals who have made significant contributions
to the memory of these amazing ancestors, including Representative Sandra Hollins of the
Utah House of Representatives, Cherekana Feliciano, Vice President of New Jersey AAHGS,
Dr. W. Paul Reeves, Chair of Mormon Studies in the History Department at the University of
Utah, Beverly Mills and Elaine Buck, authors and members of the Stoutsburg Cemetery
Association, Margo Lee Williams, Deputy Registrar of Sons & Daughters of the United States
Middle Passage, Dr. Wanda Lundy, Pastor of Siloam Hope First Presbyterian Church, Donya
Williams and Brian Sheffey, hosts of Genealogy Adventures, Marvin Tupper Jones, Director
of Chowan Discovery, Mélisande Short-Colomb, member of the Board of Advisors for the
Georgetown Memory Project and a founding Council Member of the GU272 Descendants
Association; and Frank Smith, Jr., activist, founder of the African American Civil War
Museum in Washington, D.C., and a former Council Member of Ward 1 in Washington, D.C.
Our keynote speaker is Nicka Sewell-Smith, noted genealogist and host of BlackProGen Live.

The awards presentation will honor six authors with our Phillis Wheatley Book Award. The
following books and authors will be honored: A Mulatto Slave, the Events in the Life of Peter
Hunt, 1844-1915 by Denise I. Griggs; Monumental: Oscar Dunn and His Radical Fight in
Reconstruction Louisiana by Brian K. Mitchell; Gram's Gift by Joyce Mosely; Born
Missionary : The Islay Walden Story, by Margo Lee Williams; Caste by Isabella Wilkerson;
and I've Been Here All the While: Black Freedom on Native Land (America in the Nineteenth
Century) by Alaina E. Roberts.

This year’s conference program includes over 18 live and pre-recorded presentations, games,
live cooking and mixology sessions, and an Expo site. The sessions will be highly informative,
with sessions including: basic and advanced genealogical research, using DNA and other
records to discover your roots, understanding African-American history by using genealogy,
how to join SDUSMP and Society of the First African Families in English America
(SOFAFEA), and presentations on family histories connected to slavery. The plenary speaker
is Nicka Sewell-Smith, and the lunch speaker is Andre Kerns, noted genealogist and public
speaker. Other speakers include, Johnathon Sellers, Rahkia Nance, Benice Bennett, Margo Lee
Williams, Skip Richardson and GiGi Best-Richardson, Karen Stewart-Ross, Dr. Evelyn
McDowell, Yvette Lagonterie, Leah Rogne, Ric Murphy, and Stacy Cole.

The conference is sponsored by the National Society for the Sons & Daughters of the United
States Middle Passage, New Jersey Chapter of the Afro-American Historical and Genealogical
Society, Ancestry, MyHeritage, FamilySearch, the Midwest African American Genealogy
Institute (MAAGI), Afro-American Historical and Genealogical Society (National), and many
individual donors. Anyone in the public can be an individual donor by donating at

For more information about the conference, please see the conference website:

Sons & Daughters of the United States Middle Passage (SDUSMP)

Sons & Daughters of the United States Middle Passage (SDUSMP) is a heritage society for
individuals who can trace their lineage to a direct ancestor enslaved in early colonial America
and/or the United States of America. The organization was formed in 2011 in Washington,
D.C. Its mission is to help descendants of enslaved Africans to identify and honor their
ancestors, connect to other descendants, and to educate others about the history of slavery and its connections to today’s society, lest we forget.

Thursday, May 13, 2021

Learning and tracking what you actually know about genealogical research online with The Family History Guide Tracker


The Family History Guide website is a free, educational, structured training and reference website. No matter what level of genealogical research you have obtained during your lifetime from beginner to expert, The Family History Guide website can help you increase your knowledge and skills. I have been working with The Family History Guide for many years now and I have seen it continue to increase in its resources. When an "expert" reaches a certain level of expertise, he or she usually feels like their time for intensive learning is over. That is not the case in today's rapidly evolving world of genealogy. We all need to keep learning. But how do we know where we stand in our overall learning?

The Family History Guide has directly addressed the issue of determining your individual level of competence and knowledge through an extensive online Project Tracker system of support for your learning activities. Here is a screenshot of the starting page for this valuable resource. 

What is the Online Project Tracker?

The Family History Guide website is organized into Learning Paths, Projects, Goals, and Choices. For example, if you need to learn about the website, you can choose the FamilySearch Learning Path. This screenshot highlights the various parts of a page on the website. 

If this seems confusing, there are several video options on the website to introduce and explain how the website works. Here is a screenshot of the startup page. 

Now, the purpose of the Online Project Tracker is to give you a place to record your progress in learning the information contained on the website. For example, here is a screenshot of the Tracker page for the FamilySearch Learning Path, Project 1, Goal 1 shown above. 

The link to the Online Project Tracker is located in the main menu bar. 

Each entry in the Online Project Tracker is sequenced to take you through every Goal on the website. As you finish each goal in each Project, you will find a link to an exercise that will help you review and evaluate your progress in learning the concepts presented.

Here is a screenshot of this particular Exercise section. 

You can then go to the Online Project Tracker and keep a record of your progress. I have spent many hours and days working through The Family History Guide page by page and line by line and I can attest to the fact that by working through the website, you can learn a lot of things you did not know despite your assumed level of expertise. 

Now, what about learning about the Online Project Tracker? Of course, the website has a Help Section with detailed, step-by-step instructions about how the Tracker works to help you learn. 

Here is another example from the Online Project Tracker that shows your potential progress for learning about the Project for Scandinavia: Denmark. 

If you are trying to teach someone about genealogical research, there is no better way than to help them get started learning in a systematic and step-by-step. You might also start to see other genealogy companies copying and using this same system to teach their own users. 

The Family History Guide is a non-profit 501 (c)(3) public charity organization that depends entirely upon donations to continue its work of support and education to the genealogical community. The website is supported by The Family History Guide Association. You may wish to read about our website and consider donating to keep this great work going on into the future.

Saturday, May 8, 2021

A Name, a Date, and a Place


Diego Homem Black Sea Map 1559

What does it take to accurately identify one individual? Let's start with this example from the Family Tree. 

Is this person adequately identified? If you look closely at this entry (you can click on the image to enlarge it), you will see that there are no sources cited. The date is a year indicating that no exact birth record has been discovered. Without a source, the accuracy of the date and place are also called into question. Where did this name come from? If we go to the family for Sarah Pain, we see the following;

Again, if you are aware of what is going on with the Family Tree, you will see some interesting things immediately. 

Just as a quick check, there are no sources for the child shown, Henry Norman, that show Henry's parents.  I could just detach these parents of Henry Norman especially, as the warning icon shows, he is supposedly born after his father's death. If we continue to look at what is actually documented in the Family Tree, we will also notice that none of the records listed for Henry Norman contain any information about his birth or death. Should I detach the record for the parents? I presently do not have any information showing that the names of the parents are wrong. For this reason, I usually leave the information attached in the Family Tree until I have more information that clarifies the record. 

Now, if we are going to adequately verify Sarah Pain, we need to do some more research. A quick check using finds 22,053 records for people with the name "Pain" or "Paine" in England within two years of 1676, the date recorded for Sarah Pain's birth. There are 1,108 records for people named Sarah Pain in the same time period. But once we add the place, the number drops dramatically to only 14 records. There is one record for Sarah Pain christened at Bury St. Edmunds in 1677. This record also has the names of both of her parents. Interestingly, this record came from FamilySearch. 

The name, date, and place all agree and are consistent with the information and sources already in FamilySearch. So I believe I can attach this record. But there is still nothing showing a child or a husband. Looking further, There are four people named "Sarah Pain" who died in Bury St. Edmunds, Suffolk, England about the same time. The dates are 1726, 1732, 1734, and 1765. None of these four records show a spouse or children. There is not enough information to decide which, if any, of these records is our Sarah Pain. However, searching on I find the following record with her parents identified. 

The only valid way of moving back one more generation is to find a source record that identifies the parents of an ancestor. 

So now, if I keep working on this line either I will find enough information to establish this generation or I will not. As long as there are no records showing births (christenings), marriages, and deaths that have consistent locations, the information here is incomplete.