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

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. 

Over 26 million Australian Passenger Records on Findmypast


Quoting from an email announcement from

Did your ancestors travel to, from or around Australia? To help you uncover details of their voyage, Findmypast has merged their vast collection of Australian passenger lists into one simple search and added over 9 million new entries.

This growing collection now contains over 26 million of records from multiple sources covering all corners of Australia, including;

  • Australian National Passenger Lists 1898-1972
  • New South Wales passenger lists (assisted & unassisted)
  • 1881 British census crew and passengers on ships arriving in New South Wales
  • Queensland customs house shipping passengers and crew 1852-1885
  •  South Australia passenger lists 1847-1886
  • Passengers to South Australia on board Buffalo 1836
  • Tasmania Departures 1817-1863
  • Victoria inward passenger lists 1839-1923
  • Victoria outward passenger lists 1852-1915
  • Victoria coastal passenger lists 1852-1924

Each record includes a transcript and many also include an image of the original record. Passenger lists vary widely in size, length, and level of detail, as there was no standardised format.

Some record only a minimum of information about the passengers, while others are quite detailed. As well as revealing the dates and location of arrival and departure, many records will also reveal a variety of useful biographical details such as ages, occupations, nationalities, marital status, places of birth or residence.

I have three of my family lines that come from Australia and my ancestors were immigrants and I have been able to find some of their passenger records. These records are a great way to confirm the identity of an ancestor with a common name. 

Here is an example of one of the records for my ancestor James Parkinson.

In some cases, the records may also have copies of the original record. 


Wednesday, May 5, 2021

Genealogists are not immune to scams


One of the underlying issues I have confronted over the years both as an individual and as a practicing attorney has been the constant background of fraud both in-person and online. Fraud is commonly defined as wrongful or criminal deception intended to result in financial or personal gain. One type of fraud has been a part of genealogy since ancient times and that is the promotion of false pedigrees. But recently, many of us constantly suffer from the bombardment of our lives with fraudulent claims through email, robot telephone calls, and regular paper mail. 

If you have a cell phone, then robocalls or random calls trying to promote false claims are a part of your life. The most common one I get recently tries to sell me a warranty on my car. The caller claims that my warranty is about to expire which is interesting because I owned the same car for the past ten years and the warranty ran out long ago. I recently bought a brand new car and I am still getting the calls about my expired warranty. 

One email I got recently, claimed that I had been automatically charged over $200 to "renew" my subscription to a virus protection program called "Norton." There actually is a Norton program but the pricing does not approach the $200 figure claimed in the email. The email came with no official-looking logos, misspelled words, and very poor formatting. 

Of course, you can report scams and frauds to the Federal government and to some state agencies but with the proliferation of robocalls, email, and regular mail scams even the governments cannot keep up. Here are a few fairly easy ways to minimize the impact of this tidal wave of scams. 

The first rule is don't go paranoid. They aren't out to get just you, they are out to get everybody. If you receive any kind of offer, warning, award, plea for help, or anything that doesn't seem to make any sense, just delete it. Don't even think about it, just delete it. This includes throwing it away if it came by paper mail. 

If you get a solicitation for some kind of charity, DO NOT RESPOND until you check the charity out using the website. Then go directly to the website and review the entire program BEFORE YOU SEND ANY MONEY.

One of the most common scams involves a practice called phishing. All they want is for you to respond by clicking on the link they send to you. This will automatically put you on the "suckers" list and you will be inundated by additional scams. Do not open an email that you cannot identify in advance. If you do happen to open the email, immediately close it and delete it. 

Almost all the "junk email" I get is actually a scam. Some unsolicited emails involve legitimate advertising but if you get an email like this one, it is a scam. 

CONGRATULATIONS! You are the lucky online winner of a brand new Sweepstakes Macbook Pro entry!

In fact, it is a phishing email and there is no prize and you will be asked to send in an amount for shipping or insurance or whatever and you will never receive the product. If your first thought is this is too good to be true, then it is a scam. 

Let me go back to the calls about automobile warranties. If you own a car, think for a moment. How old is your car? Did you buy the car new or used? Did you purchase a warranty or extended warranty at the time of your initial purchase? If so, do you still know the length of the warranty? How much is your car really worth? You can quickly check the value of your car by going to the Kelly Blue Book or Most people vastly overestimate the value of their cars. But you also need to remember, if you obtain the value of your car from one of these online services, you will probably get a lot of junk email offering to buy your car or offering to sell you a new one. Now, depending on the actual value of your car, what are you willing to pay every month or year for insurance? Most cars are still drivable and safe even after their value has essentially dropped to a very low amount. 

If you do get sucked into a scam, swallow your pride and report the details to the State or Federal government in your area. Try not to be scammed again. 

Tuesday, May 4, 2021

Free Online Presentations from the Utah Valley Technology and Genealogy Group (UVTAGG)


I have been an active member of the Utah Valley Technology and Genealogy Group or UVTAGG for many years. This is likely one of the oldest computer-oriented genealogy organizations still active in the world. It began as the Utah Valley PAF Users Group and has a presentation library that goes back to 1991. 

The UVTAGG meets monthly and during the pandemic has been meeting online. This month's meeting is as follows:

UVTAGG Meeting (Utah Valley Technology and Genealogy Group) Saturday, 08 May 2021, 10:00am-Noon MDT - Free online on Facebook and Zoom



DESCRIPTION:  The Family History Guide can be likened to an iceberg - most of it may not be obvious at first glance. There are menus, pictures and instructions, but when you take time to explore the website you will find thousands of articles and videos to expand your research skills, for yourself or to help others as a Consultant. Whether you need to learn new skills or need an idea of where to look next, or you have someone who needs help with research in Albania or any other location, learn how and why The Family History Guide should be your "go-to" site. Ann Tanner and her husband, James Tanner, teach family history classes and webinars at the BYU Family History Library in Provo, Utah. They lived in Arizona for many years before moving to Provo. They recently returned from a Family History Mission to Maryland where they were microfilming old records from the Maryland State Archives for FamilySearch.

For more details see the UVTAGG webpage -- These presentations can be viewed by anyone on Facebook by going to the UVTAGG Facebook Page. Members of UVTAGG can watch on Zoom, which is more interactive, by going to and waiting while your UVTAGG membership is verified. The broadcasts will be online only due to the Coronavirus Covid-19 pandemic. Many of the presentations and classes for the past couple of months are on Facebook for anyone to watch. We hope to be able to start in-person meetings, as well as on Zoom and Facebook, within the next few months.