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

Friday, May 20, 2022

Goldie May Unrehearsed Genealogy Research, Episode 8: Iowa Probate Records

In this episode of the Goldie May Unrehearsed Genealogy Research, Richard and I explore an ancestor that disappears from the family at a relatively early age. The goal is to see if he died or simply left. We explore historic Iowa County Atlases, some probate records, searching on and the Images records on FamilySearch all supported with the Goldie May Research app. Here are links to the Goldie May website and the Goldie May YouTube Channel for further episodes and other information about the Goldie May app. 

Wasting time editing Mayflower Passengers on the FamilySearch Family Tree


The term "fact checking" has been much in the news over the last few years. The main issue is whether the information presented from an online source can be substantiated by reference to a reliable source. Historically, genealogy has been particularly susceptible to false relationship claims. Unless you have specifically spent time exploring the history of genealogy as opposed to family history or actually doing genealogical research, you may be unaware of the less than honorable history of genealogy. Here is one of the few books that explains this often ignored history of genealogy. 

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

One thing this book does is to document the extensive genealogical fraud that existed in the latter half of the 19th Century and well into the 20th Century. The existence of this almost wholesale fraud is one of the reasons why genealogists have had such a hard time establishing themselves as serious historians and why so few colleges and universities offer degrees in genealogy. 

How does this affect us today? Well, there is still a sizable reservoir of "false" genealogical information that originates during these early times that is readily available from current genealogical sources. Although the accuracy of some of this information is due to ignorance and negligence, unfortunately, some of it can be traced back to publications connected to the rampant fraud. Because of this unreliable history, current genealogists need to be especially careful when their U.S. research crosses into the 1800s and earlier and make sure the information they copy is substantiated and supported by valid historical documents. 

One excellent example of the proliferation of unreliable genealogical information focuses on the passengers on the Mayflower. It is true that a significant percentage of the people in the United States are decedents of one or more Mayflower passengers and the effect of this is that many people can claim them as ancestors. In the FamilySearch Family Tree, this means that the records inherited by a huge number of people potentially contains unreliable information about the lines extending back to these few people.

Realistically, the identity of the passengers and their families has been extensively researched and documented and is not subject to any controversy. All of the sources and documentation are readily available in a series of books published by the General Society of Mayflower Descendants. Despite these readily available references that include exhaustive documentation about every surviving passenger and up to 5 generations of their descendants, the individual entries in the Family Tree for the passengers and their descendants are subject to constant change with inaccurate information. 

Here is one example of the results of all of this misinformation concerning the Mayflower passengers and their families. This is an example of a list of some of the 73 changes and corrections made to one Mayflower passenger during the past 19 days from the date of this post. 

If you multiply the time wasted on this one person, where accurate, settled information is abundantly available, by all of the 53 surviving passengers, you will likely have a measurable percentage of all the work being done on the Family Tree each month. Every one of those changes was unnecessary and forced someone who was interested to constantly follow these individuals and constantly correct the entries. This has gone on month after month, day after day except for a brief time when Family Search made all of the entries read only during the pandemic and during the 400th anniversary of the sailing of the Mayflower. 

Tragically, this is only one of many such people and groups of people on the Family Tree that I call revolving door ancestors. This is also one of main reasons why many genealogists refuse to seriously consider the Family Tree as a viable alternative to their own family trees in other programs. 

What is interesting is that my Great-grandfather who is not at all subject to extensive changes or controversy has been made read-only in the Family Tree. Not only is he read-only, but so is his wife, my Great-grandmother and her children, including my own Grandfather and then my Grandfather's daughter, my aunt, who recently died. In short, three generations of this one family are read-only when there are few, if any changes going on, while the Mayflower passengers and many other similar ancestors are a free-for-all mess. Strangely, my own mother who is also dead and the sister of the read-only aunt, is not read-only. So even when the simple expedient of making someone who is being constantly changed read-only is available, the process is being applied inconsistently and without any stated reason. 

I have been writing about this issue for years and I and many others, have made suggested solutions. Although the presently constituted Family Tree is remarkably better than it was just a few years ago, it still has this one overriding issue left to be resolved. 

Until the free-for-all changes that occur to people like the Mayflower descendants, there will always be a complete lack of confidence in the reliability of the Family Tree. As a family, we spend an inordinate amount of time merely correcting unsubstantiated and unsourced changes. Isn't it about time this last frontier of reliability is seriously addressed?

Wednesday, May 18, 2022

Video of The Second Rule of Genealogy on YouTube

This series of short videos continues with The Second Rule of Genealogy. Ultimately, I hope to have all fourteen rules in this series.  Rule Two is "Absence of an obituary or death record does not mean the person is still alive."

These Rules of Genealogy are not trivial statements. They have deep meaning. This particular rule, which I have called Rule Two, is a good example. It comes from a common circumstance where a genealogical researcher gets hung up looking for a particular document of a particular event to the exclusion of more general research. 

Here is the first video in this series. The First Rule of Genealogy

Monday, May 16, 2022

Unrehearsed Genealogy Research, Episode 7: New York, early 1800s

We are on YouTube again with another episode of Unrehearsed Genealogy Research, Episode 7: New York, early 1800s. In this episode, we look at an end of line in my own part of the Family Tree. A land record provides the best evidence for the presence of a husband and wife in the given county of New York. We also discuss the complexities of researching a very thoroughly researched line on the FamilySearch tree.

You can see and view all the previous episodes on the Goldie May YouTube Channel or on a play list on my own YouTube Channel.

Saturday, May 14, 2022

What is a source and why do we care?

 This is a genealogically significant historical document. 

A genealogically significant historical document is one that contains information about an individual or a family. A genealogist is a person who searches historical documents for information about individuals and families and then analyzes, organizes, and records the information. A genealogist should identify the historical document using a citation. A citation is a formal, consistent way of identifying the document or record so that other genealogists can find the record or document. The genealogist may also explain the thought process used to come to a conclusion about the reliability of the historical document or record. Once a document or record has been processed by a genealogist, we refer to that document or record as a source of the genealogist's opinion about the accuracy of the genealogist's compiled family history. 

Here is the citation to the document above:

Shelden, Henry. 1870. Exemplified copy of last will and testament of Henry Shelden: late of the city of Brooklyn, deceased, and of the probate thereof, made under act of Congress of the 26th, May, 1780. 4 May 2022.

Finding these genealogically significant documents, analyzing the information contained in the documents and then recording that information in way that can enhance the abilities of others to also view the documents in context, are all part of the core work of being a genealogist. Accuracy and persistence are absolutely essential to making any progress as a genealogist. 

When any entry lacks a source, this immediately implies inaccuracy and unreliability. But what about personal knowledge or oral history? Both of these are valid sources, and they still require a citation so someone reviewing the entries can tell where the information came from. 

What about books? Well, if the author has footnotes or the equivalent and identifies the historical source, then you should record both the citation and the book. However, it the author simply lists all the information without further source citations, you have to discount the accuracy and if you decided to include any of the information you would cite the book as the source. 

If you want a complete explanation of citations, you can refer to the following book. 

Mills, Elizabeth Shown. 2007. Evidence Explained: Citing History Sources from Artifacts to Cyberspace. Baltimore, Md.: Genealogical Pub. Co.

You don't have to worry about genealogy books going out of date unless they are written about some technological subject such as online resources or DNA.

Of course, discovering genealogically relevant documents and records is the initial and most time consuming part of genealogical research and it is obvious, once the records or documents are finally discovered, they need to be searched. By the way, it is unwise to rely solely upon online resources. Granted, there is a lot of information online, but there is still a huge number of records waiting to be digitized, indexed, and/or cataloged. 

To summarize, if you add any information to the FamilySearch Family Tree (excluding correcting existent information) you need to add a source with a citation to where that source can be found. 

Friday, May 13, 2022

When will the FamilySearch Family Tree be finished?

The simple answer to the question of when the Family Tree will be "finished" is never as long as technology continues to advance, and people continue to be born. A more realistic question involves setting some arbitrary goal for the Family Tree and then declaring that it is finished. I also guess that yet another question could revolve around the proposition that the current Family Tree will be replaced by some other program just as happened with In that case, the present form of the Family Tree could be considered to be finished because it would disappear. 

Presently, the Family Tree contains entries for about 1.4 billion people (not taking allowance for duplicates). It is estimated that 117 billion people have lived on the earth. See "How Many People Have Ever Lived on Earth?" Obviously, a very high percentage of those people died without any record of their lives. However, the current population of the earth is about 7.7 billion people so we can see that the number of people in the Family Tree, that is mainly dead people, is far from complete. 

What do we mean by finished? Will the Family Tree program itself ever be finished? As I have already mentioned, technology continues to change and as technology changes so will computer programs and websites such as

My conclusion is that you should not hold your breath waiting for the Family Tree to be complete. But this is a very good reason for getting involved and doing family history research. 


Tuesday, May 10, 2022

Goldie May Subway Map now works with

Goldie May's timeline tool, called the Subway Map, now works with Ancestry. You can watch the short demo above to see how this works. You can also view all of the current and future videos from on the Goldie May YouTube Channel. See

New videos are being posted regularly, including the new Live & Unrehearsed Genealogy Research series. 

Friday, May 6, 2022

Live & Unrehearsed Genealogy Research, Episode 6: Examining a Danish family line

Can you believe it? Here is another episode in the Live & Unrehearsed Genealogy Research series. This is Episode 6 where we examine a Danish family line. The discussion applies universally to all genealogical research. 

Wednesday, May 4, 2022

Thoughts about genealogy, as a pursuit and profession


Although most genealogists are not involved in genealogy as a profession, there are some professional genealogists. 

Fifty years ago, I went to law school to become a lawyer or an attorney (in the United States, the terms are mostly interchangeable). I spent about two and half years in law school. I took an exam and began practicing as an attorney and representing clients in court actions. There is no all-encompassing definition of lawyers or attorneys because they are involved in a lot of different activities. During my time as a lawyer, I did not feel compelled to try to get people to become lawyers. I did not think about having "fun" activities for my children so they would become interested in becoming a lawyer. None of my children are lawyers. I did not and do not worry about my children not becoming lawyers. People usually become lawyers to make money. Some do make money. Some don't make money. 

About the time I began law school, I became interested in growing a garden. Eventually, I spent a great deal of time studying and reading about gardening in Maricopa County, where I lived. I wrote about gardening and taught many classes about gardening. I did not think I needed to be employed as a gardener nor did I ever make any money as a gardener, although we ate a lot of fruit and vegetables from our garden. I did not teach my children to become gardeners and felt no compulsion to do so. However, some of my children have huge productive gardens and some of them do not garden at all. 

In its complexity and the amount of training needed, genealogy is more like studying law than becoming a master gardener, although both require a great deal of time and effort. 

Because of the nature of genealogy and its focus on historical records, it is a subject that requires certain specific skills such as the ability to read and do intensive research.  I might ask a question. De we consider someone who watches court TV to be a lawyer? Do we consider someone who purchases flowers from the local supermarket a gardener? So why do we consider people who dabble in learning about their family to be genealogists? 

Genealogy is a complex pursuit. It can take years of study and practice to acquire even a basic competency. I have spent the last forty years learning about and studying genealogy and I have barely scratched the surface of the information I could still learn. It is common among genealogists to agonize and stress over the fact that their children and other family members are not "interested" in genealogy. Do we have a shortage of genealogists? Do we need to recruit more people to the profession? As of the date of this post, The State Bar of Arizona lists about 18,000 active lawyers in the state. The number of professional level genealogists in any one state is not recorded but the national Association of Professional Genealogists or APG (apg.gen) lists 31 genealogists who specialize in Arizona genealogy. Only six of them are listed as living in Arizona out of 1669 total genealogists in the entire United States.  

The average professional genealogist in Utah makes about $42,000 a year which by the way is slightly less than it takes to earn enough to afford an apartment in Utah. See Professional Genealogist Salary in Utah. See also, "You need to earn $20.21 an hour to afford a 2-bedroom apartment in Utah, report says."

Can anyone be a genealogist? Is anyone who is interested in their family automatically become a genealogist? It is commonly stated that genealogy is the second most popular hobby in the United States. Here are some short quotes from Paul Allen, FUGA Founder,, Director of Funium, LLC, in an article from 2011 entitled, "The Gamification of Genealogy: Potential Impact on Participation in Family History."
The myth that genealogy is the #1 or #2 hobby on the internet should be dispelled. No data has ever been presented that confirms this often-heard claim. Based on industry traffic data to various types of websites, genealogy is probably a top 50 activity. It is primarily engaged in by a modest percentage of the older population. Young people rarely get involved in online genealogy research...

The first definitive published study of interest in family history was by American Demographics magazine in December 1995 [1]. Based on nationwide surveys conducted by Maritz Marketing, it was discovered that approximately 7% of the adult population in the U.S. was involved at least somewhat in family history research. However, a much larger audience, close to half of U.S. adults is interested (but not involved) in family history.  

[1] “Climbing the Family Tree,” in American Demographics magazine, December 1995. 
The expectation that a huge number of people from any part of the world would be interested enough in genealogy to acquire the skills necessary to pursue valid genealogical research is unfounded and unwarranted. Why then do we wring our hands and worry about the younger generation becoming genealogists when there is no demand for their services? 

Monday, May 2, 2022

The Goldie May Subway Map timeline tool now works with

Quoting from the YouTube Channel, 

You can now use the Subway Map timeline tool to analyze your research on You can even compare Ancestry lines to FamilySearch lines and/or multiple Ancestry lines against each other.

It is much easier to understand when you see what it does rather than reading what I would have to write to explain this new feature. Here is the website: 

Saturday, April 30, 2022

The 1st Rule of Genealogy comes to YouTube

Can you believe it? The First Rule of Genealogy is now featured on a short video. You can read and view more about the Rules of Genealogy at the following links:

Live & Unrehearsed Genealogy Research, Episode 5: Looking at a difficult line

In Episode #5 of the Goldie May Live and Unrehearsed videos, Richard Miller and I explore an end-of-line situation and end up cleaning up the existing information. As usual the methodology rules and the line is now ready to continue with serious research. We are trying to do a video every week but our schedules and the upcoming summer vacation times may not work out but meanwhile you can see one example of how to work with the FamilySearch Family Tree every week. 

Saturday, April 23, 2022

Half a Million Postcards on has a huge collection of about 500,000 postcards. I doubt that anyone under the age of 30 or so has ever sent or received a postcard but historically, they were the most common way to reach out to relatives and friends while on vacations or while away from home. Quoting from the website:

In genealogy, we often associate places with our forebears: the village in the “old country” if they were immigrants, the town where they grew up which has changed over the years, the place of worship where they were married. The Geneanet Postcards collection (, uploaded by genealogists over the past two decades and almost entirely composed of pre-1960 images, has postcards from over a hundred different countries.

As genealogists, any correspondence by a relative will help to establish an exact location in their lives and aid research. Unknowingly, some throw away many valuable family records because they seem inconsequential or temporary. One postcard from a relative in a foreign country could resolve the origin of an immigrant.  

Friday, April 22, 2022

Live and Unrehearsed Genealogy Research from Goldie May, Episode #4: Looking at genealogy in books


Live and Unrehearsed Genealogy Research from Goldie May, Episode #4

We are moving well along with our Live and Unrehearsed Genealogy Research series from Goldie May. It is an unstructured presentation, but this reflects the way I analyze how to approach the situation posed by the existing entries on the Family Tree. In this episode we go back to the same family featured in Episode #1. However, each of these episodes is intended to be covering new material and you will be able to watch this episode without first watching the other one initially referred to. The information I give is essentially what I would give to anyone asking similar questions. 

We are intending to expand this series to include anyone who would like to participate. If you would like to appear, you will be asked to sign a release so that the presentation can be used here on YouTube. Another possibility is to send me a specific person or family to research, and I will consider using that as the subject of a video. 

We plan on making one of these videos each week. Stay tuned and subscribe for a notice of every video added. 

Solving Puzzles


Some are fortunate enough to find a job which consists in the solution of mysteries...

Chadwick, John. 2014. The Decipherment of Linear B. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

There are few intellectual challenges that require as many different skill sets as does genealogical research. At any given time, you may need to know how to read old handwritten records in a language that is not your own, and at the same time evaluate the geography and history of the places where your ancestors lived. On occasion, you might also be called upon to understand and use genetics by involving DNA matches. Sometimes, the effort can be overwhelming. Despite the innate difficulty in keeping all of these aspects together at the same time, there are those whose knowledge of the genealogical process leads them to believe that genealogy is easy or simple by claiming that all you have to do is fill in the blanks. This effort to minimize and dumb down genealogy is a disservice to those who have spent years of their lives acquiring the necessary skills. 

If you want to practice medicine or law, you will be required to attend years of schooling and pass difficult examinations. If you want to be a general building contractor, a truck driver, a schoolteacher, or any other job requiring a set of qualifications, you have to study and pass a certification examination. For genealogy, which requires an equal amount of knowledge and training, you can open an online family tree website and suddenly you become an expert at finding and adding your ancestral names because, as it is advertised over and over again, genealogy (family history) is so simple and fun that anyone can do it. 

Here in the United States, we just passed through another tax season. I have years of experience with advanced degrees as an attorney and as a business owner. I have difficulty understanding and accurately computing my U.S. taxes and can't understand how anyone with less education and lacking my background has a chance to understand the tax laws. At the same time, I find genealogical research to be just as complex and difficult as any tax code or law school exam. If I venture to express this opinion based on actual experience, I am accused of being elitist and exclusive. The irony of this situation is even more pronounced when you realize that there are thousands of videos, books, and classes that teach people who to search for their ancestors. But all these educational resources are voluntary. There are no entry requirements for claiming to be a genealogist. 

There are two organizations that certify and accredit genealogists, but these organizations are small and little-known outside of those who are intensely involved in genealogical research. The International Commission for the Accreditation of Professional Genealogists or has fewer than 200 listed professionals in the entire world. The Board for Certification of Genealogists or, has about 260 certified members listed in the entire world. This is no reflection on the capabilities of any of these accredited or certified genealogists, but it does illustrate the fact that the vast majority of the people doing genealogy or family history are self-taught even though many of those who are self-taught are considered to be experts. 

Am I legislating for more accreditation and certification? Not really. But I do think that there should be so level of competency and recognition of the complexity of the pursuit of genealogical research. 

Saturday, April 16, 2022

Where are all the rest of the records on the FamilySearch website?

If you start searching for names on the website, you might be surprised to learn that you're only. Searching about. 20% of the records available. In addition, if you do a comprehensive search for records on the catalog you are only adding another approximately 20% of the records. So, where are the additional 60% of the records available on the website?

This huge collection of records from countries around the world is not exactly hidden but it is relatively unknown. Billions of records that are not in the catalog and have no indexes, so they are not searchable by name and will not appear in a catalog search. These unknown digi†al records are located in the "Images" section of the website. The video linked above talks about all the records on the website including those in the Images section. If you are in a hurry and don't want to spend the time to listen to me for almost an hour, you can see a similar, but much shorter video by my wife, Ann Tanner. Here is the link to her video. 

Friday, April 15, 2022

Live and Unrehearsed Genealogy Research from Goldie May, Episode #3


Live and Unrehearsed Genealogy Research from Goldie May

Richard Miller, the developer of the Goldie May app and website, and I have started a video series examining research challenges. We don't necessarily solve the issue in our half-hour episodes, but we do illustrate how to address the issues posed by the entries in the Family Tree. Episode #3 deals with one of my ancestors from New England. We are also hoping to involve other participants. We would then include them in the Zoom meeting and talk through their challenges. The idea is to document the thought process and resources that are the basis for genealogical research. 

The research issue in Episode #3 involves an ancestor in my direct line who is a descendant of two of the Mayflower passengers. Here family is an old and prominent New England family but surprisingly very little have been done to document her paternal direct lines. 

Monday, April 11, 2022

I'm My Own Grandpa: Thoughts on the Limitations of Genealogical Research

Here is a short quote about the origin of this song from Wikipedia: I'm My Own Grandpa:

I'm My Own Grandpa" (sometimes rendered as "I'm My Own Grandpaw") is a novelty song written by Dwight Latham and Moe Jaffe, performed by Lonzo and Oscar in 1947, about a man who, through an unlikely (but legal) combination of marriages, becomes stepfather to his own stepmother—that is, tacitly dropping the "step-" modifiers, he becomes his own grandfather.

Genealogy in the English-speaking world is caught up in its own jargon and definitions of how people are related. If you haven't seen this chart before, here is a copy showing how this particular kinship structure is identified and labeled.

 The song about being your own grandpa may seem amusing or annoying but for genealogists, the recursive relationship is possible and challenging. The key to song's conclusion relies on ignoring "step: relationships. However, if you happen to speak a language that is not English and come from a culture that is not based on ancestors from Western Europe, you have probably wondered how to show your own cultural family relationships using the standard Western European (and English speaking) models such as this "standard" pedigree chart. 

How do you show "step" relationships with this chart? Even more fundamentally, how do you show multiple marriages? Do you consider your "step" parent to be your relative? Fundamentally, if you think only about people who are genetically related to you, how do you represent multiple marriage events in the same person's life? This line of questions also applies to adoptions, foster parents, and other relationships that are, in a sense, swept under the carpet by traditional Western European genealogy. 

One of the biggest challenges faced by the large, online genealogy companies is that they are mired in Western European culture and the structure of their family trees reflects only those relationships superficially reflected by the pedigree chart shown above. 

Adapting to non-European kinship structures is not even on the event horizon of most software and online development and when you also consider different naming patterns, place names, and other considerations that would be needed to preserve family information from around the world. 

Now what about genealogical research? The first major challenge that comes to many people around the world is accounting for migration and emigration. For example, in the United States, only about 2.6% of the population identify as Native American or Indian. See "Indian Country Demographics." This means that 97.4% of the population will ultimately be looking for an immigrant ancestor. Of course, this percentage varies by country but even in countries where the population is stable and has been for a long time, there are equally as challenging ancestral events such as wars, natural disasters, plagues, and other such events that are common to all. 

As genealogists, we collectively need to be more aware and more educated in history and cultural differences 

Thursday, April 7, 2022

Genealogy Research Live and Unrehearsed on Goldie May Episode #2

You can see how Richard Miller and I approach genealogical research issues in each episode of our Live and Unrehearsed series of videos. We are probably going to switch back and forth between my own issues and Richard's. We will also be inviting people to come on for our short half-hour episodes with their own challenges in the future. We want to keep the format to 30 minutes so that would be the only restraint. I have been working with the Family History Library in Salt Lake City since last year and have done hundreds of these short consultations and I think that format is helpful. If you are interested in participating, we intend to do one a week, but I suppose we could squeeze in another one or two if there is a demand. All the sessions will be recorded live and edited. 

Let me know at if you are interested in being featured in one of the episodes. You will have to sign a release so we can post the episode. 

1950 U.S. Census Project Moving Rapidly Forward

If you go to the FamilySearch 1950 U.S. Census Project page at you will see that four states have been completed and that only two more are open right now (as of the date of this post). Checking handwriting recognition from is a different experience from indexing. The accuracy is significant, and it is apparent that the entire project will likely be completed in a matter of months and perhaps weeks. 

 It helps to read the instructions, here is a link to some Frequently Asked Questions. Here is yet another link with more information: We have been checking on Facebook and following a lot of links, but the information is scattered around. Here is a link to the 1950 US Census group in the FamilySearch Communities: From this page there are a huge number of further links. has a 1950 U.S. Census District Finder:

All I can say, for more information, just keep clicking. 

Monday, April 4, 2022

1950 U.S. Census Images Online

Since its release on April 1, 2022, several websites are hosting the raw images from the 1950 U.S. Census as they prepare indexes. Here are some of the sites with the entire 1950 U.S. Census. The issue is that you have to know the exact place to look until the records are indexed. The National Archives

If you find additional copies online, leave a comment. By the way, you can download a copy of the census from the National Archives. You can also see a lot of information about the 1950 census on See this link.

Friday, April 1, 2022

Ancestry and FamilySearch and the 1950 U.S. Census

You can see that will start indexing the 1950 Census when it is available but it will not be available until later on this year, perhaps by the summer. will be helping to make the 1950 U.S. Census browsable and then searchable through Ancestry's Community Project.

Quoting from the FamilySearch website.

The 1950 US Federal Census will be released on April 1, 2022, and the 1950 US Census Community Project will enlist an army of volunteers to help publish a free searchable index of all 151 million individuals included in this valuable record. Starting with an automated index created by Ancestry using handwriting recognition technology, volunteers will then have the opportunity to review and improve the index to ensure it is complete and accurate.


I950 U.S. Federal Census available from the National Archives

The National Archives released the 1950 U.S. Census on a searchable website linked above. You can begin your search today. I tried to find my parents by searching and so far, I have not been successful. Hopefully, one of the major genealogy companies will have a better search engine. The site includes the following. 

  • Approximately 6.57 million population schedules
  • 33,360 Indian Reservation schedules
  • 9,634 enumeration district maps images
  • 234,447 enumeration district descriptions
  • Location and name-based search capabilities. Explore the records by State, County/City, Name, Reservation, and Enumeration District.
  • Name transcription capabilities. Use the built-in transcription feature to correct and add names to the name index. You can help make the 1950 Census population schedules more discoverable for everyone.

MyHeritage Announces New Census Helper Feature.


From a MyHeritage blog post entitled "Jump-start Your 1950 U.S. Census Research with the Census Helper™."

We’re happy to introduce the Census Helper™, a useful and free tool that scans your family tree and compiles a list of your relatives who are very likely to be found in the 1950 U.S. census. This tool is available immediately for all MyHeritage users. If you are not using MyHeritage yet, now’s a perfect time to sign up and bring your tree over (via GEDCOM import) and benefit from this useful tool, which will save you time and give direction to your research.

The blog post goes on to say,

The release of the 1950 U.S. Census is fast approaching, and many genealogists are awaiting it with much enthusiasm. Federal U.S. Census records are released once a decade, and these records will reveal a wealth of new information about relatives living on U.S. soil (and some U.S. citizens serving abroad) after the conclusion of World War II. The 1950 U.S. census records will be published very soon by MyHeritage and will be totally free. The indexing process will begin as soon as the census images are released, starting on April 1, 2022.

In the meantime, we recommend that you prepare for the census release by creating a list with the Census Helper™ to focus your research. Armed with this list, you’ll know exactly which family members to find in the newly released 1950 census records. Next to each relative the Census Helper™ provides a convenient button to research that person in the census in one click. The names of people you’ve already researched will be indicated, as will the names for whom automatic Record Matches were found in the census. This makes the Census Helper™ a comprehensive research tool that allows you to squeeze every bit of valuable information out of the census without missing a drop. 

Actually, the release date is April 1st, 2022 and you can access the 1950 U. S. Federal Census from the National Archives at

Thursday, March 31, 2022

Genealogy Live and Unrehearsed from Goldie May


Goldie May Genealogy Research Live and Unrehearsed

Richard Miller, the developer of the Goldie May research app, and I have joined together to present actual, live, unrehearsed genealogy research. Each episode will address a rather different and difficult research issue. This first episode looks at an end-of-line problem with a family in pre-1850 Kentucky and Indiana. The discussion shows how and where the issues are addressed and suggests sources for resolving the issues. You can subscribe to the channel to view each episode as they occur. Of course, the episodes feature using the Goldie May app to assist in identifying and resolving, if at all possible, the challenge in each episode. 

How do you compare the holdings of the online genealogy database programs?


How do you compare apples and oranges? The answer to this question is much easier than comparing any two of the large online genealogy/family tree programs. Let me start with as an example. 

Back on May 12, 2012, I wrote a blog post entitled "10,000,000,000 Records?" Here is a quote from that blog post.

First, I need to talk about collections. By latest count, has 30,671 collections that are listed in their World Edition. In contrast, for example,, as of 12 May 2012, has 1146 collections. However, as I have written before in this blog, the designation "collection" when referring to genealogical records has no commonly understood meaning.

On, a collection can be anything from a little over 1000 records in the Arizona, Civil War Service Records of Confederate Soldiers, 1861-1865 to over 90 million records in the United States Social Security Death Index. The same thing holds true on If they are counting their Public Member Trees, then there are 2,107,016,069 records listed in that collection alone and way down at the end of's list is the tiny "The Stone Family Association, 1910" with one record.

Hmm. How does that compare to figures from 2022? Quick math (even within my capabilities) says that it was ten years ago. Looking at on the date of this post, I see that the card catalog has listed 33,141 collections. That is an increase (my math again) of 2,470 collections in the last ten years. The largest Ancestry collection in the card catalog is still Public Member Trees with 1,895,402,199 which is a drop of 211,613,870 trees. Hmm, again. Also, about 26,000 of those "collections" have less than 1,000 records. Also, about 23,000 of those collections have less than 500 records and I could just keep going until I got to those with less than 10 records which occurs in about 1,166 collections. I guess my conclusion is the same as it was 10 years ago, the number of collections is meaningless. 

What about FamilySearch? Oh, they had 1146 collections in 2012. As of the date of this post, FamilySearch lists 3,089 collections but that is only in the Historical Record Collections of indexed records. There is no count available for those collections in the Catalog or Images. Again, the numbers are mostly meaningless. 

My measure is simple. If you find the record you are looking for, then the website is very useful. If you don't find the record you are looking for, the website is less useful. Negative results do have some value. 

Each of the large genealogy websites has its own unique records. We are presently in a much better place than we were ten years ago,. but I would still not put much confidence in any attempt at comparing the different collections based on claimed numbers of records, images, collections, or any other measure. 

Monday, March 28, 2022

New Videos Every Week on the BYU Family History Library YouTube Channel


With over 600 videos, the Brigham Young University Family History Library YouTube Channel keeps growing with 4 or 5 new videos every week. I am sure you can find videos with subjects that will help you with your genealogical research. My latest video is Beginning African American Research, and it should uploaded shortly. The last video I did that is already on the Channel is Beginning Native American Research. These videos are recordings of the Sunday Classes that are presented by the BYU Family History Library every week that the library is open. We also have webinars, weekday classes, indexing classes, and regularly produced short instructional videos. 

I will also be starting another series of videos focusing on how to approach specific research problems. These videos will be hosted on the Goldie May YouTube channel. I will be writing about these videos as they are uploaded. 

I am also scheduled for some MyHeritage Facebook Live presentations. You can watch for these on the MyHeritage Facebook Video page. Some of these videos are also featured on the MyHeritage Education Pages. 

I had several videos for RootsTech 2022 including this one. 

I am averaging more than one new video a week and some weeks I have three or even four. I realize with all the genealogy videos now being produced that it is impossible to even be aware of all of them. 

Monday, March 21, 2022

Changes to More than Cosmetic


Around the time of RootsTech 2022, introduced some substantial changes to their website without much publicity. Here is an article that gives an overview of the changes. "The New Look and Feel of the Ancestry® Website."

One improvement includes putting a link to your family tree right at the top of the startup page. Here is a screenshot of how mine looks like. 

The new links also give you a shortcut to the last people you were working on. Most of the rest of the page is personalized to give you links into current highlights and your DNA results. The right-side of the page has some simplified search fields with a link to a more advanced search. My experience so far is that I am able to get to work much faster than with the previous layout. 

Some of the options that were in the drop-down menus have migrated to the page also such as a link to the card catalog and some commonly used record collections. 

There have also been some changes to the look and feel of the family tree. 

The tree appears more compact, and the icons have changed. There is now a link to existing ThruLines® for each individual where that information is available. 

One completely new addition is the "Tree viewing options."

You can turn on or off some of ways you view your family tree. 

I like the changes. Anything that cuts down the number of clicks I have to make to do my work is an improvement. You might want to spend some time clicking around and see what more has been changed. 

Saturday, March 19, 2022

Delete or Detach Information on the FamilySearch Family Tree


To start off on this subject, it is important to know that changing or deleting information from the Family Tree should only be done when there are valid, specific. historical, genealogical sources supporting the change. Further, no information is automatically deleted by FamilySearch. You can also edit information as long as the information is not marked as Read Only. 

If you click on the Edit link for any of the fields on an individual's profile sheet, you will see something like the following.

The first field tells you how many people are following this particular person in the Family Tree. Each of those people will be notified about any changes you make to these entries. In addition, the list on the right side of the window shows you all the sources that support this particular entry, in this case, a birth record. There is also a Reason explaining why each field of the information is considered to be correct. 

In the lower right-hand corner, there is a link that will allow you to delete this information. Before you even think about making changes to an existing profile, I suggest you look at and study all the sources attached. The delete option should only be used if you have some overriding source that shows that the information is not correct. When you see sources supporting the existing information, you should carefully think about the consequences of ignoring all these sources. You also need to understand that because there are people watching this individual, one or more of them may immediately restore the information you delete and will also likely send you a message telling you not to make changes without a supporting source.  The more people that are watching a profile, the more likely you are to receive a message about any changes you make. 

Sometimes the information in a date or place field will be missing, incorrect, or lacking in detail. Adding source supported information and correcting deficient information is part of maintaining the tree. For example, if someone has entered an approximate date for either birth or death and you find a birth or death record, you should edit the information and make sure you explain why you made the change and attached a link to or a copy of the birth or death record.  

Sources added to an individual cannot be deleted. They can only be detached. A source tells where information about an individual can be found. 

In working on the Family Tree, you may find references to GEDCOM files or the Ancestral File. Both of these contain user submitted information and seldom contain any reference to the original historical source documents. If either GEDCOM or the Ancestral File are given as a reason for entering the information, neither of these will be considered to be a historical, genealogical source and the information will be questionable at best until the underlying documents are found. 

The rule is that any information added, changed, or deleted in the Family Tree must be supported by a valid, specific. historical, genealogical sources supporting the change. 

What will happen if you make a change or delete information that is already supported by sources? Someone will come along and correct your errors. But you will be wasting both your time and the time of the person who must correct your unsupported information. 

Friday, March 18, 2022

None of your information about your family disappears from the FamilySearch Family Tree when you die


Sorry for the long blog post title but it is the only way I can say exactly what this post is about. The Family Tree is a unified, collaborative, and cooperative family tree. However, for basic privacy reasons information about living people added to the Family Tree is visible only to the person who adds (uploads, types in, etc.) the information. As soon as a person is marked deceased, all that information becomes visible and discoverable on the Family Tree. However, it is possible that more than one profile for a living person was created. In that case, only those copies of the person (each with a unique ID number) who marks their living copies as deceased triggers the ability of anyone to see that information. Obviously, as people mark their copy of the deceased person as deceased, multiple copies (duplicates) of the person will start to appear in the Family Tree. 

At no time does the death of an individual impact the information (data, entries, etc) in the Family Tree. Anyone, including the close relatives of the deceased can immediately see all marked duplicates and all of the information that anyone, including the deceased, added to the Family Tree. Just as I or anyone else can see, correct, and change the information about any of anybody's deceased ancestors. Don't worry about me jumping over and try to work on your family lines unless I happen to be related to you in some reasonable way. 

FamilySearch takes extraordinary efforts to preserve all the information on the Family Tree. 

If you are still uneasy about your own information being preserved, you should make sure all your information is entered into the Family Tree. If you have any qualms about your information's integrity or permanency on the Family Tree, then by all means keep a copy on your own desktop program or on another online family tree. 

For members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, as soon as the Ward Clerk in the ward where the person resides learns of his or her death, the Ward Clerk can mark them as deceased and within a few minutes the deceased person will show up on the Family Tree. 

Here is another twist to the problem. What if the spouse is relying on the dead person's login and password? The rule is everyone using the Family Tree should have their own login and password (i.e. be registered as an individual). If you want to work on your spouse's family, then get them to log on until the Family Tree shows the first dead people and then anyone, including the spouse, can work on the lines. 

Enough said.

Thursday, March 17, 2022

Confronting the Changes on the FamilySearch Family Tree from GEDCOM files: Part One

Weekly notification of changes made to the people I am following on the FamilySearch Family Tree.

I was looking at the Community section on the website and saw a trending discussion about GEDCOM files being uploaded to the FamilySearch Family Tree. The gist of the discussion was gloom and doom about adding GEDCOM files to the Family Tree. Before I comment about the subject of changes to the Family Tree, I think that most of the comments showed a lack of understanding about GEDCOM. 

GEDCOM is not a program; it is a standard format for exchanging information between different genealogy websites and programs. When you download a GEDCOM file of your file, the GEDCOM Standard specifies that the information will be compatible with another website or program's file format assuming both of the websites or programs support and adhere to the GEDCOM Standard.  

Here is a more extensive explanation about GEDCOM from Wikipedia:
GEDCOM (/ˈdʒɛdkɒm/ JED-kom) (an acronym standing for Genealogical Data Communication) is an open de facto specification for exchanging genealogical data between different genealogy software. GEDCOM was developed by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church) as an aid to genealogical research.

A GEDCOM file is plain text (usually either UTF-8 or ASCII) containing genealogical information about individuals, and metadata linking these records together. Most genealogy software supports importing from and exporting to GEDCOM format. However, some genealogy software programs incorporate the use of proprietary extensions to the format, which are not always recognized by other genealogy programs, such as the GEDCOM 5.5 EL (Extended Locations) specification.

While GEDCOM X and several other specifications have been suggested as replacements, the current 2019 version, based on the draft from 1999, remains the industry standard 20 years on.

It is possible to indirectly upload a GEDCOM file to the FamilySearch Family Tree. I say indirectly because one of the steps before adding your file to the Family Tree is to compare the potential new information with the information already in the Family Tree. Let's say that the person uploading a GEDCOM file was the first person in his/her line to enter information into the Family Tree. The GEDCOM standard provides a path so that the information in the GEDCOM file is not lost. FamilySearch then takes you through a process where you identify any duplicates. Old GEDCOM files will very likely contain a lot of duplicate entries to those in the Family Tree. 

The process for uploading a file is quite involved and somewhat complicated. Here is a link to the instructions. "How do I copy information from my GEDCOM file into Family Tree?" In almost all cases, uploading your file into the Family Tree is a really bad idea, especially if you upload more than a few dozen names. The reason for this opinion is that it is very likely that a larger number of people will already be duplicated in the Family Tree and cause a great deal more work on the part of the people who are following and maintaining the Family Tree. Additionally, here is a quote about the effects of uploading a GEDCOM file from the article linked in this paragraph. 

If you choose to proceed, keep in mind that notes, sources, multimedia links, and information about living people do not automatically copy to Family Tree.

 Without sources, your uploaded entries may be removed by someone who is watching the Family Tree regularly (like I do).  I suggest starting to work directly on the Family Tree and use your GEDCOM information to enter the information person-by-person. You might be surprised that much of your research has already been done. If you are one of the few people who will be adding original research, I suggest that entering the individuals one-by-one with the source citations will ultimately save you time. 

More about this later. 

Wednesday, March 16, 2022 Update: Looking at the Latest Changes


If you use the website frequently, you are probably aware that many parts of the website have been changing over the past year or so. On the other hand, if you only visit the website infrequently, you may be overwhelmed with the changes. However, in my opinion, the changes are mostly cosmetic and don't change the fundamental use of the website. 

The first major change is evident once you sign in. You get a personalized page with lots of suggested topics and such, including some recently added photos and documents. 

But now, there is a notice telling you that this is all about to change. This is a screen shot of my homepage preview. 

This whole page is customizable and so yours won't look like mine. 

One of the major facelifts is with the process of searching for records in the Historical Record Collections. Here is a screenshot of the new search page. 

You can click on the More Option button for additional fields. 

The number of clicks you need to start a search has increased. 

One new feature addresses the issue of restricted records. There is a new browser extension that gives access to Premium Content. This is only available and usable in a Family History Center and specifically with computers on the FamilySearch Portal. 

There is also a new selection in the menu bar at the top of each page called the "Get Involved" option. Here is a screenshot of the new Get Involved page with an arrow pointing to the Get Involved menu item. There is also a mobile app. The new page gives you a few options for being involved including the ongoing indexing project. 

The Books collection of over 500,000 digitized books has also been redone.

There are also a number of activities listed in the drop-down Activities item in the menu bar. 

People using the FamilySearch Family Tree can also view a new discovery page. 

The only real issue is that during the time I was writing this post, I kept getting error messages that told me to reload. 

This is probably enough new stuff on the website to keep you busy for a while.