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

Thursday, September 22, 2022

RootsTech 2023 is ramping up will be both in-person and online and March 2-4 is just around the corner. I am already writing my live presentation and working on my series of six videos. I am looking forward to being there in-person and seeing live people for a change. 

The classes and presentations from the past two years of RootsTech online are still mostly available. I am sure there will be some changes but It will be interesting to see how it turns out. 

As usual, if you are traveling to Salt Lake City, Utah to attend RootsTech in the Salt Palace, you need to know that Salt Lake is changing rapidly. There is new Hyatt Regency Hotel that is part of the Salt Palace Convention Center. Here is a photo of the construction from Google Streetview.

The hotel is opening in October 2022. There is a lot of other construction going on in the downtown area of Salt Lake City also. You might want to start checking for hotels and other accommodations. Remember that March in Utah can still be cold and snowy. 

Hope to see you at RootsTech 2023. 

How Reliable are Hard Drives, SSDs, and Online Storage?

We come to depend on our electronics as we do genealogical research and preserve our family history. In this presentation, I ask and answer a series of questions:

  • How reliable are hard drives, SSDs, and Online storage?
  • What is a backup?
  • Which is better, a flash drive, a hard drive, or an internet backup?
  • How many important photos do you have on your smartphone?
  • When was the last time you backed up your smartphone?
  • How many times have you lost or broken your smartphone?
  • When was the last time you checked to see your computer’s operating system?
  • When did you last update your computer’s operating system?
  • How old is your computer?
  • When did you last update your smartphone?
  • Where do you store your data?
  • What would happen if your computer failed today?
  • What would happen if you lost your smartphone?
Backing up your computer and other devices is a simple way to avoid catastrophic loss. Think about it. 

Friday, September 16, 2022

Stuck on the Immigrant: Looking for Italian Citizenship


If you are as involved in helping people with their genealogy as I am, you have likely gotten a question from someone who is trying to obtain Italian Citizenship by Descent. There are a number of websites about the process, some taking advantage of the people applying or providing assistance and others that merely tell an applicant what to do. Here is one such website from the Consolato General D'Italia in San Francisco.

Many of these inquiries are coming to me because I am acting as a consultant for FamilySearch. By and large, the people calling are well aware of the requirements and are merely looking for copies of the documents from the website. The problem, in most cases, is that the records are either hard to find or restricted to viewing in a FamilySearch Center.

In reading the requirements for those looking back on their ancestral line, there is one major catch which states, 

  • Category 5: your direct paternal or maternal ancestors were born in the United States from Italian parents and they never renounced their right to Italian citizenship.

The issue here would seem to be if an Italian immigrant obtained citizenship in the U.S. However, the rule in the US is that the United States allows foreign nationals to naturalize and become U.S. citizens and the country also allows people to hold dual nationality. People who are citizens of foreign countries may become U.S. citizens and they may not be required to give up their current nationality.

If you think you qualify you could investigate whether or not dual citizenship is advantageous to you personally. Be careful in applying, you might get more that you expected. 

Live and Unrehearsed Research from Goldie May

Goldie May Live and Unrehearsed Episode 24

The Goldie May series continues with more videos. Each of these videos will give you insight into how to do research online. There are now 24 of these episodes and we will continue to provide them about once a week. Here is the link to the Goldie May YouTube Channel where you will find 23 new short videos about Goldie May. You will also find all the previous Live and Unrehearsed videos. 

If you have an ancestor that you would like to see featured on the research videos, let me know and thanks for watching. 

Thursday, September 8, 2022

What Happened to RootsWeb?


RootsWeb is a free genealogy community that uses online forums, mailing lists, and other resources to help people research their family history. Founded in 1993 by Brian Leverich and Karen Isaacson as the Roots Surname List, it is the oldest free online community genealogy research website. This short explanation does not give the entire history, however. The current ownership shows up in the tag line at the bottom of the startup page as "RootsWeb is funded and supported by and our loyal RootsWeb community." There is a link here to the following page.

The website is loaded with ads and clicking on a link may take you to a website that is totally unrelated to genealogy or research. However, much of the old information is still on the website and although the website is no longer a go to destination as it once was, it is still possible to find valuable information if you are willing to spend time clicking and learning about how to navigate through the old content. However, clicking on some of the existing links will take you to pages with nothing but ads. 

It appears that many of the message boards are still currently active. Some of the other projects on the website may also be active. There is a link to the USGenWeb Project and to a few other interesting and valuable links but the RootsWeb website is nothing like it was originally. 

One interesting issue is that when going to the Message Boards, I was automatically logged into I don't know what would happen if you did not have an account. So, I am not sure how much more help the website is anymore beyond using 

Saturday, September 3, 2022

Mapping your way to success with BYU Family History Library Videos

I realize because I am doing so many videos, my blog posts are taking a hit. I am not sure how I could work harder or faster, but the videos are reaching a lot of people. Fortunately, I am not the only person making videos on the BYU Family History Library YouTube Channel. We have posted eight videos in the last week. I posted three of those eight. But I also had one more posted to the Goldie May YouTube Channel

I would assume that anyone would have a hard time keeping up with all these new videos. 

Thursday, September 1, 2022

Age, Technology, and other Myths and Concerns


My introduction to computers began in about 1969 at the University of Utah. However, my intensive involvement began in 1982. Since then, I have used some model of computer almost daily now for over 40 years. Much of that time was also directly involved in providing both computer and genealogical support to other people of all ages. During all this time, I have often heard about how young people are so computer literate and old people are not. However, in my opinion based on experience with both old and young, I find the real difference is education and income. People of whatever age, with more education and income are more likely to be computer literate than those of lower income and less education. Most children's competency with computers depends on their education level and the income level of their family. 

This opinion is supported by an extensive survey conducted by the Pew Research Center's study entitled, "Digital divide persists even as Americans with lower incomes make gains in tech adoption." Quoting from this study:

Roughly a quarter of adults with household incomes below $30,000 a year (24%) say they don’t own a smartphone. About four-in-ten adults with lower incomes do not have home broadband services (43%) or a desktop or laptop computer (41%). And a majority of Americans with lower incomes are not tablet owners. By comparison, each of these technologies is nearly ubiquitous among adults in households earning $100,000 or more a year.

Americans with higher household incomes are also more likely to have multiple devices that enable them to go online. Roughly six-in-ten adults living in households earning $100,000 or more a year (63%) report having home broadband services, a smartphone, a desktop or laptop computer and a tablet, compared with 23% of those living in lower-income households.

A common opinion held by many older adults is that children, usually teenage children, are all computer savvy. My own experience is that their knowledge of computers is generally limited to operating a smartphone for text level communication with a high emphasis on computer games and YouTube. Again, referring to the Pew Research Center "Teens, Social Media and Technology 2022."

YouTube tops the 2022 teen online landscape among the platforms covered in the Center’s new survey, as it is used by 95% of teens. TikTok is next on the list of platforms that were asked about in this survey (67%), followed by Instagram and Snapchat, which are both used by about six-in-ten teens. After those platforms come Facebook with 32% and smaller shares who use Twitter, Twitch, WhatsApp, Reddit and Tumblr.

What is missing from the use of computers for entertainment and communication is learning. I probably spend nearly as much time online as any teenager, but I do not play games and I spend very little time on social networking apps. 

There is, of course, a remnant of people old enough not to have had access to computers while they were still young. But when you realize that some of us who are old have been working with computers for more than 40 years, the idea that being old somehow equates to a lack of computer literacy is just not reasonable. 

When I was very young, my mother could not and therefore did not drive a car. She finally did learn to drive but she never learned or even wanted to learn how to operate a computer (or even a typewriter for that matter). The reasons for both her lack of driving skills and her antipathy to computers came from complex social issues. As I said above, I think that computer use is more of an economic rather than entirely social issue. Unless you have a job or an overriding interest in learning about computers and you do not have a significant measure of disposable income, you a much less likely to be motivated to spend the time and the money to have a computer or use a computer. 

How does this apply to genealogy? Genealogy has become almost entirely computer driven as billions of newly digitized additional records are made available online every year. It is presently very unlikely that you can do original research into original records that is not being duplicated by someone else without verifying that there are no records online in digital format. Even though there is still resistance to online family trees in some segments of the genealogical community, it is abundantly clear to me that good genealogical research will increasingly depend on your personal computer skills. 

I am constantly confronted by complaints about irresponsible activity on family trees. A major part of what is viewed as spam activity comes from a lack of understanding of computers and computer systems. This is especially true for an open, source-based, cooperative family tree such as the Family Tree. As time passes and computer users become more sophisticated, many of the shortcomings of an open, wiki-based family tree will be resolved. Presently, the growth of the online genealogical community is far out pacing the learning curve needed to operate these programs effectively. 

As time passes, I am sure that many of the issue of family trees will be resolved. 

Wednesday, August 17, 2022

Understanding Jurisdictions for Genealogists

Understanding Jurisdictions for Genealogists is one of several of my videos that have been published in the last two weeks. As you may have guessed or observed, the number of my posts to Genealogy's Star has decreased. This is entirely due to the increase in my video presentations that now are running at least two or three a week. Here are links to some posted in the last two weeks. 

Introduction to the Canon Image Formula DR G1130 (Sheet Feed Scanner)

Using Your Smartphone for Genealogy: an Update

Introduction To The Epson Perfection V750 Pro Scanner

3. Case Studies Live On Air - James Tanner

Introduction to the Plustek OpticBook A300 Plus Scanner - James Tanner

Unrehearsed Genealogy Research #20: Using land records for ancestor in the South

Unrehearsed Genealogy Research #19: Confirming family in 19th-century England

Stay tuned, I will have at least two more this week, not including the ones listed above. 

How do we determine the accuracy of the Family Tree

Ever since the Family Tree was released, there have been questions about its accuracy. These concerns were based, in part, on the wiki structure and operation of the website. For a number of years, there was a controversy, which probably continues today, about the accuracy of Wikipedia in particular and other wikis generally. Here is a link to an article from about reliability. "Wikipedia:Wikipedia is not a reliable source." Here is one interesting quote from the article.

Articles are only as good as the editors who have been editing them—their interests, education, and background—and the efforts they have put into a particular topic or article. Since we try to avoid original research, a particular article may only be as good as (a) the available and discovered reliable sources, and (b) the subject may allow.

Hmm. If you know anything about the accuracy controversy surrounding the Family Tree, you may recognize that this statement certainly applies to the Family Tree as well as to the vast Wikipedia.  Essentially, any entry on either website without a reliable source is fundamentally unreliable. Here is just one example from perhaps millions of entries that do not have any source information on the Family Tree. 

On the other hand, millions of sources are being added to the Family Tree yearly and according to FamilySearch there are over 2.34 billion sources already attached to the individuals in the Family Tree. 

One possible indicator of the accuracy of the Family Tree could be the percentage of people who are added to the Family Tree each day, week, or year without sources as opposed to entries made with at least one source and a percentage of the total number of new entries each year. Unfortunately, telling us the total number of sources doesn't answer that question. From my own experience, some of the individuals in my part of the Family Tree have more than a hundred supporting sources, while as the example above illustrates, there are a large number of people with no sources (finding an entry without a source is extremely easy.) 

I think that making statements about the overall reliability of the Family Tree are not helpful. Vast parts of the Family Tree have been extensively documented and are as reliable as any historical record can be. The one caveat to this conclusion is the reality that even totally reliable and sourced entries are not immune to senseless change by someone who has not reviewed the existing sources and adds none of their own. Therefore, the reliability of the Family Tree is swallowed up by its unpredictability. Even though I have an entry (a person) in the Family Tree whose information is completely supported by reliable sources, the person's entry could be changed anytime by someone who doesn't even bother to read the existing sources to determine if the entry accurately reflects the content of the sources provided. 

Wikipedia is a monitored wiki. That means that the Wikipedia staff and volunteers are constantly watching for changes and giving notice of an entry that is not substantiated. See Wikipedia:Core content policies. Core content policies for the Family Tree do not exist. In fact, part of the core content of the Family Tree is diametrically opposite those of Wikipedia. Here is what Wikipedia says about original research. 

No original research (WP:NOR) – Wikipedia does not publish original thought: all material in Wikipedia must be attributable to a reliable, published source. Articles may not contain any new analysis or synthesis of published material that serves to advance a position not clearly advanced by the sources.

You don't have to look very far to find information in the Family Tree that contains a new analysis or synthesis of published material that serves to advance a position not clearly advanced by the sources. See all the changes made to the Mayflower passengers for a real-time example. 

Could the Family Tree become accurate? Probably, if there were some core content policies and there was some way of monitoring and enforcing those policies. The overriding question is whether or not core content policies will ever be adopted or enforced or even considered.

Tuesday, August 9, 2022

Another New Rule of Genealogy

 Rule Number Fifteen of the Rules of Genealogy: Germany in 1864 is not a place.

Well, obvious, you might say, but do U.S. Census records lie? I guess so because if you go to the 1870 U.S. Federal Census, you can see a lot of people from a place that doesn't exist. Just for the record. Here is a quote to help with the issue. 
Until 1871, Germany had been divided into dozens of small states. This was the old Holy Roman Empire of the German nation, which had existed for 900 years when it finally collapsed under Napoleonic pressure. This was also known as the old Reich, or the First Reich (Reich is the German term for empire). See:,the%20German%20term%20for%20empire). 

This Rule is about accurately recording the place that events occurred as it was known at the time.  

Friday, August 5, 2022

Universal vs Private Family Trees: Pros and Cons


This is a blog post spoiler. When you weigh the pros and cons of universal family trees against those of private family trees, the universal tree always wins. By no means, am I undertaking to compare individual programs, the issues I see of overriding importance duplication of effort and preservation. As I have written many times previously, if you privatize your genealogical research you are almost certainly insuring its loss. I have never been able to understand how ownership became an issue with genealogical research. The reason why I come back to this topic from time to time is usually based on someone telling me why they can't share their research or their pedigree or whatever. See

Here is the list of reasons why a universal family tree, despite their inherent failings will always be a better idea that a closed, private family tree. I'll start off with private family trees.

Pros of a private family tree

1. The person who "owns" the private family tree is totally responsible and answerable for its content. 

2. All changes are predictable because only one person (or a very small number of people) can make any changes. 

3. The owner of the private tree does not have to answer to anyone about the content or accuracy of the incorporated information. 

Cons of a private family tree

1. There is a very high probability that when the owner dies, the information contained in the family tree will be lost. 

2. If the private family tree is not lost, it is also probable that anyone who inherits the information will consider it to be the Truth about the family and any errors will be perpetuated for many more generations. 

3. Because a private family tree is not, by design, cooperative, it is also possible that the information found and incorporated by the owner is incomplete and may also be inaccurate.  I make this comment because of the many times my own entries in public family trees have been corrected or added to. 

Pros of a universal, cooperative, source-supported family tree

1. Duplication of effort is minimized with all the information available to all users. 

2. Open wiki-based websites have a tendency to become more accurate over time because any information entered can be verified or changed by any user. 

3. A cooperative family tree can ultimately contain more information than any privately maintained family tree. 

4. Depending on the sponsor, information is preserved even when a user dies. 

Cons of a universal, cooperative, source-supported family tree

1. Users' frustration level is high because of claims to ownership of genealogical information. 

2. Specific changes can be arbitrary and inaccurate because of differing levels of expertise. 

3.  Resolution of real historical controversies is difficult because of the universal nature of the venue.

The solution to deciding between a private and a public universal family tree is mainly resolved by individuals using both venues. If a genealogist wishes to make their information private, they should take steps to prevent loss of their work after death. 

By the way, dead people very limited post-mortem privacy. See Post-mortem privacy for a start.

Despite any perceived or real shortcomings of universal, cooperative, source-supported family trees, I am strong advocate for their use, including the Family Tree,, and

Wednesday, August 3, 2022

Unrehearsed Genealogy Research #19: Confirming family in 19th-century England

As I have written recently, most of my work is now in producing videos. Here is the latest Goldie May Unrehearsed Genealogy Research #19: Confirming family in 19th-century England

James & Richard look at an ancestor in 19th-century England, analyzing existing records to confirm what's present on the FamilySearch Family Tree.

0:00 Intro 0:42 Looking at an English ancestor 1:05 Birth record in 19th century England? Christening records were more common. 2:37 Purposely following same procedure in our research 4:15 Mapping the locations 5:28 Google Maps Street View 7:50 The 1841 census image 11:57 Birth date confirmed 12:23 English church records can come from multiple levels/jurisdictions 13:18 Beware common names in England 15:55 Someone with apprentice and servants had some financial means 18:05 Possible duplicate 20:40 Open a 2nd copy of FamilySearch to compare records to sources 24:05 Which records support the birth date? 26:20 Sibling could have similar birth record on Ancestry 28:15 Conclusion: Always check locations, beware common names, use the entire record

Sunday, July 31, 2022

Using the Internet Archive for Serious Genealogical Research

You may have noticed that I am doing a lot more videos than blog posts. This video shows how the fantastic Internet Archive or can be used for serious genealogical research. I have found that I get more viewers than I do readers, so I am spending my time doing an average of about three new videos a week. For example, I did the following video in a Facebook Live broadcast about French records for on July 13, 2022 and it now has over 4,000 views. See

The last few weeks, I have been doing Live Research videos for the BYU Family History Library. You can see 1. Case Studies Live On Air So far, there will be three videos in this series. Maybe more in the future. 

I am also doing a series of how-to videos about the digitization and scanning equipment at the BYU Family History Library. For example, see Introduction to the Plustek OpticBook A300 Plus Scanner

It looks like I will be continuing to broadcast from two to three or more a week until the end of 2022. 

You can see most of the videos on the BYU Family History Library YouTube Channel and on the Goldie May YouTube Channel

You really need to check out the BYU YouTube Channel. Of course, I am merely one of the many people posting videos online. The BYU Family History Library usually posts four or five or more a week. 

You can also see the BYU Instructional Videos by category. See

Wednesday, July 27, 2022

Unrehearsed Genealogy Research #18: Does John Willson have one wife or two?

James & Richard evaluate existing research for John Willson and his two wives, children, and parents. They look at Google and Internet Archive for relevant books, wondering if John was a loyalist during the U.S. Revolutionary War.

We now have a table of contents to various parts of the video.

0:00 Intro
0:34 Problem description: Does John Willson have one or two wives?
2:08 Analyze the two women's lives
5:07 Check the children's births 
8:02 Check relationship to parents
10:48 Maybe they were loyalists during Revolutionary War?
12:50 Check Findmypast for surname popularity in Ireland and England
14:10 Check descendants for existing research and opportunities
17:52 Discussing the FamilySearch "No Children" feature
19:48 Searching for books on Google and Internet Archive

Wednesday, July 20, 2022

MyHeritage adds 22 Historical Record Collections since June first

 Actually, there may be more than 22 new collections because this post is being written during the month of July 2022. Here is a screen shot of the Collection Catalog from showing part of the list of the new collections. 

Here is part of the official announcement from the blog post. See for the full list. 

We are proud to announce that we added 22 record collections with 12.8 million historical records from across the globe, including the U.S., Canada, Belgium, France, Italy, Norway, Portugal, Spain, and Ukraine. Many of the collections include images and contain vital records such as birth, baptism, marriage, death, cemetery, emigration, and census records. Some of the collections go back as early as the 16th century. If you have roots in any of these countries, you may find valuable discoveries about your ancestors. 

I probably need to mention that MyHeritage now has the 1950 US Census for free with 13,866,782 searchable records.  

Tuesday, July 19, 2022

2. Case Studies Live On Air - James Tanner (17 Jul 2022)

This is the second in the series of case studies submitted by anyone interested in having the analysis of a genealogical problem discussed online. This study is interesting because it deals with an end-of-line situation and also involves a family that apparently moved from Virginia to Kentucky and then to Indiana in the late 1700s to mid 1800s. Although the study does not come to any firm conclusions, during preparation for the class, a will was found that identified with more certainty the family members. 

Wednesday, July 13, 2022

Goldie May Live and Unrehearsed Genealogy Research #16: Looking female ancestor's maiden name

Episode 16 of the Goldie May Live and Unrehearsed Genealogy Research series is now online. In this episode we take on the task of trying to find an ancestor's maiden name. We work through many of the possibilities where research might show up a maiden name. The purpose of this series is to show how genealogical problems might be solved by looking at the available records. We don't want to spend the time actually doing the research in a video because that would be like watching grass grow, but we do try to come up with possible solutions assuming the research is completed. 

We hope you like this format but we are always open to suggestions. 

All of the videos are also on my own YouTube Channel.

Tuesday, July 12, 2022

New Goldie May Live and Unrehearsed Genealogy Research: Multiple Episodes Episode 15

I was out of town and got behind in posting additional Unrehearsed Genealogy Research: Multiple Episodes from Goldie May. Here are the links to the ones I missed. Episode 12 Episode 13 Episode 14

These three episodes feature Richard Miller working with Nicole Elder Dyer from Research Like a Pro available on the Family Locket website. Nicole works with her mother, Diana Elder, AG. They also have a regular Podcast

As we continue to do research videos, you will find a wealth of very specific research information in every episode. 

Can we preserve the integrity of the Family Tree?


The Family Tree is a marvelous resource. It has the potential to become a standard universal wiki-based family tree. However, there are serious issues with any large wiki-based project that must be addressed to maintain informational integrity. There is a precarious balance between open participation and accuracy. Most large, online cooperative websites, such as Wikipedia, are source centric. In addition, However, Wikipedia actively notifies users when information is unsupported by sources or is incomplete. Here is a quote from the article, Wikipedia: Quality Control

Quality control is essential to Wikipedia. To maintain articles of acceptable quality, it is necessary to improve the quality of existing material, and remove material of irreparably poor quality.

The article further points out the following:

But mistakes sometimes occur. These, and the damage done by the bad apples mentioned above, need continuous attention. The three ways that Wikipedia maintains its quality control is as follows: (a) A great deal of Wikipedia's volunteers' effort is applied to quality control. Wikipedia has an elaborate disciplinary system for handling vandals and other troublemakers, and a dedicated force of system administrators to enforce the Wikipedia community's decisions and policies – admins even have the power to block a bad apple permanently. (b) Once material is added to Wikipedia, an army of volunteers organized under various departments check and recheck it to make sure it conforms to the high standards set forth in Wikipedia's policies and guidelines (which were established specifically with the creation of quality articles in mind). There are departments for everything from typos to factual errors. For a list, see Wikipedia:Maintenance. (c) And Wikipedia even has robots, automated users that monitor for errors and correct them automatically. For example, these days most vandalism is fixed by Wikipedia's robots, or our content editors, who are watching your every move. Be careful. 

Now let's think about the FamilySearch Family Tree. Which of the integrity preserving activities outlined by Wikipedia have been implemented for the Family Tree? 

Basically, the Family Tree is an unsupervised, open field for any type of change and any level of accuracy imaginable. The only moderating factor is that some users can "follow" entries in the Family Tree and make corrections. No one and no organization monitors the followers. Good, substantiated information providing birth, marriage, and death events are frequently changed by unsupported and speculative information. For an example see "My Revolving Door Ancestor: Francis Cooke.

There seems to be a dichotomy in the Family Tree between those who recognize the need to maintain the integrity of the Family Tree and those who are afraid the "average user" will be excluded by any such efforts. For example, it has been proposed many times that some restrictions be imposed on entering unsourced information. This suggestion always incurs the response that any restriction on entering any data in Family Tree would discourage people from entering information that they know about their immediate family members. For example, the question arises about entering information derived from oral histories. Some efforts in standardizing information have already been implemented, such as standardizing dates and places, but let me give give some hypothetical examples of how a system might work that would differentiate between initial entries and changes. 

Let's suppose I was a completely new and unknowledgeable person who wished to begin entering information about my deceased parents and siblings. Let's further suppose that I only have a limited amount of information about my family. The Family Tree should, of course, allow me to enter what I know about my own family. However, why not put that information into a specialized category. These initial entries, where there are no sources, could be shown to be lacking in sources, the same way date and place entries are shown to be non-standard. This would encourage the entry of sources without discouraging entries altogether. Additionally, personal knowledge should be considered to be a source. 

Now let's suppose another situation. Let's suppose I have been doing genealogical research for years and have contributed thousands of source supported entries. The existing system in the Family Tree will list all the pertinent sources supporting a Vitals section entry if someone tries to change any of the entries. An attempt to change existing sourced information indicates how many people are following the changed individual and how many have contributed information to the individual. Why are these entries not treated differently that those made by novice users? Why can anyone, without supplying a source or a reason make changes to existing entries when sources are listed? For example, if you refer to the entries for Francis Cooke LZ2F-MM7, referenced above, and view the change log, you will see that the change log contains hundreds, if not thousands of changes including adding parents without citing a source to support a child/parent relationship with the person added. Recently, for another example, someone added Richard Cooke (b. before 1530 - d. 3 October 1579) the son of Anthony Cooke (b. 1504 - d. 1576) as the father of Francis Cooke LZ2F-MM7. There was no source cited showing a connection between Richard and Francis. It was also apparent from the entries already in the Family Tree that Francis was born about 1583, after both Richard Cooke and his father are listed as dying. Why does the Family Tree allows such a change to be made and thereby force someone following Francis Cooke to correct the mistake? 

From my experience with the Family Tree, I see thousands of changes being made to people without a modicum of an attempt to provide a source for a parent/child relationship or for any other changes made. This includes changes such as the one for Francis Cooke where simply looking at the dates would obviate the need for a change.  Adding and accurately correcting information should not be considered a change but in the case of people such as Francis Cooke LZ2F-MM7, no changes should be allowed at all. Now, FamilySearch can and does make some entries Read Only. However, other than protecting a narrow arbitrary class of people from changes, read only entries are parsimoniously distributed. Why not monitor the number of changes made to one individual, such as Francis Cooke, and make him or her read only if a certain number of changes were made per week or month? In the last week there have been 24 changes, including corrections, made to Francis Cooke LZ2F-MM7. Why is this acceptable? 

The main effect of allowing wholesale changes to the Family Tree without discriminating about whether or not they are warranted is to discourage a significant number of people from using or being involved in the Family Tree at all and also forcing people who could be productively working on adding substantiated information to spend an inordinate amount of time correcting unnecessary changes. How about having a possible "Verified" status that would prevent unsourced information from being added to those individuals. 

I need to mention that adding a source is not a change. Correcting entries that need correcting is also not change. How do we know the difference between a change and a contribution? Presently, there are almost no internal systems for the Family Tree that prevent or even slow down constant and monumental numbers of unsupported changes. If nothing is done to prevent the escalation of these changes the Family Tree will become almost completely unreliable and far less useful than it could become. 

This is only the beginning of my discussion about this subject. Here is a list of some of the previous blog posts about this same subject. 

Friday, July 8, 2022

Celebrating 40 years of Genealogy


Back in 1982, my genealogical journey began with the traditional "survey" of what had been done in my family. I was vaguely aware that I had a large family and that much of the compilation of information about my ancestors and relatives had already been "done." In fact, I was aware of several books about different family lines. I knew that two of my great-grandmothers had worked on our genealogy for years. Little did I know that I was setting off into a "fire swamp" of research with many more dangers than the original one with rodents of unusual size. 

Fifteen or so years later, I had accumulated a pile of copied family group records between three and four feet high and entered about 16,000 or so names into the computer genealogy programs of day. Even after that first 15 years, my efforts to accumulate source-supported information about my expanding family was just starting to scratch the surface. I was becoming painfully aware of the realities of inheriting a huge accumulation of previously done genealogy: duplicates, lack of cited sources, and inaccurate entries. 

In all that time, I really could not claim to have found one new person because I was still finding out what others in my family had already accumulated. However, I did begin to understand how much I did not know about doing genealogical research. So, I slowly began learning what I needed to know to actually do original research. My first enlightenment came from a book I have referenced several times in the past.

Greenwood, Val D. 2000. The researcher's guide to American genealogy. Baltimore, MD: Genealogical Pub. Co.

Reading this book cover to cover gave me a glimpse of the huge amount of information I did not know about genealogy. I started reading every book I could find about how to do genealogy. I soon realized that I needed a more structured approach so I started enrolling in Brigham Young University distance learning classes. These turned out to be the most difficult and involved classes I had ever taken despite my advanced degrees. I kept taking classes for about five years. I was supposed to get some kind of certificate but I had taken classes for so long, BYU had discontinued the certificate program. But by then, I had a better idea about how much I still had to learn. 

Up to this time, about the year 2000 or so, I first became aware of the larger, world-wide genealogical community. Up to this point in time, I did not know people had genealogical conferences and that there were people online on the relatively new internet who were interested in genealogy. In fact, I had never really talked to anyone in person about genealogy. There was seemingly no one around me, including my family, who was even vaguely interested in genealogy as a pursuit. They were content to rely on the books that had already been written. 

With the internet, suddenly, I realized that there were lots of people (relatively speaking) who were working on genealogical research. The BYU classes made me aware of the traditional structured approach to genealogical research and I began to understand where all the records were possibly located. However, my own genealogy was still in the copy and correct stage. What I needed was a quicker way to determine what had and what had not been done by someone else. 

As time passed, I began writing online. I started this blog with my first post on 21 November 2008. At the same time genealogy began to grow exponentially on the internet. By the way, the name of this blog was intended to be consistent with the many newspapers in the United States with the term "Star" in their name. Such as one of the prominent newspapers in my state, the Tucson Arizona Daily Star. See When I realized the more commonly understood name, it was too late to make a change. 

The rest of the story is online in over 6000 blog posts, hundreds of videos, and thousands of classes and consultations. As you know, old genealogists never die... (you fill in the ending to this one). 

There are a few things I have learned over the years. First, there are always more records meaning there are always more people to find. People are getting born faster than any of us or all of us can find them. I also learned the genealogists are, almost without exception, some of the nicest people in the world. The best part of genealogy is meeting people and interacting with them. Since the total number of relatives I now have through DNA testing is growing into the hundreds of thousands, I am beginning to understand that I am related to everyone now living on the earth and so I will never finish my genealogy. 

Hope you can stay around with me for a few more years. 

Monday, July 4, 2022

The Sixth Rule of Genealogy -- A Short Video

Rule Number Six is “Records Move.”  Upon reflection, it is quite easy for even experienced genealogical researchers to find themselves in a situation where they ignore and are trapped by one of these basic rules of genealogy.  One common situation addressed by Rule Six while researching in the United States, involves the so-called "burned counties."

Rule six refers most directly to "paper" records. The actual, physical recording of events. The movement of the records commonly occurs when records are gathered to a "centralized" repository or when people immigrate from country to country or place to place. A good example of this rule is the entire United States Archives and Records Administration. This federal agency has vast warehouses of records parodied in the movie starring Harrison Ford called Raiders of the Lost Ark. 

See this link for a list of all of the Rules.

Friday, July 1, 2022

Descendants Of The Signers Of The Declaration Of Independence on has added about 18,000 records documenting the descendants of the fifty-six men who signed the United States Declaration of Independence. Quoting from the website, 

These records document the descendants of these 56 men and offer a standardized lineage, which allows family historians to determine any possible connection to the Signers. The most famous is undoubtedly John Hancock, the President of the Continental Congress, who chose to sign in large letters. It is also signed by two future Presidents: Thomas Jefferson and John Adams. Benjamin Harrison V was the father and great-grandfather of two other presidents, Edward Rutledge was the youngest at age 26, and at age 70, Benjamin Franklin was the oldest. Many had familial connections to Britain, Ireland, Scotland and Wales.

The signers were:

Adams, John

Adams, Samuel

Bartlett, Josiah

Braxton, Carter

Carroll, Charles

Chase, Samuel

Clark, Abraham

Clymer, George

Ellery, William

Floyd, William

Franklin, Benjamin

Gerry, Elbridge

Gwinnett, Button

Hall, Lyman

Hancock, John

Harrison, Benjamin

Hart, John

Hewes, Joseph

Heyward Jr., Thomas

Hooper, William

Hopkins, Stephen

Hopkinson, Francis

Huntington, Samuel

Jefferson, Thomas

Lee, Francis Lightfoot

Lee, Richard Henry

Lewis, Francis

Livingston, Philip

Lynch Jr., Thomas

McKean, Thomas

Middleton, Arthur

Morris, Lewis

Morris, Robert

Morton, John

Nelson Jr., Thomas

Paca, William

Penn, John

Read, George

Rodney, Caesar

Ross, George

Rush, Benjamin

Rutledge, Edward

Sherman, Roger

Smith, James

Stockton, Richard

Stone, Thomas

Taylor, George

Thornton, Matthew

Treat Paine, Robert

Walton, George

Whipple, William

Williams, William

Wilson, James

Witherspoon, John

Wolcott, Oliver

Wythe, George

The images in this collection come from the Frank Willing Leach Collection, housed at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania.

According to Relative Finder ( I am related to about 34 of the signers. I am assuming that one or two of these potential connections might be correct. 

Thursday, June 30, 2022

MyHeritage's Theory of Family Relativity™ is updated with 25,636,711 Theories


The Theories of Family Relativity™ pull together billions of data points across family tree profiles and historical records to provide theories of how you and your DNA matches could be related. I currently have 196 such matches. The main value of these "theories" is to supplement and confirm the data I have accumulated over the past 40 years. Some of the paths examine relationships that connect through my 3rd Great-grandfathers or Grandmothers. I must admit that many of the people I am matched to are complete strangers and I would never have guessed a relationship absent a DNA test. 

To take advantage of this service you most certainly need a family tree on the MyHeritage website and also have a MyHeritage DNA test or have uploaded the DNA data from another test. You can learn more about this feature from the following video from website.

Using the Theory of Family Relativity™ to Research DNA Matches by Ran Snir

Friday, June 24, 2022

Plan ahead now for RootsTech 2023 in person and online

For many of us, as we grow older, our world seems to contract. The past three years of the pandemic have certainly added to the contraction. Being online has its advantages but it is a poor substitute for meeting with people in person. I have had contact with hundreds, perhaps thousands of people online over the past couple of years, but my in-person interaction has dwindled to close to zero. It has also been sad to watch some of my friends pass on. 

Now, we have one bright spot on the near horizon. RootsTech 2023 will have an in-person component. Some of us will be able to get together again during the week of March 2 - 4, 2023. We will have to wait and see how all this will look like and barring another international disaster, we just might get to see each other in Salt Lake City, Utah in a few months. 

Wednesday, June 22, 2022

BYU Family History Library Weekday Classes

The BYU Family History Library is expanding its classes on weekdays. This is in addition to the Sunday Classes and Thursday evening webinars. Here is a copy of the current schedule but check the website ( for any additions or changes to the class schedule. Because the BYU Family History Library is part of the main Harold B. Lee Library on campus, we are subject to the academic schedule of school and holidays. 

Here are the upcoming classes. 

Family History Classes (day and time may vary)

Computer Tips | Research | Indexing

Join Email List Sign up to receive class updates.

Computer Tips & Tricks

Tuesdays and Thursday 3:00 p.m. Mountain Time

with Elder Van Celaya

Format: Q&A and open discussion with the presenter. These classes are not recorded.

Join via the Virtual Family History Help Desk (on Zoom) at the specified time. A greeter will direct you to the class breakout room.

Jewish Genealogy Research

Tuesdays 12:30 p.m. Mountain Time

with Elder Larry Bassist

June 28th – Jewish Genealogy: Getting Started

Format: Lecture with Q&A at the end.

Class recordings will be posted in the Virtual Classes Archive.

Join via Zoom at the specified time. You may also join in-person at the Family History Classroom at the BYU Family History Library.

Scotland Research

Fridays 12:30 p.m. Mountain Time

with Sister Erika Ward

July 8th – Where did your Scottish Ancestors live?  Understanding UK Geography & Census Records.

July 15th – Where did your Scottish ancestors’ worship?  Using Scotland Church Records to find Births, Marriages, and Deaths.

July 29th – What official records exist about your Scottish Ancestors?  Searching Scotland Government Vital Records.

August 5th – When did my Scottish Ancestors move? Understanding Scottish Immigration and Emigration Records.

Format: Lecture with Q&A at the end.

Class recordings will be posted in the Virtual Classes Archive.

Join via Zoom at the specified time. You may also join in-person at the Family History Classroom at the BYU Family History Library.


1st Thursday of the Month 6:00 & 7:00 p.m. Mountain Time

with Sister Michelle Templeman

6:00 p.m. – Beginner’s Class

7:00 p.m. – Advanced Class

Information on FamilySearch Indexing and help with indexing, including foreign language indexing, especially French, Spanish, Italian and Portuguese. Helpful for indexing other languages as well.

Format: Instruction with open discussion and Q&A. These classes are not recorded.

Join via the Virtual Family History Help Desk (on Zoom) at the specified time. A greeter will direct you to the class breakout room.

Use the Virtual Help Desk to ask questions about any of the scheduled classes.