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

Monday, January 31, 2022

Watch for the 1950 U.S. Census Project

Indexing the 1940 U.S. Census Project involved tens of thousands of volunteers. Here is a description of the project from the FamilySearch 1950 United States Census website

FamilySearch and Ancestry, working with genealogy societies, other organizations, and an army of volunteers, will create a searchable index to these records. This index will then enable experiences to help you find your own family members in these records. If you were alive in 1950, you will even be able to find yourself and refresh your memory of this time in history.

Join thousands of volunteers as we all work together to provide a rich and detailed index of every person living in the United States in 1950. Starting with a computer-generated index provided by Ancestry, you can help ensure the index is complete and accurate by reviewing and improving what has been done through automation.

The index will be created by Optical Character Recognition and Handwriting Recognition programs by  The volunteers will be spot-checking the results. Both OCR and Handwriting Recognition have advanced to the point where the time spent in indexing is being incredibly compressed. 

From my perspective, this will be the first Census I will appear in. I am not sure that is an honor of any kind. 

3-Time World Champion Boxer Samuel Azumah Nelson featured at RootsTech Virtual 2022

3-Time World Champion Boxer Samuel Azumah Nelson has been added to the lineup of Keynote Speakers at the upcoming RootsTech Virtual 2022 Conference from March 3 - 5, 2022. 

Quoting from the above blog post, 
Boxing is a sport that demands grit and determination, but those characteristics don’t appear from nowhere. Just ask Africa’s greatest boxing legend, Samuel Azumah Nelson and a RootsTech 2022 keynote speaker (3–5 March 2022). He credits his ancestors for endowing him with the qualities that carried him to 3 featherweight world championships and a place in the International Boxing Hall of Fame.

“I need to show you where my courage and determination to succeed came from” he declared. “I am a proud Ghanaian with a Tabon DNA, power, and spirit. You must be interested in your family history and to live the values it represents.”

There’s a lot behind the Tabon affiliation that is a major part of Azumah’s story for attendees of RootsTech 2022 (March 3–5, 2022). The Tabon people were former slaves in Brazil. With the abolishment of slavery in the late 1800s, 7 families banded together and made their way back to the homelands from which their ancestors had been taken. The Asuman family, who later changed their name to Nelson, were among the leaders of the group.

 You can register now for free at

Introducing (again) FamilySearch GEDCOM 7.0


Going on for three years, I have been working on a committee that is helping to develop an upgraded version of GEDCOM. The last major release, Version 5.5 of the GEDCOM Standard was in 1996. A modification of the GEDCOM Standard, Version 5.5.1, in November of 2019. After years of work and input from the larger genealogical community, a new Standard, Version 7.0.0 was prepared for release and Version 7.0.2 was officially released in June of 2021. GEDCOM 7.0 is not a program, per se, but a standard way of exchanging data between different genealogy programs and websites. 

We have been preparing videos outlining the changes and additions to the Standard for RootsTech Virtual 2022. There will be a lot of presentations and videos at the conference but there will also be a way to search for specific topics and videos. We will also be holding a live online Q&A session during the Conference. 

You can read about the new GEDCOM Version 7.0 in the blog linked above. 

Thursday, January 27, 2022

Free and unlimited use of MyHeritage Photo Tools for Limited Time is offering free and unlimited use of MyHeritage In Color™, Photo Enhancer, and Photo Repair from January 24 to February 5, 2022! You should take advantage of this opportunity to apply these fabulous tools to your old black and white photos. The results will sometimes astonish you. 

You may also want to read the following blog post about the improved color restoration process in this blog post.

Improved Color Restoration for Photos on MyHeritage

Friday, January 21, 2022

You can't take it with you!


Over the years of being involved in the larger genealogical community, I have found people who are overly protective of their own genealogical research. Sometimes, this protection extends to the extent that they will not allow anyone to copy or in some extreme cases, even view their accumulation of information about their family. They often justify this position by explaining that they are writing a book about their genealogy which some of them actually do. Their relatives soon learn that genealogy in their family is something done by this person and therefore there is no need for them to be interested at all. Of course, when the books are finally published, no one wants to buy or read the book. 

In the now closed Mesa Family History Library in Mesa, Arizona, where I volunteered for about ten years, we had a section of about 1500 or so surname or family books. These books were eventually, for the most part, transferred to the Salt Lake City, Utah Family History Library. Many of these books have now been digitized and are available on the website. However, many of the authors of these books extended their protection of their work by adding a copyright notice. In these cases, even though the books are fully digitized and posted online, relatives of the author cannot view the contents unless they can find a paper copy of the book. 

Most of these surname books are self-published. There is even a minor industry of companies that specialize in publishing this type of book. Generally, the cost of publishing a small run of hard-bound books increases the cost of each copy beyond what most relatives are willing to pay. Some of these books are now listed on Amazon and other book sellers with individual volumes in the hundreds of dollars. Here is an example.

This ad states that there are two used copies available from $999.00. Hmm. Guess what? I have two cases of these books in my basement. How does that happen? The author realizes after a short exploration of the cost of publishing his or her book that it is going to be very expensive. So, the author approaches the more affluent of his or her relatives for a subsidy with the promise that their photo and their story will be prominently displayed in the book. Other relatives are offered the book and told that they can then give copies of the book to their children and grandchildren. What remains unsaid is that the contents of the book are borrowed primarily from earlier family books that are likely already online on some website or another. However, in this particular case, the author or whoever now owns the copyright, can release that copyright claim and allow the book to be not only digitized by made available to anyone who wants to read it. Here is the digital copy of the same book on Notwithstanding the fact that the book is digitized and on the website, some viewers may not be able to view the book due to either copyright or other restrictions. 

In addition, much of the genealogical content of this particular book is also available in this book. 

As I have written in the past, there is a tremendous value in searching for and finding such a book, but it is always necessary to spend time checking the sources of information provided. This second book is mostly accurate but contains some problematical conclusions about the family's ancestry that have caused a great deal of confusion and conflict. 

By the way, copies of this second book which is now out of copyright protection sell for amounts such as this online in both original and reprint copies. 

However, hardbound copy can cost more. 

But what about the original book? What would that cost bearing in mind that the book is digitized and freely available online? The answer is that, as far as I could determine, all of the copies of this book for sale were copies of the original. Maybe a collector might be interested in an original copy even when both paper and digital copies are available. 

Now, back to the issue of the protective genealogist. This pattern of protection often includes putting a private family tree online. The excuse for this is often that their work is in progress, and they don't want to publish their findings publicly until they come to a conclusion. 

In all these instances, the overriding fact of life is that these genealogists will die (as we all will) and most, if not all their work, will be lost. The reason for this loss lies in the protected nature of their research. Unless the information is freely shared with all of the relatives who might be even slightly interested, it is likely that no one in the family will value the work that has been done and will simply throw it in the trash when the genealogist dies. 

Sharing the work, especially sharing the work online on a family tree such as the Family Tree, at least gives the relatives a chance to become interested. Maybe you are like one of these artists who create works that disappear after a short time and you don't care if all your work is lost, but if you do care, you might want to start making your work generally available for others to copy. Afterall, you are all descendants of the same people. No one owns their ancestors.

If you do have the urge to publish a surname or descendancy book, remember to specifically waive any and all rights to a copyright. You just might end up having more people read your work than you would otherwise. 

Thursday, January 20, 2022

Genealogy on

I wrote recently about the Brigham Young University Family History Library YouTube Channel, but I need to point out that there are hundreds of other active genealogy related YouTube channels. Some of us learn through reading while others learn more graphically. I learn best by watching someone explain and then trying what I learn myself. I can also learn from books, but it takes longer, and I lose the ability to immediately try things myself. I use YouTube for everything from fixing my car to solving questions while using a particular program. This applies to genealogy as well as any other subject. 

Now, how do we get started with YouTube? Let's ask a question and put the question in the YouTube search field.

Here is what I get from that search.

I may not want to view the first few videos, but as I scroll down, I find the following. 

Introduction to Scandinavian Genealogy

Everything else on YouTube works the same way. You search to answer a question and then you will likely find someone who has posted a video discussing the answer. 

I could do a long list of YouTube channels that talk about genealogy. Yes, The Family History Guide has a YouTube channel with almost 200 videos. Each of the genealogy companies also seems to have a channel also. You could keep watching for days if you had to recover from some illness or whatever. 

I like YouTube because it has solved so many problems for me, both trivial and serious. Maybe you need to stop watching the news on TV and start watching something that will help you find your ancestors. Just a. suggestion. 

Tuesday, January 18, 2022

Who should use The Family History Guide and why?

The Family History Guide has been around for some years now and is firmly established as a go-to genealogical and family history educational website. The entire contents of this still-growing website are free to all users. It is my experience that many of those genealogists and family historians who would use and support the website dismiss it without ever looking at its content for a variety of reasons. I thought I would write about some of the perceptions I have observed from people when I mention the website. 

First, the website really is free. It is not a freemium website that is trying to get you to pay for advanced or premium services. The Family History Guide is fully staffed by unpaid volunteers and is funded by donations. See The Family History Guide Association. We encourage donations because without them we cannot participate in conferences such as RootsTech 2022 Virtual which is coming up shortly after the date of this post. One way you can donate is to use when you order items on Amazon. This is exactly the same website as Amazon but a small percentage of your purchases goes to the charity of your choice. This is a painless way of donating to The Family History Guide but we also appreciate direct donations. 

Another common misconception about the website is that it is just for beginners. This is most commonly a perception among established and professional level genealogists. This belief is one of the most obvious indicators that the genealogist has not yet looked or explored the website. One of the basic research helps that aspiring genealogists are encouraged to accumulate by the professional genealogical community is a research outline of the basic resources for the geographic areas of the world where the new genealogist will be doing research. These outlines usually appear in the form of three-ring binders full of paper. Guess what? All of that work in compiling an outline is almost completely done by the Countries section of The Family History Guide. Here is a sample page. 

This section on England contains hundreds of links to information about and the location of valuable genealogical records already organized by topic and geographic location. Not only does this particular section and all the other about other countries of the world contain link to general resources, each of the English counties has its own section of links and documents. 

If you happen to be helping someone with their research, you can show them the Country section and they will then have a whole course of references with articles and videos to help them learn how to do their research. Without going into more detail, The Family History Guide website has detailed instructions and finding aids for every major country in the world where genealogical records can be found. It also has specialized section on ethnic and religious groups. 

One of the most useful functions of The Family History Guide website is to provide step-by-step instructions for each of the large online genealogical websites such as FamilySearch, Ancestry, MyHeritage, and Findmypast.There is an inherent tendency for many people to ignore the instructions whether it is for a recent purchase or when trying to learn a now topic. The instructions in The Family History Guide are there to show you how to get started with all of these websites. Anyone who wants to learn how to use these websites will benefit from the step-by-step instructions and videos. 

Some genealogists struggle for hours, days, weeks or even years with research problems when the resources to help them move beyond these difficulties are available on The Family History Guide website. It sometimes seems like spending time learning is time wasted from actually doing genealogy but that is simply not true. We only progress by learning and since The Family History Guide is at the core of learning, we should be using this tool to help us progress. 

There are probably a lot more misconceptions but these are sufficient for now. Please take some time to explore The Family History Guide website. 

Friday, January 14, 2022

Don't Forget the Brigham Young University Family History Library YouTube Channel

At the time of this post, we now have 629 videos on the Brigham Young University Family History Library YouTube Channel and we have had over 1 million views of our videos. I know a million or so views on YouTube is not very remarkable, but for a genealogy oriented channel it is quite and accomplishment. Here is my latest video as an example. 

How does the FamilySearch Catalog work? with James Tanner (06 January 2022)

We have dozens of wonderful contributors with a huge variety of topics. You can explore all the videos by clicking on the Videos link in the menu bar or you can see a list on the BYU Family History Library website in our Webinar Library.

This is an extensive resource for all things about genealogy and family history. 

Stranger Things Actor is Coming to RootsTech 2022!

 Quoting from the email announcement:

Two-time Golden Globe Nominee for Best Actor and star of the hit Netflix series Stranger Things, Matthew Modine is a well-known and celebrated Hollywood actor. His credits include Full Metal Jacket, The Dark Knight Rises and Cutthroat Island. According to Marian Garvey from CNN, Matthew Modine may be Hollywood’s most reliable touchstone.

At RootsTech, Matthew will share his story about how he became a Hollywood actor and how he connects to others through movies. You’ll also learn the fascinating story behind his family roots and why he has always been drawn to New York City. Don’t miss it!

During the week of RootsTech, I will be busy helping with about 48 twenty-minute consultations offered by the Salt Lake City Family History Library. I expect that most or nearly all of them will be in Spanish as they have been over the past year since RootsTech 2021. Because RootsTech 2022 will be entirely virtual and a the events and presentations recorded and subsequently available online, I will not miss anything that I want to view after my week of consultations. Take some time to register and attend for free.

Monday, January 10, 2022

About Accuracy in Genealogical Research


The fundamental issue with historical research (including genealogical research) is accuracy. How do you establish trust in the conclusions of a historical (i.e. genealogical) researcher? For the purposes of this post and from this point on, I will focus on genealogical research as a subset of historical research in general. 

Genealogical research relies entirely upon preserved and available historical records. Any record of events that includes information about individuals or families constitutes a potential genealogical record. It is tautological to state that the accuracy of genealogical conclusions relies entirely upon the accuracy of the original historical documents upon which the conclusions are based. Despite being tautological, much of what is recorded as "facts" about individuals and families is supported only by blindly accepting the accuracy of records that in and of themselves may not be accurate or is unsupported by any historic source or what is even worse, entirely lacks any reference to the source of the information. 

The most easily understood example of ignoring the accuracy of records is the blind acceptance of previously compiled family history much of which in contained in personally published family history books, old piles of family group sheets and pedigree charts, Personal Ancestral File data, and GEDCOM Files. On the website, much of this information is preserved in the vast Ancestral File collection of the same material. It is also important to note that the Ancestral File went into the initial seeding of what we have as the FamilySearch Family Tree. Of course, some of this information is accurate and valuable, but wholesale copying ignores the need to verify the information with actual historical sources. 

Let's start with some examples of what is and what is not an accurate record. Suppose that I find three birth records for the same named individual all of which contain different birth dates. My first response to this situation should be to question whether or not the records refer to three different individuals with the same name or are the same person with only one of the records being accurate. But let's further suppose that all three records appear to pertain to the same family. Which of the records, if any of them, is accurate? Now, let's suppose that these same records date back to the early 1800s in England. The explanation may not lie with the accuracy of the records at all, the real issue may be that when a child died in a family, the child's name was sometimes applied to subsequently born children of the same sex. This could happen two or even three times in the same family. So, each of the seemingly contradictory records really apply to three different children. Further research may show that two of the children or even all three died at a very young age. Before the research is done to find the death dates of all three of the children, any entry showing less than all three or even all three would be inaccurate. But what is most likely to happen is that each of the records was recorded without the knowledge of the other two. Individual use of the records would be correct but not complete. 

This example illustrates two different aspects of genealogical research, reliance on the historical record and understanding and interpreting the record in its historical context. At the most basic level, accuracy is merely the function of copying and integrating the information correctly. I have found that I can transpose the numbers in a date or spell the name differently than it appears in the historical document. However, we need to be aware that these same "scrivener's errors" occur regularly in historical documents. In Proverbs 11:14 it states:

Where there is no counsel, the people fall; But in the multitude of counselors there is safety.

I can paraphrase this quote as "where there is no historical source the research fails. But in a multitude of historical sources there is safety and accuracy."

A fairly high percentage of the entries that I see in online family trees do not have any citations to the sources where the information was obtained. Another huge percentage have only one citation. The degree of accuracy or the reliability of the information recorded is directly related to the cited sources supporting that information. Information in a family tree without a cited source is ipso facto unreliable and questionable. However, long lists of sources do not help when the records cited do not happen to contain the information entered into the individual's entry. For example, the issue of whether a person's parents have been correctly identified can be supported by a source record showing a parent/child relationship. Absent such a record, no matter how many other records are attached as sources, there is no support for adding parents for that individual. 

We all find that historical records disagree about the same events. When those apparent disagreements are not due to the historical context, we have to keep searching until we find enough information to make a validly supported conclusion. In some cases, we will inevitably find that we never resolve the lack of supporting information. In this case, we need to freely admit that we lack the information we need to draw a conclusion. What happens frequently in the context of online family trees is that individuals rely more on the reputation or believed reputation of the person supplying the information rather than they do upon the lack of support for the accuracy of the information they may have inherited. In these cases, it is better to simply acknowledge that the provider of the information had limited resources and many not have been correct. 

In any event, there is no excuse for entering information in a publicly available family tree that has not been found to be supported by consistent, contemporary, historical records.

Friday, January 7, 2022

RootsTech 2022 Virtual adds its first Keynote Speaker

Apollonia Poilâne is one of the best bread bakers in the world. She runs a well-known bakery in Paris and shares her baking skills with people around the world in recipe books and online baking classes.

From the announcement:

We are excited to announce that this year Apollonia Poilâne will be a keynote speaker at RootsTech Connect 2022. She is excited to share about how bread links people and creates bonds when you share it. You can learn more about Apollonia’s story of connection and baking from her inspiring keynote address at RootsTech Connect 2022 on 3–5 March, 2022.

Here is a link to "Apollonia Poilâne at RootsTech Connect 2022"

The first thing my wife said was that she would like to get one of her bread recipes. 

Thursday, January 6, 2022

The Return of What is a Source?


I looked back on the list of my blog titles and found that the last time I wrote about what is a source was in 2015. I wrote a very long blog post that few probably understood or read completely through. If you want to try, here is the link.

Time passes quickly when you are having fun and marching into old age. This particular subject applies to millions of online family trees and is probably the most misunderstood concept in genealogical research. I could, of course, take the position that I have already written all that there is to say on the subject of sources, but that would put me in the position of ignoring six years of changes since the last specific blog post. Considering that this is 2022, it is not unreasonable to return to an earlier topic. 

Let's get started. I will have to start with the definition of a genealogical (historical) source. I decided to rewrite my definition from the original blog post, so here is my current definition of a source. 

A "source" is a statement, usually written, that identifies the exact location where genealogical or historical information was found.

I may rework this definition in the future but it is sufficient for this particular blog post. 

Now, let's suppose that I am looking for information about a family member and I discover a book about the Shepherd families of New England. I find some new information about my particular relative that changes something or adds something to whatever I already know about this ancestor. So, I open my particular family tree program and either add or correct the existing information. Doing this, has little or no consequence if I am working on a desktop genealogy program or have a "private" family tree online, what I say or do is known only to myself and essentially, who cares? You might want to record where you go your information so that if you come back to that entry you can find the same information but then again, only you can decide if you want to take the time to record the "source" of you own private information. 

But this kind of privacy ignores the fact that you are related to a huge number of people and you are probably (better, very likely) to be duplicating the work that someone has done or might be doing during you inquiry. You will never know that you efforts in finding these gems of genealogical value are really quite useless. As it says in Ecclesiastes 3:1-2 of the King James Bible:
1 To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:
2 A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted; 

As these verses imply, all that you have done on your own "private and protected" family tree will just disappear when you die. Count on it!

So what should I do to preserve what I have researched about my family? Well, that is the main purpose of the Family Tree. It is a place where information can be stored and preserved for as long as anyone can imagine ever needing to look at that information. But you say, what about all the "changes" on the Family Tree. OK, so there are changes. However, FamilySearch already has another solution if you aren't up to working in an open family tree. You can preserve your entire file by downloading or uploading you file to FamilySearch Genealogies. Here you own precious (reference to LOTR) information will be stored indefinitely and available without possibility of change to anyone who might be interested. It can also be searched.

But now we have a different issue. You entered some information about one of your family members (in public or private) and now I am going to look at it and decide if I agree or not. If you tell me where you got the information, I am more likely to agree with you than not. But if I can't see where the information came from, I have to consider the information to be wrong, inaccurate, or a mistake until I spend the time to verify the information from the original source. You solve both your own problem of recording where you found the information and my problem of being able to see where you information came from by adding a source. Looking back at that book about the Shepherd Families of New England, here is what would be usually considered to be your source (or my source, or whatever).

Shepard, Gerald Faulkner, and Donald Lines Jacobus. 1971. The Shepard families of New England. New Haven: New Haven Colony Historical Society.

This is a perfectly good citation of a source using the following style accepted by most genealogists.

University of Chicago Press. 2017. The Chicago manual of style.

Although this type of reference is called a citation, it does not qualify as a source. A source would tell me where to obtain the information and with what is written in both these citations, I have no idea, without doing my own research, where I might get a copy of either. 

So what if I add this to the citation:

Shepard, Gerald Faulkner, and Donald Lines Jacobus. 1971. The Shepard families of New England. New Haven: New Haven Colony Historical Society.

I can click on the link and see the book. I have a source. Remember, a source is not just a citation to an authority, it is a statement telling me where you found your information. 

User Choice Awards for 2021 from


For the past 13 years, has been listing and ranking nearly all of the active and some of the inactive genealogy software programs. If you want to know what the users think of various programs, you should look at the reviews. You can also get some good ideas about what is really available in the greater genealogical community. Here is a screenshot of the website. 

You should take careful note of which programs are no longer supported by their developers. Old, out-of-date programs are still being used by some genealogists for a variety of reasons including that they are still working on older computer and operating systems. Some of the old programs may not run properly or at all on a newer computer. 

As far as I know, this is the only place where you can go to get a similar list of most, if not all, the genealogical software available. It is an extremely valuable service. 

The England and Wales 1921 Census is now on Findmypast

Quoting from the blog post announcement from "The 1921 Census is now online for the very first time."

 In partnership with The National Archives, the 1921 Census of England & Wales is now exclusively online at Findmypast.

After 100 years locked away, the highly-anticipated 1921 Census of England & Wales is now online and accessible for the very first time.

Here is some information about the census taken from the same blog post. 

Taken on June 19 1921 after being delayed by two months due to industrial unrest, the 1921 Census saw over 38,000 enumerators dispatched to every corner of England and Wales to capture the details of more than 38 million people. This included over 8.5 million households as well as all manner of public and private institutions ranging from prisons and military bases to public schools and workhouses.

The MyHeritage 2021 Year in Review


MyHeritage Year in Review

Here is a summary of some of the highlights of what was accomplished by during 2021 despite the lockdowns and limitations of the pandemic. See 2021: MyHeritage Year in Review

2021 was an exciting and challenging year. This year we saw private citizens jet off to space, COVID vaccines administered worldwide, major events slated for 2020 that took place a year late, and global supply chain issues that disrupted our lives. Through it all, these past two years have taught us that flexibility and resilience are key. 

Here at MyHeritage, we’ve been riding the rollercoaster with you and continuing to do what we do best: innovate to improve your experience on MyHeritage for easier and more successful family history discovery. 

We released several new photo features, cementing our position as the prime destination for uploading and sharing family photos. Our groundbreaking Deep Nostalgia™ feature that animates faces in still photos went completely viral, with millions of animations being created in just the first few days after its release. Thanks to Deep Nostalgia™, the MyHeritage mobile app made it to the very top of the App Store, and was the most popular free app in 22 countries! We also added multiple tools for making DNA Matches more useful and easier to work with. 

18 years after our founding, MyHeritage was acquired by Francisco Partners, a leading global investment firm. Francisco Partners are perfectly aligned with our mission and together we are working as hard as ever to improve the future of family history. 

MyHeritage is committed to adding historical records from around the world to further family history research. In August, we acquired Filae, a leading genealogy service in France. MyHeritage users have already enjoyed access to nearly one billion exclusive French historical records that have been added to MyHeritage as a result of this acquisition.

In 2021, our free, online, live genealogy webinar offerings continued full throttle, including weekly Ask the Expert sessions and hundreds of Facebook Lives in multiple languages. We celebrated the milestone of 150 Facebook Live sessions in English alone since 2020!

See the original blog post for an in-depth, month-by-month narrative of all of these important events. You might also note the photo for animation of me and my wife when we were first married. Yes, that is us.