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

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