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

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.