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

Friday, July 21, 2023

The Great Migration of African Americans 1915-1970

The Great Migration between 1915 and 1970 when over 6 million African Americans moved from the Southern States to the North, is one of the most dramatic movements of people within United States that has ever occurred, and it is almost completely ignored by historians and is unknown to most genealogists.  My presentation focuses on the people and records from the 20th Century and the difficulty in connecting the individuals and families to the places they were living at the turn of the century. I also focus on discovering your ancestral heritage and how to acquire the skills and tools you need to research the existing historical records. I realize that for many researchers, extending research about African Americans into the 1800s is where the real difficulty begins. But success in doing research in the 1800s is predicated on complete and thorough research in the 1900s. Of course, I can only cover a limited amount of information in this presentation, but what I say here will be augmented by a six-video series and an extensive handout. My handout contains all the links to support the content of this presentation and the six supplemental videos and, in addition, an extensive bibliography.  I will include some limited references to the historical resources before 1900.

The handout is available on the BYU Family History Website. Here is the link to the handout. 

Monday, July 17, 2023

Ramping Up for RootsTech 2024

RootsTech 2024 is already beginning with monthly live presentations. July's theme is immigration. 

I am scheduled for September, and I am sure there will be announcements made shortly. This will be my 14th year as a blogger/ambassador/influencer and now media person at RootsTech. It is not too soon to begin making plans to attend in person. There are new hotels in the area of the Salt Palace in Salt Lake City but for RootsTech 2023, the nearby available rooms were reserved early. RootsTech 2024 will be from February 29th to March 2nd, 2024 in the Salt Palace in Salt Lake City, Utah. However, if you are a participant speaker, exhibitor, or otherwise connected to the conference, activities will begin on February 28th. There may be some hotel specials for the conference as in past years. 

Saturday, July 15, 2023

The Impact of Artificial Intelligence on Genealogy

Artificial Intelligence has been in the news lately because of some recent chatbot developments. Some of the news expresses concerns about the danger of AI to the future of mankind. These concerns date back to a book by Samuel Butler entitled Erewhone published in 1872. Watch this video about the impact of AI on genealogy with some comments about what can actually be expected.

Tuesday, July 11, 2023

A Nation of Immigrants

Back in April 2023, I gave a presentation called "Crossing the Border: Finding Your Immigrant Ancestors." Even though my videos are regularly posted to I very seldom get comments. However, this video generated quite a few comments. Almost all the comments were reactions to a statement I made that America is a nation of immigrants or all of us in United States are descendants of immigrants. One response sums up the opposition to these statements, I quote:

This is absolutely wrong. Not all Americans are descended from immigrants. What foolishness. There needs to be a country to immigrate to for an arrival to the territory to be considered an immigrant.

Early Americans were explorers, settlers and, yes, pioneers. They built a great country out of wilderness.

Although the statement about the nature of the population of the United States has many possible sources, one statement stands out. 

John F. Kennedy first used the phrase "a nation of immigrants" in an essay he wrote in 1958. The essay was published by the Anti-Defamation League and highlighted the contributions of immigrants to the United States. In 1963, Kennedy turned the essay into a book titled "A Nation of Immigrants" as he prepared to ask Congress to change the nation's immigration laws. 

See “JFK and a Nation of Immigrants: Transcript | JFK Library.” n.d. Accessed July 11, 2023. See also, “A Nation of Immigrants.” 2013. Whitehouse.Gov. March 29, 2013.

The comment made is somewhat indicative of many of today's attitudes and reflects the need to be in denial about the status of the country when the first European "explorers" arrived. Here is one statement about the pre-Columbian population.

Prior to the arrival of European explorers in the Americas in 1492, it is estimated that the population of the continent was around sixty million people. Over the next two centuries, most scholars agree that the indigenous population fell to just ten percent of its pre-colonization level, primarily due to the Old-World diseases (namely smallpox) brought to the New World by Europeans and African slaves, as well as through violence and famine. 

See “Pre-Colonization Populations of the Americas ~1492.” n.d. Statista. Accessed July 11, 2023.

Although there is a substantial amount of controversy and ongoing evaluation and discussion, the commonly held position of most Western European scientists' opinions about the native American population can be summarized as follows:

Scientists have found that Native American populations - from Canada to the southern tip of Chile - arose from at least three migrations, with the majority descended entirely from a single group of First American migrants that crossed over through Beringia, a land bridge between Asia and America that existed during the ice ages, more than 15,000 years ago.

See UCL. 2012. “Native American Populations Descend from Three Key Migrations.” UCL News. July 12, 2012.

I guess you could make and argument that migrant are not immigrants, but considering the fact that the scientists can't agree on the earliest date of arrival, with some estimates and claims going back 30,000 years or more, it is becoming easier all the time to claim that we are all immigrants. I guess should note that the concept of "wilderness" when speaking about both North and South America would have to go back before this newer estimate of 30,000 to 37,000 years. See “Humans Settled in North America about 37,000 Years Ago, Study Says.” n.d. Accessed July 11, 2023.

I guess my final observation is a question. Which group of immigrants to America in the last 37,000 can claim some priority for being here first? 

What does this have to do with genealogy? I have spent the last three years helping hundreds of people look for and find their immigrant ancestors. Immigration research is the absolute key issue in research in both North and South America and I probably need to point out that the United States in not the only country in North America. 

MyHeritage gives free access to 1.3 billion French records for Bastille Day


Quoting from a recent email from MyHeritage,

We’re giving free access to all 1.3 billion French historical records on MyHeritage, from July 12–16, 2023!

MyHeritage is one of the most comprehensive repositories for French records in the world, with 120 collections covering a vast array of vital records, newspapers and periodicals, and other essential records, as well as all the family trees from Filae. In the past year alone, we’ve added 51,252,583 records from France, including a massive collection of French censuses.

Here is a screenshot of the French record page from to give you an idea of what is available. 

Because of my DNA test, I do have some French relatives, but I have yet to see how I am related to any of them, but I do benefit from the French records on MyHeritage when I help others do their own genealogical research. 

The History of Artificial Intelligence and what will happen to Genealogical Research as a consequence: Part Three - Eliza, the first chatbot


Here is a quote from Ina. 2022. “The History Of Chatbots – From ELIZA to ChatGPT.” AI-Chatbot Software for Complex Requirements. March 15, 2022.

ELIZA was the very first chatbot as mentioned above. It was created by Joseph Weizenbaum in 1966 and it uses pattern matching and substitution methodology to simulate conversation.

The program was designed in a way that it mimics human conversation. The Chatbot ELIZA worked by passing the words that users entered into a computer and then pairing them to a list of possible scripted responses. It uses a script that simulated a psychotherapist. The script proved to be a significant impact on natural language processing and unnatural intelligence, with copies and variants protruding up at academies around the country.

However, Weizenbaum was troubled by the reaction of users. He intended ELIZA to be a mere caricature of human conversation, yet suddenly users were confiding their most profound thoughts in ELIZA. Experts were declaring that chatbots would be indistinguishable from humans within a few number of years.

Our first encounter with "Eliza," a therapist chatbot, was with some of the original Apple computers. Of course, there was no concept of Eliza as a "chatbot" because the idea had not yet been created and I should also note that the word "app" had not yet been coined. The program was mildly entertaining, but the answers were limited and mostly nonresponsive or just inappropriate. Despite these limitations, people and newscasters seemed to take the program seriously. The popularity of the program may have had some influence on the development of later chat programs. The Eliza program did not "converse" it responded by asking a series of questions which quickly became repetitious. The challenge was that people took the responses seriously. 

Fast forward to today. My reaction when I first tried the current most popular chatbot, ChatGPT, was the same as my reaction to Eliza. I immediately realized that ChatGPT was nothing more or less that a very sophisticated outgrowth of the same concept. Here is what ChatGPT has to say about Eliza. 

Eliza is a computer program that simulates a conversation with a psychotherapist. It was developed in the mid-1960s by Joseph Weizenbaum, a computer scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Eliza was one of the earliest examples of natural language processing (NLP) and was designed to demonstrate the limits of communication between humans and machines.

The inspiration for Eliza came from the concept of the "Rogerian psychotherapist," a form of therapy developed by Carl Rogers that focused on active listening and empathy. Weizenbaum aimed to create a program that could simulate the role of a Rogerian therapist by engaging users in a conversation and prompting them to explore their thoughts and feelings.

Eliza used simple pattern-matching techniques to respond to user input. It employed a set of predefined rules and keywords to identify certain phrases and generate appropriate responses. By reflecting the user's statements back to them and asking open-ended questions, Eliza gave the impression of understanding and empathy.

When Eliza was first released to the public in 1966, it quickly gained attention and became popular among computer enthusiasts. Many users were impressed by how convincingly Eliza could mimic a human conversation, even though its responses were based on simple rules rather than true understanding.

Eliza's influence extended beyond its initial release. It inspired further research in NLP and had a profound impact on the development of chatbot technology. It also sparked discussions about the ethical implications of human-machine interaction and raised questions about the potential role of machines in fields like psychotherapy.

Since its inception, various versions and adaptations of Eliza have been created, often with more sophisticated algorithms and techniques. These modern variations continue to explore the potential of NLP and conversational agents.

Overall, Eliza holds a significant place in the history of artificial intelligence and remains a noteworthy milestone in the development of chatbot technology and human-computer interaction.

Here is the citation to this quote, which, by the way, comes from a recent series of articles about how to cite chat responses. This particular format is in the Chicago Manual of Style format. 

Text generated by ChatGPT, July 11, 2023, OpenAI in response to "Eliza app history."

You can read about how to cite chatbots in the following: See

You can read this article about the original and current reaction to Eliza: See “From ELIZA to ChatGPT, Our Digital Reflections Show the Dangers of AI - Vox.” n.d. Accessed July 11, 2023.

Now, if you do not have all this long history of living with what are now called chatbots, you might be more alarmed with the current chatbot developments than I am. Because my focus is genealogy, I tend to see new technology in the light of how it might help me be either more accurate or more efficient or both. On a scale from one to ten, Eliza didn't make the scale for either accuracy or efficiency. In fact, it didn't rate in utility. So how do the new chatbot programs measure up? I guess that is why I am writing this probably long series of articles. At the time of this post, to use my own jargon, the jury is still out. So far, I see a lot of benefits from the new chatbot technology but only a few of the benefits relate directly to genealogical research. However, AI in general including handwriting recognition, computer-aided trees, computer-aided indexing and other developments are already having a huge impact on genealogical research. 

More to come.