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

Tuesday, October 31, 2023

Lynne M. Jackson to be RootsTech 2024 Keynote Speaker


From an email notice from RootsTech 2024:

RootsTech by FamilySearch is honored to announce its first keynote speaker, president and founder of the Dred Scott Foundation and great-great-granddaughter of Dred and Harriet Scott, Lynne M. Jackson.

A remarkable woman, Lynne Jackson will take the RootsTech main stage on Friday, March 1, 2024, to speak on the importance of remembering and connecting with ancestors, touching upon the story of her great-great-grandparents, Dred and Harriet Scott, and how their legacy has shaped her life.

Also remember:

 Click this link to register:

Friday, October 20, 2023

Artificial Intelligence: Is the cat out of the bag?


By PawełMM - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,

The full question here includes whether the bag was already empty. There seems to be an invalid assumption that the current developments in artificial intelligence are somehow revolutionary rather than evolutionary. If you or anyone understands and knows about the history of the development of computers and programming over the past 100 years or so, you would not be surprised by the current developments or unduly concerned. Yes, there are concerns, but these concerns are also not "new." They are merely repeating what has been said about industrialization from the time it began in about 1830. Here is a short history of the basis for the evolutionary developments in AI. The problem lies with the people who use the information.

The basis for the ability of artificial intelligence to create text and images comes from large language models (LLM). Here is a short summary of the history of LLMs from Bing, “A Summary of the History of Large Language Models”, 2023. Retrieved from Bing on October 19, 2023. Note the list of sources provided by the search. 

Large language models (LLMs) are neural networks that can process and generate natural language using massive amounts of data and computational resources. They have evolved from the early attempts to create rule-based systems that could mimic human conversation, such as Eliza in the 1960s, to the modern models that can perform a wide range of tasks, such as GPT-4 and Google Bard. 

The development of LLMs has been driven by several key innovations in natural language processing (NLP), such as:

  • The introduction of Long Short-Term Memory (LSTM) networks in 1997, which enabled deeper and more complex neural networks that could handle longer sequences of data.
  • The creation of Stanford’s CoreNLP suite in 2010, which provided a set of tools and algorithms for various NLP tasks, such as sentiment analysis and named entity recognition.
  • The emergence of Transformer architectures in 2017, which improved the efficiency and performance of neural networks by using attention mechanisms to focus on relevant parts of the input and output.
  • The adoption of self-supervised and semi-supervised learning methods, which allowed LLMs to learn from large amounts of unlabeled text data without requiring human annotations.
LLMs have demonstrated remarkable abilities to understand and generate human-like text, as well as to acquire general knowledge and facts from the data they are trained on. However, they also face several challenges and limitations, such as:

  • The ethical and social implications of using LLMs for various purposes, such as misinformation, bias, privacy, and accountability.
  • The scalability and efficiency issues of training and deploying LLMs, which require huge amounts of data, parameters, and computational power.
  • The generalization and robustness problems of LLMs, which may fail to handle novel or out-of-distribution inputs, or to explain their reasoning and decisions.

LLMs are one of the most impressive and influential achievements in AI technology, but they are also constantly evolving and improving. The future of LLMs may involve new architectures, algorithms, datasets, applications, and challenges that will push the boundaries of natural language understanding and generation.

Here is a list of sources and citations to sources for the summary of the history of large language models:

  • A Comprehensive Overview of Large Language Models by Humza Naveed, Asad Ullah Khan, Shi Qiu, Muhammad Saqib, Saeed Anwar, Muhammad Usman, Naveed Akhtar, Nick Barnes, Ajmal Mian. This is a review article that covers a broad range of topics related to LLMs, such as architectures, datasets, benchmarks, efficiency, and challenges. You can cite this source as follows:

Naveed, H., Khan, A. U., Qiu, S., Saqib, M., Anwar, S., Usman, M., Akhtar, N., Barnes, N., & Mian, A. (2023). A Comprehensive Overview of Large Language Models. arXiv preprint arXiv:2307.06435.

Scribble Data. (2023). Large Language Models 101: History, Evolution and Future. Retrieved from Scribble Data on October 19, 2023.

Snorkel AI. (2023). Large language models: their history, capabilities and limitations. Retrieved from Snorkel AI on October 19, 2023.

Zhang, Y., & Liang, P. (2023). Studying Large Language Model Generalization with Randomized Training Data. arXiv preprint arXiv:2308.03296. 

None of these developments could have happened without the initial development of super fast computers, huge memory storage capabilities, and the internet. Which came first, artificial intelligence or computers? The concept of AI came from the earlier concept of thinking machines. The earliest idea of a "thinking machine" came in the 1830s when British mathematician Charles Babbage envisioned what he called the analytical engine. Viewed in the context of history, AI as it exists today was inevitable. 

What does all this mean? Essentially, the current notoriety of AI is based on developments that started more than a hundred years ago. The current handwringing and predictions about the end of the world, have been going on since before Karel Čapek's novel R.U.R., which introduced the word robot in 1921, and can be glimpsed in Mary Shelley's Frankenstein (published in 1818). See Wikipedia: AI Takeover.

What will happen to genealogy as soon as one genealogy company works out the details of using AI to analyze the information in their data base and family trees? You can see a glimmer of what is already happening with the suggestions now being made when you add a new ancestral line to an family tree with their record hints and suggestions for parents. With the constant and accelerating development of AI programs, it is certain that how we do genealogy today will be different tomorrow.

Thursday, October 19, 2023

Challenges of the Family Tree, Now and in the Future

For whatever reasons, both the Family Tree and the entire website face some serious challenges now and in the future. These challenges can be divided into two separate but related general categories: technological changes and data related issues. For the purpose of this post, I am not including issues that arise solely in the context of the temple ordinances performed by members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. 

The first and most serious challenge is data related and can be summarized by the old computer admonition: "garbage in - garbage out." The issue is how to prevent the Family Tree from having so many unsupported, inaccurate, and duplicated entries that it becomes so unreliable and full of errors as to be unusable. This issue arises in the dichotomy between encouraging new users to enter their basic family information and the need to put some reasonable controls on both the format and content of all "new" entries. Behind this particular issue is the ever-present problem of duplication of effort which I will explain next. 

Genealogical duplication occurs at two levels; when a new individual is added when that individual is already present in the Family Tree and when research is done by those who do not use the Family Tree to determine if the information they are researching is already available and documented in the Family Tree. Let me give an example of each of these duplication issues. 

The most common cause of duplication in the Family Tree occurs when a person who is unaware of or ignoring possible duplicates adds a name to a family or adds an entire family that is already recorded in the Family Tree. In many cases the new duplicate entry lacks supporting information such as dates and places. Because of the lack of complete information, the FamilySearch search program will not identify the new entry as a duplicate. Of course, the website can look for duplicates but the system as it now exists, often fails to "see" that the newly added individual or family is a duplicate entry until some additional information about the new individual or family is added by other users' research. 

Here is one way this duplication can occur. Let's suppose I add a name such as "John Smith" from my own personal records with limited supporting information such as that he was born in "about 1800" in the "United States." There is an good possibility that the "John Smith" I am entering will be a duplicate, but there is no way for either the person entering the information or for the computer program to determine which of the thousands of John Smiths are the duplicate or duplicates. When this happens, the program can offer possible duplicates when the user submits the limited information, but because the user does not know who their person is and cannot match the name to an existing entry, the user likely chooses to create a new person. This works fine if the user goes on to do additional research, finds the duplicate or duplicates and merges the entry. However, this is not the case when the user does not know how to do the subsequent research or is ignorant or avoiding the duplicate possibility.  Unfortunately, the website is designed to accept vague entries such as the about 1800 and United States entries in my example above. 

From my own experience, this problem of initial duplication is extensive in Latin America and other areas where the Family Tree has a large number of "new" users who are adding information about their immediate ancestors but ether choosing to ignore the suggested duplicates because they don't know what to do about them or because they think that they are creating "their own" family tree. This issue can be resolved to some extent by education as I will explain below.

Duplication becomes a more serious issue when the person entering "new" information is extracting individuals or adding families from census or other records without systematically verifying family connections. A prime example of this is the early extraction program in England where baptism, marriages, and burial records were individually extracted and showed up as duplicate individuals in the Family Tree; with three or more for each person entered. These duplicates are still being found regularly by researchers. What is not surprising about these duplicates is not only are they common, but ongoing individual and institutional extraction programs are currently adding hundreds of thousands of duplicates. 

Another example of the wholesale addition of duplicates comes from allowing old and new GEDCOM data to be added directly to the Family Tree. There are some people who deny that this is happening but experienced researchers who are watching their own entries find this occurring regularly. Those who are adding the entries do not look for duplicates and assume that they can add their "own" information to the Family Tree. Currently, the process for adding entries to the Family Tree from a GEDCOM file require the user to review whether or not the entries are duplicates but some users ignore the process and mark all their entries as new and thereby flood the Family Tree with up to thousands of duplicate entries. 

I could go on practically indefinitely about the duplicate issue, but I think that I have given enough examples to illustrate the problem. This brings up one of the other major issues and one that contributes to the duplicate issue which I mentioned above. This is the issue of entry level training or education. Although the FamilySearch offers several different pathways to learning about the Family Tree, users can always choose to skip the training and start adding names directly. There are presently no requirements to learn anything all all about the website before entering information into the Family Tree. You can enter names into the Family Tree with nothing more than a name. The website will note that dates and places are missing, but still allows the name to be entered. Why does FamilySearch resist the need to train people how to use the website before making entries?

I must digress here to explain why I use adding "just a name." This occurs when I am entering information from another research source such as I need a "place holder" in FamilySearch so that I can immediately start transferring information I already have with sources in my family tree. Any name I add is always connected to a family where I am doing on-going research.

Back to training. There is no lack of training available. Again, referring to my extensive experience in helping new Spanish speaking users from Latin America and around the world, I find that they cannot use the website simply because they lack some really basic information about how to use it. Once I explain the relationship between records and entries and how to find the records they are relieved to know what to do.  The lack of available and required training is the one biggest obstacle to these new users having a discovery experience. Over the years of working on and helping to develop websites, I have found that adding some "Getting Started" buttons does not work when the user is supposed to know how to properly enter names, dates, and places. Warning messages that you haven't done a certain task correctly are useless unless the website provides the information to properly enter the information. Failing to have some introductory information and notice of the standards for entering information guarantees garbage in and garbage out. 

What else? The technology that is called artificial intelligence has recently progressed to the point where the website is simply old and out of date. There is no reason now that new and experienced users could not enter valid information using a conversational interface. The website should be asking users what they want to do (and adding an option for experienced users to opt out of everything except data entry and correction.) This technology already exists. The technology to construct family trees from valid sources with more accuracy that almost all potential users also exists but there is apparently a perceived FamilySearch problem that this will end up cutting out the user in the data entry experience. It is interesting that worrying about a new user entering his or her personal family information takes precedence over the accuracy of the entire website. It is possible for anyone beginning to use the website to find that information about their dead ancestors is already in the Family Tree. I commonly find that for Spanish speaking users who are struggling to find an ancestor, someone else in their family has already entered the information they are looking for and, as illustrated above, the new user is duplicating the research. The Family Tree is supposed to be universal so why should any new user be forced to rediscover their part of the universal family tree by doing duplicate research? An AI interface could help this new user have a good experience without later finding out all the work had already been done. 

Moving on, record hints are helpful but new users, without training, do not know how or why to use them. With an AI interface, the website could simply say, "I see you have record hints, do you need help in adding sources to your part of the Family Tree?" Why not have the website itself help to keep the information accurate instead of leaving it to experienced genealogists to waste their research time correcting the bad entries of others. 

The issue of researchers who duplicate research that is already in the Family Tree occurs both through lack of knowledge about the existence of the Family Tree and specific avoidance of using the Family Tree because of its existing reputation for inaccuracy and duplication. One fear of using artificial intelligence is that people will be replaced and lose their jobs. Those of us who are now spending an inordinate amount of time maintaining and correcting the Family Tree do not need this job. We would gladly turn it over to AI unless, of course, FamilySearch wants to start paying us to maintain the Family Tree then we might also worry about losing our jobs. 

I have a lot more to say about these issues and will probably keep writing until I pass on to whatever reward I get for doing all this work in the first place. 

Sunday, October 15, 2023

Survey on Training Before Using the FamilySearch Family Tree


My friend, Kathryn Grant, is taking a survey. You may know Kathryn from all the videos she has done on the BYU Library Family History Center YouTube Channel. Here is a quote of her explanation about the survey. 

There are two camps of thought about teaching people to use FamilySearch Family Tree:

* Ask new users to take some brief training so they understand how to use Family Tree.

* Don't ask them to complete any training because it will make them not want to use Family Tree.

Where do you fall? Share your opinion on this brief survey:  

This survey is NOT being conducted by FamilySearch, but it is being done with their knowledge and approval (as in they said it's okay for me to send the survey 🙂 ).

Please feel free to pass this link on to others. I'd like to get as many responses as possible. 
I look forward to your feedback!

Presently, anyone with any level of experience or training can enter data and edit existing data in the Family Tree. For years now, some of us have been advocating that there be some minimal training requirements before any changes can be made to the Family Tree. This training could cover such issues as entering data, changing existing data, merging duplicates, adding GEDCOM files, and other pertinent topics. The training already exists but it is not presently noticeably available or required before taking part in the Family Tree. This is not viewed as a way to prevent people from using the Family Tree, but to help upgrade the content and help prevent wholesale unsupported changes. 

You can comment on this post or contact me directly if you have any questions.

Monday, October 9, 2023

Reclaim the Records: A Million New Records from Missouri

If you are serious about genealogy, you should be familiar with Reclaim the Records. This non-profit organization has been enforcing public disclosure issues mostly through Freedom of Information (FOI) provisions and other state statutes for years now. I suggest you read the entire article linked above. In this particular instance, Reclaim the Records obtained the following:

Reclaim The Records is proud to announce the addition of the following data sets to the Missouri Birth Index and Missouri Death Index websites for free searches -- and to the public domain, for use and reuse:

The Missouri Birth Index has been updated with 588,542 new records from 1910-1919 and 2016-2022, for a total of 8,090,516 records covering 1910-2022.

The Missouri Death Index has been updated with 482,900 new records from 2016-2022, for a total of 3,081,382 records covering 1968-2022. (A Sunshine Law request for the pre-1968 death index data is in progress, but the actual death certificates from those years are already online, see below.)

Important note: in both cases, the 2022 data files are legally considered "provisional" releases by the state of Missouri. meaning that they may have some mistakes or missing records. The finalized copies of the 2022 birth data and 2022 death data will likely be released in mid-2024, along with the provisional data sets from 2023. We've added little warning symbols next to any 2022 births and deaths that pop up in the search results to let people know about this.

You might want to be aware of all the free records on their website also.  

Saturday, October 7, 2023

Win a Free RootsTech 2024 Pass in the RootsTech Sweepstakes.

Here is the announcement of the Sweepstakes from
Welcome to the RootsTech Pass Sweepstakes! We are so glad you are interested in entering for a chance to receive a free 3-day RootsTech pass to come and learn more about genealogy at RootsTech 2024.

Submit an entry for a chance to receive a 3-day RootsTech pass in Salt Lake City, Utah:

The sweepstakes will take place October 2 - October 31. There will be 20 winners selected, who will then be announced by all respective RootsTech Media Members in the first week of November 2023.
In the past, the Ambassador/Influencers/now Media have given away individual passes but times change and there will be a total of 20 free passes for RootsTech 2024. I like this new way to handle free passes because I could never figure out a reasonable way of awarding them. 

Tuesday, October 3, 2023

A Brief History of RootsTech from a very personal perspective

RootsTech 2024 is coming up fast and registration is already open and I have been thinking about all the conferences of the past. started in 2011 so 2024 will be the the 14th conference. I was invited as a blogger to attend the first RootsTech conference in 2011 and I have attended every RootsTech conference since then, either in person or online, and I am scheduled to present three live classes in 2024, I am also a Media representative for the 2024 conference, along with working with The Family History Guide and anyone else who organizes a meeting or a class at the conference. 

All the details I remember of the past conferences are in my journal which I began writing in 1964 and have been writing consistently since 1973, now 50 years. Here are some memories as preserved in my journal. 


My first contact with RootsTech, as recorded in my journal, started in October, 2010 with a call from FamilySearch to come from my home in Mesa, Arizona to Salt Lake City, Utah to meet for a day. I really had no idea about why I had been called except for the fact that I wrote about FamilySearch frequently in my blog. By that time, I was also getting emails from FamilySearch about new developments, I did learn that there were "six or eight" bloggers invited to the meeting. Back then, I was actively teaching all over Arizona at genealogy seminars, classes, and other meetings. 

The meeting was held on October 22, 2010 and involved 12 bloggers and a lot of people from FamilySearch. The object of the conference turned out to be a transition from to what is now Family Tree. This was the first time I had met any of the other bloggers. By this time, I was actively working on about five different projects for FamilySearch, including the FamilySearch Research Wiki. 

Well, blogging also ended up with an invitation to attend the RootsTech 2011 Conference as an official blogger. The conference, as it is scheduled in 2024, was held in the Salt Palace Convention Center in Salt Lake City. We had dinners, meetings, and some tours of the microfilm shipping facility (now discontinued). My journal entries for February 11, 2011 show a lot of contact with people from FamilySearch. I was most impressed with a class by Brewster Kahle, the founder of the Internet Archive and had a personal interview with him. Being a blogger, gave me access to a lot of interviews and conversations with genealogy people. Later, I found out that there had been about 3000 people at the conference. 


The big news at RootTech 2012 was the 1940 U.S. Federal Census introduction. I attended the keynote sessions and wrote about them for my blog, sometimes in real time. My journal comments included, "FamilySearch set up five different interviews for me and a I talked to several more people including two men from Google who were attending the conference about their program for genealogy. I ended up talking to at least a hundred or so people over the three days." That was heyday of blogs. I taught one class. For me, being at RootsTech began to be mostly talking to people from around the world. 


As it turned out, planning for RootsTech 2013 started in 2012. By the time the conference came around, I was busy with panel presentations and classes. When I got to Utah, I spend time making appointments with people to talk to them at RootsTech. Since blogs were a big deal, a lot of people wanted to have a chance to talk to me. I had an amazing experience. Here is what I wrote in my journal with some editing for Tuesday, March 22, 2013.

During the day, we got a call from Mark Olson of and Gilad Japeth, the CEO was on his way to RootsTech when his father died. In a very surprising development, they asked me to do the Saturday Keynote Address for That was a very interesting development. They decided not to announce it until Friday. But we had to make all the arrangements and that took quite a few phone calls. It was sort of like being in the chorus backstage and having the lead get sick and suddenly becoming the star of the show. 

I spent a lot of time with the MyHeritage employees learning what I needed to know to give the keynote presentation on Saturday, the last day of the conference. Interesting, that the "official" history of RootsTech shows Gilad Japeth as the presenter. Here is my record of the presentation. 

Saturday was the big day. We got to the huge presentation area early to be ready for the Keynote. I got my microphone, and we stood around while the first speaker, David Pogue did his comedy presentation. We then went out on the stage and in a few minutes, it was all over. I had thought through what I was going to say, and it worked out pretty well. All during the day, people came up and complimented me on the presentation. MyHeritage was swamped with people signing up for their service. They were pretty happy how things went. 


As you get older, the years seem to flash by and it was time to prepare for RootsTech 2014. By this time, RootsTech was more of an opportunity to talk to people and find out what was going on with genealogy globally. RootsTech was evolving into a global presentation. I was still a blogger and got to meet with the heads of various genealogy companies such as,, and Most of my time was spent in meeting with various software and website developers and talking to people in the Exhibit Hall. I didn't usually have time to eat. The conference was growing and the numbers of people were huge in comparison to the first conferences. I was still a blogger for FamilySearch and at some point, the name changed to Ambassador. This is the year we moved from Mesa to Provo, Utah. 


This year, I added attending the BYU Family History Technology Conference to my RootsTech week. Some of my time at RootsTech was spent in the Media Hub for all the bloggers who were now invited to participate in the conference. As was usual now for RootsTech, I spent all my time talking to people and did not attend any classes. This year the conference included keynote addresses from former first lady, Laura Bush, her daughter Jenna Bush Hager, Donny Osmond, and Tan Le, a very remarkable businessperson who was a boat refugee from Vietnam. They all told extraordinary stories.

I was continually surprised that people read my blog and recognized who I was. I guess I have lived through the rise and fall of bloggers now blogging is just another advertising venue. 


By 2016, I was officially an Ambassador. I had decided not to try teaching a class at the conference because I spent so much time talking to people. As usual, the preparations for RootsTech started in 2015 and continued for months prior to the conference. By this year, I was presenting at the BYU Family History Technology Conference as well as attending RootsTech the same week. Blogging was starting to fade and my involvement with RootsTech was also evolving. Here is a summary of the conference (with some editing) from my journal.

  • I did two presentations at BYU, one for my opinion on the problems facing the genealogical community and one for The Family History Guide.
  • I met with hundreds of people and talked all day every day.
  • I met with Gilad Japhet of MyHeritage and talked to him for about four hours total over three days.
  • I met with Annalise Van Den Belt the CEO of and had a nice visit and then after telling her about how we were using Findmypast, she decided to have her video team do a short video of me explaining how I used the program which took place on Friday. 
  • I talked and talked to many people: relatives, friends from Mesa, friends from the Library, friends from Church, Blogging friends, vendors, developers and a lot more.
  • We ate no breakfasts.
  • We had lunch vouchers from FamilySearch which we used to buy lunches. We ate dinners at the parties and dinners in the evenings. 
  • I thought of about 100 blog topics.
  • We walked a lot. By my pedometer in my iPhone, we walked 4 miles on Friday.
  • I carried everything including my computer in a pack.
  • On Friday, I wore my Australia T-shirt.
  • We had a meeting in the Joseph Smith Memorial for the Area Advisers.
  • We had a nice MyHeritage party on Friday with prizes and my wife Ann won a new iPad mini.
  • I had a dinner at a Sushi restaurant called the Naked Fish with the Findmypast people.
  • I learned a lot about what is coming in software development.
  • I taught two presentations for MyHeritage and lost my voice on Wednesday.

By this time, it seemed like RootsTech preparations started earlier every year. By 2017, I was involved with the Exhibit floor booth for The Family History Guide. I was also teaching for the BYU Library Family History Center and for I was also working with genealogy software developers and helping them prepare for their presentations at the conference. With the BYU workshop and other meetings, RootsTech was turning into a solid week of talking and meeting. I talked at an Innovator Summit panel discussion. Most of the week was spent talking to people. 


This year my wife and I were serving as missionaries digitizing records at the Maryland State Archives in Annapolis, Maryland. I participated with RootsTech online both before and during the conference. It was a far less busy event for me. 


By August of 2018, we were already seeing information and meetings about RootsTech 2019. By this time, I was doing more than one presentation a week for the BYU Library Family History Center and for other entities, so RootsTech was just one more event in the constant online stream of events. Some weeks I was presenting as many as seven different classes. I spoke at the BYU Family History Technology Workshop and did videos for The Family History Guide. My journal entries are rather brief since my time at the conference was spent mostly talking to people. I did enjoy visits with Ron Tanner and Gilad Jephet. Later in the year, we had some representatives from The Family History Guide at the London RootsTech Conference. I was still part of RootsTech but at some point the name changed again to Influencer. 


My life had turned into a stream of classes, webinars, and videos by the time RootsTech 2020 rolled around. The week of RootsTech started out as usual by then with the BYU Family History Technology Workshop. My experience at the main RootsTech conference had evolved into a series of meetings, presentations for The Family History Guide and MyHeritage, and talking to as many people as I could get in contact with. By this time, being an Ambassador involved blogging about the conference and talking to everyone I could about every imaginable topic. I did a presentation at the Salt Lake FamilySearch Library and met with the GEDCOM people about updating the GEDCOM Standard. I was still very much involved directly with FamilySearch. But as it had evolved, I spent most of my time connecting on a world-wide basis. Little did we know at the time, we were living on the edge of a catastrophe. The COVID 19 Pandemic shut down the country just two weeks after RootsTech 2020.

2021 and 2022

The entire concept of RootsTech changed in 2021. The conference was entirely online. There were still media people involved and I took an active part in promoting the conference. See How this genealogy conference went global.

By 2022, the virtual conference was well established, and I did a number of videos. I did one on my own topic that is still online,, and many more for The Family History Guide. The online attendance at RootsTech jump into the millions. In 2022, the format of the conference moved even more world-wide and the attendance continued to increase dramatically. 


We finally got out of the COVID shutdown and had both a live and virtual conference in 2023. I did one live class that was not recorded and uploaded a six-video series again on the Great African American Migration. All six videos are online on the website and also on Here is the link to the first video in the series. After presenting at the BYU Family History Technology Workshop ( on the Monday before the RootsTech conference, my wife and I started working at the 2023 conference on Wednesday and I don't think we stopped talking or resting until the conference ended on Saturday afternoon. I also taught classes for the BYU Library Family History Center, and talked to hundreds of people. It was easily the busiest conference we have ever attended so far. 

Well, that is my part of the story of RootsTech. Obviously, there are a lot more details. I recommend attending the conference in person. It is a never to be forgotten experience. We will be back again at RootsTech 2024 and likely be as busy or busier than in any time in the past. You will see me in my live classes, and I will be wandering the Exhibit Hall as usual. I am also one of the Media Representatives, now the name of the bloggers, ambassadors and anyone online that is invited to participate. I still blog and I am posting new videos on YouTube almost every week. If you are at the live conference in 2024, stop me and say hello. 

Sunday, October 1, 2023

Be aware of the genealogical Traps in the 1700s

It is enticing to jump so far back in history and begin researching your ancestors in the 1700s. This is especially true when you find, what appear to be, records that correspond to your family. The trap is that there are usually many people with the same names, even that have the same or similar children's names. Without careful and systematic research focusing on the places where the events recorded occur, you will soon have a tangled mess of unrelated people. In the Family Tree this tangle can occur as separate people view the existing records and add in people who are not related and who live far from the areas of valid genealogical focus on places. 

You may wish to look at these entries in the Family Tree as I explore some of the issues. You can find the people using their ID numbers. 

The screenshot above is an example of a situation in the Family Tree that may not have enough existing records to unravel. 

This is what is in the Family Tree about this family. 

John Austin GF3M-V26 is married to Margaret Bourne GF3M-FBF

This couple is shown with 17 children. Two of these children illustrate part of the problem.

Joseph Austin G61S-1GJ born in Tysoe, Warwickshire, England

Jonathan Austen LBJB-5H1 born in Goudhurst, Kent, England

The problem is first, that Joseph and several other of the listed children born in Tysoe are born nearly 150 miles away from Goudhurst. Their "father" John Austin GF3M-V26 is listed as born in Marden, Kent, England and his wife, Margaret Bourne GF3M-FBF is listed as born in Goudhurst, Kent, England. Marden, Tonbridge, Kent is about 5 miles from Goudhurst. The rest of these children are listed as born in either Goudhurst or Horsmonden both in Kent about 4 miles apart. It is apparent that the first child, Joseph Austin G61S-1GJ, is probably not part of this family. 

But this is just the beginning of the problems with this family. Joseph Austin G61S-1GJ has only one record attached as a source, a death record showing a death in the Canterbury Cathedral Archives. Here is a download of the record.

Here is the relevant entry.

This is not a death record from Goudhurst for Joseph Auston, it is a death record for a son, Edward, who died in 1628. This is interesting because the entry for Joseph shows he was born in 1600 and died in 1603 both in Tysoe, Warwickshire, England. 

Things get more interesting when you look at the multiple entries for Margaret Bourne GF3M-FBF and LZXP-QZG. One of these Margarets was born in Goudhurst and the other in Tenterden, Kent. There are records attached that show her name as Margaret Austin and she has three different husbands named John Austen LZYY-G7F, KCL6-3NG, GF3M-V26. The John Austins live and die in different places. Each of the three John Austins has a different list of children. 

Of course, there are a variety of records attached. Here is one example of a record.

I could easily go on and on with this one family. But bear in mind that the parents of John and Margaret are even more confused. 

Some things you might learn from this example:

1. The 1700s are not a place to play around. Only very specific and detailed research will produce accurate results. 

2. Focus on places, not names but always try to find actual records of births, marriages, and deaths before adding children.

3. Think about whether or not the mother in the family could have had 17 or more children some in the same year. 

4. If it isn't worth doing right, it isn't worth doing (actually the quote is if it is worth doing, it is worth doing right). 

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