Saturday, September 1, 2007

What's Free on Footnote? is a commercial web site with historical and genealogical data. They have an arrangement with the National Archives to digitize documents and post them - you can see the announcement and list of databases at

You can browse all of their titles at There are some very useful genealogy databases on this list - but not all of them are complete yet. They claim that almost 18 million documents are online today, and that they are adding 2 million per month.

Most of their databases is behind their subscription pay wall, which is $59.95 for an nanual subsciption and $7.95 for a monthly subscription.

There are several interesting and potentially useful databases that are available to anyone to view for free - see the list at They include:

* US Milestone Documents
* Project Bluebook (UFO documents)
* Pennsylvania Archives
* Papers of the Continental Congress
* Miscellaneous Papers of the Continental Congress
* Constitutional Convention Records
* Copy Books of George Washington's Correspondence

You can read, annotate, print and download from these databases one page at a time. It looks like you have to be a registered user (not necessarily a subscriber) in order to download and print.

You can search for terms in each database. I put in the surname Houx in the Pennsylvania Archives and got 6 hits, 3 with actual records and 3 index items.

The reader is much different from other readers. You see only a portion of the document but you can scroll up or down using the scroll bar or the "hand" inside the window. It takes a while for the page to load. There are thumbnail links to about 20 pages below the actual viewing window, but clicking on another page takes as long to load as the previous page takes. Printing also took a fairly long time.

If you had Pennsylvania ancestors during the colonial to Civil War time period, you might want to search for them in the Pennsylvania Archives, especially if you don't have easy online access to them.

From what I can see, the Pennsylvania Archives is the only real genealogical database available for free at Footnote at this time. offers a seven day free trial at - but you have to register with a name, email address, password, agree to terms, and enter a credit card and billing address. You can access all of their databases for seven days. After 7 days, your credit card will be billed $59.95 for a one-year membership.

Note that I do not have a Footnote subscription nor am I associated with them in any way. I do receive emails from them and read their Footnote blog.

MyFamily Inc. Terms and Conditions

After this week's controversy about the "Internet Biographical Collection" use of cached images from free user-generated websites, the discussion of the legal aspects of what Ancestry did and why has begun.

Kimberly Powell had two posts discussing the legal issues of what Ancestry did - in her posts "Cache22: Has Ancestry Gone Too Far" and "The Legality of Caching" which mentioned the Field vs. Google court decision. Dick Eastman posted the article "To Cache or Not to Cache: The Definitive Answer" today, and discussed the Field vs. Google decision extensively.

It would be useful for everyone to read the Terms and Conditions for The Generations Network (TGN) web sites. At the TGN web site, the Copyright link goes to

This page lists the TGN web sites as:


However, the column on the left margin lists the added Ancestry sites for Italy, German,y Australia, and France.

The Terms and Conditions for is at

The Acceptable Use Policy for is at

The Terms of Service for is at

The Terms and Conditions for is at

I didn't link to the Ancestry web sites for Canada, the UK, Germany, France, Italy and Australia. I'm sure people interested in those sites can find the information.

To me, the most important paragraph in the T&Cs is:

"Portions of the Service will contain user provided content, to which you may contribute appropriate content. For this content, Ancestry is a distributor only. By submitting content to Ancestry, you grant, Inc., the corporate host of the Service, a license to the content to use, host, distribute that Content and allow hosting and distribution of that Content, to the extent and in that form or context we deem appropriate. Should you contribute content to the site, you understand that it will be seen and used by others under the license described herein..."

The Acceptable Use Policy includes similar words:

"... By submitting Submitted Content to, you grant, Inc., the corporate host of the Service, a limited license to the Submitted Content to use, host, and distribute that Submitted Content and allow hosting and distribution on co-branded Services of that Submitted Content ... "

Similar paragraphs appear at and

I hesitate to interpret this because I am not an attorney. But, to my simple mind, the words mean what they say. My interpretation is: "If you give it to them, they can do pretty much what they want with it. They can put it on their web sites, they can put it on their subscription sites, they can index it, they can publish it."

My opinion, for what it's worth, is:

* People need to understand what their rights are, and what these web sites can do and cannot do with their data. Every time I go to a new web site, I check the Terms and Conditions.

* If you don't want TGN (or any other web site) to "use" your information, don't send it to them. There are other web sites not under the TGN umbrella where you might submit your data - but check their T&Cs!

* The submitter still owns the rights to their data submitted to Ancestry and can put it on another web site, publish it in a periodical or book, or give it to somebody.

* Ancestry did not "steal" or "hijack" anybody's web site or data. The actual web sites and the data on them are still where their owners put them (unless they intentionally removed them) whether for free or for fee. Ancestry did put a copy of the web pages on their servers, indexed them, permitted the cached copy to be accessed with an Ancestry URL which included the original URL, eventually provided a link to the actual web page, provided a search capability for the collection and finally removed the collection from user access. What they did was definitely unfriendly and probably abusive.

I have intentionally chosen to contribute some of my research data to Ancestry (only in a "Private Member Tree" so far) and to several other genealogy social network sites. I do this in order to share the fruits of my research with other researchers. I encourage other researchers to share their data prudently - aware of the Terms and Conditions of the web sites to which they submit the data.

I do have a question about data submitted to these web sites: "Does still have the rights to the submitted data if the user deletes it from the web site? Could they use it, distribute, etc. after the withdrawal or deletion by the user?"

Friday, August 31, 2007

Who will decide what is correct?

Like many genealogy researchers and family historians, I have watched the proliferation of genealogy databases that have erroneous data in them. The examples are numerous - from the LDS Ancestral File database contributed mainly by LDS church members, the user-contributed databases published on CDROMs by FamilyTreeMaker, the user-contributed Rootsweb WorldConnect databases, to the user-contributed databases on Ancestry and many other user-contributed databases.

I believe that almost all of this information was submitted by genealogy researchers based on their own research and/or research performed and shared by others. But the fact is that some of it - not all - some of it is erroneous for whatever reason.

My earlier post - "Was Daniel Boone an Ancestor of Pat Boone" - describes in some detail the dilemma. The result, at least for Pat Boone's patrilineal line, is that 3 out of 39 user-contributed databases were very likely correct. The other 36 submitted databases were very likely erroneous in one or more families.

My understanding is that several web sites intend to create a very large (humongous!) database of the world's genealogy data. I think that something like this is a goal of the New FamilySearch,, FamilyLink, WeRelate, MyHeritage and undoubtedly other genealogy-related sites that will accept genealogy databases contributed by users. In some of these formulations, other researchers (the genealogy social network) would add content, vital statistics, and notes to them so that each person in the database was connected to the "correct" set of parents and children, back in time, ad infinitum (which should be interesting!).

All of this reminds me of the classic math/science joke shown here with the critical step being "then a miracle occurs."

Most genealogists are people of good faith that have researched individuals, connected families together, written books and articles, created web pages and submitted data on hundreds of millions (or is it billions?) of individuals.

Frankly, only by examining the sources of the submitters, analyzing their work, continually testing and proving hypotheses concerning the structure of every family can this be done well.

The problem with any plan to create massive family-linked databases is clear to me -- who will decide which data is correct?

* Will there be a review board of some type that verifies or certifies that a family structure - names, dates, places, relationships - is correct?
* Will they verify/certify one family at a time? Or an entire database?
* Will every database have its own review and verification/certification board, process and results?
* Will only data from a currently certified genealogist be accepted?
* Will there be a blacklist of known erroneous information? Or submitters?
* How will they treat new information that proves or disproves the currently "correct" information?
* How will they deal with submitters who withdraw their data from the web site?
* Won't this be a very large undertaking?
* What happens to the online databases that are already available? Will they be replaced and updated? Will they be taken down and made not available?
* What about the data published on CDROMs, in books, on web sites?

I am pretty sure that these questions have been asked by the smart people at the companies that hope to create these massive family-linked databases, and perhaps they have the answer.

I hope that these types of discussions are occurring with and within the professional and/or certified groups (e.g., BCG, APG, ICAPGEN) that are vital to this discussion and the resolution of these issues.

I don't think that censorship or blacklists are the answer to any of those questions. I do think that education, experience, sharing and collaboration are the long-term answer.

What do you think? I'm sure that many genealogy bloggers and readers have thoughts on this topic - I hope they will write their own posts or make rational and interesting comments to this post. If there are articles previously published on this issue, I would aprpeciate knowing about them.

UPDATED: 31 August, 12:20 PM for editorial corrections and additions.

Was Daniel Boone an Ancestor of Pat Boone?

I was reading an article about famous entertainers, and saw that Pat Boone has claimed to be a descendant of the famous wilderness explorer and Indian fighter, Daniel Boone. Pat Boone's Wikipedia entry - here - states that:

"Born in Jacksonville, Florida, Pat Boone has said that he is a direct descendant of the American pioneer Daniel Boone.[1] "

That stimulated my curiosity gene, so I decided to find out. No online biography that I found stated the names of Pat Boone's parents, but I figured someone in the Rootsweb WorldConnect database had posted his ancestry. Indeed, a search for "Pat Boone" revealed his parents names were Archie Altman Boone and Margaret Pritchard (not withstanding that Pat Boone is still alive - he's in this database, and probably others!).

Following the links in the WorldConnect data revealed an ancestry for Pat Boone from the famous Daniel Boone (by generation), using several contributed databases to find names, dates and places:

1. Charles Eugene "Pat" Boone -- born 1 June 1934 Jacksonville FL, married Shirley Foley 7 Nov 1953 in Nashville TN.

2. Archie Altman Boone -- born 6 Apr 1906 in FL, died 27 Jan 2000 in Nashville TN, married Margaret Pritchard, born 1910 in FL, died 20 Mar 2000 in Nashville TN.

3. Ernest Eugene Boone -- born Apr 1870 in ID, died 29 Mar 1962 in Nashville TN, married 1892 to Blanche Clanton.

4. Theodore B. Boone -- born 11 Oct 1844 in Kansas City MO, died 2 Nov 1917 in Tulare CA, married 24 Apr 1869 in Brownsville OR to Martha May, born Sep 1853 in IN.

5. Daniel Boone -- born 27 Mar 1809 in St. Charles County MO, married 19 Jan 1832 to Mary Constance Philabert, born 26 Sep 1814 in Maskinonge, Quebec.

6. Daniel Morgan Boone, born 23 Dec 1769 in Rowan County NC, died 13 Jun 1839 in Jackson county MO, married 2 Mar 1800 in St. Louis MO to Sarah Griffin Lewis, born 20 Jan 1786 in Culpepper County VA, died Jun 1850 in Jackson County MO.

7. Daniel Boone -- born 2 Nov 1734 in Berks County PA, died 26 Sep 1820 in St. Charles county MO, married 14 Aug 1756 in Rowan County NC to Rebecca Bryan, born 9 Jan 1738/9, died 18 Mar 1813.

If this line is correct, then Pat Boone IS a descendant of the famous Daniel Boone.

While trying to find more names, dates and places, I searched WorldConnect for most of the purported ancestors of Pat Boone. When I input his claimed grandfather, Ernest Eugene Boone, I got 39 hits (all for the same person) which fell into these groups:

* Ernest Eugene Boone, son of Theodore B. Boone and Martha May, married Blanche Clanton -- there are 16 entries
* Ernest Eugene Boone, son of Theodore B. Boone and Martha Ray, married Blanche Clanton -- there are 8 entries.
* Ernest Eugene Boone, son of Theodore B. Boone and Martha, married Blanch Clanton -- there are 2 entries
* Ernest Eugene Boone, son of Theodore B. Boone and Martha Mauy, no spouse - there is 1 entry.
* Ernest Eugene Boone, son of Theodore W. Boone and Martha Alice Thompson, married Blanch Clanton -- there are 3 entries
* Ernest Eugene Boone, son of Theodore W. Boone and Martha Alice Thompson, married Etta Foy - there are 5 entries
* Ernest Eugene Boone, son of James W. Boone and Blanch Clanton, married to Etta Foy - there are 3 entries.
* Ernest Eugene Boone, no parents listed, no wife listed, - 1 entry.

There are many conflicts in those 39 entries - not the least of which is that there are three potential father's names, four potential mother's names, and two spouse's names for Ernest Eugene Boone.

I decided to search the census records, working backwards from Archie Boone, born in 1906, and Ernest Eugene Boone born around 1870.

* 1930, I can't find an Archie Boone born ca 1906 in FL or TN, or an Ernest Boone, that fits the data. There is an Ernest Boone in Canyon county ID with a wife Edna, but no son Archie boone, and no Archie Boone nearby.

* 1920 -- the family of Ernest E. (age 40, born CA) and Elta (age 40, born KY) Boone had a son Archie, age 13, born in TN, resided in Memphis, Shelby county, TN.

* 1910 -- the family of Ernest E. (age 33, born CA) and Etta (age 22, born KY) Boone had a son Archie (age 4, born TN), resided in Melrose, Curry County, NM.
* 1910 -- the family of Martha (age 56, born TN) resided in Caldwell, Canyon County, ID with several children, but none named Archie (or similar). Theodore W. Boone (age 65, born MO, divorced) resided in Owyhee County ID with no Boone children. A search for other Boone children in Idaho revealed none named Archie.

* 1900 -- Ernest Boone (age 21, born Dec 1878, born CA) resided with his aunt and uncle Wm and Emmi (or Bernice) Robinson, resided in Springfield, Sangamom County, IL.
* 1900 -- the family of Theodore W. (age 55, born Oct 1844 in MO) and Martha (age 46, born Sep 1853 in IN) had a son Ernest D. Boone (age 30, born Apr 1870 in ID), resided in East Caldwell, Canyon County, ID.

* 1880 -- the family of Wm (age 29, born KY) and Blanche (age 24, born KY) Boone had a son Ernest Boone (bage 1, born CA) resided in 7th District, Fresno county, CA.
* 1880 -- the family of Theodore (age 36, born MO) and Martha (age 29, born IN) had a son Earnest Boone (age 10, born ID), resided in Ada County, ID.

I chased these families back to 1850, but it was apparent to me that there were two Ernest Boone's in play here, and one of them had a son Archie and the other did not.

At this time, I checked again the three databases on Rootsweb WorldConnect that said Ernest Eugene Boone's parents were James W. Boone and Blanche Clanton. Almost all of the data in the three databases appear to be from one source - the "Pair Family" database by Elayne Pair Gibbons. An ahnentafel report for Ernest Eugene Boone is at Elayne does not include a son Archie for Ernest Eugene and Etta Lou (Foy) Boone.

However, the "My Family Roots -- ..." database submitted by Craig Snyder references Elayne Gibbons database, and provides an obituary for Ernest Eugene Boone, who died in 1962 in Nashville TN. The obituary is transcribed here, and notes that Ernest's wife was Etta Foy, his son is Archie Boone and his grandson is Pat Boone. This database shows a Living Boone as a child, with 4 Living Boone's as his children.

The third database, titled "Boone, Thompson ..." submitted by Geraldine Ingersoll has no sources and provides the name, birth date, death date and a bit of biography for Archie Altman Boone (see here), gives his wife's name and 4 Living Boone children.

If the data collected by Elayne Pair Gibbons and others is correct, then Pat Boone's patrilineal line is:

1. Charles Eugene "Pat" Boone -- born 1 June 1934 Jacksonville FL, married Shirley Foley 7 Nov 1953 in Nashville TN.

2. Archie Atman Boone -- born 6 Apr 1906 in FL, died 27 Jan 2000 in Nashville TN, married 6 Oct 1932 to Margaret Pritchard, born 1910 in FL, died 20 Mar 2000 in Nashville TN.

3. Ernest Eugene Boone -- born 9 Dec 1878 in CA, died 29 Mar 1962 in Nashville TN, married 25 Dec 1901 in Hickman county KY to Etta Lou Foy, born ca 1880 in KY.

4. William James Boone, born 22 May 1851 in Graves County KY, died 2 May 1904 in Fulton county KY, married before 1875 to Anna Blanche Clanton, born ca 1854 in KY.

5. James Boone, born ca 1810 in TN, died in Graves County KY, married before 1842 to Catherine Latta, born 5 Nov 1813 in Maury County TN, died 22 Nov 1875 in Graves County KY.

6. Bryant Boone, born 15 Dec 1789, died 21 Jan 1837 in Fulton County KY; married Mary, born ca 1788.

7. James Boone (perhaps?) and Mary Hare (perhaps) of Hertford County NC - see Craig Snyder's notes for Bryant Boone's ancestry here.

Even though I don't have a complete set of the sources searched and cited by Elayne Gibbons and Craig Snyder, it is very apparent to me that their research and analysis is probably correct as to Pat Boone's patrilineal ancestry. The databases correlate well to the census data and the obituary for Ernest Eugene Boone. My compliments to Elayne Gibbons for getting it right.

The rest of the databases in the Rootsweb WorldConnect that purport to trace Pat Boone's ancestry back to Daniel Boone are very likely wrong. I notes that the sources cited by some of the erroneous databases were two books:

1. Title: Roots of the Rich and Famous
Author: Robert Davenport
Publication: Dallas, Texas: Taylor Publishing Co., 1998
Repository: Note: Library of Congress, Washington, DC

2. Title: The Boone Family
Author: Hazel Atterbury Spraker
Publication: 1922 (reissued by Genealogical Publishing Company, 1993)Repository: Note: Library of Congress

I have not read these books, so I am not sure that they provide genealogy data from Daniel Boone down to Pat Boone, although I guess that "Roots of the Rich and Famous" probably does.

After about 3 hours of chasing this down using online resources, my conclusion is that:

Pat Boone is NOT a direct descendant of Daniel and Rebecca (Bryan) Boone. However, he may be a relative of Daniel Boone through an earlier Boone ancestor - the records for the correct Boone line don't go back far enough.

Why did I pursue this with such detail and fervor? Read my next post! By the way, this was FUN!

The New Genealogy Message Searcher

Chris Dunham of The Genealogue blog has created another research tool for family historians who want to search the Ancestry/Rootsweb and Genforum message boards.

He calls it The New Genealogy Message Searcher - it is a Google tool and it can be found at

You can input your search terms and it finds messages on http://boards.rootsweb.cxom, and These boards have specific surnames, localities (states, counties, some cities) and other special message boards.

If you are searching for another researcher who may have information on your ancestral families, this tool does it all in one-step. Each message board system has a similar search tool, but they are somewhat different between Rootsweb/Ancestry and Genforum.

This tool doesn't accept wild cards in names (which is good, since that would probably bring the servers down) - such as "car*". It will accept names or phrases in quotes and will limit the search, such as "david carringer". It will not accept a wild card * between two names or words (such as "david * carringer" but it will find a real initial between words (such as "david j carringer".

My only complaint about it is that it doesn't tell you how many matches there are - it gives you a list of 10 matches and then an endless number of additional pages (if there are many matches).

Thanks, Chris, for doing this. It works great and advances the researcher's toolbox. Read Chris' post introducing it here.

Thursday, August 30, 2007 and WorldVitalRecords recently announced their partnership with - see the announcement here. NewspaperARCHIVE currently has 71 million pages from 724 cities with 2,759 titles. Apparently, WorldVitalRecords is adding them a few at a time (looking at their list of most recent additions here).

The list of newspapers currently in the WorldVitalRecords content can be seen at WVR has two major content providers, NewspaperARCHIVE and Small Town Newspapers. As of today, there are only 15 newspapers from NewspaperARCHIVE on the list.

WorldVitalRecords provides free access to each new database they add for ten days. In the case of the NewspaperARCHIVE database, the researcher will have to check the list of recently added content on a regular basis to determine if a newspaper of interest has been added to the list.

I checked several of the available newspapers to see how the viewer worked and to see if the search words are highlighted. You can input given name, last name, keywords, place and year in the search box. The search words were highlighted on the newspaper page, which is wonderful. The list of search matches provides the information about the newspaper (page, date, city, newspaper), a snippet containing one of the search terms, and a link for "More Details" that goes to an image of the newspaper page.

However, the two viewers are a problem. The Basic Viewer shows you part of the whole page, and you have to use the scroll bars on the right and bottom of the browser window to move around. Some of the images are very large - I viewed one over 5 mb that took quite a while to load, and seemed to take forever to scroll down and over on. There are no zoom features with the Basic viewer, and some of the pages have type so large that it is difficult to read.

The Enhanced Viewer uses a Java applet that provides a 15 to 20 line high snippet that contains one of the search terms, which is highlighted. I couldn't move up or down or sideways on the image. There are zoom controls, but they didn't work for me.

Since these databases are new to WorldVitalRecords, I hope that they will improve the viewer problems. I like the search box and the highlighting on the newspaper page image.

This NewspaperARCHIVE collection at WorldVitalRecords shows great promise, especially for those researchers who don't have an subscription (note - has the NewspaperARCHIVE collection behind their subscription wall). I also appreciate the 10 free days permitted by WVR to view new databases, I just need to remember to visit there once or twice a week!

The Boston Daily Transcript queries

One of the priceless resources for colonial New England researchers is the Boston Daily Transcript genealogy columns titled "Notes and Queries" that appeared in the newspaper from 1894 to 1941. One collection of these columns were clipped and are located at the American Antiquarian Society in Worcester, Massachusetts.

Several (many?) repositories have microfiche copies of these clippings - including at least two in the San Diego area - at the Georgina Cole Public Library in Carlsbad and at the downtown branch of the San Diego Public Library in the California Room.

The names in the clippings are indexed in the "American Genealogical-Biographical Index" (AGBI) which is in book form at many libraries (including the downtown branch of the San Diego Public Library in the genealogy room) and is available online in digital form at Godfrey Memorial Library, and perhaps other commercial web sites.

As an example, here is a query placed for one of my families:

"(3534) 1. SMITH, SARTELL, BISHOP. Hannah Smith, born Jan. 1 1768, at Amherst, Mass., married Feb. 5, 1789, at Amherst, Josiah Sartell of Hollis, Mass. I wonder if her parents were Noah Smith and Mary, daughter of Edward Elmer, who were married in Amherst in 1766 at Amherst (probably). If this is true, who were Noah Smith's ancestors?

"The children of Hannah Smith and Josiah Sartell were:
(1) Josiah, Jr. born Brookline, N.H. Nov. 26, 1791 (I believe married Rebecca Manning).

(2) Hannah, born Brookline N.H. Nov. 6, 1789, married Zachariah Hildreth, who was born Townsend Mass.and died at Townsend Jan. 22, 1857; Hannah died at Townsend Jan. 13, 1851, children: Aaron, Clarissa, James, Clarissa 2d, Elizabeth, Milo, Moses, Edward, Harriet and Moses.
(3) Mary (Lee), born Townsend April 11, 1793, and died at Pelham, May 26, 1831, children Enos, Edwin, Samantha.
(4) Chester, born Townsend Aug. 6, 1795, died April 19, 1875; children Sophia and Mrs. Bizel.
(5) Esther, born Townsend May 13, 1797, died Amherst Mass. March 5, 1859.
(6) Horace, born Ashburnham, Mass. July 9, 1799, died Mason, N.H. May 21, 1825, married Sally Saunders, had daughter Elizabeth.
(7) Neuma, born Townsend June 6, 1802, and died Mason, N.H. Aug. 11, 1826.
(8) Walter, born Townsend, March 21, 1806, and died Townsend, Aug. 26, 1857, married Louisa Adams; had a son Perry.
(9) Price, born Townsend, Feb. 2, 1810, married Eliza Bishop at Watertown, N.Y., Feb. 21, 1831, who was born Dec. 12, 1806 at Westmoreland, Vt., and died Feb. 14, 1875 at Milwaukee; Price died Milwaukee, June 5, 1891. (Who were the parents of Eliza Bishop?)."

Other than the death records for Josiah and Hannah (Smith) Sartell, this is the only information I have about this family. I have looked for the census records for the families of the children also. This is as good as, or maybe even better, a obituary, isn't it? The submitter must have had access to a family Bible or other family record.

There are thousands of similar queries - some have fairly complete genealogies, and there are many comments to the queries published. The only way to find any of them is through the AGBI.

Unfortunately, a researcher has to search the AGBI, then go to a repository that has the microfilm (or go to the AAS in Worcester) in order to view the contents of these queries.

There is at least two probable errors in the query for Josiah Sartell's family above. Josiah's wife, Hannah Smith, was not the daughter of Noah and Sarah (Elmer) Smith. I traced that Hannah and found that she married a man near Amherst, Massachusetts. I think this submitter got confused between Hollis and Amherst MA and Hollis and Amherst NH, which is near Raby NH where Josiah Sartell lived in the 1780's. Of course, I haven't found Hannah Smith's parents yet, although I have tried real hard in the Raby (now Brookline since about 1800) NH area. I think her parents are Joshua and Hannah (Baldwin) Smith of Raby, but I have found no records of her birth or relationship to parents or siblings.

When will a genealogy provider (free or commercial) digitize this collection? Soon, I hope! What prevents this from being done - perhaps copyright issues?

I know that there are many other collections of similar queries that were published over many years in newspapers. Are any of them digitized yet?

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

How is FamilyTreeMaker 2008 doing?

I decided last month not to download the Beta version of FamilyTreeMaker 2008 and test it, mainly because of time conflicts. Thankfully, bloggers and message board posters tested the Beta version and made suggestions - I tried to summarize them here.

FTM 2008 was released two weeks ago, and now there have been many comments about the software - features, installation, use, reporting, etc.

Here are some web sites that have pro and con comments about the software:

* Dick Eastman's post "Family Tree Maker 2008 is Released" -- there are many comments here with substantive issues.

* The "Using FamilyTreeMaker Forum" Message Board at Genforum - at

* The "Family Tree Maker Software" Message Board at Ancestry (requires registration) --

* The FTMTECH Mailing List archives - at (you will have to select a month to view, then scroll down to see the messages. Start with August 2007).

Frankly, most of the comments are negative to date. Part of that is a natural reaction to anything new and different from what people are used to. But many of the comments described flaws in the software or features that were in early FTM versions and are not yet in FTM 2008.

I'm glad I didn't order it. If I buy it, it will be later on when the software has been improved and, hopefully, all of the problems are fixed.

A Rational Response to Richard Conniff Article

Remember back in late June when the Richard Conniff article ("Why Genealogy is Bunk" on the cover, and "The Family Tree, Pruned" on page 90) in Smithsonian Magazine roiled the placid genealogy waters? I posted articles here (commenting on it, and embarrassing myself in the process) and here (responding to his statements in several hundred words - too prolix!).

The September 2007 issue of Smithsonian Magazine is on the library rack, and I checked for Letters to the Editor about the article. There were four. The best, and most succinct, was written by Elizabeth Shown Mills, and it reads:

"As a genealogist, I have spent 30 years arguing the value of family history as a scholarly discipline, a profession, an adjunct to medicine and law and a personal exploration of past societies. What Richard Conniff mocks and excoriates in his essay ("The Family Tree, Pruned") is not genealogy. It is "family tree climbing" of the basest ilk and posturing by nongenealogists who have not bothered to learn the difference between fanciful claims and reliable research.

"Elizabeth Shown Mills, Samford University Institute of Genealogy & Historical Research, Birmingham, Alabama."

Ouch. Nice job. Succinct. Biting. True! My compliments to the writer, who is one of the very best at what she does. And we can see why - the letter had to be short to be published, but biting to make the points.

We discussed a while ago the difference between "Genealogist" and "Family Historian" - my post was here. Ms. Mills has added another term that we didn't real discuss - the "Family Tree Climber." [Maybe some bloggers did cover it, and I don't recall.]

It strikes me that most of us start out as "family tree climbers" grabbing every branch and leaf on our ancestral tree to find names of relatives. Then most of us figure out that we'd better write down our sources and organize our collection of names, relationships, dates and places, and we gradually become "genealogists." This then stimulates our desire to find out more about these people and the times they lived in, and we become "family historians." Throughout this process we continually learn more about history, sociology, law, research techniques, etc. and move from a casual tree climber to an addicted family history researcher.

I am still, in many ways, a "Family Tree Climber." I enjoy the hunt for new ancestors, and revel in their accomplishments (or notable actions), to the extent that I brag about my more famous (or infamous) ancestral forebears. Most of us do. But I am also a Genealogist and a Family Historian because I go beyond the "name search" to flesh out my ancestor's life as best I can from reputable sources.

More on Ancestry's "Internet Biographical Collection"

I think that nearly all of the genealogy blogosphere has weighed in on the controversy about's use of cached web sites in their "Internet Biographical Collection." The furor over this issue boiled over while Ancestry had the database behind their subscription firewall and the primary link to the subject web pages was through a cache on Ancestry's servers.

Ancestry made some changes yesterday - they made the database Free to registered users (not just subscribers) and put two links on the summary page for each search result - they added "View Live Web Page" below "View Cached Web Page."

There are several more excellent posts by genea-bloggers today, including (and my apologies if I left someone out):

* Kimberly Powell on the blog - "The Legality of Caching"

* Steve Danko on Steve's Genealogy Blog - "Thoughts on Ancestry's Internet Biographical Collection"

* Craig Manson at Geneablogie - " Thieves, Blunderers, Hypocrites or Fair Users?"

* Dick Eastman at the Eastman's Online Genealogy Newsletter - "Internet Biographical collection is Free at" -- there are many comments here also.

* Juliana Smith (I assume) at the 24/7 Family History Circle - "Internet Biographical Collection is Free at Ancestry" -- this is Ancestry's blog, and there are many comments to a rather bland posting.

* Susan Kitchens at the Family Oral History Using Digital Tools blog - " scrapes websites; places harvested content behind membership walls."

* Leland Meitzler at the Everton Publishers genealogy blog - "The Generations Nwetwork Continues to Tarnish Their Image" -- this has the most complete list of blog posts to date.

I commented on the 24/7 blog that one problem I see with this database is that if I search on my name "Randy Seaver" or my blog "Genea-Musings" that I get hundreds of hits - because many bloggers have put a link to my blog using one or both names. The numbers may increase as they add blog sites.

I am still sort of upset that they haven't crawled my Genea-Musings blog information yet - I just checked!

I do have some more comments about this issue:

* Caching appears to be common for search engines and Internet users. When I save a web page to my hard drive, I am caching it. When I save an Ancestry image to my hard drive, I am caching it (but only the image, not the Ancestry material around it).

* I think that Ancestry should do away with the "View Cached Web Page" link and just show the "View Live Web Page" link.

* The major complaint was that Ancestry was "profiting" from freely created and provided data. I sincerely doubt that Ancestry has "profited" from adding these web pages to their cache. The database was put online on 22 August 2007 and Ancestry must have invested some amount of money in creating it. No one who subscribed before that date knew it was coming online and therefore did not subscribe just for this collection. In the future, I sincerely doubt that anyone will subscribe, or will renew their subscription, to Ancestry just because of this database - I wouldn't.

* The reason that so many genealogy researchers create freely-viewed web sites, transcribe data, write blogs, etc. is to disseminate genealogy information for other researchers to use. Most of this data is searched for using a search engine - whether it's Google, Yahoo, or Ancestry. The links to the web pages are provided, as are cached web pages.

* Not everyone uses Ancestry - you can get the same result using the Search engines, at least as it applies to the information in the Internet Biographical Collection.

* There are means to prevent Ancestry from capturing the web pages, but web page masters have to know how to do it. See Susan Kitchen's blog post above (which relied on a comment by AnnieGMS to my earlier post).

* Will Ancestry add items from,, or to this database? There is a wealth of data on these web sites, often the only mention of individuals and families. It would be a shame if contributors would delete their material from these free web sites, as some have suggested.

I admit that I've been fairly neutral on this issue - my data wasn't captured by Ancestry (yet) and hidden behind a firewall. I didn't have "hits" taken away from me by the caching of pages. I am an Ancestry subscriber. I do want to hear from Ancestry about the legal issues (although Kimberly, Craig and Steve covered them pretty well, I thought). I wish that Ancestry would carefully consider the reaction to adding a database like this before they do it.

UPDATED: 29 August, 2:30 PM, minor editorial corrections, plus adding Leland Meitzler's post to my list.

UPDATED: 29 August, 10:30 PM: Well, I just got home from going out to dinner with my Angel and attending the play "Susan and God" and found out that Ancestry has pulled the plug on access to the Internet Biographical Collection. Good. That doesn't mean that they have deleted the images - just cut the access to the collection. We'll see if they put it back at some time with appropriate credits and good links to the actual web sites, ala Google.

For a spot of humor, check out Tim Agazio's post - "So, What's New in the Genealogy world?" Thanks for ther chuckle, Tim. And welcome back.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Family History 101 Web Site

I recently found, and made a Favorite of, the web site because it looked interesting and perhaps helpful. The home page does not offer much - there are links to maps, encyclopedia, forms, software, books, free trials, etc. There are also links on the home page to Footnote, WorldVitalRecords, Ancestry and other commercial web sites.

The real value on this web site is the State resources and links which you get to from the home page by clicking on "View Another State" - who knew? They really need to fix that - put a clear link to the States.

At the States site - - there is a map of the states currently in their web site. They are mainly east of the Mississippi, but include Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas and Missouri west of the river, but not Wisconsin east of the river.

When you click on a state, you go to another web site specific to that state and see a map of the state with the current counties outlined.

For instance, I chose Pennsylvania and got a web site named which showed a map of Pennsylvania. When you run your mouse over a county, the boundaries fill in and the county name appears on the map. You can click on a county on the map, or from a list of counties below the map, and go to a web page for the specific county. I picked Mercer County and the web page is

On the Mercer County web page, there are sections for County History and Facts, Court Records, Vital Records, Census Records, Tax Records, Military Records, County Maps and Atlases, Genealogy Addresses, Church and Cemetery Records, etc. Within each section there are links to web pages that have specific information. Some of the links take you to a commercial genealogy site.

If you put a name in the "Search for your Ancestors" box, it goes to If you don't have a subscription, then you don't get to view the record.

There are no actual data records on this web site, only links to places that might have records. As such, it is not overly useful to me - I'm looking for real data and not just information.

I think that some links to the County USGenWeb site, to the County Message Boards and Mailing List, etc. would be appropriate. Links to the LDS Family History Library Catalog for the County could be provided so researchers could see what records might be available at the Family History Library in paper, microform or digital format.

It's a decent start for this site - but it can be greatly improved. is Caching some web site data

I received an email notice from a colleague yesterday, with a message from the owners of I went to the web site, followed the "What's New at USGenNet" links for 2007 announcements, and found the following:

"Dateline: 26 August 2007

"Copycats on the Loose! Sites on the USGenNet server have been copied and cached versions of pages are being shown in Ancestry'Com's subscription only site. USGenNet President, Ginger Cisewski, sent a notice to all account holders and has assured everyone that USGenNet will be dealing with this promptly. A viewable sample of a copied page is now available at for those who don't have a subscription to Ancestry.Com. "

I followed the links given above, and then went on to see if what it said was true. Although I couldn't find the exact example, I think that what the message says is true - Ancestry has cached pages from online databases and is making them available through the "Internet Biographical Collection" database that requires an Ancestry subscription to access.

While reading my Bloglines this morning, I noticed that Kimberly Powell posted a very informative article titled "Cache 22 - Has Gone Too Far?" about this situation, with significant background information. Her article made the point that Google does a similar thing of caching data, has been sued for it, and Google won the suit in a Nevada District Court. Kimberly's concern, however, is this:

"The database takes things even further, however, serving up the cached pages as the first option and offering a small link to the "live Web site." There is no way to get to the link for the live page without first viewing the cached page. On the actual record page for each search result, the cached link is identified as "cached," but it is still the only option open if you want to view the content - there is no link to the live Web page until after you view the cached page. And from the search results where you are given the option only to "view Web page" you are taken directly to the cached page, with no notice that the page is indeed cached. This is where I feel that this database has stepped over the line, possibly into copyright infringement. is serving up copies of copyrighted work and, to make matters worse, selling this as one of their subscription databases. Because the pages are cached, they are also depriving the Web site and/or content owner of traffic and potential income. "

I don't have an opinion about the legality of what Ancestry has done here, because I am not an attorney. But I do have thoughts about this issue and how it impacts genealogy data providers and researchers.

I appreciate that Ancestry has provided links to useful genealogy data, but I am troubled that it is behind the subscription firewall and that the URL for the cached page is for However, Ancestry does provide a clear link to the actual web page that was cached - there is a "View Live Web Page" just below the link to the cached page. I will click on the Live Web Page link as a standard practice so that the data provider gets a hit.

Is the claim by USGenNet that Ancestry is a "copycat" true? Has Ancestry copied the data? Ancestry has not "imaged" the specific web pages or data set directly, but it appears that they have "captured" the web page and put it on Ancestry servers, waiting for a subscriber to click on the Cached link. They have also indexed the information on the page. Ancestry is acting as a data portal and search engine in this case. This is a legal issue and USGenNet is apparently going to pursue the issue.

Has Ancestry "stolen" the genealogy data on as Amy Crooks in her " Nothing but Thiefs" posited? It's a legitimate question, since Ancestry has apparently "captured" the actual web pages and put them on their servers. Again, this is a legal issue and should be settled by a legal agreement or in a court.

What Ancestry has done doesn't prohibit a researcher from going directly to the web site and doing searches on their free online data. I have tested this site and found that it contains a lot of useful genealogical and historical data, and have added it to my Favorites list and will post a separate blog about it later.

There is a bigger question. Ancestry describes their "Internet Biographical Collection" as:

"This database contains a sampling of biographical sketches found on English language web pages throughout the entire World Wide Web. Web pages can vary greatly in the amount of information they contain about a given person, and in the number of related and unrelated people mentioned on the same page. The information source and the central topic of each page will also vary greatly. Given facts should be verified using other sources. One unique and valuable feature of this web-based collection is the number of hyperlinks leading from each page in the collection to other web pages of possible interest on related topics."

So we know that Ancestry has cached pages. Have they cached pages from other web sites? Are they making agreements with these web sites, or are they just "capturing" and caching web pages? Are they indexing these pages?

If this is legal, what freely available data will be cached next? LDS data (I don't see any yet)? USGenWeb data (I don't see any yet)? Wikipedia (yep!)? Blog posts (uh oh - I just found some Cow Hampshire, Steve's Genealogy Blog and Geneablogie pages in the Ancestry collection, but Genea-Musings is not there yet - what's up with that?)? If it is legal, then what stops any free or commercial web site from doing caching and indexing of free web pages? Probably just money - bandwidth, servers, etc.

It is an interesting time for genealogy researchers and family historians, isn't it?

UPDATED Tuesday, 8/28, 3 PM: Kimberly commented that:

"I just wanted to mention that while there is now a link to the "View Live Web Page" under the link to the cached page, there was no such link this morning. Several changes have been made to the database already since early this morning, likely in response to some of the uproar from the genealogy community.

"The database is now appearing in their "free records" as well. You have to sign in as an member, but you don't have to be a subscriber. "

I could not check out that this database is on the Free side - it says "Free Index" in the list of recently added Ancestry databases (dated 8/22/07). That certainly is a major change if true.

I thought I noticed the "View Live Web Page" link was there today, but not yesterday. And putting this in the FREE collection is certainly a smart thing to do - they should encourage clicking on the "View Live Web Page" link rather than the "View Cached Page" link.

Becky Wiseman on her Kinexxions blog has posted about this issue in "Is This Fair Use?" and Janice Brown on her Cow Hampshire blog has commented in "Ancestry Hijacks Cow Hampshire."

Monday, August 27, 2007 is Updated (Finally) has just announced, via their latest email newsletter, that the interactive genealogy database has been significantly upgraded.

The announcement includes:

"On August 31, users will be able to upload their family tree, their GEDCOM, and much more. Once your GEDCOM uploads, you can view the surnames in your tree and the number of individuals who have that surname.

"Want to connect with other genealogists? Type in the surname you are searching on the site and immediately receive access to all other genealogists who are researching the same surname. You can also narrow your search to the people you want to find by distance, country, county, state, city, zip code, online status, experience, age, and more.

"Have you hit a brick wall with your research? Don’t worry. Simply type in the name of the individual for whom you are searching. This name will be posted at and other individuals on may be able to assist you with tearing down that wall.

"Researching a particular place? After typing in the research location, search results display a city page using geo-coded technology that displays all the individuals who live within up to 100 miles from the research location. The search result also displays those who are researching the same location.

"Using’s Free Family Tree Viewer, you can:
* Quickly view pedigree files
* Calculate the relationship between two individuals within their pedigree chart
* Easily view vital information on an individual, such as birth, marriage, or death dates
* Switch to ancestor or descendant view
* Add or view photos, documents, videos, albums, recordings, etc."

Well! That is a major upgrade to a web site that has had the potential for being very useful "if only they improved it by adding ..." They have. I'm glad. I will test it out soon! FamilyLink will certainly be a competitor to similar genealogy networking sites like WeRelate, MyHeritage, Geni and several others.

If you're not receiving the weekly newsletter from WorldVitalRecords, I recommend that you click on the newsletter link and subscribe.

Della's Journal - Week 35 (August 27 - September 2, 1929)

This is Installment 35 of the Journal of Della (Smith) Carringer, my great-grandmother, who resided at 2115 30th Street in San Diego in 1929.

The "players" and "setting" are described here. Pictures of some of the players are here. Last week's Journal entry is here.

Here is Week 35:


Tuesday, August 27 (warmer): I went to town, pd water bills, ours $1.50 each, L[yle?] $4.20, Mrs. Benson $1.80. Emily working. I got 2 light bulbs 70 c, candy 50 c, oil cloth 45 c, hair nets 25 c, scarf $1.45.

Wednesday, August 28 (warm): Washed, moved Ma's bed head to the N[orth] and put in 3/4 bed we bought. Looked for Hazel but she did not come. I made cushion for chair in hall. Lyle got new suit, tan, is pretty.

Thursday, August 29 (hotter): Graf Zeppelin 21 da 7 hr 12 m around the world, Lake Hurst N.J. & back there. 7:07 A.M. E. St. time. Louie Morrill came about 4:30 P.M. stayed to supper tthen went to C.V. will go back tomorrow. Ruth did not come with him, he may come back next Tue[sday] then she will come with him. We ironed & sewed a little. Let Betty try hemming with foot hewer (??).

Friday, August 30 (hot): I went downtown in A.M. got a few things, coat dress $1.00, table scarf $1.00, oil paper 5 c, napkins 5 c, shelf paper 5 c, receipt book 5 c, two towels @ 15 c = 30 c, rubber tubing 5 ft @ 4 c = 20 c. Letter from Jessie. Hazel @ Nat[ional] C[ity] will be over some time soon. Emily working, Ma working on quilt. I sewed a little.

Saturday, August 31 (hot, hotter): Ed did not come over. Miss Thoren went to Descanso. Louie & Bill brought Hazel over. A[ustin] & I worked outside, watered, A[ustin] went to town got him Army coverhalls $1.00. Myrtle & Ben called about 3 P.M.

Sunday, September 1 (warm): Myrtle & Ben went to Coronado, called here about 5 P.M, had been over to the Glider Races at Pacific Beach. Lyle's company, Jimmy Kemp, stayed with Betty Sun[day] & Monday, Laura & Roy stayed in country. Hazel had a good time playing with them. We had several to look at flats.

Monday, September 2, Labor Day: Austin's cousin Ella Stanton's girl Eva & husband called had been married three weeks had a young couple that had only been married a week with them. We had company all day. Myrtle & Ben came back in P.M, had been to the Zoo. Three girls two Misses Gilbert & Miss Lipp, two are school teachers rented the upper flat @ $50 per mo. Miss Thoren had a spell with her kidneys but it rained in the mtns as she had to sleep in the house.


There were a lot of visitors this week - Louie and Ruth Morrill, Hazel, Ella' Stanton's daughter Eva, then Myrtle and Ben. I will work on Louie and Ruth Morrill and Hazel, I'm not sure I know who they are.

They finally got the upper flat at 2116 Fern Street rented - to three young women.

CVGS Meeting today - the Wheel of Genealogy Fortune

The Chula Vista Genealogical Society has a Picnic at the local Elks Lodge for our August meeting. Some years we have a book auction and some years we play some sort of game or participation activity.

After eating lunch, having our gift exchange (bring one, get one) and our door prize award (today it was the book Unpuzzling Your Past by Emily Anne Croom, donated by Shirley), we played a game.

The game "Wheel of Genealogy Fortune" is based on the TV Wheel of Fortune, only different. There are a means to get points (we used two dice rather than a wheel), some rules like Wheel of Fortune on TV, used points rather than dollars, some word puzzles on posters, an MC - Pat Sajak (played by your humble blogger), Vanna White (played by Crystal) to write letters on the posters, a scorekeeper (my Angel Linda), several teams of players, etc.

The word puzzles were genealogy related - in categories like "Genealogy society," "Book and Author," "Topic and Speaker," "Society Officer," "Tag Line," "Genealogy Blog," "Genealogy Web Site," etc.

Three teams of two people were chosen for each game, and they took turns rolling the dice, guessing letters, and solving the puzzles. This is harder than it looks. Here are the six puzzles we used, with the letters R S T L N E already added. Can you guess what they are (I used slashes (/) to separate words above since Blogger won't take more than one space) ?

1. Society: N E _ / _ _ R _ / _ E N E _ L _ _ _ _ _ L / _ N _ / _ _ _ _ R _ _ _ _ _ _ L / S _ _ _ E T _

2. Book and Author: E _ _ _ E N _ E / _ _ / E L _ _ _ _ E T _ / S _ _ _ N _ _ L L S

3. Topic and Speaker: T _ E / _ _ _ _ _ / _ _ / R _ _ T S _ E _ / _ _ / _ L _ N / _ _ N E S

4. Society Officer: _ R _ _ R _ _ / _ _ _ _ R _ E R S _ N / _ _ N N _ E / _ T T _ N _ E R

5. Tag Line: _'_ / N _ T / S T _ _ _ / _'_ / _ N _ E S T R _ L L _ / _ _ _ L L _ N _ E _

6. Genealogy Blog: E _ S T _ _ N'S / _ N L _ N E / _ E N E _ L _ _ _ / N E _ S L E T T E R

In the game, we didn't give them any letters. There were two Bankrupts (getting snake-eyes on the dice) just before puzzle solutions, which were painful to watch.

Each game solved three puzzles, and we played for about an hour. Of the 25 people in attendance, 12 people participated as contestants, and 3 others as Pat, Vanna and Angel. Shirley and Virginia won the first game, and Martha and Barbara won the second game. All contestants got past issues of Family Tree Magazine for their participation. The winners get their names in the newsletter (and the blog).

This worked out pretty well - Vanna and Angel performed their jobs skillfully and joyfully. Everybody had fun, and most came away with a respect for what the contestants on the real Wheel of Fortune go through.

Before the meeting started, over lunch, and after the game, there were small huddles of people discussing their current research problems and successes, and enjoying getting to know each other better. We had several recent new members in attendance, and several spouses attended. It was fun!

Sunday, August 26, 2007

"The Essex Genealogist" - August 2007 Issue Table of Contents

One of the quarterly genealogy journals that I receive is The Essex Genealogist, - TEG - published by the Essex Society of Genealogists (ESOG), which provides genealogy data specific to Essex County, Massachusetts (the most northeast county in Mass.). Since I have a fine collection of ancestors who lived in this county - in Lynn, Marblehead, Salem, Beverly, Danvers, Andover, Rowley, Salisbury, Amesbury, Newbury, Newburyport and probably other towns that I can't recall - I have been an ESOG member for about 15 years.

This journal has published well-sourced articles on several of my ancestral families, mainly from Lynn but occasionally from other towns.

The Table of Contents for Volume 27, Number 3, August 2007, includes:


* Letter from the Editor -- page 98.

* "Researching Your Irish Ancestors" by Judy Lucey -- page 99.

* "Descendants of Hugh Ditson" by Marilyn Fitzpatrick -- page 107
* "Descendants of Richard Bryer through son William" by Margaret Blair -- page 120.
* "Charter Street Cemetery Inscriptions" by Jeanne Stella -- page 127.
* "Old Kittery and Her Families corrections/additions" transcribed by Margaret Blair -- page 129.
* "Some Major Epidemics in the United States" contributed by Alice Bonney with some additions -- page 133.

* "William B. Cogswell" by Mary Naomi (Cogswell) Lieberman -- page 137
* "Mary Lawrence" by David A. Hills -- page 139.
* "Leslie Myron Hunt" by Richard M. Hunt -- page 140
* "Ida Alma Whitney" by David A. Hills -- page 141.

QUERIES -- page 142.


* "William Gordan (12 June 1790 - 31 March 1839)" by Barbara Gunvaldsen -- Inside Back Cover.


As you can see, this journal has several types of articles that are different from most other journals. The most important is the Feature Article, which is almost always transcribed from a lecture given to the Society at a meeting by a speaker. Judy Lucey spoke to ESOG on 17 February 2007. I wasn't there, but as a member of ESOG, I get to read what was said, but I miss the visual aids. That's OK, as long as the speaker covers the material and doesn't say "read this chart and we'll move on." I really like this feature!

The second feature I like a lot is the Ahnentafel listings. Many of these get back into the 17th century, and I often find my Essex County ancestors in these lists. If I wished, I could correspond with the ahnentafel provider about our mutual ancestor(s).

If you have Essex County (MA) ancestors from the colonial times, you might want to check your local library for copies of this journal and see if your families have been covered. Or read the Feature Articles to see if they discuss items of genealogical research interest to you.

I went to the fine ESOG genealogy book collection at Lynnfield (MA) Public Library back in 2004. I keep hoping that on one of my trips to New England that I will have a chance to go to an ESOG meeting. Maybe I should see if they are willing to pay me to come speak to them (BG)?

Best of the Genea-Blogs - August 19-26

It is difficult for me to remember everything I read on the genealogy blogs I frequent, so I started listing, for my own edification, the ones I really want to save. These may be thoughtful, amusing, informative, helpful and interesting. Here are my "keepers" for the week from August 19 to August 26:

* The Ancestry Insider blog post titled "Dear FamilySearch, About Your Branding..." was interesting and gives a behind-the-scenes look at how a competitor (??) views FsmilySearch.

* The Ancestry Insider blog had a four article series titled "BYU Conference: The digital Pipeline" which summarized a presentation by the New FamilySearch folks to the BYU Conference. This is another behind-the-scenes look at how strategy is made and executed.

* The Genealogy Insider blog had a post titled "More New Stuff at FGS" which highlighted the collaboration between WorldVitalRecords and the National Genealogical Society, plus several interesting web sites.

* Renee Zamora on her Renee's Genealogy Blog posted "News You Just Have to Read" with correspondence from an LDS person about access to the collaborating databases at the FHL and FHCs.

* Lee Drew on his FamHist blog describes some "Free Tools To Help in Your Quest" - these are free online tools that might make your research more efficient - at home and away.

* Thomas Hamburger Jnr. posted four more chapters on his "The Case of the Missing Family" blog. Have you read his online, ongoing genealogy mystery book (Harry McFry Investigates) yet? It's enjoyable.

* Miriam Midkiff on her Ancestories: The Stories of My Ancestors blog tells a fascinating story of family links in Alaska in her post "A Different Kind of Family."

* Juliana Smith on the 24/7 Family History Circle blog posted "Using Ancestry: Ancestor Search Review" that describes her experience using Ancestry Search engines. This will be a series.

* J.L. Bell on the Boston 1775 history blog has a fascinating post about "How Things Looked from London" in 1775.

* Amy Crooks on her Untangled Family Roots blog has two articles on Getting Organized - "Part I: Getting Started" is about gathering information, and "Part 2" is about photographs.

* The author at the How To Survive Suburban Life blog tells many stories, some sad, some funny, all true - "Rumpole Meets Remittance Man" is funny. I know this isn't genealogy, but it is Family History (just not the usual)!

That's it for this week - tune in next week for more "Best of the Genea-Blogs" news.


There Ain't No Such Thing As A Free Lunch. We've all heard that throughout our lives - as children, as students, as adults, as workers, as players, as genealogists. It takes money for the world to go around. If you're getting something for free, then someone else is paying for it.

DearMYRTLE and Jasia posted the other day about the "hidden" costs of all of the free genealogy data we have available to us - the web sites, genealogy societies, databases, search engines etc. Someone pays - the web site owner, the advertisers, or you and me. I want to address the "you and me" part of it.

Every so often, someone posts a rant on one of my mailing lists decrying the cost of joining a genealogy society, the cost of an Ancestry (or other commercial site) subscription, or the use of user-contributed databases by a commercial web site. I understand that many people are on limited incomes, and have to make priorities in their spending - genealogy may not be a necessary cost when a person is financially squeezed. But sometimes the rant is based on the notion that "someone wants to rip me off," or "they only want to make a big profit."

To my mind, a commercial genealogy company like The Generations Network (TGN - which has Rootsweb, Ancestry, MyFamily,, FamilyTreeMaker, and other sites under its umbrella) is in a competitive business of providing information to customers (you and me). They offer an annual US Deluxe subscription (all of the US-based collections) for $155.40 a year, and an annual World Deluxe subscription for $299.40 (all collections). When you consider this on a daily basis, it is $0.43 a day for the US and $0.82 for the World. That is a pretty good deal IF you will use it on a regular basis.

Consider also that access to many of Ancestry's databases is available at libraries in the US in the form of Ancestry Library Edition. And that TGN provides access to Rootsweb (databases, mailing lists, message boards, freepages, society web pages, etc) for free. I am not sure if TGN has the USGenWeb and WorldGenWeb sites in their stable, but someone does, and they are free to use.

I don't know about you, but my Ancestry subscription is probably the wisest and smartest genealogy investment I've made in the last five years. I use it almost every day. I can use it any time of day, at home on my desktop, or on vacation on my laptop.

The biggest value, though, is the time (and money) it saves me - I can search databases and documents that I would otherwise have to travel a distance to find (incurring transportation and lodging costs), or find and copy at a local repository (copy costs, film rentals), or hire a professional genealogist to find (lookups or copies from a distant repository). I can download images from it (I just can't post them on the blog, apparently!) and save it electronically - I don't have to abstract or transcribe it by hand to obtain a copy.

Some people have bemoaned the fact that there are so many new commercial genealogy web sites now available and that they cost money. The fact is that these new web sites (I'm thinking WorldVitalRecords, Footnote, GenealogyBank and FindMyPast here) are providing access to unique documents and databases that are not available at the Ancestry or LDS web sites - they are providing a service to their subscribers.

My view is that competition is GREAT for genealogy - when there are several content providers, they will fight for customers and continue to increase their holdings. The worst thing that would happen to genealogy would be if one commercial company swallowed all of the others.

I, as a subscriber, have to make the choice whether to subscribe or not, based on the database offerings and my perceived need for them. Even so, the costs are not exorbitant to my way of thinking when considered as a daily or weekly cost. I could subscribe to all of those databases mentioned above for about $1.50 per day. I imagine that I spend $1.50 a day on things I "want" but don't "need." Heck, my cable modem connection costs me about $1.50 a day, and I use it for about 6 to 8 hours daily - I definitely "need" it!.

I am especially grateful for the work done by the LDS church in providing - totally free - a large research library in Salt Lake City, 4,500 Family History Centers all over the world, access to millions of data microforms, and the web site. This organization will continue to add new databases and documents over the next 10 years, and is collaborating with several of the non-Ancestry subscription sites to make their databases available at LDS facilities - for free.

What makes the most sense to me is for each researcher to evaluate their available income for genealogy-related activities, and budget accordingly. If you are not going to use a genealogy subscription service more often than once a month, it makes no sense to subscribe - you can go to a library or an FHC and find almost every thing that is available. If you are doing research every day, a personal subscription makes a lot of sense.

TANSTAAFL is a true statement - but in my humble opinion, genealogy resources on the Internet are almost FREE, and I am happy and grateful that commercial genealogy companies exist to provide data and information to their customers. I hope that they keep up the good work - and the competition - because all genealogists and family historians will benefit.

Note: I am not a member of the LDS church, or an employee or affiliate of any of the web sites mentioned. I do have a US Ancestry subscription (which I got for $99.95 last year in a promo deal). I'm just a genealogy guy who is having a lot of fun searching for my own ancestors and helping other people in their searches.

Updated: 9:30 PM to edit several lines. "There Ain't No Such Thing as My Editor. I is it!"