Saturday, January 10, 2009

Day 2 in SLC - A Visit to TGN - Part 3

I had a choice last night - to write another post about the meeting at TGN (and stay up late to get it right) or to get a good night's sleep and be ready for a big research day at the Family History Library. I chose the latter!

Following up on Part 1 and Part 2 on this topic - I see that I basically gave you facts and numbers that could be obtained from a TGN presentation or press release. I thought that they would provide background for this followup post.

One of the most interesting moments of the day was when Andrew Wait provided a vision for how the genealogy community could collaborate with data providers like The vision was an Individual Page for every person being researched (are we thinking of a billion or more pages?). This would be in a wiki format (presumably similar to's Person Pages), with photographs attached, stories, sources, research notes and proff arguments attached, with attached data records (census, military, probate, deed, family papers, immigration, naturalization, cemetery, newspaper, etc. - whether from, another database provider or from a contributor).

This sounds ideal to me, but will require a major education effort on the part of the genealogy industry to educate the genealogy community who are really the only people that can populate a wiki like this, at least for generations that don't have census, military, immigration and other records available in databases at present. There are already several wiki-based web sites for this type of collaboration - the largest one is at, I think. Very few researchers have even tried the collaboration aspect of the WeRelate site, and few persons search the site. Frankly, I am really leery of a commercial company hosting a wiki of this nature, although has the critical mass of users and the resources to introduce it and try to make it work. A collaboration of the commercial providers with FamilySearch and other non-commercial providers might be the naswer.

Here are summaries from the last four presentations on Friday.

1) Kenny Freestone made his presentation on Friday about Ancestry Family Trees. He didn't talk at all about the legacy family trees - Ancestry World Tree, One World Tree or Online Family Trees. His presentation was all about Ancestry Family Trees - the Public Member and Private Member Trees that have been added over the past two years. Here are some of the main points that I gathered from the talk:

* "Hinting" - this means the "little green leaves" on the pedigree chart when you are working with an Ancestry Family Tree - is a difficult computer problem. The purpose of "hinting" is to provide the most likely matches for a particular person in the databases to the researcher. It is the "low hanging fruit" that can be easily found with a name, location and lifespan match. The matches may be new information for a user. Since they implemented it, 170 million hints have been "accepted" - meaning the image and information has been attached to the user's family tree. He said that 85% of the offered hints are accepted by the user - that's a phenomenal number, I think.

* There are 8.3 million trees in from 7.3 million users (remember that you don't have to be a subscriber to put your data in the tree system, but you do have to be a subscriber to accept the hints). There are 810 million names in the trees, and 14 million photos have been attached. 2 million invitations to family have been sent, but not many people have contributed content to someone else's tree. They have designed the tree system for collaboration between family members and other researchers with common ancestors.

* They see they major problems with the family tree collaboration system - data vampires (those who take data without giving any - transparency is the solution here); perpetuating errors (adding other persons bad data creates more bad data - the solution may be user acceptance of merging data); and privacy (hiding details of living people - there are already Public trees and Private trees, and both permit someone to send a request for more info to the submitter; there will be a Hidden tree also for those that don't want any information shared but want a family tree online).

* There will be a new Tree Viewer on the Ancestry trees. It will close the gap between the current web-based tree and the FTM desktop tree. It will add a report capability like the FTM 2009 reports. The biggest issue for this is synchronization - if a user modifies his tree in FTM 2009 and tries to replace the web-based tree, the problem is lost attached data. They didn't say it explicitly, but I wouldn't be surprised if the web-based tree page looks like FTM 2009, with notes and sources available on the web page (as opposed to being well hidden now).

2) Mike Wolfgramm's presentation on Content Technology touched on 19 items in the content pipeline, but he only described some of them (and I didn't catch all of the items in my notes). The ones I did capture included:

* They are seeking patents for many of their technology items, which is smart business.
* Scan Manager creates a scanned database faster with automated tools.
* Automatic cropping of images
* Smart watermarking puts the "" or "" marking in a blank space on an image.
* They are using ultra-violet or infrared imaging on hard-to-read images (the example was pencil entries in the 1851 England census that have faded badly due to age and water damage).
* Binarization - changing some gray-scale images to black and white to improve readability when OCRed. The claim was that Ancestry's OCR error rate is 0.04% (1 in 2,500).
* Keying tools - they have two companies in China keying entries into indexes based on character recognition (i.e., like a census line, where they don't have to make sense of the content), and one company in Uganda keying entries with context (Uganda's national language is English).

I'm not expert at any of these technologies so I can't comment about them. I'm happy to see them trying to improve the technologies, though.

3) Anne Mitchell's presentation was about the Search function, and drew many comments. Anne pointed out that most of the Ancestry databases have names, dates, places, ages, and relationships in the data fields. The names may be spelled phonetically, with different spelling, with abbreviations, or with translated words by the recorders, and be mis-transcribed by the recorders and/or indexers. An example is they have identified over 800 ways to spell Catherine, including nicknames.

* Rather than just stick with Exact matches to the user's information, their Ranked Matches, which create fuzzy searches, are based on an algorithm that gives different weights to different data items. They are trying to create smarter algorithms that drive the best matches to the top of the list.

* The Vertical Search (which the users know as New Search) checks over 5 billion records and nodes, which resides on many different servers and then the dynamic web page displaying the results has to be built to deliver results within a few seconds.

* They are trying to improve the Ranked search results so that the absolute best matches are at the top. Name penalization (move names that don't match down the list), date penalization (move dates that don't match down the list) and place penalization are being considered. It means changing the algorithms.

4) Scott Sorensen's presentation on Emerging Technology was the last one of the day. His topics were:

* The Ancestry DNA prices will come down on 13 January ($79 for a Y-DNA 33 marker test, which was $149; and $149 for a Y-DNA 46 marker test, which was $199). Their goal is to attract more users who will contribute to their DNA database. They presently have about 30,000 now, and hope to achieve 150,000 entries in the database. Persons who have had their DNA tested by another company can enter their data into Ancestry's database and family tree. They want to do more user education on genetic genealogy and ancient ancestry.

* They hope to add a Places feature on family trees so that the user can see a map with life events for their ancestors. They talked about a wiki for places that users can contribute their knowledge to. They also want to add user information about genealogy resources available at repositories and on the Internet (more than just on

* Family Tree Maker 2009 - This was covered in some depth and caused some discussion during the meeting. My table at dinner last night also discussed this in some detail. The future plans for FTM were also discussed tonight at the TGN-sponsored dinner, and I'll cover it all in a separate post.

There were parts of The Generations Network that were not addressed during this meeting, including,,, international sites and content, MyCanvas, the Learning Center, and Ancestry Magazine, etc.

I keep reminding myself that this is a Public Relations campaign by Ancestry to influence the attendees. We saw the best view possible of the company and the products. However, the candidness about past and present problems, the enthusiasm and work ethic of the employees and management, and the willingness of TGN to allow this information to be shared must be considered when evaluating these presentations and the meetings.

TGN has publicized many of their plans in a more public way than ever before. They know that the expectations of the subscribers and users will be raised based on this information, and that they have to deliver as promised.

My apologies for this too-long post about half a day of presentations, but I wanted to put my impressions and understandings down on paper. If a TGN employee thinks that I have ignored or miscopied something in their presentations, I urge them to contact me in Comments or at and I will set things straight with corrections.

In addition to the FTM post, I will write soon about the overall impression I have of the company and its' staff and products.

Saturday Night Fun - who went to

I've posted several blogs about the meeting I participated in at TGN yesterday with a group of other "genealogy bloggers." Actually, the group should have been called "genealogy writers" to be accurate. The group included authors, editors, columnists, podcasters and bloggers (some in more than one role).

Your task tonight, should you choose to accept it, is to identify all eight of the "genealogy writers" lured to Provo by TGN to participate in this event. You already know that I was there - sort of the rookie at this type of thing. Three others have already blogged about the event. The other four may be a challenge.

Put your list of attendees in the Comments - make it a group effort to identify the group of eight, and I'll post a yes or no for each one you list. Remember, SLIG is starting on Sunday.

While you do that, I'll slave over my hot keyboard to write another post about the meeting yesterday, another for the meeting today, and maybe even a post about seeing lots of folks at the FHL today. Um, first I have to go to another dinner and hear presentations about FTM 2009 and the TGN future. It's a rough life here in snowy SLC, but somebody has to meet these challenges.

Day 2 in Salt Lake City - A Visit to TGN - Part 2

This is a continuation of my post from Friday night, Day 2 in Salt Lake city - A Visit to TGN - Part 1. Look for posts by other genealogy bloggers as well; DearMYRTLE posted more details last night in Touring TNG/Ancestry.

Some things I learned while visiting The Generations Network offices on Friday:
1) Their marketing surveys indicate that:

* 90% of USA adults are aware of family history and genealogy
* 78% are interested in learning about family history
* 43% know the countries from which their ancestors came
* 65% are inspired by family stories and photographs
* 75% are aware that there is data available online, but are not sure how to start research.

2) has:

* over 27,000 databases on all of
* over 7 billion names in the indexes
* added 1.3 billion names in 2008
* 235 million images in the content
* added over 52 million images in 2008
* 37 million original documents were scanned in 2008
* 146 million records were indexed in 2008
* 35 thousand reels of microfilm were imaged in 2008

3) Future content (didn't say when, implied 2009, copied hurriedly):

* US State census records (no details of which states)
* 1940 US city directories
* US Navy cruise books
* World War II draft cards
* US Military post returns
* State vital records - CA, FL, ME, PA, others I didn't get
* Passenger lists from more ports
* Border crossings from more localities
* Naturalization original documents, 1792-1989
* Historical newspapers
* Chinese-American immigration
* more Jewish records
* Confederate pension records
* Slave manifests of New Orleans
* Characters from the past
* Vermont and New York records

They didn't detail the International content. The list above is somewhat different from the ones posted recently at and at

4) There was a description of the methods they are using to obtain records for imaging and indexing from State Archives and Vital Records offices. One way they are obtaining access is by agreeing to image the records onsite, index the records, provide the archive a digital copy of the records and index, and permit free access to at the archives office. A second way to obtain record access is to provide grants to the archives or VR offices so that they will permit imaging at the state offices. At this time, TGN prefers to partner with record repositories rather than buy databases from them.

5) The World Archives Project had almost 10,000 volunteer indexers in December 2008, and to date they have indexed over 9 million records. There is an opportunity for genealogical and historical societies to partner with Ancestry to image and index the holdings in society files or databases. There was a discussion about what content should be added - government or other records (printed, form filled in, handwritten), family papers or records, etc. Ancestry said that priorities and availability of records are important to deciding which records to image and index.

I will save the next summary - about family trees, search strategy and emerging technology - for a later post.

Unfortunately, I am not the world's best note-taker, so there are parts of presentations that went by too fast or I was distracted (but I didn't doze off, even after a poor night's sleep - this was too good!) - perhaps the other attendees can fill in some of my blanks.

I will also offer my observations and impressions about the company, the management and employees in a later post.

On Saturday, I am going to the Family History Library for most of the day. TGN is sponsoring another dinner on Saturday night and will discuss updates to FTM 2009 and, and company achievements and goals.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Day 2 in Salt Lake City - a Visit to TGN - Part 1

This was a busy day in the heart of snow country. Seven of us were in a van headed to The Generations Network's offices for a Blogger's Day - to meet TGN management and receive an overview of their operations and plans for the future.

Our first stop was the Ancestry Data Center south of Salt Lake City. We were joined by two other bloggers, greeted by Andrew Wait (Sr. VP - General Manger Family History) and his staff. After a brief executive summary of TGN's operations, we were treated to a walk through of the server farm housed in the building - they currently have over 5,300 servers in over 180 cabinets in about 6,500 square feet of floor space. More statistics to impress you (they did me!):

* $150 million business in USA
* 900,000 subscribers
* 620 employees
* 2.5 petabytes (pb) of storage - 1 pb is 1 million gigabytes (gb).
* 94% of storage is used by
* Bandwidth usage is 560 mbps per month
* Space, power and bandwidth costs are $300,000 per month.

After this tour, we were driven to Provo to the TGN headquarters there. The program there included:

* A presentation on Content Acquisition and Strategy by Gary Gibb, VP, US Content
* Lunch with Tim Sullivan, CEO, and Andrew Wait
* A presentation on Document Preservation by Laryn Brown, Sr. Director - Document Preservation Services
* A tour of the Digital Preservation Services (including imaging and indexing)
* A presentation of Ancestry Family Trees by Kenny Freestone, Sr. Product Manager
* A presentation of Content Digitization Technology by Mike Wolfgramm, Sr. VP, Development
* A presentation on Search by Anne Mitchell, Sr. Product Manager
* A presentation on Non-Subscription Applications, Services and Features by Scott Sorensen, VP, Emerging Businesses

We then traveled to the Market Street Grill in West Jordan for a nice dinner with TGN people. We were back to the hotel at 9 p.m.

That's the basic description of the day - I will post more information about some of the presentations tomorrow.

Before today, none of us were sure how much we would be shown or how much we could write/speak about what we heard and saw. The TGN folks encouraged us to write about the meetings and presentations, and were very open about their company, their current work and their future plans. There were meaningful discussions about public relations, content and searches, and some emerging technology. We weren't allowed to record or take pictures of the facilities except in designated areas for privacy and security reasons.

All in all, it was a very full day, but exhilarating and informative for me. I have a much better appreciation for their operations and a better understanding of this genealogy business.

A new Genealogy e-zine is announced - The Graveyard Rabbit Journal

Terry Thornton announced the formation of the Association of Graveyard Rabbits back in October, and there are now over 70 blogs devoted to cemetery research listed on the rolls of the Association at The Graveyard Rabbit blog.

Terry, footnoteMaven and Julie Cahill Tarr (Managing Editor) have been working on developing a quarterly journal, called The Graveyard Rabbit Journal. This will be an online journal - you will be able to read it online. You can read the announcement, the list of columnists, and the invitation to contribute a feature article, in the post Graveyard Rabbit Journal - Call for Submissions. The first issue will be published on 15 April 2009.

Julie needs a copy editor - if you want to do this, please contact Julie at

My small part in this effort is a column titled Digging for Answers - a question and answer effort about cemetery and burial records. If you have a question you want answered, please forward it to Julie, and I will try to answer it. This is not "stump the chump" time!

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Day 1 in Salt Lake City

The last hour of the flight from San Diego to Salt Lake City showed a blanket of snow on fields, mountains, roads, cliffs, etc. Even part of the Great Salt Lake looked frozen over. It was dry in SLC, and I got to the Little America Hotel by 4:45 p.m. There was another genealogist in the transfer van who is going to the FHC and the Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy next week.

I went down and had dinner at 5:30, came back to the room, turned the football game on, took my shoes off and looked forward to a long night of blogging, reading email, commenting on Facebook, and an early bedtime.

Then I saw a comment to me on Facebook from Pat Richley (DearMYRTLE) that asked if I wanted to meet her group for dinner. I phoned her at the FHC (she had just solved a research problem). She picked me and Dick Eastman up and we went to a nearby restaurant, and there were several other SLIG organizers there too - Paula, Elissa, Mark, and Karen. It was great to meet all of them, whom I "know" only by reputation and from being Facebook friends. I really apreciate Pat reaching out to me and including me - it's like we're old friends already.

We talked for awhile - they've been meeting like this for years it seems, and here I am, the new kid on the block. They ate dinner, I had another dessert, and it was semi-snowing outside when we went out to come back to the hotel. Cool!

I may not blog tomorrow until the evening. There is a full day at a place down the road, and a dinner to follow. I don't think I'm going to be allowed to talk about it. If I can, I will! I'm sorry to be so evasive...

When I got back to the room, I had a little chat with Gena about Twitter on Facebook, and checked my Facebook Friends to see what else was happening. I managed to see the last two minutes of the football game. Ho hum - genealogy is so much more fun!

Table of contents for Family Tree Magazine - March 2009 issue

The March 2009 issue of Family Tree Magazine (Volume 10, Number 2) arrived recently. The theme this month was "Find Your Family Without Going Broke". Here is the Table of Contents:


page 16 - Cheap Thrills (Don't let the stumbling economy curb your research. Our special budget genealogy section will help you find family without breaking the bank)
* 11 family tree essentials you can get for free, by David A. Fryxell and Diane Haddad
* research trips on a shoestring, by Maureen A. Taylor
* economic crises your ancestors witnessed, by Fern Glazer

page 42 - Catalog Shopping, by Rick Crume (Having a hard time finding genealogy answers in libraries? Our five-point plan helps you use library catalogs to home in on the resources you need).

page 48 - Tale spin, by Sunny McClellan Morton (Weave your memories into unforgettable anecdotes with these six secrets of successful storytelling)

page 52 - Great Danes, by David A. Fryxell (does your heritage speak of fairy tales, Hamlet and hygge? Let us guide you to the best resources for discovering your Danish family tree)


page 4 - Out on a Limb, by Allison Stacy (honoring WWII vets)

page 5 - Making connections (readers letters)

page 6 - Branching Out, by Diane Haddad
* how the economy affects your research
* growth of family networking sites
* Live Roots
* genealogy news roundup

page 10 - History Matters, by David A. Fryxell (roller skates)

page 14 - Now What? - expert answers on genealogy sans computer and surname origins.

page 33 - State Research Guides
* New Hampshire, by Dana Schmidt
* Idaho, by Leslie Stroope

page 60 - Preserving Memories, by Grace Dobush (caring for Grandma's jewelry, saving rolled-up photos, and more)

page 62 - Photo Detective, by Maureen A. Taylor (looking beyond the obvious in a family portrait)

page 64 - Everything's Relative (tales from the lighter side)

page 66 - The Toolkit, edited by Allison Stacy
* crash course in genealogy wikis, by Nancy Hendrickson
* Family Tree Maker 2009 review, by Rick Crume
* free online photo editors, by Rick Crume
* four transcription guidelines, by Sunny McClellan Morton
* The Book Report, by Sharon DeBartolo Carmack

page 72 - Uprooted, by Sharon DeBartolo Carmack (test your genealogy IQ on Bill Cosby's family tree).

I was surprised to see a fairly negative review of FTM 2009. The Denmark research article is a keeper - good maps!

Ask Olive Tree Genealogy a Research Question

Lorine McGinnis Schulze is one of those genealogy researchers, bloggers and web site operators that fellow genealogists absolutely love. Her web site, Olive Tree Genealogy, has many free databases, and organized links to many other databases, that it is my number one go-to site for Canada, immigration and naturalization information. Lorine has several genealogy blogs also.

Her newest genealogy blog is called Ask Olive Tree Genealogy, and is in a question and answer format. The questions come from people like me and probably you - genealogists with an elusive ancestor - and Lorine provides helpful responses to the questions. She started this blog on 1 January 2009 and has posted a question and answer each day of this year.

The permanent post on the blog says:

"Do you need help finding an ancestor? Do you have a genealogy question you would like to ask me? Do you want to know where to find certain genealogy records? Let Lorine help! Every day I will choose one question to answer. Send your query about your ancestors to me then check back here to see if it has been answered. Please take a few minutes to read other queries that I've responded to so you get an idea of the kind of query most apt to be chosen."

In the right-hand sidebar, she notes:

""Learn how to write a good query in Good Query, Bad Query

"Send your genealogy queries to

"Please note: I reserve the right to edit your query as I see fit, and to use only your first name on this blog. I also reserve the right to pick and choose the queries I answer."

This blog will be an excellent service to the genealogy research community. Lorine is providing a wonderful example for others to follow - helping researchers by answering questions from her own experience and knowledge base. I hope that other bloggers will consider doing a similar thing on a regular basis.

I really appreciate Lorine for her web site, her blogs and her service to the genealogy community.

I need to formulate an email to Ask Olive Tree about my Canadian elusive ancestor. Let's see, which one? Ah, Sephrona!

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

The 99+ Genealogy Things Meme

We did the 99 Things Meme about life in general, and now Becky Wiseman started, and several others contributed to create a 99+ Genealogy Things meme.

Here are the rules:

The list should be annotated in the following manner:

* Things you have already done or found: bold face type

* Things you would like to do or find: italicize (color optional)

* Things you haven’t done or found and don’t care to: plain type

1. Belong to a genealogical society.
2. Researched records onsite at a court house.
3. Transcribed records.
4. Uploaded tombstone pictures to Find-A-Grave.
5. Documented ancestors for four generations (self, parents, grandparents, great-grandparents) .
6. Joined Facebook.
7. Helped to clean up a run-down cemetery.
8. Joined the Genea-Bloggers Group on Facebook.
9. Attended a genealogy conference.
10. Lectured at a genealogy conference.

11. Spoke on a genealogy topic at a local genealogy society.
12. Been the editor of a genealogy society newsletter.
13. Contributed to a genealogy society publication.
14. Served on the board or as an officer of a genealogy society.
15. Got lost on the way to a cemetery.
16. Talked to dead ancestors.
17. Researched outside the state in which I live.
18. Knocked on the door of an ancestral home and visited with the current occupants. (in Westminster MA - they wouldn't let me in, had to run from dog)
19. Cold called a distant relative.
20. Posted messages on a surname message board. (many)

21. Uploaded a gedcom file to the internet. (many)
22. Googled my name.
23. Performed a random act of genealogical kindness.
24. Researched a non-related family, just for the fun of it.
25. Have been paid to do genealogical research. (but not much)
26. Earn a living (majority of income) from genealogical research.
27. Wrote a letter (or email) to a previously unknown relative.
28. Contributed to one of the genealogy carnivals. (most of them)
29. Responded to messages on a message board or forum.
30. Was injured while on a genealogy excursion.

31. Participated in a genealogy meme. (most of them)
32. Created family history gift items (calendars, cookbooks, etc.).
33. Performed a record lookup for someone else.
34. Went on a genealogy seminar cruise. October 2008)
35. Am convinced that a relative must have arrived here from outer space.
36. Found a disturbing family secret.
37. Told others about a disturbing family secret.
38. Combined genealogy with crafts (family picture quilt, scrapbooking).
39. Think genealogy is a passion not a hobby. (an addiction, too)
40. Assisted finding next of kin for a deceased person (Unclaimed Persons).

41. Taught someone else how to find their roots.
42. Lost valuable genealogy data due to a computer crash or hard drive failure.
43. Been overwhelmed by available genealogy technology.
44. Know a cousin of the 4th degree or higher.
45. Disproved a family myth through research.
46. Got a family member to let you copy photos.
47. Used a digital camera to “copy” photos or records.
48. Translated a record from a foreign language. (Is English a foreign language? If not, is Norwegian?)
49. Found an immigrant ancestor’s passenger arrival record.
50. Looked at census records on microfilm, not on the computer. (for years...)

51. Used microfiche. (a lot)
52. Visited the Family History Library in Salt Lake City.
53. Visited more than one LDS Family History Center.
54. Visited a church or place of worship of one of your ancestors. (in England)
55. Taught a class in genealogy.
56. Traced ancestors back to the 18th Century.
57. Traced ancestors back to the 17th Century.
58. Traced ancestors back to the 16th Century. (and before - all the way to Adam!)
59. Can name all of your great-great-grandparents. (sure, but not here!)
60. Found an ancestor’s Social Security application.

61. Know how to determine a soundex code without the help of a computer. (I use a cheat sheet!)
62. Used Steve Morse’s One-Step searches.
63. Own a copy of Evidence Explained by Elizabeth Shown Mills.
64. Helped someone find an ancestor using records you had never used for your own research. (naturalization records)
65. Visited the main National Archives building in Washington, DC.
66. Visited the Library of Congress. (unimpressed)
67. Have an ancestor who came over on the Mayflower. (White, Cooke, Soule, Warren)
68. Have an ancestor who fought in the Civil War. (Isaac Seaver)
69. Taken a photograph of an ancestor’s tombstone.
70. Became a member of the Association of Graveyard Rabbits.

71. Can read a church record in Latin.
72. Have an ancestor who changed their name. ( they must have, since I can't find them before a certain date!)
73. Joined a Rootsweb mailing list. (many)
74. Created a family website. (several)
75. Have more than one "genealogy" blog. (only 5)
76. Was overwhelmed by the amount of family information received from someone.
77. Have broken through at least one brick wall. (and found two more!)
78. Visited the DAR Library in Washington D.C.
79. Borrowed a microfilm from the Family History Library through a local Family History Center. (hundreds!)
80. Have done indexing for Family Search Indexing or another genealogy project. (local CVGS project)

81. Visited the Allen County Public Library Genealogy Center in Fort Wayne, Indiana.
82. Had an amazing serendipitous find of the "Psychic Roots" variety. (my last hope!)
83. Have an ancestor who was a Patriot in the American Revolutionary War. (several)
84. Have an ancestor who was a Loyalist in the American Revolutionary War. (several)
85. Have both Patriot & Loyalist ancestors.
86. Have used Border Crossing records to locate an ancestor.
87. Use maps in my genealogy research.
88. Have a convict ancestor who was transported from the UK. (does Scotsman Peter Dill to MA in 1655 count?)
89. Found a bigamist amongst the ancestors.
90. Visited the National Archives in Kew.

91. Visited St. Catherine's House in London to find family records.
92. Found a cousin in Australia (or other foreign country). Hi Malcolm!
93. Consistently cite my sources. (surely you jest)
94. Visited a foreign country (i.e. one I don't live in) in search of ancestors. (Canada, England, Norway)
95. Can locate any document in my research files within a few minutes. (surely you jest!)
96. Have an ancestor who was married four times (or more). (Rev. Stephen Bachiler)
97. Made a rubbing of an ancestors gravestone.
98. Organized a family reunion.
99. Published a family history book (on one of my families).
100. Learned of the death of a fairly close relative through research. (who?)

101. Have done the genealogy happy dance. (and had genea-gasms too!)
102. Sustained an injury doing the genealogy happy dance. (can't jump too high)
103. Offended a family member with my research. (don't think so)
104. Reunited someone with precious family photos or artifacts.

I have done 78 out of the 104 items...what surprises you the most?

David Allen Lambert's "Question of the Day" on

David Allen Lambert has started a Question of the Day feature on the web site of the New England Historical and Genealogical Society (NEHGS). David has written this feature in the print magazine New England Ancestors since 2004, but now it is online (which only seems fitting for a column titled "Online Genealogist."

The Question of the Day feature is available to NEHGS members and non-members alike. The page says:

"Each day, David Lambert, the NEHGS Online Genealogist, will post an interesting 'Question of the Day' to share with you. We hope these questions are valuable and beneficial in your research. Check back daily for new questions and answers or read through our archives"

I had the pleasure of meeting David on the Wholly Genes cruise. He hosted several evening seminars around the cafe tables, and was a one-on-one mentor for many researchers, including me. David's biography from the NEHGS site:

"David’s genealogical expertise includes specialties in New England and Atlantic Canadian research, military records, and Native American and African American genealogical research. David has appeared on numerous radio and television shows, including the PBS-TV show History Detectives. He is the host of a local public access television talk show, devoted to capturing the stories of the U.S. Military veterans of the town of Stoughton, Massachusetts. "

You can submit a question to David - the site says:

"You are invited to submit research questions to David Allen Lambert at Please note that he will make every effort to reply to each message, but will respond on a first come, first-served basis. In some cases he may need to refer individuals to the NEHGS Research Service for more in-depth research services for a fee. "

This service, and others like it, can be very useful for researchers, and extremely helpful for those that get their questions answered.

Family Photographs - Post 37: Georgianna Auble in 1950

I'm posting old family photographs from my collection on Wednesdays, but they won't be wordless posts like others do - I simply am incapable of having a wordless post.

Here is one of the most precious (to me) images from my Auble/Carringer family collection:

This is a picture of Georgianna (Kemp) Auble (!868-1952), who was born in Norfolk County, Ontario, and came to Chicago in the 1890's, married Charles Auble in 1898 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and the family came to San Diego in about 1911.

This picture was taken in about 1950, probably in the patio adjacent to 2115 30th Street on the Carringer property (my only clue for this is the bricked patio, which was still there in 1980). Georgianna moved with Lyle and Emily (Auble) Carringer to Point Loma when the new home was built there in 1951. She is one of my great-grandmothers.

This photograph was handed down from Charles and Georgianna (Kemp) Auble to their daughter Emily Kemp (Auble) Carringer (who married Lyle L. Carringer), to their daughter Betty Virginia (Carringer) Seaver (who married Fred Seaver) to me, their son.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Catching Up with Rootsweb Review

I always enjoyed receiving the weekly Rootsweb Review in my email over the past 10 years or so. Then it stopped - because of a problem with my email thinking it was spam. So I resubscribed, and it worked for awhile and then stopped again. That was in April 2008.

When I checked the Rootsweb Review Archives, I saw that they went monthly at about that time. I tried to subscribe again, and never received an issue. Then I forgot about my old friend, until today when I went browsing through the Archives. They are still being published, in an HTML format, with Joan Young as the Editor. I found the feature articles in the Using Rootsweb section quite useful:

11 June 2008 - Creating Your Own Freepage on RootsWeb, by Jana Lloyd

9 July 2008 - International Genealogical Symbols, by Mary Harrell-Sesniak

13 August 2008 - Understanding RootsWeb's Social Security Death Index, by Joan Young

10 September 2008 - World Archives Project: Saving the World’s Records Fifteen Minutes at a Time, by Jana Lloyd

08 October 2008 - - Census Records—For Demographics or Genealogy?, by Mary Harrell-Sesniak

12 November 2008 - Connecting Across Continents and Generations Through RootsWeb, by Joan Young

10 December 2008 - Using RootsWeb's Free FTP Tool, by Jana Lloyd

The other regular columns are Editor's Desk, News and Notes; Genealogy Tips; Connecting; Bottomless Mailbag; What's New - Databases, Freepages, Mailing Lists; The Darkroom; and You Found It.

The You Found It section usually has humorous tidbits, such as:

"Fertile Man Marries Manly Woman"

"... LITTLE, NATHANIEL, Esq. d. Delaware, Dec. 10th, 1812. He left a small family. (*Jan. 20, 1812)"

If you have been missing the Rootsweb Review, consider reading the Archives every once in awhile to see what you've been missing. There is a wealth of useful information, not to mention an excellent article, in each issue. And it's FREE!

Transitional and Professional Genealogists Study Group Information

There are two Study Groups currently operating as a result of efforts by members of the Association of Professional Genealogists (APG) Mailing List to provide study opportunities for researchers who consider themselves "Transitional Genealogists."

Angela McGhie is the coordinator for both study groups, and has written a summary post here on the Transitional Genealogists Forum (TGF) mailing list.

The description of the two groups is:

1) The NGSQ Article Study Groups accept new members on an ongoing basis. These groups meet once a month online to discuss an article from the NGS Quarterly. This study is based on the model set forth by Dr. William M.Litchman where each participant reads the selected article from the NGSQ several times making notes about the research techniques, evidence and logic used in solving the genealogy problem. Members meet online to discuss the methodology used in the article and take turns moderating the discussions.

2) The Pro Gen Study Groups cover the research procedures and business practices outlined in Professional Genealogy edited by Elizabeth Shown Mills. There are two study groups currently running and I keep a list of others interested in participating. When there are enough people ready to participate we will form a third group. Each month members study one or two chapters of Professional Genealogy and complete a practical assignment relating to the chapter. Members then review assignments and give feedback.

If you want to participate in either or both of these groups, please read the mailing list article and contact Angela with your desire and commitment.

I have participated in both study groups over the past year, and have gained more experience in analyzing records and case studies, and more knowledge about what it takes to become a professional genealogist.

One of the real benefits of each group is getting to know the members of the group on a personal and professional level. We chat via Windows Live Messenger each month, exchange email, share homework assignments, and enjoy bantering on Facebook. These are some of my professional colleagues, even though I haven't met many of them.

Tombstone Tuesday - Chelmsford Forefathers Burial Ground

I've run out of ancestral gravestone photographs for the time being - I need to find my file of photographs hiding in a box in the Genea-Cave, or take another trip to New England!

We visited New England several times in 2006, and on one of the trips we visited the Forefather's Burial Ground in Chelmsford, Massachusetts. I am quite sure that I have quite a few ancestors buried in this cemetery, but the office wasn't open and it was very wet, so I didn't search for my Hildreths, Keyes, Prescott, Fletcher and other families.

I took this picture of the sign along the wall of the cemetery, and you can see the
depth of the cemetery.

One of my new projects is to use the genealogy software I have to create lists of persons who died in each town so that I can find their gavestones.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Preparing to Visit the Family History Library in Salt Lake City

I am flying off to Salt Lake City on Thursday for five days in the capital of Utah and the home of the LDS Family History Library. I will have Saturday and Monday to visit the library and do some research. I have an all-day meeting on Friday, the library is closed on Sunday, and Tuesday is my fly-home day. I will be staying at the Little America Hotel if anybody wants to meet up with me while I'm there. I will have my laptop with me, and should be able to check email, blogs and Facebook while I'm there.

My preparations for the visit have included:

* A review of the floors at the library - see here. The US/Canada local history books are on floor 3, the US/Canada microfilms are on floor 2, FamilySearch and the surname books are on floor 1, the International films and books are on floor B1, and the British Isles films and books are on floor B2.

* Gather my basic research papers - my ahnentafel lists, my tables of sources already consulted for each surname, my list of books to find.

* Update and/or create research plans for each elusive ancestor I want to research. These include Elizabeth Dill, Thomas J. Newton, Mary Hoax, William Knapp, Hannah Smith and several others. These plans detail what I know about each research problem, what I've searched previously, and what I want to search for at the FHL.

* Print out pages from the FHL Catalog for the items in the research plan, and gather up all of the papers for each research problem.

* Get the latest FTM16 databases on the laptop so that I have my research information with me. I still need to test the laptop table locking device and create space on my flash drives and my camera for new information.

I'm really looking forward to this trip. My hope is that I can make one or more breakthroughs on my elusive ancestors so that I can work back in time to find more elusive ancestors!

What else should I be doing to make this trip successful? I know, write some advanced blog posts so that my Genea-Musings readers are amused or informed while I'm gone. I anticipate writing blog posts almost every night after a busy day - we'll see how that works out!

Find Famous People Contest

One of the really fun things to do (well, for me) is to find famous people in the census records. Michael John Neill has a blog called Famous People in the Census and now has started up his contests again. Previously, he had contests on his web site and blog, but took them down last year. I have missed them!

Michael has posted the first two contests:

* Find Thomas Edison in 1870

* Find Bob Hope in the 1910 Census

Michael has specific rules, so be sure to read them before jumping into the contests.

Good luck -- you'll need it! These are usually hard research problems that will tax every genealogy researcher. However, reviewing the solutions when they are published can help inform and educate every genealogy researcher.

Are imaging services missing NARA records?

One of the more intriguing threads on the APG (Association of Professional Genelaogists) mailing list was started by Tom Kemp titled Chicago Marriage Records 1871-1920 going online. While the original post was informative about the subject, controversy soon arose over the issue of volunteer or commercial image providers (the ones working for ancestry, Footnote, FamilySearch, others?) missing specific records when capturing images from microfilms or original documents.

Peggy Reeves is an experienced genealogist who uses the National Archives in Washington DC frequently to pursue her own and her clients research. Her first response to Tom's post, and subsequent responses to other posters, made claims that (see original posts for context and more complete commentary):

* "They (the Footnote folks) are scanning in poor quality black-and-white images, and not from the original documents in most cases, but from antiquated NARA microfilm that is difficult to read in the first place." - from here.

* "The Ancestry Civil War pension index is a good example. Many of those cards are difficult to read on the NARA microfilm. Ancestry has a disclaimer that says 10% of the images are "missing". They are NOT "missing". The truth is that the subscription service chose not to include the ones that scanned as all black or all blank, and it's more like 20-30%, not 10%." - from here.

* "Footnote is now scanning Civil War widow's pension files from the original paper. The originals are on papers of many different colors, and sometimes faded and difficult to read. The technology exists to scan these valuable files with high-quality color scanning, but it is not being done." - from here.

* "The problem is that once these files are filmed (no matter how cheap and poor the images are), NARA will then take these files out of circulation so that no one can request to see the originals any more. In other words, we will all be stuck with whatever the subscription services do, and a great deal of valuable information will be forever lost to us ALL, because we won't be allowed to see the originals any more." - from here.

* "FamilySearch recruits volunteers and provides them for use by Footnote, Ancestry, and other Utah-based genealogy vendors. The vendors negotiate contracts with the various record custodians and then they send the FamilySearch volunteers in to bring home the bacon." - from here.

* "It is the longstanding policy of NARA to reduce handling of the original documents by taking them out of public view once they are microfilmed or scanned. Thus, the indexing and images that are getting botched or left out completely for the sake of getting the product to market faster will soon be gone forever from our view, because NARA will make us dependent on those scans. How's that for "preservation"?" - from here.

* "Today I had to get a Civil War pension file for someone. After I looked up their soldier on the microfilm, I decided to do a random spot-check. I rewound the microfilm and jotted down the first 25 pension cards on that particular film. With regard to evaluating the sources that we use, here's an actual example to evaluate. This is from the Civil War era pension index (the one digitized at Ancestry), #T-288, and this sample of the first 25 cards is from roll #402 (name, regiment, certificate #):
1. Roe, Charles - B1 TX Inf - ctf #1187312
2. Roe, Charles B., alias Charles Rogers - D 10 OH Cav & E 8 OH Inf - ctf #464620 inf, ctf #698145 widow Catherine B. Roe
3. Roe, Charles E. - B 1 FL Inf & L(?)22 U.S. Inf (SA War) ctf #1294569
4. Roe, Charles E. - K 89 IL Inf, QMS 89 IL Inf - ctf #1014449 inv, ctf #704736 widow Sarah
5. Roe, Charles E. - K 1 IA Cav & B 12 IA Inf - ctf #189672 inv, ctf #645225 widow Rebecca V.
6. Roe, Charles E. - I 5 MA Inf - ctf #1148997
7. Roe, Charles F. - Unassigned 3 U.S.C Inf, 11 U.S. Inf (Capt), 26 U.S. Inf, C 9 NY Inf - widow only, ctf #536186 Lydia F.
8. Roe, Charles H. - G 12 IL Inf - ctf #1000315
9. Roe, Charles H. - E 156 NY Inf - ctf #853656 inv, app only for widow Cathrene B. #1043795
10. Roe, Charles K. - I 4 MO S.M. Cav - ctf #1112664 inv, ctf #A-6-14-28 widow Frances
11. Roe, Charles O. - G 52 NY Inf - ctf #388195 inv, ctf #941982 widow Helen C.
12. Roe, Charles S. - G 6 IL Inf - ctf #1291570
13. Roe, Charles T. - I 146 OH Inf - ctf #578623
14. Roe, Chauncey C. - F 16 MI Inf - no ctf, app #962733
15. Roe, Chester K. - D 1 MMB USV Inf & A 1 MMB USV Inf - ctf #841542 inv, ctf #A-3-8-28 widow Mary E.
16. Roe, Christopher - F 106 OH Inf - ctf #1010257
17. Roe, Clarke - Unassigned 17 NY Inf - no ctf, app #1229984
18. Roe, Clem - G 3 WI Inf (SA War) (I didn't copy the # for this one), widow Emma
19. Roe, Cornelius B. - D 26 KY Inf - ctf #927453
20. Roe, Cyrus A. - I 50 NY Engineers - ctf #559866 inv, ctf #615547 widow Samira A.
21. Roe, Dalton - D 6 U.S. Inf & E 21 U.S. Inf (SA War) - no ctf, app #1243736
22. Roe, Daniel - B 65 IL Inf - no ctf, app #1267282
23. Roe, Daniel E. - F 27 IA Inf & K 4 VRC - ctf #1077346 inv, ctf #A-1-18-29 widow Louisa R.
24. Roe, Daniel J., Jr. - A 156 NY Inf - ctf #411967
25. Roe, Daniel M. - F 1 FL Cav - ctf #368117

"I invite each of you to evaluate your online source by scanning for each of these names in the Civil War pension database at Ancestry. Know how many you'll find? When I looked them up on the NARA computers today, I found only ONE out of the 25." - from here.

* "NARA researchers have always been able to request to see a document that is not clear enough to read on-screen. We know what is there because we can look at the microfilm indexes ourselves. But when new record groups are scanned from original documents and new indexes to these records are created by volunteers doing tedious work on a profit deadline (omitting the more difficult images, or misreading names for lack of experience), then the record disappears. In other words, how can we know to request to see the actual document if we can't see it on an index to know that it exists in the first place? We can't, and that is how records disappear from our view forever." - from here.

I checked the Ancestry Civil War Pension Index (the one for Microform Series T-288) for the persons on the list above, and Peggy is right - there is only ONE of them on the Ancestry database - Charles B. Roe, alias Charles Rogers. I looked for other spellings, etc, and did not find any of the other 24.

So far, that is the only concrete example provided by Peggy in response to questions from APG list members.

There are more posts by Tom, Peggy and others, including a response from James Hastings, a NARA manager, and Chad Milliner, who works for Ancestry. Please see the full range of December for the complete file.

I don't know Peggy, and don't know if other experienced NARA researchers have the same opinions. From what I can tell by reading Peggy's posts, she is an experienced researcher, knows her way around the NARA collections, and has opinions about commercial services and the imaging/indexing job being done at NARA. She put herself out on a big limb by making these comments and has held her own, civilly, in responses.

The big issues for all genealogy researchers are:

1) Are all pages of a NARA file being imaged and indexed from the original documents or from microfilm images?

2) If the images are not readable on microfilm, are the original documents brought out, imaged and indexed?

3) If the original or microfilm images are not readable, are place-holders put in the image collection so that a user knows that there is an unreadable page?

4) Are the original documents in the NARA collection going to be available for researchers to observe in the original form in the future?

These issues are important to all of us, and have been treated as such by the posters on the APG list. They are important for all database image and indexing projects, not just the NARA projects.

My opinion is that these issues need to be investigated. More examples should be requested from Peggy and other experienced NARA researchers. Standards should be considered and issued by NARA, the companies and the genealogy community at large, and both NARA and the imaging/indexing companies should abide by the standards.

The needed standard, in my mind, is that a record collection should be completely imaged and indexed, by the best technology appropriate for the task (e.g., if the Navy Pension Cards are on blue cards that make them dark using black-and-white, then image them in a color that shows contrast), and that original documents (or microfilms of indexes or original documents) should not be discarded or closed off completely from genealogy researchers.

My apologies for the length of this post, but I have not seen another genealogy blogger address this issue and I thought that it deserved exposure and comment. The larger world of the APG mailing list has been exposed to it, which is good, but not everyone reads the APG mailing list.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Checking in on

I posted about several months ago here - when it was first announced and highlighted - and noted that it had great potential as a search engine for genealogy data.

I checked again recently, and noted:

* What is LiveRoots about? Check the About page. The owner and operator of Live Roots is Illya D'Addezio, who also owns and (both are commercial sites, with some free information).

* Recent discoveries - the additions to searched databases or additions to the LiveRoots collection of searched databases

* The Blog page - updates on the additions to LiveRoots catalog or about web site operation.

* The Search page - a search box for surnames and/or keywords. There is a Getting Started page with search tips.

The last paragraph of the Getting Started page tells what Live Roots is all about:

"So, to summarize the two major points of distinction. First, there is the "roots" advantage: Live Roots lets you conduct a variety of searches across the catalogs from hundreds of different data providers and publishers all at once and with the most up-to-date versions of their catalog listings. And second, there is the "live" advantage: the same searches you conduct will include resources that you may obtain information from with the assistance of a live person that you commission for a nominal fee."

When you do a surname search, you get results in several categories. I did a SMITH surname search (it took about 15 seconds), and found:

* Surname Search - 174 entries (entries are resources, not individual names)

* Transcribed Ephemera - 240 entries (from the FTC or GT collections)

* Subscription Data - 1806 entries (from the GenealogyToday collection)

* Resource Results - 808 matches (these are individual matches from many resources, such as Ancestor Genealogy Photo Archive, Family Old Photos,,, etc.

* Preview results from ($)

* Browse messages from SMITH message board at

* Preview results from ($)

* Browse messages from the SMITH message board at

The last four items are new this week.

The Help page has a link to the Major Collections searched by Live Roots. They include:

* AfriGeneas
* ($) - daily updates
* Christine's Genealogy Website
* Family History Library (partial)
* Family Tree Connection ($) - weekly updates
* ($) - weekly updates
* Genealogical Publishing Company ($) - monthly updates
* ($) (in progress)
* National Archives And Records Administration
* New England Historic Genealogical Society ($)
* Olive Tree Genealogy
* ($) - daily updates

I can't tell how up-to-date this list is. They have added only to the "Major Collections" list since October.

For each major collection, there is a list of the databases that are searched by Live Roots. I tried to pick one of them from the list and search for a specific surname, but that doesn't work. I will have to go to the specific web site and do the search there.

I'm surprised that there are not links to the free Rootsweb vital record databases, the mailing list archives or the WorldConnect family tree database.

I will continue to check in on on occasion to see how the SMITH file grows, and the "Major Collections" list too.

UPDATE 1/6: Illya commented that Rootsweb databases are available through He suggested searching for "Records Rootsweb." When I did that, the list of records on Rootsweb was visible. However, putting a surname (I used SEAVER) in the general LiveRoots Search box does not provide links to the Rootsweb databases.

If you use the Search box for a specific Database, then you get results from the specific database. For example, on the Rootsweb Records page, I selected the California Death Records link, then input SEAVER in the Search box on the page, and the California Death Records database on opened with the matches.

My preference is that the Rootsweb search results will show up in the general LiveRoots results list. Otherwise, the casual user may miss many useful matches to their search query.

Best of the Genea-Blogs - December 28, 2008 -January 3, 2009

Several hundred genealogy and family history bloggers write thousands of posts every week about their research, their families, and their interests. I appreciate each one of them and their efforts.

My criteria for "Best of ..." are pretty simple - I pick posts that advance knowledge about genealogy and family history, address current genealogy issues, provide personal family history, are funny or are poignant. I don't list posts destined for the genealogy carnivals, or other meme submissions (but I do include summaries of them), or my own posts.

Here are my picks for great reads from the genealogy blogs for this past week:

* My Top Ten Genealogy Favorites for 2008 by Lisa Louise Cooke on the Genealogy Gems News blog. Lisa has some interesting favorites - check them out!

* Are we forgetting to buy tomatoes? by Pat Richley on the DearMYRTLE Genealogy Blog. Pat has sage advice for those researchers who are looking for records in all the wrong places.

* Looking Back at Content Added During 2008 at by Whitney Ransom McGowan on the blog. I wish that all web sites did this every month or every quarter, don't you?

* When Times Change by Donna Pointkouski on the What's Past is Prologue blog. Donna laments and celebrates the passing of an old friend, and reminds us that we are the old timers of tomorrow.

* Article about Graveyard Rabbits in Monroe Journal by Terry Thornton on The Graveyard Rabbit blog. Terry gets well deserved publicity about the Association of Graveyard Rabbits in his local newspaper.

* 9 Genealogy Predictions for 2009 by Mark Tucker on the ThinkGenealogy blog. Mark's crystal ball is working overtime - I sure hope he's right!

* Tuesday's Tip: Organizing Digital Research Notes, Emails and Reports by Miriam Midkiff on the Ancestories: Stories of my Ancestors blog. Miriam continues her series on being a digitally organized genealogist. This series should be a magazine article or two!

* Getting the Most out of your Genealogy Society Speaker by Gena Philibert Ortega on the Gena's Genealogy blog. Gena has great suggestions for societies and attendees about program speakers.

* Draft as Many Versions as Needed for Clarity, Part 1 and Part 2 by Emily Aulicino on the Writing Your Memories blog. Emily continues her series about EDIT with two posts about the D word - Draft.

* New Year’s Eve by Craig Manson on the Geneablogie blog. Craig reviews 2008, and hands out his own Kudos awards. I really like this list!

* Genetic Genealogy in the News - January 1, 2009 by Blaine Bettinger on the Genetic Genealogist blog. Blaine has a roundup of recent articles and blogs about Genetic Genealogy.

* Finally Get Organized: January 2009 Check List by Pat Richley on the DearMYRTLE Genealogy Blog. Pat shares her updated organization list for January - this is a keeper (at

* Drilling a little deeper in the Illinois State Archives online by Harold Henderson on the Midwestern Microhistory: A Genealogy Blog. Harold covers the Illinois State Archives site like a blanket, and shows us some of the hidden jewels.

* United States Vital Records Online by Gena Philibert Ortega on the Gena's Genealogy blog. Gena provides an up-to-date list of online resources for vital records.

* Carnival of Gernealogy, 63rd Edition by Jasia on the Creative Gene blog. Forty genea-bloggers share their New Years resolutions/goals. The topic for the next edition of the Carnival of Genealogy is: A Winter Photo Essay.

I encourage you to go to the blogs listed above and read their articles, and add their blog to your Favorites, Bloglines, reader, feed or email if you like what you read. Please make a comment to them also - all bloggers appreciate feedback on what they write.

Did I miss a great genealogy blog post? Tell me!

Have you noticed that I created a blog category for all of the Best of the Genea-Blog posts in the Labels below this post? Click on it if you've missed earlier editions of BOTG-B.