Saturday, January 17, 2009

Saturday Night Fun - When, Where and What is Randy doing?

It's Saturday night again, and my devoted, but small, crew of funsters still has not found the last two persons who were at the meeting at a week ago on Friday, as noted by the last Saturday night fun post. Were you stymied, or just bored?

OK, let's test your genea-Google-abilities tonight:

I am making a presentation next Saturday to a San Diego County society.

When is it, where is it, what is the society's name, and what is the title of the presentation?

This should be easy...tell me in Comments. Tell me how you found it, too.

CGSSD Meeting Highlights - DNA and DVDs

I attended the Computer Genealogy Society of San Diego (CGSSD) meeting today at UCSD - the program description was posted here.

In the early session, I attended Corlee Morris's DNA Special Interest Group. This was the first meeting of this SIG, and Corlee made a presentation to summarize DNA as it applies to genealogy research. She provided a three-page handout with a glossary of terms and a list of DNA laboratories for Y-DNA and mtDNA testing. There were about 25 in attendance, and Corlee answered many questions from the audience.

The one new piece of information I got from this session was that FamilyTreeDNA has a link to a Time Predictor on its web site called FTDNATiP - see The site has two tables, for 25 markers and for 37 markers, that calculate the probability that two participants share a common ancestor when matching on "X" number of markers within the last "Y" generations. For example, if a person has 24 out of 25 markers similar to another person, then the probability that they share a common ancestor in 4 generations is about 27%, in 8 generations is about 57%, in 12 generations is about 77%, in 16 generations is about 88%, and in 20 generations is about 95%.

The feature speaker of the day was CGSSD member Del Ritchhart, who spoke on Making a DVD of your Family History Research. There were about 60 in attendance, with 14 guests. During the hour, Del created a DVD presentation featuring photographs, videos and audio of his vacation to Ireland, using the program ProShow GOLD by Photodex ( He went through the steps involved in composing the presentation, including:

1. Selecting photographs, and editing them
2. Selecting your video clips, and inserting them into their places in the presentation.
3. Setting up transitions from slide-to-slide.
4. Setting up the Zoom function on slides.
5. Setting a background on portrait slides

6. Adding captions to your slides.
7. Adding music to your presentation from a file or a CD.
8. Adding voiceover descriptions to the slides using a microphone or audio clips.
9. Play the presentation from the beginning to see where editing or tweaking needs to be done
10. Burn the presentation and associated files to a DVD.

Del made this seem like it was really easy to do. He had "only" 34 photos (5 seconds each, 2 second transition) and two video clips, for a totla of about 5 minutes of presentation. He said that he has done up to 180 photos which played about 40 minutes using this software.

He noted that there are other software manufacturers that do this, but the ProShow GOLD was the best one that he has found. It sells for $69.95. Photodex allows a 15-day free trial of the software - the only restriction is that you cannot burn a DVD until you pay for the software.

I really enjoyed hearing Del's presentation and seeing his pictures from Ireland. The talk gave me some good ideas for how I want to organize my Seaver/Richmond family pictures (someday!!) for my extended family in order to preserve and disseminate them to everyone. Perhaps with the family history books, family movies and videos on the same DVD. This is another item for my long-term "to-do" list...

All in all, this was a good meeting on two interesting subjects.

Papers, Images, Indexes and Searches

How often have you heard someone complain about (or any other genealogy database) that "the Search just doesn't find my people" even though the searcher "knows" that the people are in a certain location at a certain time? I hear this all the time at my society meetings, and in comments on blog posts and in message boards.

How often is the Search engine for the database blamed? Almost always, I think. Is that really fair? I don't think so.

The reality is that there are four elements for a successful search:

1) The original record paper with the desired name was in a record set (e.g., census, military, passenger list, etc.) and available to be imaged.

2) An image of the original record paper with the desired name was made and is available, and the image was digitized for the record database.

3) The indexer that transcribed the name from the digitized image of the original paper was able to accurately transcribe the desired name (and other entries) as it appears on the paper image.

4) The Search engine for the database was able to find the desired name in the database using the searcher's search criteria.

What if:

1) The original paper is not included in the image collection? Obviously, the searcher won't find it. Why would this happen? Were portions of a record set lost, or damaged by handling, before the paper collection was imaged? Just think of how many unreadable names are at the bottom of some census pages!

2) The image of the original paper is so poor (due to faded ink or pencil marks, soiled or torn pages, or extra markings obscure names, etc.) that the names cannot be read. Again, the searcher cannot find it because it is unreadable.

3) The indexer cannot read the name accurately from the digitized image of the original paper, or the name on the original paper was not accurately spelled by the writer of the paper. The searcher might find it using advanced search techniques.

4) The Search algorithm is so limited that it does not use wild cards, soundex/metaphone systems, or other search criteria (location, birthplace, age or birth year, keywords, etc.) to find the desired name. The searcher might find it using advanced search techniques.

Is it any wonder that even experienced and expert researchers cannot find persons in record databases even when they know that the person should be there?

It is evident to me that the "missing names" numbers pile up rather quickly - they may be as high as 15% to 20% missing names for a census records search (see my Seaver surname study here). I found that I was missing about 15% of my known Seaver families in census records, and was able to find about 33% of the missing families using advanced search techniques (i.e., 5% of the missing 15%, and I never could find the other 10% of known families). Other surnames may have more or fewer problems. Other databases may have different problems due to their peculiarities.

I spent months looking for Robert Leroy Thompson (1880 TN -1965 NC) and his family in the 1900, 1910, 1920 and 1930 census (see The Ultimate "Dodging the Census" Puzzle). I still haven't found him, even though the odds are really high that he was in at least one of those four censuses (99.2% chance that he's in one of them if the miss rate for each census is 20%).

A researcher often doesn't know what s/he doesn't know. How does s/he know that "all" of the original papers were available to be imaged? How does s/he know that "all" of the images of the original paper were digitized? How does s/he know that "all" of the entries on a set of digitized images were indexed? The answer is that "s/he doesn't know for sure." S/he has to rely on the word of the repositories that hold the original paper, the digitized images, and the indexes. And that's where quality control - at all of the steps from paper to Search engine, come into play.

The ideal for the genealogy industry is that:

1. The record repository that has the original papers provides everything that it has to the people that image the collection, with some sort of quality assurance provision that assures all involved that all available original papers are provided.

2. The image people create digital images for every paper in the collection, even those that are badly damaged or unreadable, and even use advanced imaging techniques to bring out the best image possible. Again, some sort of quality assurance provision needs to be used to ensure that all original papers were imaged.

3. The indexing people use a double check quality assurance system that ensures the best possible index entries for every name on a record set.

4. The Search engine is versatile enough that many entries with significant problems can be found using advanced searching techniques.

My point in all of the above is this: It is not the sole fault of the Search engine or search algorithm when it cannot find your person of interest in a database. The problem is probably in one of the other categories. A large database provider like, which often works from microfilms of paper records, usually does not control access to the original papers or the images of the original papers. It does control the digitizing of the image, indexing the records and the search engine, of course, and should have standardized quality control procedures in place for those steps.

Has anybody else done extensive investigations into records missing from specific databases, compared different databases for the same record set, or done a surname study that identifies persons missing from the records? If so, please let me know about it, with a link to, or the source of, the study if possible.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Checking out the Family History Library - Post 2

I posted yesterday about the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, showing pictures of some of the floors. In this post, I want to show some of the equipment that I used during my visit:

First, the individual computer station on every floor of the library. All computers I saw are of fairly recent vintage, have Windows XP installed, and permit use of a USB flash drive using the USB cord on the desktop that is attached to the CPU (you can see the USB flash drive in the photo below between the mouse and the keyboard):

Using the USB flash drive, you can save individual images and web pages but cannot do screen captures or use a word processor or presentation software.

When you find a microfilm that you want to read, you take it to a microfilm reader station (there are hundreds!), turn it on, feed the microfilm, scroll to the page you want, and read:

I experimented a bit with taking a picture without flash of the image on the screen, but could never get a good enough vantage point for the entire page without significant parallax. To get an image to take home, the user needs to make a copy from the microfilm printer or save the image to a USB flash drive using the microfilm scanner machine.

For books or periodicals, the options for capturing an image are taking a digital picture of each page, or using the photocopy machines. Photocopy pages cost 4 cents each. The photocopy area looks like this on all floors:

The microfilm printer is how a user obtains an image from the microfilm on paper. You bring your microfilm (on both sprockets) from the reader to the printer area, load it on (upside down relative to what it was on the microfilm reader), and center your image (you can focus, magnify, and rotate the image), insert your print copy card, and press the print button. Each page costs 23 cents (deducted from your print copy card). There were about 10 microfilm printers on each floor with microfilms, some of them dedicated to 16 mm and 35 mm films. A typical microfilm printer station is shown below:

Some of the printer stations have 11 x 17 paper, and all have 8.5 x 11 paper loaded.

The microfilm scanner/printer stations are the most modern machines in the FHL. However, there are only two of them on each floor with microfilms. There are waiting lines occasionally (maybe even always on busy days). You load your microfilm on the microfilm scanner using both sprockets, scroll to the image you want, focus, rotate, magnify and center the image, attach your USB flash drive to the port at the end of the cable on the desktop, define the parameters for the image copy, and press the Scan button on the computer screen. The FHL directions are very easy to follow and eventually you Save all of your images to a user-defined directory (they wipe them all off on Mondays, apparently). Then you can transfer all of them to your USB flash drive. The microfilm scanner/printer is shown below (scanner on the left, showing the film image to be scanned; the computer screen is on the right with the scanned images showing on the screen. the colored buttons at the top of the computer screen control scanning, saving, etc.):

You can see my USB flash drive installed on the cable between the mousepad and the scanner machine. This machine has much better scrolling capability than the microfilm printer. I found that this machine was the cheapest (it's free!) and easiest to use of all of the copiers.

I struggled a bit finding the right image area to save, thinking that the movable orange margins would enable me to define the image area. The machine has a bit of an independent mind, and I had to work a bit to obtain a complete image of the information I wanted. I ended up putting images from each source film into a separate directory, since the saved images are labeled Page001.tif, Page002.tif, etc. I saved each TIF file at 300 or 400 dpi (the user can control this) and the file size were reasonable.

In hindsight, I should have used the microfilm scanner more, and saved the printing costs while getting a clear digital image instead of printed pages from the microfilm printer (which I may end up scanning anyway). In the two days, I looked at about 30 microfilms and made about 40 printed pages and about 20 digital images.

Thank you, Dick Eastman!

Most genealogy blog readers know who Dick Eastman is - he publishes the Eastman's Online Genealogy Newsletter which is chock full of genealogy news. Dick often posts several news items each day, and occasional opinion pieces.

Today is the 13th Anniversary of the start of Dick's newsletter that he started in 1996. You can read a concise history of this effort in Dick's post, This Newsletter is Thirteen Years Old!

Do we realize what a treasure that Dick's thirteen years of newsletter archives is? It is the history of genealogy research and also personal technology. If you read Dick's newsletter from the beginning, you can see companies start up, mature, succeed or fail; you can read about announcements of software, publications, societies, etc. You can read about cruises, conferences, personalities, etc. Dick has tried almost every technology gadget that comes along, uses the ones he likes, and carries many with him on his travels.

I've had the pleasure to meet Dick several times in the last year at conferences and meetings. He is a very interesting man with a lifetime of genealogy experience and a great sense of humor, and a real nose for genealogy news.

I raise my cup of hot chocolate to Dick this morning, and shout a loud "for he's a jolly good genealogist" to Dick, and thank him for his contributions to the genealogy world.

Article Index to "Mayflower Descendant" 1899 to 2008

Dale H. Cook has posted the latest revision of his "Consolidated Contents of Mayflower Descendant." This 532 kb PDF file lists the contents of every issue from January, 1899 (Vol. 1, No. 1) to Summer, 2008 (Vol. 57, No. 2). The list is of titles only, not a name index from the periodicals.

It can be viewed online or downloaded from:

Dale posted this notice on the Barnstable County, Massachusetts (MABARNST-L) mailing list, and perhaps to other county lists also (I only subscribe to Barnstable).

The Complete Mayflower Descendant, Volumes 1-46 can be purchased on CD-ROM from for $49.99 - see This has a comprehensive index for Volumes 1-34 (which were published 1899 to 1937). It is also part of a subscription.

Search and Research has Volumes 1-43 available on CD-ROM for $24.95 at This is fully searchable and every-word indexed.

Indexes like this are very valuable to far away researchers like me who don't subscribe to the particular periodical or journal. Reviewing just the last ten years, I see about ten articles that may have information about some of my ancestors. I know that the Carlsbad Library has this journal, so I'm going to put it on my "to-do" list for my next visit to Carlsbad.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

A Winter Non-photo essay

When I saw the topic for the next Carnival of Genealogy was "A Winter Photo Essay," I thought "well, I'll just have to miss it because I don't have ANY photos of my own that shows San Diego in winter."

I posted about my two San Diego snow experiences in Day 18 - Christmas Weather, so I won't repeat it here. Suffice it to say that it rarely snows in San Diego, although hope springs eternal in the human heart! I don't have pictures from these special days, unfortunately.

Knowing that I had no photos of snow in San Diego, I figured "well, I could go somewhere for the winter photo essay." So that's what I did:

* I accepted the invitation from TGN to go to Salt Lake City to meet with them in January
* When I got there on Thursday 1/8 last week, the ground was covered with snow after several days of it. The roads were all plowed of course, but the snow was at least 6 inches deep on the sidewalk strips and vegetation areas at the hotel.
* On Thursday night, DearMYRTLE drove me back to the hotel in the snow but it wasn't falling hard - I figured that there would be more chances to get a really cool "Randy in the snow" picture.
* Nope. OK, I thought - I'll take a picture tomorrow of the hotel and the FHL and TGN and the mountains in the sunlight before it all melts.
* Tomorrow came and went, and the next three days too, since I was busy at TGN, the FHL and eating out with the folks.
* I woke up on Tuesday morning late, thought "I gotta take a picture of the snow today" and went over to breakfast and there wasn't much left and it was dirty and mushy. Then I hurried off to the airport and forgot to take a picture.


It was really cold there - here's a picture of Harold Henderson (nice hat!), Angela McGhie (friendly, fun) and yours truly (cold, see my teeth chattering and my forehead freezing?) outside the restaurant Sunday night. Can this count? We had a great time eating and talking and laughing and planning and telling stories.

There may be a little snow in the background...

I must admit that it wasn't the most important thing on my trip. And it left me without the photos that I'm supposed to put in this essay.

How will the economy affect genealogy?

I was asked this question three times while I was in Salt Lake City - "how do you think genealogy will be affected by a downturn in the economy?"

My response was basically "it really depends on the situation - is it a full depression, a long recession, a mild recession? Deflation or inflation?" Each of those will affect consumers, institutions and businesses in different ways.

The considerations as I see them:

* Genealogy businesses, like commercial software (Legacy, RootsMagic, TMG, etc.), database companies (e.g., TGN, WVR, Footnote, GenealogyBank, FindMyPast, etc.) and publications (e.g. Everton's GenHelper, Family Tree Magazine, etc.), may suffer a reduction in new and current customers, which will reduce income and slow or eliminate technology improvements and content acquisition. A company with a positive balance sheet throughout should survive, but a company with a negative balance sheet may need more investment, may be acquired or may close completely. With high inflation, prices may be raised for database and magazine subscriptions.

* Genealogy institutions, like the Family History Library, NEHGS, Allen County Public Library, etc. may see a reduction in fly-in patrons, but may see more drive-in patrons. Staff and hours may be reduced if institution income declines significantly.

* Government offices, like the National Archives, State Archives and local or regional libraries, may reduce hours, eliminate services and/or raise prices in response to budget reductions caused by the economy and government decisions.

* Genealogy societies may see a reduction in memberships, especially if a recession is long and/or deep, resulting in high unemployment. If there is a period of high inflation, members on fixed incomes may be squeezed. Large societies that sponsor seminars and conferences may see fewer fly-in customers and more drive-in customers. Societies may be able to reduce costs by publishing newsletters online rather than mailing.

* Individual genealogists may take fewer fly-out trips to conferences, vacations or research excursions if unemployment rises higher or prices rise significantly. However, genealogists may make more trips to local or semi-local repositories. The price of gas will be important here.

If a recession is long, or the country suffers a depression with deflation, then the genealogy industry is going to suffer because credit will be tight and unemployment will be high.

If the economy has a high inflation rate, then older genealogists living on a fixed income will really suffer due to higher prices and stagnant income. The result will be fewer long trips and vacations, fewer books and magazines purchased, fewer software and database purchases, and perhaps more visits to close repositories along with more use of the Internet (assuming it is not priced much higher).

Nobody has a crystal ball about the current and future economy, or the impact on a group of people. My hope is that the recession is short and the country has a short recovery to steady growth (I'm an optimist!). Obviously, the tax, spending and monetary policies of the new administration will affect the economy, and by extension the genealogy industry.

I am not an economist, just a concerned investor and old guy. I posted this in order to define my thoughts and concerns.

It's an interesting question, and I want to ask your opinion too. Please comment if you care to.

UPDATE 1/16: I edited the original text a bit. Leland Meitzler posted a summary of his persaonal view here.

Checking out the Family History Library - Post 1

I know that some of my readers have never been to the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, so I thought that I would show some photographs of the place (unfortunately, not all of my shots came out well).

The Library entrance looks like this:

There are five floors:

B2 - British Isles (including Australia/NZ) records (films and books)
B1 - International Records (films and books)
1 - Main floor, Family History Books
2 - US/Canada Census books and Microfilms
3 - US/Canada Locality Books and Maps

Each floor has an area with computers to access the FHL Catalog, the FHL databases, and the online commercial databases. Each floor with books has a photocopy area, a set of microfilm printers and two microfilm scanner/printers.

Photocopies are paid for with a Print Card, which cost 60 cents and can be loaded with bills up to $20. A hard copy on a copy machine costs only 5 cents, but a copy on the microfilm printer costs 23 cents. The computers and the microfilm scanners can put images on a user's flash drive for free.

This is a view of the Family History Book stacks on the first floor:

This is a view of the computer area on the third floor:

In the computer area, you send your print requests to print stations (visible above) where you pay for your prints then get them printed out.
Here is a shot of one row of the microfilm drawers - there are about 8 rows of film drawers like this on the second floor.

I will show some of the copy hardware in a later post.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

CVGS Research Group Summary and Monthly Genealogy News Summary

I posted the Genealogy News Summary for January 2009 on the Chula Vista Genealogy Cafe blog today.

I also posted the CVGS Research Group Summary - 14 January 2009 on the Chula Vista Genealogy Cafe blog today.

There is a summary of my posts about my five days of Salt Lake City adventures in Genealogy Journal - 1/8 to 1/12, 2009 on my The Geneaholic blog.

Stay tuned - I'm not done yet!

CGSSD Meeting on Saturday 1/17 - Make a DVD of Your Family History Research

Linda Hervig emailed me with the announcement of the CGSSD meeting on Saturday:

The Computer Genealogy Society of San Diego meets on Saturday, January 17, 2009 from 9:00 am to noon.

9:00 - User groups for Family Tree Maker and Macintosh, and Special Interest Group on “DNA Genealogy”
10:15 - A break and refreshments
10:30 - Announcements followed by Program "How to Make a DVD of Your Family History Research Experiences" by Del Ritchhart.

Del Ritchhart has been making DVDs of family vacations, travel and cruises and, more recently, family history research trips for almost ten years. These can provide an entertaining, informative and lasting record for your immediate family and future generations about the parts of the world or actual sites where their ancestors resided. You can also include photos and interviews with members of the family or distant relatives.

Using photos and video clips from his August 2006 trip to The Irish Republic, Del will demonstrate using a laptop and VGA projector how to assemble an abbreviated DVD documentary.

He has used such application programs as Nero, Roxio, Pinnacle Studio Plus, and Adobe Premier Elements to compose DVDs. However, his current favorite application is Photodex’s Pro Show Gold, which he will use for the demonstration. He will demonstrate how to populate the program’s timeline with digital photos and video clips. Additionally, he will add transitions between each of the pieces of media, titles for selected photos or clips, and then show how to give still photos a sense of movement with zoom and scanning features. Finally, he will show how to incorporate background music to give the DVD a final professional touch.

Del is highlighted in “Spotlight on Members” in the upcoming issue of Compu.Gen.

We meet at the Robinson Auditorium complex on the University of California, San Diego (UCSD) campus in La Jolla. From North Torrey Pine Road turn at Pangea Drive into UCSD. Free parking is available in the parking garage on the left; use any A, B, or S space. Signs will mark directions to our meeting room. Please refer to our website; or the Graduate School of International Relations and Pacific Studies website for driving directions and a map.

Thank you, Linda! I hope to see many of my readers at this meeting.

FHL Computer Subscription Websites

When I was at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City on Monday, I took some pictures of the facilities. I was most interested in the genealogy databases that are available on the computers. However, I could find no way to capture screen images to my flash drive, so I took photos of the screens in hope that they would be readable.

When you walk up to the computers, you see this screen:

On the left hand column, there are choices for Find Ancestors, Manage Records, Online Resources and Submit Records. The screen above is the Find Ancestors screen.

As you can see, you can click on the top left link to go to or to surf the web. Or you can go to the top right link to go to the Family History Library Catalog.

The left hand second from the top link is for Subscription Websites. When I clicked on it, this was the top of the screen:

And the bottom of the web page:

That is a fairly impressive collection of subscription web sites - all of them free to use at the Family History Library.

There are many computer stations on each of the five floors at the Family History Library. On the two days I was there (a Saturday and a Monday in the middle of winter, but with an education program in progress at SLIG), the computer stations were well-populated, but I could always find one available.

I did very little searching in these databases. I mainly used the computers to search the FHL Catalog for film numbers, and I checked my email and Facebook occasionally.

This blog,, was not available at the FHL computers - it was blocked because of sexual content. I think it was the text and the picture of Megan and me on the Wholly Genes cruise - I was wearing my "Genealogy is Like Sex" T-shirt.

Family Photographs - Post 38: Mom as a Young Lady

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 my mother, Betty Virginia Carringer, as a young lady. I believe that it was taken in 1936, when she was 17, and perhaps was taken for her high school graduation. I think that the picture was taken by her father, Lyle L. Carringer, in the garden adjacent to the Carringer home at 2130 Fern Street in San Diego.

The picture was in the photo collection handed down to me by my mother starting in 1988, and is in my possession now.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Leland is keeping score about the TGN visit

Leland Meitzler is listing all of the blog posts about the TGN visit by eight "genealogy communicators" last weekend. See his GenealogyBlog post titled The Generations Network Invaded by Bloggers for the list of posts.

Diane Haddad has posted a nice picture of The Ancestry Insider blogger in her post Secret Genealogy Blogger Revealed. Can you read his name tag?

I asked readers to guess who the "Secret Eight" were that attended the Friday meeting in my Saturday Night Fun post. Four have posted blogs revealing themselves (Randy, DearMYRTLE, Ancestry Insider and Diane Haddad), and Becky Wiseman guessed two others correctly (Dick Eastman and Drew Smith), which leaves the last two. Who were they? Here's a hint: they were listed in the post Content is King on The Ancestry Insider blog.

Diane Haddad, The Genealogy Insider blogress, has passed a photograph of the secret group, with some TGN folks, to all of the attendees - I hope that she will post it when she thinks it is appropriate. I neglected to get any photographs during the tour and at the dinners - Diane has some photos at the TGN offices at From Paper (or Film) to the Web and of the server farm at Inside's Top Secret Data Center.

I didn't do it... Ancestry and Rootsweb are down right now

I received an email today from that said:

" I just wanted to let you know that has been experiencing some server difficulties over the past couple of days. Our IT team is working to isolate and, once isolated, solve the problem. The issues have not allowed users to access at certain times of the day.

"I’ll continue to keep you updated as the IT team works to figure out these performance issues. The blog, at, will also continue to be updated."

I just want everyone to know that "we who visited there didn't have anything to do with this. We were watched very closely on Friday as we walked respectfully along the row of server racks with lots of cables on the back side and lots of blinking lights on the front sides. As we walked along one row, I said "look, there's my family tree - right there on that server." Everyone cracked up, and one of the Ancestry guys said "how did you know?" I didn't answer, but I should have said "because the red light flashing means that data is unsourced."

I checked and in the last five minutes and both are down. I hope they come back soon. and are up and running.

When we were there on Friday, they claimed that had a 99.91% uptime percentage. That 0.09% downtime rate is 1.3 minutes per day on average, and a total of less than 8 hours per year. This downtime period is definitely going to hurt that uptime average.

On Facebook, Cindy noted that Ancestry was down from 1 PM CST - so that's almost four hours by now (I'm typing this at 3 p.m. PST).

I appreciate the notification of the problem. It is another indication that wants to keep their users informed about issues like this.

UPDATE 8 p.m.: came back for me after 3 p.m. Rootsweb is still down at 8 p.m. Watch the Blog for more updates.

Day 5 in SLC - Back to the FHL, and a treat

I extended my stay in Salt Lake City so that I could enjoy a second day of research at the Family History Library. I caught the 8:30 a.m. TRAX trolley and was there by 8:45 ready for another day of microfilms and books.

I mentioned in my other post about my research on Saturday about my last-minute find of Ranslow Smith's will abstract in the Andrew County, Missouri books on the shelf. Today, my first order of research was to find the probate records for Ranslow Smith in the Andrew County records. I started with the index to the Probate Records, 1841-1918, which listed entries for a will, an a bond, application and letters of administration, an inventory, a final settlement, and a discharge. These were on four different films (and there are no films of the Inventory) - which points out one of the benefits of researching at the FHL is that everything is available immediately and in one repository. I would have spent about $40 and taken two months to get all of the films I needed in San Diego and the FHC.

I printed out copies of these papers at 23 cents a page on the microfilm printer machines. I also captured some of them to my flash drive. The FHL has two microfilm scanner/printers on each floor that enable users to capture the images and put them on a flash drive for no cost.

These records revealed a secret that I had not known - Devier J. Smith was the adopted son of Ranslow Smith. His birth name was apparently Devier J. Lanphear. So I did all of this research this morning and almost proved that Ranslow Smith is NOT my ancestor. That means that his Smith line is not my ancestry, and that his wife's Bell and Bresee (and associated Hudson River Valley Dutch families) are not my ancestry either. Swoosh! There went several hundred relatives, and perhaps 50 known ancestors. The good news is that I can suspend my Ranslow Smith ancestry search (I wqas really stuck!) and start a Lanphear search.

In an attempt to find something that adds information to my ancestral families, I also looked for land records in Andrew County, Missouri. There were deed indexes in five year increments on film - I searched from 1865 to 1885. Each Item had separate grantor and grantee lists by first letter and recording date. I searched for both Ranslow/Devier Smith and Samuel Vaux (Devier's wife was Abigail Vaux, daughter of Samuel Vaux), since I knew that Samuel had lived there for some years from earlier research.

It was lunch time so I went in there canteen, bought a frozen Apple Danish, heated it up, ate it and was back at work quickly. I took a break to check my email and post once on Facebook.

I found three entries for my Samuel and Mary Ann (Underhill) Vaux family in the deed indexes - then retrieved the films that had the deed records. They bought the SE quarter of the SE quarter of Section 21, Township 61, Range 33 in Andrew County, Missouri in 1863, and sold it in 1880 to William Bulla. They bought it from Mary Jane Munger and her husband (evidently land inherited from Mary Jane's father). One of Samuel Vaux's daughters married a Munger. The lesson here is that "the family that deals with another family often marries into that family." This search took about two hours to perform because of the many entries in the indexes.

I wondered where this 40 acres of land was, so I found in the FHL Catalog that they had an 1877 Plat Map of Andrew County on the oversized book shelves. I found it, and copied the overall county township map and the specific Township 61 map. Yep, there's S. Vaux right where he should be. Mr. Munger owns the other 120 acres in the other three quadrants. Samuel Crouch (another family that a Vaux girl married) is in the same township.

Having had such good luck with Andrew County land records, but not having found Ranslow Smith in them, I decided to look at Taylor County, Iowa land records for him (he was in that county in the 1870 census). I also looked in the Taylor County Marriage certificates for his second marriage to the widow Julia Johnston. I had no luck with the marriages, and realized about then that I didn't need to find Ranslow's deeds because he is not my ancestor!

I checked the FHL Catalog for Chattooga and Floyd County vital records for my friend Ed's C**** and M**** families. There were marriage certificates from 1839-1939 for Chattooga County, so I printed out two for Ed's great-grandparents and one for his grandparents. In the process, I learned the maiden name of one of his grandmothers! More information to expand the search - cool!

By this time it was 4 p.m. and I took some photos of the second and third floors for a future blog post. I went back down to the first floor and looked for surname books for the C**** and M**** families for my friend Ed. I didn't find a C**** family book with his ancestors, but one of the M**** books was relatively new and had good information about the early generations, so I copied some pages.

The FHL started closing down at 4:45 pm. (it was Monday) and as I walked out I met Harold Henderson, and we were quickly joined by several other SLIG students and Elissa Powell. They invited me to go to dinner with them again, but I had other plans for the evening.

I walked over to the next-door Plaza Hotel and met up with Leland Meitzler, the managing editor of Everton's Genealogical Helper magazine and one of the first, and still one of the best, genealogy bloggers. Leland's GenealogyBlog is back in business after an absence of about four months - it's great to have him back contributing to the genea-blogosphere. We went to dinner at Leland's favorite SLC restaurant, Ruby River Steakhouse. We talked about our life experiences, the economy, the genealogy industry, genealogy blogs, and the future of genealogy. This was a real treat for me - I had met Leland only once before at the 2008 SCGS Jamboree, and I really enjoyed our meal and discussion. I was back to the hotel by 7 pm. which allowed me to do my reading and blogging last night

I'm flying home on Tuesday morning, so I should be back in the Genea-Cave tomorrow afternoon and evening. I will really enjoy sleeping in my own bed!

Monday, January 12, 2009

Does Publishing Need Genealogists?

Sharon Sergeant posted a note on the Association of Professional Genealogists (APG) mailing list today that asks that question - but it was asked in a national publishers magazine recently. She notes that:

"...the article should introduce a broad spectrum of potential clients to the utility of modern genealogy.

"Does Publishing Need Genealogists?

"In 2008, the magazine's circulation was 25,000. In 2004, the breakdown of those 25,000 readers was given as 6000 publishers; 5500 public libraries and public library systems; 3800 booksellers; 1600 authors and writers; 1500 college and university libraries; 950 print, film and broad media; and 750 literary and rights agents, among others."

Sharon has also posted a note on Facebook (the URL may not work for non-Facebookers) titled From Bunk to Bunko Squad: The Sleuthing News peg you can use. The lead paragraphs are:

"It was just a year and a half ago that Smithsonian Magazine had 'Genealogy is Bunk' emblazoned on it's cover.

"Today genealogy sleuthing is a Bunko Squad for publishing frauds."

Read the entire article if you can. Perhaps Sharon will post it to the APG list so everyone can read it. Sharon has excellent ideas about using forensic genealogy research examples in the mass media to gain positive coverage and more respect for genealogy and researchers.

Day 4 in SLC - a day of football, food and good company

It was Sunday and the FHL wasn't open today. What to do? Here's what I did:

1) The Little America Hotel, where I am staying, has a nice Sunday brunch for an exorbitant price. About 15 Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy faculty and staff members go to brunch every year, and invited me to attend. I sat at one end next to blogger Kathy Brady-Blake, and Pat Richley was across the table. We had a wonderful brunch (I had an omelet, ham, potatoes and vegetables, desserts). The conversation was even better - Laura Prescott has posted some photos on her Facebook page (I have photos in my camera from before the batteries failed. I left my camera-to-computer cable at home, unfortunately!). I went back to my room at about 1:30, checked out of one room and into another room.

2) Football! My Chargers wisely planned to play on Sunday at 2:45 p.m. so that the game wouldn't interfere with my FHL visit, and wouldn't conflict with my fine dining experiences. Unfortunately, the Pittsburgh Steelers showed up and beat my beloved Bolts 35-24, and it wasn't that close.

3) Saddened by the football outcome, I took off at 6 p.m. for Biaggi's, a restaurant in the Gateway Center, taking the TRAX trolley about 1.5 miles for free. Christy Fillerup organized a dinner there for some SLIG attendees and for TGF/ProGen study group members. There were 10 of us at a very nice Italian restaurant. The food was good, and the conversation was excellent. We went around the table mentioning our home town, experience level, professional status, and genealogy interests. I summarized the Ancestry meetings for Christy, Angela and Harold and we talked for awhile longer about the study groups. Then we all took the TRAX back to our hotels.

One more day to go, and then I head back to my real life. I sure wish that I was staying for SLIG - the program looks excellent and the institute will be a must-do on my calendar next year.

Day 3 in SLC - the Family History Library

I was up bright eyed and bushy tailed on Saturday morning. After breakfast, checking email and blogs, I caught the TRAX trolley at 8:15 and was at the Family History Library by 8:30 a.m. That was really easy! The hotel is about a mile from the FHL.

They've changed the layout of the FHL since I was last there in 1997. There are many computer stations! And the locality books have been put on the 3rd floor, while the surnames are on the Main floor and the microfilms are on the second floor.

I worked on these items during my day at the FHL:

1) The divorce records for Worcester County MA from about 1834 to about 1850. They are included in the Supreme Judicial Court records for the county. I looked at two films for 1833-1845, and for 1845-1854. There were several interesting law suits for Newton on these films, but not for my Sophia and Thomas Newton. Oh well, another resource checked with negative results.

2) The early land record indexes for Oxford County, ME to see if there were deeds for my Thomas J. Newton. No luck here either - there were Newton deeds in Dixfield and Andover, but not Thomas. Drat.

3) I had a list of published books that I wanted to review but haven't been able to find on the shelves at my local libraries. These included:

* The World Book of Sever families by William Roger Gillem. This is a collection of family reports based on previously published books. It's pretty useless, but I needed to see it for myself.

* A Mills and Kendall Family History, by Helen Schatvet Ullmann. This book is well done - I copied pages to obtain finding aids for two generations of Kendalls in Massachusetts.

* Royal Families, Volume 1: Governor Thomas Dudley and Descendants Through five Generations, by Marston Watson. This book is excellent - I copied pages for my Dudley line families to obtain finding aids for those families.

* A Genealogy of the Descendants of Thomas Bolles of Wells, Maine, by George E. Williams. I don't know much about this immigrant, but I know his daughter Hannah married Caleb Beck. I copied some of the English ancestry and the family information about Thomas Bolles.

4) I went up to the US/Canada floor and browsed through many states and counties. Some highlights were:

* Colonial Families of New Jersey, Volume 1, Middlesex and Somerset Counties, by F. Edward Wright. This book had an extensive Martin genealogy that might be helpful to identify my Sarah Martin's parents.

* Many town history books for Rhode Island and Connecticut - South Kingstown, Charlestown, Foster, Killingly, Sterling, Voluntown and several others. I didn't copy anything although I found great cemetery maps for some of the towns.

* Cemetery records of Red Willow County, Nebraska by Robert T. Ray. This book showed that DJ Smith was buried in Memorial Park in McCook, Nebraska. Now I know where he is! There was also a marriage records book, and I found Matie Smith's marriage to George Chenery (Matie was Della (Smith) Carringer's sister).

* I checked several Kansas counties looking for cemetery or death records for Samuel and Mary Ann (Underhill) Vaux. I didn't find them in cloud, Marshall or Pottawatomie Counties, but there may be more records for the counties.

* At the end of the day, I checked Andrew County, Missouri books of probate, death and cemetery records, and didn't find any Vaux entries. I checked, almost as an afterthought, for Smith in the Will Book, and was surprised to see the entry for Ranslow Smith, Devier J. Smith's father! I found his death date and place!

I went back to the hotel at this point, because I had to blog a bit and get ready for the TGN Saturday night dinner.

I'm going back to the FHL on Monday and will try to find the actual Ranslow Smith will on microfilm, plus some more records for my Newton, Knapp, Houx and other mysteries.

I saw several Facebook genealogy friends at the library - including Dick Eastman, Patti Hobbs, Bobbie King and Elissa Powell. I hear that there were many more there, but our paths didn't cross ore I didn't recognize them.

I spent about an hour on the computer system - the FHL has nearly all commercial databases available for free use. Users can print images to a printer or copy images to a flash drive. I also checked my email and Facebook, and some of the genealogy blogs. This blog, Genea-Musings is blocked on the FHL computer system for some reason - perhaps I used some naughty words in the past, I really don't know. Like Middlesex or Essex or Sussex.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Best of the Genea-blogs - January 4-10, 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 (note that I have not done much blog reading since coming to Salt Lake City on Thursday):

* Writing on Stone: Mistakes, Strike-overs and Other Problems by Terry Thornton, the monthly The Graveyard Rabbit "Weekend with Shades" columnist on the Shades of the Departed blog. Terry's fascinating post shows examples of problems with gravestone inscriptions.

* An Update on my Volunteer Work by Elyse Doerflinger on the Graveyard Rabbit of Eastern Tennessee blog. Elyse had an interesting experience at a local cemetery and has some really good ideas about documenting cemetery photos.

* possible future directions by the blogger on The Ancestry Insider blog (whom I have now met and had great conversations with!). The AI has information about a survey taken by some users that may reveal future directions of

* Getting Into Google Books I (Lessons) and II (Lessons) by Jennifer on the Rainy Day Genealogy Readings blog. Jennifer starts her series on Google Books with two outstanding posts with lots of screen shots of examples.

* Who Are Our Brickwall Ancestors, and Why Aren't We Blogging About Them Regularly? by Miriam Midkiff on the Ancestories: Stories of my Ancestors blog. This is a great question - and genea-bloggers should read it and participate in knocking down the brickwalls of ancestors written about. I'm willing!

* Shades Starts the Year with a Bang - Make that a Shot! by footnoteMaven on the Shades of the Departed blog. fM tells a fascinating story and finds research that provides information about a murder and more. This is the first article of a series.

* Jump Start Your Genealogy Blog. 52 Weeks. 52 Ideas - Part 1 and Part 2 by Amy Coffin on the We Tree blog. Amy came up with something to write about each week of the year - for those trying to keep their New Years resolution to blog more in 2009. Great list, great prompts.

* What I Have Learned About Pauline Wheeler Robbins by Linda Robbins on the HollingsworthRobbins Family Tree blog. Linda tells a fascinating research story about one of her husband's ancestors. Are all Pauline's this interesting?

* Advanced Search by Kathi on the Ancestor Search Blog. Kathi has great advice for users of Footnote searches - this answers some of my questions!

* Using Genetic genealogy to Solve the Mystery of Benjaman Kyle by Blaine Bettinger on The Genetic Genealogist blog. Blaine describes the challenge of using Y-DNA analysis to find the family of a person who can't remember his relatives. The techniques can be used to find biological parents of adopted children too.

* Draft as Many Versions as Needed for Clarity, Part 3 by Emily Aulicino on the Writing Your Memories blog. This is a continuation of Emily's series about the Draft portion of EDIT for writers.

* From my Email Box - "Spin Humor" by John West on the Tri-State Genealogical Society of Evansville, Indiana "TSGS Cruiser" blog. This is an amazing story about something many of us have heard about before - now we have a name and a place, and a relative to the honoree.

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.

Day 3 in SLC - the TGN Dinner and FTM 2009

This is the fourth post in the series about my visit, with seven other genealogy communicators, to The Generations Network. See the earlier posts here, here and here.

The highlight for me on Saturday was the dinner at the Little America Hotel sponsored by The Generations Network. There were about 50 in attendance, with about 15 TGN employees, the eight folks who took the tour on Friday, two FTM volunteers, several FamilySearch people, and the balance were professional genealogists gathered in SLC for the FGS Board meeting and the Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy. This was a very warm and friendly group - I'm still a bit star-struck meeting genealogists whose books and articles I've read. Several people walked up and said they recognized me and read my blog - and we are usually "friends" on Facebook already.

After the reception, we sat down to dinner. I was at a table with four others, Jan, Kim and two fellows whose names I didn't write down (sorry!) and in my old age can't remember the next morning. Before dinner was over, Andrew Wait of TGN introduced the two FTM volunteers - Lawrence Douett and Russ Worthington - who have helped TGN bring Family Tree Maker 2008/9 to fruition by critical and supportive testing and comments.

Andrew then introduced Elizabeth Shown Mills, who gave a wonderful sermon, er, presentation, about "What should the next generation of Genealogy Software Do?" (my title may be a little off - hopefully, someone will correct me). Her main point was that genealogy database providers like Ancestry, through technology and search engines, have co-opted the "name gathering" function of genealogists; this quickly drives genealogists to the "analysis and proof" function that professional genealogists excel at. Her three main points were that:

* genealogy software is terrible at writing automated reports - they read like a 5th graders class report. Some grammar and punctuation errors are present in most report writers. There needs to be better transition capability between facts and paragraphs. The user should be able to rearrange facts in the narrative.

* genealogy software should permit standardized source citations on standard ancestor charts. Elizabeth noted in Comments that her exact words were "It's an accepted fact today that good genealogists document every name, place, date, or whatever they assert; and family group sheets in almost every program now do this." The need she then pointed to came in the form of a question: "Why in the bejibbers are we still forced to circulate **ancestor charts** with no documentation at all?"

* genealogy software should permit more flexibility and user control in writing general notes, research notes and proof arguments. The software should permit source citations in the notes and analysis fields.

Next on the agenda was Duff Wilson, who works in Family Tree Maker development. He said that FTM 2009 will soon have the Source citation templates in place, and thanked Lawrence Douett for his extensive work in helping to create 172 "Quick Check" models based on those in Evidence Explained. He also discussed book building in FTM 2009 - users will be able to create books from reports, charts, and text documents, and import books from previous FTM versions. I asked Duff after the meeting when these changes would appear in FTM 2009, and he said "soon" and probably before March.

The final speaker was TGN CEO, Tim Sullivan, who reviewed the 2008 results for TGN and looked ahead to 2009. He said that he is proud of the company's people - they are creative, passionate, motivated, fun, and dedicated to advancing genealogy. The company is dedicated to working with integrity, is committed to open communication within the company and with customers, and is trying hard to listen to their subscribers and users.

Tim said that in 2008, TGN had more than 1 million subscribers, engaged over 8 million users each month, who spent over 54 million hours on the sites each month. 2008 saw the highest revenue and profitability in the company's history. This financial success permits TGN to invest in content, technology and marketing.

TGN will invest more in Content in 2009 than any other year - both new content and improving existing content. They will engage in more partnerships - he mentioned FGS/World Archives Project, FamilySearch, NARA, Library and Archives Canada, and the UK National Archives as examples. He said that "Content is King" and that they are listening to users and subscribers.

Tim said that investing in Technology is very important - "Technology is Queen." It results in higher quality images, indexes, server hardware, and better software. The combination of this technology and the Internet offers more people the opportunity to find family records and be able to connect with other family members.

He mentioned that TGN is a global enterprise - with nine Ancestry international sites, and more on the way. TGN is trying to build a collaboration network that connects people to advance their research. The family trees are not a social network - they deliver real value to users.

The third major investment is in Marketing. The only way that TGN can continue to grow is by attracting new subscribers that start and/or continue their genealogy research. Without consumer marketing efforts, the business will stagnate, resulting in reduced new content and technology. This includes the advertising in the print and television media and the branding of TGN properties and the omnipresence of the Ancestry "green leaves."

Underlying the two days of meetings was the emphasis on being a successful business, attracting and educating new genealogy researchers and keeping the current customers, and opening communication channels with the genealogy community (societies, publishers, authors, editors, researchers, even bloggers!) and listening to and collaborating with the customer base.

As I said in my post yesterday, I recognize that this visit is part of a Public Relations campaign by TGN to influence the genealogy community and customer base by providing information to people who will publish it in paper and online media. 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. In the end, the proof is in the results:

* will FTM 2009 be improved to be the best genealogy software that meets the standards that Elizabeth Shown Mills (and by extension, the genealogy community) desires?
* will the Search function be markedly improved over time?
* will new Content continually increase to keep existing customers subscribed?
* will the partnerships with content providers serve all interests?
* will the marketing effort draw new customers?
* will the education effort on DNA, database searching, family tree population, genealogy research methodology and collaboration be successful?

I really appreciate the opportunity to meet the TGN staff, visit the facilities, hear about their accomplishments and challenges, and be able to meet with many notable members of the genealogy community.

In these reports, I have tried to write objectively. I do have a generally positive appreciation for TGN, Ancestry, FTM, and the other web sites. I try to understand companies from a business perspective and also the user experience.

I know that I have not captured every major point on the seemingly endless PowerPoint charts (and many of the early ones went by real fast due to schedule restrictions!). However, with the different reports from other genealogy communicators (like DearMYRTLE, the Genealogy Insider, the Ancestry Insider and others) the genealogy community should be able to get a fair review of these meetings.

I will have several more posts about some of these topics when I get back to my home base and can observe ongoing efforts and do more testing of the TGN web sites.

UPDATE 1/12: Elizabeth Mills commented on my summary of her presentation, er, sermon, and I have added her quotes to the post above. The problem for me is writing things down when I should be listening, but I have to write things down in order to remember it. My thanks to Elizabeth for the comment, and I have modified my initial line of that paragraph to match what she said and not what I thought she was going to say.