Saturday, January 24, 2009

Saturday Night Fun - Tell me a Genealogy Joke

I am such a bad joke teller. I have to write them down and read them in order to remember them. It's not the joke's fault - I don't learn well by hearing things.

I told three genealogy jokes today at my presentation in Escondido today. People laughed, but they knew that they weren't my own material. It's obvious that I need more material. And maybe I can memorize them if they are short enough.

In order to help me prepare for any future "Genealogy is Fun! Seriously!" presentation, your Saturday Night Fun assignment, should you choose to accept it (please, please, please me!), is to tell me (and the readers) a genealogy joke. Not a tag line, not a funny name or an epitaph, a real genealogy joke. From whatever source you may find. Or make one up yourself.

I, and my future audiences, will appreciate it!

The Wholly Genes (Land) Cruise in 2009

I received this email from Bob Velke, the creator and owner of The Master Genealogist program, announcing that the Wholly Genes conference will be held on August 26-30 in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, not aboard a cruise ship:

We've had a lot of inquiries about when and where Wholly Genes will be hosting our 5th Annual Genealogy Conference and Cruise so I thought that I'd give you a little advanced notice...

Due to the state of the economy and other discouraging circumstances in the cruise industry, we will not be hosting a cruise this year. However, because of its popularity, we intend to continue the practice of an annual conference.

So this year we are planning a "land cruise" – a genealogy conference in our normal tradition but that happens to be on land. Come 2010 and the prospect of an improved economy, we may resume our past practice of conducting the conference on a cruise ship.

Although this year's Wholly Genes conference is expected, as in the past, to far exceed the attendance of other genealogy "cruises," it will be somewhat scaled-back from our usual annual event, with fewer speakers and spanning just four days to accommodate people's busy schedules. The objective is to continue to provide an unparalleled educational opportunity but at a cost-effectiveness that will astound you.

As always, our focus is on providing first-class genealogical speakers on topics that will interest all researchers. This year's speakers will include:

- John Philip Colletta, Ph.D. - a popular speaker, prolific author, and expert on research at the Library of Congress, among many other topics.
- Marie Varrelman Melchiori, CG, CGL - a full-time researcher for 30 years, an expert on the National Archives, military records, and other topics.
- Patricia O'Brien Shawker, CG - the Director of the National Institute on Genealogical Research, author, and an expert on research at the DAR Library and National Archives, among other topics.
- Craig Roberts Scott, CG - publisher, professional researcher for more than 23 years, and an expert on a wide variety of record types and resources, including colonial, Civil War, federal records, migration,military, Quaker, and government publications.

We'll also have many presentations related to The Master Genealogist (TMG), of course, as well as some surprises.

Our 2009 Genealogy Conference and "Land Cruise" will be held Aug 26-30 in a grand 19th-century hotel in the beautiful Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. There will be a day and a half of lectures about methodology, repositories, records, and finding aids in D.C. (including NARA, the Library of Congress, and the DAR), followed by a full-day research trip to the nation's capital (the "land cruise" part), and then another day and a half of presentations, among other activities.

The best part? All of this will be less than $400 a person (double occupancy), including all meals and conference events! That's less than half the price of the cruises and there's even free wireless internet and free parking.

Please watch our newsletter or for a press release and full details...

I think that this is a really, really smart move by Bob and his company. Nobody knows how bad the recession will be. The conference and land cruise are focused and sound like a lot of fun, held in a beautiful part of the country, with the extra bonus of researching in Washington DC. It will be the week before the Federation of Genealogical Societies (FGS) in Little Rock, Arkansas, which may affect the Wholly Genes turnout.

What I really want to know is: if John Titford from England isn't coming to the conference, who will lead the singing of "I'm My Own Grandpa" at the closing cocktail party?

Market Research on Genealogy

One of the interesting (to me, at least!) conversations on the Transitional Genealogists Forum (TGF) mailing list this month has been about Marketing - how big is the genealogy market, who are the potential customers, and how can companies (software, database, publications, professionals, etc.) serve that market? The specific discussion started in a thread with Christy Fillerup's post titled "Market Research (was the Long Distance Genealogist)" here, and a separate thread titled "Market Research Refined - Identifying the Client" starts here on the TGF list.

In a post yesterday to the latter thread, Marian Pierre-Louis provided a link to Family Tree Magazine's 46 page 2009 Media Kit, which includes some genealogy marketing information. There are two pages of information about genealogy enthusiasts, including these facts:

* 1,900 people visit the Family History Library in Salt Lake City every day.

* 1 million+ people visit the National Archives annually.

* The National Archives and its regional research facilities receive 1.1 million
written research requests a year.

* 500,000 active genealogists belong to more than 500 Federation of
Genealogical Societies member groups.

* 651,500 people have taken a genetic genealogy test.

There is also information about Family Tree Magazine's circulation:

* 70,000 paid print circulation

* 60,000 opt-in subscribers to weekly e-mail newsletter

* 60,000 unique monthly Web visitors

I encourage those interested to go read the entire media kit. You get an excellent overview of the genealogy marketplace, Family Tree Magazine's marketing focus, and some insight into what the magazine will offer in 2009. I appreciate the magazines sharing of this information.

Thanks to Marian for the great lead! I know that the TGF list readers interested in this topic appreciate the input.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Legacy Charts with Picture Backgrounds

I've been experimenting with Legacy Family Tree 7 and Legacy Charting for some time now. I do this mainly in hopes of finding an absolutely beautiful and wonderful combination of information and background that I can get made into a wall poster by Generation Maps at some time (see, Janet, I haven't forgotten you!).

Today, the Legacy News blog (I'm assuming Geoff Rasmussen) showed a sample chart that pulled one of his kids photos in as a background - see his post Legacy Charting Tip - a mug shot for a background. I thought it looked very neat. I hadn't tried that before - it looked easy and it was.

I made four-generation charts for my father and my mother, using their photographs as a background (with about 40% transparency). Here's what they look like:

The user can control the sizes of the boxes, the spacing between the boxes, the color and weight of the boxes and the connecting lines, and the format of the items inside each box. To make the background in Legacy Charting, you click on Appearance>Backgrounds>Select Image and find the picture you want to use as the background. You can then set the Transparency level. It is really easy.

My problem with all of the charts is keeping the number of pages down to a manageable number. I wanted a four-generation chart with the name, birth date/location, marriage date/location and death date/location on my chart, but that resulted in a two page chart with the picture stretched vertically. So I eliminated the locations and got the chart above. I can get a five-generation chart with all of the information I want and an unskewed picture, but it's on four pages.

I noticed that Geoff got a five-generation chart on one page, but included only the name and birth-death years, which is probably good enough for most recipients of such a chart. I'll have to experiment more.

What do you want in a search engine?

Every researcher complains about them, but I haven't seen many lists of what people want in a genealogy database search engine.

I've been using, HeritageQuestOnline, WorldVitalRecords, Footnote, FamilySearch, MyHeritage, WeRelate and many other web sites - some for months and some for years. I've gotten to "know" their search engines intimately. I would like each of them to improve their capability.

Which web site has the absolute "best" search engine, in your opinion? And why do you think it is the best?

What capabilities do you want to see in a search engine?

Here are some of my search capabilities that might be considered:

* Exact search on as many fields as possible
* Fuzzy search on fields, with ranges for dates and ages
* Fuzzy searches should include alternative spellings for names (not necessarily soundex or metaphone).
* Ability to choose between exact and fuzzy search on each field

* Ability to use wild card symbols for names and localities
* Ability to use the ? symbol for one letter in a name
* Ability to use father's first name and birthplace, mother's first name and birthplace
* Ability to use spouse's name and birthplace
* Ability to use sibling's name and birthplace

* Define proximity to a name in a keyword (i.e., page, paragraph, line, next to, etc)

* Ability to search a specific database, not the entire collection

* Put editable current search box on current results page to minimize clicks and page changes.

Those are my "wants" for a search engine just from my mental checklist. What do you want? Tell me! I'll create a master list. If you want to blog your own list, please do so, but please tell me where you've written it.

Frankly, when I'm searching I want to minimize my clicks and have maximum flexibility to choose search terms and ranges. The quicker I can find a result the happier I am.

Please note that this list should not consider what you want in an index - only what you want in a search engine. The index problem is a whole different mountain to climb!

In the next several weeks, I am going to write a series of posts that demonstrate what each site uses from the so-called "master list" so that my readers understand the differences and can use each database effectively.

Recent Content at

I try to check the recently added and updated content to several times a week. The Recent Genealogy Databases page is at

I'm always on the lookout for new databases that will help me, and my colleagues and clients, in my research.

In recent months, most of the new content has been for Canada, with some UK, German, Swedish and other countries. I have a US Deluxe subscription, so this has frustrated me no end, because I seem to thrive on new content.

There are several recently added databases that show promise:

* U.S. Naturalization Record Indexes, 1791-1992 (World Archives Project) - this database currently has only images for 20 states, with no name or keyword search. Added on 1/9/09.

* U.S. Federal Census Non-Population Schedules, 1850-1880 - this database currently has images for only one state (South Carolina). There is no name search, no county search, no keyword search, etc. at this time. Added on 1/9/09.

The user can find his way around the Naturalization Indexes by putting random page numbers in the Page box and narrow the search to a name using many clicks.

I had hoped, of course, that these databases would be complete and name searchable. We will have to wait until the indexers finish their work, I guess.

Is this "partial release" a new policy of Ancestry's? Footnote does it all of the time, but releases indexes as the images are released. FamilySearch Record Search releases images in groups, and then adds indexes in groups.

The problem with this "partial release" action is that unsuspecting researchers will assume that there are no matches in the databases if they don't read the details on the database description pages.

The lesson here for all of us is "vigilance" - we need to keep track of the databases involved and the searches we make in those databases.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

"Connecticut Nutmegger" online at NEHGS Site

The New England Historical and Genealogical Society web site at has added The Connecticut Nutmegger quarterly periodical to their online holdings. You can read the full press release at Dick Eastman's blog here.

The complete run of the periodical is not available online yet - they have only the first six volumes, for 1968-1973. I searched for some of my known CT ancestors, and the surname Seaver, and did not get any matches. I tried WHITE and there were 17 matches and 213 SMITH matches. I put several town names in the Keyword search box and got matches for some of them (obviously, the first six volumes don't have every surname or every town). Counties, authors, titles, years, record types, etc. all seem to be indexed as keywords.

This database will be most useful when the complete database is available. Note that you have to be a member of NEHGS in order to access this database, and the other NEHGS databases also.

I'm ecstatic to see periodical indexes being digitized and periodical pages imaged and linked - they often contain unique content that can solve elusive ancestor research problems.

"Genealogy is Fun! Seriously!" Program in Escondido on Saturday, 24 January

Your humble Genea-Musings scribe is the presenter at the Escondido Genealogical Society meeting on Saturday, 24 January 2009. The meeting is at 10:15 a.m. in the Turrentine Room on the second floor of the Escondido Public Library, 239 South Kalmia Street in Escondido (phone 760-839-4684).

The topic of the presentation is "Genealogy Is Fun! Seriously!" and covers names, places, records and events that are, um, funny or strange, at least in the semi-twisted mind of the presenter. The presentation reviews some of the choicest web pages that deal with genealogy humor, and may include the Genea-Man cartoon and a song or two.

Randy Seaver is a native San Diegan, a retired aerospace engineer, father and grandfather. He has been pursuing his elusive ancestors for 21 years, has self-published two family history books, and is the proud owner of several large GEDCOMs. He is the Past-President of the Chula Vista Genealogical Society, is currently the CVGS Research Chairman, and enjoys meeting people at genealogy conferences and cruises. He is a member of a number of several august local and national genealogical societies, including the International Black Sheep Society of Genealogists (IBSSG), and is eligible to be a member of the Descendants of the Illegitimate Sons and Daughters of the Kings of England (the Royal Bastards) if nominated and accepted. Randy publishes several genealogy blogs, including Genea-Musings, The Geneaholic, the Chula Vista Genealogy Cafe, and the South San Diego County Graveyard Rabbit. He is a fervent believer that genealogy research is fun, and yearns to share the news.

If you have some free time on Saturday, come by the Escondido Public Library and laugh along with Randy and the EGS members.

Read about "The Great Nepotism Experiment"

Take a small group of people working on a project. Add a genealogist to the mix who asks "are you related to each other?" Shake well, share much, your results may vary, and surprise you!

They certainly did for three teams in the article The Great Nepotism Experiment by Ceil Wendt Jensen, Jana Sloan Broglin and Jana Lloyd published recently in Ancestry Magazine.

This article was fascinating on two levels - the resources used by the genealogists and the results found. One group had no connections at all, one group had only two connections, but the third group had several ancestral connections to each other.

The genealogists used the person's home sources and family stories, the person's family tree data, online resources and databases, and published books.

This is a great idea for a local business, service group or society to do as a team-building exercise. It's also a way that genealogy societies can attract and enthuse potential new members from the local community - for instance, have an "Ancestor Search" or "Ancestry Road Show" day at the library during Family History Month.

What will GenSeek be?

If I put in my browser, I get this web page:

Mark Tucker on his ThinkGenealogy blog did a little sleuthing recently after his interest was tweaked by some tweets by Paul B. Allen on Twitter from the AFFHO conference in New Zealand last week. See Mark's post What is this GenSeek of which you speak?

As smart genea-bloggers do, Mark wondered on his blog:

"I wonder if this has anything to do with an announcement that was made in May 2008 about a partnership between FamilySearch and to produce what Paul called, the Family History Library Catalog 2.0. What could be a better “gateway” than a library catalog? Here is a quote from the May 2008 post:

"'The new catalog …may become the single best starting point for family history searches.'”

Sure enough, Paul Allen responded to Mark's speculation with:

"You are absolutely correct. is the site where we will be launching the Family History Catalog 2.0. Not only will everyone be able to add new sources, and improve the descriptions of existing sources, but we will also be linking to the online versions of all the sources as soon as we (or the community) can create the links.

"The most exciting part of GenSeek was announced in Auckland, but I don’t believe we are ready to announce it to the general public yet. But as soon as we do, you can be sure that I will tweet about it!"

This sounds like it's going to be a wonderful thing. I hope it happens sooner rather than later.

The web page at the top of this post says:

"We will soon be launching a new genealogy service that will revolutionize how you do your genealogy! Please submit your email address and we will inform you when the site launches and keep you posted of our progress.We may also invite you to a private beta before the launch "

You can submit your email address for more information about GenSeek as it comes online.

Excellent work, Mark!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Internet Archive of Books

Jennifer at Rainy Day Genealogy Readings posted about the Internet Archive at in her post here.

This Internet Archive is adding new content every day - they are mainly PDFs of out-of-copyright books, periodicals, and papers. The Archive has over 1 million PDF files.

Jennifer's link goes to the Allen County Public Library page at the Internet Archive - if you click on the This Just In link, you see that ACPL has added 4,488 books to date on the Internet Archive.

A cursory look at the list revealed several books of interest to me from New England, New York and England.

Nice post, Jennifer! Thanks.

Free eBook - "How to Use Technology to Strengthen Family Ties"

Robert Dunford has published a free eBook titled How to Use Technology to Strengthen Family Ties. His web site is There is a link on the web site to enable downloading of the book in PDF form (you input your email address, receive the email, click the link, and download it -45 pages, about 1.3 mb).

What is the book about?

"This free eBook presents Ten Tools of Technology to Strengthen Family Ties. It discusses in simple terms the strengths and weaknesses of each tool, describes how each compares with other tools, clarifies how to evaluate each tool for adoption or rejection by your family, and gives practical, easy-to-understand examples of how to put each tool to use."

The Ten Tools are:

* Tool #1: Blogs
* Tool #2: CDs/DVDs of family memories
* Tool #3: Email newsletters
* Tool #4: DVD slideshows with music
* Tool #5: On-demand book printing
* Tool #6: Online meeting services
* Tool #7: Private websites
* Tool #8: Videos
* Tool #9: Online family meetings
* Tool #10: Family organizations

I downloaded the book and read it this morning. It is an easy read, with many visuals, and a scorecard for each of the ten Tools of Technology. There is not a lot of detail discussing each Tool - just the basics of the tool, the benefit of using it, and a brief how-to with links to web pages if applicable.

Mr. Dunford has provided an excellent guidebook for helping families connect to, and stay connected to, each other.

Family Photographs - Post 39: the Point Loma House

I'm posting 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.

Rather than pictures of ancestors, I want to post a picture of one of the major players in my ancestry - my city of San Diego. My great-grandparents, Henry Austin and Della (Smith) Carringer came to San Diego in 1887, and four generations of descendants were born here. In 1951, my grandparents, Lyle and Emily (Auble) Carringer, built a house on Point Loma with a postcard view of San Diego Bay and city.

I took this picture on Saturday from the corner of Golden Park Avenue and Lucinda Street, looking east toward downtown San Diego. The house at the bottom of the hill is the house my grandparents built in 1951 and their grandsons sold in 2002 after our mother died.
The house had large picture windows and a wooden deck on the east side, with a panoramic view from Cabrillo National Monument and the bay entrance on the right, and the airport on the far left. I sat there for hours as a boy watching airplanes take off from North Island Naval air Station across the Bay, and watching ships leave the Bay for places to the west.
In the middle of the picture above are the boat marinas on the Bay, then Shelter Island (hotels, restaurants, marinas), then the Bay, then North Island to the right, and the San Diego downtown skyline in the center of the picture. In back of the skyline is Mount San Miguel, and off to the right is Otay Mountain. With binoculars from the deck, I could see the area of Chula Vista where I live (likewise, I can see this area of Point Loma from my back yard - if the weather is clear!).
Once or twice a year, especially in January, the high pressure system sits over Utah and the San Diego sky and air are so clear that it seems like you can see forever. Saturday, 17 January, was one of those days I look forward to be able to take pictures of my city. I went to Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery to take pictures (see yesterday's Tombstone Tuesday post), tried to get out to Cabrillo National Monument on the tip of Point Loma (but couldn't because of traffic), drove by and took pictures of the house, and then to Shelter Island and Harbor Island to take more pictures.
From the cemetery, I was able to see the snow-capped San Bernardino mountains about 120 miles off to the north, just to the right of Palomar Mountain (about 50 miles north). The broad shoulders of Cuyamaca Mountain rose clearly above the cityscape over 40 miles to the east. Table Mountain in Mexico was clearly visible to the south, about 40 miles away.

The view is gone today - we have low clouds today and a rain storm coming on Thursday - very welcome in this parched city in a parched and fire-scarred state. Now if it would only snow (while I'm here with my camera)!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

NEHGS Press Release - 2008 Databases

I received this press release from NEHGS today --


Boston, MA – January 2009 – New England Historic Genealogical Society (NEHGS) announces the addition of 5 million names to its databases during 2008 to help its more than 23,000 members around the country with their family history research.

The new data includes more than 1 million new Massachusetts records and more than 3 million records to the Social Security Death Index database.

The NEHGS Web site,, is home to more than 120 million searchable names in 2,500 databases covering areas like New England, New York, Canada, and the eastern United States.

Some of the new databases include:
- Massachusetts Vital Records Birth Indexes from 1911-1915
- New Netherland Connections; Vol. 1-7
- Torrey’s Marriages
- Boston Church Records
- Plymouth, MA Court Records
- Families of Ancient New Haven, CT; Vol. 1-8
- The Great Migration 1634-1635; A-F surnames

“We are thrilled with the success of last year’s content programs, said Sam Sturgis, Coordinator of Website Database Development. “Our goal is to digitize one or two databases every week and make them available on our Web site.”

NEHGS has more than 100 volunteers around the country who help scan and digitize the vast collections housed at NEHGS’ 8-story research library located at 99 Newbury Street in Boston.

The NEHGS Web site,, has been providing access to important research information including vital records, published genealogies, manuscript archives, articles, resources, and other records since 1999. The site receives more than 15,000 hits per day.

The New England Historic Genealogical Society, founded in 1845, is the country's oldest non-profit genealogical organization. With more than 20,000 members nationally, NEHGS collects, preserves, and interprets materials to help make accessible the histories of families in America. Located at 99-101 Newbury Street in Boston, the NEHGS research library is home to more than 12 million books, journals, photographs, documents, records, and microfilms. NEHGS also boasts one of the largest genealogy manuscript collections in the country, covering more than four centuries of local and family history.


I am glad that NEHGS has publicized their achievements for 2008. Every database provider should do that, IMHO.

Each of the databases added in 2008 are important additions to the overall digitized genealogy compendium, and NEHGS is the only online resource for most of the ones listed.

There are many more databases on their website - you can see the entire list of databases here. Most of them are, of course, behind the membership firewall.

Tombstone Tuesday - Fred and Betty (Carringer) Seaver

I finally got up to Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery to take some pictures of my parents gravestone. It was a beautiful day (75 F, no wind, clear skies, view unlimited) and very quiet in the cemetery on top of Point Loma.

Here is my parents gravestone. They were both cremated and placed along the side of the road after Fort Rosecrans closed in-ground burials.

My father, Frederick Walton Seaver, served as a Mailman 3rd Class aboard the USS Halford during World War II.

Their gravestone lies alongside the road heading south from the cemetery office on the west side of Catalina Blvd (which leads south to the Cabrillo National Monument). It is the first stone just south of the tree in the picture below (picture looks north - I am really grateful for this placement - it is very easy to find!).

Looking south from their gravestone, you get some idea of the extent of the cemetery and the scenery (that's the Pacific Ocean in the background - next land in this direction is Antartica):

Looking to the east, there is another section of the cemetery - the trees mark Catalina Blvd (there are more graves beyond the road):

Looking to the West, you can see the extent of the section, with the Pacific Ocean in the background (next stop west is Japan).

Nearly all of the gravestones - both free-standing and in-ground - at this cemetery are "standard issue" - name, rank, service, birth date, death date - similar to those shown in the pictures above. All in a row, row after row. About 96,000 of them.

There are a few interesting tombstones in Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery - I will post some of them over time on the South San Diego County Graveyard Rabbit blog.

Is this a day that will live in history?

There are some days in history that those who lived through them remember vividly - for me it was John Kennedy's assassination, the first Moon landing, the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster, and 9/11/01. For my parents, those days included the Great Depression, and Pearl Harbor and winning World War II.

I talked to my daughter last night, and my 5-year old grandson, Lucas, has been discussing Barack Obama in his kindergarten class. He has expressed very high hopes to his mother about President Obama - that the country will be better. Today may be one of those days that Lucas will remember for the rest of his life.

Millions of people see personified in Barack Obama the dream that "any person born in this country can become President." Many never believed that this day could happen. It has, and it will happen many more times throughout history. Our Presidential history includes many men of humble origins and significant life achievements.

I have high hopes for how Barack Obama will lead the United States of America. I hope for peace and prosperity in the world - especially for free people of Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran, Israel and Palestine. I hope for a growing economy, low unemployment and low inflation that enables each person to succeed in life. I hope for an education system, and a health care system, that encourages personal responsibility, rewards provider competence and efficiency, and results in an educated and healthy populace. I hope for energy independence that balances consumer needs with environmental protection. I hope for a political watershed in Washington DC that focuses on building up the country and not tearing down individuals or groups. Frankly, my expectations don't match my hopes!

I worry that Barack Obama is being put on a very high pedestal, and that if/when he fails, he will be disowned by the people that elected him. After all, he is only a politician, he is not a savior or messiah. We don't know, still, about his management and decision-making skills. We think we know what he thinks about issues, but many people may be surprised by what he does. A President is a chief executive, but s/he has to work with Congress. I keep reminding myself that "pro" is the opposite of "con" - and therefore I don't expect much pro-gress from Con-gress. Never have, never will.

I want Lucas to know that this is a very special day for many people in this country because of what Barack Obama represents. The hopes and fears of many years are met in him today. But he will be judged by history by what he accomplishes, not by what people hope for or expect.

I don't believe that I have told Lucas that Barack is his cousin. I will do that soon as a way to get him interested in family history. See this post for the discussion.

To cousin Barack - I wish you all the best. If you want my help on anything, just ask. By the way, when are you going to come visit your cousin in Chula Vista? We have two extra bedrooms all dressed up waiting for you and the family. Um, why wasn't I invited to the inaugural?

Monday, January 19, 2009

Blogs are great for readers

Even ranting, blowing off steam, and more!

Ever since had their service interruption earlier this week, I've been reading the blog for updates, and to read the user comments on the posts by Ancestry staff. One of the problems with a blog is that it has to be constantly "fed" new content by the home blogger(s), and it seems that the longer there is no response to a complaint from a customer, the more complaints follow.

The blog routinely gets a lot of comments to their posts, especially if there's a problem. For instance, you can read (as of tonight):

* 57 comments to the post For those who use the old search ui…. by Anne Mitchell posted 15 January 2009

* 37 comments to the post If you’re still experiencing site errors… by David Graham on 16 January 2009

Needless to say, few of the comments were, um, encouraging.

While the blog has quite a few people who blog occasionally, there are few who blog on a regular basis (like even once a week). I can understand why they don't post more - when you're up to your hips in alligators you really don't want to drain the swamp (or something similar). Obviously, this past week the staff has been trying to stabilize their site.

It would be nice to have more blog posts about Content (last post was 20 November 2008), Digitization (last post was 31 July 2008), Family Tree Maker (last post was 15 December 2008), Family Trees (last post was 12 December 2008), etc.

If the bloggers don't post, then the customers will complain if you provide an easy way to complain (like blog comments). If you're going to have a blog, then there should be regular blog posts (even one a week in each major category would show some interest...) on the blog. And there should be some response (even just an acknowledgement) to complaints or questions. I know it's hard to work productively and also blog, but if seriously wants to receive constructive feedback from customers and "listen" to customer concerns, paying attention to their blog's readers is a good thing to do.

I know that no business is going to satisfy all of the customers all of the time, but the perception to a casual reader of the blog is that no customers are satisfied at any time. That perception certainly does not help the business retain customers or grow with new subscribers.

More on Originals, Images and Indexes

The discussion about original papers at Archives, images made of those originals, and indexes created of those images on the Association of Professional Genealogists (APG) mailing list has continued unabated over the past two weeks, with many useful observations, opinions and suggestions.

As readers of the APG list know, it is difficult to follow the conversation threads sometimes, so I have tried to pick out some of the most useful posts to summarize here so that I (and others) can find them (now or later - this is always one of my reasons for blogging about anything!).

In my earlier post on this subject, Are imaging services missing NARA records? I noted one example of missing NARA records from the database, and raised questions about records, images and indexes. Others on the APG list have raised similar questions, and as of now there are no real answers. But there are interesting and useful observations and recommendations. Here are some of the best ideas from the last two weeks on the APG list IMHO:

a) Elizabeth Shown Mills offered these ideas to turn "venting" [against commercial companies and imaging services] into "constructive criticism" (see the entire thread for context):

"1. Develop a list of procedures we think would resolve the indexing difficulties.
2. Contact each provider of historical data on whom we rely and ask if they would provide a copy of their own quality-control process for indexers and those who supervise indexers.
3. Compare our list with the corporate lists, to identify potentially useful procedures not being applied.
4. Go back to the providers with a targeted list of potential solutions not yet applied and ask for a discussion of the pros and cons of each method we think would ameliorate current problems."

Those are excellent suggestions for assessing and improving quality control.

b) Michael John Neill responded to a post with these observations about indexes (see the entire thread for context):

"My philosophy of indexes is that they allow us to locate 90% of our people quickly and save us time for the other 10% who aren't as easily located."

The point Michael makes is that the indexes are tools that help us - they cannot and never will be perfect. We can learn to use them efficiently and creatively, too. If the requirement was that the indexes were perfect, would we ever have any indexes?

Obviously, we want the images to be as complete as possible, and the indexes to be as accurate as possible, and every researcher needs to understand Michael's point and act accordingly.

c) Elizabeth Shown Mills responded to a post by Langdon who had said "Personally, I don?t trust data bases anyway." Elizabeth's reply was telling to me - pierced my brain so to speak (please read the entire post for context):

"So, no. We cannot trust any database--academic, archival, or commercial. We use them, we're delighted to have them, but we don't trust them."

Whoa. Flash of light for me. If the best of the brightest doesn't trust any database, why should any of us? Her comments about archivists, scholars and genealogists are very interesting. There's a lesson here for all of us!

d) Elizabeth Shown Mills offers a potential solution to some of these problems in her response to a post:

"Yes, problems exist with the policies of all archives and commercial suppliers. Yes, we all wish for better performance out of everyone. However, my observations across the past four decades in this field convince me that we don't achieve that better performance from others by broadcasting blanket condemnations or organizing rebellions. Archives, when confronted with angry dissidents in the genealogical community, simply turn their backs on us. Commercial suppliers, if their subscriber base goes away, go out of business and we're left with nothing.

"The Association of Professional Genealogists, which sponsors this list-serve, is a trade group organized to further the practice of genealogy, the quality of that practice, and the materials available for practicing it. As a professional group, led by broadly experienced professionals who understand genealogical needs, archival practices, and commercial exigencies, APG is in a position to develop sound quality-control guidelines and to approach both archives and commercial firms in a spirit of cooperation and negotiation. That approach is far more likely to be listened to than all the carping we do as frustrated individuals.

"If you (meaning all subscribers to this list) are a member of APG, then I hope you will urge your officers to develop quality-control guidelines for record providers and to enter into dialog with them to eliminate any lapses in their quality-control processes--and I hope that those of you who place high priority upon this issue will lend your expertise to the effort.

"If you are not a member of APG, then I hope you will join and make an impact by strengthening APGs ranks and resources. Together, if we devise workable solutions and approach record providers courteously, we'll have far more chance of achieving our common goals."

Here is a concrete proposal to try to solve the real problems that researchers have with originals, images and indexes. I totally support this proposal, and I urge the APG to pick up the ball and run with it toward the goal of quality control and transparency on the part of the archives, imaging and indexing services. Every genealogy researcher has a stake in this discussion and the outcome.

Note that there are three major parties that need to participate in this discussion and, hopefully, problem resolution:

a) the Archives (National, State, local, etc.) that holds the original records

b) the Imaging/Indexing services (e.g., FamilySearch, Ancestry, Footnote, etc.)

c) the Genealogy community (you, me, societies, APG, researchers at NARA, etc.)

Are the Archives and the Imaging/Indexing services willing to participate in a quality control endeavor such as Elizabeth proposes? I hope so. My faith and trust in them will be enhanced if they are.

I have quoted extensively from these four APG mailing list posts because the issues are important to me. I hope I haven't violated any "fair-use" provisions. These are not my ideas - they are ideas of wise and experienced persons whom I greatly respect.

I urge readers interested in these issues to read the entire set of posts in December 2008 and January 2009. Individual posts are difficult to find because of the thread nature, but the issue is too important to not read the threads completely for context and complete information.

Only a few individuals have contributed to these discussions on the APG mailing list, and I appreciate their contributions. In my opinion, more facts about the current situation and more problem solving suggestions are required - the genealogy community deserves my comments, your comments, and the comments of the Archives and the Imaging/Indexing services.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

The Last Will and Testament of Ranslow Smith (1805-1875)

I spent many research hours during late 2007 and early 2008 online and in FHL microfilms trying to find the parents and ancestors of Ranslow Smith (1805 NY - 1875 NY). See my posts about the Ranslow Smith House in Henderson NY, the Four-Mile House in Oak Grove WI (now at Old World Wisconsin), and the series about the elusive Russell Smith (Post 7 here, links go back further), Ranslow's father. After all of that, I finally "lucked out" last week and found Ranslow Smith's will in the Andrew County, Missouri will book - I mentioned it in my post Day 5 in SLC - Back to the FHL, and a treat.

Here is the probate record summary:

Ranslow Smith died in Andrew County, Missouri in early 1875. The Andrew County, Missouri Probate Record Index lists the following records in Case No. 1074 (Andrew County, Missouri Index to Probate Court Records, Andrew County Probate Court, Savannah, Missouri. Accessed on FHL Microfilm 1,006,198 Item 3, page 47, 12 January 2009):

* Year: 1875
* Will Record: Volume A, Page 360
* Application: Volume B, Page 135
* Bond: Volume B, Page 135
* Letters: Volume B, Page 135
* Inventory and Appraisal: Volume D, Page 439
* Final Settlement: Volume D, Page 65
* Discharge: Volume K, Pages 348, 428

The Last Will of Ranslow Smith was written in Oak Grove, Dodge County, Wisconsin dated 27 June 1865, and was filed for Probate on 4 May 1875 in Andrew County, Missouri. The will transcription reads (Andrew County, Missouri Probate Records, Wills, Volume A, 1842-1888, Pages 360-361, court clerk's transcription, accessed on FHL Microfilm 1,006,205 on 12 January 2009):

Last Will of Ranslow Smith

I, Ranslow Smith of the town of Oak Grove, County
of Dodge, and State of Wisconsin, being of sound &
disposing mind and memory and of full age
do make and publish this as my last will and
testament, as follows, that is to say.

First. I will and direct that the expenses of my
funeral and all my just debts be fully paid out
of my personal estate, as soon as may be after my


Second. I hereby give, devise and bequeath to Mary Jane
Bell, the wife of Lucius Sanborn now in the state of
Iowa, the sum of three hundred dollars out of my
estate, what shall be left after my decease, and
in Case of her decease before me, the said sum
to be paid to her heirs.

Third. I hereby give, devise and bequeath unto
Devere J. Lamphear, Commonly called Devere J.
Smith, my adopted son, all the rest and residue
of my real and personal property of every name
and nature whatsoever, except the above named
Legacy: To have and to hold the said real estate
and personal property by the said Devere J.
Lamphear and his Heirs and assigns forever: and
I also give and bequeath to the said Devere J. Lamphear
my life insurance in the North Western Life Insurance
Company, which was formerly secured
to my deceased wife, and as she is dead now,
I will that the said sum shall be paid to him
after my decease.

Fourth and lastly: I hereby appoint the above
named Devere J. Lamphear, commonly called
Devere J. Smith, Executor of this my last will
and testament and I do hereby revoke all former
wills by me made.

In witness whereof I have hereunto set
my hand and seal this twenty second day of
June in the year of our Lord, One thousand eight
hundred and sixty five.

Ranslow Smith [L.S.]

In presence of
John C. Halliger
Mathias Potter

I also have copies of the other papers, except for the Inventory listed in the Probate Court Index book.

The will above raises several unforeseen questions, and clears up one mystery. The mystery cleared concerns the name change from Devier J. Lamphier to Devier J. Smith in 1866 that I wrote about in 'Tis a Mystery! It is apparent to me that Devier J. Lamphier was the adopted son of Ranslow and Mary (Bell) Smith, and Devier changed his name to Smith in 1866.

One unforeseen question for me is the identity of Mary Jane Bell Sanborn, wife of Lucius Sanborn. I now think that she was an adopted daughter (perhaps originally named Mary Jane Bell), of Ranslow and Mary (Bell) Smith (she was Mary J. Smith in the 1850 census, age 12 with Ranslow and Mary Smith, and Devier J. Smith, age 11), and married a Lucius Sanford before the 1860 census. I found Lucius and Mary Sanford in the 1860, 1870, 1880, 1885, 1900, and 1910 census in Howard County, Iowa - with 11 children! From this, I know that Mary was born in March 1838 in New York.

The next obvious question is "who are Devier J. Lamphier's parents?" While Devier was enumerated in Dodge County, Wisconsin in the 1850 census with his parents, his birthplace in the 1850 census (and all subsequent census) indicated New York. The two children, Mary Jane and Devier, were probably born in Jefferson County, NY where the Ranslow Smith family resided until about 1848. I've done some preliminary checks, in the census and cemetery records, on Lamphiers in Jefferson County NY and have found quite a few in the eastern part of the County. So there is more research to be done in Jefferson County, NY on this surname.

Little did I know how elusive the ancestry of Devier J. Smith was going to be - after all, I had a family Bible, many census records, and other family papers that "told me" that his parents were Ranslow and Mary (Bell) Smith! See what a "reasonably exhaustive search" for records does for your research and firmly held beliefs? It can really mess them up if you are lucky! Never fear, I can make the best of this situation by using the research as a good example!

Best of the Genea-Blogs - January 11-17, 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:

* More X-Chromosome Charts by Blaine Bettinger on The Genetic Genealogist blog. Blaine provides more information about how the X-chromosome influences a persons genetic makeup. It has to do with males receive only a Y-chromosome from their fathers, but females receive an X-chromosome from both parents. It's not as easy as I thought! Is anybody sequencing the X-chromosome?

* Research Plan: Finding Death Dates for Joseph Bergmeister and Ursula Goetz by Donna Pointkouski on the What's Past is Prologue blog. Donna has created a research plan in an effort to solve one of her brickwall problems. This is something each of us should be doing. Donna has provided an excellent example. Can anybody help her?

* On SlideShare: 10 Things Genealogy Software Should Do by Mark Tucker on the ThinkGenealogy blog. Mark shares his slides from his March 2008 presentation at BYU. The presentation is excellent. The method of sharing is also excellent - is this something that presenters can use effectively? Or bloggers?

* and New Subscribers by Sean Sexton on the Sean and Family History blog. Sean shares some ideas for (and any other genealogy provider, really) on how to attract new subscribers and retain current ones. Excellent marketing idea here.

* A well-traveled clock. by Amy on the They who go down to the sea blog. Amy tells a wonderful story with pictures about an intimate yet inanimate family member - Clock Miller. It's fascinating.

* Cold As Whiz by Tipper on the Blind Pig & The Acorn blog. Tipper muses about sayings about weather (and especially really cold weather!) and gets more in comments than she expected.

* Advice to my Fellow Bloggers who Require Word Verification to Comment by Terry Thornton on the Hill Country of Monroe County, Mississippi blog. Terry's post deals with the verification words that many bloggers use to prevent spam... it's funny - go read it!

* How Music Defines A Generation by Elyse Doerflinger on Elyse's Genealogy Blog. Elyse's story isn't really about music, it's about encouragement from a family member and how it affects a person's life. Excellent post!

* Carnival's In Town - 9th Edition of smile for the Camera - A Carnival of Images: Who Are You? I Really Want to Know! by footnoteMaven on the Shades of the Departed blog. This carnival features pictures that the writers really want to find out the names of the subjects. There are 47 entries in this carnival, each with a picture dying for a caption.

* Demographics of Smithland - 1830 - 1840 by Brenda Joyce Jerome on the Western Kentucky Genealogy Blog. Brenda's study of a town in a time period is fascinating to me, as is her selection of available records to use in the study. All researchers can use records like Brenda used - do we?

* Carnival of Genealogy, 64th Edition by Jasia on the Creative Gene blog. Jasia gathers the 47 posters to the 64th Carnival of Genealogy, with the topic of "A Winter Photo Essay." This collection chilled me with all of the pictures. The topic for the next COG is "The Happy Dance. The Joy of Genealogy." Oh boy!

* GeneaProjects by Julie Cahill Tarr on the GenBlog by Julie blog. Julie lists projects that researchers can participate to help the genealogy community. It's a great list.

* Those Wacky Styles by Lee Drew on the FamHist blog. Lee got me thinking with this post about the clothing styles, and additional paraphernalia, of my grandparents and early generations. Check out the picture and the cartoon too - great comparison!

* Heritage Albums, A Collection of Family Moments for the Family Historian by Jasia in the Shades of the Departed blog Captured Moments column for 18 January 2009. Jasia's monthly column describes the process of creating a heritage album, provides excellent creative tips, and shows some beautiful examples of her work.

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!

Read past Best of the Genea-Blogs posts here.