Sunday, July 18, 2010

CGSSD Meeting Summary - Steve Morse Presentations

Dr. Stephen P. Morse, PhD, provided three hours of lecture and presentation on the Steve Morse One-Step Webpages at the Computer Genealogy Society of San Diego meeting on Saturday, 17 July. There were over 90 in attendance. Steve's biography and curriculum vitae are provided in the meeting announcement here.

Steve's first talk, two hours, was titled "A Potpourri of Genealogical Search Tools" and the second, one hour, talk was titled "A Hodgepodge of Lesser-Known Gems." There were two four-page handouts that covered many of the topics presented.

The Steve Morse One-Step Webpages site is Don't go to In the presentations, he demonstrated how to use many of his web pages, especially those used for genealogy research. Steve usually used a well-known historical person to illustrate how to navigate the different search tools, and the graphics were often very funny. You can read much of the first presentation in his webpage A One-Step Portal for On-Line Genealogy.

Some of the Search Tool categories demonstrated were, for example:

* Ellis Island Search Forms and Ship Arrivals
* Castle Garden years (1855-1891) plus other New York Arrivals
* Other Ports of Immigration
* US Census and Soundex (1790-1940)
* Canadian and British Census
* Births, Deaths, and other Vital Records
* Calendar, Sunrise/Sunset, Maps
* Dealing with Characters in Foreign Alphabets
* Creating your own Search Applications
* Last-Minute Bidding and Bid History on eBay.

Within each category above, there are a number of different search tools that can be used to search databases with Steve's tools. His search results often find matches faster and with less confusion than using the specialized websites like,, and many others. If the specialized website is a subscription site, then the user has to have a subscription. Users at a library or FHC can use Ancestry Library Edition or Ancestry Institution.

Some of the things I learned and will pursue using the One-Step Webpages include:

* Many of the One-Step Webpages searches can use first and last names with options of: "starts with," "is exactly," "contains" or "sounds like." This is very useful on the free Ellis Island and Castle Garden sites, and is similar to what uses on their Old Search pages for immigration and census records.

* There are some ships manifests that are not complete, or have bad links from the index to the record, on some of the sites. There are ways to work around that - see Ship Lists and Missing Manifests on the A One-Step Portal for On-Line Genealogy page.

* The Census ED Finder and using the 1930 Census to find the ED for the 1920 and 1940 census is very useful if you know where your family lived in those years, but cannot find them in the census records. You can use the Census ED Finder to determine the ED and then use that information to browse the census page by page.

* The demonstration of how to find a living person's birth date was interesting -- the process is in the Vital Records section of the A One-Step Portal for On-Line Genealogy page.

* The Relationship Calculator looks very useful - its also on the A One-Step Portal for On-Line Genealogy page.

* The Where's Grandpa link is classic - some attendees thought that it was a real site. Steve's user's email comments to him were classic - he only showed the clean ones, I think.

This was a fantastic presentation by Steve Morse - I enjoyed every minute of it. I tried to guess who most of his historical figures were before he revealed them, and was right about most of them. The descriptions I heard most when I talked to colleagues was "fantastic" and "overwhelming."

I've used Steve's Webpages only occasionally (mainly because I don't search for immigration records very often, and am fairly adept at searching, but will try some of these tools out - especially the living people tool, the date translation tool and the geographical tools.

If you ever have a chance to hear Steve speak in person, I encourage you to attend and take good notes.

UPDATED 7/19: Removed links for categories - they didn't work. The categories are broad, with many topics in them, so go to and click on individual search tool links.

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