Saturday, February 11, 2012

Saturday Night Genealogy Fun - Two Degrees of Separation

It's Saturday Night, time for more Genealogy Fun!!

The genealogy world was reminded (again) of how time flies, relatively speaking, by the news that there are two living grandchildren of President John Tyler (1790-1862).  This past week there was the Robert Krulwich blog post about persons knowing people who knew famous people long ago.

For this week's mission (should you decide to accept it), I want you to:

1)  Using your ancestral lines, how far back in time can you go with two degrees of separation?  That means "you knew an ancestor, who knew another ancestor."  When was that second ancestor born?

2)  Tell us in a blog post of your own, in a comment to this blog post, in a status line on Facebook or a stream post on Google Plus.

Here are several of mine:

1)  My Seaver/Richmond line:   Me (born 1943) - I met my paternal grandmother once in 1959.  My paternal grandmother Alma Bessie (Richmond) Seaver (1882-1962, daughter of Thomas Richmond (1848-1917))  knew her grandfather, James Richmond (1821-1912).

 2)  My Carringer line:  Me (born 1943) - my maternal great grandfather, Henry Austin Carringer held me when I was a baby.  Henry Austin Carringer (1853-1946), son of David Jackson Carringer (1828-1902) and Rebecca Spangler (1832-1901),  knew his paternal grandfather Henry Carringer (1800-1881) well.  He also knew his maternal grandmother, Elizabeth (King) Spangler (1796-1863).

3)  My Carringer/Smith/Vaux/Underhill line:  Me (born 1943) - my great-grandmother, Della (Smith) Carringer (1862-1944) held me (I don't remember it, of course!).  Della Smith (born in Wisconsin), daughter of Abigial Vaux (1844-1931), granddaughter of Mary Ann (Underhill) Vaux (1815-1880) may have met her great-grandfather, Amos Underhill (1772-1865, died in New York), but I doubt it!

So I can connect, with two degrees of separation, back to a man born in 1772 (but that man likely did not "meet" his great-grandchild).  For the requirement that they actually met, I can get back to a person born in 1796.

It strikes me that three degrees of separation might be really interesting!

Surname Saturday - HAWKINS (England > Rhode Island)

It's Surname Saturday, and I'm "counting down" my Ancestral Name List each week.  I am now up to number 363, who is Mary Hawkins (1710-1767), one of my 6th-great-grandparents. [Note: The 6th great-grandfathers have been covered in earlier posts] 

My ancestral line back through four generations of HAWKINS ancestors is (note that I had another Hawkins line last week!):

1. Randall J. Seaver

2. Frederick Walton Seaver (1911-1983)
3. Betty Virginia Carringer (1919-2002)

4. Frederick Walton Seaver (1876-1942)
5. Alma Bessie Richmond (1882-1962)

10. Thomas Richmond (1848-1917)
11. Julia White (1848-1913)

22. Henry Arnold White ((1824-1885)
23. Amy Frances Oatley (1826-before 1870)

44. Jonathan White (1806-1850)
45. Miranda Wade (1806-1850)

90.  Simon Wade (1767-1857)
91.  Phebe Horton (1772-????)

180.  Simon Wade (1731-1790)
181.  Deborah Tracy (1731-????)

362.  John Tracy, born about 1695 in Duxbury, Plymouth, Massachusetts, United States; died 1751 in Providence, Providence, Rhode Island, United States.  He was the son of 724. John Tracy and 725. Deborah.  He married 02 January 1728 in Providence, Providence, Rhode Island, United States.
363.  Mary Hawkins, born about 1710 in Providence, Providence, Rhode Island, United States; died 1767 in Providence, Providence, Rhode Island, United States.  

Children of John Tracy and Mary Hawkins are:  John Tracy (1729-????); Deborah Tracy (1731-????); Prince Tracy (1731-????); Mary Tracy (1733-????); Sarah Tracy (1735-????); Eve Tracy (1738); Adam Tracy (1742); Olive Tracy (1744); Lois Tracy (1746-????).

726..  William Hawkins, born 1676 in Providence, Providence, Rhode Island, United States; died after 1744 in Providence, Providence, Rhode Island, United States.  He married  before 1710 in Rhode Island, United States.
727.  Mary, born Abt. 1688 in Providence, Providence, Rhode Island, United States.

Children of William Hawkins and Mary are:  Mary Hawkins (1710-1767); John Hawkins (1711-????); Sarah Hawkins (1713-????); Josiah Hawkins (1713-1751); Job Hawkins (1716-1790); Rufus Hawkins (1717-1788).

1452.  John Hawkins, born about 1643 in Providence, Providence, Rhode Island, United States; died 1727 in Providence, Providence, Rhode Island, United States.  He married before 1676 in probably Providence, Providence, Rhode Island, United States.
1453.  Sarah Daniels, born in Providence, Providence, Rhode Island, United States.

Children of John Hawkins and Sarah Daniels are:  William Hawkins (1676-1744); Elizabeth Hawkins (1678-1699); Edward Hawkins (1680-1741); Mary Hawkins (1681-1755); Sarah Hawkins (1685-????); Lydia Hawkins (1690-????); Abigail Hawkins (1695-????); Patience Hawkins (1698-????); Phebe Hawkins (1700-????).

2904.  William Hawkins, born 1609 in Exeter, Devon, England; died 1699 in Providence, Providence, Rhode Island, United States.  He married before 1639.
2905.  Margaret Harwood, born Abt. 1612 in Stoke Gabriel, Devon, England; died in  .

Children of William Hawkins and Margaret Harwood are:  Edward Hawkins (1639-1726); Mary Hawkins (1641-1724); John Hawkins (1643-1727); Madeleine Hawkins (1645-????); William Hawkins (1647-1723).

Biographical and vital data for these families was obtained from:

John Osborne Austin"The genealogical dictionary of Rhode Island : comprising three generations of settlers who came before 1690 : with many families carried to the fourth generation (Albany, N.Y., J. Munsell & Sons, 1887).

Richard H. Benson, The Arnold Family of Smithfield, Rhode Island (Boston, Mass., Newbury Street Press, 2009).

The URL for this post is:

Copyright (c) Randall J. Seaver, 2012.

Friday, February 10, 2012

California Death Index, 1905 to 1939 on FamilySearch! has added the 1905 to 1939 California Death Records index to its historical collections as a "Browse Only" collection.  This is very good news for California researchers, whose choices for this information previously were limited to going to the FamilySearch Center to view microfilm, or had to subscribe to the VitalSearch databases.

Here is the California Death Index, 1905-1939 collection screen:

The collection wiki page description says:

"The collection consists of digital images of the death index located at the Office of the State Register, Sacramento, and the Butte County Courthouse, Oroville. The index is arranged alphabetically by the name of the deceased.

"The key genealogical facts the California Death Index record may include:

  • Name of the deceased
  • Initials of the spouse
  • Age
  • Gender
  • Date of death
  • Place of death or county of death
  • Place of Birth
  • Father's Place of Birth
  • Mother's Place of Birth
  • Occupation
  • Cause of Death
  • Father's Name
  • Mother's Maiden Name"
Clicking on the "Browse through 5,692 images" link leads to:

The page above indicates that there are two main sections for this database:

*  1905-1929
*  1930-1939

I chose the 1930-1939 and saw:

There are three surname ranges to this part of the Index:

*  Aubel, Arnold-Hetterman, John
*  Heslop, Nellie-Rzechtalski, Leon
*  Sa, Joseph-Z

I decided to search for "Seaver" entries, so I clicked on the Sa, Joseph-Z link:

The image above shows the first page of the FHL microfilm from which the images were obtained.

The death index is alphabetical by last name, first name.

From here, the user has to do a guess-and-guess again iteration routine to get to the page they want.  I found (eventually) the "Seaver" listings on Image #54:

The images in this database are of two pages in the death index, and there are two columns on each page.

The most important column is the County column, which is listed with a county code.  The County coe list is at

Thank you, FamilySearch!  This will make my research much easier to perform.

The URL for this post is:

Copyright (c) Randall J. Seaver, 2012.

Updated:  8 p.m. to add the county code.  Thanks, Leah!

Follow-Up Friday - another Potpourri of Reader Comments

For Follow-Up Friday, I'm delving into the comments left on recent blog posts over the past two weeks that might have helpful hints from readers or as for my comments:

1)  On "Do you Believe the FamilySearch Vision of the Future?", several users made cogent comments:

*  Anonymous commented:

"I'm going to be quite blunt... one of the most overused words at RootsTech was collaborate. We heard it from every vendor every day.  Yes- each of them want the community to collaborate with them but seems totally unwilling to collaborate with each other.

"The end users, the professionals, the different societies, and in particular the blogging community should make it very clear and very public that they will *NOT* collaborate with any of them until they start collaborating with each other and give the entire community what we have been asking for for years- ONE UNIFIED STANDARD that each of them will agree to use and abide by.

"Until that happens- a pox on ALL their houses.  The motto of the genealogy community should be: '

Randy's comments:  I think that genea-utopia will never happen... and if it does, then there will likely be one monster provider of everything genealogical - a  I'm not sure I want that... because it will stifle competition, restrict access, and charge researchers a lot of money.

*  JL commented:

"The new family tree at It seems much simpler than the present version. However, I wonder how many people will be willing to put their genealogy there. It will take many to reach the vision of the 'whole genealogy of Mankind'. And even then ...I don't think the next generations will suffer for lack of records to search for. Either there will still be plenty left or the expectations will be so different people won't care.

"I relish the idea of being able to send my non-techy relatives to FamilySearch to look at their history instead of struggling on my own with how to organize it/publish it in some fascinating way to capture their interest. If they want it, there it will be. Do you think Henry Ford thought about how sad it would be if people of the future didn't have to walk for hundreds of miles hauling their belongings through the dust?"

Randy's comment:  Good point!  Not everyone wants to do the research.  However, I hope that non-techy relatives would want to learn about their ancestors lives and the history they experienced.

*  Judy Russell commented:

"My problem with this is the underlying data. When family group sheets submitted in the far distant past are accepted as 'evidence,' the end result is simple: 'garbage in, garbage out.'"

Randy's comment:  But they are's the quality that is questionable.  Some is garbage, and discernment is a virtue!  If you, or I, or Elizabeth Mills, submitted family group sheets as a result of our years of research, wouldn't they be better than garbage?  Hmmm, maybe yours and Elizabeth's!

*  Illya commented:

"My only question for Jay would be,'"is FamilySearch going to foot the entire bill for this?' Cause I don't see much of a commercial industry left 5 years from now when FamilySearch has made a majority of the (most desired) data available for free."

Randy's comments:  That's an excellent question.  However, I don't think FamilySearch will have made a majority of the most desired data freely available.  Quite a bit of it will be imaged, but not indexed.  

*  Celia commented:

"I agree that expecting commercial entities to "collaborate" with each other is utopian... At the same time, I simply do NOT understand the desire to "merge" everybody into one big tree of womankind. Plus there are so many errors in trees (may I say, in FS family group sheets etc.), that it is, as Judy says, "garbage in, garbage out". I just want to share my tree (yup, got mytreeitis) with my cousins, kids, and other relatives, and have it as sourced as I can make it."

Randy's comment:  A big inter-connected database, with source-centric conclusions based on evidence is the dream of make it easier for a beginner to hook into.  Or a politician!  Sharing your tree with your family is fine, and the more sources you have the better.  Not everybody will contribute to the big tree, methinks!

*  David Newton wrote a long epistle in comments (go read it all), ending with:

"So in summary for this vision to come true the accumulation of junk genealogy in it must be stopped or slowed considerably, the existing junk genealogy must be purged from the system and source citations must be consistent, easy to find and easy to use."

Randy's comments:  That's what Ron Tanner said they wanted to do ... but the proof will be in the pudding, as they say.  And what happens to the other online family trees - inter-connected or isolated?  IMHO, they are leads that researchers can connect with and critically evaluate as to quality.  Even junk genealogy has value - they can always be bad examples!

2)  On Saturday Night Genealogy Fun - The Genea-Bowl, I had only one comment and saw no other posts about it.  The comment is gone, removed by a "blog administrator."  Not me!  The commenter?  I don't know.  It was a great response.  I have it in my email.  Did everyone take the weekend off?  Or was the challenge too trivial or too hard?

3)  On my post Day 2 of Randy's Salt Lake City Adventure, several commenters offered help with my FHL microfilm frustrations:

*  Heather Rojo commented:

"Yes, the early Plymouth records are hard to read, even in person. There is a book of transcriptions Plymouth court records, 1686-1859, by David Thomas Konig, William Edward Nelson, Plymouth County (Mass.). Court of General Sessions of the Peace, Plymouth County (Mass.). Court of Common Pleas in multiple volumes. I'll bet they have this book right there at Salt Lake City."


"Also Records of the Colony of New Plymouth, in New England: Court orders [being ... By New Plymouth Colony, Massachusetts. General Court available at Google Books."

*  Howard Swain commented:

"For Plymouth probate, see: C. H. Simmons, Jr., Plymouth Colony Records: Volume I, Wills and Inventories, 1633-1669 (Camden, ME: Picton Press, 1996) I think this is a complete transcription.

"Early Barnstable Co. probate records as transcribed by Hinckley are available online at NEHGS. See website for more details.

"Also, early issues of The Mayflower Descendant have probate records (abstracted, I think) for both Plymouth Colony and Barnstable County. The first 25 volumes are online at NEHGS now.

"I found both our Allens and Holloways in the second two sources above. (This reminds me I need to look in the Simmons book for them.)"

Randy's comments:  I see that I failed to check for low hanging fruit with these books and periodicals.  Thanks for the help, and they are on my research to-do list.  The microfilm images sure makes me appreciate those who transcribed them years ago!

4)  On my post Surname Saturday - ALLEN (England > Massachusetts), there were two comments:

*  Howard Swain offered:

" Probably the most authoritative source is the sketch on George Allen in the second series of Great Migration books: Robert Charles Anderson, et. al, The Great Migration: Immigrants to New England 1634-1635, vol I, pp. 27-35. They say the George's origin is 'unknown'. See his comments at the end re. the Guilford account.

"Also see Richard LeBaron Bowen, Jr., 'Notes on George Allen of Weymouth and Sandwich', NEHGR vol 155 (April 2001), pp 212-214.  This also discusses the two Ralph Allens.  Mr. Bowen mentions at the end a typescript by Bertha W. Clark, 'A Sandwich-Dartmouth-North Kingstown Allen Line (1955).' She has extensive citing of references. This is available from the LDS as film #547019.

"Also, Anderson, et al, mention the older (1941) article by Charles Carroll Gardner in GMNJ vol XVI. This has been reprinted in Genealogies of New Jersey Families.

"The first two items I mentioned are cited in Martin E. Hollick's book:  New Englanders in the 1600s: A Guide to Genealogical Research Published Between 1980 and 2005; NEHGS, Boston, 2006. This book really ought to be on your bookshelf."

My comments:  Thanks for the leads.  I have Martin Hollick's book on my shelf, but evidently didn't pull it down that night!  

*  Sue Barry commented:

" Randy, hate to say it, but you use one of my pet peeves, the listing of a site in Massachusetts in the 1600s as 'United States'... but I love all your posts and the fun challenges... It's too late to do the random name search tonight, but I'm going to try it later this week! what cool sites you find!!! "

My comments:  I understand your frustration.  As you probably know, the software wants the current place name so it can use the mapping and geotagging features in the software.  My hope - and I heard rumbles about it at RootsTech - is that the software will eventually add  historical locations, with the appropriate jurisdictions (town, county, state, country) associated with the current locations.  RootsMagic has that now for users to pick from, but the historical locations do not show up in Facts, charts or reports.  That is something I would love to see!  

5)  Thank you to everyone that commented favorably about my Genea-Musings Makeover.  

6)  Thank you to everyone for their cogent and helpful comments - I hope that they help other researchers with their research challenges.

The URL for this post is:

Copyright (c) Randall J. Seaver, 2012.

Answers to Questions from

Back on 27 January, I posted Questions for at RootsTech 2012 - Updated and invited readers to submit questions of their own for  Several readers submitted questions, and ideas for improving, and I incorporated them into the Updated post.

I did not have the opportunity to ask the questions at RootsTech 2012, so I emailed my contact at, Matt Deighton, on Tuesday, 7 February, with the list of questions asking for responses that I could post on my blog.  Matt sent the responses to me on Thursday evening, 9 February.  I really appreciate the effort made by Matt and his colleagues at Ancestry to provide these responses in a very timely manner!

Randy Seaver (RS)  When will you drop the Old Search capability in

Ancestry ( Over the past 3 years, we have been listening to users and gradually been implementing improvements to New Search. In particular we have been paying attention to feedback from old search users who are some of our most experienced researchers.

As we’ve previously mentioned, a time will come when we believe new search has reached a point where we will retire old search, however, we haven’t reached this point yet, and we would plan to give users plenty of notice before this happens.

RS:  What happened to the Article Archive on the Learning Center?  Will it disappear?  Article archive will eventually be moved back in. we're still in progress. Numerous articles in the archive included outdated information so those are being removed before the final move is completed. No estimated date as to when we'll move the archive back in but our focus is less on articles and more on research help with this iteration of the learning center.

RS: Why doesn't the Search field on the Learning Center work better? The entire Learning Center is a work in progress. We hope to have search working better as the Learning Center is finished.

RS:  Will the source citations created by attaching an historical record to a Member Tree ever comply with Chicago Manual Of Style or Evidence Explained style standards? I would certainly never say never, this is something that we would really like to do. On FTM we have already developed a feature which gives us a lot of learning on how we would approach this. However, to get it right on Ancestry Member Trees is a very big project. In our development plans, we have had to make some tough decisions about what our development team works on. We do not expect to launch this feature in 2012.

RS:  Which states will be indexed first in the 1940 U.S. Census?  We are not currently releasing the order of 1940 U.S. Census indexing. I can point you back to the press release for information that has been publicly released.

RS:  Why don't you include matches in search results?  And vice versa?  Especially the FREE collections. We do include matches in search results for a large percentage of Fold3 content, including most of the Fold3 Civil War records, naturalization records, and Birth and Death records. Then users are a single click away from Ancestry search results to the source image on Fold3 for those records.  We also include many records in Fold3 results (for example, World War II old man's draft cards) and will continue to do more of this where it makes sense.

RS:  Have you considered a "package deal" for an subscription and a Fold3 subscription?  Since Fold3 was acquired by Ancestry over a year ago, we have been offering Fold3 memberships to paying Ancestry subscribers for 50% off.  We have continuously run ads on Ancestry for logged in paying subscribers giving them a 50% off link, and in December Ancestry sent an email to all paying subscribers making them aware of the 50% off option for Fold3 memberships.  Any paying Ancestry member who contacts Fold3 will currently be able to get Fold3 for $39.95 instead of $79.95.

RS:  Why do you charge customers every year for a Family Tree Maker upgrade which has marginal changes from the previous version?  Each year’s new release usually includes major changes and improvements. It is worth noting that FTM users can upgrade for 30% off the regular price.  Obviously some of the new features and improvements may not be of interest to every user in which case they may not feel the need to upgrade.  Our incremental updates between major releases are provided for free.

RS:  Are you working with the BetterGEDCOM group or the GEDCOM X group on GEDCOM-like standards?  Will you adopt a GEDCOM standard and implement it on your websites and in Family Tree Maker?  Ancestry has had periodic engagement with the groups working  on these standards, however we are not a formal part of these initiatives. Internally, we are reviewing the standards we use to exchange data between our various tools, and we certainly want to take current thinking on GEDCOM standards into account as part of this.

RS:  *  Are there any historical record collections on that are not on  If so, what are they?  This question is currently under review.

RS:  Is still a beta website under development?  What are the plans for Mundia?  We are still evaluating our best approach to doing family history outside of our core markets, but Mundia remains a central part of our plans in that regard. 
Alice asked in Comments: Can you add a "private" or "public" options on media for private tree owners? Some people don't mind sharing media but don't want the whole world looking at your tree! That’s a great suggestion that we are considering. We certainly plan to work on upgrading our media upload tools, and this feature could be promising.
*  Shirley asked in Comments:  Why is Ancestry pushing those things [Family Data Collections Series, U.S. and International Marriage Series, Millenium File, One World Tree] to beginners as "RECORDS"? They have all kinds of nonsense like some passengers on the Mayflower were born in Plymouth in 1580, the usual children born before their parents, etc. Beginners are not being taught to click on and read censuses. They're being taught to copy from others. What about starting your beginners off on basics instead of directing them to trees that are often wrong?  OneWorldTree and the other collections of this type are certainly controversial. Over the past couple of years, we have decreased their prominence on the site, and eliminated many of them from features used by our newer users (such as hints).  In fact, within our search, we actively promote Census and other historical records over these kind of collections. We believe it is really important that all users (and new users in particular) have the tools to enable them to discover historical records, and use these as the basis for their research.

On the other hand, a number of long standing users have indicated that these older tree systems can be a useful source of ideas to be explored when they hit a roadblock, so up to now, we have retained links to them on the site. The usage of these is dropping, and I wouldn’t be surprised if we retired them from the site at some point in time.

letzelfarm asked in Comments:  Does Ancestry plan to allow its members to merge separate trees that are posted?  Another great suggestion we are considering. Watch this space.
Leaves of Heritage Genealogy noted in comments:  What I want to see on Ancestry is better tools. I want to be able to make a note when I save something to my shoebox so that I can remember why I saved it in the first place. Also, I would like better search options and results. I would like to be able to search all but X, Y, or Z, etc. 

Lastly, I wish they had a check mark box or some other way of marking a record that I've already reviewed. You know, maybe offer a red X for those that are not what you're looking for (negative searches), or a green for positive searches. Then when they continue to show up in my future searches, I won't waste my time revisiting the same darn records over and over!  These are some great suggestions that we are considering as we plan upgrades to these parts of our site.
Geolover asked in Comments:  Why did they ~just~ change their automatic citations for 1930 US Census?. They replaced the citations bearing the NARA microfilm roll numbers with those *instead* bearing the useless FHL "Digital Folder Number" (keeping the FHL Film Number).  The FHL Catalog and citations do not give the specific NARA Microfilm Roll Numbers.  This was not a deliberate change, and was unfortunately caused by a temporary problem last week, following an upgrade we made to the index of our 1930 census. This problem did take a couple of days to resolve, and we apologize for any inconvenience caused. The source citation for the 1930 should (and now does) include references to both the relevant NARA roll number and the Family History Library film number.

Thank you to the commenters who sent in questions, and to for their responses.

Your observations are welcome in comments!

Copyright (c) Randall J. Seaver, 2012.

Follow Friday - This Weekend's Genealogy Radio Shows

There are two genealogy-related radio shows on Blog Talk Radio ( this weekend.  They are:

1)  GeneaBloggers Radio Episode 54 -- Thomas MacEntee
 hosts the show, with co-host Lisa Alzo,  titled 
Genealogy and Technology In A Post RootsTech World"  This show is on:

Friday, February 11, 2012
9pm-10:30pm Eastern US
8-9:30pm Central US
7-8:30pm Mountain US
6-7:30pm Pacific US
*  2am London UK

*  1pm Saturday Sydney AUS  

The show guests are:
*   DearMYRTLE of who will give us a recap of last week’s RootsTech conference in Salt Lake City, Utah and fill us in on the latest and hottest genealogy technology news; 
*  George G. Morgan of Aha! Seminars, Inc. and The Genealogy Guys who will discuss his book How To Do Everything Genealogy, 3rd Edition
*  Brooke Schreier Ganz, genealogist, web developer and programmer and creator of LeafSeek, as well as a winner in the recent RootsTech Developer Challenge. 

You can read more information about the guests at 
Genealogy and Technology In A Post RootsTech World.

Don’t forget that there is a chat room where all the “cool kids” hang out on Friday night! Sign in to BlogTalkRadio with your Facebook account or set up a free BlogTalkRadio account to join in the fun.

2)  FGS Radio - My Society, an Internet radio show on Blog Talk Radio presented by the Federation of Genealogical Societies.  This week's show is 
 "RootsTech Resources for Genealogical Societies."  It will be hosted by Thomas MacEntee.  The show airs at:

Saturday, February 10, 2012
2-3pm Eastern US
1-2pm Central US
12-1pm Mountain US
11am-12pm Pacific US 

The special guests and features include:

J. Paul Hawthorne, President of The Computer Genealogy Society of San Diego
*  Tina Lyons, Vice President of the Indiana Genealogical Society
*  Tony Hanson, webmaster and leader of the Technology Special Interest Group for the Dallas Genealogical Society
*  In addition, we’ll be featuring FGS member society, Nebraska State Genealogical Society, in our weekly Society Spotlight feature.  

You can read more information about the guests at 
  RootsTech Resources for Genealogical Societies.

You can also listen to the archived shows on Blog Talk Radio by going to the two show sites:

*  Geneabloggers Radio:

*  FGS Radio - MySociety:   

The URL for this post is:

Copyright (c) Randall J. Seaver, 2012.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Do you Believe the FamilySearch Vision of the Future?

The most inspiring and visionary presentation at RootsTech 2012 was Jay Verkler's Keynote talk on "Inventing the Future, as a Community" on Thursday morning.  He laid out a vision for genealogy and family history in the year 2060.  I urge my readers to watch it if they haven't already (  It included these features:

*  Commonly available information, at low cost
*  Easy to use, intuitive, simple interfaces
*  Accurate information with a common data model
*  Includes facts, stories, photos, audio, video
*  Evidence based, with available documents and media.
*  Provides interactive timelines showing names, dates, places, events
*  works on every computer system.
*  It simply works!

It sounds so logical and simple, doesn't it?  But how do we get there?  Jay laid out two "big picture" charts that explain the process:

1)  The Genealogy Conclusion Diagram:

The Conclusion diagram includes for each person (6 billion people were born between 1750 and 1900, another 14 billion born since 1900, and another 6 billion to be born between now and 2060) :

*  Genealogy facts - vital, residence, occupation, education, military, immigration, social, etc.
*  Relationships of a person to parents, siblings, children, etc.
*  Stories, photographs, audio, video, etc. that display the life of the person
*  Sourced evidence in the form of documents for the life events

These need to be collected for all persons who previously lived and are currently living and preserved for future generations.

2)  The Community Framework diagram looks like this:

The different elements of this framework are:

*  Conclusion Sharing across platforms (family trees in software or online) - an updated GEDCOM
*  Permanent online links so that data can easily be found
*  Common Data Types and Vocabulary - standardize the terminology 
*  Provide Authorities - for names, dates, places, and events.  A user should be able to search for and find information about a person from family trees and historical records, with information about repositories, experts, knowledge bases and community sharing.
*  Structured Records - users need to view them digitally, linked to repositories, and linked to other researchers
*  Record Source Authorities - evidence backed by sources, with links to library catalogs, partners and/or repositories, and to community contributions.

Jay's vision is of an "Open" environment, wherein there is a Community effort to gather, connect and preserve records that define the lives of billions of persons.  Is such a Community effort possible?  At present, we have a mixed genealogy industry and community with not-for-profit companies, commercial companies, and volunteer organizations providing education, record collections, online family trees (isolated or inter-connected), and genealogy management software.  Will the commercial companies collaborate with the not-for-profits?  How will competition between organizations with similar products be handled?

Can all aspects of the genealogy industry work together as one big happy family?  I sincerely doubt that they can, or will in the near or distant future.  There will always be entrepreneurs with the next big, whiz-bang genealogy idea, many of whom will fail but some will succeed and thrive and challenge the existing large, but clumsy, organizations by being more nimble and innovative.  Our recent experience is that competition creates innovation, advances technology and brings products to market faster in every industry.  We saw this at RootsTech where about 80% of the attendees had a smart phone or tablet device for communication, collaboration and information!

Who will do all of this?  Who will fill up the online family trees with names, dates, places, events, sources, images,, etc.?  Why, "we" all will - each of us that does genealogy and family history research now and in the future, with the help of family papers, historical record collections, online family trees, genealogy management programs, technology and productivity tools, and much more.  However, we need the online family trees that can be filled up.

Jay's vision implies an inter-connected family tree where everyone collaborates with others and work toward a conclusion based tree based on sourced evidence.  That is not the format of many online family tree providers, namely, MyHeritage, and others.  Will they change?  Will FamilySearch succeed in getting their Family Tree into public view and will that tree be populated with persons and relationships based on sourced evidence?  The jury is really out on that, in my humble opinion.

What I am more sure of is that the genealogy/family history industry will not run out of historical records any time soon!   I heard at the RootsTech 2012 conference that FamilySearch would have all of the available microfilms and microfiche collections digitized in 8 to 10 years.  However, they would not be all indexed.  Even so, that leaves records at national and state archives, public and private libraries, local and regional genealogical/historical societies, vital record offices, etc. to be found, gathered, catalogued, digitized, and linked up.

Current estimates of "all of the genealogy records" that are currently digitized and available online (on some website) run in the 3% to 5% range.  What will the percentage be in, say, 2020?  My guess is somewhere in the 10% to 15% range.  How about 2060?  My guess is in the 30% to 50% range.  I may be wrong, of course!

FamilySearch thinks that they have "invented the future" here.  It is an appealing vision, yet also a disturbing vision (at least for me).  It is appealing to me that there is hope that "all" of the records for "every" person in recorded history might be found and catalogued and preserved so that I can "know" the history of my ancestral families.  It is disturbing to me because I absolutely hate the thought that my descendants might not know the thrill of the hunt, might not feel the excitement of genea-gasms when records or relationships are discovered, or might not diligently study the geography, history and culture of their ancestors.

I've prattled on here for several hours, and I doubt that many readers will read down to the bottom of the post.  What do you think?  Do you:

*  Agree with Jay Verkler's vision of genealogy in 2060?
*  If not, what is your vision of genealogy research in the year 2060?
*  What are the obstacles that must be overcome to achieve Jay's vision?
*  What about "open" vs. "proprietary" record collections?
*  What about "one big Mother of All Genealogy Family Trees" vs. "millions of isolated trees?"

Please tell me in comments, or write your own blog post about it!

The URL for this post is:

Copyright (c) Randall J. Seaver, 2012.

RootsTech 2012 Photos - Exhibitors

Here are more pictures from the RootsTech 2012 Exhibit Hall:

1)  At the WikiTree booth, I found Dallan Quass (of and Chris Whitten (developer of WikiTree) in conversation (these are the two best genealogy wiki developers):

2)  At the WikiTree booth, Chris Whitten (developer) and Elyse Doerflinger (evangelist) wear their beautiful orange WikiTree shirts:

3)  Familysearch had several sides to their exhibit - this is the one for the records:

4)  The brightsolid display was large, and all of the exhibitors wore these beautiful hats:

5)  The MyHeritage booth had a display and several computers to demonstrate their products.  That's Daniel Horowitz talking to two potential customers in the foreground.  The overarching colorful balloons really set this display apart:

6)  The display had a number of computers, and a seating area for lectures:

7)  The Billion Graves display was probably the most unique booth I saw:

8)  That's Cliff Shaw in back of the lady at the Mocavo display:

9)  Family Tree Maker had a portion of the display area, with many computers to help patrons:

10)  One side of the display was a demonstration area.  That's Juliana Smith and Anne Mitchell at the podium.

That's all of the exhibitor pictures I have - I rushed around on Saturday, during a lecture session (which is why the displays are not crowded), to take photographs.

The URL for this post is:

Copyright (c) Randall J. Seaver, 2012.

Rasputin, Time Travel, Worm Holes - oh my!

One of my CVGS society colleagues pointed me to an article by Robert Krulwich titled "'Rasputin Was My Neighbor' And Other True Tales Of Time Travel" that was published yesterday on the Krulwich Wonders blog on NPR.  

He writes:

"There are people who live long enough to create a link — a one-generation link — to figures from what feels like a distant past, and their presence among us shrinks history. When 'Long Ago' suddenly becomes 'So I said to him ...,' long ago jumps closer.

"There are many examples of people who shrink history this way. The blogger Jason Kottke has been collecting examples. He calls them 'human wormholes,' because these people help us leap across space/time."
The article discusses several "human wormhole" instances, including:

*  In 1973, a man who said that his father was a friend of Rasputin and he remembered that came over for tea.

*  In 1956, Samuel Seymour discussed being at Ford's Theater when President Lincoln was shot

*  Oliver Wendell Holmes, the famous Supreme Court Justice, shook the hands of Presidents John Quincy Adams and John F. Kennedy.

*  President John Tyler has two grandsons still alive.

*  The last Civil War widow, Alberta Martin, died in 2004.

I thought that it was interesting.

The URL for this post is:

Copyright (c) Randall J. Seaver, 2012